Building the MakerGear Mosaic 3D Printer – Part V: The Extruder

This is the fifth installment of my series on building the MakerGear Mosaic 3D printer. This part covers installation of the “business end” of the machine, i.e. the extruder assembly, which consists of the preassembled motor and filament drive / hot-end groups, and the cooling fan. The fan and heater power leads, and the temperature sensor lead, are also connected at this stage.



One of Many Luna Mod Looper Mods

Weekend Projects reader R. Lee writes in with his perfboard version of the Luna Mod Looper, one of many mods now out there in the wild. Not that I don’t appreciate the carpentry in Brian McNamara’s original project, but personally, this “all-guts-exposed” approach is my favorite style of making. I really like to see how something has been hacked. The full spectrum of colored wires helps me follow along with R. Lee’s connections and modifications, such as that “makeshift write button” connected via the green & yellow wires on the left side of the board – nice!

And because R. Lee went with perfboard instead of stripboard, his project mod is a winner for our latest Weekend Projects Challenge – all you have to do is build one of our project’s circuits on a boardtype different than the original project. We only have a few prizes remaining, so get making!

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See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts (to date)


Goodnight, Maker: Books for Pre-Readers

As a book-loving maker family, we try to find books that will prime our two boys, ages 2 and 4, to have the curiosity, whimsy, creativity, resourcefulness, flexibility of thinking, environmental understanding, and mechanical sense to contribute to the family-wide maker projects we’ve already started to do together. But discovering compelling books that can do this can be challenging. In my early months of motherhood, I spent a long time trying to find a list like this online. I ended up discovering the best books the way parents have done for decades: by browsing our local library.

Here are some of our favorite books on our bookshelf today. What gems would you add to our list? Please add in the comments below.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Let’s begin with Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, a true classic about making the world what you want it to be. It’s hard to believe it was first written in 1955. It hasn’t aged a day! I discovered a whole series of Harold titles with more of his creative adventures, so we own the Treasury as well. More recent, Thacher Hurd’s Art Dog is a cunning canine and graffiti artist who follows in Harold’s tradition, painting items out of necessity: escaping a jail cell or hopping into a getaway car. (Incidentally, if you ever happen to find yourself in the Berkeley Public Library, you can take a seat in Art Dog’s Brushmobile, which would look great in any decent art car parade.)


Museum Trip

Museum Trip

In the wordless treasure Museum Trip, a boy goes on another imaginative adventure, this time through old labyrinths while lost on a field trip. This book’s creator, Barbara Lehman, is the Rod Serling of the preschool set. We have all of her books (The Red Book, Rainstorm, Trainstop, The Secret Box), and each has a small, delightful surprise that involves travel through a dimension of time or space. I appreciate that she got her start drawing for the MTA in New York. For more wordless mindbenders, take a look at the books of David Wiesner, like Flotsam, Sector 7, and Free Fall.

Lights Out

Lights Out

Arthur Geisert’s inventive pigs would be superstars of the maker world if they existed in real life. Lights Out begins with the only words of the book:

My parents make me turn off the light at eight. They know I’m afraid to go to sleep unless the light is on. They said, “If you can figure something out–go ahead. So I did.

This clever pig constructs a 29-step Rube Goldberg machine that extends up the attic, out the window, over the roof, into the yard, down the basement, and back up to the top of the house to turn off the bedroom light, revealing a pleased, dozing piglet in the last shot. Geisert illustrates each element of the contraption in rich detail over the book’s 32 pages, enough that you might be able to reconstruct the whole thing at home. We also read Pigaroons regularly. It’s about some shenanigans that led to a healthy rivalry at an ice sculpture contest, and it features a band of equally enterprising piglets. I note that we should add Hogwash and The Giant Ball of String to our collection, as we’ve enjoyed both when we’ve borrowed them from the library.

Look-Alikes Jr.

Look-Alikes Jr.

To share another obsessive personality with our kids, we crack open one of the editions of Joan Steiner’s Look-Alikes we own, books in which “common objects wear disguises.” Some are almost too chock-full of detail, so for our boys, the best choice is Look-Alikes Jr., a little simpler than the original. In it, we scan 3D collages assembled from familiar bits and pieces we’d find in our junk drawer: teabags, M&Ms, dimes, dog biscuits, crackers, nail clippers, crayons, and thousands of other objects, all posing in cohesive scenes. It’s a fun game of I Spy, with more surprises because the theme of each scene is so strongly executed, she can keep you from recognizing the items she used to compose it.

