Mounting Motors: Spin the Bottle

This week, Ben introduced us to various techniques for mounting motors, servos, and steppers. I was looking forward to this assignment after seeing all the wonderful projects that came out of the first seven weeks, but knowing it would coincide with finals added a lot of stress. I already had an idea in mind for awhile to create a pulley system to pull a zipper up and down. I imagine it can look pretty novel and be useful to implement in wearables for people with degenerative diseases such as cerebral palsy. I discussed it with Ben pretty early on to deduce feasibility. In brief, it can be done, but requires materials research and testing to determine how much torque is needed for the type of zipper. I didn’t have that kind of time this week, unfortunately. Yesterday, I went to Tinkersphere and ended up getting a kit because it was less costly than buying the individual parts I needed:

I saw that the kit came with two pulleys and motors and figured I’d give the zipper idea a shot even though Ben advised DC motors couldn’t supply enough force. Sure enough, when I used a thread to create a belt, all it could manage was vibrate and very, very slow movement. I had to think of something else.

When I was preparing to break for lunch, I thought of an idea and sat back down to sketch. I wanted to play off of spin the bottle since my classmates and myself have been itching to get drinks for some time. I still had materials I previously purchased for the enclosure project in my bin so I figured I’d put it to good use.



Bamboo box




Plastic rings for mounting motor

AA Batteries

I put the components inside the box to determine placement and measurements for the acrylic lid I would later laser cut. First, I needed to do a quick and dirty prototype in cardboard:


I am very glad I made the cardboard prototype first because it helped me determine the dimensions for my bottle motif. I went on to create my illustrator files with the precise measurements I outlined:

I mounted the motor with the plastic rings that came with the kit and soldered the wires together for the circuit.

Careful planning means everything fits like a glove:

This is the finished product:

Now who’s buying?

2 Materials: Paper & Veneer

For this week’s assignment, I was inspired by sliding shoji doors and specifically, this photo of two maikos’ silhouettes behind the doors:

I have always found the traditional Japanese aesthetic very elegant. Again, to draw on my retirement dream of making miniature spaces and furniture, I decided I would use the bamboo box I didn’t use in the previous enclosure project as an interior space to attach sliding shoji doors.


Tracing Paper – Blick

Birch Veneer – Blick

Bamboo Container – Container Store

Elmer’s All Purpose Glue – Shop


Laser Cutter

Box Cutters

2″ Grid Ruler

I had a good experience with the laser cutter, so I referenced shoji door designs on pinterest (5) and created an Ai file with the measurements (approx. 5 5/8″ square) I needed to fit the box.


I laser cut four door panels in total to sandwich the tracing paper in between. Some squares didn’t end up cutting all the way through so I used my thin boxcutter to get them out. I thought it would be a tedious process, but it was actually somewhat therapeutic.

Another issue was the dimensions. I had to trim them down because they did not fit exactly. I was relieved the the wood veneer was not too difficult to cut.


After making sure all the panels fit, I cut the tracing paper to the same dimensions and glued it in between the laser-cut doors. This is the result:

I put a blue LED inside to see how it might look. I think it can be a very elegant light fixture so I might drill a hole to enclose a lightbulb. I am very happy with the result.

Wearable Enclosure

I thought last week’s class about rulers was my favorite until Ben taught us about enclosures. It’s always a wonderful treat to listen to someone talk about their passions with enthusiasm. It helps to put things into perspective and learn to appreciate them.


Leftover Acrylic  – Canal Plastic

Arcade Joystick – courtesy Roland

Bamboo Tray – Container Store

With finals in full swing, I planned on taking it easy and making the classic Luisa Pereira  enclosure to mount my joystick and house my Arduino. That didn’t come to fruition, however.

