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

Garage Surf Motivational

August 24th, 2009

I picked up this Personal Motivation 7″ about 15 years ago, thinking that I might someday do something with it. Recently, I have been figuring out how to play the guitar, and decided to put it to use. Well, here is rough draft of a song that I am recording. Guitars by me, drums by Garageband, vocals by Paul J. Meyer. Enjoy!

personal motivation

My Robot Made This

June 24th, 2009

skull lithopane kit

I ran the first machining job with my newly operational Lumenlab Micro CNC robot (did you hear the champagne cork pop?). I say newly operational, since I won’t consider this thing “finished” for a long time, if ever. I anticipate fitting new tools to the machine to do different things for years to come.


Lithophanes were a popular way to hide girlie pictures in the bottom a of gentleman’s tea cup around the end of the 19th century. An image would be molded into the porcelain in the cup so that only when held up to a light would the picture be visible.

cnc kit

I “lithophaned” an image of a skull into a piece of corian. When viewed under normal front lighting, it sort of looks like a distorted C-3P0 face, but when held up to a light source, it is transformed into a skull.

cnc kit

The open source, EMC2 machine controller software that I am running comes with a cool program that converts a grayscale image into a machining tool path (g code) program.

Some of you will no doubt remember the CNC vanity jack-o-lantern that Grayson Sigler made last year with this little freeware gem.

Here is a video of the machine at work. But be warned, unless you are deeply interested in engraving, it is a little bit like watching paint dry. I can’t stop watching it.

More Micro CNC Machine Progress

June 1st, 2009

CNC controller

I am now so close to joining the desktop fabrication/manufacturing revolution that I can smell it. Unfortunately for me, that smell is the reek of burning semiconductor, but I’ll get to that later.

CNC controller

I got the PC controller (EMC running on Ubuntu) and stepper motor driver boards all wired up and working great. The Micro kit comes with a nice optically coupled DB25 breakout board for interfacing the stepper driver boards to the controller computer.

CNC controller

The stepper motor drive boards that Lumenlab supplies with the Micro kit are are really nice, and hooking them up is a snap. My kit originally shipped with some rather fragile driver boards, but Lumenlab has since upgraded the kit with these new industrial strength driver boards.

The difficult part for me was finding a combination of parallel port output pins on the PC that would work correctly, as the computer that I am using seems to have some strange quirks, but I will get into the computer and software in the next post.

CNC controller

The kit came with 4 different colored cat 5 network cables to use when hooking up the steppers that motivate the 3 axes of motion. I found some telephone butt connectors (you heard me right, BUTT CONNECTORS hehe…) that fit snugly onto the molex pins on the driver boads. The motors have 4 hookup wires each, so you can conveniently use a twisted pair for each motor wire.

CNC controller

I got everything temporarily wired up and working reliably on the desktop before taking it apart in order to install it inside the housing that I borrowed from a sweet looking 1960′s Japanese Koyo CCTV camera.

CNC controller

CNC controller

CNC controller

At the motor end, I soldered and heat-shrinked the twisted pairs to the motor wires and secured the cables to the motor mounts with some nylon cable clamps for stress relief.

CNC controller

CNC controller

So about that smell… You see, if you’ve never worked with electronic circuits before, you may not know this, but they are powered by smoke. Yeah, and if you let the smoke out, they don’t work any more.

Well, I accidentally let the smoke out while I was troubleshooting a minor glitch that occurred after I installed the boards into the box. Minor setback. More later.

Micro CNC Robot Update

May 7th, 2009

CNC router

CNC router

CNC router

I started assembling my Lumenlab Micro (no longer available) desktop CNC gantry robot and “personal manufacturing workstation”.

All your base are belong to Lumenlab

I was originally going to save a few dollars by making a base for the machine out of MDF, an idea that I never really liked that much. So I started looking for suitable aluminum plate to make my own version of the sweet aluminum base that Lumenlab sells, rather than stoop to the level of MDF. I quickly realized that strong FLAT aluminum isn’t cheap at all, and when you add in the cost of hardware, the machining, etc. making my own was a bit of a false economy, and not that fun, so I decided to just order the micro base from Lumenlab. I’m glad I did. The base is a nice piece. It’s cast, then decked flat and the Lumenlab folks were kind enough to machine a grid of tapped holes into the bed. The included hardware kit includes a bunch of studs that you can insert into the holes wherever you need a hold-down for your work piece. Very Handy.

Machine Assembly

This first phase went together really quickly, the ways were straight, the lead screws were nice, the hardware was all there, the plastic blocks were all drilled, tapped and ready, it was a snap.

Next up: Wiring up the electrtronics, setting up the computer and trying out some MOTION!

