crumble-steps

We spent the weekend replacing the crumbling infrastructure that was our front steps. We moved into this house in 2013 and less than a year later the steps were looking pretty sad. They were built by the previous owner using stones that weren’t really meant to be steps. The first repair we did involved pulling out the bad stones are replacing them. This was a quick-fix that lasted long enough for us to do a complete rebuild, which is what we did.

steps-cleared

We spent Friday pulling out all of the stones. I got to work with a chisel and hammer and started the removal and when Dana came out to check on me she explained that I was working way too hard and the stones would just pull loose without much chiseling. As usual, she was right and things went much faster after that.

We got all the old steps out and were left with lots of cinder blocks and gravel. The cinder blocks and gravel I’m talking about aren’t even in the photo. We filled a giant bucket of gravel and we put about 20+ cinder blocks on the curb.

stringer-testing

The first real problem: The porch is 32″ high so a 5 step stringer was required. You’ll notice that the stringer doesn’t quite reach the concrete. Not good. We thought about pouring concrete, but that wasn’t something we wanted to do due to the skills required (which we lacked) and the time it would take. Our alternate plan was to lay down gravel and then put some paving stones in place for the stringers to rest on. Here’s where Hank comes in…

After I put those 20+ cinder blocks on the curb we ran to Lowes (again) and figured we’d put a note on Nextdoor or Craigslist mentioning a big pile of free cinder blocks. Well, we never got a chance because when we got back the cinder blocks were all gone. I put out a few more and eventually some guy showed up with a truck and Dana let the guy know we had more stones (all the ones from the steps) and we then met Hank. Hank said he did concrete work and would take all the stones we wanted to get rid of. Dana then told Hank she loved him (and yeah, at this point I did too, since we was carrying hundreds of pounds of stones away from my house.)

Hank then gave us lots of advice and a few suggestions for how to fix things up. He suggested quick set concrete and some 4x4s as posts under the stringers. We thought about that and while Hank drove away to unload more stones (including 5 buckets of busted up stuff) we ran to Lowes (again) and when we came back found that Hank had made another trip, grabbed all the stones we offered him, left us a few 6x6s pieces of wood (thanks!) and his business card. Awesome. Thanks, Hank!

stringers-in

We originally bought 3 foot wide steps (because that’s all Lowes had) with the idea we’d do a double stringer in the middle and basically two sets of steps next to each other. After some discussion on the matter Dana made some phone calls and found out we could get 6 foot wide steps at Menards. While we prefer Lowes or even Home Depot to Menards, we drove over and picked up 5 of the 6 foot wide steps. I left the double stringers together since I figured more stringers are better, right? Right.

You might also notice in the photo that we added a 10×2 to the front of the porch so we could attach the stringers to something. This also helped push the steps out another (almost) two inches so the front would be a bit closer to the concrete, creating a smaller gap.

steps-done

After 12 hours of fun on Saturday we ended with this. Stringers are in place (attached to the 10×2 board) stones are under the end of the stringers (with the rebar in place, as Hank suggested) and the steps are attached. Painted screws were use for everything so they don’t cause issues with the weather treated lumber. We still need to cut the boards for the risers and put them in place, and put a side piece on to make things a bit more cleaner, and keep the animals out, but the steps are functional, so that’s the important part.

The Sonic Titan

You probably remember The Sonic Titan, which had its debut at Bay View Gallery Night. The details concerning the construction of The Sonic Titan were shrouded in mystery, just a hazy cloud of unknowns, but no more! Here is the story of The Making of The Sonic Titan!

The concept for The Sonic Titan was kicking around in my head for a long time. When Neil Gershenfeld talks about making, there’s this idea of personalization, and producing products for a market of one person. The Sonic Titan may have a market of one person, myself, and I’m fine with that.

speaker-box-01

The physical manifestation of The Sonic Titan started with this speaker cabinet I saw in the alley on my way home one night. One of my neighbors was throwing it away. I always like to build upon the detritus and waste of society, so I grabbed it.

speaker-box-02

As an electronics nerd, I loved the giant capacitor bank circuit thingies on the back. I considered using them, but it didn’t fit the aesthetics of the piece.

speaker-box-03

I grabbed a screwdriver, hammer, and pry bar and got to work tearing the speaker cabinet apart.

speaker-box-04

Mmmmmm, delicious fiberglass insulation! People really knew how to DIY speaker cabinets in the olden days!

speaker-box-05

Why not add some roofing shingles to your speaker cabinet? Glue then down with some weird industrial adhesive to keep them in place, because acoustical properties.

speaker-box-06

I got the speaker out in one piece. I didn’t end up using this speaker, but I’ve still got it on the scrap pile for a future project.

inside-doom

A fully formed cabinet emerges! I must have forgotten to take photos of the construction process. Basically after I broke apart the cabinet I rebuilt it into the size and shape I wanted with the help of the table saw, drill, and a bunch of screws. (Oh, and there was a fun adventure with the jig saw for the speaker holes.) I also grabbed some old scrap wood my brother dropped off at my garage about two years ago. The wood had all sorts of weird slots cut into it. (Thanks, Brother!)

