Monthly Archives: August 2010

2010 CNE Visit

Seeing as I’ve blogged about it anually (we were there last year, 2009, and a few times in 2008, and also in 2007 and every year since Nefarious and I have been back in Toronto — and probably even before that, when she was just a baby), I’m guessing it’s no shock that we were at the CNE today, marching around, mostly chaperoning Nefarious on the fairground rides and games. The day however began with a tree that had a “scar” on the bark that looked an aweful lot like a bird…

After that, I sat with Nefarious and Caitlin for pictures next to the fire station (but not with Dave, who also joined the three of us), where Nefarious chatted up the fireman, got a sticker (the same sticker that she’s eagerly gotten every year I think), and climbed through a fire engine.

We spent lots of time in the petting zoo… I’m certain this is my favorite area by far and I had so much fun just sitting on the ground next to the goat pen and feeding them, first with treats that I bought, and then with treats that I scavenged from the floor — they eat so eagerly (and competitively) that half the food gets dropped outside the pens where they can’t reach it. Even if you didn’t have food, a couple of the gleefully desperate goats would gladly fantasize that you had food as they licked your hands silly. I could have spent the whole day there, and just loved spending time with the goats, sheep, alpaca, llamas, pigs, and all the other barnyard critters.

Since she’s 48″ this year, it’s the first season that Nefarious can go on nearly every ride on her own, and she definitely took advantage of that and braved a ton of exciting ones, as well as old favorites like running through the funhouses over and over and over. It’s totally nuts that people spend $5 for a single 45 second walk (not that fairs are known for being devoid of rip-offs), but Nefarious had a ride-all-day pass and it was worth every cent (although I saw some very angry parents of short kids who’d spent the $36 for that bracelet, realizing after the fact that their child was too short for most rides). While she enjoyed the rides I played policeman and reminded smokers that their act was not permitted… I was expecting rude refusals, but everyone was begrudgingly polite and put out their cigarettes. A much better action than getting annoyed and taking passive-aggressive photos as usual.

Then when we got home six hours later (we took transit, which is much easier than driving given the heavy Toronto traffic and the potential parking issues — cost and availability), I had a nice surprise in the mail, two shirts from Tee Fury — that’s a site that posts a new cheap t-shirt every day, that’s available for one day only. A lot of junk gets posted, but I still check daily, and have snagged a half dozen or so this year when they struck my fancy. Here’s what I got today:

Tomorrow I’m sure we’ll all have sore legs — I think this is Caitlin’s third day in a row of marathon walks, in addition to her work at the gym — so I imagine activity will be limited to heading down to the pool for a lengthy swim. Fingers crossed for cold and windy weather, which fools my body into believing the unheated water is much warmer than it actually is. Definitely do some carving as well — it’s just been such a huge pleasure rediscovering how much I enjoy fabrication of all types, and creating with my hands as much as my mind, which is where the balance usually leans toward.

MAKE JR: DIY cutlery inspired by Harry Potter

Nefarious, who has been begging me lately for a blog of her own (her concept of blogging is likely a little more fantastical than reality, because mine is strictly and tantalizingly off limits, other than carefully selected pieces so that she sees how proud I am of her accomplishments), has asked me to post about some of her projects here on her schedule, not mine.

We had a bread knife “go bad”. It’s kind of hard to explain, but what I think happened is that the rubber absorbed dishwashing liquid (probably due to being left sitting in water) and then started to break down, becoming a sort of crumbly goo. Caitlin threw it out but I rescued it from the garbage. Originally the plan was just to cut off the gross bits to make it usable, but Nefarious volunteered to fabricate a completely new handle. I’ll explain the reason in a moment, but this is the Sword Dagger of Godric Gryffindor, an “inspired by” replica she made after printing out photos of the movie prop.

