posts tagged with the keyword ‘art’

2018.06.12

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BuzzBuzz is a device that makes noise and light using electricity (somewhere around 40,000 volts, approximately.) There are five “high voltage generators” connected to buttons that when pressed cause them to create a spark with a loud “ZAP!” and then continue to make noise (and light) while the button is held down.

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BuzzBuzz was heavily inspired by something Mario the Maker created. I had one of the high-voltage generators for a while and was planning to do something with it. I had an idea for a project and had started on it, but once I saw this thing I altered my plans.

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The size of BuzzBuzz was somewhat dictated by the size of materials I had on hand, or could easily get at no cost. The top piece of clear acrylic is from a bulk buy at Midland Plastics where many of the members of Milwaukee Makerspace shop for scrap pieces. Since I had that piece of clear acrylic, it pretty much determined the size of the top of the enclosure.

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For the walls of the enclosure I grabbed some 16mm thick plywood from the scrap bins at Milwaukee Makerspace. There’s a local tool & die company that donates these pieces to us. They are long and skinny and always have these weird laser cut marking on them, because they use them for calibrating their lasers. I wanted to see if I could cut through the 16mm plywood with the 130 watt laser cutter I have access to. Indeed, it could! At 4mm per second, which is probably the slowest we should cut at. The cuts were not the greatest, but it was more a matter of “Hmmm, will this even work!?” than anything else.

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You’ll also notice the hexagonal holes on the sides. Those are “sound holes” since my first assembly demonstrated that the box fully closed up was too quiet, so I decided to add holes that the sound could spill out of. It also adds a nice look, and if you associate the “Buzz” in the name with bees, and notice the holes are hexagonal, well, it all fits.

I mounted the AA batteries on the outside so that you can easily see the power source (it’s interesting that 40,000 volts AC can be produced by just 4.5 volts DC) and so that I can easily change batteries without opening the thing. There are two battery packs because one tended to drain too quickly. I may add an AC adapter in the future so that I can convert AC to DC to AC.

(One more fun fact: The battery holders were one of the most problematic parts of this project. I wasted more time trying to get these cheap battery holders to work. The spacing and springs kept making it so the batteries did not make good contact. I started with a 5-pack of battery holders and trashed two of them just trying to modify them to work. Luckily I got two of them working well enough.)

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I designed and 3D printed the parts that hold down the high-voltage generators and also allow for bolts to be inserted to carry the electricity. (The design of these parts was inspired by the structures that hold overhead power lines.) The bolts can be screwed in or out to adjust the gap, which gives different results for the zap. I started with the narrowest gap and then did the widest gap, and then calculated the three distances in-between. (For the widest gap, you don’t want to go too wide, because if it can’t properly spark, it’ll burn out the unit.)

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As you may know, I design 3D objects with OpenSCAD. Once I had my object completed, I did a projection to get what it would look like from a top view. This is the 3D version of that.

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I then render it into a 2D version I can export as an SVG file. This allowed me to easily do the layout needed for the laser cut parts.

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Here’s a top view. The reddish parts will be cut from the top clear acrylic panel and hold the buttons as well as an old SparkFun key switch I had in my parts bin. The grey pieces are for the bottom part of the enclosure which hold the high-voltage generators and the mounts. I ended up printing a full-scale paper version and using it as a template to mark the holes that needed to be drilled. It did not have to be prefect, so close enough was fine.

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For the construction, there are some screws on the bottom to hold the bottom pieces to the two side pieces, and then the front and rear panels can slide into place and get held in by just one screw on each side. This is not the most elegant, but I realized somewhere along the build process that I did not have a good way to complete assembly or take it apart. This is what I came up with, and it worked well.

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I used two contrasting stains, for a light and dark look, which I think matched the burned laser cut edges, and allowed for making the inside of the enclosure dark so the zappers could light up the inside.

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If you’re wondering why there are two rows of buttons, I really liked the symmetry, but I also wanted something I could use when displaying at a table, so that if you’re behind the table talking to someone, you can demo it and press the buttons on your side, and they can try it with the buttons on their side. (In the museum exhibits business we try to make things that are not single used components, so that more than one person can engage with a thing at a time.)

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While this was a bit of a rush to get done by Bay View Gallery Night, and like most projects, there are things I maybe would have done differently (or at least in a different order) I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I also brought it to Milwaukee Makerspace to show off and got a lot of positive feedback.

Here’s a video showing operation of the BuzzBuzz. It was difficult to capture on file (well, solid state memory) exactly what it looks like, so this is an approximation. You’ll probably want to see it in person to appreciate the full power of this battlestation device.

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2018.04.15

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It’s been an interesting six years… Back in 2012 I was just a lowly member of Milwaukee Makerspace who stopped by Kenilworth Open Studios to check out what was happening there, and mainly to meet Frankie Flood.

