February 14, 2018 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Contraptions and QR Coasters [Maker Update #71]

This week on Maker Update, an animated wooden sign, new mesh boards from Particle, 3D printed QR coasters, 3D printing on fabric, and my talk with Jon-A-Tron. This week’s Cool Tool is a Retractable Cardboard Cutter.

Show Notes

Project of the Week

Photo and project by Nicole Catrett.

A Curious Contraption by Nicole Catrett


Particle Mesh Boards

More Projects

Photo and project by mikeasaurus.

QR COASTERS by mikeasaurus

Cool Tools Minute

Retractable Corrugated Cardboard Cutter “Slide Dan Chan” Green (DC-25)

Non-Stick Replacement Blades (2-pack)

Original Corrugated Cardboard Cutter “Dan Chan” [Fluorine Coating]


Gear Generator

EMSL Valentines

How to 3D Print on Fabric for Cosplay by Uncle Jessy

My Talk with Jon-A-Tron


This week on Maker Update, an animated wooden sign, new mesh boards from Particle, 3D printed QR coasters, a retractable cardboard knife, 3D printing on fabric, and my talk with Jon-A-Tron.

It’s Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, I’m Donald Bell, and it’s time for another Maker Update. I’ve been keeping busy this week working on building a steel frame for a new Power Racing Series car. I’m also picking up the kit for my mini boat build this week. My next few months are going to be busy.

But I’ve got some great new projects to show you here, so let’s get started with my project of the week.

Nicole Catrett from Wonderful Idea Co. made this awesome animated automata wooden sign for a traveling show called Curious Contraptions.

She has a blog post that walks you through the entire design process, from sketch, to prototype, to final build.

The whole thing is driven by a single 12v DC gearmotor that drives a series of wooden gears and cams that make each letter dance and move in its own way.

What’s impressive is that she’s animating two seperate words on two seperate rods by using a gear to transfer the motion of one rod to the other.

She shows how by using threaded rod, she can dial in the exact spacing and tension to place things right where they need to be. It also allows for you to easily reconfigure and experiment with different shapes and ideas.

I love it, and I see no reason why you couldn’t scale it down to just a single word just to get started.

It’s time for some news. This week, Particle announced a new suite of IoT project boards that make use of low-power mesh networking.

The boards are called the Argon, Boron, and Xenon. They all use the same Adafruit Feather form factor and are compatible with Adafruit’s Feather wing accessories.

The three flavors are cellular, Wi-Fi or MESH-only, priced at $29, $15, and $9. They all come with Bluetooth Low Energy and are Arduino-compatible.

What makes the announcement particularly cool is that these are the first boards I’ve seen to use mesh networking, which should allow you to play around with IoT projects that reach out beyond Wi-Fi range.

You can find a blog post with photos and specs on my site, makerprojectlab.com.

One more project I want to share with you this week, Mikeasaurus has a fun guide on Instructables for making your own 3D printed QR code drink coasters.

Aside from being a geeky drink accessory, Mike setup the QR code so that anyone who scans it is automatically connected to his Wi-Fi network. How cool is that?

Mike goes over how to generate the code for free, how to export it as an SVG file, how to bring it into Tinkercad, and how to create the different layers of the 3D print.

It’s a great project, and I’m sure there are a bunch of other applications for it.

It’s time for another Cool Tools review. This time I’m taking a look at a spinoff of one of the most talked about tools I’ve ever shown here — the Canary Cardboard Knife. This is the retractable version, I bought it for around $8 on Amazon. And by using the link in the description to pick one up for yourself, you help to support my show and the Cool Tools blog.

If you haven’t seen this already, this Japanese import serrated knife makes cutting through cardboard super easy, and much safer than using a box cutter.

The blade is relatively safe to touch unless you apply a lot of force. And because the tip is actually blunt, you can carve up cardboard or foamcore directly on your workbench without gouging up the surface.

So this yellow-handled one is the first one I bought and reviewed, and it’s still my go-to when I want to quickly break down boxes. The non-stick coating is also great for slicing through packaging tape without getting all gummed up.

But for only a dollar or two more, there’s this green-handled retractable version. Same company, same blade and blade length, and the same idea, but it’s just built a little better for everyday work use.

The obvious advantage is that it’s retractable, so you can keep this in your pocket or your toolbag, and it’s not going to chew things up or damage the blade.

But the unexpected advantage is this nice wide handle that’s more ergonomic. The original handle feels like a dinner knife. But the retractable one feels like a professional kitchen knife.

Another interesting design element is that you can use this tension knob to get as much or as little blade length as you need. And there’s a stop on the bottom of the handle that allows you to pull the blade free and replace it when it wears out.

You can buy a set of replacement blades on Amazon for around $10. And these replacements are non-stick coated like the original. The blade that comes with this retractable model isn’t non-stick from what I can tell.

My only complaint with this design is that there’s a somewhat sharp edge on the metal extending out from the grip. I filed mine down just to knock the edge off, but I feel better handing the original to my kid than this retractable one.

But for a grown-up, especially one who needs an easy, pocketable way to break down cardboard boxes, this retractable cardboard knife from Canary is a great alternative to using a box cutter, and more satisfying in my opinion.

You can use the Amazon link in the description to pick one up and you can see thousands of reader recommended tools like this at Cool-tools.org.

I have a few more tips for you this week. First, while reading about Nicole’s Curious Contraptions project, I came across a link to geargenerator.com.

If, like me, the idea of gears seems like a daunting and unknowable world, this site allows you to quickly stack and modify and link gears together in a way that you can’t screw up.

When you get to a result that seems worth a try, you can export your custom gears as DXF or SVG files, which you can throw at a laser cutter or 3D printer, or just print out as a template and jigsaw into some wood. Bookmark this site.

In honor of Valentine’s day, the team at Evil Mad Scientist have a printable set of Engineer valentines cards for 2018. This is a tradition they’ve been doing every year since 2013, and you can download them all. With a single card, you can simultaneously prove both how romantic and how nerdy you are.

Over the weekend, Gareth Branwyn sent me a link to this video by Uncle Jesse showing how to 3D print cosplay textures — like scales — onto fabric. You essentially establish a print, pause it, introduce some loose weave cloth, and resume the print. If all goes well you’re left with this textured material that you can integrate into a costume.

Finally, last Friday I tried an experiment and recorded a live Google Hangout with Jon-A-Tron from Instructables. We spent 20 minutes going over how he built this flip-top worktable for his CNC router.

It’s a great conversation with lots of useful bits about different parts and techniques. I’ll include a link to it at the end of this video, but I really want you guys to let me know what you think.

In theory, this might be something I could arrange every few weeks and talk with different makers about their projects, but I want to hear from you and see what I could do to make that something you’d want to watch.

And that does it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe, and leave a comment or a thumbs up. Get yourself a cardboard cutter. I’m sure some of you here can back me up on how awesome they are.

And if you really enjoyed this show, you can buy me a coffee using the Buy Me a Coffee link right down here. I appreciate it. Alright? Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

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