Diana Eng (best known from her season on Project Runway and her book Fashion Geek: Clothes Accessories Tech) is our current guest contributor, covering ham radio for Make: Online. In this Make: Project, Diana adds a little fashion frill to a standard piece of ham radio gear, the Morse code key. – Gareth Branwyn
I am just starting to learn Morse code and got a brand new key from American Morse Equipment. Most keys need to be mounted to hold them in place while the operator is dah-dit-ing. Keys are mounted on a heavy platform, or fastened to a radio. And some keys are worn on a leg strap. As a lady operator, and fashion designer, I wanted something cuter to keep my key on my leg, so here it is — how to turn a standard leg strap into a cute Morse code key leg strap.
* 1 yd 2″ wide satin ribbon
* 1 yd 3/8″ wide patterned ribbon
* 1 yd 3″ wide lace
* 2 spools of thread (to match patterned ribbon and lace)
* a small amount of tulle (an 8″ x 8″ square will work just fine)
* a small amount of organza
* screw driver
* measuring tape
* leg strap
1. Using the measuring tape, measure around your leg where you’d like to wear the strap. Subtract Â½” from this measurement and cut the lace and patterned ribbon to this length.
2. Using a sewing machine, straight stitch the edge of the ribbon 1 1/8″ in from the edge of the lace.
3. Fold the lace along the stitched edge of the patterned ribbon. Fold the satin ribbon in half and sandwich it inside of the folded lace so that they overlap by Â¾”.
4. Using the sewing machine, zigzag stitch the edge of the lace to the ribbon. Start by forward stitching across the width of the ribbon. When you get to the edge, back stitch across the entire width. Then forward stitch across the entire width. You will have stitched over the same place three times to securely hold the ribbon in place.
5. Repeat step 4 Â½” away from the first row of zigzag stitches so that you will have two rows of stitches.
6. Cut away excess ribbon and lace so that the strap will be nice and neat.
7. Using the sewing machine, straight stitch the unsewn edge of the patterned ribbon.
8. Using the flower pattern, cut along the gray line. Cut 4 flowers from the tulle and 2 flowers from the organza.
9. Layer the flower pieces: two tulle on the bottom, one organza, two tulle, and one organza on the top.
10. Most leg straps have a separate plate or piece which the strap feeds through that connects to the key, often by a screw. The fabric flower will go between this plate/piece and the key. Place the fabric flower on the plate/piece and make a hole in the flower for the screw to fit through. Then screw the key in place on top of the flower and plate/piece.
11. Thread the ribbon into the plate/piece, and strap your key on your leg tying the ribbon at the side.
My Dad got a shiny new red tractor the week before Father’s Day, which created a great opportunity for an easy, inexpensive, handmade gift: I bought a classic little red toolbox, to match the tractor, and fitted it with eight 3/4″ ring supermagnets on the bottom to make it stick to the fender. There’s a rubber washer between each magnet and the bottom of the toolbox, to cushion the magnets, each of which is secured using a 3/4″ automotive panel fastener–basically a barbed plastic push fastener.
Inserted through the hole in the magnet, through the rubber washer, and through a 1/4″ hole drilled in the bottom of the toolbox, the panel fastener secures everything in place. The head of the fastener also makes a nice black plastic “foot” on the bottom of each magnet, which protects the finish on the tractor from marring against the magnet, without being so thick as to block magnetic attraction.
Those of you who attended Maker Faire 2008 in Austin may recall the performance of local circuit-benders Furby Youth Choir. I recently had a chance to attend one of their live performances at the United States Art Authority, next to Spider House on Fruth St. in the UT Campus area.
A Furby, for those who were living in a bunker preparing for Y2K during their vogue, is a robot toy that looks a lot like Gizmo from The Gremlins. They talk and sing and move their mouths and eyes and other neat stuff, including reacting to their environment and, to an extent, “learning” certain patterns of behavior. The large feature set makes them popular with hackers, especially circuit benders.