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I remember running into Mike Massie at Kenilworth, and he said he had stopped to talk to Frankie on the third floor, so I went to find him. I’m gonna straight up say I was really excited to meet him, but what threw me off was how excited he was to meet me! It was weird, but totally awesome, and we hit it off right away. It’s safe to say becoming friends with Frankie on that day changed my life. (I’m sure many of his former students would probably say the same.)

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A few months later we started the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup and later on I somehow got him involved with the e-NABLE project, then I left my job to attend grad school and work with him, then left grad school, then taught at UWM, then Frankie left, and I left, but Kenilworth is still an awesome place to visit each April.

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This year I saw co-workers, and former students, and friends, Sometimes people were all three of those. I saw the work of people I really don’t hang out with much, but follow online every day, and much of it was inspiring, and got me excited about art, and design, and making. (More excited than usual!)

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Kenilworth (and UWM) will always hold a special place in my heart. I really would not be where I am in my life right now without it, and I’m thankful for that. Also, there’s really nothing that compares to seeing former students doing amazing work and being excited about it. My time teaching at UWM was brief, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and hope I had a positive impact on the students I interacted with.

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I look forward to attending Kenilworth Open Studios next year, and for many years to come.

2018.03.31

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When I heard WMSE was doing a fundraising event called Art & Music and was looking for artists to contribute, I wanted in. I got in touch with them and got a blank 12″x12″ board. I’ve done some of these art boards before, once for The Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design and once for a friend of mine. (And while it’s not a board, I also made this NoiseBowl last year.) Besides myself, I also managed to get most of the people I work with at Brinn Labs to make boards, and a few people at Milwaukee Makerspace also made them.

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This one is a litte more special to me though… WMSE went on the air in 1981, and while I don’t remember when I actually started listening to it (though I do have my brother to thank) I grew up with WMSE. They played the music I wanted to hear (at least on Wednesday nights when I was in high school.) They introduced me to weird and crazy stuff, and I even got to be a guest on air a few times (and they’ve managed to play a few songs from bands I was in.)

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Since I’ve been screwing around with making noise with Arduinos in sculptural form I thought I’d continue that obsession practice once again. I’ve been working on a four step sequencer for work, so that’s what this is…

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If it wasn’t for the stain and attention to fit and finish in creating this piece, it might look like some of my work you’d find inside a museum exhibit. We tend to make a lot of devices that produce sound. (We typically don’t go to great lengths to make them “pretty” though, since they always live inside cabinets and are not seen by the public.

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Here’s the design for the one cut piece I made. It’s the control panel/user interface, which holds the power switch, potentiometers, and the LEDs. I actually used the CNC router instead of the laser cutter to make it. (Don’t ask why!) It also took some careful drill press operations to get things just right. There was also a lot of sanding involved. (Again, don’t ask.)

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There are some 3D printed pieces as well. The standoffs used for the speaker, and to hold the control panel in place. They are similar to ones I’ve used before and before, but of course the beauty of 3D printing is that I can change the design each time to match the speaker and hardware used. (Parametric, FTW!)

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Here’s a short video that demonstrates the noise that this thing makes. The first four knobs adjust the pitch for the four steps, with the fifth knob used to adjust tempo, and the top right knob as a volume control. The LEDs light up showing each step of the sequencer.

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I also decided when I started to build this that I really wanted one for myself. While I love seeing my artwork go out into the world, sometimes I miss it. Since I was building one, I thought it would be easy to build a second one. Well, it was (fairly) easy, but it was also time consuming. I also had this idea that if anything went wrong, I’d have a backup. Nothing really went wrong, but I did finish the one for WMSE about week before I finished the one for me.

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If you’re ever curious about the process I go through when building these sorts of things, you might want to head over to Instagram and follow me there. For instance, I posted a photo there… and another, and another, and a video

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And then I posted more, and then I probably posted even more. So yeah, Instagram tends to be my “in process” photo & video place.

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And if you’re not hip to Instagram you might find a photo or two (or three) over on Facebook. Not as much shows up there, but we’re still friends, right?

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Enjoy the show!

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Note: The piece sold for $510! I’m really pleased I was able to support WMSE with this, and I’m thankful a bunch of people liked it enough to bid on it.

2018.02.03

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This project started like many of my projects… Someone says something, and I have a reaction to it. I might say something, or I might not say anything, but I’ll get an idea, and decide to do something. Sometimes it’s a ridiculous idea, and that doesn’t really matter. In fact, ridiculous ideas are probably more likely to be explored.

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This one started when a local teacher got in touch with Milwaukee Makerspace about donating a bunch of industrial control equipment. Luckily Tom and a few other members were interested enough to go look through nine boxes and transport them back to the space so members could look through them. I should note this is a common thing. When people want to get rid of things we look for a “Champion”. Basically someone who will take responsibility for the stuff. If they bring it to the space we ask that whatever members don’t take “goes away” within a week or so. (Typically this means the dumpster, but not always. At a minimum, some members take some things and divert them from the landfill. Sometimes things are donated to others or recycled.)

