Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Project ukulele comes to a close

July 7th, 2005

Finkbuilt soprano ukulele model A number 001 has rolled of the line.


I began the last phase of the uke project by masking the fretboard and brushing on a coat of satin polyurethane. I quickly realized that I had forgotten to locate and mask off the the bridge saddle position prior to applying the finish. As soon as the initial coat of finish had dried, I scraped it away from the spot where the saddle would be glued to the body. Four more coats of gloss polyurethane completed the finish.

Bridge and Nut

Next, I glued and clamped the bridge saddle into position and let that dry overnight. Using the grizzly bridge as a pattern, I made a new bridge out cocobolo to replace the one that came with the kit, which was made from some splintery, semi-hard mystery wood.

I glued the nut into place at the top of the fingerboard, and installed the bridge into the saddle. Next came the economy friction tuners, which dropped right in without any complaints. A single screw holds the knob to the peg and serves as an adjuster for the tuner friction.

Setting the action

With all of the parts in place, I strung up the uke and checked the action, which was sky high, so I used a fine saw to deepen the slots in the nut so that the strings just barely hovered over the first fret. I finished bringing the action down to Earth by sanding the bridge until the strings were about 1/8th of an inch above the 12th fret.


Just to make everything look official, I whipped up a little manufacturer’s label to go inside the body, so that when you peer into the sound hole, you get the feeling that the instrument was made by somebody Legit.

So there you have it. The uke was a fun project and I got to try my hand at a new branch of tinkering and hopefully I’ve created an heirloom trinket. Now I just need to figure out how to play it. I think I’ll start with David Bowie’s Queen Bitch.

The accidental genius of Billy Arkell

July 4th, 2005

figurative sculpture

Billy Arkell was an unwitting master of 1960s modern figurative sculpture. It’s not clear whether he was attempting to capture the essence the tumultuous time in which he worked, expressing some deep personal angst, or just avoiding more rigorous coursework by taking an 8th grade ceramics class.

This is the only known example of Arkell’s work. Apparently untitled, the piece is marked only with “Billy Arkell – Jan 1965″ awkwardly inscribed in blue ball point pen on the white unglazed ceramic interior. Photos don’t do it justice, but this is an evocative work. The deep set, down-turned eye sockets and contorted, agonizing mouth seem to cry out ” Why do I have this monstrosity of an over-sized and hooked nose?!! The stylized, symetrical ears jut out listening for kind words that never arrive.

I aquired this piece for 49 cents at Value Village. It was marked 99 cents, but fortunately for me it was half off yellow tag day.

The debris count is in

July 1st, 2005

fine art giveaway

The new guardian of the Ken Barrett micro-painting is Allen Ormond with his guess of 88 items. Congratulations, Allen!

The actual number was 89, and consisted of the following hardware blend:

  • 58 screws
  • 2 short carriage bolts
  • 2 wing nuts
  • 2 rubber washers
  • 1 sliding door cup pull
  • 4 plastic screw anchors
  • 2 small hex nuts
  • 1 split washer
  • 2 zinc flat washers
  • 6 nails
  • 2 picture hangers
  • 3 mirror clips
  • 1 mini-blind bracket
  • 1 flat plastic bracket or gasket
  • 2 copper staples

There was also a small pile of wood chips and miniscule shop debris, but as stated in the contest rules, those were not to be included in the final count.

I did blink for just a second as to whether or not the 2 used staples belonged in the un-countable refuse pile, but I quickly decided that being metalic fasteners, they were in the same class as the majority of bits in the collection. Had I decided not to count the staples, the winner would have been vladimer kerchenko with his guess of 87. This would have made things slightly more interesting since his entry had the following contingency attached:

33 tin-tin? 44 steve james??????

no way man theres gotta be upwards of 87 bits and pieces in there…. i say i’m going to win and when i do i will donate the painting to whomever i think wrote the most god-awful post ib the contest…. ooops, looks like i started my own lil sub-contest here…. sorry schteve!

So, judging would have defaulted to Vlad, who would then have chosen the most “god-awful” post, and transfered ownership of the painting to that poster. To his credit, Vlademer did swoop in and steer the bidding into the right ball park. Prior to his “wake up call” the guesses had been trending ridiculously low.

Better luck next time Vlad-O!

Project Ukulele – Pearl inlay

June 27th, 2005


Every axe needs a little touch of glam, and I see no reason why my ukulele should be any different, so I thought that a little pearl was in order.

In the spirit of DIY, I had hoped to start with an actual oyster shell, eat the oyster, and work the shell lining down into a usable sheet of mother of pearl. So, during my lunch hour, I walked over to the Pike Place Market in search of an oyster. It turns out that you need a really big oyster if you hope to harvest a usable slab of mother of pearl, and people just don’t want to buy those enormous monsters. Consequently, the fish market only stocks little dainty oyster specimens. So It was back to Dusty Strings where I purchased a pearl shell blank for the headstock decoration, and three pearl marker dots for the fretboard.


Fret marker dots

The fret markers went in without a hitch, except for a bit of chip-out from the drill bit. I filled in the hole by putting in a drop of super-glue and packing in some dust from the same cocobolo wood from which the fingerboard was made. This works really well on darker woods, and once sanded flush, you will hardly be able to detect the repair.

