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VIDEO FACE [AVM-312]

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One of the projects I built for Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2019 was VIDEO FACE [AVM-312] which is a companion piece to AUDIO FACE [APC-320].

This piece came about because my sister gave me a box of old security cameras. Specifically, analog video cameras. I brought them to Brinn Labs and hooked them up to one of my displays, and they worked fine. They just need a 12 volt power supply and they have composite video out. If you mix the two signals from two cameras together into one output you get a garbled and mixed signal, but if you add in a resistor and potentiometer, you have a way to control the amount of signal that the second camera leaks into the stream to mix with the first camera! (It’s an analog video mixer.)

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I considered adding resistors and potentiometers to both cameras but for a standalone exhibit that would have allowed people to dial it down too much and the projector that was connected would probably have gotten confused and lost a recognizable signal and just shown “NO SIGNAL”, so I went with one camera full strength and the other variable.

Construction of this was very slapdash, using scrap wood I found at Milwaukee Makerspace one night. As yes, it’s supposed to look like a face, I mean, it’s in the name, it’s got two eyes looking at you, a nose with controls and a mouth, sort of…

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During Maker Faire I had it hooked up to a projector that had analog video input. (Yeah, those are probably getting harder to find, but I have some interesting old equipment.) For other events I just used one of the small television sets I have on hand.


I loved doing these quick and dirty interactive projects, back in the old days, you know, before the pandemic.

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Acrylic Bender

I made an Acrylic Bender. If you are one of the people who appreciates that joke, I appreciate you. I mean, it’s an Acrylic Bender, not an Acrylic Bender, an Acrylic bender, or even an acrylic Bender

Sheesh! Look at that face… it’s a face only a mother could love. Seriously folks, this “Acrylic Bender” joke is like six years in the making. I really hope you appreciate it.

I etched the acrylic as I usually do, with LightBurn and the RasterLaser upgraded with a Cohesion3D board…

After etching I applied some black Speedball block printing ink and spread it over the surface, pushing it into the etched areas. I then wiped it off the top surface with toilet paper… Just kidding! I used paper towel. (That joked will not age well.)

Thank you for reading this post, meatbag… also, bite my shiny, metal plastic ass!

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Multicolored Laser Etching

If you want a true to life banana you can’t just laser etch something, you need to go that extra kilometer to make it multicolor. (Of course real bananas need not apply.)

I didn’t go large this time, I went small… How small? Here’s a quarter for scale. Oddly enough, I did not find a banana in the house to use for scale, as they’ve all bean eaten, or frozen, so a quarter will have to do.

I etched some dayglow green acrylic using LightBurn and the RasterLaser upgraded with a Cohesion3D board…

Here’s a plain old green banana that has been laser etched. Look how lifeless and colorless it appears! It’s almost downright unappealing. I dare say we should consider slipping some color into place. It’s probably what Warhol would do.

I took some good old Speedball block printing ink and with my finger (inside a nitrile glove) rubbed ink across the surface. I then took some paper towel and wiped it off. It stayed in the etched part pretty good. Good enough for this first test anyway…

Here’s our multicolored banana with some edge lighting. I should try proper acrylic edge-lighting to see what the results are…

Here’s a view of the edge without extra lighting. This is 3mm acrylic. I’m thinking next time I’ll try additional coats of ink with time in between to dry.

Here’s another photo of the banana with a quarter, but the quarter is out of focus and in the foreground because it feels forelorn because it knows it is not a banana and will never be a banana, and for that, it mourns silently.

Enjoy your banana!

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Hangers

Back in 2018 while at Brinn Labs I was tasked with doing a mobile activity (the kind of mobiles you hang, not the kind that are British cell phones) and I came up with an idea based on the work of Man Ray, specifically his Obstruction sculpture.

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I designed a hanger that could be fabricated at a small size (approximately 5″ x 1.5″) and could hang more hangers from the ends. Man Ray’s version used full size hangers that had wire hooks and holes on each end of the wooden part which made it easy to link them all together. Mine was a bit different with a simpler one-piece design. I assume the hangers Man Ray used could swivel completely around, which is an added bonus my version would not have. (But there’s always more than one way to do it.)

Here’s a hanger laser cut from 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. The nice thing about 3mm Baltic Birch plywood is that it’s easy (for me) to find scrap that is around 1.5″ tall and use it for this, which meant I had no real material cost as I could essentially create these from scrap.

