Repeatable Pieces

 

I wanted to make some interconnecting block pieces.

I think it’s fun to take repeating objects and make something unique with them, so for this project I chose to make 5 copies of a wooden piece that could be assembled into fun shapes. Essentially, I tried to make a prototype for large-scale Legos.

I started with fairly basic materials, 2 4’ 2x4’s and 3 4’x1 1/8” wooden dowels. I wanted to make the dowels into pegs on either side of the 2x4’s, and make them different lengths on either side. I would give the boards pockets for the dowels to slide into.

I started by marking 1’ sections on my 2x4’s, then marking off every 2” in those sections for drill pockets.

I didn’t use a stop or a jig to cut the boards. I only needed to cut 6 pieces, so it felt just as easy to just cut it on the lines I had drawn.

For the pegs, however, I needed ten pieces of 4”, and ten pieces of 5 ½”. Free-handing that would take way too much time. So I measured out the right distance from the blade on the miter saw, and clamped down a spare piece to act as a stop.

Once I had everything cut, I needed to use the drill press to make my pockets. I loaded the press with a 1 1/8” Forstner bit (which exactly matched my dowels) and set the height on the press to drill into a 2x4 about ½” deep. I set up a stop to be able to drill into my boards at 2” in from the edge, 4” away from the edge, And dead center, or 6” away from the edge.

After that, I sanded each board to take away corners.

 
 

from then, it was pretty straightforward to drill each dowel into place.

And there it is! The pieces can be re-arranged in multiple configurations.

I think if I had to do this again, I would have spaced the dowels out more to allow for a greater variety of configurations. I also would have used wood glue – I had assumed that a screw would be enough to keep a dowel in place, but some of these pieces are still pretty loose.

 

Flashlight Blog

 

Last year I built a combination camera stand/programmable lamp for a subtraction project. A ring of Neopixels made up the camera’s main lighting element, and three knobs were meant to be able to adjust RGB values for the light. An Arduino in the base was meant to interpret the signals coming in from the knobs as well as provide a programming interface for use in live performance.

The programming interface worked. I was able to hook that Arduino up to a computer and control the lights in the Neopixel ring. It was pretty cool.

The knobs did not work. The signal coming from each of them should have worked in theory, but in practice the signal was just too dirty. After hours spent soldering and re-soldering, I gave up on the project. I now have a semi-functional lamp that still sits on my desk today.

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The tape is not decorational.

But that was last year. This year, I’m going to nail it. I’ve got some more experience under my belt. I know how to solder. I’m going to make a lighting instrument with three knobs to control RGB values.

I bought all of the things I would need for it: a 9-volt battery holder, a rocker switch, three rotary potentiometers, a new breadboard, USB to Micro-USB converters and an Arduino Nano. Excessive? Maybe. Way more than I would have spent on a regular flashlight? Absolutely. Worth it? We’ll see.

Step one, of course, was to get everything working on a bread board. I wanted to get the fundamentals of this thing working before I built the enclosure around it, just to be sure that I knew everything would fit.

 
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And it worked! As I turned each knob, I got a range of input values reading out from the Arduino. Step two, then was to solder each of these things to a perf board and make sure that the same setup worked.

…Less luck. I replicated a basic potentiometer circuit on the board, but I’m not getting anything like a consistent signal. And this was just on the first one I tried; I still had two more to go. Plus, this thing would ultimately need to be battery-powered, but the Nano can only be powered by USB, so I would need to cut open a cable and attach the positive and ground pins to my board and…

You know, this isn’t going to work. It’s time to pivot.

Here’s what I’m planning to go as for Halloween.

 
 

His name is Blucifer. He once killed a man (look it up). He’s a legend in Colorado. He also has red light-up eyes that, when attached to a mask, would technically fulfill our qualifications for a flashlight.

I got my lighting element from Canal Lighting and Parts. As of 5 PM on Friday, I’m waiting for a horse mask to arrive from Amazon.

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I’ll be updating this once I’ve finished the project.

…and now for some updates.

It turns out that rubber is pretty difficult to cut. Step one in this new process was cutting out some eye holes.

Which I eventually got done after a bit more cursing than one might expect. Step two was attaching the LED rope with some tacky glue and paperclips.

 
 

The original battery pack didn’t extend nearly far enough to reach my pocket, so I soldered some wires together.

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And, ultimately, I wound up with a light up horse head mask!

Is it a “flashlight” in a traditional sense? No. Is it a portable device that makes light? Yes.

Mission accomplished.