Davincibots: The instructable

So, it’s been a while, but I finally got around to some dealywhopping.

Hi, I'm a Davincibot.

I put together an instructable for these little robot toys I’ve had kicking around for a while and posted them to thingiverse.  I’ve decided to call them Davincibots, and I have visions of people making them, coming up with all sorts of cool parts to fit on them, and trading them around.  We’ll see what happens.


I’m not sure what came over me, but I even entered the instructable in a contest.

So vote for me!

Frankinstrument video on Youtube.

That’s right. It finally happened. I’ve become one of those people that posts videos on youtube. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I couldn’t think of a better way to share a video of the Frankinstrument. I should have referenced LOLcats or planking or something, but I don’t think they’re even cool anymore. I don’t know what the kids are up to these days.

Quick, play me off keyboard cat, before I get Rick Rolled.

The Arcade is alive again.

Not long ago I was bemoaning the death of the arcade. I used to love scratching together all of the change I could find and then going to the arcade and playing as many games as I could afford. Very rarely did I actually beat any of those games, but I loved playing them. Anyhow, I guess once video game systems were widespread enough, the arcade just died, and for the most part, so did the whole shoot ‘em up genre.

Today I got a new smart phone, really this thing is more of a genius phone. My old phone was like the valedictorian of the Local High School of Kermit TX. He thought he was super smart, and then he went to UT and failed out, but he’s still pretty good at working on cars and stuff. The games on my old phone really sucked, but the new phone, holy crap they’re awesome. I guess phones games have developed a similar model to the old Arcade games, simple concept, minimal commitment, and high action. If they could just make my phone exude the smell of stale cigarette smoke and spilled sodas, it would be like the 80′s all over again.

State of the Dealywhopper

My fellow Dealywhopperans,

I stand before you today to inform you of the state of the Dealywhopper.  There has been a lull in activity on this blog, and I know that all three of you are disappointed and probably feel disenfranchised, hopeless, and lost, but I am here to tell you that the state of the dealywhopper is strong.  First, I have two 3d printing projects from before the move that I have not yet shared.  Second, though I have not even been in my house for a week, I have already started a new woodworking project.  Also, I have secured a truckload, as in an actual truckload, of giant hunks of reclaimed wood.  Finally, though I am not sure if it will fit in my new shop, I promise, that I will build a CNC router built by the end of the year.

Fat robots? Yes.

Corner TV stand.

Hehehe. He said wood.

Fret not, for though the dealywhopper may stumble, pretty much all of the time, it will not fall, or at least, if it does, it will get back up again, go to the medicine cabinet, put antibiotic ointment on its cuts, and continue boldly onward.  So have patience my fellow Dealywhopperans.  There is much on the horizon.

And I got a dog!

Frankie sounds great!

Well, I’ve had a couple of weeks to bang around on Frankie the Frankinsrtrument, and she sounds surprisingly good.  I’ll post a video as soon as I get access to a decent microphone.  I’m going to keep her assembled until the strings wear off and then I’ll take her apart and put a finish on her.

The sound is not nearly as twangy as a banjo, but also not as full as a guitar.  There’s definitely some work to be done, I should probably level the frets and give it a real setup instead of the hasty job that I did.  I may decide to cut a sound hole also.  I don’t get to say this very often, but I would consider it an unqualified success.

In other news, I finally got around to shipping off the Blastini Game to my brother.  Happy Birthday!  I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t check this website, so he’ll still be surprised when he gets it.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that nobody checks this website, but I do get a crapload of spam.

I also made a prototype for a little toy robot figure which is totally rad.  I’m going to post it to thigiverse pretty soon, but probably not until I’ve moved.

Frankinstrument construction nearly complete.

I’m almost scared to put this in writing, but Frankie is almost done.  All of the pieces are built, and I just have to assemble it and put a finish on it.  I’ve decided to go ahead and string it up and see what it sounds like before I put a finish on it.  My thought is that if it blows apart in the middle of me stringing it up, I will not have wasted my time sanding, poilishing filling, painting, etc.

It took a good deal of thinking, but I came up with a design for the bridge that I hope will work.  If it does, then the bridge will pull up on a banjo head mounted on the back of the instrument, while pushing down on the top.  If all goes well, the result will be a beautiful sound that will echo throughout the cosmos.  If not, then the sound will probably be something more like, “Creeeeek! Snap!  BONK!”  followed by about a thousand F-bombs.

Zee bridge is ouuuuttt!

I had to install a piece on top of the instrument so that it won’t dig into the top.  This turned out to be kind of a problem, because I had to build a ridiculous contraption to glue it on without destroying the instrument.

Sometimes you have to make a ridiculous contraption.

The next challenge was mounting a piece of wood to the banjo head so that when I ran a string through it, the whole thing wouldn’t pop.  Thankfully I already had a ridiculous contraption built.  I haven’t drilled the hole yet, but I’m hoping that the epoxy and wood will keep the banjo head together.  If not, then I’ll have to get creative.

I've gotten much more use out of this ridiculous contraption than most of my other ridiculous contraptions.

