Let’s Get Caught Up

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always up to something. I’m hopelessly obsessed with learning, especially learning to make things. That’s one of the main purposes of this blog, to document my those adventures. And while I’ve been constantly making since the inception of this blog, I’ve done a poor job of documenting the things I’ve been working on. That’s about to change

I want to bring this blog current with an overview of the things I’ve been working on the last few years. So here’s a quick rundown of the things I’ve been doing.

The “s2duino” I developed. A single sided easy to make Arduino clone.

Electronics: A few years ago I caught the electronics bug, specifically, the microcontroller bug. But playing with and programming an Arduino wasn’t enough. I wanted to see how hard it would be to actually design and etch my very own Arduino clone. It turned out so well, I sent the design off to be professionally printed. The projects can be found here.

3D Printing: Then I discovered 3D printing after receiving a 3D printer from why wife for Christmas 2015. Wow! 3D printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. That was three years ago, about the same time I started this particular blog. I’ve done a ton of 3D printing since then but sadly haven’t documented it much. Oh well, there is no time like the present. There are multiple things I’ve been working on that will show up here in the future.

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A ring made from a 1oz copper round. A round is a piece of made to look like a coin.

Lapidary, Jewelry, Engraving: Sometimes in 2016 I became interested in jewelry making including lapidary (a fancy word for shiny rocks), other forms of jewelry making and engraving. Truth be told, this is a rabbit hole I haven’t thoroughly investigated. I’ll most likely revisit it sometime.

Coin Rings: Later on in 2016 I decided that I wanted to learn to turn coins into Jewelry. Why? Well, blame it on Kickstarter. Back in February of 2014, I backed a campaign to produce coin rings for $20 each. It funded, but the guy never came through with his promise. Fast forward 3 years and I still wanted a ring made out of a coin. So what did I do? I learned to make them myself. That project cost me way more than $20, but now I can make all the coin rings I want, anytime I want. I even sell them on Etsy. I have some ideas coming up that revisit coin rings, so watch for that.

Abby: Abby came into our life in February of 2017. Keeping up with a dog that always wants to be moving isn’t always easy, but she’s a doll and we love her.

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James Jr. playing with Abby…
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Bee Keeping: Then in the spring of 2017 I was stung by beekeeping (in a good way). I started with two hives. Last year I expanded to three. Then at the end of last year, one unexpectedly died. Currently I’m back to two hives, but will probably be able to split one this spring and will most likely be back at three for the 2019 season. Beekeeping is a fun and fascinating hobby. And the rewards are often sweet.

I Ching: Last year I also discovered I Ching (often called Yijing) which is an ancient Chinese book of wisdom and divination technique. I Ching means Book of Changes. I was first made aware of it from watching the Amazon mini series, Man in the High Castle. As I looked into it, I found a very fascinating and historically rich book that imparts great wisdom to those that seek it. I’ve created some 3D printed implements to help in the use of it. One is on Etsy, and the other will be soon.

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Candy: At the end of last year I started watching a lot of YouTube videos about candy making, specifically ribbon candy. In December my daughter and I tried our hand at making some. What a fun experience! More of that is certainly on the horizon for us.

CNC Carving: I bought an X-Carve last year. X-Carve is a CNC router. What is a CNC router? Think of it as the opposite of a 3D printer. A 3D print adds material. A CNC router subtracts material. It has been a goal of mine to have a CNC for a long time and now I finally do. The assembly was not a fun experience. I found the assembly instructions left something to be desired. On the other hand, customer support is top notch and very responsive. The CNC will become a central figure in my maker studio.

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Wood Turning: My father-in-law, who passed away at the end of 2017 was a talented wood turner. I regret not having the opportunity to learn wood turning from him while he was alive. On the plus side though, I inherited his lathe. And so my goal for 2019 is to really put it to use and learn to turn. January was a very productive month for learning.

Wood Stabilizing, Resin Casting: Once I go down a rabbit hole, I usually don’t go half way. I explore every twist and turn. So naturally once I started to turn, I found that not only did I want to turn crazy looking acrylic, I wanted to learn to make make my own acrylic and acrylic/wood hybrid blanks.

