Large Laser Cut NeoPixel Sign

Over at Brown Dog Gadgets Josh asked for a large sign in the entryway and since we’ve got a large laser cutter (basically 5 foot x 4 foot cutting area) I designed and cut a large wooden sign, stained it all, and then added NeoPixels.

I designed it in Inkscape with finger joints for assembly. The large back piece is the same as the front, just cut without the lettering/logo. I basically made two open boxes that would fit together, sort of like a traditional shoe box where the inside is slightly smaller than the outside. Same here, with the inside being the part that mounts to the wall, and the outside being the cover the slides into place over it.

Here’s the back side glued up and with the NeoPixel strips added. There are just two strips running in parallel along the top and bottom.

The NeoPixel strips connect to a Crazy Circuits Robotics Board running some Arduino code. There’s also a RTC (Real-Time Clock) module so it can turn on and turn off at scheduled times each day. (Which sometimes does not work, so occasionally we have to unplug/replug it.)

I made a few grid lines on the back piece as guides for the mounting hardware. Here it is all lit up and ready for the front cover to be put in place. (You can see the simple fade animation happening. It just repeatedly transitions between colors.)

Here’s the front cover in place! There’s a sheet of light diffusing plastic inside. Actually it’s a bunch of smaller pieces cut up and glued into place as needed wherever there are holes in the front. (It appears I failed to get a photo of this.) You can see a Mini USB cable hanging out the bottom which goes to a 5 volt USB wall wart to provide power.

Here’s a side view showing the thickness. And now for the hack. It did not sit completely flush and sort of tilted a little bit on an angle, perhaps due to warping since it’s suck a large piece of wood.

I ended up drilling a hold and placing a pin (well, a bolt) into the side of the sign to hold the cover in place a bit more securely…

Adding the first pin made the opposite corner pop out a bit. So let’s add another! I colored the bolt heads with a black Sharpie marker so as not to be so distracting since it is silver hardware. Basically we just need to remember to pull out these two pins before removing the cover if we ever need to do any maintenance. It’s been running for four months now, and besides the whole RTC clock not always working right it’s been solid, and it does look nice.

The sign is 1016mm x 508mm x 95mm (or 40″ x 20″ x 3.75″ for you Imperialists!)


Parts Tray with Sliding Lid

I get a lot of hardware from Bolt Depot and it comes in these tiny bags with labels, which are great, but when I’m building products I find that I’m always opening and closing bags to grab what I need and I wanted to try another way. I designed a parts tray with a sliding lid to organize things a bit better.

Here’s a render showing how it fits together. I do this stuff in OpenSCAD. (I’m still far from being an expert in that application, but I am getting better, and exercises like this help.)

It’s a three piece design. There’s the bottom part (the tray) that holds things, a top part which gets attached to the bottom part with screws, and a lid. I laser cut some clear(ish) acrylic for the lid so I could see the parts inside. You could just print the tray part if you don’t need a lid.

No laser cutter? No problem! You can also just print a lid. Obviously you can’t see the contents with the 3D printed lid… though maybe if it were printed in resin? I don’t know… I don’t print with resin. Anyway, there are files to laser cut a lid and for 3D printing a lid.

Part of the idea of two separate pieces connected with fasteners was to allow for making the fit tighter or looser, to some degree. There are friction bumps on the top part that the lid slides against, and the top part flexes a bit to allow for a good sliding fit. That’s the idea anyway.

Now, the first sliding lid I laser cut didn’t fit… seems it was 2.8mm acrylic, not 3mm acrylic. To make it fit right I just added a bit of tape along the edge of the lid. (Note: Clear tape might be better. I used blue tape for this photograph so you can see it.) You can also adjust the top part and print it until you get it right. It’s a small part that doesn’t use too much filament.

I posted the in-progress photos of this on Twitter and a fellow named Pooch asked if I could just print it as a single piece standing up. Turns out you can, so I included an STL for that method as well. (I’m still a fan of printing in two pieces and then using a laser cut lid but hey, options are good!)

Because options are good I also created a “deep dish” version that’s a bit taller and will hold more (or larger) hardware a bit easier. There’s also some OpenSCAD files so you can change whatever you want. So… many… options!

You can get all of the files from – Tray with Sliding Lid.


Ornament 69

I’m way behind on my ornament game this year because work has been insane lately. Here’s one I made two weeks ago for a neighbors small holiday open house. They provided a heavy blank paperboard ornament and Dana came up with the concept for this.

Here’s the illustration I created. (The final piece consists of layered felt that is laser cut and then spray glued together on the blank ornament.)

Here are the individual pieces of felt. I did illustrate the stars in gold/yellow but I found a silver backed felt and used that. I ended up stacking a few layers of the white snow to give it some depth, though I should have done a boolean difference of the top of the trees for the stars, or better yet, layered the stars a bit better. (I have another project in the works that is an improvement in this.)

Oh, it’s “Ornament 69” because we live on 69th Street. Happy Holidays!


Arm for Phone Photography & Video

I needed a way to shoot video and photos on my phone while facing straight down at a desk. I grabbed one of these adjustable suspension arms with the thought that I would figure out some way to mount my phone to it… and I did. (Ugh! I got the arm for less than $10 but it’s closer to $20 now.)

As luck would have it I found some GoPro mounts in a dumpster a few weeks ago, including a 1/4-20 mount which screws onto the end of the arm. I then laser cut a piece of 1/8″ Baltic Birch and as luck would also have it it only takes a little bit of sanding to get it to fit into the slot of the GoPro mounts.

I drew up a piece that was approximately the size of my phone, and then put in some notches where the camera is, and made it so I can flip the camera around either way. (I also cut one without the “speed holes” in it.)

This is what I used to shoot the video for my Syncing a Behringer RD-6 to a Pocket Operator via a Pi Pico post. I’ll use this whenever I need a steady shot or I need both of my hands free to twiddle some knobs.


Non-Fancy Signs

We’re growing new grass on the side of our house and wanted something to remind our neighbor not to mow it. Typically I would be 100% in favor of someone else mowing our grass, but it needs to grow more before being cut. Dana asked me to make two signs to put in the lawn, so I did.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on it, but I do enjoy making signs so I made them “nice enough” but not too fancy. When I was done Dana saw them and said “Why are they so fancy!?” and I explained that these were not fancy. I did not sand, I did not stain, I did not polyurethane them. Quick and dirty, in my opinion. I just hot glued some wood dowel scraps on the back, though I did sharpen them on the belt sander.

She said she would have just used cardboard and duct tape. I cringe when duct tape is mentioned. This is a gaff tape household, though we do dabble in electrical tape, blue painters tape, Maker Tape™, etc. but NO duct tape.) I told her cardboard would have been destroyed by the rain, and really… these were not fancy signs.

What do you think? Are these scrap wood signs I laser etched and quickly rolled one coat of white ink onto fancy? I didn’t even do any kerning!