3D Printing Projects book released


Hey look, the new book is out! That’s my flower care robot, Chauncey, there on the cover. (He waters that flower whenever the soil runs dry.)

I’m very excited and proud to have contributed to this lovely new book from Maker Media chocked full of projects you can build with a 3D printer, some electronics and mechanical parts, and a bit of gumption. The central notion behind 3D Printing Projects: Toys, Tools, and Contraptions to Print and Build Yourself is “You’ve got a 3D printer, and you’ve downloaded and printed a few Yoda heads and vases — now what?”

The projects all go beyond static prints, and into functional builds that show the true utility of desktop prototyping and additive building when combined with other techniques, including print finishing/painting, friction welding, embedded electronics, physical computing, and mechanism design. Downloadable model files are available on the book’s companion site, and we’ve got a GitHub repository set up for any code downloads, such as the Arduino sketch that powers my flower bot.

I’d like to also give an enormous public, internet hug and thank you to my creative collaborator, Barry McWilliams, who inspired me with his Wrylon Robotical Illustrated Catalog of Botanical Delivery ‘Botsand who designed my darling little robot, Chauncey.


If you’re interested in learning how to make your own Chauncey, or animatronic eyes, or a ballpoint pen raygun, an inverted RC trike, and more, from a very talented group of makers, including John Baichtal, James Floyd Kelly, and Brook Drumm,  please check it out on Amazon, at O’Reilly, in your local Barnes & Noble, or other local bookstore. I promise it will give invigorating new purpose to your 3D printer!


Sudden New Hobby Alert: Making animated GIFs

My friend Adam Iscove (who’s an excellent singer/songwriter/bass player) played a show out in Hollywood recently and he designed a great set of on-stage visuals by editing together tons of animated GIFs. So I had GIFs on the brain.

Then he blew my mind by sending me a GIF in a Facebook message. I had no idea.


So, now I’m going to make looping animated GIFs for fun! Kind of like quick sketching for computer graphics. The last time I created GIFs it was, like, 1995 and I was working at IBM’s interactive media lab.

Technical details: this is a triangulated polygonal plane mesh being deformed by a travelling sine wave and rendered in a hardware buffer with motion blur and five render passes per frame to create the overlapping line effect.

Sugar/Honey Smacks

Earlier today I had cause to proclaim the following to the world:


This led me to wonder about the name switch from the Sugar Smacks of my youth:

  • 1953-1990s the name was Sugar Smacks
  • early 1990’s until 2004 the name was simply Smacks
  • 2004 to present the name has been Honey Smacks
  • future name: Gluten Smacks?

Thinking about this lead me to go eat another bowl of it,which then lead me to research the box art and mascots of the Smacks cereal line over the years. Go pour a bowl of Smacks and enjoy.

It all began with illustrations of real world Ringling Brother’s clowns.

1953-1956 Cliffy the Clown

1953-1956 Clown Paul Jung

Next came an animated seal. Go check out the animated ads, they’re wonderful.

1957-1960 Smaxey the Seal

1957-1960 Smaxey the Seal

In came the Hanna-Barbera horse sheriff, Quick Draw McGraw.

1961-1965 Quick Draw McGraw

1961-1965 Quick Draw McGraw

Continue reading

Make a Light-up Magic Wand

The elementary school variety show producer (yes, producer — we take this seriously!) asked if I could build some lighted magic wand props for one of the acts. “Heck yes!,” I said. I love building props.

Here’s how I built them:

  1. Start with an LED flashlight for the end cap switch, handle, and battery holder. Doing these things from scratch can be a pain. $5 lights worked great, you may be able to go cheaper.
  2. Remove the bulb, solder in leads and wires to extend the length, solder on a nice, fat 10mm LED.
  3. Use three street sweeper blades to form the wand structure, zip tie and tape them to the barrel.
  4. Heat shrink tubing to hold the LED nicely to the sweeper blade tips.
  5. Wrap the wand in masking paper. Glue the paper on, being sure to wrinkle and crease it like gnarled wood.
  6. Stain with wood stain, paint it, dry brush lighter colors at the peaks to increase the read on stage to the audience. Polyurethane the paper.

Here’s a visual guide to my method. UPDATE: The wands survived dress rehearsal and three performances! See bottom of this post for a photo of the young wizards in action.

Continue reading

Turning a TV set into a bookcase

A friend was moving and thought I may have a use for this broken TV set. Here’s how I turned it into a book shelf.



I pulled off the back, removed the amplifier and CRT.

IMG_7691 IMG_7692 IMG_7693


After removing the “gold tone” trim, these retention clips needed to be pulled to free the glass. The bezel is such a gorgeous brown, cream, and patina green. Here Beatrix and I appear on TV.

IMG_7695 IMG_7696 IMG_7698IMG_7699



I framed it with some 1″ square strips of white oak I had left over from a catapult project, and used some hardware to mount a panel of wood. I pulled that panel from the dumpster at Walt Disney Animation Studios when they were remodeling one of the production pods a few years ago.

IMG_7706 IMG_7707



Here’s the finished piece. I left the tuning mechanism in place so you can twist the giant knob on the right and change the number front and center.


How to Make a Baymax-o’-lantern

Here’s how I made a quick Baymax-o’-lantern from a squat, white pumpkin.


I’m not Baymax. I’m not in focus, either.


Hi there. This doesn’t hurt.



Sorry pumpkin. It’s hand brace and auger bit time.



Don’t come near me with that thing!



Pretty curls. And orange guts!



I saw that.



All clean. Wish I’d kept the line a bit thinner.



Hairy baby.


Imperial Melody Discharger – Stormtrooper helmet art build notes

I built the Imperial Melody Discharger, an articulated Stormtrooper helmet music box, for the Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”) vinyl Stormtrooper helmet art show . For the event, artists across the Walt Disney Company, including DisneyToon Studios where I work, were invited to participate by using a blank 6″ helmet as the canvas for their work. What follows are my build notes and work in progress images.


My intention for the piece was to provide a view behind the mask of the anonymous Stormtrooper, while creating a fun, interactive moment for the person experiencing it. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there, but I was certain I’d need to cut the vinyl helmet open. You only have one shot at that, so I decided to first cut apart a CG model inside Maya, and rig it with pivot points that could be used in the real world for the facial articulation.


Mostly satisfied that I knew where to separate the parts of the helmet, I grabbed an X-acto knife, took a breath, and began the incision. (Note: It smelled really foul in there. Also note: I have no way to compare the smell to that of the insides of a tauntaun.)


Once splayed out I wasn’t too surprised to see that the “pelt” of the helmet was darned floppy. I needed to build an armature to keep the structure solid, and to support the articulation of the two halves of the face mask.


With very little time to get fancy building parts from scratch, I rummaged around my workshop, closets, and shamefully disorganized garage, until I came upon an old spider Babyface homage to Toy Story I’d build back in ’95 out of Erector sets. Sorry, Spider Baby, I needed your body parts.


Continue reading