Saturday, 9 January 2016

Wood burned Art

Friend of a friend, and amazing artist, Ruth got a pyrography kit for Christmas and she's done some lovely artwork on the top of some wooden boxes. These slowly filtered through to my facebook fee and I have commissioned her to draw me something fancy on the tops of one of my boxes. In the meantime I figure I could do some copies of her existing artwork, like a wood burnt print of her original. Of course it will never be as good as the originals but it is a good way to make copies quickly.

Friday, 8 January 2016

The best of the rest

I've made a lot of cakes for Dinkydoodle Designs, the BB8 cake was a particular high light, but there was also the flying carpet, the theatre royal and the washing line. It all kept me very busy and usually with very short turn around times.

Maker Faires:
We attended most of the maker faires/Makefests in 2015 as Just Add Sharks and usually built something new and interesting for each one. Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and Derby. Each one also required a stock of kits that took several days to prepare for.

Commission Work:
The commission type projects just seem to get bigger and more involved. Whether it was designing new kits like the pendulum wave (which went through 3 iterations and still didn't work), pint glasses or faffing with other peoples artwork (which has ultimately turned into 50 sets so very worthwhile) it was all rather time consuming. There are a dozen projects here I'm still not allowed to talk about, some hefty commissions for ideas still in development and websites yet to be launched. I'll be sure to update as and when I can.

LARP played it's usual role throughout the year, who knew that 3 weekends away would take so long to get ready for. I'm particularly pleased with the large mechanical iris and the knife switches. It's nice to have a job that can pay for the hobby and I really like the idea that my laser cutting is changing the way LARP weapons can be made. My Vale storage tray had multiple iterations and has only just been finished this week (yet to be posted)

The big success:
One of the best successes this year was the continuous autofocus laser hack. It's a hack and barely functional but it just came together so nicely, figuring out that it could be done and then actually getting it to work was very satisfying. There are plans afoot for more of the same this year, parts have been bought and a second iteration is already under way, this one stands more chance of being viable and reproducible though.

The unmentionables:
Finally there were a bunch of projects that just didn't quite reach completion. Great ideas and concepts that need a little push to get finished and then ultimately were never published. I invented a new type of laser cut hinge, I invented a component storage system to go alongside the linbin storage system. I spent a lot of time fiddling with Laos to no avail yet, there's a flat packing dice tower, a GM screen and a whole bunch of other gaming trays. Man, what have I done with my year I'm so far behind.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Project 9 and a bit

My 12 months are over. I failed to complete 12 very large projects which was entirely predictable from September onwards. It turns out having over 100 customers relying on you for laser installs and support really eats into your time. It's great that Just Add Sharks is so busy I just have to reconsider what I can actually achieve in my spare time now.

Here is a round up of the 9 big projects from last year. Tomorrow I'll do the honourable mentions because I have at least a dozen large projects that didn't quite qualify for a monthly place (I'm still not sure what metric I was using to gauge that)

Project #1: A 3D printer: assembled from a kit it wasn't the most complex build in the world but it did take a lot of time to get running correctly. Shortly afterwards the hot end died and no more was heard from it. It's still waiting to be fixed and it's gathering dust in the garage.

Project #2: Open Source Laser Cutter: I made one of our Blacknose laser cutters run on open source software (namely GRBL). There was a plan to try other controllers and I even bought a LAOS board for it but they're still on the drawing board.

Project #3: Real Space Invaders: One of my geekiest projects of the year, this was great fun to do and play and gained a lot of attention in all the right places. I'd like to redo this so others can play it.

Project #4: Cut and Shut Laser: I cut my Blacknose laser cutter in half, I moved all the electronics from the bottom to the top and managed to fit it all inside the existing spaces. The laser cutter remained functional but it has since been robbed for spares in the unit.

Project #5: Useless Machine 2.0: A complete rebuild of my useless machine, creating a new box that doesn't need any glue to hold it together and electronics on a PCB for super easy assembly. This was a 3 part project because I also made a double box and a smart box at the same time, those 2 didn't really sell and are no longer available.

Project #6: Minecraft Coffee Table: A cute Minecraft esque landscape built into the top of a coffee table. It made use of electric blue perspex to create a water effect in all the valleys. It has gone off to find a home at Kitronik somewhere.

Project #7: Lego Storage Coffee Table: Totally unplanned and probably on the back of the previous project, I just decided we needed a storage system for our Lego bricks. Eli and I built these shelves up in an afternoon, cross posted to Ikea hackers and it's been the most popular thing on my blog ever since, bringing in 50 page views a day.

Project #8: Catapult Range: I wanted something to show how awesome these mini catapults actually are so I made this range to allow kids to shoot at targets. It was a success and I remade the prototype into a better range straight after it's first outing. This scaled it up to a monthly sized project, I even invented a new hinge for it which hasn't made it to the blog yet.

Project #9: Bartop Arcade Cabinet: A fun project based on a desire to play some retro games, this bartop cabinet is one of my most 'complete' projects to date. Once the vinyl skin went on it looked all polished and professional, not like the usual 'prototype' stuff I make.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Dragon Curve Puzzle

The final pattern from my space filling fractal puzzles. This time I used the dragon curve, the same as the original pattern. You have to get creative at the corners to prevent any overlapping, this is definitely the hardest of the three. I ended up redrawing this puzzle 3-4 times to get the scale right for the board and drawing it all from scratch created hundreds of 90 degree arcs that crashed inkscape on multiple occasions but it's done for now and all that's left is a little bit of tweaking. 
On the backside I've been using Hershey text (single line letters) to label the puzzles, it's super fast to cut and it looks great.

I'll be releasing the files for these 3 puzzles and putting them up in the shop at the same time, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Gosper Curve Puzzle

The second of my space filling fractal puzzles is based upon the Peano-Gosper curver. It's the same size as the last puzzle but it is harder to do because the shapes form more angles.

Hilbert Curve Puzzle

Boing Boing recently featured a puzzle made from a space filling curve, it looked pretty good so I took the opportunity to convert my space filling Hilbert curve into a similar puzzle. I'm thinking about listing this in the web store, it's a challenging puzzle because all the pieces look the same.