Make: Online

Nobody Doesn’t Like Molten Boron

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, The Practical Pyromaniac. It’s a bit different than a lot of the other projects because it deals with making things NOT catch on fire. It’s a pretty simple chemistry project. By the way, it makes paper fire resistant, not fire proof.

How to Make Boronized Fireproof Paper

Screen capture from Futurama

“Boronized” paper has been treated with a combination of boron salts that inhibits burning. Important papers can be treated in this fashion to give them a greater likelihood of surviving a fire.


  • 3 1/3 ounces boric acid powder. Although boric acid is used as roach killer, it is relatively safe to handle and is often available in hardware stores or online.
  • 4 ounces borax
  • ½ gallon hot water
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Shallow tray (large enough to soak the paper)
  • Cotton paper (also known as rag paper, available at stationery stores)
  • Long-handled lighter or fireplace matches

1. Mix the boric acid powder and borax in one-half gallon of hot water in the mixing bowl. Stir until the chemicals are completely dissolved.
2. Pour the solution into a shallow tray. Carefully place a sheet of rag paper in the tray, saturating it thoroughly. Remove the paper, allowing the excess solution to drain back into the tray. Hang the paper to dry.
3. When dry, test a small piece of the paper by holding a match to it. The paper will turn black but not ignite and burn.

The fire resisting properties of boron were first examined by the French scientist Joseph Gay-Lussac in the early 19th century. He found that fire does not occur if air can be prevented from reaching the surface of organic materials by chemically coating the material’s fibers. Silicates and borates are well suited to the task of rendering organic fibers flame resistant. The normally flammable material calcinates, that is, turns it to char or black powder, but does not actually go up in a flame.


Whoosh Boom Bill Gurstelle

Our favorite pyromaniac, Bill Gurstelle, is back, and just in time for the 4th of July. He’s also here to talk about/excerpt from his latest book, The Practical Pyromaniac. We’re always excited to have Bill onboard, not only ’cause he’s a great guy, an epic maker, and a good writer, but being the pyro that he is, you just never know what he’s fixin’ to immolate. Keeps a person on their toes.

Bill is going to be hanging around for a couple of weeks, bringing us his unique take on things to the site, covering everything from making your own micro-brewed absinthe, to genetically modified super-chilis, to a loving ode to the Nepalese Kukri knife. Oh, and some flamey stuff. Always some flamey stuff.

Please welcome Bill Gurstelle…


Tool Review: Stanley 55-119 FatMax FuBar

I saw some of these wicked-looking crowbars while browsing the big orange store back in April. Curious, I fired off an e-mail to Stanley about a review, and they happily obliged me with a free tool.

At 15.25″ / 38.74 cm long, the 55-119 is the shortest crowbar in Stanley’s FuBar line. It weighs in at 2.56 lbs / 1.16 kg and consists of a single piece of forged steel covered in a baked-on high-visibility yellow finish and wrapped in an 8.5″ / 21.6 cm medium-hard black rubber handle, which I split with a razor and removed for the photo above, so you can see what’s under the hood.

Features include a ground, hardened hammer-face, a board-grabbing jaw sized for nominal two-by lumber, and a fairly conventional pry-bar head at the pommel. But instead of a split end nail puller, the FuBar line sports a scalloped teardrop-shaped slot for pulling nails.

Now, about the name “FuBar:” Stanley insists it stands for “Functional Utility BAR,” but, well, we all saw Saving Private Ryan, right? Testostero-marketing elements like the naughty name and fantasy-battleaxe styling all seem rather carefully calculated to appeal to geekier, desk-bound men of the WoW generation, of which I generally count myself one. And in my case, at least, it works: Let’s **** something Up Beyond All Recognition! Not only will I be well-equipped to hang Xmas lights outside my house this year, I’ll be well-armed to fend off the neighborhood’s annual ninja-gang attack.

In fact, the actual uses to which I put the 55-119 were somewhat less exciting. Over the course of two months, it has hung on the pegboard hooks that usually hold my trusty claw hammer, which is staying at a motel until we can work things out. I used it for light-duty home improvement work and “demolition,” which consisted mostly of driving and removing nails on the interior and exterior walls of the house, and knocking down a couple of shipping pallets for a forthcoming reclaimed-wood project.

As a pry-bar, the 55-119 comes up short, quite literally. 15″ really isn’t long enough to make an effective lever for most demolition purposes, and I have a hard time imagining a situation (other than perhaps for hanging the tool up for storage) where the two-by board jaw would really be that useful: Sure, you can grab a 2-inch plank with it, but you’re going to throw your shoulder out of socket trying to pry on just about any construction using 2-inch lumber with a 15″ lever.

