Playing with a 3d Printer

Back in 2014 I dabbled in a new medium, 3d printing. I suppose I should have printed something architectural… instead I created two snowmen ornament prototypes (probably need to mix it up a bit or I’ll forever be known as “that Snowman Guy,” rather than “that Chippendale Dancer Guy”). For the first ornament I asked myself, what would a snowman look like if it was turned inside-out. Why, you ask? Give me a minute. I’ll come up with something.

Snowman 2015
Snowman prototype 1 – 3d model

The other ornament is four snowmen in one. It is a reflection of the myriad, disparate people (or states of mind) within each of us. If you are wondering, I spent most of that year as the one screaming to get out! Still trying, by the way.

Snowman 2014
Snowman prototype 2 – 3d model

The ornament’s head-block is attached to the flat, internal belly piece and rotates to conceal it. You can see it on the first and last photo. This is intended to display a locket-sized photo when rotated.

2017 Christmas Ornament Wrap-up

I got off to a late start making snowman ornaments for Robyn this year.  With less than a week until Christmas, I made my move (which amounted to scratching my belly, drinking some holiday margaritas, and catching up on my emails). Determined to win yet another procrastination trophy, I put the whole thing out of my mind. Despite this, ideas seeped past my protective subconscious barrier like acid rain through an old roof, and I gave in. We’re talking Faberge Egg quality ideas. Too bad they all required way more time than I had left. So I decided to wing it, and just started cutting wood to see what evolved. The sound of band saws floated through the cold, night air.

I have to admit, not all the ornaments this year were painstakenly crafted in my shop. The first ornament took about as long for me to make as for Robyn to unwrap. After 26 years, I think she’s catching on to my “managing expectations” ploy, because she seemed to sense better things coming. I have to give her credit, though, at least she feigned interest. I could tell this by her many questions about how I made it, materials used and such. Questions like:

“Did you use, I mean steal, the balls from grandma’s dining table centerpiece to make this?”  To which grandma replied, “He did what!?”

“Is that a colored pencil as the nose? You stuck a colored pencil through grandma’s table decoration? Seriously?”  “He did what!?

“Was this the box you asked me to wrap on Christmas Eve? You had me wrap my own present, didn’t you?”  “He did what!?

I wish grandma’s hearing wasn’t so good.

Yep. That went about as well as expected (for those of you worried about grandma’s centerpiece, the ornament is held together only by friction and a knot of ribbon. It’s fine. Really. Please don’t send emails.)

The next ornament falls under the category “good in theory, not so good in practice.” The idea was to create a customizable snowman ornament toy, changeable each year with different features and attire – a Mr. Potato Head for the Christmas tree. Except, I’d use magnets. Fun, huh?

I thought I was so clever. I’d just buy a couple of steel balls and a variety of magnets and let Robyn and Beck do the building. Score one for Team Lazy.

It didn’t work. It was far too heavy and plummeted right off the branch, homicidally taking two other ornaments with it (which I now have to repair, damn it). And, it is too small and fussy to handle. The tiny neodymium magnets are seriously strong and can hardly be pried apart from all the other tiny parts. They naturally snap together in a clump, pinching fingers on their way.

What’s more, all the shiny reflections obscure its features, like its eyes and nose. The Christmas tree needles reflect off its surface giving it better camouflage than a sniper. If your tree is steel-reinforced, you may be able to hang it (I’d recommend securing it with an arc welder), but you will never find it again. I’d show you a picture of it hanging on a tree, but you’d have an easier time finding Waldo. Plus, I don’t dare attempt to hang it again. Someone could lose a foot.

Maybe someday I’ll try making another one. I’ll bury the steel balls within wood balls and embed the tiny magnets into wood features and… yeah. That’ll be a cold day in hell.

No worries, though, two snowman down, and I was ready with more. Thank you, Lego Company. Beck and I raided the Legos he received last Christmas (which were the ones, actually, he gave to me for Christmas, but why quibble over ownership). We got in some play time, and Robyn got some ornaments. A win-win (except I have fewer Legos, now. Or Beck does. Whatever.). Of the two snowmen, one of them is a bit closer to the grave than the other. See if you can guess which.

