The following is an article about my grandfather that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal (or Sentinel, I’m not sure which) on February 26, 1981.

If you know me, this article will probably seem familiar to you… and if you don’t know me, reading this article may give you some insight into why I am the way I am, and tell you a bit about my family.

When the Boy Scouts of Troop 501 in Greenfield needed snowshoes for their winter hikes in deep snow, they turned to an American Indian design—and Roman Prodoehl.

Although it was his first venture into snowshoes, Roman Prodoehl of 4429 S. 66th St., Greenfield, has spent the 10 years since his retirement from Falk Corp. concentrating on his woodworking hobby.

One of the boys in Troop 501 knew all about Prodoehl’s work.

Peter Prodoehl grew up knowing how grandpa could turn pieces of wood into something magical.

The scoutmaster did the research and found a snowshoe design developed by the American Indians of the northeast-tribes that lived in the area that is now the state of Maine.

Roman Prodoehl took the design and started working on the snowshoes in mid-September.

Now Troop 501 has 11 pairs of snowshoes, and an easier time of it when they hike (with full backpacks) through the deep Wisconsin snow.

“I do it for the love of the work,” says Prodoehl. “My son Ron (Peter’s father) says it keeps me out of mischief!”

Prodoehl didn’t have much time for mischief when he started on the snowshoes.

The troop supplied the two 4 by 8 sheets of plywood and Roman supplied the know-how and the help of his wife, Lucille.

Each snowshoe was soaked in hot water for half an hour. Then Prodoehl curved the tips in a woodpress for four hours.

The three-foot long snowshoes, stained brown, are not only authentic but also “custom made”—coming in different sizes depending on the boy.

On a recent hike through Whitnall Park, Troop 501 reported that the snowshoes worked beautifully.

Prodoehl didn’t know it at the time, but 50 years ago, while attending Boys’ Tech woodworking classes, he was learning the techniques needed for the snowshoes. Later he used the same principles in his job in steel fabrication at Falk Corp.

On and off while working at Falk Corp., Prodoehl made use of his woodworking skills—fixing the family wood toboggan after a run-in with a tree, for example—but it is in the last 10 years that he says he begun “to tackle anything.”

That includes a dollhouse for daughter Fleurette and later, over 300 pieces of doll furniture for Fleurette’s children. He patterned all the pieces after furniture in his house.

“I’ve made refrigerators, stoves, davenports, beds, rocking chairs…everything,” he says.

Even a grand piano made out of black walnut.

One Christmas Roman Prodoehl presented family members with handcarved horsedrawn sleighs. Used as centerpieces they are perfect for holding Christmas cards and candy.

Now he is working on a series of shadow boxes for son Ron. One is a miniature old-time saloon.

When summer comes Prodoehl puts away his miniatures and concentrates “on the big stuff”—picnic tables and benches, for example.

“I could be very busy every day of the week,” he says. “People call up and ask if I can make something…”

But although he prefers to take his time “and do what I want to” he can be quickly caught up in a challenge.

That happened recently when Prodoehl was walking through a store and noticed some shoe-boxes-the kind that hold polish and buffing material-selling for $25.

“I looked at them and thought, ‘Oh boy, I can put that together for five bucks,” he says.

So he did. Several of them. And gave them to his grandchildren.

Even after making 22 snowshoes and an entire Boy Scout troop happy, Roman Prodoehl remains stubbornly modest.

“A little whittling. A little carving. It turns out real nice.”

Leave it to grandson Peter to tell the whole story:

“Grandpa can make anything.”

Reading this 37 years later brings back a lot of memories, and brings with it a new perspective on where I came from, and who I am. I don’t think this article would have resonated with me so strongly 10 or even 15 years ago, but right now, it sure means a lot.


For the past few years I’ve been creating weird videos that (often) celebrate retro-computing with modern day low-power computing by making a Raspberry Pi connected to an old Apple display monitor play videos. You may remember Apple Watch and Apple Wait from past years of Maker Faire Milwaukee.

I’ve struggled a bit with the process of using modern software to create low-resolution videos, and I’m sure there is more than one way to do it, but I thought I’d document my process so that the next time I do it I’ll have a simple guide to follow. I’m calling this my “Guide to creating Standard Definition Video files for Raspberry Pi”.


When I create a new video file in Final Cut Express (yeah, I’m still using it) I just pretty much assume I’ll want an HD version, so that’s what I create, even if I plan to have a standard definition video as my final output. Video files get created at 1920×1080, also known as “1080″, for short. Let’s make a 1920×1080 file in Photoshop.


Our final file will be 640×480, but since SD is 4:3 versus HD which is 16:9, we need to adjust for that. If we put in 480 for the height of the file, we see it proportionally scales down the width to 853. (I remember this number from my video editing days!)


853 isn’t what we want… we want 640, so subtract 640 from 853 and what do you get? Well, it’s 213. Maths, duh! (Remember, we’re going from 16:9 to 4:3 aspect ratio, so we need to lose some of the image.)


