If you haven’t gathered, Crashspace is my hackerspace home, and the signs on the room doors were in dire need of update. (“Dante cleaned Shop One! Yay, Dante! Wait, which one is that?”) There were signs, but they were subtle printings on paper, which no one ever looked at.
So I made some new signs that are tool-specific to each room. Lasercut acrylic for Shop One, CNC router for Shop Two, and 3d printed for the Library. As I am wont to do, I made some tweaks in Illustrator of Peralta (one of my favorite fonts), and then translated it for the three different tools. Note: I did a little cleanup on the Shop Two sign, this picture shows it fresh off the router.
Now if you don’t know which room is which, you’ll be directed to the big, obvious, lovely signs on the doors.
Which is not to say that I haven’t been creating physical things as well. The CNC router is just too much fun to leave alone, and I’ve made a couple wood signs, including this in-progress one of one of my favorite quotes from Steal Like an Artist. More pictures when it’s done.
We’ve also been using a lot of T-Glase filament in the Bukito 3D printer, which is transparent(ish) and awesome for things like hanging air plant terrariums. Here’s the STL of the terrarium I designed in the picture above (where the clear filament looks more like silver). Oh, how I’d love to play with a resin printer.
This spring break and summer, I’ll be running the reDiscover Center’s Tinkering Camps, for which we have all kinds of fun plans, and starting this coming Saturday, February 7th, I’ll be doing Tinkering Studio afternoons as well. I am super excited about these upcoming events!
Crashspace has been hosting a number of Instructables Build Nights lately, in which we’re sent a package of new tools or technologies to play with and use for making tutorials for the Instructables site. They get advertising and a greater project presence online, we get to host free events with the latest stuff. It’s fun.
For November, we did a Build Night using the new(ish) Spark.io technology, including Spark Cores and their not-currently-available Internet Buttons. The basic gist is that they’re wifi-enabled microcontrollers that hook up to their cloud and let you do “Internet of Things” projects. Think toaster that prints the weather forecast on your breakfast. As it’s a fairly new product, there are still glitches, so it was a bit of a slog to get them working. But that means that we’ve put together more detailed instructions for starting out.
I am systematically attacking all of the tools and media available at Crashspace, in my perennial quest for world domination generalist maker skills. For the last few months I’ve been buried largely in the 3d printers and 3d modeling software. For many reasons, I’ve focused largely on Autodesk’s 123D Design (and a bit of Blender), and most of the things I print are my own designs. I like the mix of virtual and physical, and I like spending time with my beloved calipers.
In any case, I posted an instructable for a couple 3d printed diffusers I designed and printed for the Spark.io Build Night. They were a hit. The instructable shows how to make the model that I did, but the real aim is to show how to design a case/diffuser for a different device.
Another recent project is creation of a hybrid car badge for the limited release Rav4 Toyota/Tesla collaboration. The modeling stage is done, it’s been printed, acetone vapor bathed, and made smooth with a sandable primer, and I’m currently in the middle of an education on molding and chrome plating.
Soon, I’ll be posting a new tutorial for a Chibitronics Papercut Bookmark that I made for my dad for Christmas.
This is a project I came up with last year at the Exploratory to accompany a Bare Conductive paint event. It’s fun to make ridiculous filler words. Why, of course, I carry your fish in my shoe! Why would you question that?
Tinkering is an activity, a skill, a way of life. It has so much value when it’s open-ended. A big part of its value for adults is that it requires letting go of the “I’m not creative, I need discrete instructions” mindset. Something for adults to consider is that children can do it, and they don’t have the slightest doubt that they can. Adults, you were once children, it was once your job to tinker. You’ve only forgotten that you can.
Hmm, I wonder what this does.
Tinkering can also be a more intentional process. That’s where prototyping lives, between making and tinkering.
I have a standard toolkit for tinkering. It’s the set of materials I pull out when I want to tinker with an idea or do a super quick prototype for a specific project. It’s also the basic set I bring along to tinkering classes and events with kids. Other folks (particularly those in specialized fields) might use different items, some might use more expensive things. When I’m playing, I like to not have to worry about the cost or availability of my materials. It’s okay if I break something, or waste a bunch in a “failed” attempt (though, there is no failure in tinkering, there are only learning experiences), because I can grab some more and try again. So most of the things you’ll find in my ever-expanding tinkering toolbox are inexpensive and/or available in bulk.
