A wooden clock…

I wanted to take some pictures of a wooden clock I’m building.  All the pieces are laser cut so only minor sanding and trimming is necessary.  A minimum of tools is required.  Some glue, a few different kinds of clamps, a dead-blow, a screwdriver, a razor knife, a tape measure, a pencil and some masking tape.

Turbo Pyro!

I’ve been waiting patiently for my Turbo Pyro kit from Skylighter for a week now.  Today, I had a nice surprise in my mailbox!

What is Turbo Pyro, you say?  Just one of the coolest things ever sold on the internet!  Before I go into any more detail, I want to make one thing totally clear.

The experimentation with, and the use of pyrotechnic materials can be dangerous. It is important for the reader to be duly cautioned.  Making fireworks is inherently dangerous. Serious injury or even death can result from any number of causes, sometimes beyond the user’s control. Before proceeding with these projects, be sure that you are willing to undertake these risks.

With this warning out of the way, lets get down to brass tacks.  Turbo Pyro is an accelerated program design to help you learn a broad range of fireworking skills.  It is setup so that you progress chapter by chapter, making a total of ten different pyrotechnic devices, including flying-fish-fuse mines, pumped stars, star mines, tube sparklers, black powder and several other more advanced projects.

As I start working through the kit I plan on making several more posts about the various things I am working on.  Feel free to send me questions if you’re curious about anything or just want more details.

Here is what came with the kit.


The kit includes everything you see here.  It’s quite an assortment so let me go over some of the details.


Tubes, shells and mortars of various size and windings.  Different projects call for different types of tube, some are spiral wound and some are parallel wound.  The arial shells are #5 shells.


Lots and lots of fuse!  Green and yellow flying fish fuse, which if you’re not familiar, you should watch this.  Flying fish fuse burns with bright color and a force that is strong enough to actually propel the fuse when lit.  There is also some paper-wrapped quick-match, some regular Visco, some fast Visco and some super fast chinese Visco that burns way faster than any Visco I’ve seen before.  You need lots of different types of fuse for ignition, timing and effects.


Chemicals!  They have provided lots and lots of chemicals.  This is only half of them.  Two different kinds of charcoal, airfloat for making black powder and 80 mesh for a nice yellow spark in fountains.  Airfloat charcoal is just very very fine milled charcoal.  It is also just a little dangerous and can spontaneously combust.  Potassium Nitrate is a standard pyro oxidizer and is used for making black powder as well as making and priming stars.


The kit also comes with some sulfur, which is used to make black powder, dextrin, a water soluable glue, bentonite, a self-sticky clay that is rammed into tubes to form plugs and nozzles and finally some ferro-titanium, an alloy of titanium and iron that is used in sparklers and fountains for beautiful white sparks.


The last components are tools that you will need to make the pyrotechnic devices.  Working from the scale clockwise, we have three different spindles attached to a base, a hollow ramming drift, a solid ramming drift which has a star pump sleeve on it, a ram-through funnel and a drill guide with a drill bit in it.  The spindles are used to create empty spaces inside rammed compositions in a tube.  The rams are self-explanatory.  The drill guide allows you to accurately drill spin holes on helicopters, stinger missiles and other spinning projects.

That’s it for the kit.  It also includes a 175 page eBook that is literally chocked full of projects with great pictures, links to videos and lots of explanations for each project.  I can’t wait to get started on it.  Look for more posts in the near future.

Christmas in September

We had a bit of an early christmas at the hackerspace.  We received many new and wonderful things to hack around with.  Here are just a few of them.


What could possibly be this expensive you say?  Someone paid almost half a million dollars for this in 1993.

Six-axis Joystick 1 Joystick Controller

Why it’s an awesome six-axis joystick and controller with encoding and feedback on every axis!  This is a joystick that was used to train astronauts to pilot the space shuttle while in space.  Truly an epic thing to have in a hackerspace.  I want to build a submersible and use this as the control mechanism.  I don’t know how they can justify charging $163k for the computer, it didn’t even come with a hard drive in it.  Instead, it boots of a floppy.  The joystick itself runs a cool $326k, pretty impressive.

Fire the laser 1 Fire the laser 2

We also got a Cyonics 2201 40mW Argon/Krypton laser!  I have always been fascinated with lasers so I have big plans for this thing.  Of course, the first thing we had to do when we got it was take it outside and try to blind someone.

Pretty Laser 1 Pretty Laser 2

Sorry for the horrible pictures, we haven’t quite grasped how to take a picture of a laser beam yet.  For now, we’re just making James blow smoke through the beam.  I think we may have put his eye out in the second one, but he’ll be ok.  Stereopsis is over-rated anyways.

