Engineering and Artistry Meet an Untimely End at Burning Man

Burning Man is so many different things to so many people, that it defies neat description. For those who attend, it always seems to be a life-changing experience, for good or for ill. The story of one man’s Burning Man exhibition is a lesson in true craftsmanship and mind-boggling engineering, as well as how some events can bring out the worst in people.

For [Malcolm Tibbets], aka [the tahoeturner], Burning Man 2017 was a new experience. Having visited last year’s desert saturnalia to see his son [Andy]’s exhibition, the studio artist decided to undertake a massive display in his medium of choice — segmented woodturning. Not content to display a bamboo Death Star, [Malcolm] went big– really big. He cut and glued 31,000 pieces of redwood into rings of various shapes and sizes and built sculptures of amazing complexity, including endless tubes that knot and loop around and back into each other. Many of the sculpture were suspended from a huge steel tripod fabricated by [Andy], forming an interactive mobile and kinetic sculpture.

Alas, Burning Man isn’t all mellowness in the desert. People tried to climb the tripod, and overnight someone destroyed some of the bigger elements of the installation. [Malcolm] made a follow-up video about the vandalism, but you’ll want to watch the build video below first to truly appreciate the scale of the piece and the loss. Here’s hoping that [Malcolm]’s next display is treated with a little more respect, like this interactive oasis from BM 2016 apparently was.

Thanks to [Keith Olson] for the tip.

Hand-Carving Geometric Art

[Scott Cramer] is a retired professional woodworker who specializes in geometric art made from beautifully joined wood. In this project he’s carving four interlocked cloverleaf rings from a block of basswood. First he made a series of cuts to turn the block into a cuboctahedron, a geometric solid comprising six squares and eight triangles. Then he drew on the basic lines of the rings on the wood and went to work with a chisel, smoothing and separating the rings and carving out the interior. You can see more shots of the project on his Facebook post, which is included after the break.

To see more of [Scott]’s projects you can follow his Twitter feed. Our favorites include this 70″ pentagonal icosatetrahedron built out of hemlock that [Scott] says is the “largest in Coös County, NH” — what, there are others? He also made a magogany representation of a Hamiltonian circuit of a dodecahedron’s vertices.

We love math art on Hackaday — see our interview with Francisco do Comité we ran earlier this year.

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A Fix for the Lightweight Machine Tool Shakes

No matter what material you work with, the general rule is that with machine tools, the heavier, the better. Some people can’t afford or don’t want big tools, though, even with their natural tendency to reduce vibrations. That doesn’t mean something can’t be done to help the little tools, like reducing vibration in a contractor-grade table saw.

This one might seem a little outside the usual confines of the hackosphere, but nobody can doubt [Matthias Wandel]’s hacker chops and he really shows off his problem-solving skills with this one. His well-worn contractor-style table saw has had more than a few special modifications over the years, some of which left it with a shimmy sufficient to vibrate workpieces right off the table. He fashioned a friction damper for the saw’s motor from wood, complete with ball and socket joints to allow full movement of the blade height and angle. That didn’t quite do the trick, but his incremental approach finally found the right combination of factors, and the video below shows a saw now stable enough to balance a nickel.

If the name seems familiar but you just can’t place the hacks, check out [Matthias]’s recent wooden domino extruder, his shortcuts to tapping wood, or of course his classic wood gears layout software.

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Wooden Word Wristwatch Wows Woomies

[HakuG] wanted to make a watch for his roommates, and had a design project due. He killed two birds with one stone, and then some. The result is a classic word clock, but with a refined all-wood look that’s also small enough to wear on your wrist.

Nothing good ever comes out right the first time, and the log of [HakuG]’s different versions is full of different attempts, all of them just fine in their own right, but none of them “perfect”. Kudos to [HakuG] for sticking with it and refining the project far past the initial prototype stage to something that really looks like a finished product.

Of course we’ve covered word clocks before. Heck, we’ve even seen a beautiful wooden one. But we’re pretty sure that this is the first wooden word-clock watch we’ve ever written up, and it’s surely one of the nicest.

Thanks [Paul Hein] for the link!

Scissor Lift Table From the Wood Shop, for the Wood Shop

The value of a mobile adjustable height cart in the shop can’t be overestimated. From moving tools around to installing heavy fixtures on walls and ceiling, a scissor-lift platform is a great tool. Commercial versions get a bit expensive, though, so a shop-built scissor lift table made of wood might be a nice project for the budget-minded to tackle.

Wood might not be your first choice for a fixture such as this, but it’s what [Marius Hornberger] is set up to use, and with proper species selection and careful engineering, it can make for an amazingly sturdy table. [Marius] chose ash for his parts, a wood with a long history of performing well under difficult conditions. The table is not all wood, of course; metal bushings and pins are used in the scissor mechanism, and the lift drive is a stout Acme-thread screw and nut. We’re impressed by [Marius]’ joinery skill, and with how sturdy the table proved to be.

Not a lot of woodworking projects seem to show up in our tip line for some reason, which is a shame. We love to feature wood builds, and like our own [John Baichtal] recently pointed out, the health of the wood shop is often a leading indicator of the health of a hackerspace.

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This Method of Gluing onto Curves Sucks!

Sometimes the right tool for a job can be unusual, and this sucked only in the sense that vacuum sealing was involved. Recently [Martin Raynsford] found himself in a situation of needing to glue a wood veneer onto a curved surface, but faced a shortage of clamps. His clever solution was to vacuum-seal the whole thing and let the contour-hugging plastic bag take care of putting even pressure across the entire glued surface. After the glue had set enough to grip the materials securely, the bag was removed to let the whole thing dry completely. Gluing onto a curved surface has never been so clamp-free.

The curved piece in question was made from dozens of layers of laser-cut plywood, stacked and glued to make the curved lid of a custom-built chest. It might have been just the right shape, but it wasn’t much to look at. As you can see, giving it a wood veneer improved the appearance considerably. Wood veneers are attractive and versatile; we’ve seen for example that LEDs will shine through wood veneer quite easily.

Simple Shop-made Taps for Threading Wood

Wood can be the material of choice for many kinds of projects, but it often falls out of the running in favor of metal or plastic if it needs to take a threaded fastener. But with a little ingenuity you can make your own wood taps and cut threads that will perform great.

Making wood do things that wood isn’t supposed to do is [Matthias Wandel]’s thing. Hackers the world over know and use his wood gears designer to lay out gears for all kinds of projects from musical marble machines to a wooden Antikythera mechanism. Woodworkers have been threading wood for centuries , so making wood take a decent thread isn’t exactly something new. But doing it on the cheap and making the threads clean and solid has always been tricky. The video after the break shows [Matthias]’ method of cutting a tap out of an ordinary threaded rod or even off-the-shelf lag screws. He uses a simple jig to hold the blank so that flutes can be cut with an angle grinder. The taps work well in the materials he tested, and a little informal stress testing at the end of the video shows promise for long service life of the threads.

Wood threads aren’t suitable for every project, but knowing that you can do it might just open the path to a quick, easy build. This is a great tip to keep in mind.

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