Phoenix Connector Mount

Years ago my grandfather had shop in the basement, and he made things. He made doll furniture, and (wooden) snow shoes, and household items, and of course, lots of sawdust. My dad also had a work shop, and made many of the same things, and also made full-size furniture for our house. They both invested in tools over the years to make things.

I don’t think anyone ever said to them “You’ve got all these tools, and this great work shop, and you make doll furniture!?”

If you’re a Maker (and they both were) sometimes the joy is in the making… in the process… but it can also be the joy that comes from giving a gift to someone that you made yourself.

Phoenix Connector Mount

I like making things as well. Sometimes I just use my hands and some tools and whatever raw materials are on hand, but I also really like designing things using software that can then be fabricated by machines. I don’t consider this any less “making”, by the way.

I think I enjoy designing useful things in the same way I used to enjoy writing code. There was a problem to be solved, and if I could do it, or help do it, I would… and if solving a problem once for yourself can solve it for others in the future, even better. Most people agree that it doesn’t make sense to solve a problem that’s already been solved.

Phoenix Connector Mount

During a recent project someone needed to mount this Phoenix Connector to something, and a piece of Aluminum was found, and a square(ish) hole was made, and some holes were drilled, and there was probably some filing involved, but in the end, it worked, and that’s fine.

In my mind though, this was a problem that could be solved by designing and fabricating a part. Now, if this was a one-off, it might not matter as much, but if we build another one of these things, or use these connectors again, why spend time cutting and drilling and filing a piece of metal when we’ve got a 3D Printer in the shop?

Phoenix Connector Mount

To me, the promise of digital fabrication isn’t always about doing it the fastest, or the cheapest, but it’s about precision and repeatability. If Bob down in the shop can crank out a mount in 10 minutes, and it’s good enough, that’s great. But if Ted, and Laura, and Tim can take a file that I designed, and spit one out with a 3D Printer on a whim, and it’s the same every single time, that’s valuable. The knowledge and skill needed to create something is shared and distributed. Long after Bob and Ted and Laura and Tim leave the shop, someone could still make the thing, multiple time, precisely, because the problem was solved long ago.

I’m not dismissing hands-on making skills, or in any way suggesting digital fabrication is always a better choice, but in some cases, I think that if applied properly it can make things… better.

You can find Phoenix Connector Mount on Thingiverse and Youmagine.


I started this blog in 1997, and somehow I never managed to quit. There are some archives and some old archives.

18 years of this is pretty crazy. Some people start blogging and quit after a few months. Some people only write one post. Some people said blogging would never last. I’m not sure what to say to those people… so I’ll just keep posting.

Thanks for reading!

Shredded HDPE

Our latest experiment in recycling HDPE into sheets uses material that one of the guys in the shop got from Craigslist. It’s a giant bag of shredded HDPE scrap. It’s all white, and very clean. I think it was used for archery targets or something.

Bag of shreds

Here’s a photo of one of the bags with a one gallon jug on top of it. (We’ve got three of these bags!)

Pan of shreds

I thought this would be the perfect material, and it is good, but it takes a while to melt down. With jugs I could cut them up into small flat pieces and fill the baking pan, but with the shreds it’s mostly a matter of trying to stuff as much as I could into the pan, then heating it until it melted flat, and then adding more. It’s not a fast process.

Flattened sheet

Despite the time involved, the results were good. I may have rushed things a bit, as the, plastic did not seem completely pliable when I put it on the board (aka “The Press”) but I decided to go for it anyway.

The results were ok, but it’s definitely not as smooth (or shiny) on the surface as the last attempt. Getting it the right plasticity is important in this process.

Surface of sheet

The size of this (oval shaped) piece is about 8″ x 7.5″, which should yield a square sheet of 6.5″ x 6.5″. I’ll probably go back to using the larger square glass pan next time instead of the loaf pan.

Emerging Artist

I’m excited to announce I’ll be taking part in the Hidden River Art Festival at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on September 19th & 20th, 2015.

I decided to make it an interactive experiential thing, and if you stop by you’ll get a chance to operate the Turndrawble, a turntable-based drawing machine I completed earlier this year. (You can also ask such questions as “Is the Turndrawble itself art, or is it the engine that makes the art?”)

You’ll be able to to create a piece of art and take it home with you, or donate it to the growing collection of pieces created by the Turndrawble.

I hope to see you there, help you make a unique piece of art, and talk endlessly about drawing machines and digital fabrication!


In our last experiment recycling HDPE into usable form, we created a brownie pan full of plastic. While this looked impressive, it wasn’t the best idea for something that was going to be milled. It ended up being much thicker than needed, and finding a cutting bit with the proper LOC (Length of Cut) proved to be an issue. I was all set to mill a thicker piece, but we blew a fuse on the Shapeoko.


I decided that I needed sheet material of a uniform thickness, so I ended up creating a simple press using two pieces of wood, with some spacers. Once I warmed up the HDPE block I got it out of the pan, onto the wood, and stood on it until it was squished flat(ish.) I then put some weights on it until it cooled.


It turned out well! It’s a pretty uniform thickness now, and this was just under 1/3rd of a bread loaf pan, so I may need a bigger press if I want to do bigger melts. I can also make different presses with different thicknesses as well.



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