Cigar Box Guitar

May 3rd, 2009

cigar box guitar plans

Here are some photos and build notes for a cigar box guitar that I built. I’ve wanted to do one of these ever since I read about CBG’s in Make Magazine several years ago.

If you’ve never heard or seen CBG’s in action, you should treat yourself to a few of the videos on Cigar Box Nation. These things are a real hoot to play, especially with a bottleneck slide.

Construction is really simple, you pretty much just poke a stick through a box and string it up. Here are the basic ingredients for my build, as shown above:

  • A wooden cigar box
  • 1 x 2 stick of hardwood
  • 4 tuning machines
  • 4 guitar strings
  • 7 pearl marker dots
  • Fret wire
  • Piezo Buzzer and Phone Jack (not pictured)

cigar box guitar plans

I chose this box because it was lightweight and tightly built, with a really nice ring to it when tapped. The box sounded pretty “musical”, but supposedly any old box will sound great.

First, I cut holes in either side of the box. On the neck side of the box, I made the hole larger, so that the neck could visually intrude into the body a bit. This is purely an aesthetic move. I thought that it would look nicer that way.

cigar box guitar lesson

My walnut board had a slight bow, so the first thing I did was jun it through a jointer on one side to make it dead flat. I planned to make a fretted instrument with a nice, low playable action and despite it being a cigar box guitar, I hoped to avoid buzzing if possible.

Next I cut a 2 step relief into the neck where it goes through the body. The first step compensates for the thickness of the box top, allowing the neck to sit flush with the top of the box (or even a bit higher).

cigar box guitar neck

The second notch is a standoff to keep the stick from actually contacting the box guitar top. This will allow the top to freely resonate, which will make for a louder guitar than if the stick were just glued to the top.

cigar box guitar frets

The common way to form the peg head is to cut away 1/2 of the thickness of the neck, but I have seen a few fancy-pants CBGs that had glued on angled head stocks.

cigar box guitar tutorial

cigar box guitar frets

I reinforced the seams of the box with some thick CA glue, and added some blocks to brace the neck to the box.

cigar box guitar

A word about glue – Luthiers traditionally use hide glue to build instruments, and will advise against using CA glue to build or repair guitars. With that being said, I used thick CA glue and an accelerant for all joints in this project. I did this because it makes building so fast. So far so good! A better approach (aside from hide glue) would be to use carpenter’s wood glue, but this requires extended clamping and drying time for each operation. If you’re not in a hurry, don’t use CA.

cigar box guitar plans

I copied the fret locations and scale length from another guitar, and installed the frets and markers. I drilled 4 half-inch sound holes in the top, these will be the finials of my “f-holes”. You really don’t need very big holes for a box this small.

cigar box guitar

I made a walnut bridge with a cocobolo saddle and glued it in place. However I would not glue the bridge down if I were doing it again, as I had to break it off later and move it in order to set the intonation. I made a nut out of white plastic, but I think that it is a bit soft. I plan to replace it with bone or aluminum at some point.

cigar box guitar tuners

I added a cocobolo face to the peg head before installing the tuners (without bushings) and giving the guitar a quick lacquer job. I got the vintage tuners from a local luthier, who brought out a whole gallon bucket of spare tuning machines and dumped them out on the counter in front of me when I explained that I was making a cigar box guitar.

I eased the back of the neck with a router to make it more comfortable.

cigar box guitar neck

I cut string holes in the tailpiece, and lined them with bushings made from brass tubing to prevent the strings from cutting into the wood. A lot of CBG builders use the little metal ends from old guitar strings for this, but I didn’t have any around.

cigar box guitar tuning

If you want to electrify your CBG (and you do), you can make a decent pickup from a piezo buzzer element. You can find a buzzer at Radio Shack for about $3. Pop open the buzzer and carefully remove the element. You don’t want the plastic case or the circuit board inside, just solder some leads right to to the pads on the element. Wire the pickup to your input jack, and then glue it to the inside of the guitar top, directly below the bridge with a drop of CA.

Or if you get really adventurous, you can experiment with winding your own magnetic pickups. When you have tested your pickup and everything works fine, glue the box shut to greatly improve resonance and sustain.

cigar box guitar strings

With an open tuning, these instruments are really fun to play. Go ahead, Join the Cigar Box Revolution! Make one for yourself, they’re a real gas to plink around on.

cigar box guitar tutorial

Telecaster Complete

April 23rd, 2009

telecaster kit

After about 3 weeks, I could no longer smell the lacquer, so I considered it dry and set about the task of making the guitar shiny.

