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Home Made DIY “W” Cookie Press For Short Bread Cookies

This job had to be a bit of a rush job, but I think its going to work great. Its a short bread cookie press, you roll out the cookie dough, press this into it then bake.

Get the “W” into a vector file.

Print it out.

 

Cut it out of a nice thick 16g piece of brass.

Soldier on a small copper tube

epoxy the whole thing into a stout dowel.

 

 

Shorty handle for good force manipulation, as well as easy storage.

When I get some cookie pictures I will post an update.

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Squirrel Head Badge Installed

One of my customers sent this awesome picture of my squirrel head badge installed on a bicycle. I think it looks awesome!

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Thing A Week 16: DIY Solar Battery Charger

My mom has this habit of every once in a while gathering up all the junk in her house she doesn’t want and sending it to me in a box.  It is both very sweet, and frustrating.  I never know what to do with all the stuff she sends.  Recently she sent me a little power stick USB thing.  Its one of these screen printed branded gizmo’s you would pick up at a conference, this one stores up energy from a USB port, and then you can charge up phones or e-readers or whatever.

You plug it into a USB port, it charges up, and then you recharge other things.  Neat, but boring.  I wanted to see if I could make it cooler, by adding some solar cells to charge the battery with the sun.

You will need a soldering iron and a multi-meter for this, both are pretty cheap and I think I picked these up years and years ago when Radio Shack was still a thing.  I also have been sitting on these solar cells I got years and years ago.  They were broken, so I got them for free from a Japanese solar cell maker that I had written a letter.  You can find solar cells on E-bay.

They had some foil soldered on them, and I used the little tabs to connect them.  Solar cells work a lot like batteries.  Each cell pumps out about .5v volts, and you can connect them the same way you connect batteries.    On my cells the  front of the cell is the positive side, and the back is the negative side (just like the + and – of a battery), it could be different for yours.  Looking at the back of the little battery device it shows that it needs 5 volts to charge it.  So I will need to create more than 5 volts to charge the battery.  But I don’t want something so high voltage that it fries the thing.  I will be shooting for 6 volts.

If you hook them up in series (positive to negative) you add the voltage.  If you add them in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative) you add the amps.  So if each of my cell puts out about .5 volts, I will need to hook 12 cells up in series to get the 6  volts to charge my battery.  (its pretty easy to size a solar array to any power requirements you need, see here for more info)

After a little work with the soldering Iron I had two arrays of 6 cells.  Cells still work just fine when broken, but they are very very fragile, you need to be very careful when handling them, its very easy to snap them.


I used a small piece of plastic to hold the cells, these are only going to be used inside so I didn’t bother to seal them up.   I used two tiny pieces of double sided tape to just keep them from sliding around.

I also had this old usb dock I wasn’t using, it will be perfect to connect the panels to the battery.

The only problem is that the usb connector isn’t going to be easy to connect wires to with the housing on it.  A little work with a jewelers saw fixed that.

be careful not to cut all the way through, you just want to remove the metal housing to expose the connectors.


I put the red wire (from the top of the array) on the far right connector, and the black (from the bottom of the array) on the far left.

here you can see how the top of the last cell on the left array is attached to the bottom of the right array

The array actually pumps out about 7 volts when nothing it attached to, but puts out 5.22 when the battery is attached.  Which is just about perfect.

I plugged it all together, put the cells in the sun and whalla!  The charging light turned out.  The nice thing about these little battery packs is that they have their own charge controller in them, once they are full they just stop taking a charge.

I left it in the sun for a couple hours and when I came back the little green light was on indicating that the battery was full.  I plugged it into my phone and it started charging my phone.

I was able to charge my phone up a couple times before the battery went dead, but all it will take is another bit of time in the sun, essentially making my phone solar powered now.

 

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Bike Chain Earrings Part 1

I have been experimenting with some different way to turn bike chain into earrings, here is my first try.

The entire construction is bike chain parts, except for the silver ear stud. The tricky part was figuring out how to cut the very hard steel rings…until I remembered you can tempter steel to make it softer, after several tempering the rings were soft enough to cut through with a jewelers saw, then it was just a matter of putting it all together with a little torch work and some pliers. They have a really nice dangley jingle to them, and the recipient has received many compliments.

