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House Illustration & Print

Right before Christmas Dana mentioned that she still needed one more gift for her sister, and told me she tried to get a house illustration done because she had seen some through a local company. (I think it was Bay View Printing Co. but I am not sure.) She asked if I could figure something out, so I volunteered.

She got me a nice photo of her sister’s house, which I then used as the basis for a line drawing. After a few rounds of revisions with the client (ha ha) she was satisfied. I originally wanted to try an intaglio print for this, so I attempted to etch an acrylic plate with the laser cutter and did some test prints. (Oh, an amazing printmaker friend of mine who lives about a mile away offered to loan me her small press.) I tried my intaglio, which I’ve not done before, and just wasn’t satisfied with the results, so I resorted to a quick ‘n dirty laser cut wood plate, which I’ve made plenty of before…

This was just one of the first test prints, and I had planned to make a better plate and print more, but ran out of time, and Dana thought this one looked good. (Sidenote: I’ve been having these issues where I feel like my work could be better, which I guess is the opposite of just settling, but it’s been sort of annoying to my process lately.)

Anyway, in the end I did an illustration, and I made some prints, and I did try a few new techniques, and I guess it’s all good.

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8K Controller for Ubuntu & Blender

A new request came in for the 8K Controller along the lines of “I’m using Blender on Ubuntu and would like these eight key commands programmed to make life easier.” So yeah, that’s what we’ve got.

While the 8K Controller (and all the USB devices we create) should work fine on macOS, Windows, Linux (and even Android and iOS) I still wanted to do the testing on Ubuntu. Luckily I’ve still got a Linux laptop lying around, even if it’s not running the latest version. (It worked great!)

There was also a request for specific colors, which we were able to do. (Note: I’m debating if I should add button color choice to the ordering process or make it a “get in touch” sort of thing. This is the first order that has specifically asked for certain colors.)

As for Blender, it’s been years since I tried to use it, though people have told me it’s gotten a lot easier to use. I know a few die-hard users who just love it.

Reminder: The 8K Controller is a USB controller. By default, it’s programmed for function keys F13 through F20 (which are not found on most keyboard) but can be customized for any key or key combo. You can get one at the 2XL Networks Shop.

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LMLL & LLS Illustration

I recently completed another fun project for a client. (Okay, it was really for my wife because I enjoy taking on projects like this.) She’s been meeting with colleagues outdoors (distanced, with a campfire) for the past few months and asked if I could do some sort of logo for the group.

The brief from the client said “Draw a hoe!” So I drew a garden hoe. Now, typically for these things I’ll find a few reference photos, load one into Illustrator (or Inkscape) and create a layer on top of it then do a lot of tracing and drawing to get the general outlines, then fill in some colors, then try to add some highlights and shadows.

Here’s the first hoe, which I was pretty happy with. The client saw it and said “Well, it needs to be a delicate hoe…” and described it a bit more, so we did some image searches until we found one she liked, and I modified things to match.

Here’s the first draft. Originally there was a plan to make these into patches or badges or something, so I kept things pretty simplified and blocky, but as we discussed things more we decided that laser-etched coasters might be better. That also meant the design could be more detailed.

Oh! The client said maybe it needed something else, a wine bottle perhaps? Back to the art board! I found an image with five different styles of wine bottles and asked her to choose a style, then I illustrated it and added it in, along with a nice scalloped ring that was more that just a plain circle.

I’ve made tons of laser-etched wooden coasters, but since we had a full-color illustration I first had to convert it to a one-color design, which I did.

Fun Fact: The text on the wine label is “Lake Mills Winery” translated from English to French, and the client (who does speak French) pointed out it would probably be “Vignoble Mills Lac” or something. I am not a French speaker. We left it as it was.

The request was for four coasters, but I ended up making eight of them, with the assumption that at least four would come out good, and I could ignore the lower-quality ones. In the end they were pretty equal. Sorry, no photos of the laser etching! I was in a rush to get this done. One thing I am not sure about is that I used water-based polycrylic instead of oil-based polyurethane, which… I don’t know. I’m a fan of the cleanup, but I’m not convinced polycrylic is as nice as polyurethane (especially when heat it applied.) Well, we’ll see how it goes.

This was a fun project, and I am mostly pleased with the outcome. (If I’m honest, I am never completely satisfied with how my projects come out, which is probably good because it means I keep striving to do better. Yes, let’s go with that.)

Oh, I did have fun doing this project and I managed to learn a few new things in the process, so that’s a win in my book!

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Zoom iPad Keypad Control

While it’s possible to use a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad, you can also use a USB keyboard (or keypad) with an iPad. Some quick tests revealed that the 8K Controller worked just fine. In fact, we programmed it for the following Zoom controls:

  • Mute/Unmute my audio
  • Start/Stop my video
  • Display/Hide Chat
  • Minimize meeting
  • Display/Hide manage participants

While “Minimize meeting” only minimizes and does not maximize, all the other controls are toggles. Press a button to mute yourself, press it again to unmute yourself, etc.

The command to “Close the front window” (which works fine on the macOS desktop application) did not work on iOS. (This may be due to being the host of the meeting… more testing is needed.) Everything else worked great!

So how do you connect a USB device to an iPad? It doesn’t exactly have USB ports… While Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter should fit the bill, I used a cheaper option, an OTG USB Adapter that was less than $11 USD.

Reminder: The 8K Controller is a USB controller. By default, it’s programmed for function keys F13 through F20 (which are not found on most keyboard.) You can get one at the 2XL Networks Shop.

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3D (STL) to 2D (SVG)

Back in 2015 I used Rhino to convert 3D files into 2D vector files that could be used in illustrations, instructions, etc. You can see what I’m talking about in 2D to 3D to 2D. Sadly, Rhino is not cheap, and I do not have access to it. Instead I would often do fake versions of this technique in OpenSCAD, which you can see in Enclosure Prototyping.

Well, thanks to Trammell Hudson, I can throw all that away! Checkout this post plotter.vision – STL to SVG and then go to plotter.vision and give it a spin.

The code is available on GitHub, and my favorite part is in the README:

I’m not a javascript programmer, so this is probably not very well written.

And yet… It exists, and it works. It may not be perfect, but the great thing about open source is that it can be improved by others in the future.

I’ve included a few results in this posts of things I’ve modeled in OpenSCAD. I think they turned out well and I can see using this tool in the future. Thanks, Trammell!