M1 and M2



If you saw Shane’s post Submission for the 100 Square Feet of Art Charity Event you probably wondered if anyone else managed to create a piece of art for the event, and if they too used the laser cutter. The answer to both questions is “Yes!” and here are the two pieces I created, M1 and M2.

There’s an in-depth (and potentially boring) post about these pieces over on my blog titled Two Square Feet of Art. Enjoy!

More Laser Cutter Artwork….

A laser cut piece, one stacked on top of the other for depth.  The top piece is a cut out featuring an angelic grave stone and the back piece is a picture of a graveyard with some well defined trees.

This is my newest piece, cut and etched on our 60 watt laser cutter.  Both images are from pictures that I took out at a couple of graveyards.  I inverted the image in the background so that the sky was nice and dark and the trees were bright.  Unfortunately, this washed out a lot of the tombstones in front, so I’m going to try re-etching this piece before I offer it up for sale.

The back piece took approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes to etch as a 11.5″ square.  Additionally, I found that the margins are a bit off on the cutter.  The left margin has shifted around 1/8″-1/4″  to the right, so the piece wasn’t perfectly centered.

Submission for the 100 Square Feet of Art Charity Event

The picture consists of a laser-cut vine motif with an orchid laser-etched in the center, raised a half inch above a laser-etched picture of a creek with large rocks.

Art for charity’s sake


When Raster mentioned the event, “Red, White, & Black: 100 Square Feet of Art“, I thought I’d take part.  The general idea is for artists to pick up a 12×12” piece of wood and “art” it somehow, transforming it into a mini-masterpiece for an auction to support pets in need.  The auction takes place on December 7th, so be sure to stop in.  They’re featuring live music and food along with a raffle and the auction.

Taking a cue from some Art Boxes I’d been working on, I decided to use a similar vine motif with an orchid etched in the center.  After studying it for a while, I thought it needed depth, so I laser etched a photograph that I took out at Boerner Botanical Gardens for the backdrop.

Still not content, I wanted the darker shadows of the vines to play along with the lighter picture behind, so I cut several half-inch blocks to raise the top piece above the back piece.

The back has been treated with teak oil while the front was stained with Bombay mahogany satin stain.  The blocks are put specifically in each corner in order to maximize the amount of light that hits the back piece.  I may add a few extra spacers for support in the coming days.

Printmaking Plates

Making Plates

One of the things I’d like to try at the Makerspace is printmaking, and since Brent brought in a press, and I’ve got some ink and nice paper, the next thing I need is a plate.

You can use a variety of materials to make the plates, but I’m interested in using wood, and as you can see from the photo above, one option is to use a CNC Router to do the plate. (The one in the photo is at UWM and features one of Frankie’s pizza cutters.) I’m going to first try the laser cutter for making a plate. I’ve got some half-toned artwork which I’ll do a raster etch with, and see how that goes.

If this works (and I’m sure it will, right?) we should be able to make plates that are 12″x24″ on the laser cutter, or 24″x32.5″ on the CNC Router. For anything larger than the press we’ve got we’ll need to make the print by hand, which I’ve seen done, but haven’t tried yet myself.

If anyone has experience with any of this, or wants to work on it together, let me know!

Kenilworth Open Studios

Frankie Flood's Workspace

On Saturday April, 21st, 2012 a few of our members visited the UWM Kenilworth Open Studios, and got a look at some of the work produced by the Peck School of the Arts faculty and students.

My only complaint is that the event only lasted 3 hours! :)

Seriously, we could have spent twice that long seeing the work, the workspaces, the tools, and the people.


We had a great tie talking to Frankie Flood about his work, RepRaps, tools, the Makerspace, and just making in general. Check out his handverker blog for a great behind the scenes look at some of the things he’s working on.


There were plenty of other things of interest to our members, including printmaking, photography, screen printing, music, film, CNC machines and 3D printers… and a personal favorite… Cake!

If you missed it, put it on the calendar for 2013. They only open up like this once a year, and it’s definitely worth seeing.