The next ornament is the first of my new primitive collection. That’s what I’m calling it, because I’ve already used the word lazy, and I’m too lazy to use a thesaurus. Honestly, I like its bold simplicity (in addition to it’s speed of manufacture). Not sure if most people will know it’s a snowman, though. Must be art or something.

Moving away from rough-sawn simplicity, here are four snowmen for the price of one (except I don’t sell them, sorry. So technically it’s just four snowmen in one).

In an uncharacteristic departure from snowmen, I drilled a hole and stuck an eyelet into an old bowling pin trophy. It took no time at all, but Robyn says it still counts. You see, we cleaned out my parents’ old house this year, since my dad lives in Florida now and my mother passed away many years ago. She loved to bowl, and this is one of her trophies. Just a little remembrance. You won’t find our Christmas tree gracing the cover of Architectural Digest, but it works for us.

Along the same lines, I came across a boatload (ok, a box, actually) of old Josten’s paraphernalia. My father spent the better part of his life selling class rings and graduation announcements. A few pieces of that life made their way into this little snowman ornament.

As mentioned here, my ornaments often reflect the zeitgeist of the year, and a good chunk of this year was spent with Legos. Not the little bricks, but the technic robotics. If you didn’t know, Legos makes parts that include a little computer, motors, gears, sensors (such as color, ultrasonic, infrared and touch) that allow you to build autonomous robots (sadly, not the kind that shoot flames and spin blades. Cuz that would be cool!).

Beck and a couple of his friends formed a team last year and competed in the Legos International Robotics Challenge. They built a robot and programmed it for this year’s competition and are currently competing against 600 teams across Minnesota. The team won their first competition while Beck won an award for innovative programming. Kudos, kids! These rambunctious 11-year olds face their next competition in February (unless you read about their coaches in the local paper – watch for stories of escaped mental patients and explosions).

And that’s all folks. Hope you have a great new year!

‘Tis the Season

Sing along with me:

‘Tis the season, yet my workshop lies dormant. Fa la la la la… la la la la. 

Some sort of weird conspiracy between Life and his arch nemesis, Work, nailed the door to my workshop shut – for the entire year! I’m praying the little elves inside have managed to survive on nothing but hopes and dreams, and possibly some mouse droppings. But, I must get the door open soon or there will be NO Christmas this year. Only one week remains to make Robyn’s Christmas ornament. Read the backstory here.

Don’t get all nervous for me, but if I can’t kick aside all those elf carcasses and get my machinery running, Robyn will have to adorn the tree this year with something made from pipe cleaners, Q-tips and cotton balls. Think, Martha Stewart {shudder}.

Just in case I don’t make it (and Rudolph, with that giant red nose always in his eyes, broadsides a building or something), here are a few snowmen from years’ past. The one at the top is the very first snowman I ever made, back in 1992, and still one of Robyn’s favorites (probably just sentimentality talking). I honestly didn’t realize, back then, I was starting a tradition. It’s three snowmen in one, really, depending on your viewpoint, and about the size of an egg (but not from one of those hormone fed chickens, God forbid). Amazingly, I didn’t have any tools back then and I don’t remember how I made the snowman. Probably gnawed at the wood with my teeth.



Sauntering down memory lane

The snowmen below are some of the first ones I made that incorporate a photo – sort of like Christmas tree lockets.

 


This snowman comes from deep down in the dark crevices of my subconsious, possibly inspired by memories growing up with Alfred Hitchcock on the tube. Gooood eve-a-ning.

 

 



And finally, a tribute to the Labrador Retreiver we lost the year our son, Beck, was born.

 

Move Over Choo, Chooooooooo!

Seems like only yesterday my son, Beck, and I spent an afternoon in the workshop making trains. He was five and still fascinated by Thomas the Tank Engine. The lesson we learned: you can take almost any old leftover scraps of wood, glue them together, and voila, you have a train.

Today he’s ten and needs to make room on his shelves for things less babyish (I’m a little nervous about what that means). Oh well, I’ll save the trains for his kids (or, maybe I’ll just play with them myself).

A trip to a local train yard confirmed how uncannily accurate our wooden trains were to the real thing (except, maybe, in size, shape, color, material, proportion, mass, and function – but we nailed viscosity).

