Back in February I got sick of the tools I use most at my soldering desk just lying in a pile and decided to do something about it. I grabbed a block of wood and started drilling holes so I could place tools into it standing straight up. This would make them easy to grab and hopefully easy to put back… in the same place each time. The block of wood has worked well enough, but more than once I’ve wanted to change the order of the tools, and I can’t easily do that since each hole is customized for the tool it holds.
It was also a fun time creating the holes for the wire cutters and wire strippers since the holes are sort of oblong. I actually did pretty good for freestyle drilling on those. At the time I also imagined a modular system for this, and a month later I found a dovetail library for OpenSCAD and started messing around with it. I could not get a good dovetail joint to print though, so I gave up for a while.
A few more months past (hey, I got busy) and instead of printing the dovetails on the old Maker Select Plus I tried on the Prusa MINI+ and wow, things fit perfectly! Well, after a few tests prints to determine the exact Teeth_clearance to use. Once I had that, Bob was my uncle!
Here’s the first successful attempt. The pieces fit together well. Not super-tight, but not too loose. A small strip of tape on the bottom of the blocks would work well to hold them all together as one piece, with the ability to easily take apart and reconfigure. (The first dovetail attempts required a hammer to assemble and could not be disassembled!)
I’m still considering this prototyping, and I may tweak things a bit more before the final version… When I have something final I’ll post it here. My first thought on this version is to make the blocks a little smaller so the tools are spaced together a bit tighter. This should save a bit of desk space as well.
This time I returned to wood, but decided to give it a metal look. The above is a 12″x12″ sheet of wood with 1/8″ laser-cut hammers attached to it.
The artwork came from Kathy who created it for a screen printing demo I did at Milwaukee Makerspace a while back. We made a vinyl cut stencil for the screen and then I showed people how to print it on a shirt.
I’ve used metallic paint before on wood, but I think a few different colors mixed together turned out well. I tried to keep things rough looking and was a bit loose and crazy with the paint.
Splotches were intentional, of course… I may try a few more experiments with metallic spray paint on wood. I think it gives a good look. I’m wondering if I can layer polyurethane or another sealer on top if it as well.
Since Click Whir Squee involves abusing a piece of hardware that is close to 20 years old, I can’t guarantee it will keep doing what it’s supposed to be doing for the entire run of the show. That’s part of the excitement of kinetic art… and it’s actually integral to the statement this piece makes.
I may try to dig up a few more of these TR-1 Minicartridges to swap in when the one in the machine gets destroyed. That might be enough to keep it running, but would rely on someone involved with the show doing maintenance. (Which I’m fine with.)
If you’ve already seen the video, you can just enjoy the photo of a cat that has been provided above. (It is called Body and Machine, after all.) Otherwise, here’s a video.
There’s a new space in town… The Woodworker’s Gym, a workshop full of tools that can be used by anyone willing to pay (and take the required safety classes.) Their web site describes it like so: We are like a health club for woodworkers… But instead of treadmills, we have table saws. This is close to the description I heard for Bucketworks back in 2006. It’s also applied to makerspaces on occasion.
The prices at The Woodworker’s Gym are pretty high compared to a place like Milwaukee Makerspace, which may not have as much space for wood working, or tools quite as nice and new, but offers many other things. I’m sure there’s an audience of people who only want to do wood working, in the traditional ways, and have no interest in laser cutting or CNC routers or things completely unrelated to wood working like welding and 3D printing and forging and ceramics, etc.
I’m wondering if more spaces like this will start to appear. Niche-spaces that only deal in one specific technology. Maybe they already do, but I’ve met so many makers/hackers who suffer from a form of ADD which causes them to want to learn ALL THE THINGS, and can’t contain their desire to learn to one single subject.
Perhaps that’s part of the appeal to a niche-space like The Woodworker’s Gym. You’re going there to work with wood. You’re not going to get distracted and accidentally build a tiny electric race car or an army of Daleks. Hmmm, maybe they’re on to something!
The thing is, that crazy cross-pollination is part of what makes a makerspace a great thing. You go in wanting to make paper rolls for a player piano and you end up teaching people how to make jewelry and resin casting while you learn how to work with fiberglass and build a robot dog.
A recent JSOnline article has more info on the place. (Right now the hours seem pretty limited, but I look forward to seeing how it grows over time. Hopefully I can get a tour at some point.)
Occasionally I show up at Milwaukee Makerspace with no clear idea of what might happen when I’m there. This piece, titled “Click Whir Squee” is the result of one such visit. Another member brought in a box of old computer hardware, including a Hewlett Packard Colorado T100E Tape Backup Drive. Being a fan of old technology (1997 is old, right?) I opened up the drive to take a look inside. I also powered it on and stuck a tape in it. The drive came to life and unspooled the tape and made a lot of spinning motor and tape loading sounds. Not everyone knows what these things sound like. It brought back some memories. (At my first job in the tech industry I had to load daily backup tapes into two tape drives. I remember the sound fondly.)
I somehow decided I should mount the tape drive to a piece of wood for display, so I went to the Wood Shop and started cutting up some scrap wood I found. Steve showed up to do some training, so I sat in on that for a bit so I could use the compound miter saw and the band saw. I had all the pieces cut by the end of the evening and knew how I was going to mount it.
I ended up taking all the pieces home and assembling it in my basement workshop. I manage to only split one piece of wood. Just a minor split, but a reminder to slow down when working with wood. The rest of the assembly went very smooth.
Since the majority of fun with this drive is the startup sequence, I decided it should continually turn on, do its thing, then turn off, and keep repeating that. I’ve been playing with ATtiny85 chips lately, so I put one into service to trigger a 5 volt relay (which I also grabbed from Milwaukee Makerspace) and put the following Arduino code on it.
Yes, this is pretty much a glorified blink sketch. Sometimes the simplest things are exactly what you need. (Astute readers will see that the device will be on for 70 seconds, and then off for 15 seconds, and repeat indefinitely.)
To power the ATtiny85 and the relay I found a Samsung phone charger on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace. It even had a long cord, which was quite useful. You can also see one of the tapes that this machine uses. Now, if you really want to find some contrasts, consider that the modern day phone charger pictured here was used to charge a phone that probably had 8GB (or more) of solid state storage. The tape next to it could store 400MB of data (or 800MB of compressed data.) I should have included a MicroSD card which can store 8GB of data that I routinely buy for about $6 USD.
Since I removed the case there was no indication of what this thing was. I felt I should have something that told a bit of the story. I chose to mount the beige power pack, with “Hewlett Packard” emblazoned on it prominently.
Oh, and while the whir of the motor is quite satisfying, we can do better. There is a wooden arm to which you can affix a small piece of material with a binder clip, which will then be activated when the primary motor spins. Fans of baseball cards and bicycle spokes, this one is for you! I call the “Annoy-o-tron” mode. (Look, if you’re going to use an ATtiny in an Annoy-o-tron, at least be original, right?) I’ve experimented with paper, vinyl, and plastic, but finally settled on a piece from an anti-static bag which some electronics were shipped to me in. It seemed fitting.
Gallery owners and curators take note! This piece is ready to be mounted to a wall, and needs just two outlets to power it. It’s pretty much guaranteed to amuse some visitors while annoying other visitors. Art isn’t always about being pretty.
Enjoy the video below which allows you to experience this wonderful piece over the Internet while in the comfort of your own home (probably while wearing pajamas.)