Wet Sanding

To get the paint level and remove the slight orange peel texture that you will get with all but the most fortuitous rattle-can spray jobs, I wet sanded first with 600 grit, then again wirth 1500 grit paper. I did the sanding and polishing before I drilled any holes in the body to avoid contaminating the wood with water and polishing compounds.

The Rub Out

After sanding, I went over the whole body with Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound. I would recommend using some kind of machine to do the polishing if you have one of the appropriate size. I did all the rubbing by hand, and my elbow still hurts. Next, I hit it with a round of Turtle Wax Polishing Compound. I used these products because I already had them on hand, many people seem to prefer McGuire’s for this task. Finally, rub on a coat of wax for good measure.


Assembling the guitar was pretty straight forward. Wiring had to be routed and connections soldered, and screw holes had to be drilled and parts screwed on or pressed in. The hardware that came in the kit is of mixed quality. Some of it is good, some junk. I have already decided to replace the tuning machines with vintage style klusons, and I would like to ditch the neck pickup for something better.


Setting up an elctric guitar involves adjusting the truss rod in the neck (mine had a terrible back-bow), setting the string height at the nut and bridge (setting the action), setting the right pickup to string gap, and setting the intonation. The kit came with good instructions with regard to setup.

Overall, I am happy with the guitar. I’m really hoping that the fact that I put it together myself will give me a bond with the instrument that will help me want to stick with learning to play. So far so good.

Here is some guitar porn for you to ogle.

Grizzly Telecaster Progress

April 7th, 2009


I really had my heart set on adding an edge binding to my grizzly telecaster kit. The problem is that the guitar body comes supplied with the edges pre-sanded and rounded off to a 1/4″ radius. This curvature was too much to allow for installation of even the thickest edge binding that I could find, so I had my father run the body through his thickness planer, taking 1/8th inch off the top, and restoring the square edge.

To build the body thickness back up to where it was, I laminated a piece of 1/8″ birch plywood to the top. Before cutting out the plywood, I added a veneer of book matched flame maple to the birch. Grizzly sells this veneer for $9.50. If you hanker for flame maple but don’t want the extra work, Grizzly sells an “heirloom” version of the Telecaster kit which comes with a flame maple top for an additional $150.00, but I hadn’t really planned on flame maple, I just needed to add wood so I figured why not flame ?.


In addition to the edge binding, I also wanted a mother-of-toilet-seat pick guard, so I picked one up on ebay to replace the white one that comes with the kit. I ordered a strip of edge binding and rattle-cans of vintage amber, cherry red, and clear nitrocellulose lacquer from Stewart Macdonald.


I cut out the guitar top on the band saw and glued it to the body. Using a router with a flush trim bit, I opened up the pickup and control pockets, and trimmed the outer edge flush.


With an improvised 1/8″ rabbeting bit, I routed a channel for binding around the edge of the body.



I roughed up the binding, then installed it using thick CA glue and an accelerant, working from one end to the other.


It took lots and lots of hand sanding to level out the binding around the edge. Much of the sanding was to remove a nasty groove that I inflicted to the outside edge of the body when I routed the binding channel. I didn’t have the right rabbet bit, so I took the bearing off of my flush trim bit. I gound down the nut that used to hold the bearing on, to form the right size bushng for ther depth of cut that I wanted. Well, that home made bushing did quite a number on outside of the body. but hey, it got the job done that night instead of next week!


I masked off the binding before shooting the body with the vintage amber lacquer.


To achieve the red to amber gradient, I made a cardboard mask, and elevated it about 3″ above the guitar. Spray from the center, toward the edge of the mask and the over spray will create a smooth sunburst. If you want a harder edge, or faster transition to the burst effect, lower the height of the mask. I could have done mine a little lower.


Spray the red or whatever color you are using on the back and sides in the same manner. Peel the masking from the edge binding and scrape any seepage away. I applied about 5 or 6 layers of clear lacquer on top of the color coats. Just keep clear-coating until you cant see any grain lines in the finish.

This type of lacquer needs to cure for at least 4 weeks before polishing can begin. I guess I’ll just bang away on my $79 plywood dreadnought acoustic ’til then.

guitar decals

I just discovered that Testors sells blank sheets of water slide decal paper that are designed to be run through an inkjet printer, so I printed up some decals for the peg head.

guitar decals

Next update: Wet-sanding, polishing, assembly, set-up, and of course, Smoke On The Water.

Grizzly Telecaster Kit

March 31st, 2009

telecaster kit

I had such a blast putting together the Grizzly Uke kit a few years back, that I thought I would try my hand at a guitar. Having always admired the iconic Fender Telecaster, i ordered myself the Tele’ kit from Grizzly for $129.

