Video: One Hundred Subscriber Special – Shop Update Preview

I was out to dinner with the family a couple of weeks ago, and I told the kids, “Oh hey the YouTube channel has 99 subscribers. One more and maybe I’ll have to figure out some way to mark the occasion.” The 17yo took out her phone and subscribed. “Welp. Guess I’ll figure something out.”

We’re actually well past 100 at the point, but I finally got around to editing and publishing the thing I had in mind: a preview of the extensive shop expansion I’m working on. It will something like triple my space when it’s all done, but it’s a gigantic, mulitstage project involving relocating my office, jackhammering up a floor that’s covered with asbestos tiles, and all manner of disruptions. It’s going to take a long time, but here’s a video showing progress to date and giving some idea of what I plan to do.

If you’ve subscribed, thanks! This is a hobby for me – I’m not trying to make a living off of this or anything – but I find it encouraging that so many people have taken an interest. I’ve enjoyed making videos, even when the editing is a bit of a slog. Just one more thing I can make and get smarter on – a good thing!


Video: Two-part Silicone Alternatives, Part 2

My high school friends and I had a term, “Crazy Quest,” that I think accurately describes my search for an alternative to two-part silicone mold making materials like OOMOO 30. At this point I’ve spent well over a hundred dollars on hardware-store silicone caulk, mineral spirits, and multiple different types of wax, all supposedly motivated by the fact that two-part silicones have a short shelf life and are therefore expensive. Ha.

Anyway, I nearly tossed this latest video. I shot it and edited it, all of which took a long time, and when it was done I was struck by how long it was given that it was mostly failure. But, after thinking about it for a bit, and then seeing James Clough’s “mistakes” video I realized that I was being too precious about the whole thing. Yes, I didn’t succeed in finding the holy grail of a cheap, convenient, high-quality alternative, yet, but hey it’s all a process. And if the video is a bit long? Well, people can watch or not – I’m not making any money off of this channel so what’s the problem?

In short: relax, dude. I’ll do better next time, and hey this is all for fun anyway.

So with all that said, I still hope you enjoy this video, part two of my Silicone Crazy Quest.

Video: Simplifying STL Meshes

I sometimes joke that my hobbies combine only the best of the 17th and 21st centuries. But it’s sort of true – a lot of what I like to do is to move as seamlessly as possible between the virtual world of 3D models and plans and the physical where I deal with metal, wood, plastic, and so forth.

And while Fusion 360 is my weapon of choice for modeling, one thing it does NOT do well right now is deal with high-polygon STLs. It can take minutes to do even simple operations on them, and as often as not I wind up killing the program.

There are, of course, a bunch of tools out there for working with meshes that are better suited than Fusion 360. But I only need them occasionally, so I never remember how to use them. I need something simple that can just make a mesh easier to work with.

Which is exactly what Mesh Simplification does. It’s just a simple web page that you load an STL into, and it makes it smaller by reducing the edge and vertex count, while still doing a good job of maintaining the shape of the object. Because it’s a web page, there’s nothing to install. And it’s super fast – basically instantaneous.

In this video I walk through how to use it as well as the one very small caveat I came across. Hope you find it helpful!

Podcast Episode 009 – Carin Meier

It was my great pleasure to sit down with Carin Meier and have a conversation that – as usual – ranged across a wide variety of interesting topics. We talked a lot about Carin’s current professional interest in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, but we also took a swing through gardening along the way. I always have fun talking to Carin, and this time was no exception. I think you’ll enjoy it too!

Oh, and her advice is excellent – be sure to check that out at the end of the episode.

Listen to the podcast on this page or download it here. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or via RSS.

This episode is also available on YouTube. View it there for a transcript and subtitles.

Video: Two-Part Silicone Alternatives, Part 1

As part of my exploration of metalworking in general, I’ve been gearing up to pour aluminum. But of course I need something to pour it into. Sand casting is traditional, and I’ll get to that at some point, but first I’m exploring lost wax casting. I’m interested in being able to go from a 3D printed part to that same object in metal, and sand casting has some significant limitations as far as shape and detail (I think – I’m a n00b, correct me).

But really, whatever: I just feel like figuring out lost wax casting. 🙂

Anyway, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to figure out if there’s an affordable, convenient alternative to two-part silicone. That stuff is great, but it doesn’t keep, and as a result is pretty expensive if you only use a bit from time to time.

So far I’ve had mostly a bunch of failures, but some of the avenues are promising. I thought I’d post a video about what I’ve learned so far. More to come!