Turns Out You Can Teach An Old Dog…

Meet the next Martha Stewart: my dad.

Leaping Lizards Pottery Studio

A year ago I dragged my father (not by the hair, of course, because that would be wrong, or so I’m told – and also because he is a bit sparse on top) to a little art studio near The Villages in Florida where he lives, called Leaping Lizards Pottery.

Little did he know he was about to blossom into an artisté (had I thought ahead, I would have brought a pencil thin mustache to stick on his lip). He erroneously assumed we were on our way to yet another doctor’s appointment. Yeah, he would have preferred to be poked with needles. But it was time to include him in the tradition of making a snowman ornament to gift at Christmas. You know what they say, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Our expertise working with clay almost exactly matched our expertise playing professional baseball. To say that neither of us had experience working with clay is an understatement, like saying Hollywood dabbles in sleaze. It didn’t take long, however, to get into the swing of things (the clay, not the sleaze – that took a tiny bit longer).

Jennifer Beville, the artist/proprietor of the studio, adopted the patience of a master ninja and the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons (without the leotard) and guided us through the treacherous waters that is clay making (for those of you on the edge of your seats, rest assured, no one was hurt).

Over the course of two sessions my dad’s work improved dramatically. You can see the progress below (from left to right).

Six months later, we went back for another session. Although the results weren’t quite as impressive, we shared time together and made a few memories. And that, my friends, is what life is all about (that, and sleaze, obviously).

Our experience with clay, by the way, was the catalyst for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the Day After Christmas…

On the day after Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Thirteen puzzle balls,
Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.


The twelve days of Christmas now comes in an economical baker’s dozen! Thirteen for the price of twelve. What a bargain!

Alright, I have to come clean. I cheated with most of the ornaments you see below, thanks to cheap child labor in China. You see, my initial thinking was to create interactive snowman ornaments that one could pull off the tree and play with, rather than simply look at (give us something to do while waiting to rip open the presents!). What could be better than puzzles? They’re fun for all ages!

It turns out that making puzzles is hard and requires better tools than I own, not to mention patience. So I bagged that idea for a while, until one day I came across this thing called Google. They had cheap puzzles galore, and I thought, “Hey! I can repurpose these into snowmen!” So I did.

I had a bit of trouble finding my local Google store, but once I did, the rest was easy (If you’re looking, it’s next to Sears).

Puzzles prior to turning them into ornaments

I crafted the first two snowmen below from scratch (both made entirely from little wood balls). The remainder mostly involved adding heads and hats to stock wood puzzles.

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Click here to see the twelfth day of Christmas.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Now, this is more like it, the architect in me coming out! Snowmen with a tectonic bent. Perhaps I’ll design a snowman that looks like a house, too. Nevermind, I did that years ago. Check out the bottom of the page.












 

Click here to see the eleventh day of Christmas.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

I think I went a bit off the rails with these snowmen. Maybe a bit too much Martha Stewart, not enough Corbusier.

 

Click here to see the tenth day of Christmas.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas…

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Here’s a simple snowman ornament to commemorate the ten years Robyn, Beck and I have been a family. Technically, if you include the nine months Robyn spent carrying Beck around before he was born and the couple of months since his 10th birthday, it’s been eleven years. But why quibble.

Click here to see the ninth day of Christmas.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas…

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

 

If you are just tuning in to this blog, here’s a quick recap. Every year at Christmas I create a snowman ornament for my wife, Robyn. Read about it here. This year morphed into the Twelve Days of Christmas. We are on day nine.

Cute is the word of the day. Some of these snowmen began their lives as sketches, others sort of evolved in my hands (you can do that easier in clay than wood).

Concept Sketches

Below is… the Snowman Executioner. Dum dum da dummm… Sometimes designs evolve in an unintentional direction. I didn’t set out to create an executioner (springtime usually takes care of the snowman overpopulation problem on its own) and, as you can see, it didn’t look that way on the concept sketch. Oh well, another snowman gone bad.

… and finally, a couple of malnourished snowmen. Remember to feed your snowmen, kids!

Click here to see the eighth day of Christmas.