Fabrication Week 6: A Series Of Unfortunate Events


This week we were tasked to create an object utilizing a motor of sorts. My idea: create a music box utilizing the light sculpture I made in Week 3: Trying Not To Fall In Love With The Laser.

Remember this guy?
Remember this guy?

The first thing to get cut was the music part of the music box. Reason: no time. The second thing that happened was that my stepper motor didn’t come in on time. But! Our illustrious fab teacher Ben took pity on me and lent me one of his. I laser printed the motor mount (which apparently I wouldn’t have needed anyway?).

My best friend, AI.
My best friend, AI.

Unfortunate event #2: The motor’s wiring was not sound.


Anyway, here’s a pic of my setup and what it would have done:


Third thing to fall apart: the airtight lip on my enclosure that was supposed to go around the mount that would hold the light sculpture above the motor would not stick.

Not friends.
Not friends.

And even if it would? Lack of sleep meant that I forgot to cut a hole in the stupid stand anyway.


So I ended up using my old stand.


Here’s what I wanted to happen:

Alas, it was but a pipe dream. This is what I landed on:

My un-music box.
My un-music box.

Takeaways: Planning is key. Even if my motor didn’t work at the last minute, there was nothing stopping me from testing out the other element of my setup and realizing they wouldn’t work earlier on.

I still want to work on this though, because creating this light sculpture was one of my favorite things to work on this semester.


Fabrication Week 5: Using Mixed Materials

This week in Fabrication class, we were challenged to use materials outside of our comfort zone (no acrylic, no plywood). Because I’m interested in using light, and because I enjoy using wood as a medium, I decided to craft a sheet lamp votive holder. Here is my brainstorming session:



I settled on a base wood block that would have three votive holders and a slide for my wood sheet that I would cut with the laser cutter.




I ran the line ~ 20 times on the highest power laser. It burnt the wood a little but it did the trick.

I also hand-sketched an AI file with the etching I wanted for what was now effectively my wood screen:


That’s where I ran into trouble. Though I had soaked my wood sheets the night before (which brought out some beautiful texture and was supposed to make the wood more flexible), it caused my wood to warp and cut in places that were unplanned. That culminated in a rip *on the laser bed* 50 minutes in the job, despite having taped the wood sheet to a block of acrylic and sticking it in place, which meant I needed to start from scratch. (Fortunately I had booked extra time on the laser).


Many fails.

After cutting the line I measured the space of my votive holders by diameter, clamped my wood and drilled:


To secure the screen in place, I hot glued the interior side of the screen.


After holding to dry in place for a few minutes, I had my final product.

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Yup, it’s a cell phone flashlight.

Takeaways: If I were to do this differently, I’d cut the slide for the screen a bit deeper and also a bit thicker. It was difficult to get a warped piece of wood to stick in there. Plus, I think it would be nice to showcase the texture of the natural wood in the screen a bit more.

I’d also plate the slide with some sort of metal leaf for added aesthetic value, and make a point of getting a wider wood base. As it stands, I’m not comfortable leaving a live candle behind the screen unless it’s completely surrounded by glass. Finally, I’d treat the wood screen to somehow enhance the grain (maybe with oil?) and coat the stand black.

All in all this was one of the projects I see myself replicating in the future. It’s a simple yet aesthetically pleasing item to reproduce.

Fabrication Week 4: Making An Adjustable Enclosure For My PComp Final


Our fourth assignment for Intro to Fabrication was to build an enclosure. Fortunately, this coincides with an immediate need I have for my PComp & ICM final. Long story short, we need a control panel. Step one to that control panel is my enclosure.

I started off with a sketch of what I wanted to achieve.


The most difficult step was determining which types of screws I would use. I settled on 1/4″ nuts. Clearly, I wouldn’t need something so strong but aesthetically I like the way it looks more than thinner screws. I also decided I would use neoprene washers to give a little more cushion to the acrylic. I used smaller diameter washers for the bottom nuts since they would be tighter.



Once I had my materials I drew the top and bottom of my enclosure in AI and cut it on the laser.



I had to measure carefully as I was using leftover acrylic. That ish is expensive.

Once the cutting was done, assembly was easy.






The reason I like the nut/bolt solution so much is that it allows me to adjust the height of my enclosure with relative ease.



Fabrication Week 3: Trying Not To Fall In Love With The Laser


But it’s hard.

Everyone's favorite distraction tactic.
Everyone’s favorite distraction tactic.

This week I wanted to try to make something that would fully exploit the precision afforded by the laser cutter. I had also made a trip to Canal Plastics and got super distracted by all the pretty acrylic sheets, and way enthusiastic about edge-lit acrylic after seeing this example in class.


Admit it's pretty cool.
Admit it’s pretty cooledge-lit-acrylic-2


I had also been browsing the internets and stumbled across the works of Dutch artist Ferry Staverman:




My idea was to create a bottom-lit light sculpture inspired by these cutout pieces and using edge-lit laser-cut acrylic as the medium. To start I made an AI sketch:


My plan was to create cutouts that would fan out in a circle to create one larger shape. I decided to cut holes in each “wing” of the sculpture so that I could connect them internally for structural integrity. I also wanted to weave pretty (metallic, maybe?) thread externally to capture some of the light reflecting properties. I measured my acrylic sheets just to make sure that I’d be able to cut 8 pieces from every sheet.img_9874

Using the laser was a breeeeeze. I had to adjust the settings a few times to make sure that everything would cut on the second pass, but for the most part, the experience was surprisingly uncomplicated.



I used the handy tape trick to make sure that my alignments didn’t get screwed up when testing whether or not the laser cut fully through the acrylic. (They didn’t the first time, they did every other time; I learned to look for sparks to gage whether the laser had cut through the acrylic entirely).