If you hanker for a Telecaster kit, you are not limited to Grizzly. There is also a tele kit made by Saga. I considered both kits, but ultimately chose the Grizzly over the Saga for a couple of reasons. The Grizzly has an alder body, while the Saga is basswood. Secondly, the bridge that comes with the Saga is not suitable for a string-through-body setup, while the grizzly is.

The Kit

Well, the parts look great. I checked out the Saga kit at a guitar shop before I ordered this one, and I have to say the Grizzly looks superior. This thing should make for a pretty nice guitar. Who knows how the pickups will perform, but I’m not a serious player, I’m sure it will sound twang-a-rific to me.

The Ambition

While i was looking around at Telecasters, I came across the most stunning Deluxe American Telecaster, and my direction was set. Check out this Flickr set to get an idea of the finish that I am going for. And really, I think that 90% of the work is going to go into achieving the finish. Assembly and set-up are trivial compared to the finish work.

So, I also placed an order to Stewart-Macdonald for some white plastic edge-binding, and a can each of Vintage Amber and Cherry Red Nitro Lacquer spray cans. I can source the clear lacquer locally.

Aside from getting a nice looking polished cherryburst lacquer finish, the most challenging part will be installing an edge binding. The body comes pre-sanded, with a radius at the edge. In order to get a square edge to install the binding correctly, I will have to plane about 1/8” off the top of the guitar. I then plan to laminate a piece of 1/8” birch ply to the top to regain the thickness, topped by a flame maple veneer.


These kits come with a big flag of a blank headstock that allows you to come up with your own design. I have never really been a fan of the shrunken, vestigial-looking Telecaster headstock, so I sketched one out that was a little more Strat-like (but a little different) and cut it out on the band saw.

telecaster kit
telecaster kit
telecaster kit
telecaster kit
telecaster kit
telecaster kit

Next up: Laminating and binding the top.

MicRo CNC Robot Kit

March 22nd, 2009

micro cnc robot

I love building things from kits almost as much as I love building things from scratch, and I think that it’s safe to say that the latest kit to show up on my doorstep is going open up a whole new world of scratch-building for me.

micro cnc


The micRo is a 3-axis CNC robot being offered no longer made by Lumenlab, the same folks who made DIY video projection accessible to the world. Grayson Sigler, the Brainchild behind Lumenlab (brainchild is also his handle on the inter-tubes) describes micRo as a desktop manufacturing workstation. I have a hunch that Sigler has greater ambitions than simply enabling people to make things. I suspect that he is actually preparing to seed the planet with an army of self-replicating machines that will one day rise up and fulfill their destiny – but I’ll save that for another post.

As the name implies, micRo is has a small footprint, but make no mistake it is not a toy or just a platform for learning about machine control (although it will do that) , but a solid base to which you can attach a tool to do whatever it is that you want to do. This is not your typical “MDF and all-thread” type DIY CNC, but a tough, high-tolerance machine. The Lumenlab website offers the following suggestions as to what you might want to do with your micro – but if you can’t think of a hundred things to use it for, then you are probably not the target market:

RC projects: model planes, cars, boats

robotics projects: make parts for your hexapod robot


fashion and home decorating: print on tshirts and fabrics, cut patterns

sign making: cut vinyl, wood and more

circuit boards: highly accurate pick and place

A/V components: speaker cases, DIY projector cases, rack panels

art: air-brush, paint, sculpt – make a multi-paneled mural

manufacture: manufacture components for larger CNC robots (like RoGR)

mould-making: make moulds for casting


jewelery: dremel intricate patterns

The Kit

The micRo is available in 3 trim levels – basic, premium, and gold. I received the premium package which included:

  • Supported Y-ways
  • Bearings and lead screws
  • All of the machined and drilled plastic blocks
  • 4 Nema 17 stepper motors
  • Step drivers
  • Power supply
  • Fasteners (screws etc)
  • DB25 com cable
  • 4 RJ45 cables
  • cable chain

Unboxing the kit was a treat, everything was really solid. The house-machined lead screws were really nice, and the quality of the machined technical plastic parts was confidence inspiring.

As was the case with the projectors, Lumenlab maintains a a user forum specific to their robotics projects, so expect plenty of peer discussion and help. There is already an “assembly manual” thread on the forums that has some really nicely shot assembly photos. I really can’t wait to get this thing together.

Next up: Making a base.

TV Treat

March 14th, 2009


Thankfully, my 6 year-old son has no interest in this outstanding vintage Towncraft blue ringer TV treat pajama top as a replacement for his worn-out favorite PJ’s.


My friend Pat gave us this shirt when we first got pregnant, and I’ve been savoring notion of someday outfitting one of the kids with it.

But since Harlan doesn’t want it, I think I’ll cut out the front and sew it to a large, light blue ringer tee and wear it myself.