May 10, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CNC Sky Iris [Maker Update #33]

This week on Maker Update, a giant mechanical iris, a lightsaber, remote control Arduino, a micro torch, python boxes, Google HATs, Processing Spirographs, and Maker Faires. Support the show by purchasing this week’s featured tool.

Show Notes

Advanced Project of the Week

Caleb Kraft’s Giant Mechanical Iris

10-inch Desktop Version

10-inch CNC Iris Window

More Projects

Bob Clagett Light Saber

Remote Effects Trigger Box by John Park

Feather Remote FX Trigger
Photo and project by John Park.

Cool Tools Minute

Bernz-O-Matic ST2200T Micro Flame Butane Torch Kit Review

Buy on Amazon and support this show

Bernz-O-Matic Micro Flame Torch Kit
Photo by Donald Bell.


Pulse Sensor Amped

Pulse Sensor Amped
Photo by Adafruit. (via Jordan Bunker)

New MagPi with Google HAT

Download Issue #57 as PDF

MagiPi Raspberry Pi Google Issue
Photo by MagPi.

Adafruit METRO M0 Express – designed for CircuitPython – ATSAMD21G18

Adafruit Metro M0
Photo by Adafruit.

Processing-Spirograph (Julien Grünhagel)

Processing Spirograph


Gareth Panel “Amazing Tales from the Shop”

Thanks to Brian Bennett and all the Kitty contributors!

Maker Faires

North Little Rock Mini Maker Faire North Little Rock, Arkansas
Ljubljana Mini Maker Faire Ljubljana, Tobaca
Madison Mini Maker Faire Madison, Wisconsin
Martha’s Vineyard Mini Maker Faire West Tisbury, Massachusetts
Maker Faire Austin Austin, Texas
Palm Beach Mini Maker Faire West Palm Beach, Florida
Barre Mini Maker Faire Barre, Vermont



This week on Maker Update, a giant mechanical iris, a lightsaber, remote control Arduino, a micro torch, python boxes, Google HATs, Processing Spirographs, and Maker Faires.

It’s Wednesday May 10th, I’m Donald Bell and welcome to another Maker Update. I hope you guys are doing great. I’m excited because my Kitty car is finished and I get to race it a week from now at Maker Faire Bay Area and try not to lose or hurt myself or both.

I have a great show for you this week, so let’s get on with it, starting with the Advanced Project of the Week.

I’m a little late to this one but I can’t not mention Caleb Kraft’s Giant Mechanical Iris skylight published over on Make. With the help of CNC Router Parts, Caleb was able to create a motorized 26” iris for skylight in his home that sort of reminds me of the top hatch in the Millennium Falcon.

The iris is made from a combination of baltic birch plywood for the frame, MDF for the gearing, and aluminum for the interlocking leaves. An Arduino and stepper motor are used to make it open and close. It’s beautiful. I’m totally jealous.

And the cool thing is, not only are the CNC templates for this design available as a free download, but there’s also a smaller 10” design that might be a more practical build if you have access to a less-than gigantic CNC. You can find a link to the project and the files in the show notes.

In a slightly easier but no less awesome project, last week Bob Clagett from I like to Make Stuff showed off one of the most exciting and approachable Light Saber builds I’ve ever seen.

This project uses a wooden dowel with color changing LED strip wrapped around it, shoved inside a polycarbonate tube. It’s driven by an Arduino-compatible Teensy 3.2 microcontroller board with a prop shield plugged into it and powered by four rechargeable AA batteries. It lights up nice and bright and the prop shield includes a motion sensor and audio playback, so with the right sound effects you can get a really satisfying lightsaber experience swinging this thing around.

One more project I want to highlight this week is this remote effects trigger by John Park on Adafruit. John has a fun task ahead of him designing lighting effects for a circus troupe and some illusions for a Vegas magic show. To help with that, he’s made a fantastic guide on remotely triggering Arduino projects and relay boards using a reliable, long range packet radio setup.

He’s using a handful of Arduino compatible Adafruit Feather Packet Radio boards, which can be set to either transmit or receive. Unlike Bluetooth or wifi, these link together with no setup, and the radio spectrum is much less crowded — just what you want for something theatrical where timing is critical and you want to minimize dropouts. If that sounds like something you could use, check out the link in the show notes.

It’s time once again for a 1-minute review of a useful, uncommon tool from my friends at Cool Tools. This is the Bernz-O-Matic Micro Flame Torch kit. It sells for $34, which isn’t cheap for a butane torch, but let me show you why this one is special.