Even in the relatively light duty of pallet demolition, the hammering and nail pulling functions proved to be vastly more useful than the pry-bar. If I were going to buy a FuBar for any purpose besides driving and pulling nails, I’d go for one of the longer models.

As a replacement for my claw hammer in these functions, however, the 55-119 FuBar works well. In fact, I think I actually prefer it for strictly claw-hammer jobs: It pounds just as well, and pulls nails quite a bit bitter, IMHO—perhaps because of the seemingly increased leverage inferred by moving the nail puller down to the pommel, or by the improved action of the nail-puller slot over a traditional claw.

Plus it looks way cooler. Seriously: The appearance of a tool makes a difference in the pleasure you take in using it and, perhaps more importantly, in the impression it makes as a gift. And from a strictly functional point of view, the bright yellow finish makes it much easier to find when you drop it in the flowerbed.


Atlanta Mini Maker Faire Call for Makers

Plans for the first Atlanta Mini Maker Faire are well underway, and the deadline for submissions (July 10th) will be upon us before we know it. Maker Faire is a celebration of all things DIY; this event is a local version of the larger Bay Area, Detroit, and New York Maker Faires put on by Make Magazine and O’Reilly Media. Just like the “big” Maker Faires, there will be cool things to see, interesting people to talk to, and fun things to play with.

The event is free to attend and exhibit at, and is funded by sponsors. So, why not join the local and regional Makers of the South at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire on September 10th, on Georgia Tech’s Campus? You can find additional information on the event and our Entry Form (it’s on the “Participate” page) at our website,


Needlework on Breakfast Foods


Andrew over at CRAFT spotted this incredible work by Judith Klausner. “Toast Embroidery” and “Cereal Sampler” are part of her “From Scratch” series.

Like the production of food, a variety of handicrafts were a mundane requirement of the female gender. Today, as we come to realize that something has been lost in the mechanization of everything around us, there is a return to the idea that making something from its most basic parts has great value.


In the Maker Shed: 64 Button Shield

The 64 Button Shield not only allows you to use up to 64 buttons with your next Arduino project, it also has a hidden “easter egg” that allows it to output MIDI. This video demonstrates MIDI functionality by using a 64 Button Shield, a Midivox, and an Arduino together for use as a physical interface for your favorite MIDI compatible music program. Want to build one? The Maker Shed has everything you need (except the arcade buttons.) Also, looking for a great deal? Today would be a great day to subscribe to the Deal of the Day or to start following us on Twitter!


Light Scythe Makes Huge Light Paintings

Gavin from Sydney built this 2-meter POV staff for full color light painting.

The hardware is pretty simple. There’s a 2m programmable LED strip inside an acrylic tube, which is controlled from a small receiver and battery pack. A laptop PC with a wireless Xbee link sends the image data to the scythe at a specified time.


Cellular Automata in Wood

I believe Los Angeles artist Jeff Cook‘s medium is correctly described as marquetry—”the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures”—rather than parquetry—”very similar in technique to marquetry: in parquetry the pieces of veneer are of simple repeating geometric shapes, forming tiling patterns” (Wikipedia). The key question seems to be whether the patterns generated by the cellular automata that inspire Jeff’s art are “repeating,” and much of the excitement surrounding them, I suppose, is precisely that they are not: simple starting conditions and rule sets generate complex unpredictable patterns. Jeff, who poses as a mild-mannered computer scientist for a major metropolitan software company by day, was inspired by Stephan Wolfram’s 2002 book A New Kind of Science, and calls his work “Wolfrule Art” because it is derived from Wolfram Elementary Cellular Automaton Rules. He has written a Wolfrule Online Calculator that you can play with in your browser and/or download if you want to monkey with the code yourself. His show at Venice Beach’s Chalk gallery runs through the 29th. [via Boing Boing]


Bag Closure Power Strip Organization Hack

Make intern, Tyler Moskowite, sent over this clever bread bag closure power strip organization hack he found on the Interwebs. I have yet to find the original source for this hack, but hopefully someone will leave their name in the comments and we can all congratulate them for a job well done. This hack reminds me of the Binder Clips As Cable Organizers hack from a while back, but is obviously equally as cool and unique. [Thanks, Tyler!]


The Oomphalapompatronium

A number of readers wrote in to let us know about Leonard Solomon‘s fantastic bellows instrument called the Oomphalapompatronium. It’s like a mutant kitchen sink harmonium that belts out a tune as colorful as its name. You’ll find more outlandish and grandiose instruments of unusual and curious manufacture accurately described and skillfully demonstrated for your listening pleasure on Mr. Solomon’s YouTube channel or find out more information about the man himself on his website.


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