Two Materials

This week’s assignment was to create something that was a combination of two different materials that weren’t plywood or acrylic.

Iron & Wine

(Well…copper and cork.)

My idea was to juxtapose cork’s natural texture with a layer of metal. Working with cork was also a great excuse to learn a bit about the lathe, which I’ve been eyeing all semester.



One of the issues I ran into was finding good cork. There were some resources on the Fabrication class page, but they were expensive and didn’t have blocks thick enough to work on the lathe.

I improvised and ordered cork yoga blocks. At 6″ x 4″ x 9″, they were a perfect size.

For the metal, I walked around home depot until something caught my eye. I grabbed a copper pipe end cap and a brushed stainless steel-looking cup from the bath department.

The Lathe

I might have to write a separate post to profess my love for the lathe. Suffice it to say, working on the lathe was a lot of fun. It’s easy to get into a flow state and you’re also getting instant feedback on your progress. Plus the object organically takes shape, rather quickly, before your eyes. It feels very different from other methods of fabrication.

Photo Dec 04, 7 50 21 PM_web


 Next Steps

I’ll be adding a metal element to the bowl for consistency. I’m thinking a flat circle for a lid/trivet.

And next time I’ll be adding in stripes of multi-colored thread for another new texture.


“Everything’s a Prototype”

If ITP had an (even more) unofficial slogan than “a Center for the Recently Possible,” it would be: “Everything’s a Prototype.”

This is still something I’m coming to terms with on a daily basis. Obviously there’s only so much you can do inside or outside of a class, within a semester, while you’re taking a handful of the most mentally grueling, thought and production intensive classes imaginable. But, still. In my head I’m always looking at a polished, finished, fully realized piece of work on display in some imagined gallery-type space. White walls. People quietly milling about. Curious but also very respectful of whatever project of mine they’re enraptured by. They give it plenty of space, but you can see in their eyes the need to play with it. So while no one’s looking, they do. And it holds up. Rock solid. No janky screws. Perfectly squared. If it’s a digital piece, maybe they somehow pull up the code. And it’s beautiful and concise and well organized.

But this isn’t the real world. Or, in any case, it’s not whatever ITP is. So I’m stuck doing the best I can. Improvising. Making it up as I go.

Everything’s a prototype. 


It’s only been a week since we used the laser cutter. A week since I fell in like with it. I’ll admit, I’ve been daydreaming about accurate cuts, the precision, the perfectly straight lines, laser-light evenings alone in the shop. But like a fool, I was blinded by love. And got burnt. Metaphorically, at least.

I had picked up some wood off the street. The top of a wine box. I was going to laser cut some pieces for this week’s enclosure. But when I went to cut it, things went south pretty quickly. I had put masking tape on the face being cut (per that Instructables post) to prevent any smoke from marring the surface. Instead of working, the laser set the tape on fire. Then the wood. It just wasn’t going to happen. Everything’s a prototype. 


Luckily someone had tossed a few really nice pieces of scrap wood. Long, slender. Cherry, maybe? They’re a bit reddish. I made some quick measurements and banged out a little box. Not perfectly squared. Everything’s a prototype. 

A Magic Box

Next I went to the junk shelf to see what I could see. I took apart a DVD player and a fog machine for parts. From the DVD player I got an LCD screen and from the fog machine I got some cool switches. A concept was forming. Maybe some sort of automatic counting device or a mysterious smart box that knows the secrets of the universe (or your fridge or something).

I, rightly or wrongly, went back to the laser cutter to cut out spaces in the lid for these components. I screwed up here. I was in a rush. I didn’t measure properly. I didn’t calibrate the machine like I should have. But I got away with a couple nice cuts that were close to what I needed. Not perfect. (You might be expecting my new mantra to show up right here, but it doesn’t. Error on my part doesn’t fall into the Everything’s a Prototype category. I should have more patience. I know. I’m working on it.)

Photo Nov 20, 2 25 38 PM

The components don’t connect to anything. Maybe the switch could, but the LCD would be tough. I’m not sure about any of the connections and I imagine it’d be painful to look up. If it’s even possible.

And so, it remains a conceptual object. Full of possibilities. It’s function: whatever amazing, wonderful, impossible thing you project on to it. Your own imagined prototype. 

