Monthly Archives: March 2011

Cardboard Box Knight

I had a doctor’s appointment today and was asked to undertake the project of doing a pain diary to track the way it changes over the day and from day to day, and how it interacts with medicine, sleep, activity, and so on. I understand its value but I’m not looking forward to it because it brings pain to the foreground of my life and I prefer to push it as far into the background as I can manage. My primary doctor is actually going on vacation so it’s longer than normal between appointments, but when he gets back I think I’ll have a volley of appointments because as my medication levels move up into the riskier toxicity levels they want to do things like an EKG to ensure that I’m not creating heart problems and so on. I don’t expect that anything negative will be found and am seeing it more as a “better safe than sorry” sort of mission.

More pleasantly, I’ve started working on a new plastic toy… Depending on how I’m feeling I hope to make the molds tomorrow.

The little guy is just a bit over 6″ tall, and he’s got swivel connections in his neck and shoulders, and his hands are able to hold accessories. Right now I’ve made a matching cardboard sword and shield, as well as a ray gun. I’ll probably cast one in a metallic look, like a statue, but most will be painted, which I am quite looking forward to. I’m very pleased so far, although I’m currently fixing the head for the third time because I keep dropping it and knocking bits off, which is a little embarrassing.

HOW-TO: Making cast plastic resin USB sticks

One of my recent projects was/is making a series of USB memory sticks. I sculpted the original from polymer clay, took a silicone mold, and can now “mass produce” them. Here’s what I made, and if you keep reading after the break there are lots more photos and a how-to series walking through all the steps it took to make this. It’s a pretty forgiving process and I actually think that this could be a good first project and introduction to casting for someone who’s new to the hobby and wants to get their feet wet.

But yeah, here’s a final product:


Tippy Pig and a tentacled double switch cover

I wanted to update with the latest mold making that’s been going on here. First of all, I finally made a mold of Nefarious’s creation “Tippy Pig”, who as I’ve mentioned before got his name due to his large head which regularly causes him to tip forward. On the left are two painted examples, cast in two slightly different plastic polymers, and painted with two different kinds of paint (Citadel and Vallejo) because I’ve been trying to figure out which paint works best on these plastics. Paint does not stick too well without a primer (and on these it’s made worse because there seem to have been quite a few bubbles — I’d love to get a vacuum chamber set up but it’s costly). The white pig is unpainted plastic, and the gray pig is an experiment in casting it using Apoxie Clay, which is a two part clay that hardens to rock-hard over a few hours without cooking. I like it a lot, and also got some similar Milliput clay that I still have to try, and although it’s intended for modeling, it did work nicely in the mold as well. After it hardened, I also experimented with adding a few changes, also using the clay, including tusks, a hat, and a big belly. Another reason I like working with it is that it’s completely bulletproof, unlike Sculpey, which I normally use, which can easily break when you’re working on it as it’s so fragile.

Pretty cool that Nefarious can claim to be a “real” toymaker at age seven. You may have noticed that the one pig is missing his butt and another is missing the top of his head. That’s my fault, as I didn’t pour enough plastic into the mold. But I think it turned out alright nonetheless. Caitlin is planning to paint the one with the flat head and she’s got the very good idea of mounting some fur there for a troll-esque hairdo.

I also finally made the mold for my new light switch design for double switches, and then painted it using the Vallejo paints. The tentacles are textured with ridges so it was really easy to get a pretty nice paint job by dry brushing it. The plastic I used was an ultra hard “onyx” black polymer, so it took a few coats of white and looks a little amateur. In a more motivated perfect world I think I’d cast the tentacles and the shattered switchplate as separate pieces so that I could cast each with its own colour.

The back of course has a little credit and signature engraved in it, with the grooves filled in with silver paint. You can see where I ground off the fill spout and air-release vents. Unfortunately my hand slipped when I was doing that and it did some minor damage, but I’m not terribly upset about that.

I made this ages ago but only recently made the mold. For some reason it was a bit of a pain to cast, but since the mold is “deep” in design, with the front face sitting in a fairly indented hole, in the end it was actually easier to just pour a bunch of plastic into the clear half and then as it started to harden pushing the back half (the yellow part) into it. I suppose that using that method I could have done without the spouts, so I’m going to keep that in mind for the future.

Well, I think I’m going to take a short break from making stuff and switch to programming. I’ve been avoiding it in part because the documentation for this watch is so non-existent (basically all you can do is read other people’s source code to figure it out) that I’m sure it’s going to be a little trial-and-error figuring out how to make it do neat stuff. But, it doesn’t look too hard, so I’m sure once I get over the initial learning curve that it’ll come fast. By the way, that mistake medication is finally out of my system and I’m feeling much better, so I’m hoping for a much nicer weekend than last. Fingers crossed.

DNA code and C code

I got something very fun in the mail today (more than one thing if you count my new clay and silicone) that I’ve been eagerly awaiting — an inPulse “smart” watch. Basically it’s an Arm7 microcontroller with a single button, a vibrate function, bluetooth connectivity, and a small (1.3″ 96×128 pixel) OLED screen. I haven’t had a chance to do much with it yet other than set up the development environment (so now my netbook is an Ubuntu box again), but it feels very raw and rather alpha test still, even though it is officially “on the market” and up for retail sale. You program it in C, and it has a rather limited low level API that I’m sure will be expanded with apps and libraries by what I hope will be a lively developer community, myself included — time to pin up some ANSI C cheat sheets. Like I said, I have not done anything with it yet other than confirm it works, but when I do, I’ll post my results (for example, here’s a video of a binary inPulse watch interface that someone wrote akin to a TokyoFlash watch).

I’m sure I’ll be able to do something fun with it. I do worry though that they released the product a bit early in the development cycle. The tools require a fair amount of technical knowledge to use and there’s no way that a general consumer would be able to do anything useful with the watch, if they’d even be able to get it working at all. I also have to question why they went with such low-end components. It wouldn’t have increased the cost much to make it significantly more powerful (more memory would have been nice, as would a touch screen — I mean, one button is nuts). Also, it can only be updated by Bluetooth, since the cable is only for charging, which seems needlessly complex.

Other than that I have a few molds curing right now and tomorrow I’m getting tattooed which I’m both rather dreading because I’m still not up to full health and also looking forward to because I’m eager to get some more work on my leg done. We also wrapped up our bacteria growing experiment today, tossing a few groady petri dishes full of plaque and other yuckness… but not before we popped it under the microscope that Nefarious borrowed from her great grandmother (I think that’s who it’s from).

By the way, I’m going to repeat that the one really “nice” thing about being a cripple is getting handicapped parking. It’s really nice and makes such a difference both in convenience and function. That said, I’ve always gotten mad when I see people scam it — for example, being old doesn’t instantly give you the right to park there, even if some sign-anything family doctors let them get away with it — but now it bugs me even more when I see five or six spots all taken and then as I’m walking from the depths of the parking lot I see perfectly able-bodied people getting into their cars. By law you’re supposed to have serious mobility issues including requiring mobility aids… Very annoying.

Anyway, time to go read a bedtime story and watch Survivor.

And now, for something a little different…

Nefarious brought me this Barbie doll today so I could reattach the head but I decided to make a new one instead. I do not think she will be thrilled and I expect an exasperated “daaaaaaaaadee!” if I show her in the morning. But yeah, she made the dress, I made the noggin.