For PCOM/ICM finals, I am working with Simon Jensen on a wearable Heartbeat and Respiration monitor. On par with our timeline and this week’s user testing, it was time to enclose our respiration and heart sensors into a wearable. On Monday, I made a first prototype. Originally, I wanted to begin building it into a sports bra / tank because I want to begin thinking of the components as parts of a whole and understand how best to integrate them in an intuitive way. As a patternmaker, two of my primary concerns are fit and closures (how one gets into/out of a garment). I hit a roadblock thinking about how best to accommodate as many people as possible for user testing without having to make multiples. (Sizing standards exist for a reason and no size actually fits all.) Simon convinced me to focus on integrating the components first instead:

The design is essentially an adjustable belt that clips into position beneath the chest and above the abdomen. It has 2 channels for the respiration sensor and Polar belt to feed through:

It also has a pocket bag to house our feather board, LiPo battery, and bluetooth module. This is a video Simon documented of me wearing it beneath my shirt and testing it with data visualization of my breath:

I got great feedback from Simon and Aiden regarding size, comfort, sensor placement, and the adjustable strap closure. On my commute home, I sketched a design between falling asleep:

The next morning, I went to work and during my break, I drafted a pattern on CAD based on the measurements and feedback I received:

The pattern itself is quite simple. It is a rectangle on fold with 3/8″ seam allowances, clean finished edges and the channels are created by applying a topstitching. The top channel (1 1/8″) is for the respiration sensor, followed by an 1 1/2″ spacing between it and the Polar sensor channel to pocket the hardware. Notice the topstitching stops in the middle for alligator clip wires to attach to the respiration sensor.  I made a quick prototype out of muslin:

The trick to get all clean edges is by sewing an L-shape, flipping the remaining side through the pocket hole to sew together, then flipping it inside-out, then altogether right side out.

 Topstitching applied to create the channels:

I made some adjustments to the pattern and channel widths and remembered I had some leather leftover from a previous project:

Sadly, when I tried applying the final topstitching using the awful home-sewing machine in the ITP Soft Lab, it tore the leather. I know I’m not supposed to blame the machine and I know they aren’t equipped to sew leather to begin with, but I think our Soft Lab needs some upgrades. I almost lost my shit, but there’s no point moping and since I’ve already made three, I knew the fourth would come easier:

Back view w/ all parts enclosed:Front view w/ all parts enclosed:User testing today had a 6/7 success rate and received a lot of good feedback on our progress!

Rulers and Laser Cutter: Chairs

This week’s lesson on rulers is probably my favorite lesson thus far. I LOVE RULERS. I love drawing beautiful lines and curves with precision. I love knowing the measurements of things. They make me feel confident. My quality of life is enriched because of them.   I just love them…so much. These are my favorites, 2″ grid ruler and french curve:

I also love chairs, which is why I decided to make some miniatures with the laser cutter this week. It’s long been a fantasy of mine to wake up, put on my cardigan, make tea, and walk over to my in-house studio to make miniature furniture in my retirement. Getting to experience it this week proved to be as fun as I imagined.

I bought some scraps at Canal Plastics that were around 40″(l) x 1/8″(w) x 3″(h). With these parameters in mind, I started drawing in Illustrator. I’m pretty rusty so I reached out to resident Davíd Lockard for a review and some pointers. This was the first “pancake” prototype I made on Monday in opaque white acrylic. I bent the seat and legs with the acrylic bender, but the legs were pretty uneven so I didn’t bother gluing them on.

Luckily, Ben gave me a tip to make a jig for the legs when I spotted him in the shop today in preparation to make my actual prototype.

This is my Illustrator file. I decided to give myself two options for the legs (rounded vs. square) and cut another seat with etched style lines. Even though I referred to the laser cut instructions to change the stroke color (red – cut, blue – etch), it cut my etch lines. In retrospect, I should have put them in a separate layer and changed the print settings.

Cut like butter. I wish I could stare at lasers without glasses.


After cutting, I used the acrylic bender to add a natural bend to the seat front edge and back rest. This gives more dimension to the chair.


The challenging part is the legs. After Ben told me to make a jig, I went to the wood scraps to find a block with the right approx. height and width. I placed it under my pancake prototype to visualize the proportions (see photo 1) and used a ruler, the bandsaw + sander to make the jig. I set the measurements accordingly to the legs in my Illustrator file, and referred to the legs of my first prototype to account for bend tolerance. It worked pretty well, except I wish the jig was see-through or if I drew guidelines for where to place the legs when bending because one leg came out a little crooked.


The acrylic glue didn’t work very well for some reason. The bottle says it should adhere after 1~2 minutes, but that wasn’t the case. I ended up using clamps and I’m hoping for the best today. On the bright side, it can stand!

