August 30, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CNC Spiral Stairs [Maker Update #49]

This week on Maker Update, spiral stairs, the Trinket M0, a glove that tracks high-fives, Charlotte the drawbot, an essential bit of road trip tech, and a tip for storing filament. This week’s Cool Tool is the BESTEK 300W Power Inverter.

Show Notes

Advanced Project

Spiral Staircase With a TON of Curves by MauiMakes (Nick Fournier)

Stairs and photo by Nick Fournier.


Adafruit Releases Trinket M0

Image courtesy of Adafruit.

More Projects

High Five Counting Glove by Caleb Kraft

Project and photo by Caleb Kraft.

Adafruit Trinket React Counter

Charlotte by _toreilly

Charlotte drawbot exploded diagram by Thomas O’Reilly.
Example drawings made by Charlotte.

Cool Tools Minute

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter

Photo by Donald Bell.


Shop Tips: Storing 3D Printer Filament

Image courtesy of Tested.

Opposable Thumbs Podcast

Maker Faires

Maker Faire Eindhoven
San Jose Mini Maker Faire
Des Moines Mini Maker Faire


This week on Maker Update, spiral stairs, the Trinket M0, a glove that tracks high-fives, Charlotte the drawbot, an essential bit of road trip tech, and a tip for storing filament.

It’s Wednesday, August 30th, I’m Donald Bell and welcome to another Maker Update. I hope you’re all doing well. Thank you again for joining me here. I have a great episode for you this week, with an embarrassing amount of amazing projects. So let’s get right into it, starting with the project of the week.

Over on Instructables, Nick Fournier has a beautiful writeup on how he created this wooden spiral staircase using a blend of CAD design, CNC milling, and hand sculpting.

Using reclaimed wood from an old matchstick factory, Nick fabricated this staircase that not only spirals up, but has a twisting helix style center that I’ve never seen before.

The staircase is pinned and epoxied into the concrete floor, with steel rod connecting through each tread. And even though the CNC mill handled a lot of the dirty work of roughly shaping each step, Nick had to set up a Dexter style kill-room to handle the fine sanding and finishing work to give each step a handmade feel.

After a dry fit, Nick further sculpted the lines of the staircase with a chainsaw and power sander. Once he got it how he liked, a few coats of oil transformed it into this.

I rarely get to see architectural projects like this on Instructables, but it’s such a great example of the kinds of possibilities that open up when you can add 3D modeling and CNC into the mix.

It’s time for some news. Last week, Adafruit announced the newest member of their Circuit Python-compatible board refresh — the Trinket M0.

The Trinket has been one of my favorite Arduino-compatible boards for a long time now. It’s super small, does most of what you want an Arduino to do, and is under $10. The new M0 edition keeps the same dimensions and Arduino-compatibility, but swaps out the ATtiny processor for the faster ATSAMD Cortex M0+ that can run Python code.

The board is $9 and has Native USB support for every OS. So, for loading up Python code, you just plug it into your computer over USB, edit the built-in script, and eject it. That’s it.

For those of you keeping count, Adafruit now has the Trinket M0, Gemma M0, Feather M0 Express, Metro M0 Express, and the Circuit Playground Express (with M0). The only board left I can think of they may bump up to M0 is the Pro Trinket, but with the Feather M0 Express at $20, that might be splitting hairs. Maybe I’m just an Adafruit fanboy, but I feel like this is the most exciting thing happening in maker boards right now.

I have a few more projects to share with you. Caleb Kraft has a great show and tell video on how he created this glove for counting high-fives. There’s a built-in display that counts up every time the glove receives a smack on the palm.

The circuit is based on this reaction counter project on Adafruit, and uses an original Trinket, a 4-digit display, and an external battery pack. It’s a relatively simple build, and with some hot glue and some thread you can make the thing look pretty cyberpunk.

Another project that caught my eye this week is a drawbot called Charlotte by maker Thomas O’Reilly. The bot uses an Arduino Nano to power and control 3 servos with pens attached to them.

Light sensors for each servo allow you to wave your hands over the bot and have some degree of input over how it behaves. The end result is this squiggly abstract art that looks really cool. I also love the attention Thomas paid to creating the illustrations for this guide. It’s a work of art in itself.

It’s time for another Cool Tools review. This time I’m going to show you guys this in-car power inverter from Bestek. I picked this up on Amazon for around $27, it’s a best seller, and by using the link in the description to pick one up you’ll be helping to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

This weekend, my friends and I are taking a road trip up to the Northwest. We’ve done this trip a few times, and one problem we always run up against is charging our gadgets — phones, laptops, and camera batteries.

This time, I’m prepared. This inverter plugs right into my van’s 12v socket and spits out two 300 watt 110v AC outlets plus two, 2.4 amp USB outlets.

The whole thing is super compact. It comes in this sturdy aluminum enclosure. There’s a switch on the back to turn it on and an indicator light on the other side. There’s also a little PC fan inside to keep it from overheating and a built-in 40-amp internal fuse to protect your stuff.

I’ve been using it over the last month to charge my phone and some LiPo batteries for different projects, and it does the job. A few reviewers online have mentioned that it’s underpowered if you wanted to directly run power tools off it. That said, for rechargeable tools, it could be just the trick for recharging on the road.

So that’s the Bestek 300 watt Power Inverter. If you’re roadtripping with nerds, or just need a way to plug in an AC gadget on-the-go, it’s a great price for what it delivers. You can pick one up using the Amazon link in the description. And remember, you can see thousands of reader-recommended tools like this at

A few other tips to share with you this week. Over on Tested, there’s a short tip from Frank Ippolito on storing leftover PLA or ABS 3D printing filament in bags with silica packets to prevent moisture from making the material brittle over time.

I also got an email from Federico Tobon, about a Maker podcast I hadn’t heard before called Opposable Thumbs. Each episode tackles a creative challenge and has on different guests. It’s worth checking out.

Maker Faires! This weekend, we have Eindohoven, San Jose, and Des Moines. If those are near you, go check it out.

And that’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe and Like and comment. And next week not only will it be my fiftieth episode of Maker Update, but it’s also my one-year anniversary doing the show. So, pressure’s on. I gotta do something cool. Definitely check back. Alright? Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

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