Gerald McBoingBoing

Gerald McBoingBoing

Gerald McBoingBoing began as a brilliant animated film about finding your unique calling when you have a peculiar talent. In this case, it’s a boy who “didn’t talk words, he went BOING BOING instead.” We don’t mind creating the sound effects ourselves, so we appreciate that the filmmakers adapted the story into a picture book as well. The story is by Dr. Seuss, and his fans won’t be disappointed by his signature sparkly rhymes and inventive use of language. Seuss didn’t create the images, but instead you get some very sweet illustrations that evoke mid-century advertising, similar to the cartoon but brighter.

Tomie dePaola has written over 200 books for children, and while I haven’t read more than a few, I can heartily recommend The Knight and the Dragon. The stars of the book prepare for their very first battle with each other, building armor from scratch, rehearsing their moves, etc. When they meet, they fail pretty miserably at their stereotypical vocations, but a wise princess who happens to pass by saves them both with [spoiler alert!] a couple of how-to books that help them transform their enmity into a delicious eatery.

Two titles by another well-known favorite, Leo Lionni: In Cornelius, a clever crocodile learns how to do new things and inspires others to do the same. In Inch by Inch a teeny worm explores measuring different surfaces until he is faced with a challenge to do so with something intangible (and he comes up with a clever solution!) We have a hard time getting the tape measure away from the kids, so they love seeing this little worm make his way in the world.

One thing to learn about the world when you are a maker-to-be is where things come from, and Laura Vaccaro Seeger First the Egg takes a spin around that old cliché with some fun die-cut paintings that run through the cycles of several staples of childhood. For example: “First the SEED, then [a seedling, which is pictured but not labeled, then] the FLOWER” or “First the WORD then the STORY.” Of course, it all comes back to that chicken again! Our toddler loves pulling the pages over by the unusually shaped peepholes.

Wonderful Houses Around the World

Wonderful Houses Around the World

Yoshio Komatsu’s Wonderful Houses Around the World takes a close look at how ten different families live in very different homes, and how those are built. There’s a companion coffeetable book by the same photographer, but this kids’ version includes luscious cross-section diagrams by Akira Nishiyama. For more great diagrams, pick up some books by Stephen Biesty, such as Incredible Everything. We don’t read all the words to our little guys–even without the narration they get so absorbed in the detailed illustrations (reminiscent of Where’s Waldo?)–but we do consult the notes as they ask questions. Of course, sometimes we get, “What’s a compact disc?” as the book was created in 1997.

In Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson, two enterprising bears travel to a town 25 miles from their 19th-century Boston suburb. One labors hard all day to raise money for train fare, while the other, Henry (named after Mr. Thoreau), takes a leisurely walk, stopping on his way to carve a walking stick, press flowers, make a raft, take a swim, and generally have a lovely day. It makes you wonder whether we could all be working less and relishing life more.

Astro Bunnies

Astro Bunnies

What’s a list of maker-friendly books without rockets? In Astro Bunnies by Christine Loomis, with unusual collage illustrations by Ota Eitan, ambitious little cottontails do all you’d expect of spacefarers in a catchy rhyme that I sometimes find myself humming even when I am away from my kids (oh, I’ve come up with a tune for it.) One sample:

Astro bunnies
Work together
Measure comets
Chart the weather

Gather moondust
From a crater
Scientists can
Study later

We want our kids to have their heads in the stars but their feet on the ground. So like many families, we have lots of nature books. The ones that are most maker-y come from Zoe Hall and Shari Halpern, who pair up for two fall favorites. Two brothers make cookies and leaf collages in Fall Leaves Fall, and two sisters learn how to grow a pie in The Apple Pie Tree. For our older son, Gail Gibbons goes into greater detail into the virtues of Malus domestica in The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree. Over the course of a year, Arnold makes a swing, wreaths, a bouquet, a tree house, cider, pies, and more. Our other Gibbons title, Country Fair, reminds us of our favorite family destination, Maker Faire. There’s even a page that shows you how to put a fair together!