 

If you like them they are available in my store.

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Thing A Week 15: Yoga Mat Strap

This one was pretty simple, I needed a yoga roll strap to aid in easier transport of a rolled up yoga mat.  I had just purchased a new comforter that came with a long strip of cotton that held it together, combined with some scrap fabric, and a little work on the sewing machine.  A simple project, but totally useful and worth it.

 

 

Took all of 10 minutes and works great!  To make the loops I just folded one end over the strap and then sewed it into a permanent loop, to adjust you just slide the small loop down the length of the strap, put the roll in, and then tighten it.

 

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Thing A Week 14: Silicone Tea Cup Cover Pewter Charms

Last week I made some silicone tea covers to help with the steeping process, this week I made some pewter charms to go inside the little indentation that I made in the top of the design. Using the process I have come to think of “making things in pewter” I used some mold max 60 (see here for the process), and made some lovely little toppers.

 

The nice thing about this design is that I can make any top charm I want.  Even a Bernie Sanders one…

 

Basically any small charm with the appropriate little T shapped bottom bit will fit into the tea topper.  I am going to have to think of some cool tea related things, but right now I just did some cat ears, a snail shell, and soon a tiny Bernie Sanders head.

At some point I will probably put some of these in my store.

 

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Thing A Week 13: Silicone Tea Cup Covers

My girlfriend drinks a lot of tea…like she usually has multiple tea cups going at the same time.  And she has these little things she puts on the tops of the cups to help each tea bag brew up nicely.  I have seen the ones she has and I thought I could do them one better by making some custom tops for them with various fun cast pewter things.  In this first part of the project I create a “basic” model in silicon that will be used for next weeks project.

I started off with putting some soft clay in a plastic container (a dried date container if I remember correctly)

The model, it has concentric layers, and the middle is cut out to create a place to add the top charms later.  I put three holes so that it will index later.

I am using mold star 30 from smooth on, a new product for me.  It makes a pretty blue mold making material.  I used it because it was slightly cheaper and promised to make a good mold.

I cut in the pour hole instead of casting it in, in the future I really need to remember to do that.  As you can never cut as smooth a hole as you can cast.  I put an air hole in the top to allow bubbles to escape, later I would add several more.

My first attempt at just pouring the silicone in didn’t go well, as it flowed in much too slowly and was starting to set before I could get enough in.

I had been wanting to try silicone injecting for a while so I gave it a go.  I basically ordered a big plastic syringe from Amazon, mixed up the batch of silicone like I normally do and then carefully poured it into the syringe.  I was careful to allow all the air to escape as I pushed the plunger down, and then flipped it over and pushed it into the pour hole as far as I could and slowly pushed it all in.  Worked like a charm!  I used Dragon Skin 20 and Dragon Skin 30 from smooth on and wasn’t able to tell a difference in this application, so will probably go with the 30 just to make them slightly stiffer.  Once the silicone sets, you can scrape it out of the syringe and use it again.

Sometimes I like working on the floor, as I have limited counter space.

I kept filling until the silicone was all the way full.  I made several copies, in different colors. 

My mold is not perfect and there is some flashing, easily removed with a hobby knife.

Two of my early failures next to two successes (after I switched to injecting)

They have this really nice translucent quality to them.

Even the failures are pretty.

This small hole was designed to allow a small pewter charm to fit inside with a t-pin type configuration.  The shape of the charm, and the elastic nature of the silicone will hold it in place, and act as a handle for the topper.

The back.  This is the side that will be on top of the cup, with the ones we already have I can say they work great, the heat from the tea causes a bit of suction and the whole thing locks down on the cup making a nice seal for good steeping.  Right now you have to peal them off by the side, but once I get the top charms on there will be a handle.

These came out amazing, and already plan on making them in a whole bunch of colors.  Next week I am going to carve, cast, and pour some pewter charms to act as handles for these.  If they come out as nice as I think they will, look for them in my Etsy Store soon.

 
 

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Thing A Week 12: Dune Enamel Pin

I wanted to get a Dune themed enamel pin, and I couldn’t find anyone selling what I wanted.  I looked into making your own DIY enamel pins, and EVERY single page I went to was not instructions on how to make your own, but instead instructions on how to order them from companies in china who make enamel pins.