Anyway, the above photos shows how everything is lovingly stuffed into the cabinet. There was no careful thought or long consideration about putting things in there. It was basically “jam it in and make it fit” the whole way. Mostly.

speakers-spades

Spade terminals come in handy for this sort of thing, and I had some handy, so I used them. The speakers came from Milwaukee Makerspace, which is always full of all sorts of weird old junk. The large fender washers are actually the scrap pieces from when I drill out Aluminum boxes to make USB controllers. Reuse!

raspberry-pi

Hey look, it’s a Raspberry Pi! Yes the “Doom Box” is Linux-powered, which seems appropriate for so many reasons. But seriously, folks… I love Linux. It allows me to do things like this quickly, easily, and at a low cost. Open source is a wonderful thing.

The Raspberry Pi is secured in place by… gravity? Yeah, it’s just sitting there. It’s got a Micro USB cable for power, and a 1/8″ cable for audio out.

power-supply

There’s a 12 volt power supply, this provides power to the audio amp, and to the Raspberry Pi. Wait, the Raspberry Pi needs 5 volts, not 12 volts… what!?

buck-converter

Oh look, there’s a buck converter which takes the 12 volts and knocks it down to 5 volts. These are handy when you don’t want to have two power supplies. Just split the 12 volt power and run to the converter and you get your 5 volts. Sweet!

screw-terminals

There’s a few of these screw terminal blocks. This one feeds the 5 volts from the converter to the Micro USB cable that had one end cut off. Just use the red and black wires from the USB cable for power… no signal wires needed!

audio-amp-01

Here’s the audio amp. It’s got spade connectors all over. Two for the 12 volt power, and 4 for the two speakers. I’m pretty sure I screwed this down to the board. Oh yeah, I did, we’ll get to that later…

audio-amp-02

It’s a Pyle cheapie audio amplifier. Nothing fancy or super-loud, but I had it in the shop so I used it. The cover was removed because I had an idea to mount it right up to the front and use the integrated volume potentiometer and add my own wooden knob. That worked until I broke things…

audio-pot

…so there’s a potentiometer that got added in to replace the one I broke. And it’s not a dual pot, just a single, and probably not the right resistance. When things break and you’ve got a deadline you grab whatever you’ve got available and get things done. (At least I do, or I try to.) Wires are delicately soldered because deadline.

greeble-slot-01

Some of the greebles were put into place to cover the gaps that were created when the cabinet was built because I didn’t have quite enough wood to do it right. I call the greebles a “feature”.

greeble-slot-02

This little greeble works well to stuff the extra cables into. See, “features”!

greeble-slot-03

And this greeble closes up the gap at the bottom… (Note: hard drive magnets are great for keeping random screws in one place!)

greeble-slot-04

And over here there’s a lovely gap for the power cord to exit. Mind the gap! Use the gap! Love the gap!

Is it mere coincidence the photo above and the Dopesmoker art below share a similar color palette? Probably… or… maybe not!?!?

dopesmoker-01

Check out that stoner caravan! I hope they are enjoying their journey! They should have a Doom Box to listen to!

vinyl-mask

I used Bauhaus 93 as the typeface that came close to matching the Sleep logo I liked, and made a few pieces of vinyl which were put on the wood so I could use them as stencils and spray paint on the name and labels. I like vinyl and stencils and paint. They work well together!

Wait, wasn’t there something about Linux? Of course there was! After I had the Raspberry Pi up and running with Raspbian I added mpg123 for playing the audio:

sudo apt-get install mpg123

I then wrote a long and complex script to start the audio playing and keep it playing forever by using a loop. Here’s the long and complex script:

#!/bin/bash
mpg123 --loop -1 /home/pi/Dopesmoker.mp3

I saved that script and then set it to run after bootup by adding a call to it in the /etc/rc.local file, right before the exit line.


/bin/bash /boot/playaudio.sh
exit 0

And that’s how I built The Sonic Titan. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

Tiny Drill Press

I rambled on a bit about Dremel-compatible drill presses back when I was working on my Learn to Solder Kit and I came close to building my own last month. I had some smooth rods that I considered cutting down and I took a bunch of scrap wood and cut it into pieces to form the body of the press. Fortunately I got too busy and I never cut the smooth rods, and then I found some nice drawer slides on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace.

I’ve been sick the past few days but finally started to feel better on Sunday. I had planned to start doing a shop clean up and organization but I figured what better way to procrastinate than by building a tiny drill press!