Anyhoo, as one can imagine, a small army of them singing on-stage is fairly unsettling. What’s more, FYC’s music is decidedly avant-garde, dissonant, and ominous. Two performers stand over a table covered with circuit boards and wires and bend the aforesaid circuits in real time. Add to that mix a video projector beaming twisted animations and other visual psychedalia upstage, and the whole experience becomes a bit….overwhelming. US Art Authority is a small venue, and to my 25-to-34-year-old ear, they were rather too loud for it, but they still get huge points for originality. If you get a chance to see them, you should. Just be sure to pack a pair of earplugs.
The THERMATRON is essentially a voltage controlled oscillator and wave shaper controlled by the action of a flame. This is possible because electricity can be conducted through a flame. This is not a new discovery, in fact the electrical properties of flame have been known for hundreds of years and well studied. For example, many hot water heaters have a sensor that detects flame by sensing the current inserted through the gas flame (if the gas flame goes out, the current does not reach the sensor and the heater knows that the flame is out).
Check out the project’s post for a much deeper explanation of the Thermatron’s funciotnality and flame conduction in general.
Today is Field Day, the annual event where thousands of hams across the nation publicly demonstrate their emergency communication abilities. You can find hams constructing emergency stations in parks, schools, backyards and shopping malls operating using only emergency power supplies. If you are interested in getting started with ham radio but don’t have a license, today is a great day to do so. Field Day is one of the few opportunities when you can operate without a license at the GOTA (get on the air) stations (which are supervised by licensed hams).
Heavy Metal II, Amped Up is the culminating event, hosted by the Boston Museum of Science and the Lemelson-MIT Program, is part of Eurekafest, a multi-day celebration designed to empower a legacy of inventors.
Watch teams of high school students from across the country compete in an all-day challenge to build wind turbines that can hoist empty garbage cans to the ceiling of the Blue Wing. Explore a range of “windy” activities with Museum Exhibit Halls interpreters and educators from the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
Looking to build and race your own kinetic sculpture in the DC area? Don’t mIss the Artomatic 500 on Saturday, June 27:
Racers and crew are invited to create a cardboard “vehicle” which could be two dimensional, three dimensional — even four dimensional if you can make it happen — as long as it it entirely powered by a walking or running human and is decorated by the driver and his or her team. No engine or propulsion system of any sort is allowed. Wheels are optional. In fact, they are discouraged.
Word is that you should bring your own refrigerator box if you’re so inclined.
Even as we approach the cultural apocalypse of ubiquitous, fully immersive, photo-real multiplayer video game environments, there are still those of us who like to play board or tabletop games. The communal wargaming experience, for instance, is very different from playing a networked MMORPG or turn-based strategy game. Whereas WarCraft or Xbox Live is kind of like hanging out with your buds watching TV, actually getting together and playing a board game is more like a real party. There’s usually music and snacks and beverages and lots of gregarious BS-ing of a type that just isn’t as practical over a network line. Manipulating the physical game pieces is also satisfying in a way that virtual objects have yet to achieve, and probably won’t for some time to come.
A lot of folks who are into tabletop gaming eventually end up making their own pieces, for one reason or another. They may be making a custom army to compete in a wargame with established rules, or they may be making up their own game for which no commercial pieces are available. For these folks there’s an array of techniques available. The simplest, as in wargaming days of yore, is to use illustrated paper or cardboard “chits” that lay flat on the gaming surface. A step up from that involves buying or making bases so your cardboard heroes can stand upright, which not only makes them look better but makes them much easier to manipulate. If the cardboard approach is too wimpy for you, you can always purchase commercial 3D miniature figures and paint and/or customize them to suit your taste.
Polyolefin shrink film presents an intermediate approach to original miniature design, midway between cheap paper or cardboard cutouts and fully dimensional figurines. Shrinky-dinks are much more durable than card stock, and unlike store-bought figurines, they are completely customizable. Best of all, you can make all your artistic mistakes at the software level, where they’re easy to fix.