I’ve got to say it’s pretty awesome being nearly finished with this thing.  After having worked on it on and off for like 2 years.  After I string it up tonight, I’m either going to celebrate or drown my sorrows with a Great Divide Yeti.


Wheeling and Dealywhopping

In the past month or so, I’ve found out that we’re moving, had a job interview, which went pretty well.  On top of all that, I’ve managed to get a good bit of dealywhopping done without destroying anything, which is new for me.

First, I’d like to make this public service announcement, since I haven’t seen it explicitly written anywhere.

The MK8 nozzle fits MK7 extruders.

Mr Squiggles. Man of action.

Which is good, because I wasn’t going to wait around for the MK7 nozzle to get back in stock.  With relatively little difficulty, I managed to reassemble my hot-end and get my printer running more or less properly again, but as usual, there was a slight hitch.  I didn’t have any ceramic tape, so I insulated the thermal core with fiberglass cloth instead.  Unfortunately, the fiberglass I chose doesn’t actually insulate very well, so it took several layers to get it to work without tripping my emergency thermostat, but it looks pretty sweet.


I also finally managed to get the braces shaped and glued to my top, which I am super jazzed about.  Many moons ago, I built this insane glue station for just this purpose.  It’s supposed to be a workbench and a Go bar deck.  I built this thing without having ever seen a go bar deck in action, so I didn’t really know what I was doing, not that I ever do.  I also built it without actually having any go bars thinking that certainly I could come up with something.

Shortly, before it came time to glue the top, I decided that I could make go bars out of a bunch of broken tent poles which I so fortunately had in my hoard.  I cut them, tapped them, and then mounted bolts on them to turn them into expanding clamps.  Pretty smart right?


Not really.  The problem with my expando-bolt style go bars, is that when you twist them to increase clamping force, either the top or the bottom changes position, which you don’t want to happen.  Also, since my deck wasn’t very rigid, every time I adjusted the bars, the loosest one would fall out, so I could only put 3 or 4 bars on at time.  I think with a better deck, my bars would have worked better.

Eventually, I got all of the braces glued down and shaped, now I just need to sand them and glue the top.

Looking more like an instrument.

Pretty good for a wild month.

Next time, try to keep your nozzle clean.

In my previous post, I promised to give the Frankinstrument my full attention, but I needed something to do do while the glue was drying and sort of got carried away.

Every spin is a win.

I've got your number.

My brother and I have been working on an open source boardgame so that anybody with a 3d printer could spit one out and play.  I had hoped to get a full set of pieces printed up so that I could send them to him for his birthday, but disaster struck.  Mr. Squiggles’ extruder began failing mid-print.  First, I cleaned the drive gear, and that didn’t work.   So I decided that the hot end was clogged up and set to taking it apart.

There are at least 3 ways to solve any problem, the right way, the wrong way, and my way.  Typically, there is some overlap between the last two options.  This time, the overlap approached 100 percent.  The first thing i did wrong was ignoring my instinct to put anti-seize on the nozzle when I installed it.  The second mistake I made was assuming that the brass nozzle would be stronger than the plastic, which had invaded the threads.

It turns out that you should heat up your hot end before taking it apart.  I never found anything which explicitly states that, so I will consider this a public service announcement.

You should heat up your hot end before taking it apart.

I probably should have gotten the hint when I broke out the vice grips and started cranking, but I guess I was in the zone or something.  I gave it couple of heave-ho’s, and the nozzle twisted off, leaving the threaded portion firmly lodged in the thermal core.

After cursing my own name and insulting my intelligence for several minutes, I inspected the hot end.  It was definitely clogged, so hopefully that’s my problem.  Otherwise, I guess I’ll have to get a new stepper for my extruder.  Thankfully, the MK7 nozzle is a relatively cheap part, when it’s in stock, which apparently, is never.  I’m proud to say that I resisted the urge to turn this repair into a full on dealywhopper, even though I think I came up with a way to build a new hot end.  Instead, I bought a MK8 nozzle.  Hopefully, it is compatible with my extruder.  We will find out soon.

In any case, I noticed that quite a bit of plastic had pushed its way through the threads of the thermal core.  The way this part is designed, there is a gap between the nozzle and the barrel which provides a place for pressure to build and push molten plastic up through the threads.  I think a better setup would have the nozzle attached directly to the barrel.  When I reinstall the nozzle, I’m either going to put a little anti-seize on it, or possibly some teflon sealing tape.  I’ll mull it over while the part is in the mail.

In the meantime, I will have little excuse for not working on Frankinstrument, which now has mounting brackets and a full set of braces.  My new genius plan for that block seems to have worked well, hopefully as well as my first genius plan, which I forgot.

Hey! Shut down that bracket!

I'm sorry. These are not covered by your dental plan.

Work continues, and distractions self-destruct, next time on Dealywhoppers.

Thinning the Hoard and Strategic Dealywhopping

I don’t know whether hoarding behavior is caused by a genetic predisposition or environmental factors.  In either case, I didn’t stand a chance because both of my parents are hoarders, though my mother will deny it.  I was born a hoarder.  I was raised a hoarder.  And I shall die a hoarder.  That said, I try to be as practical as possible about it.