Video: Assembly the Harbor Freight Utility Trailer

I recently purchased the Harbor Freight 1720 lb utility trailer. So far, I really like it! It’s going to make getting sheets of drywall home from the home center a lot easier than the roof rack I was previously using. It even folds up into a small enough footprint that I can store it in the garage when we’re not using it.

I made a little video showing assembly of the unit, which took me about five hours over two days. I thought some of you might enjoy seeing the process of assembling it.

Podcast Episode 008 – Peter Bettenberg

New show! This time, I talk with Peter Bettenberg, a longtime friend of mine. Peter is an amateur blacksmith, and one of the board members of the Minnesota Guild of Metalsmiths. We talked about his journey to blacksmithing and how that connects him to his grandfather (a member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II), how a Halloween costume idea turned into a quest to make an object capable of being hit with an axe by an angry Viking, and a quote from The Edge.

Listen to the podcast on this page or download it here. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or via RSS.

This episode is also available on YouTube. View it there for a transcript and subtitles.

Links and Notes


Peter in full regalia
A Blacksmith’s Leg Vise
The shave pony I built with my younger daughter.

Video: Electronic Leadscrew Complete!

It works! I have completed by build of James Clough’s lathe electronic leadscrew. It was a rather straightforward matter of replacing my 3D-printed pulleys with some aluminum ones I purchased. But I’m thrilled with the result. Not only does it add push-button convenience for turning and threading, but I learned a lot about machining, electronics, motors, and a bunch of other stuff.

See this post if you need a backgrounder on what an electronic leadscrew is and why I might want to add one to my metal lathe.

Finally, I have to thank James Clough profusely. It would have been a major challenge for me to do this project without the excellent work he has done in making his design available to the rest of us. He’s also one of my favorite YouTubers – go check out his channel and if you like it, subscribe!

Podcast Episode 007 – Clint Andera

Crass nepotism?! Why yes! Luckily, while my guest on this show is one of my brothers, he’s also a fascinating maker and learner. We talked about woodworking, music, curling, teaching as a learning technique, and a bunch of other stuff. I’m really glad I had him on. I think you’ll enjoy our conversation as well.

Oh, and I’m told we sound a lot alike. By both my wife and our mother, so it’s on good authority. If you find our voices confusingly similar, I suggest using headphones. I’ve edited the audio so we have some stereo separation between us.

Listen to the podcast on this page or download it here. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or via RSS.

This episode is also available on YouTube. View it there for a transcript and subtitles.

Links and Notes

Pictures and Videos

A family resemblance? You judge. Craig left, Clint right.
The Cajon in action, with the snare active
The Cajon again, this time without snare
A curling stone on pebbled ice
Clint, curling

Home Eng Project #5 – Trick

My thirteen-year-old and I have continued to go into the shop for “Home Eng” (read more here) even after school has ended for her and we’ve shifted into summer mode. I have been trying to focus on shorter projects, since those seem to hold her attention a bit better. I do want to take on something bigger at some point, although I’m not quite sure what that will be.

For project #5, I reached WAY back into the early 80s, when I was in what we called Junior High. Most places here in the US call that Middle School now, but either way it means I was just about the same age then that my daughter is now. Shop was a required class, and I guess my teacher must have liked a few of us okay, because he showed us how to build the simple object shown above. It’s just a tapered head attached to a notched shaft, which fits snugly into a hole in the other piece, itself with a rubber band held in the bottom by a bit of the same dowel.

These are very simple to make. Daughter #2 and I were able to fabricate one in a matter of minutes from some scrap mahogany with a belt sander and a drill press, but there are a million ways to do these. All that matters is the basic form, but we took the time to sand it smooth and apply an oil/wax finish, which helps a little bit for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

The trick starts with a demonstration. Something a little bit like this:

Looks easy, right? Well, go make one and give it a try. I’ll wait.

Difficult, right? How the heck DO you get the notch to hook onto the rubber band? Well, I told you it’s a trick, so it is, of course, impossible. The dowel leaves no room for the rubber band to somehow make its way onto the notch. Instead, what I’m doing is squeezing the tapered head of the trick so that the top sort of squirts out of my fingers, making it look like it has been pulled by the elastic. Watch the video again – I’m sure you’ll spot it now that it has been explained.

This was a great little project for a day where we didn’t have much time. I’m not sure she’ll ever get around to messing with her friend with it, but she enjoyed it nonetheless, and I think other kids would definitely enjoy pranking their friends. I sure did when we made them back in the dark ages.

I think this project would be a good one for younger kids, too, since you could make the parts ahead of time and reduce it to gluing them together, or have them do everything except the sawing, or everything except the drill press, or whatever combination you were most comfortable with given the tools at your disposal.