Hammer, Screwdriver, Illustrations, etc.

I use Illustrator a lot when I create guides at Brown Dog Gadgets, but most of my vector work in the past 10 years has been creating files for digital fabrication, so getting back into the “illustrate a thing to make it look nice” has been interesting. I’m about 6 months into almost daily use of Illustrator and I’m now working on making better illustrations.

Above is a hammer I recently illustrated, at home, on my own, for fun. I started with a photo of a hammer as a guide and got the basic outline and shapes by tracing on top of it, then I put it off to the side and used as a reference. There are things I really like about it, and some room for improvement, but overall I think it’s good progress.

Here’s another one, which is (obviously) a screwdriver. This one took about 90 minutes (the hammer was probably a little less) and I definitely could have done more, or come back to it, but part of this process is not to obsess over it, or go back to it again and again, but to sit down, do an illustration and call it done. (Probably 60 to 90 minutes and not more.)

Here’s a recent one I did for work. I needed a safety pin for a guide, so I very quickly made this one based on a photo I found. This is not perfect, but I think it’s good enough. Part of creating guides is just getting it done quickly, so being able to knock these out in a timely fashion is key.

Below is an example of a guide with a bunch of illustrations. This is one of the more complex guides. I usually do the three dimensional view part of it by taking a 2D version and using the shear tool. I don’t yet know if there’s a better way to do it. One of the guides I looked at basically said “Prepare for the shear tool to get away from you and screw everything up.” So, yeah… I’d love to find a better way to do it, especially since the proportions seem off.

I typically use Inkscape for my digital fabrication work, and I did get a license for Affinity Designer which I’ve used a bit, but overall I’d prefer to keep my skills separated and not tied to a specific application, which may mean I have two things to do: Get more familiar with Adobe Illustrator, and also start doing these sorts of illustrations in Inkscape and/or Affinity Designer.

Also, I am open to any critique or advice on my illustration work. (Thanks!)


More PCBWay Boards

I’ve been working on a number of projects the past few months, and many of them require custom printed circuit boards. A few weeks ago as I was finishing up the design of a new board I got an email from the crew at PCBWay. (You might remember that I had boards made by them a few years ago.)

As luck would have it I was just exporting some Gerber files so the timing was great! I got my boards created by PCBWay and they arrived about two weeks ago. It took me a bit of time to wrap other projects and get things soldered up and programmed, but the boards worked great. Often you don’t get PCBs right the first time, but luckily all my connections were fine (It’s a fairly simple board) but there are a few things I might want to change about the dimensions and the mounting holes.

I’ve been using this as a supplemental USB keyboard. For testing I’ve programmed it to be function keys F13 through F20 (which can then be assigned to key commands for certain applications, like OBS: Open Broadcaster Software.) I’ve also set it up as a MIDI device to trigger sound effects using my SoundProp application. It can also serve as a toggle for your mic and camera in videoconferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. It’s pretty robust in its capabilities.

I still need to finish up an enclosure for it, and then do more rigorous testing, but so far the boards and functionality have been great. (If there’s interest in these devices, I’ll probably drop a few into the Etsy Shop.)


Garage Door Joke

One of the fun/ridiculous projects I did at Milwaukee Makerspace was this Garage Door Status Updater. It was part of the reMMinderbot project, which would send reminder emails to the mailing list. Typically useful things like reminding members about upcoming meetings, which side of the street to park on, etc.

This bit was based on the imaginary (or maybe “not yet realized”?) Milwaukee Makerspace Sensor Array Network, which, again, did not exist. See, we had this rule/guideline that the garage door should be closed at night so as not to disturb the neighbors. So I set up some cron jobs to send an email showing a “live camera image” of the garage door open after 10pm, then it would send another email shortly after than with the door closed and a “Thank You!” from reMMinderbot.

I’m pretty sure at least one person noticed after the second time that my car was always in the parking lot in the same spot…

Anyway, I just found these files and they were a reminder of the fun I used to have before the pandemic. Good Times… <sigh>


Pizza Dough

This is a recipe for pizza dough. Sorry, no story.


  • 1 1/2 cups water, warmed to 110° F
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Every seasoning you have


  1. Combine water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl… Let sit for 5 minutes
  2. In a large bowl put the flour, salt, and every seasoning you have in the cabinet that makes sense to add to a pizza
  3. Stir in the water/year/sugar mix… I use a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook, though you can knead by hand if that’s your style
  4. Mix that shit for a while, like maybe 10 minutes? When done, knead by hand a bit in the bowl… add a little bit of flour if it’s too sticky
  5. Take dough out of bowl, put olive oil in bowl, coat the sides, drop your dough in the bowl, coat the dough with olive oil
  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then with a wet kitchen towel
  7. Put in the proving drawer for about 75 minutes (No proving drawer? Put it in a warm place I guess, you can prove in the oven if needed)
  8. Dough should double in size after 75 minutes or so… you can then shape it by hand on a pan and make a pizza, or you can parbake it for around 5 minutes at 475 F and freeze it for later

Oh yeah, this makes two crusts, or one giant crust. You can obviously make the crust as thick or thin as you want… but I make two medium thickness crusts with this recipe.

Enjoy, Champions!


Remap F14 & F15 on macOS

Here’s a fun one. On some Macs the screen brightness keys are actually recognized as the F14 and F15 function keys. Which means when you build your own keyboard with those keys they change the screen brightness. Yuk. I found a post that explained how to change that, which involved going into System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts -> Display, except… it’s not there. (See the image above? Not there.)

But wait, it is there after you plug in a device you built that has F14 and F15 keys. (See below.) So once you plug in a device you built that has F14 and F15 keys, the Display option will appear and you can disable the brightness thing by deselecting things. And yes, you can still totally adjust the screen brightness by using the keys on your normal keyboard.

This post is about 95% for future me, and 5% for someone who needs to figure it out and finds this post. You’re Welcome!