The Wing on a Flea (1961)

The Wing on a Flea (1961)

Finally, I end with the man who taught me and millions of others to draw, Ed Emberley. Although his thumbprint and step-by-step illustration books are what I remember best from my childhood, the ones that our boys love now help them understand how to put shapes together to make images. In Go Away, Big Green Monster, the narrator builds up and then destroys the titular character one facial feature at a time. I like the paper artistry magic of the die-cuts in this book (although they are so vulnerable to enthusiastic young fingers. His poor nose!) We love the 1961 version of The Wing on a Flea, as it has the color blocks and line drawings of those beloved drawing books I remember seeking out so often as a kid. (The 2001 edition looks pretty good as well, we just haven’t read it yet.) We like the way The Wing on a Flea takes three shapes–a triangle, a circle, and a rectangle–and shows how you can make them into just about anything.

Books make great presents for kids. To my sons, they are a promise that I will read them again and again with them snuggled up in my lap. If you have time to get these at your local bookstore, please do go support your neighborhood businesses. But I’ve linked to each Amazon page for the books I mentioned above.

Feel free to add books you read with your budding makers in the comments. I’d like to focus on the 4-and-under crowd myself, but if you want to add books for older kids, please be sure to note the age you think your recommendation is best for in your note.


Beautiful Freeform Headphone Amp

I wrote just last week about British electronics hobbyist Rupert Hirst’s method and homemade tools for bending his own aluminum project enclosures. This artfully-soldered PCB-free headphone jack amplifier is his latest project, and it only serves to reaffirm my impression of Rupert as a man with a refined sense of the aesthetics of DIY electronics. To top it off, he knows how to take a photo, too. The solid copper wire was harvested from cable intended for home wiring. Looks like Rupert intends to cast the whole thing in clear resin as a finishing touch.

Check out our freeform soldering archives!


Meet the Makers, MAKE Volume 28: William Gurstelle

If you read MAKE or visit Makezine regularly, you likely know William Gurstelle. He is our resident trebuchet enthusiast and the author of several high-octane how-to books, including Backyard Ballistics, Whoosh Boom Splat, The Art of the Catapult, Absinthe and Flamethrowers, and The Practical Pyromaniac. In MAKE Volume 28, Bill wrote an article on making a Gravity Catapult (shown in photo below). Here’s a brief interview with one of my favorite broad-spectrum makers.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I live in the beautiful city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It gets cold here in winter, so I have plenty of inclination to work on projects indoors where it’s warm. Although I do other things like give talks, mainly, I write for a living; writing books is the biggest part of what I do. I write a whole lot for MAKE and Popular Mechanics.

I am interested in making things, but more than that, I like to show other people how to make things.

Why do you like making things?
The subject I write about is DIY technology and science history. And all my projects tend to have a little bit of an edge to them, because I find that sort of technology the most interesting. I would not call any of my projects out-and-out dangerous but they do give people credit for being able to follow directions. Edgy, DIY hands-on science, things that go whoosh boom or splat, have interested me ever since I can remember.

Tell me about the trebuchet you made for MAKE
I like siege weapons: trebuchets, ballistae, catapults, and so on. In fact, my book The Art of the Catapult is one of my favorites. These machines are deceptively difficult to build, especially if they are fairly large. The project in the current issue of Make uses steel rigging parts to add strength, and it’s unique in that it folds up for storage to save space.

What kind of thing do you dream of making?
Some day, I’d like to build a customized motorcycle – a chopper maybe. But I don’t think my wife would let me ride it. A rail gun would be an interesting project as well. But working near that much energy gives me a pause. We’ll see.

Maker to Maker – Nibbler from MAKE magazine on Vimeo.

Can you tell us about one of your favorite tools?
I have a lot of favorite tools. I can’t live without my table saw and drill press. There’s a lot of utility in a rotary tool like a Dremel. It’s so versatile, especially when working with smaller parts.

MAKE 28MAKE Volume 28, Toys & Games!
MAKE Volume 28 hits makers’ passion for play head-on with a 28-page special section devoted to Toys and Games, including a toy “pop-pop” steamboat made from a mint tin, an R/C helicopter eye-in-the-sky, and a classic video game console. You’ll also build a gravity-powered catapult, a plush toy that interacts with objects around it, and a machine that blows giant soap bubbles. Play time is a hallmark of more intelligent species– so go have some fun!

On newsstands now! Buy or Subscribe


Making Music with the Magnetotron

Our own Michael Colombo created an instrument called the Magnetotron as a project for his New Interfaces for Musical Expression class at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Inspired by the glass armonica and the Mellotron, this instrument is made out of a large spinning cylinder with audio cassette tape glued to it. Recorded on each strip of audio tape is a different note, which can be played by placing paddles on them. Colombo says that while some people think it sounds like a “banshee or a weasel,” he has a lot of fans that like it and appreciate how he is repurposing old analog technology.