Spectrum analyzer

We also received a working light spectrum analyzer.  The use of such a tool is well beyond my current level of experience.  I am told that this one is missing the camera but we have someone who thinks they might know where it is.  I’m sure I would be more excited about this if I knew what it could be used for.


The last item of note for now is a mini lathe.  We already have several people working towards converting this to a CNC lathe.  It would be pretty fun to be able to lathe my own rocket nozzles or gears.

That’s it for now.  We got a few other interested items, primarily a nice centrifuge (enriched uranium here I come!), a high voltage power supply and some vacuum equipment, but I don’t have any good pictures of that stuff yet.

MakerBot Assembly Redux

I realized that I never made a post about the assembly of our MakerBot.  I will rectify this now.  Lots of pictures incoming.  All the pictures are courtesy of one of our members, Rolando Quintanilla.

Laser cut wood More Parts Even More Parts

All of the wood parts are 5mm thick birch and laser-cut to be extremely precise.   We sealed them with a polyurethane spray but decided to leave them natural instead of painting or staining them.  The parts are notched to fit together easily and have slots for captive nuts to hold it all together.  It is really well engineered.

Electronic components and hardware

The electronic components and assembly hardware all came in individual bags.  You can see the motherboard, stepper motor controllers, extruder controller and some assembly hardware.

Beginning Assembly 1 More assembly Even more assembly

Assembly is all done with metric nuts and bolts.  Patrick is assembling the bearing brackets to the middle layer.  The bearings for the Z-axis will fit inside these.

Assembled body Assembled Body 2

You may notice a lack of pictures during certain steps, the excitement was high during assembly and pictures were the last thing on everyone’s mind at the time.  This is the fully assembled MakerBot body.  All the pieces slide together and are held by captive nuts and bolts.  Make sure not to tighten the bolts too tight or you could damage the wood.

Assembled Z-axis rods Adding z rods to bot More z rods Four Z Rods

The next step is assembling the z-axis rods with bearing nd nuts and then inserting them into the MakerBot.  The bearings press fit into the bearing brackets and the nuts keep the rods from moving inside the bearings.  The extra nut on each rod is for moving the z-axis up and down.  This will be assembled later.

Z-axis stepper motor X-axis stepper Stepper Motors Done

The stepper motors will move the stages.  Two of the motors install in the MakerBot body, the third one installs on the Y-Axis

stages assembled x/y stage from the top complete x/y stages

Magical CNC fairies managed to assemble the X and Y stages and put them in while we weren’t looking.  Here are some good pics of the assembled stages.  You can see how each stage runs on two guide rods and is moved by a toothed belt that is held by a loose pulley an a toothed pulley that is attached to the stepper motor.  You can adjust the tension on the belt by moving the white idle pulley back and forth in its groove and tightening it down.  We have found that loose is better, as long as the belt isn’t slipping.  An interesting thing to note is that the white pulleys are printed on other MakerBots.  Several other pieces of the MakerBot could theoretically be printed from a MakerBot, but unfortunately not the whole thing.

Installing Stepper Controller Electronics assemblyEven more electronics

Here is Patrick putting some final touches on the MakerBot.  The motherboard is a Sanguino, which is based on the Arduino, but with an ATmega644P instead of the 328 or 168 that comes with the standard Arduino.  It is built for the RepRap project.  The smaller boards are stepper motor controllers for controlling the three axis.  You can also see the belt system on top that turns the four Z-axis screws which raises and lowers the plastic extruder.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the plastic extruder assembly at this time, so this is as far as we go.  I will get some more photos soon to show the complete assembly and some various stages of printing as well.

My first 3D print

The Tx/Rx Labs MakerBot was running in full force today and really functioning flawlessly.  When I got up to the shop, we spent the first few hours wiring up the end-stops and just making sure everything was working.  This should have been done earlier since people have been printing with it since yesterday, but some people prefer to rush things rather than taking the time to do them right.  After spending a few hours with the wiring, we did some cleanup around the shop and then got to printing.  Patrick got first turn and got to print some dodecahedron he generated with Mathematica and exported to STL.  Something was causing some problems with his printing so they kept shifting halfway through the print process.

Once he printed off three or four items, it came to my turn.  I wanted to print something that would be instantly recognizable; something iconic.  I loaded up the STL file in Skeinforge, exported it to GCODE, opened it in ReplicatorG and fired off the build.  I took a few videos throughout the process, please excuse the terrible terrible video quality.  I will definitely be buying a video recorder ASAP.  Probably the Creative Vado HD.

Where's the monkey??

Where's the monkey??

And here’s a picture of the final model!  It came out really great, I love the crisp edges and razor straight lines.  The top came out a bit funky unfortunately, the extruder just doesn’t know how to handle printing that small I think.  The layers end up being so small that it’s printing hot ABS on hot ABS.