Well, that brings me to the present. I’ve skipped over a few other projects I’ve worked on. If they become relevant, I’ll add a post at a later date.

Book: How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of PsychedelicsHow to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It changed my mind! This book details how psychedelics have been grossly misrepresented and misunderstood in our society at large. Because of this misrepresentation, we have lost decades in which we could have been conducting legitimate medical trials. Blame it on Leary or blame it on something else, it doesn’t matter. The world needs to get psychedelic research back on track so that we can more effectively and compassionately deal with some of the hardships of life like helping those who are dying from cancer or suffering from depression more fully confront what’s going on in their lives.

View all my reviews

Hello Abby, Well Hello Abby!

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Last week we welcomed Abby, a 4 month old GSD (German Shepard Dog) into our home and into our lives. She has a very sweet personality and is extremely well trained for being only 4 months old.

Bringing a dog into one’s life is a big responsibility, but when this opportunity presented itself, if felt like the right thing to do. After all, sometimes these things happen for a reason. I suspect this is just such an occasion.

The German Shepard is among the strongest and smartest dog bred. They excel at nearly any job they are given when trained properly. I’m committed to giving Abby a good home with plenty of exercise, training and love so that she will reach her potential.

Making Lemons into Limonada

mxUnPesoCoin_cracked_logoI started to make a coin ring out of a 1958 Peso. As you can see from the photo to the left, things did not turn out as expected. The peso coin from 1957-1967 is 10% fine silver and 70% copper and 10% Zinc and Nickel. So I was a bit surprised with it cracked while I was stretching it. This combination seems somewhat brittle.

mxUnPesoCoinAfter I felt the tell-tale “give” on my ring stretcher, indicating the appearance of the crack, I quickly became somewhat discouraged. Then I had an idea. When I choose the hole punch size, I did so with a mind to preserve the eagle devouring the snake at the center of the reverse side. It’s such a cool symbol that I thought I would do something special with it. so with the center portion intact, I formulated a plan.

I continued to form the broken ring using the Swedish Wrap Technique created by Mikael Möller, with Jason’s amazing tools from jasonsworks.com. This allowed me to get the broken cone shaped into a ring shape. It worked like a charm, though I could only reduce, not enlarge.

mxUnPesoCoin_cracked_shaped_logoAfter I got the ring formed, I was ready to grind and solder. I ground the area at the crack flat, then filled it with a little solder. (It was already a pretty good fit…the photo exaggerates the mis-alignment.) Then I ground the surface of the plug that was to fit against the ring.

mxUnPesoRing_inside_logoI have to admit, soldering the two together was a little more challenging than I expected, but I finally got the two parts soldered together. In the end, I think I came up with a solution that really works. It turns out that the finished ring might be better because of the accident.

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Change What You Wear. Change That You Wear!

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Who doesn’t like cool jewelry? For nearly as long as homo sapiens have walked the earth, we have sought to adorn ourselves with nice looking things. Coins, on the other hand, are a relatively new invention. The oldest on record are about 2700 years old. Now both are brought together into a sort of “you got your chocolate into my peanut butter” moment…two great inventions that look great together.

I’ve been hard at work teaching myself the art of making coins into rings. I find the process and outcome very satisfying. As a result, I’ve opened an Etsy store to sell them. Follow the link on the left side of the page or click here. As of this writing I only have one style up on the store, but that will soon be remedied. I have numerous styles in the pipeline.

jp10Yen2_logoThe rings featured above and to the right are made from a Japanese 10 Yen Coin. These coins are 95% copper with the remainder being made up of zinc and tin. The 10 yen coin makes a novel and beautiful ring. The obverse side (as shown above) has the characters 日本国 (Nipponkoku) which mean the country of Japan or simply Japan. The other two characters on the obverse side are 十円 (Jū-en) which means ten yen.