This torch comes with a nice knurled grip, a safety switch, a latch to keep it lit continuously, and a flame adjustment on the side. You also get an adjustment up top that adjusts the air mix for a less forceful flame.

But what really comes in handy is the attachment that comes included. By attaching this to the tip you can turn it into a heat gun, useful for heat shrink — which is mostly what I use this torch for. But there’s also a soldering iron tip that screws in that lets you use this as a cordless soldering iron.

It’s a neat option for off the grid soldering and the butane refills are cheap and easy to get at any hardware store. This doesn’t come pre-filled, though, so you will need to grab some butane and fill it up in order to use it.

An Amazon link to buy this exact torch is included in the show notes. By using that link you support this show and the Cool Tools blog and podcast. The latest podcast has an interview with Eri Gentry, founding President of the BioCurious hackerspace for Biology. You can find everything at

Alright, let’s talk about a few other tips I found this week. First off, Becky Stern wrote me about last week’s show where I mentioned that pulse Arduino sensor and was confused over the $25 version and the $3 counterfeits I was seeing on eBay. It turns out that the pricier version — the Pulse Amped — is dramatically faster and more reliable than the original, which is probably what the knock offs are based on and not worth your time.

Beyond that, it’s just important to support the products and companies like World Famous that are a part of the Maker community. eBay’s a fine place to get some things, but we should make a point to support each other and not sell each other out for counterfeits. So thanks to Becky for the clarification and the reminder.

My friend and fellow Kitty car builder Jordan Bunker from Hackaday showed me this cool online tool called It’s a Python based box generator for laser cut SVG templates you can completely customize. In addition to boxes there’s also trays, drawers, shelves, gears, and even arcade cabinet templates.

This past week, the new issue of MagPi came out, issue #57. This one went all out with an included Pi HAT and project kit from Google. The kit gives you access to Google’s Cloud Speech API, allowing you to add voice interaction to your projects. After Amazon’s Alexa API has been getting so much love from the Raspberry Pi community, it’s nice to see Google competing for our attention too.

As always, you can download the entire issue for free from Raspberry, but if you want the kit you’ll have to find a print issue.

I also noticed that Adafruit is now stocking a new version of their Metro board, which up until now I’ve just thought of as a well-made, licensed Arduino clone. This new model, the M0 Express, still acts like an Arduino but now has the additional capability of running Python code. That could be interesting.

Finally, as some of you who follow my Instagram know, I’ve been obsessed with my pen plotter recently. This week I had a big breakthrough. One of my favorite Processing tools is a program that generates Spirographs. I emailed the developer, Julien Grünhagel, and asked if he could add the ability to export vector files. The next day he shot back with a new version that exports to PDF and my plotter art is now super sharp. So thanks to Julien, and you can find a link to his Spirograph tool in the show notes. His same GitHub account has great resources for glitch and generative art.

I wanted to take a minute for a few quick plugs here. One is to let you know that not only will I be at Maker Faire Bay area on the 20th and 21st, racing the Kitty Grabs Back, but I’ll also be on a panel on Saturday at 4:30, hosted by Gareth Branwyn from Make and with Mark Frauenfelder from Cool Tools, John Park from Adafruit, and YouTube DIY star April Wilkerson. If you’re at the Faire, make a point to check it out.

Also, last week was the end of fundraising for the Kitty, and I received one last donation from my friend Brian Bennett. Thank you Brian. And thanks again to everyone who helped support my project.

I’d like to do more ambitious, expensive projects like this in the future without turning to sponsors, so let me know what I could change for next time that would get you all more excited to chip in. What have other campaigns done that you’ve liked? Leave me some constructive feedback in the comments or email me at, alright?

Maker Faires! There are a bunch this weekend including North Little Rock, Slovenia, Madison Wisconsin, West Tisbury Massachusetts, Austin Texas, West Palm Beach Florida, and Barre Vermont. If any of those are near you, go check it out and recharge your inspiration.

And that’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to check out that butane torch if you’re curious. If you end up buying it using that Amazon link, a few bucks get kicked back my way — so it’s win-win. I’d also appreciate you subscribing to this channel if you haven’t already, leave me a comment of a thumbs-up or Like the Maker Project Lab page on Facebook. I actually don’t think I’ve ever promoted my Facebook page here, so go do that, alright? Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.


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