Tiny Drill Press

This really was slapped together in a matter of hours. I did try to get things straight and aligned, but I didn’t obsess over it. I’m pretty sloppy at traditional woodworking and building in this fashion and that might be part of the reason I tend to like using CNC machines and software, as they change how things are measured and cut (or extruded, etc.)

(And yes, the photos are terrible because I never got around to clearing off the photo table. Because procrastination.)

Tiny Drill Press

The most difficult part was determining how to hold the round Dremel tool in place. I ended up using some 3D printed nut knobs from my CAMS system to hold the Dremel into a channel with precisely placed blocks of wood and some 1/4″ bolts. I’m able to turn on and control the speed as well as change out the bit while the Dremel is mounted. It works. This is fine.

Tiny Drill Press

I tested it with the tiniest bit I had and it worked. No bit snapping occurred, the drawer slides worked well, and I used a rubber band to hold up the Dremel. What? Yes, I don’t yet have a proper spring mechanism or counterweight, and there is currently no handle for moving the Dremel down, but it can make holes in things, so that’s something.

I’ll revisit the drill lifting mechanism another time, and I’ll figure out some sort of handle mechanism as well… at some point. For now, I can make tiny holes, and I call that progress.

Enjoy this wonderful video of Tiny Drill Press in action. I tend to post in-progress things on Instagram, in case you are interested.

One Day Tiny Drill Press is done enough for one day…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

Z Axis…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

DSC32D_1189W

It’s been quiet around here, but it’s not due to lack of activity! As previously mentioned, I attended National Maker Faire in Washington D.C., and met with producers from Maker Faires around the country. It was great to connect with others and meet with a government official to discuss how the Maker Movement is affecting the country, and what is needed to make it do even more in the coming years.

Amanda

I ran into Amanda from Circuit Breaker Labs before the Faire started. She was still busy setting up so I didn’t want to bother her to much. I did have to get a photo of her circuit dress though. (And hey, she’ll be at Maker Faire Milwaukee this year!)

I also stopped at the Vintage Robot booth and after a brief discussion convinced them to come to Milwaukee as well. It’s great to see people traveling half way across the country to attend our event.

Gold CNC

I didn’t get a ton of photos because I got really busy doing things and talking to people, but here’s a shot of some CNC work that looked like gold.

House

A tiny smart home created by a young maker. I always enjoy seeing what kids come up with, and love it when they share their creations at Maker Faire.

BOSE

The folks from BOSE were there with a nice display showing how speakers work. They were doing demonstrations and had hands-ons stuff to play with, and they’ve got a speaker kit that is suitable for kids to build, which is a neat idea. It’s interesting how music seems to tie into the maker world. I may have had a brief talk with Dale Dougherty late one night about how punk rock played a part in the DIY/Maker Movement. (He was in agreement and mentioned the work of Patti Smith.)

I ended my time at National Maker Faire by speaking on a panel about how different organizations do Maker Faires, which was fun and educational, and at the end a bunch of Maker Faire Producers sang “Happy Birthday” to me, which was weird and also fun.

Oh, and my Maker Profile went live on the Week of Making web site.

Name Tag

I woke up early on Sunday and had an idea for a project, and since I had a bunch of copper boards laying around, and just got some Liquid Tin, I made a super-simple name tag PCB.

Design filled

I started by designing in Inkscape with a canvas slightly larger than what I needed, and a cutting guide the exact size of my copper board.

Design outlined

Here’s the outline of the design, which I exported as a DXF file. The outer line was useful in making a (near) perfect alignment when I put the vinyl on the copper board.

Silhouette

I then imported the DXF file into the Silhouette Studio software so I could cut some vinyl to use as a resist for etching. (As mentioned previously, my etching solution is hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and a bit of salt.)

Liquid Tin

Etching took over 75 minutes, but after it was done and cleaned off I dropped it into the Liquid Tin. It started getting bright and shiny immediately! (Sorry, no photos of the bare copper because I was working fast.)

LED & resistor

I soldered a blinking LED and a resistor in place, and since I still don’t have a tiny drill at home I went with surface mount of through-hole components, which works fine.

Battery

I also needed power, so I added a CR2032 battery and a binder clip along with a wire. The bottom of the battery (positive) goes against the PCB while the top (negative) gets a wire held against it with the binder clip. (Pretty much just borrowing heavily from the Learn to Solder Kit.)

Name Tag

I did end up drilling and filing a slot for the name tag clip thing, which I stole from my Milwaukee Makerspace badge.

Name Tag

Blink Blink! Maybe I’ll wear it to the National Maker Faire! I’ve got a few more ideas to build circuits that are one part electronics and one part art, so stay tuned!

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