Photo Nov 20, 2 26 18 PM

Photo Nov 20, 2 26 28 PM

Friggin’ Lasers

Fabricating with the Laser Cutter

This week I thought about the precision the laser affords as a tool. I wanted to use it in a way such that it made creating my object possible, but it didn’t create the object for me.

Laser cutting the parts for a small-scale architectural model seemed like a good application of these principles.


I sketched a variety of different imagined buildings. This helped me form a mental stock list of the type of shapes and the relative proportions that kept coming up. The characteristics became the basis for the vector shapes that would be laser cut. This way the build would maintain the fingerprint of my imagined buildings, even if they weren’t identical.

Photo Nov 13, 5 25 02 PM

Laser Output


While the parts were precision cut, my sloppy hot glue job didn’t do the final model any favors. Next time I’d find a more precise way of affixing the pieces to each other. I’d also spend more time considering a set of rules for how each piece is connected. (I.e. “Wall” pieces are always glued to the top of the “floor” pieces, “ceiling” pieces are glued to the insides of “wall” pieces.) That way there would be far more consistency over the whole build. I found that dimensions were more and more off as I build the model because I wasn’t consistent with how similar pieces were attached.


Making Multiples

The assignment this week is to create five of the same object. That means developing and using systems for reliable repetition, like jigs.


I’ve had some quarter-inch plywood in the shop for a while, so instead of buying new material I wanted to use that. I also want to make something functional, that I could potentially get some use out of after class.

The thickness of the material, or lack there of, limited my options when it came to joining pieces. Screws and nails were likely out of the picture. So I thought that using channel joints to connect pieces and add structural integrity might be a good solution. That limitation in the material also was the jumping off point for my idea of what to construct.

Multipurpose Mini Platform

I did a quick sketch and paper prototype to visualize how the structure might come together. I thought about creating semi-circular bottoms, but on second thought that seemed unnecessarily complicated and didn’t add anything to the idea.

I started with five boards already cut to nearly identical size. I taped them together to make measurements and cuts easier.

From there I divided the stacks into 12″ x 12″ tops and base material which were cut into 6″ x 12″ pieces and given a middle seam. I used the band saw to measure out 3″ cuts in the middle of the boards and then used the circular saw to take out the thickness equal to the board along that 3″ cut. I slide each piece in against a stopper to ensure I was making the cut at the center of each piece.

The circular saw blade was almost perfectly equal to the thickness of the wood, so the piece slipped together nicely. I did have to take a bit out with a rasp because the circular saw blade cuts in an arc.

I used wood glue to connect the bases to the tops. And secured the build with all of the available clasps.

Completed Piece

Light ’em Up

Building a Flashlight

Our first assignment for Fabrication with Ben Light was to build a flashlight.

I wanted to create an object that was simply designed and didn’t look like a traditional handheld flash light. I thought a rectangular shape would be interesting. I especially liked the idea of the object’s silhouette not giving anything away about it’s function.


I knew I’d be using an LED for the source, so I wanted to use a prism to distribute the otherwise singular, bright point. While sketching I thought that fitting the prism flush into a wooden block would create an interesting juxtaposition in material and texture.

The Build

I used card stock to build the enclosure, and lined it with aluminum foil in order to maximize the luminosity of the source light. While I was fitting the circuit in the LED kept lighting up because there were exposed leads on the switch that, when they came in contact with the aluminum foil, went off. I fixed the issue with some extra gaff tape. I added a small piece of card stock in the middle of the enclosure to fit the LED in, so it maintained directionality.

To wrap it up, I hot glued the enclosure together and affixed the button the same way, in an inconspicuous spot to maintain the clean silhouette.

The prism didn’t work as well as I had hoped as a diffusor, but it worked well enough.


Desk 2.0

 A Better Workspace

One of the first things I realized when I started ITP was that my desk just wouldn’t do. It was fine for a laptop and a notebook. But when I started factoring in PComp components and tried watching tutorials while doing hands-on work,I kept almost knocking everything off the surface. It was obvious the desk wasn’t fit for the job.

I needed a better workspace. Something beyond a simple desk. Something like a Desk 2.0.

The Plan



The gap in the back allows for easy wiring.
The lip keeps the laptop from sliding off the incline.

In Use


Photo Oct 02, 7 15 23 AM
The lip still wan’t big enough so I added binder clips with rubber stoppers to hold the laptop.

Coming Soon…Desk 3.0