posts tagged with the keyword ‘noisemakers’



As you may know, I’m occasionally an artist, and create weird things that I show in public. Sometimes my work appears in galleries. Typically though, my work is not in galleries in Milwaukee, so it’s a real pleasure to be in a show right in my own hometown.

Var Gallery currently has some of my work on display at the Art+Tech show, which runs until February 3rd, 2018. The majority of my work for this show (I have about nine pieces) are from my NoiseMakers series, which was also at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2017.


I’ve also got my Hammer of Futility at the show. (Which needed some minor repairs. Kinetic sculptures that run for weeks on end can be a challenge. I had to replace a motor, and I still need to drop in a controller to slow things down.)


The show was curated by Becky Yoshikane and Christina Ossers, who did a great job selecting work from Milwaukee artists involved in the Art+Tech scene. (Both are artist in their own right as well.)

Thanks to Nathaniel Stern, who I borrowed a few photos from. Also check out what Kat Kneevers had to say about the show: The Medium Becomes the Message at Var Gallery’s ‘Art + Tech’ and Jessica Fenlon’s post: Art+Tech @ VAR Gallery [Milwaukee, WI], so at least if you don’t see it, you can read about it.

If you’re a fan of Art+Tech, keep an eye out for another show coming up this spring. I can’t share any details yet, but hopefully we can keep this Milwaukee Art+Tech train kinetic sculpture moving!



Back in October of 2017 Marc Ownley (member of Milwaukee Makerspace and amazing metal artist) brought a bunch of wooden bowls to the makerspace and asked members if they wanted to create something unique for the Feed Your Soul event that was happening in November. I took one not knowing what I might do, but it sounded like a fun challenge.


I started to stain the bowl, and had an idea for layering stain using masks, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Then around the middle of October I headed out to Maker Faire Orlando and was gone nearly a week, so when I returned it finally hit me. I had built so many noisemakers for Maker Faire Milwaukee, I thought it appropriate to build one more. And the NoiseBowl was born!


I did just a bit more staining then a coat of polyurethane, and moved on to the wiring. The sounds this one makes is similar to NoiseMaker VII, although I did add a small amp to kick up the volume a bit. There are 3D printed parts (like NoiseMaker VII has) but in black this time. The speaker legs are borrowed from NoiseMaker IV.


It is similar to NoiseMaker VII in a lot of ways, which is fine, because that’s one of my favorites in the series.


At the Feed Your Soul event they hold an auction and people bid on the bowls, with all of the proceeds going to feed the hungry in southeastern Wisconsin, which is awesome. I had a lot of fun making this, and I hope whoever got it appreciates it and finds it to be fun, but more importantly, we were able to help people in need.


It’s rare that my art goes out into the world and doesn’t return with me. Typically I stick things in a box in the basement or eventually dismantle them (we’ve only got so much basement space!) I don’t know who has the NoiseBowl, but I hope they’re enjoying the noise it makes. Hopefully I can build something again next year.


NoiseMaker XI

This is (almost) the last noisemaker. There’s been a whole series, and they were all at Maker Faire Milwaukee. But don’t worry, if you missed them in person you can read all about them…

This one started out (somewhat) as a joke. While at Milwaukee Makerspace trying to convince other members to join me on this noisemaking quest I found this old radio on the Hack Rack and said “Look! Here’s a noisemaker! All we have to do is connect up a button for power. It’s that easy!” And while I did convince Maks and Dustin to make some noise(makers) others were not as easily swayed.

NoiseMaker XI

Not being one to not follow up on my own stupid idea, I took the radio, confirmed it worked, and then took it home to connect up a button and a power supply. I ended up just using alligator clips and didn’t even bother soldering anything in place. I did however use a generous amount of tape. (This was definitely the shortest/fastest build of all of the devices.)

NoiseMaker XI

As for the button, I already had that handy and mounted, because it was the old button for our garage door. (I replaced it with this one.) Since the old garage door button was something I hacked together very quickly one morning when the original garage door button broke, I thought it an appropriate use.

NoiseMaker XI

This one definitely has an aesthetic different than the other noisemakers, and that’s a good thing. If anything, I wish I had varied things a bit more throughout the process.

Looking back on the whole thing, creating nearly a dozen different noisemaking devices was a lot of fun. None of them were too involved so I could be sure I’d get each one done and move on to the next, and when things got a little more complex or time consuming that it should have, I offset it by working on multiple devices at a time. Some makers I know suggest this is the secret—having multiple projects at once so you can switch between them when you get stuck/bored with the one you are currently working on. Of course the issue with that is to not abandon projects completely, and come back to them in a reasonable amount of time. (Yes, I may be guilty of 4+ years of planning and/or working on a project that has seen very little progress. I ain’t proud!) If you’re interested in making your own noisemakers, let me know, and I’ll do what I can. The world needs more noise!

