My turkey is made of communist countries

“My turkey is red and white.
My turkey is made of communist countries.
My turkey lives in lots of states.”

I wish I knew what was going on in this kid’s head! This was a class assignment at my son’s elementary school. I was there for a conference and saw this posted on the wall outside the classroom.


Mystery Box kits for sale, Magnolia Atomworks LLC

I got a lot of great response to the articles on the laser cut Mystery Box I built for Wired blogger John Baichtal. A number of people asked where they could buy one. I’ve heard your pleas! I have started a new company, Magnolia Atomworks LLC, to build the kits.
You can now purchase one of your own from ThinkGeek and the Maker Shed.

I had a lot to learn when getting this thing going. First off, you can’t pick an odd size of wood for something like this. Has to be easy to find. I switched to 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood, since the 3/16″ I was using became suddenly scarce.

Additionally, I revised the kit to simplify assembly. I designed small notched tabs to lock the longer brackets in place. They have the added benefit of filling holes to prevent curious Mystery Box recipients from peeking inside.

I purchased an Epilog Zing laser cutter for the venture. This allows Magnolia Atomworks (me) to design and prototype products quickly. However, I don’t want to go into mass production, feeding material into the cutter for hours on end. For that, I contracted an outside company. They have many, faster cutters and can burn through a production run pretty quickly.

I’m really pleased with the results, and super-excited to see the kits for sale. I have huge respect for ThinkGeek and the Maker Shed, so it’s an honor to have my product for sale at both sites.

My Mysterious, Inspiring J.J. Abrams Mystery Box [Wired GeekDad]
Building a mystery box [MAKE]
John Baichtal
Epilog Laser

Drop caps

M abye I’m just getting old-fashioned in my old age, but I really love the look of a beautiful drop-cap letter. I was just talking with my friend Mike about a character rigging book I had lent him, in which the binding had disintegrated (on my watch). I told him to enjoy the book, but please, don’t return it without having it re-bound. In tooled leather. He said he’d do so, but only after first buying a second copy of the book so he could mount each page separately on another, larger matted page, and then illuminating it like so many scriveners and monks of yore. Fair enough. I’m not sure this particular book warrants all this attention, but I’m happy to have it done nonetheless.

The beautiful drop-cap above is from the Daily Drop Cap. thanks to @barrymcw for the tip.

Art Heist a success

My friend Tod Kurt and I built this laser tripwire art heist event for the Machine Project Benefit. Here’s what it looked like:


We’re using a hazer to make the laser beams visible, which works surprisingly well in this semi-open space. To increase the spectacle we installed a few extra lasers that are not being sensed for tripwires, but just look cool. The heisters didn’t know which those were, however, so it added to the challenge without increasing complexity.

In this side view you can see what happens when you break too many beams: lots of lights come on, including a blinding, red LED array. For this Tod used an Arduino-controlled AC optical relay. I’m hoping Tod will write up the whole project for a MAKE article, because he has all kinds of neat tricks like this throughout.


The event was fantastic. People got very competitive about getting the art stolen in the shortest time. Most adept thieves did it in about 20 seconds, but the top three scores were between 5 and 7 seconds!!