$5 Upcycled Desk Clock

Last summer I came across a collection of car parts at a garage sale; instrument clusters, lights, gauges, and some digital clock displays.  For $5, I became the proud owner of a JECO Japan, vacuum fluorescent clock display.  The plastic housing held all the clock electronics, membrane buttons for setting the time, and a four-pin connector.  After powering it up, I realized one of the pins could be used to dim the display, which is a pretty nice feature to have.

I’ve worked on it off and on for a few months, but finally decided to finish it this weekend.  On Saturday, I tweaked some dimensions and laser-cut the final enclosure.  I wasn’t happy with the button holes and text I had on the front of the first iteration, so I got rid of them for the final.  You can adjust the time by slipping a jeweler’s screwdriver or a paper clip through a gap in between the plexiglass sides and pressing the buttons to add hours or minutes. 

I added a small single-pole, double-throw toggle to switch between bright and dim, then soldered the connections before closing it up.  The whole thing is clamped together by a single #10-32 machine screw and a wingnut.  The final result doesn’t look half bad.

Lighting Control Upgrade!

IMAG3517In an effort to make the lighting control system more user-friendly, the original board-mounted switches have been replaced with a laser-cut zone map! Instead of looking up which zone number corresponds to a particular bank of lights, each location is now identified by a green LED pushbutton.  You can read more about the lighting control system and how it’s been evolving on our wiki: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/mmlc

Staying Stocked Up

The idea was simple: make something to help keep track of our supplies so we know when we’re running low on the essentials.  After weeks of kicking the idea around and various rough doodles, this project finally took shape.  Two days after the first cut on the laser cutter, it was complete.

Made from multiple layers of acrylic, cardboard, and wood, the “Milwaukee Makerspace Consumables Super Analog Status Board” is a clipboard-sized device with nine sliders installed in enclosed slots.  Sliding the tabs right displays more green to indicate “full” or “lots” and sliding left reveals the red acrylic below to indicate “empty” or “low.”  The user can carry the board around the Space with them as they check on supplies and when done, a large hole centered at the top allows the board to be hung up and displayed on a wall.

The hardware holding the whole thing together can be loosened and the layers disassembled.  The cardboard insert that the text resides on can be swapped out should we decide to change the list of items we want to keep tabs on.  The supplies being tracked currently include:

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Hand Soap
  • Welding Gases
  • Welding Wire
  • Propane
  • Soda
  • Duct Tape
  • Painter’s Tape

A digital version may or may not be planned for future release.

We leave, we come back!


Even though we left Chase Avenue and moved to Lenox Street, we’re still not a fully operational battle maker station… yet.

But here’s the thing, for a lot of us, we never stop making, and if someone needs help on a project, we’re still going to do what we can to help out. So when some friends of mine at Sensorium Gallery ask for help with a laser cutting project, we found a way to deliver.

They were looking for white paper leaves to cover the floor for an event, and had the idea of laser cutting a few reams of paper. I found a maple leaf on OpenClipArt, tweaked it a bit, and sent it to Neille at Sensorium. She sent me back a new file, and I gave that to Brent who has access to a laser cutter he could use while the Makerspace laser cutters were not up and running.

A few emails back and forth, and between the three of us we got the leaves done in time. Sweet! Once we return to “making as usual” it’ll be nice to help people out with their projects without having to chase people down and send a bunch of emails. I hope Bay View is ready for us! :)

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!