Recently, my girlfriend and I found out that we are facing an impending move.  As much as it grates on my soul to part with my hard won treasures, it would be absurd to haul some of this stuff across country.  That means it’s time to thin the hoard.  It also means that there are a lot of projects that I’ll have to drop a deuce or get off of the pot with, because I won’t be keeping many of the parts I have so diligently saved.  If all goes well, the next couple of months will be an era of highly inspired and strategic dealywhopping combined with a much needed spartanization of my lair.

The first project I’ve decided to devote my full attention to is the Frankinstrument.  I’ve been working on, read avoiding, this thing for an embarrassingly long time, and it would feel really good to get it off the docket.  So today I pulled out all of the pieces to get started.  No sweat, right?


Wrong.  I remember what I was going to do with the body and the top.  I’ve got some braces I need to recut and some struts I have to make,  but what was I going to do with this block?

I must have blocked it.

I know that it was some part of a genius plan to mount my banjo rim to the back, but I can’t remember what that genius plan was.  After staring at the bits for a while, hoping to come to a familiar conclusion, I decided just to come up with a new and hopefully equally genius plan.  We’ll see how that goes.

Meet Dr. Scratchy: Clockwork man #2

After I put together Mr. Squiggles, I started examining the economics of 3d printing.  Owning a 3d printer gives you the ability to manufacture things on a small to medium scale, but there are certain things the technology is better suited for.  It’s not great for cranking out thousands of something, and the build area of most printers pretty much rules out large items.  What the 3d printer really excels at is making small batch or one off, specialized parts.  It’s perfect for prototypes, and it’s even more perfect for robots.  So, I decided to start building some robots.  The first robot I decided to have a go at was a polargraph.

An English cat named Sandy Noble has spent a huge amount of time and effort on this drawbot.  He’s got some excellent tutorials on building it, and has put together some impressive software to control it.  The mechanism is simple.  There are two stepper motors attached to some ball chain and a pen holding apparatus called a gondola.  The steppers change the lengths of the chains attached to the gondola and in doing so, slowly drag the pen along the desired path to create a picture.  The process is totally mesmerizing.

This picture looked better in my head.

It was easy to find most of the parts.  The only hitch is that the steppers Noble uses aren’t readily available in the states.  Being new to the world of electronics, and a headstrong idiot, I got some that pulled way too many amps, and would have fried my motorshield.  Thankfully, I had the sense to check the specs, and eventually located a set that would work.  I ended up buying these.  They work, but I think there are probably steppers out there that would be better suited to the task.

You'd best be steppin'.

I printed up some ball chain sprockets using this design from thingiverse.  I took the default sprocket to the hardware store.  They didn’t have a ball chain with the correct pitch and ball size, so I bought the smallest stuff they had and printed up new sprockets that fit.

Oddly enough, I didn’t like the gondola design that actually introduced me to the polargraph, so I designed and printed my own.  It’s a pretty simple affair, actually inspired by the gondola in this video.  I like it because I can quickly and easily pull the pen out of the gondola.  It also holds pens and markers of varying thickness.

Go! Go! Gondola!

Once I had all of the parts, I followed Noble’s instructable and stuck my polargraph to a scrap of MDF I had.  I guess I was feeling greedy, because I was not content with the drawing area of my little test polargraph.  Bigger is better right?

It's small but fierce.

I got a hold of an old cart made to display those pull down maps that you see in schools.  It was on its way to the dumpster, and thankfully I was there to save it.  The cart is a little over 6 feet tall, and about 4 feet wide.  I decided to mount a 4 foot by 4 foot board on it as my drawing surface.  I couldn’t fit a board that big in my bitchin’ grand am, so I joined together two boards to make the the same dimensions.  I did it the same way I joined the Frankenstrument’s top, except instead of tape, I used nylon straps.  That worked surprisingly well.  I glued some scraps perpendicular to the joint on the back to brace it.  I stuck a 2×4 shelf at the bottom on the front, so that the bot could double as an easel, in case I ever learn how to paint.

Pay no attention to the stuff behind the cart.

I'll never join you!

I hung the board on the cart with hose clamps and strapped some shelves to it the same way.  This also worked surprisingly well.

Just add electronics.

The crossbars on the cart are perfect for holding a 3 foot roll of paper, I couldn’t find paper that size locally, so I bought some 2 foot paper and rolled it over the top.  I slapped on some nylon straps to hold the paper taught, and I was ready to draw.

Gaze and be amazed at the monolithic Dr. Scratchy.  I doubt if he’s the biggest polargraph out there, but he’s certainly no wimp.

Hiii everybody! I'm Dr. Scratchy!

I get a huge kick out of running this machine.  It’s not really built for speed or precision drawing, though with some tweaking it can probably be done.  Operating it is really more of a zen exercise, sort of like watching a plant grow.  I really like to drop the speed way down and run it at night.  It makes soothing scratching noises as the pen slowly drags along, and I feel content knowing that it’s busy drawing incredible digital patterns as I sleep.

Dr. Scratchy enjoys mediterranian ferryboat rides.

And appreciates ancient architecture.