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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

National Week of Making

The National Week of Making is coming up! It’s June 17th through June 23rd, 2016. (These dates contain not only my birthday, but my wedding anniversary to Dana.)

This year I figured that I’d observe my birthday by attending the National Maker Faire, which happens to be on my birthday. Yes, I’ll be in Washington D.C. for my birthday, and hanging out with makers and seeing other Maker Faire Producers from around the country. Neat!

It’s also (somewhat of) a work trip. Carrie and I from BBCM are both headed there, and while I get to goof off do my own thing on Friday she’ll be representing Wisconsin and attending the President’s National Week of Making kick-off event at the White House, hanging out with Lady Ada no doubt…

See you at the Faire!

Maker Faire

The Sonic Titan

The Sonic Titan was created for Bay View Gallery Night in June 2016 and was displayed at Milwaukee Makerspace.

The Sonic Titan

Similar to the piece I created last year, The Sonic Titan has a musical connection, which is fitting for Bay View Gallery Night which is “A celebration of local art, music, business and community.”

The Sonic Titan

You can find out more about this device/object/thing by checking out the project page for The Sonic Titan.

Copper versus Tin

When I created the PCBs for my Learn to Solder kit I was going for quick and dirty and cheap, and I achieved those goals, but for better PCBs it would make sense to tin them. Tinning the boards puts a thin layer of tin over the copper, which helps prevent oxidation, which can make soldering more difficult.

For a Learn to Solder kit the last thing you want is something that’s difficult to solder. (Or maybe you do want that, so it’s a challenge!) Anyway, for the PCBs I made I was able to easily scrub them with some steel wool before using, and didn’t really see much oxidation when we used them, but take a look at the photo above and you’ll see the condition of the copper just a few weeks after I made some of the boards. The one in the middle is the exception, because it has been tinned.

Liquid Tin

Just like etching, there are a number of ways to tin a PCB, and since I haven’t done it before I chose to go with the easy/expensive option. MG Chemicals has something called 421 Liquid Tin in a 125 ml Bottle. At $15 a pop it’s more expensive than other methods, but doesn’t involve heating chemical solutions, or mixing up a bunch of chemical. Don’t worry though, this stuff is still pretty dangerous, as the label on the back of the bottle will warn you.

Copper versus Tin

Warnings aside, it was dead simple to use. I just put some in a plastic container with my PCB and a few minutes later it was all tinned!

This isn’t something I would have done to all of the PCBs in my Learn to Solder kit, mainly because one of the goals was to make the kits as cheaply as possible. I will be exploring the use of tinned PCBs for some future projects, some of which are more at the intersection of art and electronics, where aesthetics and how the final piece looks really matter.

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