When the coin is folded with the reverse side out (as pictured in the inline photo above) bay laurel leaves surround the ring, making a unique pattern. My ring forging process maintains much of the original detail inside and out. Additionally, I apply an antique patina to each ring to help highlight the detail. I then coat each ring with 2 layers of a durable protective sealant that not only helps to maintain the patina but also prevents the ring from discoloring fingers.

Stay tuned…more rings are on the way!

He is Groot!

He is Groot!

When my 3D printer isn’t printing…I start feeling a little antsy.

After getting the printer for Christmas from my lovely, generous, and extremely intelligent wife, I spent the first few days/weeks figuring out how to make the thing work. Each day brought several hundred revelations. A 3D printer It’s not like a modern inkjet or laser printer that you take out of the box, perhaps install a driver and it just works. Nope…3D printing is the wild west, baby! It’s a veritable rabbit hole that once you go down it, it’s hard to find the bottom. Heck…I don’t want find the bottom! I’m having too much fun. But I digress…

When the printer isn’t printing, I start feeling antsy. I don’t feel like I’m learning. So, on just such an occasion this week, when my 3D printer was sitting idle. I started to look for something that would challenge me and her.

He is Groot! with quarter for scale
Here is a photo of Groot next to a quarter. Groot is watching my quarter so nobody takes it. It turns out that a quarter is a remarkable way of showing scale as well, so now you know how big this Groot is, and you also have no desire to take my quarter. Win, Win.

I found this model of Groot on Thingiverse. The amount of detail that the model provides is fantastic. I could see that it’s would deserve nothing sort of the finest detail my 3D printer could deliver.

“Normal quality” 3D printing is, by most standards, considered to be 200 micron. In other words, each layer is a mir 0.2 mm thick. A millimeter is a very small unit of measure, right? now imagine cutting that millimeter into 5 parts. that is ‘normal’ quality 3D printing. And it looks pretty good!

100 micron is considered “high quality” 3D printing. At 100 micron, the individual layers of 3D printer nearly become indistinguishable. A human hair is about 100 microns thick.

So I wanted to push the limits of my 3D printer. I set her to print at 50 microns; Each layer is half the width of human hair, 20 layers per millimeter! I wasn’t sure how Groot would turn out. But I sure wasn’t disappointed.

And how long did this print take? Well, lets just say I didn’t feel antsy for 22 hours.

Join me another day when I embark on painting Groot. Until then…

Make. Life. Ultra Fine.

He is Groot! being printed.
Groot, while he was being printed.

Welcome to the “Art of Making It” Website

First posts are probably the hardest to write. Where do you start? At the beginning of course! But where does the beginning really begin? That’s the hard part…

It all started back in 1969 when my mother and father…wait…that is obviously a little too far back. Okay, fast forward a few years.

I’ve always loved making stuff. When I was a child and was given a coloring book, I was more interested in making more coloring books than in coloring in it. At the time, I had a hectograph, (Full disclosure…it was technically my brother’s hectograph) and I would take a page from my coloring book and make 10 or 20 copies.

I loved to dream up things to make, such as pretend robotic arms from rolled up cardboard, candy machines from shoe boxes, hacky sacks from scrap leather, Toobees out of empty soda cans. There seemed to be no end to what my imagination could dream up.

But sadly, back in the ’70s I lacked several things we take for granted today: Google, Amazon, UPS, micro-controllers and 3D printing to name a few. If I was a kid today, those dreams would be inventions!

Fortunately the day has come when we have the entire world at our finger tips. There is no limit for our imaginations. What’s limiting us now, ironically, is that we have too much. Our time is occupied by too many ideas. Our attention is cajoled, prodded or enticed in every direction. There are just too many avenues to explore.

Now I don’t mean to sound like a toothless old timer sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch, but back then, summer break was a time for exploring and invention. I watched way too much TV, but that just made my imagination sore. I remember watching Battle of the Planets and dreaming I could build the space ship from that show. Yes, I realized that it wouldn’t fly, but I wanted to play inside such an amazing craft.

