My First Project: A Box

I’m building a modular synthesizer. Modular synthesizers are comprised of many discrete “modules” that generate, shape, or otherwise modify analog signals. These signals might be within the audible frequency range, meaning if you hook an amplifier or headphones into them you will hear sound, or they can be above or below the audible range and work as “control signals” which can interface with other modules to change how they shape the signals passing through them. There are a lot of signals, and there is a lot to learn about audio synthesis. There are a lot of youtube videos to explore the basics of modular synthesizers if you want to learn more.

This isn’t a blog post about modular synthesizers. This is a blog post about a wooden box. The wooden box pictured above is one of the first projects I’ve worked on at the Makerspace, and it’s the first wood project I’ve worked on since making a wooden trinket in shop class in high school. If I actually used a table saw back then (or any power tools), I have no recollection of it. I’ve always been more adept with a keyboard, mouse, or soldering iron than power tools, but I have been trying to expand my horizons over the years. Still, this was a more ambitious project for me than soldering together the electronic modules contained within. Continue reading

Launching LOY

The time has come, my friends! If you’ve been to Milwaukee Makerspace since we moved into our current location in January 2013, you probably saw a boat being built. It’s been a project of the space, actually longer than we’ve been in the building! (It was started at our old space and moved to the current building.) Well, it’s time to launch… LOY will be put into the waters of Lake Michigan this coming weekend!

Willie has been working on LOY for years, and it shows. It’s a beautiful thing, and if you haven’t see it lately, or can’t make it to the launch, you’ll have a chance to see it at Maker Faire Milwaukee, September 23 & 24, 2017 at the Expo Center at State Faire Park.

I don’t know if Willie plans to smash a bottle of champagne when LOY launches, but he deserves a congratulatory drink when it sets sail. Great job, Willie!

The Wiener is a Winner!

We built a scaled-down version of the Winenermobile and took it to Maker Faire Kansas City to race it in the Power Racing Series and we won!

Yeah, that all sounds a little crazy, but that’s the sort of thing that happens at Milwaukee Makerspace…

I think it was mainly Kathy’s idea to build a Wienermobile, since “Oscar Mayer Weinermobile” [sic] was on the “hit list” of desired vehicles for the series.

Building it involved carving the body (dog and bun) from foam and then covering it with fiberglass to create a solid structure. It was messy and time consuming, but it turned out great!

Because the Power Racing Series is all very last minute, here’s what we had just a few weeks before Maker Faire KC. A pile of parts still not fully assembled. Kyle spent a lot of time putting things together in the last two weeks while Pete worked on figuring out the electronics. Somehow it all worked in the end.

People ask how it drives, and hey, it drives like a tiny Wienermobile! Actually, Kyle said it’s like riding a quad, and he proved to be our best wiener rider. Most other people got thrown off the wiener at least once, but he held on tight and rode the wiener to victory!

(While the Wienermobile is a fast car, the Power Racing Series also awards points for being “awesome” and we managed to have the most awesome vehicle of the weekend, racking up the most Moxie points helped us secure the overall win for the race weekend.)

If you like hot dogs, you’ll have another chance to catch this winning wiener at Maker Faire Detroit and then again at Maker Faire Milwaukee.

Week of Making 2017!

Week of Making

The National Week of Making starts June 16th and runs through the 22nd this year, and we’re opening our doors on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 for you to come check out Milwaukee Makerspace.

Okay, to be fair, we open our doors nearly every Tuesday night at 7pm for anyone in the community to come check out what we do. We have a meeting every week and love to have guests come and talk about the project they’re working on.

(BTW, we will not be open on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 so if you’re planning another Tuesday night visit, that’s a good night to skip.)

Milwaukee Vice!

This is our Post Vice at the Makerspace. It is a specialized type of vice used by blacksmiths. Designed to handle the abuse of clamping something very hot and heavy and allowing to to beat on it with a hammer. These are not really mass produced anymore, so when you outfit a forge you typically end up buying a used vice. Since these were so well built they basically last forever. Ours is somewhere around 100 to 150 years old.

Most of the dents you see were there when I bought the vice 4 years ago. However, the slices running near the top, left face are new damage, and go considerably deeper than the surrounding dents. I was concerned about the concentration of stress at those points and the potential for cracking the jaws. It was time for refurbishment and repair.

In this photo, 2 recent dents that were caused by someone missing with a heavy hammer. And you can see where the jaws of the vice have cracked away. The vice is constructed using some kind of iron, but due to the age, we’re not exactly sure what. The jaws style of construction indicates that they were forged, not cast. This is a good thing, it suggests they could be either steel (exact carbon content would be unknown) or wrought iron. It means it should be possible to weld new steel onto them! This is what we’re going to try to do.

We don’t know exactly what alloying elements are mixed into the iron, so it could weld smooth, or it could blow bubbles and burn up under the torch! No way to tell until you try, which is nerve wracking when the object in question is an antique. There are things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor… Continue reading