Divide that 213 in half and we get 106.5, but since we need an integer and not a floating point, we will use two numbers, 107 and 106. Those are the number of pixels we need to crop from our video file.


I still use MPEG Streamclip because, wow, it’s awesome and it works. I’ve highlighted all the important settings I need to care about. We are loading in our full HD (1080) video file, and then scaling it down to 853×480 and also cropping it, 107 pixels on the left, and 106 pixels on the right. (Selecting “Deinterlace Video” can help too, depending on the look you want.)


If the export preview from MPEG Streamclip looks wrong, you probably did something wrong. If it looks right, then you are probably in luck! Once your MP4 file is saved, you can check it out.


I open it with QuickTime Player to check the resolution. It’s 640×480, so everything is good. So now I’ve got a Standard Def 640×480 MP4 video file that is all set to be played on a Raspberry Pi connected via composite video to an old fashioned 4:3 video display.


The crew at PCBWay got in touch with me to see if I’d like to try out their service. I’ve used other PCB manufacturers in the past, so I figured I’d give PCBWay a try to see how they worked. The ordering process was not the smoothest, but the boards turned out well, were very affordable, and they got to me pretty quickly.


I designed this PCB years ago and I’ve used them a lot in my noisemakers and while I might modify them in the future, they are still pretty useful, so I figured I’d make more.


I had my Gerber files ZIP’d up and ready for upload, so I started the process with PCBWay, which I assumed would be similar to other PCB manufacturers I’ve used. Yup, pretty close. Note that for color you can choose green, red, yellow, blue, white, black, or “none” at the same cost, but choosing purple, matte green or matte black cost bit more. (Not quite double, but more than just a few bucks.) I’m not sure what “none” looks like, but I am curious.


So I added the boards to my cart, and I first noticed that I could not change the quantity. This was a little annoying, as I wanted to try different quantities to see how it affected the price. You can do that, but only at the first step in the process, at the “Online Quote” step, not once it’s in your cart, so make sure you know how many you want before your add them to your cart!

When I went to checkout I then found out I could not check out. Right, seems my boards were “Subject to audit.” Yes, they had to be approved by someone (a human I guess) before I could order them, which seemed weird. (Notice the yellow highlighting I added to the cart image above.)


Now, this is partially my fault, as I didn’t see this the first time I uploaded files. There is a little bit of text on the upload form that shows it could take “10min to 1 hours” for approval. I’m not sure exactly how long it took, as I did this late one night and didn’t get an email about approval until the next day. This was the most annoying part of the ordering process. When I want to order something I don’t want to have to wait hours, or even one hour between putting it in my cart and being able to order it. Perhaps they could make it so that you can place your order, and then if not approved for some reason (?) they could refund the order. Or who knows, maybe this whole “approval” thing is due to some new tariff laws. I have no idea.


Like I said, pricing is good. I got 75 boards for $32. That’s about 43 cents per PCB. These are tiny boards though, so obviously the price per board goes up when you get larger boards. With approval completed (by some human, I guess) I was able to move on to shipping options.


I went with shipping via DHL, which came in at $21, so the order total for 75 boards ended up being $53, making each board cost approximately 71 cents. (Obviously ordering more would probably bring that price down, but I really doubt I need more than 75 of these right now.)

I uploaded the PCB files on July 21st, and they were approved and ordered by July 22nd. Manufacturing was completed by July 25th and they were then shipped via DHL July 27th and I got them by July 30th. That’s about an 8 day turnaround for these printed circuit boards. (With some weekend days in there.) Not bad! For US shipping DHL is probably the best option for getting them fast. There were two cheap shipping options, one being an ePacket (which seems to be how I get most of my eBay electronics delivered) which was $8 but had a 10 to 15 day delivery time frame. There was also “China Post” option which was $7 but showed 25 to 40 days for delivery. Wow. So the ePacket is not too bad if you do not need your boards in a hurry.


The boards from PCBWay look good and got to me fast. They were also very affordable. Overall it was a good experience except for the issue of having to wait until files are approved before ordering and not being able to change quantities once the item is in your cart.


When last you saw my cast bolt it was made from plaster and an ABS 3D print which served as a mold. It sort of worked. As mentioned, it was more “art object” than “functional thing” and that was what I was going for…

Well, I made another ABS mold from the first experiment and even though I had worked with a flexible filament mold I thought I would give the ABS version one more try, this time with concrete instead of plaster.


I really liked the way this one turned out. Yes, I had to destroy the mold again, and in the process the part got damaged and broken, and then I pulled out the hot glue gun and put it back together, and now I like it even more!


It’s one of those situations where things go wrong so you just do something and it turns out (possibly) better than you thought it would. I joked that this was the modern maker equivalent to Kintsugi, using hot glue instead of gold.









I really like how it has this feel of being an ancient relic. In a strange twist of fate, I was at first annoyed with all the tiny pebbles in the concrete, so much so that I made a sifter to remove them, but now I’m thinking up a list of things I can mix into the concrete besides pebbles (and, probably pebbles too.)

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