Inkjet friendly shrink film
Small binder clips, one for each mini you intend to make
Computer with color inkjet printer and appropriate software (if you’re designing your own art)
Cookie sheet with cardboard insert to fit
Scissors/pen knife/paper cutter to cut out dinks
Step 1: Design your dinks
The best way to determine the expected shrinkage of your film is by experiment. Print a square of known dimension, cut it out, shrink it, and measure the new size. The ratio of the “after” dimensions to the “before” dimensions gives the expected shrink percentage. Every film I’ve ever seen also includes an approximate shrink ratio in the directions, and if you’re not an accuracy freak it’s probably safe to assume it’s correct. The clear film I used shrinks by about 50%, meaning that the designs as printed need to be about twice as big, in each dimension, as the desired miniature size. Note that if you intend to use bases you need to be sure to leave an empty “tab” at the bottom of each image so the base can be attached without obscuring the art. If you’re using binder-clip bases (see below), I recommend the small (3/4″) size. These have a real “footprint” of 3/4″ x 1/2″, so scaling up for 50% shrink film gives a 1.5″ x 1″ pre-shrink area to allow for during the design of each piece.
If you don’t want to design your own minis, or you just want to experiment with the technique, I’ve put together a set of markers for the deluxe edition of Steve Jackson’s famously awesome future war-game, OGRE. You can download a .PDF of my OGRE marker designs here, ready to print onto five 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of 50% shrink film.
Step 2: Print onto shrink film
Shrinking causes the color saturation of your images to increase, so they will need to be lightened before printing to keep them from ending up too dark. I use my HP printer settings dialog to do this. Your equipment may vary, but most printer drivers include a color management panel that will at least let you tweak “brightness,” which is enough. Again, the best way to be sure is to run an experiment. Using the feature set of my HP C4180, I turn the brightness of my image all the way up to “brightest”, the saturation all the way down to “least saturated,” and the color tone all the way up to “warmest.” These settings give good results for my printer, with these images. I recommend loading only one sheet of film into the printer at a time to avoid feeding problems that may be caused by friction between sheets in a stack.
Step 3: Cut out the dinks
You can make the profiles of your minis as complex or simple as you like. Keep in mind you’re probably going to have to cut out a lot of them, and carefully cutting complex profiles means a lot of time and fine work with scissors or a pen knife. My OGRE minis are mostly rectangular, and I was able to cut them out very quickly using a swing-arm paper cutter. I made exceptions for the OGREs themselves, giving them semicircular profiles that I cut with scissors, so that they would stand out on the board.
Step 4: Shrink the dinks
Refer to the directions on your shrink film for appropriate heating temperatures. Mine were shrunk in an oven preheated to 300 degrees, and it took approximately ten minutes per batch. Observe the pieces as they shrink (that’s half the fun of it, anyway). They will curl up and then reflatten. Sometimes they will not flatten completely, in which case you can compress them with the back of a spatula while they’re still hot without damaging the image or the surface of the film. Let them cool completely to room temperature before attempting to handle them.
Step 5: Finish edges (optional)
I find that a black edge on the dinks looks better than a bare one. A paint pen is the best tool for applying said edge. Sharpie works, too, but it requires a couple of coats to get the same coverage.
Step 6: Add bases (optional)
Bases for shrinky-dink minis (or any flat game mini) can be improvised readily from small binder clips. The photo sequence illustrates the process. First, clamp the clip to the base of the dink as shown, then remove the wire handles from both sides of the clip by compressing them. The black spring remains in place on the mini, forming a functional, discrete, good-looking base.
Notes and ideas
I chose clear print-on film in the hopes that it would be sufficiently transparent to provide easy viewing of the game board surface in the background of the design. Turns out whatever coating they apply to make the plastic take inkjet ink tends to opaque the film, and after it’s shrunk the effect is even stronger. Basically the “clear” film produces a dink with a translucent white background. Next time I will use regular opaque white film and include backgrounds in my designs.
If your printer is capable of sufficiently accurate registration, it should be possible to print mirror images on either side of the film such that the resulting markers are double-sided. I don’t know how well the ink on the reverse side will stand up to being face-down when shrinking, but my instinct is it shouldn’t matter too much. You could put the same design on each side for aesthetics and/or convenience, or you could put a different design on the reverse, perhaps an “injured” or “battle-damaged” version of the obverse unit.