Christmas gifts

Silver earrings for Rose

Copper bracelet for Aunt Elizabeth

I actually managed to find a few hours to work in my shop over the last few weeks… I’m happy with the results.



The kids are dressing as Harry Potter characters today, and realized that they didn’t have wands…

Nerdy Derby Racer

So, the Milwaukee Makerspace and BarcampMilwaukee7 are doing a Nerdy Derby, and there are going to be some sweet entries, including a Belly Tanker form Frankie, sandbox from Pete, and a terrifying, radio-controlled, ducted fan monstrosity from Mike.

Having switched my subscription on the MMS list to digest mode, I hadn’t been following what was apparently an extensive discussion of the idea of doing a derby. Thankfully, Mike, Frankie, and Pete looped me in! I was making arrangements to stop in at Frankie’s studio to get the next bit of help with my injection molder, and Frankie offered to have us in for a Nerdy Derby build day. How could I pass that up?

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, and settled on a steel wire frame with leather panels “skinning” the car. I figured it would be fun, and I liked the idea of steel and leather. Plus, I could do it with only the tools I have myself. I came up with some ideas and pulled together a sketch of how it might work (I’ll have to post it later, I left my notebook at work).

Frankie offered to model the car in Rhino, and after an hour or so of work we had a model of how the car might look.

Derby Car rendering

Well, since we’d gone through the work of building the 3D model, why not cut it our of the Tormach? We cut the model into 3 pieces (a base, the body, and the canopy, and Frankie got everything setup to cut. THis was my first time seeing something got from idea on paper to an actual, metal and poly-carb thing in a few hours, and it was awesome! here are the results:

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Aluminum blank
Frankie setting up the CNC
Roughing pass
All roughed in
Half way through the finishing pass
All done milling
We cut a little deeper than intended; Still came out sweet.
Base plate in position, as well as rough canopy
Another angle


I still have work to do on it (skate bearings for the wheels?) and some obvious cleanup, but it pretty cool as it is! The aluminum will take a shine like nobody’s business, and I’m thinking I may light the canopy.



Copper and oak

So, remember that ring clamp I started way back? Well, I found myself in need of one last week, and figured I’d better finish that thing up. The problem with the original plan and work is that the off-center positioning of the hinge, as well as the short span, made the tool fairly useless. Rather than start over, though, I looked at a couple of other varieties and decided to refit my original work for something I could actually use.

Notched for pad and band
Notched for pads and band
The bands
The bands
Test fitting the bands
Test fitting the bands

At this point I decide I stained the pieces and gave them a quick clear coat of polyurethane, polished up the copper, glued and trimmed the leather pads, and put the thing together:

Mostly finished ring clamp
Mostly finished

I’m working out a sweet copper knob to replace the wing nut, and I need to add a hinge to the bottom, but I can use this as it is.

Copper Pendant

Well, it’s finally happened… I finally made Molly that piece of jewelry I promised her back when Michael first talked me into taking Frankie‘s summer workshops (two years ago?). It’s not fancy, but I’m happy with it, Molly seems to like it, and it is the first thing of this type I’ve produced at home.

Getting started
Getting started
Mostly done
Mostly done
Up close
Up close

It still needs some cleanup, and to be sealed, but I think it’s pretty dang cool.

Plastic Injection Molder – Part 5

I got a very little more done on the injection molder frame:

Injection molder frame w/ piston
Injection molder frame w/ piston

That’s the arm and piston mounted (clamped) in place, and the center cross member bolted in. This thing is pretty solid, and pretty heavy, but I’ll still need to bolt it down eventually.

New shop storage

For those of you that don’t know, I spend my days working for a communications firm here in Milwaukee. This company has its roots in advertising, and there are still some artifacts of that history around. One of them was a bunch of flat file cabinets which were used to store proofs, works-in-progress, presentation boards, etc. These weren’t getting much use (mostly just used as a base for a work table) and I’d had my eye on them for a while. Well, with our recent changing of offices, I thought I might be able to snag them.

Alas, it was not to be… Somehow, nobody heard me jumping up and down, saying that I wanted them, and so they ended up going to the Goodwill. That was the bad news… the good news was that there was another set of them in storage, and those are the ones that are now living in my shop:

Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...
Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...


