Kenilworth Open Studios 2018


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.


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.)


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.


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!)


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.




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


Claw Machine (Version 1)

Claw Machine

Dr. Prodoehl was telling me about a colleague of hers that collects animal parts, and mentioned a claw from a pheasant, and I (sort of jokingly) said “Hey, I want a pheasant claw!” and then forgot about it until she brought one home for me! She also brought home a baculum, which is a raccoon penis bone, and while I haven’t found a use for that (yet) I did manage to use the pheasant claw. Obviously I built a Claw Machine.

Claw Machine

I often find weird little motors at Milwaukee Makerspace and keep them around for projects. This one had a strange gearbox and spring and belt. It also had some weird angles which made it difficult to mount, so I 3D printed a mount that worked well enough with it that I could screw it down into a piece of wood. There might also be some hot glue involved.

Claw Machine

I also ended up 3D printing a gear and some arms. Those are the sorts of parts that it makes a lot of sense to laser cut, but I wasn’t around a laser cutter at the time, so I just 3D printed them. I really do enjoy digital fabrication…

Claw Machine

There’s a few extra holes in the wood because I seemed to have a hard time finding the right position for the pivot point of the arm. I managed to find one that worked and left all the previous holes as a reminder than you don’t always get things right the first time. There’s also an abundance of nuts on bolts, because spacing is an issue best solved with washers, or nuts, or whatever is lying around.

Claw Machine

Speaking of first times, besides wood, I tend to not include natural materials (like, animal parts) into the things I make, so that was interesting. I attached the claw with the simplest of methods… zip ties. Also, this is called “Claw Machine Version 1” because I intend(ed) to make some improvements, but I might never follow through with that idea.

Claw Machine

The claw is really interesting to look at. Is this piece some sort of cyborgian statement about the future where animals and machines are combined into some sort of terrifying nightmare? Probably not.

Claw Machine


Claw Machine


Just a Gear

Imperial Gear

I find it interesting the way we address problems. Take for instance, this simple gear. For the Prusa i3 printers we are building at school we realized we didn’t have 8mm bolts, so we got a bunch of 5/16″ bolts, and then we realized we needed to print new gears…

Calvin started to edit the STL file we had, and I asked if he looked around for an existing 5/16″ compatible gear on Thingiverse. He said he didn’t even think of doing that, and got right to modeling. Sadly, Calvin’s new gear was slightly too small. The next day I mentioned it to Fred, and Fred decided to fix the gear. I told Fred that it might be helpful to just model the new bolt-head part and print it to see if it would fit. This has the advantage of printing much faster than the entire model. He took that advice, but it still didn’t fit.

Meanwhile, I found a gear generator library for OpenSCAD and tried to model a new gear, but that failed as it wasn’t fully parametric in regards to the number of teeth.

After all that, Fons came along and said “I’ll just put the hex head of the bolt on the grinder until it fits the gear that Calvin made.” Duh! A great hack to make it work!

While I loved the hack, I also wanted to make sure that others could easily have a gear that worked with a 5/16″ bolt and did not require grinding down the head. I’m also preparing for the future when a part fails, and someone needs to replace it, and doesn’t realize the bolt was altered, or heated with a torch to get it into place.

So I followed my own rapid-rapid prototyping advice, printed a few versions of just the hex head part until it fit perfectly, then dropped it onto the model of the gear, and printed a few. And they worked.

And then I uploaded the gear to Thingiverse and Youmagine in the hope that someone else who has the same problem in the future can just grab the one I created and get on with their day.

Sharing, it’s a thing.


Inkscape to OpenSCAD


Oh yeah! You can totally draw gears in Inkscape… In fact “draw” isn’t even the right term, as you can “render” them using one of Inkscape’s extensions. Here’s a nice post about laser cutting some gears that explains it quite well.

Gear Rendered!

Normally for 3D printing I’d export something like this as a DXF file and extrude it into a 2.5 dimensional object, like I outlined here, but there is another way… by using the Inkscape to OpenSCAD converter! (Here’s a nice blog post about it as well.)

Gear in OpenSCAD

It may not generate code that’s easy to edit, but it’s fast, and seems to do the job, which is often exactly what you want. I’m also quite pleased that Inkscape is becoming such a valuable tool not just for 2D work, but for 3D work as well. I might consider teaching an Inkscape class at Milwaukee Makerspace once we get our classroom up and running.

3D Printed Plastic Gear