Where am I going with this train of thought? Did I mention trains? Yes I did…I like trains. What’s so great about model trains? Is it because the train goes around the track again and again and again? I don’t think so…that part is somewhat boring, at least it is to me after about the second or third time around. I am much more interested in world building. And when I was a kid, model trains gave me the chance to create a tiny universe.

Speaking of world building, what about Dungeons and Dragons? I played that too. Is there any better way to use an imagination than to explore ruins and caves, fight ogers and trolls or make deadly decisions that wouldn’t actually hurt you?

Yes, the world was an open book back then. And it still is. Now anything one wants to learn has most likely been uploaded to YouTube. And with all this information available, where does that leave us? With endless possibilities and too many decisions.

So this blog is my way of deciding what to explore. It’s a place for me to go deep on a creative subject and geek-out at all the permutations of the maker movement. But this website is also going to be personal. Making it through life is an art. And I’m going to explore a few of the aspects of living that I feel would be helpful to you, my reader.

I’m here to share my journey on this road of creative discovery. This website is about where the rubber of my imagination meets the road of life. It’s about where I choose to put down stakes and jump a claim on the endless universe of making. My slogan is Make. Life. _________. (Fill in the blank with an appropriate adjective).

Basics: Transistors and the Careful Placing of Impurities

(Editors Note: this blog post was first published on a mytronx.com, which has now been merged into AOMI.com).

This YouTube video from the Acme School of Stuff (circa 1988) is a blast from the past. Despite it’s age, the info is presented as well as I have ever heard. It’s a brief introduction to electronics, but specifically it talks mostly about transistors and what they do, but not necessarily how (or maybe more accurately, why) they work. The host states, “transistor are almost impossible to explain.” The same can be said for electricity in general.

The key to transistors, is what the host refers to as the “careful placing of impurities.” These impurities are also know as semiconductors because they conduct electrical current under certain given circumstances.

Basics: Vacuum Tubes

(Editors Note: this blog post was first published on a mytronx.com, which has now been merged into AOMI.com).

When I was a kid, I knew that televisions, radios and all sorts of electronics used vacuum tubes prior to the invention and widespread use of transistors. In fact, the black and white television on which I watched Gilligan’s Island used a special type of vacuum tube called a CRT (cathode ray tube). What I didn’t understand was how a vacuum (the household appliance used to suck dirt out of the carpet) made all these electronic devices possible. It was mind boggling. I didn’t think much of our vacuum, but it somehow held a secret I could not understand.

Well, it turns out that it was just a misunderstanding. My vacuum wasn’t responsible for the electronics revolution. The term vacuum tube was used to describe the glass tube that most of the ‘air’ removed under low pressure and filled with inert gases. A vacuum is a place that is empty of matter. If the tube was filled with air…that would not be a vacuum, since oxygen and other gasses in the air are matter.

But a vacuum tube is not truly a vacuum. They are manufactured under low pressure conditions (not no pressure conditions) and the gases inside are replaced with gases that won’t react. Then they are sealed while still in this condition making a near vacuum. It’s just that ‘near vacuum tubes’ never caught on.

Well, even with this misunderstanding cleared up, I still didn’t understand how vacuum tubes made the miracle of Gilligan’s Island possible. Turns out that if you understand how vacuum tubes work, it makes a lot of other electronics easier to understand too.

I found this video on YouTube. It’s a 21 min movie made by Westinghouse in 1943. And it’s fascinating, not to mention historically interesting when you note how many references it makes to the war effort. If I would have only seen this movie back when I was watching Gilligan’s Island, maybe I would have seen Gilligan and my vacuum in a different light.

First Boards Have Arrived

(Editors Note: this blog post was first published on a mytronx.com, which has now been merged into AOMI.com. The board has now been renamed S2Duino. S2 stands for either “single sided” or “super simple.” This post is published exactly as it appeared).

On Saturday, the first batch of boards arrived. While these are not the final production boards (ordered before the final design was settled upon), they demonstrate the quality of the final boards. I am very excited and impressed. Final production boards should be here in a couple of weeks.