I should note that I originally tried using corrugated cardboard, which is even more abundant than 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. While it sort of worked, it depended a lot on exactly where the corrugation was after cutting. I abandoned the cardboard version after a few tests. (If I had made larger hangers I think the cardboard version could have worked fine.)

Because the hanger was a simple 2.5D object I also created a 3D printed version of the hanger… like many of the things I create I tend to come up with ways others could make them depending on the equipment they have available. If you don’t have a laser cutter but do have a 3D printer you can still easily create a bunch of these.

In the photo above you see four versions. Version 1 is the plain Baltic Birch version; Version 2 is a sanded and stained Baltic Birch version; Version 3 is a 3D printed version using grey PLA plastic; and Version 4 is laser cut from clear 3mm Acrylic. Again, multiple methods and materials to choose from.

Since I was working towards making a lot of hangers for an event I just cut them all quickly on the laser cutter and didn’t pay much attention to quality, so the backs of the wood hangers got a bit charred from the honeycomb bed. This is the part where it shouldn’t matter, but sometimes things bug you… so later I ended up designing a small jig to hold the hangers so I could sand them and make them look nice. I don’t know why I torture myself… I hate sanding.

Designing the jig involved creating a slightly larger version of the hanger and then differencing it from a small rectangular shape, then 3D printing it. It worked well to hold the hangers in place while sanding them, but in the end staining them a darker color was much easier. (Again, I really hate sanding.)

When I made the hangers I sort of envisioned it as a game where one or more people would try to build the hanging structure without it falling. Sort of a reverse Jenga perhaps, or maybe more like Barrel of Monkeys though I’ll admit I was completely wrong about how you play Barrel of Monkeys, and this video shows the correct way.

Overall I’m fairly pleased with how this projected turned out. Oh, I should note that the hexagonal tops on the hangers were mean to mimic the hexagonal logo of Brinn Labs. they could certainly have been more rounded or another sort of shape. Who knows? I may redesign these hangers in the future after a bit more prototyping. As I mentioned, this was a quick project and once I got a working hanger I just kicked out a bunch.

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I hope I was able to create the “increasing confusion” that May Ray talked about in the instructions for Obstruction. It’s certainly a bit confusing when you are creating the structure, and at times I wished I had a helper to attach two hangers while I was attaching two hangers.

I’ll probably get around to releasing the files for this in case anyone else wants to do something with it.

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A Tiny Little Stocking for a Spider

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A few weeks ago Dana posted something on Facebook about this rather large spider that had taken up residence in our doorway. I did my best to avoid using that door ever again but while decorating for the holidays she said she wanted to do something for the spider’s little corner of the house, so I offered to make a tiny stocking for the spider. (I may not like spiders, but I like making things.)

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I started by looking at some photos of stockings online, then did a quick trace of one in Inkscape. I figured it would have three parts, the red stocking, the white upper part, and a dark colored letter “S” for “Spider”.

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Once I had the design I broke it out into the three parts. The little hanging tab on the upper left part of the red piece took a little work. For the first one I made it was way too small, and also lacked a hole for the pushpin to go into.

One thing that’s hard to notice here is that the white part is a bit larger than the red part it will get attached to. This was done using the Dynamic Offset feature in Inkscape which will scale up or down an object proportionally.

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I brought the pieces into LightBurn for laser cutting, and set each of the three pieces to their own color to cut individually with different color felt, and made the little slot for the hanging tab another color as that would cut first before the rest of the red piece would cut.

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The green outline in the image above is the tab for the pushpin. It’s tiny. Really tiny. You can also see how I increased the size of the tab here. Fun fact, I originally made this at half this size (the final version is than 30mm tall) but that was ridiculously small!

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LightBurn also has a kerf offset setting which I used for the tiny little pushpin hole because it allowed me to cheat and make the shape just a little larger than it really was. When you cut this tiny it helps to account for the kerf.

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Here’s what I made. You can see the tiny little slot for the pushpin in at least two of them. Sadly the white part on the top of the stocking isn’t exactly white as I had no white felt so it’s sort of bluish-white, but it’ll do.

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Here are some spares on the bulletin board with gigantic pushpins holding them in place. They are just assembled using some spray glue. I thought about sewing them but I’m not that insane.

So yes, this is probably the most ridiculous and tiny holiday decorations I’ve made this year…