And if you don’t feel like waiting that long, there’s some great Summer Workshops in Jewelry & Metalsmithing that at least a few of our members may be taking part in.

Gallery Night – Spring 2012

Gallery Night - Spring 2012

Our friends over at Bucketworks serve as the home to Artworks for Milwaukee, and since they’re a stop for Spring Gallery Night on Friday, April 20th, 2012, they figured the more the merrier, and invited us to take over part of Bucketworks and show the art appreciating crowds the sort of stuff we do… which is often a cross between art, technology, engineering, software development, and… well, we just call it making.

So join us April 20th from 5pm to 9pm and see what crazy things we come up with this time. :)

One Tool at Sweet Water Organics

Sweet Water Organics

As we’ve mentioned in some previous posts, a few of our members took part in The Tool at Hand Milwaukee Challenge recently at Sweet Water Organics, so I figured I’d add just one more post to tell you about the event.

First of all, I should state that Milwaukee’s Art Community is one of those things that makes this city special. We’re lucky to have such talented artists here, and we at Milwaukee Makerspace are honored to be a part of it. That said, the show itself was well put together, and the variety of pieces shown was fascinating. I’d suggest a big round of applause for the Chipstone Foundation for making this all happen. But, hey, we’re here to talk about our makers! :)

Kevin's piece -- Jason H.'s piece

On the left we’ve got Kevin’s piece, which includes a table and a set of “rocks” he created with an angle grinder. Kevin was unable to make it to the show, so I tried my best to answer questions about his piece. People were definitely interested in it, but alas, it did not rise to the challenge of being selected for the Milwaukee Art Museum. I think that’s fine though, as Kevin already has a spot in his home picked out for it.

On the right we’ve got a door with laser-etched glass courtesy of Jason H. (with a little help from his partner Dena.) This too is a piece that belongs in a home, and by that I mean it’s beautiful and should be on display. I get the feeling Jason may be etching more glass for people in the future…

A Dream Half-Remembered

And here we have Shane’s piece titled “A Dream Half-Remembered” which was created with the chopsaw and a lot of wood. Shane put a many hours into this thing, and it shows. There were challenges along the way, but in the end we got it there in one piece, and got it attached to a concrete wall, so I call it a success!

Plastic Sun

Last, and maybe least, is my piece, titled “Plastic Sun” which was created with a heat gun, and about 200 plastic grocery bags. I won’t go into too many details, but if you want to see more photos, or the video I produced, head over to my project page for it.

While none of our pieces were selected for inclusion into the exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, that’s just fine. We all had fun doing this, and we met a lot of great people at the event, from artists to art-enthusiasts, some of whom were interested in the Makerspace.

The One Tool Challenge is a great concept, and who knows, maybe it’s something we might want to see happen as a Milwaukee Makerspace event, either restricted just to the members, or opened up to the public as well.

So what tool would you choose?

Art Jamboree (at City Hall!)

Art Jamboree

I was a bit disappointed that I missed the first Art Jamboree that we were invited to, so I really wanted to make it to the next one, and hey, it just happened to be at Milwaukee’s City Hall!

It was without a doubt, a total blast. We had the Friday Night Drawbot and the MakerBot CupCake running, and both drew a lot of attention. People were really fascinated by 3D printing, and the samples we had on hand.

Art Jamboree

From the Makerspace, Royce was there, and besides showing the spin cast jewelry he had made, I heard him explain the Drawbot to plenty of people, explaining Arduinos, and servos, and programming. MattN has his latest CNC Router work there, which is still in progress, but looks pretty amazing so far. Shane had one of his laser etchings, and Adam had the MakerBot doing its thing. (We even printed a few whistles that actually worked.) And Brant? He just did an awesome job talking about everything. Jason H was also there, and Kevin even showed up. We probably had the largest group of people, which was great to see.

