Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Lauren was making a TARDIS dress. It obviously wouldn't be complete without a hat that lit up and made VWORP VWORP noises. If that doesn't sound like a job for Attoparsec, then I haven't been branding hard enough!

The idea was pretty simple. Laser cut a lightweight plywood frame. Paint blue and insert a plastic diffuser. Add LEDs. Connect to a control package which can make them fade in and out while playing an audio file. Add a switch so that it can be easily and subtly triggered as part of a costume. So that's what we did.

First we prototyped in cardboard, just to get the overall size and aspect ratio down. Using that, I drew up the design in Inkscape. A quick stop by the local makerspace and it was done.

Along with some 1/8" dowel and a fancy little finial knob, that was the frame of the hat. Stained it blue, added the LEDs, sewed on a combination head band and elastic comb pair to keep it tightly (but not uncomfortably!) in place, and it was done.

The electronics were pretty simple. An Arduino with WaveShield to control the lights and play the music.

I used an old Radio Shack mini amplifier to play the sound file. All this was hidden in the dress, with just a thin section of 2-lead ribbon cable leading up to the hat itself. Sharpied black and tucked into the hair, it was invisible to all but the closest of inspections.

The end result was quite pleasing, if I do say so myself. Have I mentioned I love laser cutting as a construction technique? I really love it.

Here's a quick demo video of the hardware:

Some friends also put together a ... slighty more fanciful demonstration video.

Kitsap Mini Maker Faire

Attoparsec will be a last minute addition to the Kitsap Mini Maker Faire on June 5 in Poulsbo, WA. We will be displaying various projects, giving introduction tutorials on the use of jeweler's saws, and hopefully be selling the new EL wire interface circuit kits. Be there and be square!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April Tools Results

Last Saturday we took part in the April Tools Wooden Boat Challenge. Basically, we were given an unknown set of materials, 1 hour to plan and 3 hours in which to build a boat. Hand tools only (except for driving screws). It was a lot of fun!

This is what we had to work with. 1 and 1/8 sheets of plywood. 8 1x2s. 1 2x2. A roll of duct tape. 3 tubes of caulk. Some wood screws. And a meter of rope.

We got a nice curve for the hull by draping a string and tracing it out. This let us precisely determine the length of the curve ahead of time, very important when working with limited materials!

Then the sawing started!

Predictably (if you know any of the team) we brought far too many tools. Better too many than too few!

The side walls were screwed to cleats screwed to the bottom plate. A single thwart helped brace them during construction. We had a lot of problems with the cleats splitting until we started pre-drilling the holes using the hand brace. Of course, its chuck didn't go small enough for the tiny drill we were using. Luckily, we had a pin-vise on hand! And that's exactly why we brought far too many tools with us.

Getting the ends bent into place took a lot of effort. The final joints were okay, but we made heavy use of the caulk to get it actually water-tight.

Lots and lots of caulking.

It was only at this point that I could test if I would actually fit. I was chosen as the primary pilot, as I have by far the most small boat experience thanks to my 1500 km trip down the Mackenzie in 2007. Not that I've done any since then...

At the last minute, we decided it needed a dragon's head prow. At the last second, we decided it needed an eye hole bored out using an antique ship auger we had with us. We finished exactly as the tools-down buzzer sounded.

Our mighty craft, the Knorr! It wasn't the most elegant build, but we were all pretty happy with it. We accomplished exactly what we had planned 3 hours earlier.

As it turns out, though, what we planned had some serious problems. Namely, it had absolutely no primary stability, as the following video plainly demonstrates.

So, we didn't get very far in the race. But oh well! It was fun, we got to spend the day outdoors on a very lovely day on the very lovely Sunshine Coast. If we do it again next year, I expect we'll make a much better showing.