Secret Santa: Laura Cochrane — Finish This Book

The intriguing thing about author-illustrator Keri Smith‘s books is that they’re activity books for adults. In “Wreck This Journal“, Ms. Smith invites readers to smush leaves on the pages, fold and launder them, and otherwise do things we’re told not to do to books — plus use it as a journal. You don’t just read one of her books, you complete it.

When I pulled Laura Cochrane’s name out of the hat (and she I!) I sort of drew a blank because we don’t really know each other. Gar told me she likes papercrafts and rubber stamping, and my mind went immediately to Keri Smith’s work. Her latest book, Finish This Book, intrigues me, and this is what I’m giving to Laura.

The author, who is currently enjoying her maternity leave, very courteously emailed me a description:

It is part mystery, part journal, part activity book. It begins like this, while walking home from the library one rainy night, I found some scattered pages in a park. I attempted to put the pages in order and decipher the text which was badly blurred from having gotten wet. The resulting book appeared to have been some kind of manual for a secret order and gave some instructions on how to create your own secret order. While I did my best to research and transcribe the book I found, I am now putting it out there for others to decipher and complete. By working with this mysterious book, the reader in turn becomes the creator. I also offer some “secret intelligence training” to help the reader develop some important detective skills before they tackle the mystery.

“Finish This Book” invites the user into a secret world of their own making. The only question is “What will that world look like when you are done?” You have to complete it to find out. The book does not exist without you.

After the break are some sample page spreads.


Solar Sewing Tour 2012

Maker Faire veteran Paul Nosa is up to some tour planning for 2012. He’d like to travel around the nation to public art walks, embroidering the imaginations of passers by with his solar and bike powered sewing machine built onto an aluminum rover that also displays his creations. Paul’s seeking funding on Kickstarter to bring solar sewing to a town near you. In the video above, watch him sew the entire tour route!


Free Motion Embroidery: Paul Nosa


Kit-A-Day Giveaway: TV-B-Gone Kit + Red Blinky POV + Minty Time Clock

We’re giving away amazing kits from our new Make: Ultimate Kit Guide EVERY DAY — thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, including MakerBots!

To celebrate the release of our latest publication, the Make: Ultimate Kit Guide 2012 (and its companion website), we’re giving away at least one of the cool kits reviewed in the issue each day during the holiday season.

Today’s giveaway is a blinky kit trifecta containing the TV-B-Gone Kit, Red Blinky POV, and a MintyTime Clock (a combined $61 value.) It’s a fun grouping that will keep you busy during the holiday break. You can use the TV-B-Gone to turn off your neighbor’s new LCD TV, the Red Blinky POV to spread holiday cheer, and the Minty Time Clock kit to make a binary time Christmas tree! Have better ideas? Leave them in the comments!

Like all our giveaways, these kits are reviewed in our Make: Ultimate Kit Guide 2012 and reviewed on the companion website:

TV-B-Gone Kit review on Make: Kits
Red Blinky POV review on review on Make: Kits
MintyTime Clock review on Make: Kits

To be eligible for today’s giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment below in this post. The entry period for today’s prize will be until 11:59pm PST tonight. We’ll choose one person at random, you’ll be notified by email, and you’ll have 48 hours to respond. The Winners List is kept on the Giveaway landing page. That’s it! No purchase necessary or anything else to do. Please leave only one comment per post. You can enter as many giveaways as you like until you win. This giveaway is for US residents only. You also must be 18 years old to enter (Kids: Ask your parents to enter). See the Kit-A-Day Giveaway landing page for full sweepstakes details and Official Rules.

Important Note: If you enter this drawing, when it’s over, please check the place where you registered to comment (eg. Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter). Some people are winning these kits and then not responding when we send them a message using the available means of contacting them. We want to make sure you get your giveaway!


Cryptex Flash Drive

Add a layer of physical security to your USB drive data with this beautifully designed and machined thumb drive inside a cryptex-style combination lock cylinder, from Russian Steampunk enthusiast Tarator (machine translation).

Practically speaking, of course, anyone who managed to steal the drive could probably defeat the lock without too much effort, and its striking beauty might actually create more of an incentive to steal it than would otherwise exist. As I recall, Dan Brown’s original cryptex (Wikipedia) included a self-destruct mechanism for the (paper) data in the from of a vial of acid that broke if the lock was opened incorrectly. Maybe that’s the n + 1 iteration of this idea?



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