Art Jamboree

The best part of the evening was all the great people we met. Lots of folks stopped by to check us out, but we also had a lot of great conversations with people too. I talked to two different high school teachers, one from Bay View who thought it might be a good idea to show her students that robots could do more than fight with each other. The other high school teacher told me he built furniture in his apartment, but could only do so when he knew his neighbors were not home. (Sounds like a potential member!) There were also people from UWM’s Art Department, a guy who used to sell vacuum forming machines, a girl who said “my boyfriend always talks about CNC machines, but I never know what he’s talking about!” (she took a photo of the MakerBot to send to him.)

Art Jamboree

As long as we didn’t need my laptop for the MakerBot, I figured I’d run a Processing sketch I had been playing with. It’s based on the ASCII Video sketch with my own tweaks added, and made to capture an image every 15 seconds. (Yes, a time lapse video will follow… Update: Here it is.)

Art Jamboree

I think we did a great job of letting people know what kind of stuff we do at the Makerspace, and beyond all that, it was just genuinely fun to share it all with people, especially people who got really excited about it.

And hey, if you saw us at the Art Jamboree (or heard about us from Art Milwaukee) and want to find out more about us, feel to stop by any Tuesday night at 7pm for our weekly meeting. We’d love to show you what we’re all about. :)

But is it Art?

My Completed Art Deco Wall HangingI sketch quite a bit and I’ve been doodling things like this for years without realizing that, technically, they fall under the “Art Deco” category.  If I were content with that, I’d paint it blue, pink, and silver.  However, because cerulean blue belongs in the sky and not on your wall, pink belongs in distant sunsets and not on your wall, and why the hell would you paint wood silver?  I decided that to bring this piece into the 21st century I’d need to radically rethink the colors.

At first, I had intended to only paint 3 elements of the composition.  After picturing it in my mind, I decided on the single yellow piece that you see here.  I’m quite pleased with the end result.  Unfortunately, the spray-acrylic sealer that I used was very old and I suspect that it was this that led to the strange patina you see on the main circle here.  No matter what I tried, I kept getting glossy parts and flat parts.

The primary material is MDF, some of which was cut with our very own CNC router, with hardboard being used for the yellow part, and split pine dowels (thanks to my own rig, clamped to our band-saw) for the 3 extending pieces.

*Note: When cutting a perfectly cylindrical piece length-wise on a band-saw, the piece will have a tendency to rotate as you’re cutting.  I’d have done a better job had I thought to clamp the piece to the jig that I set up.

The preliminary sketch of the art deco wall-hanging.This is the rough sketch of what I had planned on making.  Things change in a wonderfully organic way when you go from sketch to completed project.

The wall-hanging before painting and glueing.The piece before painting and assembly.

I laid the pieces out separately and hit them with flat-black spray paint.  This took very well to the MDF.  After painting and clear-coating everything, I waffled about how to assemble the many into the whole.  I first toyed with the notion of pre-drilling, then screwing everything in from the backside of the piece; I also realized what a pain it would be to try to locate each hole without being able to see the front first.

Next, I thought I’d use a brad-nailer and just pop everything in, but ours doesn’t take anything shorter than 5/8″ and this entire project is just under 1/2″ in depth and I didn’t want to bother cutting the ends of the brads flush with the back, plus, they could scratch the wall that it hangs on.

I finally decided on some epoxy that one of our makers had brought in.  It’s proven very workable and durable, as I found out when I used it to make the spools for our Makerbot ABS plastic filament.  I put several pieces on at a time, weighting them down with some paving bricks (covered in cloth, as I didn’t wish to scratch the paint).  After letting it cure for 24 hours, the project was more-or-less done.

All that’s left is to figure out how to mount it to a wall.  I think I might use a plunge router and hollow out a portion of the back for that.  Another idea has been brewing in the back of my mind, but it’s too cool to mention unless I actually do it.  Rest assured, if I use that idea, I’ll be posting about it here and on Instructables.

UPDATE: I found that it’s about the same weight as a moderately sized picture, so I picked up some picture-wire and attached it via two screws in the back.  It is now hanging on my bedroom wall.