Multiples: Candle Holders

This week in Fabrication, I decided to shoot myself in the foot by choosing to make five candle holders that play with different wood grains inspired by this image:

I made some sketches and spoke to Ben about it in advance to plan for an efficient execution process. I proudly showed off the 97 cent sticks of wood I picked up on Sunday at Lowe’s. Ben warned that the shop was not well-equipped for me to make straight cuts to square off the rounded edges and the visual effect I want to create requires a lot of gluing. Wood glue takes 8 hours to dry. Of course, I didn’t listen and later came to regret everything.

I started out by drawing straight lines on the surface of the wood to use as guidelines to cut way the rounded corners. I figured since I was starting on my project early, it would be fine and I could get more practice on the bandsaw. In my mind, it was similar to sewing a seam. I likened the the rounded corners to 1/8″ seam allowances, the bandsaw to the needle, and the metal fence to the needle plate.

I quickly learned the bandsaw requires more force and control than a sewing machine. This process took forever and the fence was pretty unreliable, but I managed to get the “straight” corners I wanted by carefully following my guidelines. I sanded them down, sat down to play with the orientations of the wood grains and got to gluing. At some point the cap of the wood glue came off and exploded onto my shirt and hair. Lesson learned to always tie the hair back and wear an apron.


The next day, I realized it completely went over my head that since I essentially wanted to orient the three blocks of wood like the “π” (pi) symbol, I would have to glue the two smaller blocks together, which meant waiting another night for glue to dry, cut into sections, and gluing…and waiting…again. I joked with some classmates that I should just cut out 5 circles and tell Ben I made 5 pancakes instead. It was a good thing I started this project early.

With my trusty grid ruler, I cut the blocks into sections, leaving extra room for cutting and sanding.

This is how they turned out. Not perfect nor straight, but maybe that’s okay. We’ll just call them…”rustic”.

I still need to drill a hole in the center for the tea candle – 0.5 (H) x 1.5 (Dia), but I couldn’t find the right spade bit in the shop last night, so in the meantime, they are wooden paper weights. I learned a lot from this experience, and my goal for the next project is to design something as visually effective as is easy to execute. As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!”

Portable LED Flashlight

After doing a bit of research and watching a series of instructable videos, I got to sketching a possible option for a portable flashlight:

I wanted to create a half cylinder ring with a flat backing that houses a 3V battery. It has a keyhole motif I can stick the legs of a small LED through and mold the cathode/anode wires against the interior of the cylinder. The cathode is hot glued to the ground of a coin battery while the anode is fed through the base so when the ring is worn on one finger, the user can subtly turn on the light by applying pressure on the anode against the battery with another finger, thus completing a circuit. I made a quick mock-up using hot glue and cardboard. It worked, so I began thinking about materials. I thought it might be an interesting juxtaposition to use an aluminum half-cylinder and wooden base. I scavenged through the junk shelf to cobble together my BOM:

Wood (base)

Aluminum pipe (cylindrical segment)

Small screws (to attach cylindrical segment to wooden base)


3V Coin battery

Tools used:

Pipe cutter – cut to ring height

Dremel – cut pipe in half

Drill – drill holes in cylindrical segment for LED and battery

Drill Press – drill holes in cylindrical segment for LED and battery

Long story short, after the third prototype, I came to terms that I made too many compromises along the way due to lack of experience with materials and tools in the shop. Although the electronics side worked, they failed in aesthetic appeal.




I moved on. By then, I didn’t have a lot of time left for experimentation and marched back to the junk shelf for more inspiration. I couldn’t find anything I liked so I rummaged through the soft lab area and found a pair of earrings in a box containing small knick-knacks like beads and grommets.

Materials used:


3V Battery

LED fairy lights


Soldering iron

Wire cutters


Hot glue gun


First thing I did was test which wires are anode/cathode in the LED fairy lights. After I burned off the protective coating on the wire ends, I soldered extension wires to them for better reliability. I tested three soldering irons before actually getting somewhere because the tips were oxidized. I hot glued the cathode to ground and began decoratively wrapping the fairy lights around the hoop and creating a nest for the coin battery. One wire is wrapped to maintain a separation between the anode and the coin battery so it does not light up unless pressed down.


I think it’s successful in that it is portable in a less obvious way.