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This load was a bunch of industrial electronics. Not super useful for most of our members, but many did find some good things. I found some neat switches, and in particular this large switch with a nick “CLUNK!” sound that said it was capable of handling 690 volts…

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Steve and I were looking at it as I clicked it on and off and I mentioned how many volts it could handle and he said “Hey, you need to make it turn on an LED!” which was (probably) a joke, since an LED requires roughly 3 volts, which is quite a bit less than 690 volts. (In fact, it’s approximately 687 volts less!)

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So I did what I had to do… I had to assemble the switch into a device that could turn on (and off) and LED. I had also found (and destroyed) an old data tape, but I managed to save the nice Aluminum plate that served as the base of the data tape. (Seriously, some of those old tapes were sort of beautiful!) Since I now had to weird objects, I just combined them with some wire, an LED, and LED panel mount, a battery holder, and two AA batteries. The rest is… history!?

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There’s also a Sintra plate on the bottom that the battery holder screws into to hold it in place. And some tape, and some hot glue. (It’s not a project until you add the hot glue!)

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So yeah, it’s a but ridiculous, but it’s also somewhat interesting. In some of my projects I don’t even add a switch. This actually seems very common in “maker” projects. Why add a switch when you can just apply and cut power by plugging a thing in!? So why not make the switch the BIG THING in the project. Many times larger than the batteries and the thing you’re actually turning on. Hell, it’s almost art!

Because the switch sounds so amazing, I had to make a video. Oh, also you can see the LED turn on, so there’s no trickery in this video.

Also, worse case, if I keep this thing around I’ll have a nice big high voltage rated switch I can cannibalize for another project. So that’s a big win in my book.

(Oh, sorry about the terrible photos of the blue LED. I need to do better next time.)

2018.01.31

green-button-box

I tend to make objects. Things. Pieces. Sometimes I think I can apply the word “sculpture” to them, mainly because sometimes there isn’t a better word to describe them (especially if they are to be considered “art”.)

Many of the things I make are “functional” in that they do a thing. But what is that thing? What does it mean to do a thing? They might make something happen, or move, or light up. The might be kinetic or reactive or interactive. They may solve a problem. They may make the world a better place. They might look pleasing.

And then there’s jewelry…

I’ve had a strange relationship with jewelry. I never really cared for jewelry. Beyond the relationship humans have with jewelry, and how it fits into society, I just never really cared about making jewelry. I think that some art instructors use jewelry making as a way to teach process and making, and maybe use it because many (most?) people like it and would like to have jewelry, or maybe because it’s such a personal thing. I mean, it’s work on the body. That’s personal, right?

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I even ended up making a piece of jewelry for a class titled “Machines that Make”. I designed a hammer ring. I learned a bit more about Rhino, and I got a print made by Shapeways, which was a good experience, but as far as a piece of jewelry, I didn’t care about it. (I mean, It’s an interesting object, but I’m not going to wear it. Like many of the things I make, there’s humor somewhere deep inside of it. Or maybe on the surface. I don’t know, I’m still figuring this out.)

Much of my art & design background involved 2D work, which, let’s be honest, often hangs on a wall, or is just seen and doesn’t do a thing. But doesn’t it do a thing? Does it provoke thought or emotions? Does it instruct or inform? Does it make you feel something? Does it make you happy? Things do things.

I remember back in a high school art class we had to make a ring. I had zero interest in wearing a ring or making a ring, and I really dragged on the project. I think I eventually finished it (late) and I don’t even know what happened to it. It was a piece I just didn’t care about. I probably could have learned about etching metal, and creating different kinds of resists, but I just wasn’t invested. (I know, this is all a person thing.)

My daughter has started to make jewelry. I’m excited about it. Not because I like jewelry, but because she likes jewelry. Or, maybe she just likes making things. It seems therapeutic. She’s mostly doing wire wrapped jewelry. I use wire for electronics and for securing things. Making jewelry with it? I guess some people do that.

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She also learned how to do metal casting, which is awesome. I know a little about metal casting, and it’s something I wish I knew more about (but there are only so many hours in the day.) I’m glad she has the opportunity to learn it.

Also, Daleks…

What? Daleks? Yeah, well, Jon H. at Milwaukee Makerspace is the Jewelry Area Champion, and besides helping people make Daleks, helps people make jewelry. Or, learn how to make jewelry. Jon is an interesting guy. I’ve heard him called a “Retired Magician” though maybe he still is a magician! He’s got a lot of skills and is willing to share them. So yeah, sometimes you see Dalek parts being made in the jewelry area, because, the process is similar, sort of. Right? I don’t know…

Where is all this going? I’m really not sure. As I said, I’ve had a complicated relationship with jewelry. I don’t wear it, I’m not a big fan. It’s a personal thing. I don’t really like drawing attention to myself. I mean, my self. My physical being. I don’t mind using words to make myself known, or sharing my work, but I don’t want the focus on my physical body. That’s just how I am. I’m weird. Maybe. I don’t know.

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Well that turned into a rambling mess about art and objects and jewelry that I wasn’t fully expecting. Writing can be like that sometimes… What do you think?

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