The reason she made that is as part of an ongoing series of cutlery that she dreamed up. Although there may be variations, there’s a knife, fork, and spoon for each Hogwarts house founder from the Harry Potter series — Gryffindor as I already mentioned, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. When I post the final version of this stuff after they’re finished, I’ll include the really cool drawings she’s made of them. I’m really happy to see her drawing out plans and diagrams, so I’m totally encouraging it by helping out. Anyway, this one here are the salad utensils of Salazar Slytherin. Obviously they’re just roughed out so far, and there’s still a lot of carving, sanding, and oiling still to do.

MAKE: DIY Stainless Steel “Skoon” (Skull Spoon)

It’s not as pretty as the distressed silver skull spoons that were on MAKE a while back (although it definitely is better than the low-effort shoddy plastic one on Skull a Day), but in my defense it is hugely more difficult and time consuming to reform stainless steel than it is to do the same in soft vintage silver. It could use a little buffing, but in the absence of proper tools the finish will have to be adequate as is, and I’m happy with how it turned out…

As I said, there really is such a satisfaction in creating things that are tangible, and in addition to my own self indulgence I think that it’s important that Nefarious sees me making things (although her patience for the sounds of grinding is wearing very thin), and then valuing and enjoying them more than some analogous object bought at a store. By the way, if you’d like some other views of my glorious skoon or spull or skulloon or spookull or whatever, here you go.

MAKE: DIY Wooden Doorbell Enclosure (and more)

So I finally got around to plugging my iPhone into my computer and upon copying the photos into my digital pictures folder, I saw that in addition to expected pictures of Nefarious shooting machine guns there are quite a few unexpected photos of me napping… Apparently if I’m asleep she not only takes pictures of me in that languid state (embarrassing ones at that — I am sparing you the many shots of my underwear and butt-crack that I am certain brought her considerable amusement) but also at times stacks objects on me to compose the picture more to her liking and/or humor.

That said, it is a huge improvement over past sleeping and waking stunts including writing on my face with a marker (which was achieved at least once without waking me), putting my hand into a bowl of warm water, and worst of all, splashing me in the face with a cup of cold water.

Before you write her off as the world’s worst kid, the last prank, the only one that moves from funny into cruel, was done at my request, because I wanted to know what it felt like — and it really is strange… hard to explain, I think because it takes your brain a moment to put an explanations to the sensations, so while it’s doing that, you get to feel the raw moment, free of context. Try it.

Our doorbell, as you can seeing photo five below (bottom center), is an exposed piece of metal because it’s missing the panel and button. I’m sure this is the reason why we often receive delivery notices on the door, but the driver doesn’t bother to ring — they’re worried that if they push it, they’ll be electrocuted. So one of today’s project was creating a new enclosure. I carved it out of oak, which is nice because it’s really hard, but not so nice because it’s so tough and stringy that it can have trouble holding fine detail unless you work slowly. Anyway, going through the photos below in order:

  1. The freshly carved pieces, both from a single piece of 3/4″ thick oak. The button has a lip as well as a raised numeral “5″ (our address), and the box (which is carved, not built) just has a matching round hole for the button.
  2. I stained the box with a weak cappuccino tint and outlined the button hole with primary yellow. The button is stained with a mix of sesame tint and whitewash, and the raised number five is painted with rubine red and fluorescent pink.
  3. Here’s how it looks like from the back. There’s no hardware holding the two pieces together since the pressure from the switch holds it in position (although it can rotate — if this was a concern it would have been easy to carve slots to limit the movement).
  4. This is what the DIY wooden doorbell enclosure looks like over top of the original naked switch. Definitely a big improvement, and a lot less scary for postmen. We tested it (it fit and worked perfectly) before permanently affixing it.
  5. Here’s the wooden doorbell button and the electrical switch. You can see why it worried people! So after a year of delivery issues, it was either this or a pleading note and “anti-warning”.
  6. I realized that I should waterproof it, so I finished it with a clear gloss layer, which darkened it and brought out the grain as well as making it shiny.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, and it was a lot of fun to create something physical. I’ve created plenty of impressive virtual items — writing and online media and software and so on — but it’s never as satisfying as that which you can hold in your hands.