This is just one post in a series about noisemakers. Check out the other posts as well:


NoiseMaster X

Just a few more of these noisemakers… I swear! Yes, if you are not aware, I made a lot of them. I also brought them all to Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2017 so people could play with them. That’s the sort of thing I tend to do. On with the show!

The speaker for this one is from an old stereo that Dana told me to get rid of because parts of it broke. I did actually get rid of the receiver by dropping it off on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace, but I kept the speakers. ;)

NoiseMaster X

The enclosure this time consists of some offset pieces of wood stained two different colors. The electronics are again somewhat exposed. On top are two controls that allow for user input.

NoiseMaster X

The controls consist of a button to enable the sound, and a potentiometer to alter the sound. The knob for the potentiometer is 3D printed, and it’s a knob from this thing. I’ve used these knobs before, many years ago, thanks to the old RepRap. Luckily the new printer did a much better job this time around.

There’s also a ring beneath the button. This ring is 100% there to cover up a mistake I made by drilling the hole too large. I’m more than happy to honestly admit I screwed up, but I also found a way to fix things, and I think it worked.

One other interesting thing abut this one is the pencil lines that are clearly visible on the wood. I realized that I could draw on the wood and still have it show up fine after staining it. Now I’m tempted to explore this method more and see what else I can do with it. Hooray for weird experiments! (Oh, I also totally screwed up with the assembly and mismatched the sides, but again, I made it work and you probably wouldn’t know if I didn’t admit it.)

NoiseMaster X

As for the electronics, I once again went with an Arduino Nano, a super-cheap microcontroller with plenty of inputs & outputs (especially since I only used a few.) It’s also easy to power with a MiniUSB cable and a 5 volt USB power supply.

NoiseMaster X

Here’s a bit more on the knob. The bottom hole is sized to fit the shaft of the potentiometer, and it’s a tight fit (by design) so that it wouldn’t be easy to remove.

NoiseMaster X

The side of the knob features a small hole that accepts a 3mm set screw. It’s a “headless” screw so using an hex wrench to tighten it up hides it inside the little slot. Extra insurance against the knob twisting or coming off.

NoiseMaster X

And here’s the 3D model of the small plate that goes under the button to hide the spot where I drilled the hole too wide. All good. Ready to go!

This is just one post in a series about noisemakers. Check out the other posts as well:


NoiseMaster IX

Once again we’ve got a noisemaker to tell you about. As you may know, there’s a whole series of these things, and they were all at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2017, and each one is getting a blog post. (More links are at the bottom of this post.)

NoiseMaster IX

This one features a really nice (looking) speaker that was donated to the cause when I posted about needing unused speakers. This one was in a cabinet that was probably 25 years old, and had what I assume was fiberglass insulation inside of it. I ripped the cabinet apart at Milwaukee Makerspace one day and trashed everything but the sweet speakers which have “Muscle Magnet” power!

NoiseMaster IX

We’ve got a Teensy LC in this one, along with a Teensy Prop Shield (Low Cost version). I made the mistake of soldering a Teensy LC onto it instead of a Teensy 3.x and then realized it wouldn’t play the sounds I wanted to play, but it can do some speech synthesis stuff, so I embraced that. (You’ll hear what it sounds like spouting random phrases in the video below.)

NoiseMaster IX

One of the weird things I did with this one was make the wood look like plastic, and the plastic look like wood. Sort of. I mean, the wood is really MDF, but I gave it a glossy coat of paint, to move away from the stained wood I used in other noisemakers, and I sort of thought it looked more like a plastic surface. (Except for the sides, because MDF is stupid.)

NoiseMaster IX

For the “spools” I 3D printed them with wood filament, so they sort of are wood, but still plastic. Sort of. It’s confusing. Everything about this one is confusing I guess.


Here’s the spools I modeled to serve as standoff between the top and bottom pieces. The spools came about after I modeled the feet. What feet?


These feet! While the wood (uh, MDF) and plastic were on the controller part, I made bright green plastic feet, which are actually modeled as tiny speakers, to attach to the large blue speaker so it could “stand” face down on the table.

NoiseMaster IX

Because the Prop Shield has a built-in amp, it was much louder than most of the other noisemakers, so this was a good way to dampen the sound a bit. Hear this noisemaker in all its glory!

This is just one post in a series about noisemakers. Check out the other posts as well:

« Older Entries |

buy the button:

Buy The Button