CNC, Home Improvement, Woodworking, X-Carve

Today’s CNC Carving: A towel rack that says Towels

What do you hang your towels on? A plain old towel bar? Ha. A hook on the back of the door? Sad. You drape them over the shoulders of a mannequin like a cape? Ok that’s pretty cool.

But what would be even cooler would be to hang your towels on a towel rack that says “Towels.”

There’s no mistaking what goes on these hooks. Thinking of hanging up a bathrobe? Get out of here, buster. This rack is for towels.

“But there are so many hooks and I only have two towels!” Not my problem. Buy more towels.

If you want to make this towel rack that says “Towels,” head on over to the towel rack project page at Inventables.

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Alexa, Amazon, Programming

Activity Book: An Alexa skill for bored kids

Do you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device? Do you have children? Are those children ever bored? If your answers were “yes,” “yes,” and “yes of course all the time,” then do I have an Alexa skill for you!

It’s called Activity Book. Enable the skill in your Alexa app (or by saying, “Alexa, enable the Activity Book skill,”) and then tell your kids to say, “Alexa, open Activity Book” (or more accurately, “Alexa, tell Activity Book I’m boooooooooored.”). Alexa will then give them something to do. Examples include:

  • “Why don’t you count the wrinkles in your elbow?”
  • “Climb a tree, but be careful. You don’t want to break any limbs.”
  • “Make up a secret handshake. After you teach it to someone, celebrate with a secret milkshake.”

The list of suggestions is long, ever-increasing, and appropriate for all ages.

This was actually the first Alexa app I wrote, back before Amazon allowed skills targeted at kids. I’m glad that they decided to support kids skills solely so that they could approve Activity Book. You humble me, Amazon!

The Activity Book code is open-source and available on GitHub.

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CNC, Woodworking, X-Carve

Garbage Can Cabinet Medallions

Ever since I built our garbage and recycling cabinet last year, visitors to my home have been mystified as to where to throw away their trash, so I made some identifying medallions for the front of the cabinet with my X-Carve.

They’re carved out of red oak (the same wood used for the top of the cabinet) that was planed down to about 3/8″ thick. I stained them with Varethane’s Kona stain (before carving) and finished them with some clear spray enamel (after carving).

The Inventables project is here for anyone interested in making something similar.

 

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3D Printing, Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Shoe Cabinet

Our front entryway usually looks something like this:

Those are bins to hold shoes; they’re uncharacteristically empty in this picture, but with as many as seven kids in the house at any given time, they’re usually overflowing (and not nice to look at).

We decided to get a shoe cabinet to keep the shoes (and their smells) hidden. Ikea’s HEMNES shoe cabinet was our top choice:

but it wouldn’t be quite big enough, and it wouldn’t make productive use out of all of the space by the door. I decided instead to build my own custom version of HEMNES.

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API, Programming, WordPress

Share an iPhoto Library on the Web with WordPress

I recently needed to publish the contents of an iPhoto library online, so I wrote a script that converts the library to a WordPress site using WordPress’s REST API.  The script is available in my iPhoto-WordPress-Export repository on GitHub. Check it out, and then run it like this:

$ ./iphoto2wordpress.php --library=/path/to/photo/library --wordpress=https://www.example.com/

After prompting for a username and password, it will upload all of the library’s photos to the specified WordPress site. For each event in the library, it creates a post that includes a gallery containing all of the images from the event.  It will also convert any albums into categories, categorizing the photos themselves, not the posts. (For this to work, you will need to enable categories for attachments.)

If the script stops for any reason, you can restart it, and it will pick up where it left off. Depending on what it was doing when it stopped, you may have an orphaned attachment in your Media.

Posts are created as drafts and left for you to publish at your leisure.