It’s been rainy today and yesterday, so the pool was closed keeping us home. That meant a lot of reading, which yesterday included — no joke — four and a half hours of The Deathly Hallows. Today we wrapped up with the chapter following the death of Harry Potter, so all that’s left for tomorrow is one last chapter and the epilogue. The last three books have all been video taped as well, so in addition to memories, I hope Nefarious will enjoy me reading to an age seven version of her many decades into the future.

While I was thinking about carving articulated dolls or marionettes or ventriloquists’ dummies out of wood, I doodled this ball joint. I wanted to see how hard it would be to carve a perfect sphere and its matching reverse, split into two halves, and was happy to discover that there was nothing to it. This wasn’t hand whittled or filed by the way. It was done with a Dremel clone (which I have oh-so-missed using every day when I was still a jeweler). That said, doing it with a file or knife wouldn’t be any harder. It would simply be more time consuming. While I’m mentioning tools, the enclosure and button up in the long photo sequence above was carved with my Carvewright (a computer controlled router) using just a 1/8″ bit (the others are misplaced), cuts and carving, and then finished with the Dremel.

Pardon the dirty nails (apologies to Caitlin for that most of all, who has suffered the worst for me) and hairs and so on. Eww, oh for the days when this sort of thing was invisible because a high resolution camera managed at best 640×480 and no one blinked when your 320×240 memories were smaller than the animated GIFs surrounding them. I’m sure there are still photos of Caitlin and I from back then since one of Stainless’s customers was a Kodak engineer or something and brought us toys, but I digress.

Considering some political art, I’ve been thinking about building a 3:1 scale (as in three times real size) handgun out of wood. Every piece would be shaped exactly like in a real gun, but it would be wood. Of course this would be a legal model, but it would show how making a functioning gun at home is getting easier and easier, and that one day fairly soon we’ll be able to “print out” a machine-gun and an infinite number of weapons crowd-sourced on the internet…

Other than that, I’ve mentioned before how much I like the NOS energy drink packaging (shaped like a horsepower boosting nitrous oxide bottle) — and I also like the way the NOS tastes, plus there was an IAM/BME member that worked at the factory back when I first discovered and posted positively about the drink which was sort of cool — but today when I was at the store I saw this similarly awesome “Rage” soda bottle, designed to look like a fire extinguisher… Awesome idea!

That said, I’m sorry to report that it’s just horrible, bright red and cherry flavored. I can’t express here just how awful it is. I really wanted to like this soda but couldn’t bring myself to… Sorry…

Simple Maker Project

Something like a year ago I took the $10 speakers that I had loaned Caitlin and started cutting them up for a project. Half way through I discovered that not only was it going to be difficult to disentwine the cables and controls from holes in the plastic case, but to make matters much worse, the jackass “if it breaks, buy a new one” manufacturer had filled the guts of the speaker with hot glue, covering all the fine cables and electronics. This afternoon I finally picked it up again, and slowly ground away the case bit by bit, and then carefully went at the glue — I felt like an archaeologist clearing a dinosaur fossil — finally getting me a minimal pile of pieces that had suffered a minimal amount of damage (which tested my mediocre soldering skills but I just barely passed). All I’ve done for now is mount them in coffee cans (which wounds surprisingly improved, and can be set up with a variety of EQ-like effects by whether you have the lid on and how you orient the can), but maybe I’ll get more ambitious later.

I read somewhere lately that in the “olden days”, when you’d buy an appliance the manual would contain plenty of technical reference, component listings, schematics and exploded view diagrams, and so on… This is of course a rarity today and I can’t think of a single modern example other than a few things in the open source world (like Arduinos) which arguably doesn’t count. Anyway, I don’t know if I’m going to boycott products without manuals, but do you really have to spray the innards with glue to make me repairing or modifying my own property difficult? It’s like some sort of preemptive vandalism.