I should point out that this particular toolkit doesn’t include electronics, or recycled materials. Those are lists for another day.
So useful. So so useful. With a pair of snips and a hot glue gun, you can make more shapes than you can shake a stick at. (bad pun intended)
Cheap/free and somewhat flexible. Some might complain about it not being super solid, but take a material for what it is. There are times and places for sturdy cardboard. Depending on how it’s constructed, you can find cardboard that will hold a shape fairly well, but it can also be especially useful for its flexibility. A piece of moderately flexible cardboard folded up can make a decent approximation of a spring.
I’ll list a hot glue gun under tools, but the hot glue itself can be a material. It’s great for making quick little shapes, it diffuses light from LEDs nicely, and pressing a motor shaft into a piece of a glue stick is an easy way to attach a light load to a motor should you not have the exact shaft collar on hand.
Same deal as hot glue. It can be a material and not just a method of attachment. Doubled over duct tape makes a good tab. If you’re slick about it, you can fashion a functioning belt from gaffer tape (as introduced to me by the fabulous Carlyn Maw).
You can get a piece of hard material and cut it with power tools until you get the shape you want, or you can take shrink plastic, cut it with normal scissors, and toss it in the oven to get a quick, hard piece of plastic in whatever shape you like. It’s not 100 percent precise (some plastics works more consistently than others), but this is tinkering/prototyping. It’s not meant to be. Shrink plastic will get you close enough for a lot of tinkering and rough prototyping.
These are a good stand-in for springs or any tightened cord. Also can be quite handy when you want a soft connection that has a little give.
Both thin and fat (boba) straws. Among other purposes, thin straws can help create axles for hinges and wheels, and fat ones are good for self-straightening bendy joints.
Another attacher/material. They provide a good resistant but bendy connection.
Multiple colors. Cardstock is particularly useful.
Little (or big) shapes of metal/wood/plastic/what-have-you that don’t have a related purpose. It’s exciting to bring items that you have no ideas for whatsoever to an event (especially one with kids), because they will think of a use for them that will surprise you. Working with kids is always surprising.
Trying to cut things with crummy scissors is a pain and a half. You might also consider having separate pairs for coarse vs fine materials, the same way every sewing aficionado has dedicated fabric scissors that ARE NOT used for anything else.
Good for wires, good for skewers (scissors are a poor substitute and can be damaged by heavier materials), good for anything that needs more of a chop than scissors.
You never know when you’ll need a better grip, to crimp wires, or to bend something stiff.
Dual-temp Hot Glue Gun
The dual-temp aspect is relevant. Low temp settings are good for a glob of hot glue that holds its shape when joining objects, the high temp settings are good for making stronger bonds, but also make the glue drippy.
Permanent markers that will draw and stay on anything always make the list.
For shrink plastic
Power Drill and Bit Set
There isn’t much by way of power tools on this list, and it’s a more luxury item than most other things here, but I adore my power drills, and always have one within arm’s reach, in case I need to make a quick, clean hole in wood, plastic, or cardboard.
This is hardly a full list, but it is good for starters. Leave a note if you have suggestions that you’ve found useful!
As a footnote, there are a few things that I do not bring when working with kids, because of their propensity for suppressing creativity.
Of the pre-made, fully-designed variety. Yes, they can be great fun. But when you’re creating, unless you need it for a specific purpose, like a logo, it can act as a stop button for one’s imagination.
Glitter, Glitter Glue, Sparkly Things
Sparkly things are like sugar. Especially when working with kids, you give them something shiny, they will grab and consume it by the cupful, and it will overpower any other flavors they’ve put into their project. Sugar is meant to be used in moderation. If you want shinies, decide specifically where and why before pulling them out.
Many thanks to everyone who came to my talks at Two Bit Circus‘ STEAM Carnival this weekend! I had a great time and was excited to talk to folks about making my instrument.
What’s more, the event was just plain fun! Geeky games and carny exhibits? Awesome! I took a ton of pictures (admittedly many of them were of the Dunk Tank Flambé). You can check out the full flickr album here.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately in Autodesk’s 123D Series. This is something I modeled in 123D Design the other day. It was originally intended to be a koi fish, but it looks a bit like a whale. Oh well, I still like it. Download, print, and enjoy.
This critter was printed on a Bukobot at Crashspace, using gold PLA.