September 6, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Talking Tiki [Maker Update #50]

This week on Maker Update, an enchanted talking tiki totem pole, my trip to OSH Park and Metrix Makerspace, a retro lightbox, and why you need flush cutters. This week’s Cool Tool is the Hakko CHP-170 Flush Cutter.

Show Notes

Advanced Project

Talking Tiki by JimScuba2386

Photo and project by JimScuba2386.


OSH Park

Laen and I at OSH Park HQ.


A 3D printed ceramic heart made at Metrix.

More Projects

Customizable Retro Lightbox by mightynozzle

Project and photo by Mighty Nozzle.

Cool Tools Minute

Hakko CHP-170 Flush Cutters

Photo by Donald Bell.


Diresta Tips: Road Case, Makerspace Table, 3DP Movable Type

Maker Faires

Chattanooga Mini Maker Faire Chattanooga, Tennessee
Midcoast Mini Maker Faire Camden, Maine
Maker Faire Moscow Moscow
Zurich Mini Maker Faire Zurich
Odesa Mini Maker Faire Odesa
Linz Mini Maker Faire (Ars Electronica) Linz


This week on Maker Update, an enchanted talking tiki totem pole, my trip to OSH Park and Metrix Makerspace, a retro lightbox, and why you need flush cutters.

It’s Wednesday, September 6th, I’m Donald Bell and welcome to another Maker Update. Actually welcome to the 50th episode of Maker Update, which as of this week is one year old. My goal is to have a separate video up this week to sorta acknowledge that, but otherwise I’m sticking to the formula for today’s show. It’s a good one though, so let’s jump in starting with the project of the week.

I don’t typically highlight projects without a written guide, but I just have to share this one. Over on Twitter I’ve been following the build of this animatronic talking tiki totem by JimScuba2386. It’s a scaled down homage to the classic Enchanted Tiki Room floor show at Disney World.

For Jim’s version, the whole thing is 3D printed, stuffed full of servos and Neopixel LEDs. He has a remote control that triggers the whole routine, which is set to the original show recording.

Inside, Jim is using a lot of Adafruit boards including a Pro Trinket, a Sound Board, an audio amplifier board for the internal speaker, some I2C breakouts, a servo driver board, and a Feather board with built-in radio transmitter for remote control.

Equally impressive to me is how Jim modeled the tiki tower using photos from the original, essentially tracing them into a 3D design and making his best guess on how to pull out the features into three dimensions.

It’s a one-of-a kind passion project and I encourage you to follow along.

This week, for news, I want to tell you a little about my trip last weekend. I got a chance to drive up to Lake Oswego Oregon and visit Laen, the owner of OSH Park. Laen’s company famously makes these custom purple circuit boards you see in tons of Maker projects.

The purple is just how they brand their boards. The reason you see so many of them, is because OSH Park has made it affordable and relatively quick to turn around small batches of custom circuit board designs.

Laen was great and showed me around their office, which is mainly where they pull apart these large panels of batched circuits and ship off the separate pieces to their customers. The boards themselves are manufactured at different facilities and then shipped to this office.

Laen also has his own personal tinkering and engineering office here, and a table full of different projects whose boards were made by OSH Park.

He also has some beautiful pieces of circuit board artwork, and a framed series of panels that illustrate the process of etching, screening and finishing a printed circuit board.

He also showed us the bins of panel scrap left over from the process. I was tempted to take some home and make a collage from it or something. It’s really pretty.

The next day, my friends and I headed up to Seattle and I figured I’d drop by a Makerspace. Based on its reputation I stopped by a place called Metrix, and was surprised to see it’s no longer an open lab, but more of a project consultation and fabrication shop. I got a tour from Matt Westervelt, and it’s a great space full of laser cutters, a giant CNC router, and even a printer that can create objects from ceramic powder. A cool space, but not the hotbed of maker activity I was expecting.

This trip was also a chance to road test a design I’ve been working on for sound-reactive drum lights. My band played three shows with these on our road trip. They’re LiPo battery powered, so there are no cords to get in the way. I’ll have a full project writeup and video on these soon, but here’s a little preview.

One other great project to share with you this week is this customizable Retro Lightbox by Mighty Nozzle. This is an all-3D printed design that includes the box, the white backdrop, the letter trays and a complete alphabet of letters. There are two different fonts you can use. And the guide for lighting it up suggests just using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf, battery-powered LED kit and includes links to some dirt cheap options.

But the best part about this design is that it takes full advantage of the Thingiverse Customizer feature, so you can create your own twist on the design right in your browser. Just using sliders, you can define how tall or wide you want it, how many trays you want to cram in there, and which font you want, and the Customizer will size everything up and preview it for you. It’s a cool idea.

It’s time for another Cool Tools review! This time around I’m going to show you my favorite pair of flush cutters for electronics. They’re just $5 on Amazon, and made by Hakko. By picking these using the link in the description you help to support my show and the Cool Tools blog.

For more years than I care to admit, I would cut and trim wires and circuit leads using these generic wire cutters. They’d get the job done, but because the blades are somewhat recessed, you could never trim things completely flat.

For that, you need flush cutters. And it’s a subtle distinction, but these are so much more satisfying when you’re cleaning up the bits of wire on a project. Because the cutting edge is moved all the way out front, you can take the cut right down to the board if you want.

And here’s a quick tip. I learned this from watching how Saar Drimmer from Boldport solder up his beautiful projects.

Typically, when you solder a connection together on a through-hole circuit board like this, you get what looks like a mountain of solder. You come back through and trim it down, and maybe you get something like this, and it’s tidy and gets the job done.

But these days, with project boards that are almost works of art in themselves, here’s a technique for making solder joints that are prettier and smoother to touch.

Take that same joint you just made, and use flush cutters like these $5 Hakkos to trim the joint right down to the board.

Then, come back around with your soldering iron, reheat the connection very quickly and hit it with a touch of solder.

It takes some practice, but if you get it right, you get a perfect little dome. Something about the surface tension of the new solder and the lack of any central element poking through makes this happen.

And when you apply this technique to an entire board, it almost looks like it’s been put together with little rivets. It’s a nice look and it’s smooth to touch. Clean up the extra flux with a swab of isopropyl alcohol, and you’ve got a board worth showing off.

You don’t need any special soldering iron or solder to make this technique work, but you really do need the flush cutters to get right up against the board. I’ve got a link to these exact ones in the show notes.

And remember, you can see thousands of reader recommended tools just like this at

Speaking of tips, the latest video from Jimmy Diresta is jam-packed with helpful ideas. He shares a lead on where to order supplies for making your own road cases, welding big sturdy makerspace tables, and explores using 3D printed movable type on a letterpress. Highly recommended.

Maker Faires! There are a bunch this weekend, including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Camden, Maine; Moscow, Zurich, Switzerland; Odesa, Ukraine, and Linz, Austria. So go out if you have one near you, or tell a friend if you know someone nearby.

And that’s it for this week’s show! Be sure to subscribe, or give me a thumbs up, or wish me a happy anniversary. Treat yourself to some $5 flush cutters if you don’t already have some. You can also sign up to get this show emailed to you each week with some bonus projects, by going to Alright? Thanks for all your support these past 50 shows. I’m excited for the next 50, and I’ll see you next week.

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