I also knew I needed to make a stand. This is where things got tricky. Here’s my AI sketch where I used both raster and vector functions:


I knew from my test piece that I would need to etch several times before the grooves in my stand would be deep enough to hold my cut pieces. But each time I recut my AI file the piece of acrylic would move in the machine, even if I made sure it was aligned at 0/0 every time.


Not ideal but it'll have to do.
Not ideal but it’ll have to do.

Recognizing that it’d be futile to continue with the same approach I decided to use the oldest trick in the game: putty.


I then, as originally planned, used thread to weave the pieces together with the holes I had precut in the laser. It took far more thread than I realized I would need and I was unable to get to the decorative portion of weaving. The result was a lack of structural integrity where the putty was still a completely necessary part of the sculpture.



Probably the thing that I love the most about this piece is the way it captures light. I’d like to continue exploring different mounts/setups for the piece as the semester progresses. This piece is especially beautiful in the dark:


I love the stained glass effect it achieves. Let’s see where it goes!


Fabrication Week 2: If You Can Do It Once You Can Do It 5x: A Meditation On How NOT To Make A Picture Frame

So here’s the thing: Trump won the election and now I’m supposed to write about picture frames. Though it’s a bit difficult to focus at the moment, I’m struck by the words of a professor earlier today. He said that what we’re making here (whether it’s a fabricated or digital piece or both) is really about interaction, and communicating with other people.

Learning to build things and starting conversations from them is invaluable, so paying very close attention to *making* today, instead of destroying was in a way cathartic. Although (and I will now switch to a more lighthearted tone), this post is really about how NOT to make.

My assignment was to make something, and make it five times. More importantly, I was tasked to make the SAME thing. I (stupidly, naively) thought that it would somehow be a good idea to make picture frames. (I thought I could give them to my famjam as homemade fancy design person presents for the Holidays). This was altogether a bad idea. And here’s why:


Step 1: I cut my own wood.


That’s not so great, because this is what happens when you do that:




Yes, those are real measurements. Shoutout to my fly as hell pencil though. (It has a flat eraser so it doesn’t roll. Genius).

Step 2: I bought beveled wood.


Don’t do that to yourself. I had to arrange my rig on the chop saw a billion times so that my cuts would be directional. That was not fun, nor was it easy. It also meant that my cuts were extremely inaccurate (see above).


My handy miter saw. Hello my frenemy.

3. I cut at a 45 degree angle. 





This was dumb because it presented me with eight opportunities to screw up fitting corners together.


I needed to sand a lot, at an angle,and clamping my corners was an exercise in futility, but it ended up being ok because the sanding gave me a smoother fit anyway.


This is a photo of it all sort of working out. Take that Trump.

4. Speaking of cutting wood at an angle. Why even do that at all? I could literally go to Michael’s and get 4″ 45 degree cut bevelled wood for like, no dollars.


Anyway, I used wood putty to fill in any of the cracks of the corners that didn’t work. It was helpful:


I also used the dremmel to sand down the wood putty to conform to the shape of the frame once it dried.

img_9745          img_9746

Ready for my closeup.

And then, because why not ruin everything you touch (a la Trump), I decided to stain my frames:


5. Why not just buy your own picture frames?

The results are TBD, but preliminaries are a little shaky. For instance, wood glue, as you would have it, does not successfully absorb stain, which caused some interesting results in the pattern department. Also, wood putty is hyper absorbent. And also the natural wood is pretty. I’m conflicted. Final opinions tomorrow, when the stain has dried.



Fabrication Week 1: A Flashlight For All Seasons

For our first assignment we were tasked with building a flashlight from scratch! I’m always thinking about sustainability and recycled materials, so I thought it’d be interesting to work with recycled plastic bottles.


Here are my materials:


PLUS two plastic waterbottles and two AA Batteries.  Here’s a quick photo essay of how I made my project:




Step 1 -Use an exacto knife to cut the top off of one bottle, and the top third off another water bottle (you must use the same water bottle -otherwise they won’t match/fit. Glue popsicle sticks about half way around the caps -the entire distance between the two caps should be the length of the sticks.


Step 2 -Glue a cradle for your AA batteries, plus additional shortened popsicle sticks so that your wires remain separated (+/-).


Step 3 -Cut a strip of plastic from your bottle and use pliers to make a spring. Wrap the spring in copper wire and glue to the end that has the additional sticks for separating wires. Run wire out the conical end of the flashlight.

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Step 4 -Create an additional wire  loop to go to the other end of your flashlight. Run through the length of the flashlight so that it emerges on the large conical end of the flashlight.

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Step 5 -Cut the sides of the second cap so that it’s just  a disc. Poke holes in it and stick in LED (make whether sides are positive or negative so that the LED receives voltage correctly. Attach wires that are running through the flashlight cradle.




Step 6 – Glue the disk to the interior of the flashlight, and secure the LED with glue as well.  Pull wires through cradle and make sure they never touch. Once wires are placed, close the interior of the battery cradle with an additional popsicle stick. Stack more sticks on top so that there will be no space between. Close the remaining half of the flashlight shell with popsicle sticks.

img_9589 img_9581


Step 7 -Take the remaining cap and poke a hole in it. Insert wire so that when you screw cap closed, the wire is touching the back of the battery. Note that the wire MUST go through the wire loop. And voila, your flashlight works! Be sure to glue down the portion of wire protruding from the cap so that the wire doesn’t bend/escape.


So why a flashlight for all seasons? Well, in my mind there would be color gels that would slide over the light and correspond to a season, like in my brainstorming sketch. Alas, they’re not quite done, though I’ll be updating the post throughout the evening and hopefully will have them completed to show in class tomorrow!