I used this script to create DavidTewes.com.  (For back-story on what that site is and how it came to be, see this post.) Because the site is image-centric, I chose a photography based theme called Silvia, and I made a few adjustments to it:

I could have had the script automatically assign a featured image to each post, but I chose to make that decision manually. Here’s the end-result:

Let me know if you have any questions, and if you use the script, leave a link to the site you used it on in the comments below!

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Camera, Photography, Programming, Technology

Putting 1940s Kodachrome Slides on the Web

When my wife Christina and I were cleaning out her late father’s garage, we came across two cases of Kodachrome slides that included nighttime shots of downtown Minneapolis in the 1940s and 1950s, pictures of daily life in nearby Hutchinson, Minnesota, and some World War II photographs, like this one of a group of soldiers celebrating on Attu Island in Alaska on V-J Day.

We determined that the photographs were taken by David Tewes of Hutchinson, Minnesota, Christina’s first cousin twice removed. He died in 1991, and her dad had likely come into possession of the slides then. They sat untouched in his garage attic for twenty-five years.

I wanted to scan the slides so they could be preserved and shared, but we had to get them back home to Oregon first. Fun fact: if you pack cases of slides in your carry-on luggage, your bag will get special attention from a TSA agent since the X-ray machine can’t see through the slide case.

Internet research showed me that there are generally two ways to digitize old slides: either use a slide scanner, or get a macro lens and take a photo of each slide at 1:1 magnification. I couldn’t find a slide scanner in my price range, so I paid $40 to rent a macro lens from LensRentals.com and set up a rig for “scanning” all of the slides.

The slide holder is three pieces of hardboard sandwiched together with a cut-out in the middle for the slide to fit into.

I back-lit each slide with a very bright lamp, and I added a paper shade around the slide to prevent my eyes from getting burn-in from the lamp bulb.

Here’s an example of what one of the slide photos looks like, overexposed so you can see the labeling that David added on each slide.

I took four photos of each slide at decreasing shutter speeds (in raw format) and then chose the best one. I cropped and captioned all of the photos in iPhoto and organized them into events matching how David had organized them in his slide cases.

In order to get the slides from iPhoto to the Web, I wrote a script that uploads an entire iPhoto library to a WordPress website. It creates a post for each event and then adds all of the event’s photos to a gallery in the post. I will publish a standalone post soon with details about that script.

The result of all this work is DavidTewes.com. It contains 650 photos organized into 51 posts, with dates ranging between 1944 and 1955. All of the photos are licensed under the Creative Commons – Attribution license, meaning that they may be used for any purpose (commercial or non-commercial) and derivative works may be produced, as long as David is credited as the photographer. If I understand U.S. copyright law, the photos will enter public domain on January 1, 2062.

Some of my favorite albums are Attu, Alaska, This is Minneapolis, and Santa Monica. In each of those albums (and in most of the others), David created a title card, sort of like a scrapbook page that he photographed to introduce the photos.  For example, here’s the title card for the photos from his trip to China Town.

There were 81 title slides; you can view them all here.

Although some of the slides were labeled with a date, many were not. For those, I’ve estimated a date but marked them as such. If you’d like to help narrow down the dates for any of those photos, you can see them all here.  Leave a comment on the photo or on the photo gallery post with any information you have, like this comment on a photo of cars from the Minneapolis Municipal Gardens.

My favorite photo out of all of them is this shot of feats of strength at Muscle Beach when it was still in Santa Monica. What’s yours?

 

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3D Printing, CNC, Maker

Functional Print and CNC Carving Mashup: Mini Air-Hockey Pucks

In today’s Don Rickles news, I 3D-printed and CNC carved some mini air-hockey pucks.

We were given a mini air-hockey table this week, but it didn’t have any pucks, and after buying some at Walmart, we learned that the table didn’t use full-size pucks. After five minutes in OpenSCAD and half an hour of machining, I had two replacement pucks ready to go.

The question I know you’re dying to ask: which one is better? According to the kids, the plastic puck has a more satisfying sound, but the wooden puck glides better.

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