These are actually better than the ones I’d originally wanted, as these are from the ’80s, when office furniture was made to last… It took me three trips to get these things home, and I did some damage to my back, but when I dropped one right on its corner while moving it, the floor came away dented rather than the cabinet. A drop like that would twisted a newer cabinet beyond repair, but this bad boy just shrugged it off. I also snagged an old cutting mat (shown on top of the cabinets above) and a weird old work desk/rack thing:

Seriously, super blurry that day
Seriously, super blurry that day


This is another extremely solid piece that is definitely going to see some use. The work surface is in great condition, so this guy might get brought inside, rather than staying in the garage. Not too bad, for stuff that was headed to the heap.

Plastic Injection Molder – Part 4

I’ve been swamped at work with a couple of pretty big projects, but I got a bit more work done on the injection molder frame and controller. First the controller:

Wired up, and powered on.
Wired up, and powered on.


Yup, all wired up and working. I’ve got it heating the chamber and have had it all the way up to 400 degrees. I’ve got a good part of the frame built, as well, but I still have the welding to do. I also have to figure out how I’m going to mount the heating chamber to the frame:

The frame, so far
The frame, so far


I’m getting there, if a bit slowly.

Plastic Injection Molder – Part 3

I am finally getting back to work on the plastic injection molder. We recently moved offices at work and there was a fair bit of stuff headed to the trash. I grabbed a busted old VGA repeater/extender and gutted it. After a bit of cutting and drilling, and a quick shot with my trusty can of Rustoleum, I’ve got a sweet little control box for the molder:

Injection molder controller box
Injection molder controller box

Pretty sweet, right? I still need to reconnect everything and find a power supply connector, but that’s all of 30 minutes work. Next post will be the dang thing wired up and working.

A special note to Michael: I changed my theme again… just for you!

The Pirate Ship Collins

My son’s birthday has, since the 1st, been celebrated with a significant amount of effort and excitement. It happens to fall right at the end of the summer, right before school starts, and very near to Molly’s birthday. As a result we usually end up with a yard/house full of people. We have also ended up with new structures in our yard…

For his 5th birthday, he settled on a music themed party (the “Punk Rock, Rock Punk” party). For this one, we built a low stage, dragged various instruments out into the yard, and shaved some heads:




We even had a visit from the last remaining member of the Mongrel Bitch fan club:

Yup... that's Grandpa.

For the 6th, a pirate-themed party, we went a little further, and built a pirate ship in the back yard, complete with cargo nets for storage, old sheets and velcro for the hull, and a sweet engraved bell from the god-parents:

1/2 way through the cleanup

This was awesome, and served for 3 more summers (Rockets & Robots, and Explorers, then we switch to sleepovers). Then, this spring, my daughter came in with the bad news: There was a hole in the pirate ship. It seems the choice to use untreated plywood for the deck (a decision made in the interest of expediency) had not been the most durable. The Pirate Ship Collins was now the Plague Ship Collins, and the kids were not allowed to play on it.

A few weeks later, planning to strip off the rotted deck and install a new and proper one, I discovered that a number of the structural pieces had begun to rot as well. Now we were looking at a total rebuild, and if you’re going to bother to rebuild, why not redesign? Once I got the Plague Ship stripped to its bones:

Man, it was sunny that day

I took some measurements, Collected some requirements from the administrative committee (Molly), and whipped out the large moleskine I’d been saving for a good project. Between my paper sketches and Google SketchUp, I managed to cobble together a reasonable plan for rebuilding that would add a second level, a climbing wall, and monkey bars.

backyard play equipment.png

The implementation has included some changes from the initial sketch, but the spirit of it is still alive. Well, the party was 2 weeks ago, and I didn’t quite get it all done. but what was ready was very well used.

Still lot's to do, but it was playable... though not the safest piece of equipment ever

Michael raised the point that I need to add a roof of some sort, and I have a plan for that. In the mean time, we had another bunch of people over to celebrate Enkutatash today. Here’s the current status:

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Molly stained and sealed everything this week, so all of the untreated wood went on yesterday and today, as did all of the rope and netting, the back, and the steering wheel. The netting was salvaged from the previous incarnation of the “ship,” and the central rope “railing” is temporary. The back of the structure is fit with climbing holds (you can see the extra bits of scrap I had to use to back them, and the piece I used for the back was too thin to support them well). The wheel was stripped, stained, and finished, but came from the original ship. You can see the bell mounted there, as well.

So, we’re getting there. Next up: Cargo net, climbing rope, permanent center rail, cannon.