Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
All the PEZ bodies are made from white pine and luan. The heads are made from either plastic kitty litter buckets or paint buckets. I just used fabric and felt to make the hair, caps and collars. The reindeer antlers are made of wood. His nose is half of a soft drink bottle and half of a plastic rubber ball. A couple of strings of LED Christmas lights go around the stage and are timed to the music. The boxes that look like giant gift boxes hide the laptop, power supplies and control boards. Two outdoor speakers give the performance a clear, crisp sound even when not cranked up very high.
The 5 "singing" PEZ are driven with air cylinders and solenoids. The ones that go straight up as if you were loading PEZ candy into the dispenser are attached to drawer slides. Santa's and Mrs. Claus' heads are on door hinges. The "dancing" elves are on servo motors and lazy susan turntables.
I used a Lynxmotion SSC-32 servo control board, APS relay control board, a Kit 74 relay board and a 2*100 watt amp board from Sure Electronics. The sensor is attached to a DLP-IO8-G 8-Channel Data Acquisition Board which is attached via a USB cable to the laptop that controls everything. I programmed the performance with Brookshire VSA and ran that through MonkeyBasic Helmsman.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I made this wolf creature by covering a wire reindeer sculpture with fake fur. First I had to remove the Christmas lights, antlers and wire bobtail. I used hot glue to attach the fake fur to the wire and stuck a cheap wolf mask over the head of the deer. I attached some iridescent stones for eyes.
The hollow body was the perfect place to hide a cheap MP3 player and some computer speakers so that Fluffy growls constantly. This reindeer happened to have a moving head so I attached the fur around the neck separately.
One of our cats is freaked out by Fluffy. The other cat sits right by it, as if to taunt her bully co-cat.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Latest Halloween project: an undead bride resting quietly for eternity in her coffin. Suddenly she sits up and practically throws you the bouquet. Fun, eh? I made the coffin from fence boards. The bride's head is a prop readily available on the web and the wedding dress was a 5 dollar garage sale find. The pop up mechanism was made from PVC pipe. A pneumatic cylinder drives the prop.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Saturday, July 03, 2010
These are my weapons of choice for this job. A soldering iron and an unsoldering iron. It has another name, but who cares? It comes in handy.
Solders are looking pretty good. I have my good days and bad days, soldering-wise. Otherwise, everyday is a good day.
This is about halfway through. Notice the two puck-shaped potentiometers that look exactly the same? They are not the same and you have only one clue to tell them apart. Good luck!
Here it is completed and connected to the small offset motor from a kid's toy. The interval timer serves to turn the motor on and off at set intervals. I know better than to define a term by using that term but, hey, it's the Internet where people are always "loosing there minds", so I feel entitled.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Family Fun with Flip
and Audacity and Movie Maker. Well, not so much Movie Maker. I thought it was slow and rigid and not nearly as user friendly as the Sony software I used to use. But that was a few years and several iterations of Windows ago and we are now on a bit of an austerity program and I can't just go out and buy software on a whim.
This whim was two years in the making. I wrote the script two years ago. Last year, we tried to film it but the kids and I just got frustrated with each other. Apparently it is easy to be James Cameron nasty when your project is in the hands of uncooperative actors, even if they are your own children. On several occasions I was heard proclaiming, "I'll never work with you two again!"
"They're only children! You're a tyrant!" my husband shot back.
"It's MY movie they're destroying!"
The movie project was put on indefinite hiatus.
Finally, this year we hit upon a winning formula. We recorded the script on the computer separately and then just filmed the scenes afterward. I cut and pasted everything in a purposely sloppy way to give me some leeway for syncing up the audio and visuals. Since I wanted to mute the video's onboard audio track and add my own audio and soundtrack, I used Audacity. Audacity is freeware that makes you wonder why it's free. It's like magic. It is as flexible as Movie Maker is rigid.
The extra long opening is my indulgence. I deserve it for what I've been put through over this project. James Cameron would understand.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Last weekend, I finished two projects--staining the deck and building a set of deck chairs. The deck was simple enough although it meant several hours in the heat. We had started this project much earlier this year but time, weather and distractions conspired to delay the project until the heat of summer.
The chairs started as four cheap Adirondack chair kits from Harbor Freight. We didn't want four chairs so we modified two and made a love seat. I made foot stools with the extra chair parts and now we have a complete 4 person seating area.
The fact that the chairs and the deck are virtually the same color shows my lack of forethought. I had wanted to paint the chairs a pale green but when I got to the paint store, I chose a bluish gray instead; the fact that the deck was going to be gray didn't enter into the equation for me. That happens often.
When people tell me I could be a designer for a living, I laugh to myself. Half of the things I do that come out well are happy accidents. I doubt anyone would actually hire Happy Accidents Designs with confidence in the outcome.
I plan to add some colorful cushions and pillows so that ought to help. Another project to add to the list. But at least it's an inside job.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Halloween is something like 127 days away-time to get busy.
Miller Light, the eternally thirsty zombie, is prop number 1 for 2010. Each part was simple and straight forward but it took a while to get all the parts to come together. The zombie is just a bucket and a PVC and foam tubing armature. There's a pump in the bucket. The pumps is attached to a tube going up to the bottle. Hidden in his jaw is a funnel, also attached to a tube so the water returns to the bucket.