So like many things in my life, instead of paying someone else to do it, I just decided to do it myself.

 

I did some research and found that most enamel pins are just copper or nickle plated pewter.  I have experience casting pewter so I figured, lets just go for it!

 

Step one was design something in illustrator, print it out and glue it to some matt’s wax carving wax.

I used an X-acto knife to cut the design onto the wax

Using my home made wax carving tools I carefully removed about 2 mm deep of wax.

Next I used a drill bit in my hand to slowly remove a hole for the backing pin.

I didn’t want the pin to weigh a million pounds so I used a file to taper the back of the pin down towards the backing pin.

Next I used Mold Max 60 from Smooth On, to create a small two part mold.  See other projects for details on the casting process.

I used a hobby knife to clean up any flashing, as well as cutting in the pour spout and the air vents.  I places a pin in the small pin hole on the left, and then poured the pewter.

I melted and poured the pewter.

after sanding the top surface was uniformly smooth.

The tiny lip of the backing pin is now solidly embedded into the body of the pin, very sturdy.

I used Testors brand enamel paint to fill in the spaces, using two different color schemes.

After it hardened, I again gently sanded the pin to clean up the lines.

I like it!  I think i might go with a different color scheme for the next one, and perhaps put an epoxy coating over the top, or even try to electroplate the pin before I paint it, but overall it came out better than I thought it would!

 

If you like things like this check out my etsy store.

 

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Thing A Week 11: Cactus Charm

My friend wanted a small cactus charm, so I decided to make her one :)

 

I started off by carving a small cactus out of wax, then cast in the same way I have been using for the last couple of projects.  I used Mold Max 60 from Smooth On, and some sulfur free clay to make a two part mold.

I cut some pour spouts, and air channels into the mold.  The tiny marks are the index things I made so that the form will only fit back together in one way, this make sure you always line the cactus up correctly.

A little baby powder to help the mold release.

Use a paint brush to distribute the powder evenly, knock out the extra.  You want a very thin layer.

Getting ready to pour, I used a lot of rubber bands, because the hot pewter tends to make the mold expand, and if you don’t hold it shut, it can run out the bottom.

molten pewter.  I use r98 pewter from Roto Metals.

Just after opening the mold.

letting it cool

I decided to try my hand at painting one of them, so I got some testors enamel paint.

I tried to layer the colors, to give a more realistic look.  I might send both to my friend and she can keep the one she likes the best and give the other one to someone else.  I have my doubts about how well that little key chain loop will hold on such a heavy charm, but I will give it a try anyway.

 

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Thing A Week 10: Rubber Stamp

I needed a rubber stamp to mark the packages I was sending out from my etsy store, so I figured…why not make one.

I didn’t have any stamp rubber laying around, or the tools to carve it…so I started by making both of those.

I had a little bit of mold max 60 left over from previous projects, but not enough to make anything with, so I cast some small pucks of it to carve.  Nothing special, just filled some plastic caps I had from jars and made three pucks.  See here for how to use Mold Max 60, or just buy some stamp rubber from any craft store, its super cheap.  I just like doing things with what I have on hand.

But I didn’t have any tools…so I took some sheet metal I had, and bent and sharpened then until they looked like the carving tools I had looked up on the internet.  I used a technique very similar to how I made the wax carving tools.

To get the larger more shallow carver I used a metal rode to bend the sheet around after sharpening it.  The vice grips are just holding the sheet while I hammer.

I put sharpened up some dowel rods and put some epoxy in there to keep them strong, only made two, and ended up doing a fine job of carving.

 

I started by sanding down one puck to get rid of the shine left by the casting process.

Then I printed out a template and got to carving.  The tools woked well, but I realized half way through, that for such a simple design o could have just cut the shape out with a saw. 

The floppyness of the rubber was making it hard to get good stamps.  So I built a backer.

I had some aluminum clad black acrylic that was nice and stiff, so I cut a circle out and glued it and a small wooden handle to it.

Then I did a couple more stamps, cutting away any rubber that was messing up the design.

I realized the middle wasn’t getting inked because the ink pad was slightly warped, but I really liked the way it made a sort of cloud pattern inside the crow.

Came out well, and I still have plenty of materials to try and make some fancier ones.

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