Headstock inlay

I started out by cutting off the decorative point from the headstock, giving it a simpler squared-off style. For the inlay I wanted to do a sort of Astro-style, double boomerang design but it just didn’t look right when I mocked it up on the headstock, so I dew out this whimsically asymetrical ( in other words, sloppy) KAPOW!! star instead.


Cutting the pearl

Mother of pearl is really hard, brittle, and thin. In order to be able to cut out the KAPOW!! shape without without breaking it, I first glued shell blank to a piece of thin wood with Elmer’s wood glue. The wood substrate was just the thing, and I was able to cut out the shape using a razor saw without breaking the piece.


After soaking in water overnight, the pearl separated easily from the wood backing.

Digging the hole

I used an exacto knife to excavate an appropriately shaped depression the mahogany headstock. Let me tell you, they don’t call it hardwood for nothing, this took some patience. I probably should have sprung for that Dremel router base. I installed the star using some epoxy, and filled in the gaps using the glue-and-sawdust technique again, but this time it was a bit more noticable than it was on the dark-colored rosewood fingerboard.


Next time: Nut, bridge and finish.

Project ukulele – Neck and fingerboard

June 24th, 2005


I‘m not going to beat around the bush with any flowery introductions this week. You’re here to see how the uke’s coming along, and that’s just what you’ll find.

Gluing the neck to the body

Attaching the neck to the body was a pretty straight-forward affair. Since the neck is already shaped to provide proper alignment with regard to the face of the neck and the top of the uke, all you have to do is make sure that the neck is not in a twist.


I pressed the 2 pieces face down on the bench to make sure that they were flat and held them together with some jumbo rubber bands while the glue dried.

This thing is really starting to look like a ukulele. Once that had dried, I trimmed the little protrusion from the back of the neck joint and sanded it smooth.


Installing the fretboard

I mixed up some epoxy and glued the fretboard in place using a block of maple between the clamps and the fingerboard to keep things nice and square and protect the it from marring.


The kit came with some micro-sized pearl marker dots for the fretboard, but I decided to install them as side-markers instead. I want to do something a little more special for the front markers.


Next up: Pearl inlay.

Project ukulele – Edge binding

June 20th, 2005

uke edge banding

Blur, Green Day, Elvis Costello, Belle & Sebastion, The Clash, Madonna, They Might Be Giants. That was just on the first page that I clicked on after doing a google search for ukulele tablature. I can’t wait to see what I find when I actually start looking. I am getting anxious to go all Don Ho with this uke.

But first I guess that I’d best finish building the instrument. This week I made and installed some maple edge binding to protect and beautify the ukulele. The binding adds a nice custom touch to the body while keeping it from getting too dinged up while I’m out at clam-bakes doing the twist.

Making the binding

uke edge banding

I was going to use one of the plastic binding materials available from places like Stewart-Macdonald, but I didn’t feel like waiting so I decided to make the binding out of some material that I had on hand, Eastern rock maple.

I first ripped a thin strip of maple on the table saw, then cut it down to the final width using a band saw. I was fortunate enough to catch an episode of Hand Made Music on the DIY network, in which a fella demonstrated how to bend guitar sides by soaking then in water and pressing them against a hot iron pipe. I applied the same principals to shaping my edge binding, using a soldering iron clamped into a vice as my heat source.

uke edge banding

uke edge banding


Using a router, I cut a notch to accept the binding all around the top and bottom edges of the body. After dry-fitting the binding to make sure that my bends were adequate, I applied some tite-bond glue all around the inside of the edge band and clamped it up using a bunch of rubber bands.

uke edge banding
After the glue had dried, I sanded the binding
flush with the sides, top, and back.
uke edge banding

Next up: Gluing on the neck and fretboard.

Weedeater Powers Racing Runabout

June 16th, 2005

crackerbox boat
I‘ve always lusted after the classic mahogany runabouts of the 1940′s and 50′s. At one point many years ago, I had a set of plans to build a 1/4 scale model of a 1951 Century Sea Maid ( a really stylish two-toned mahogany number) powered by a chainsaw motor. For one reason or another, I never built that model.

One day I stumbled upon a super-cheap Homelite 25cc line trimmer, and figured that it must be time to dig out those plans and whip up a boat, but the plans were nowhere to be found, apparently having fallen victim to several appartment and house moves. I contacted the magazine that had published the original article and details about ordering the plans, but they were not able to help me track down another set.

crackerbox boat

There was however a set of plans available to build a 1/4 scale “crackerbox” racing runabout. It wasn’t the Century Sea Maid, but I fugured I could pretty it up a bit by improvising a few details. I built the hull from 1/8th inch mahogany plywood with a stain and polyeurethane finish rather than the smooth harwood plywood/paint treatment that was suggested by the designer (and crackerbox tradition). Some pinstriping tape served nicely to approximate the deck caulking, and I ditched the low wood “fairing” and came up with a propper windshield design.