Oh, and his skull is--a skull from a anatomical model store. I stained some cheesecloth with leftover coffee and use latex to apply the cheesecloth strips to his head and hand. I put coffee grounds in the still wet latex to give him that fresh out of the ground look.
His guts and the mud from which he's breaking out are make from Great Stuff foam. The tombstone is actually just part of a Styrofoam insulation sheet covered with wall compound.
I plan to add a small motor with an offset cam to add a little flailing to his free arm. I took apart a giggling stuffed toy and will use the motor and power source I found inside. I ordered a timer kit and I plan to run the power through that so that the flailing is intermittent.
I even made a spotlight for it with a super bright LED and more PVC pipe. I'll test it all out tonight when it's dark. Should be creepy. Should be fun.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Today I helped my son make chocolate cups. We got the instructions from Bakerella. We started with water balloons just like she says, but every time we tried to coat them with chocolate they popped. We had a mess on our hands and on the counter and the floor and in my hair.
Eventually we tried regular balloons and just filled them partially full of air. That worked. We had our chocolate covered balloons. We waited a while and then popped the balloons. We found out that we skimped on the cooking spray and had a little trouble getting the balloons completely out of some of the cups. We had a lot of waste but we started with a lot of balloons and chocolate, so it worked out.
We filled the cups with pudding topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips and sprinkles. I spent the rest of the afternoon scraping hardened chocolate off of, well, just about everything. I deserve a treat. I wonder where I can find one?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
At least I have a project to work on in the quiet of night. I used the wee morning hours to work on the opening credits of a PSA about fireworks safety. Strictly no-budget, Flip Camera, Movie Maker, no production values to speak of but it amuses me and the kids are home for the summer, so why not? Here's the opening credits:
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Another night at Metal Shop. The class has dwindled from 5 to 3; Becky, who's a guidance counselor at a middle school, Fred, a sweet kid who's building a motorcycle trailer, and me. Ron, the farmer, already had skills well beyond our class so I'm not surprised he gave up on the rest of us. Still, he was sharp and engaging, I miss having him around.
Today we began by welding coupons, again. I made a few practice welds and decided to try something a little different. I used a scrap piece of steel bar and bent it using a vice and a metal tube as a fulcrum. I shaped gentle curves into two coupons using the vice and a ball-peen hammer and then welded them to the bar. I used a grinder to shape the coupons into leaves. Eventually I had a passable flower stem with a couple of leaves. What I didn't have was a flower.
Luckily, we learned how to use a plasma cutter last night. The plasma cutter uses a powerful arc of electricity to cut metal relatively precisely. Our instructor cut out a seven foot marlin complete with gills and scales. I cut out 5 sad flower petals.
I welded my petals to the flower stem but two petals fell off right after I turned off the welder for the evening. Ron had taught me to adjust the welder according to the thickness of the metal, but I still burned through the thin petals. Kevin told me that I should have welded from the thick metal to the thin, letting the weld melt into the thinner piece. I was sad that I didn't leave class with a completed project, but next week I can start class by putting the metal to the petals.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Ron, the farmer in Metal Shop for At-Risk Seniors, told me I needed to paint my third hand or it would rust. Before class tonight, I grabbed a random can of spray paint from the garage and painted it. I now have the only gold third hand in the class. It turns out though, that it's actually called called a third finger. Good thing there's not a written test but, that's right, I made my very own Goldfinger.
Tonight we welded "coupons" again. Coupons are short, flat pieces of steel that welders use for practice. I welded mine together so they made a box and welded on a bottom plate. I had a steel box and an hour of class time left.
I decided to try to use the welding wire to make a design. It was supposed to be a flower. I'll let you decide. The instructor let me sandblast it to clean it up and then I used a grinder to add some shiny spots. Now I have a steel vase. Or I would if it held water. I'm probably a few weeks away from ship building.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I recently found a no-fail recipe for bacon wrapped pork tenderloin for which, to my surprise, I wasn't the exception. Based on that singular success, I've moved on to a recipe I found for Texas styled pulled pork.
I have never tasted pulled pork. Before I moved to NC I had never even heard of pulled pork. Until recently, I thought it was a culinary cousin of the loose meat sandwich that was such comic fodder on Roseanne. But with pork butt on sale for 98 cents a pound on the opening weekend of barbecue season, the stars are aligned for a new learning experience. Besides,'pork butt' is just fun to say.
So last night when I couldn't sleep, I got up and started making a coffee-chipotle rub and chipotle barbecue sauce for the 7 pound pork shoulder (butt included) I bought yesterday. The recipe calls chipotle powder which isn't a standard stocked item at the local grocery store. In fact, Pace Picante Sauce is stocked with the ethnic food as if Texas is a foreign country. So the first step was to roast some chipotle peppers in the oven. I ground them in the grinder formerly known for coffee. Who needs sleep?
The rub done, I moved on to the barbecue sauce. I was wide awake when I started but the 40 minutes of sauteing and simmering was all I needed to finally feel dozy. Luckily, with help from a sleepy lick of a spoonful of fiery hot adobe sauce, I managed to finish the barbecue sauce without falling asleep in it. The rub and sauce done, I finally went back to bed at 3:30 wondering how to cook a 7 pound pork butt at 200 degrees for 14 hours and catch up on my sleep.