Don’t be a Dick!

At Milwaukee Makerspace we have two very important rules. Rule #1 is “Be excellent to each other.” and Rule #2 is “Don’t be a dick.”

These rules are common among hackerspaces, and in an ideal world those would be the only two rules you need. Unfortunately, people need to be reminded of these rules every now and then, so when I saw Brant in the Wood Shop making a beautiful “Don’t Be A Dick” sign on the CNC Router, I figured I too should make one using the skills I possess.

Don't be a Dick!

I present to you “Don’t be a Dick!” – by Pete Prodoehl – enamel on canvas – 8″ x 8″.

Nixon Times Two!

I started with this photo of Richard Nixon (aka “Tricky Dick”) and pulled it into Photoshop where I ran a few filters to knock down the number of colors used and basically posterize it down to two colors. It’s still pretty recognizable. Typically at this point I’d do some manual cleanup, but I did very little with this one. Some pieces require more than others, YMMV, etc.

You’ll see I also added registration marks. (Those little crosses.) They worked, but I’ll probably go back to the old registration mark method I used for my annular series.

Nixon Separated

The Photoshop file has two layers, one for black and one for gray. This made it easy to create separations, since I wanted to save each color out to its own file. At this point it would have been helpful to turn the gray artwork into black artwork for the next step, but it wasn’t needed this time. The next step? Oh yes, after I exported the two images to PNG files I then imported them into Inkscape so I could create vector files.

Lines for Cutting!

The art imported into Inkscape, I did a ‘Trace Bitmap’ operation, and our raster file gets converted to vector outlines. These are what we need for the Silhouette Cameo to cut the stencils. (I typically save the files in SVG format, which is the default for Inkscape, but then export as DXF files, as that’s what can be imported into Silhouette Studio, the controlling software for the Cameo.)

Paper Stencils

For the stencils I used thick glossy paper that was originally from a calendar. (Pro-tip: grab all the free calendars people offer you, the paper is quite useful!) As a special treat, the calendars I used had images of concrete walls printed on them, which, when put in contrast with spray-painted stencils, looks almost as cool as the final artwork!

So remember, friends… Don’t be a Dick!


It’s a sign!

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Brant, the President of Milwaukee Makerspace, has a great saying:

“Perhaps we should solve it as all great problems are solved. With a sign.”

I don’t know if there was a problem, but I made a sign anyway.

Skugga Lamp

I started with this IKEA lamp known as the “Skugga” which I picked up at the Z2 Rummage Sale for 2 bucks…

But there is a bug in this sign! It seems to promote coffee, and I don’t drink coffee. That’s an easy one to fix, because… hackerspace.


I grabbed a copy of the (new!) Milwaukee Makerspace logo (thanks, Mike!) and did a bit of editing, and loaded it into the Silhouette Studio software so I could cut some vinyl.

Coffee? Yuk!

Luckily the coffee thing has a white piece of plastic behind it that will work perfectly for us… All we need to do is stick the vinyl to it.


The logo has some nice stitching around it, which can be troublesome when used at smaller sizes, and while some got pulled out of place during the cutting, it didn’t matter for this application since we were using the reverse. (If I’d wanted the positive, this would have been messy!)

Weedy Bits!

I used masking tape to pull up many of the tiny pieces. For the rest I used a sharp new X-ACTO knife. (I also stuck it right into my finger, because I miss being an undergrad in Graphic Design.)


I didn’t notice until later that I lost part of the “m”… oops! Well, vinyl can be that way sometimes. I could always cut a new “m” piece in the future.

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Here’s our finished light-up sign, which now resides at Milwaukee Makerspace. I think I should have made the vinyl just a little bit smaller, but hey, it looks pretty good for a late-night, rush-job project.


Milwaukee Makerspace Beer Stein


I’ve been using the sandblaster at Milwaukee Makerspace quite a bit lately, and I figured that I needed to push the limits of what is etchable by sticking vinyl on glass.


I started with the word DRINK in Inkscape as text. I wanted something big and bold, so there would be a lot of etched area.


When exporting any text it’s a good idea to convert the text to art, or outlines. This changes it from editable text to vector artwork consisting of lines. Once this is done, you cannot edit the text anymore. Often I’ll save my original file with text, then make a duplicate I can convert to outlines.


I then grabbed one of the new logos Mike has been working on. There was some stitching lines inside of the shape, but testing indicated that the Silhouette did not cut it very well at the size I was using. (I should try various sizes, and perhaps a new blade.)

I exported both pieces of art as DXF files, like I usually do.

DXF Files

If I ever need to quickly check my DXF files I use Solidworks eDrawings. Typically I don’t need it, but it’s handy for troubleshooting.


Once I have good DXF files I load those into the Silhouette Studio software for cutting, like I usually do.

After the vinyl is cut, I use transfer paper to attach the vinyl to the glass, and then mask off the rest of the glass to protect it in the sandblaster. (Oops! Photo not available!)


Sandblaster… here we come!

Logo etched

The logo turned out well…

DRINK etched

…as did the “DRINK”.

Drinking Glass

A fine looking glass!

Etched logo

Close-up of the etch. Looks good!

Combining the vinyl cutter with the sandblaster can produce some great results! It’s a pretty simple process, really. I’ve had a few members ask me about this so I may end up doing a demo or a short class showing how it’s all done.

Disclaimer: You should never drink alcohol while operating power tools. Also worth noting is the only beer I really care for is root beer. I got this mug from the dollar store for… one dollar! I just wanted to see how it would look etched.


From Processing To Painting

I’d been working on using Processing to create these grid patterns using circles of varying diameters for a while now, but moving from the digital world to the physical world is something I first started experimenting with last fall when I was attempting to win a laser cutter. While I love laser cut wood, I wanted to try applying the idea to something different, and it’s been a long time since I put paint on canvas, so…


More info on this series of painting (titled annular) can be found on the project page, but the basic process involves running a Processing sketch, using the output to cut stencils, and then painting using the stencils.

Cutting a Stencil

The Processing sketch outputs a PDF file, which is a vector file easily opened in Inkscape and adjusted to the correct size. I then save out the file as a DXF to load into Silhouette Studio to cut the stencils. (I could use the laser cutter, but the laser cutter is at Milwaukee Makerspace and the Silhouette is in my basement, so it’s more convenient for pieces 12″x12″ or smaller.)


The stencils are cut from old posters that a local printer was discarding. I hate wasting things, and the posters are a great source of strong paper that can be easily cut to size and run through the Silhouette.


I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and I’ll be creating more of these. Ultimately it would be nice to have 64 of these, but that’ll depend on funding. (And yes, these pieces will be for sale.)


Don’t forget to check out the project page for annular where there’s more info on the concept behind these pieces and plenty more photos.