There are some cheap line trimmers out there just waiting to become boats. I recommend looking for a model with the 25cc Homelite engine, as there are lots of aftermarket hop-ups available for that motor. The motor in my boat is stock except for the addition of a canister muffler and larger carburetor, which is an essential upgrade if you want to go fast enough to throw a nice roostertail.

Oh, just so that you can envision the scene properly, yes I do wear a blue double-breasted blazer and white yachting cap whenever I am at the lake running the boat.

Project Ukulele – Making the fretboard

June 12th, 2005

uke kit
Grizzly Industrial sells milling machines, lathes, saws, drills, all manner of intustrial machine tools and shop equipment, and of course, ukulele kits.

Lutherie kits and supplies really do stick out as an oddball product segment for this industrial tool supplier. Apparently the president of the company is big into making guitars, and the kits are his pet project. I’ve known about the Grizzly guitar kits for a while and always thought that it would be neat to build one. A recent investigation into the ukulele sub-culture has pushed me past the tipping point where interest threatens to crescendo into obsession. The only way to get over it was going to be to dive right in, so I ordered up a Grizzly uke kit.

Unpacking the kit

The kit comes packed in a blue box about the size of a telephone book (which gives it an odd, Tiffany kind of feel). Inside there is a uke body made from laminated mahogany, a neck, pre-made fretboard, and a little bag which contains tuners, nut, bridge, strings, and some tiny pearl marker dots.

The top and back of the pre-assembled body are made of mahogany plywood, so you know that this isn’t going to be the greatest sounding uke ever built, but for me, its more about the building fun than anything, and for the price, who could have expected a solid wood top? The neck is pretty nice, but the fretboard was not so great, being made of “doorskin” plywood with brass frets, so I decided to start by making a new fretboard.

uke kit

Making the fretboard

I had some beautiful cocobolo rosewood thins left over from my Nixie clock project, so using the grizzly fretboard as a pattern, I cut a new fretboard blank from the cocobolo with the band saw.

uke kit
John the repair tech at Dusty Strings in Freemont provided the fret wire and some great advice on how to install it. I used a small razor saw and miter box to cut slots in the fretboard to accept the fret wire. I then cut the frets to length and tapped them into place with the butt end of a screwdriver, since I didn’t have the appropriate soft hammer.

To be continued…

Fine art giveaway continues

June 9th, 2005


Seattle artist and finkbuilt friend Ken Barrett has recently been working on a neat series of small scale paintings. Ken likes the idea of giving away art, and has decided to bestow this little gem of a painting upon the finkbuilt readership, thereby keeping the fine art giveaway alive.

The painting is done in acrylic on a block of MDF 3.5 x 3.5 inches square, and the edges are painted black giving it a nice “gallery wrapped” look. This little beauty is just waiting to breathe a breath of fresh air into any intimate space that you might have in your quarters. Thanks Ken!


In order to become the keeper of this painting, all you have to do is estimate the number of discreet objects contained within this standard 6 oz. supermarket shrimp cocktail glass:


Joined but disntinct objects such as nuts connected to bolts will be counted as seperate items. Wood chips, dirt, and miniscule bits of shop debris will not be included in the final count.


Whoever comes up with the closest estimate will find themselves one Ken Barrett painting richer. Comments will be closed to entrants on July 10th.
Sorry a month is too long. Let’t make it July 1st.

Good Luck.

LSI imports Soviet spy sub-mini

June 5th, 2005

Hardcore Soviet camera buffs and sub-miniature collectors get out your Platinum cards. The lomographic Society International just added a nifty little cold war gem to their camera line. The Zenit F-21 was produced for use by the Soviet intelligence services after WWII, and reportedly used well into the 1990′s. Now Zenit has granted an export license to LSI and is badging the “new” model the MF-1.

Authentic Soviet Military Hardware

“Unlike the masses of mini-cameras, this precious item is the real deal. During its initial production, each piece was strictly controlled and assigned to a single state intelligence operative. To this day, it is classified as protected military hardware and undergoes a stringent export protocol with the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense. The Zenit MF-1 is an authentic and priceless piece of history.”

Although the Soviet state may have crumbled, the bureaucracy seems to be in pretty good health, as according to LSI, it takes 6 months of paperwork to get one MF-1 camera kit out of the country. There must be a lot of palms to grease too, ’cause LSI is charging $US 1000.00 per kit.

Zenit The kit comes with complete with developing tank, cable realease, 3 film cartridges, and a little hand-cranked device that slices the sprocket holes off of a roll of 35mm film, bringing the width down to a stealthy 22mm. Unfortunately, this also renders the film unhandleable by all but a few custom film labs.

Soviet cameras generally have really great optics, rivaling those coming from the famous German glass makers. The sharpest photos I have ever captured on 35 mm film were taken with a Kiev 35A, a Ukranian knockoff of the Minox 35 that has an incredibly great lens, but a build quality so poor, that the camera is almost un-usable. You have to tape it all up, and keep it in the dark while you open and close the folding lens cover, or the light leaks will ruin the film within. The MF-1 doesn’t look as though it suffers those quality issues.

Not an everyman’s camera for sure, there are a whole bunch of reasons not to get an MF-1, but there’s really no pont in talking about those. Link via Tip