4Makers: Ultra-Make Site, Cardboard Art, Design Axioms

Odds of me getting the major speed increase, CMS platform change –  on UrbanSurvival done this weekend?  Zero. Reason?  Competing priorities which (frankly) are more fun.

This morning we have three “topics from the heart.”  All centered around that which we do that makes us human.  Other than crows (and a few other animals) humans are differentiated by their abilities of tool use and outcom-visualization.

Our cat Zeus doesn’t play poker well, because he can’t visualize odds, correctly.  (I cheat, too, but that’s another tale….)

As with any other genetic mutation, the ‘right course of action’ to survive is to extend our abilities along the lines of the genetic blooper.  Cats got ‘short-shuffled’ in math…

Humans own math.  Does it lead to Greatness as a species?  Or, is it a Darwinian dead-end?   In many cases, ‘genetic variations’ (like Microsoft GW-Basic) are transitional tools.  Not an end-point for development.  But, in order to  fully evolve in the direction, MBASIC had to “teach the developer apes” about programming before C# and other languages (side of Activex? Python, then?) could evolve.

We could go down this “Ure’s Darwinian ‘UrbanSurvival of the Fittest’ track all day – because it applies to so much in life (all aspects of life are on development conveyor belts, you see) including computer code, political processes, academic theories, and – oh yeah – this morning’s topic.

Which is?  (This post on our Ultra-Make.com website, too.) We will be “dual-purposing several Sunday columns to come.  I want to lay out getting into 3D printing.  If you’ve been looking for a good intro to 3D printing and how to play on that field, I hope this is it.  Send lots of questions!

Evolution of ‘Shops’ and ‘Making’

Before you can fully wrap your head around 3D printing – and begin to internally digest disruptive manufacturing –  it’s useful to understand the Darwinian (or developmental) aspects of how Humans ‘creating’ and ‘making’ came about.

We’ll skip over the earliest evolutionary steps:  Wrapping up control of fire, then figuring out basic metallurgy, and then serious woodworking.  But. you’ll see – on inspection – a nice Darwinian species evolution in all these processes as you look.

As ‘Modern Makers’ it’s all majestic, but the GINORMOUS change has occurred in the home (or residential) workshops primarily from 1900 to now.

The Home Shop Revolution

Over the last 100-years, the home shop has gone through one evolutionary cycle whose highlights included:

  • Arrival of “standard power” (110 VAC was not common until the 1920’s and ‘the build’ didn’t complete until the Rural Electrification Administration finished its projects over the years following WWII.  Remnants remain as the Rural Utilities Service in the Dept. of Agriculture even now.
  • Standard Materials: In the 1940’s, if you went to a lumber yard and ordered a “2-by-4” it was dependent on yard what you would get.  A regular “rough-sawn” 2-by-4 is 2″ by 4″. However, the modern measure is 1-1/2″ by 3-1/2″-inches.  The evolutionary steps?  S1S (sanded one side) and S2S (sanded two sides).
  • New Materials:  Foremost of which is drywall.  As the Wiki on this explains, “Gypsum board evolved between 1910 and 1930 beginning with wrapped board edges. Enter paper facing. In 1910 United States Gypsum Corporation bought Sackett Plaster Board Company and by 1917 introduced Sheetrock. Providing efficiency of installation, it was developed additionally as a measure of fire resistance.”  Unlike plaster – which loves lath and rough surfaces, sheetrock likes smooth framing.
  • New Tools:  Circular (Skil Saws), table saws, shaper tables, and more. Sears Craftsman brand became the de facto home standard.  Home brands included the icons:  Skil, Craftsman, Wards, King-Seeley, ToolKraft, Black & Decker…

Early Making Was Wood-Oriented

As a process map (we love these!) there were generally only four things going on in the home shop through much of the last century:

Not particularly difficult, is it?  This is what a lot of us “seasoned citizens” came up on:  Basic shop operations.  Two people could frame a small house using 8 or 10-point saws in a single day.  Skill levels were high. Mainly in wood.

Today, two framers can knock-out a house 2-3 times the size and more complicated framing (advanced rooflines, hip roofs and such) and not be particularly put-out.  Stud lumber is pre-cut to accommodate 8-foot ceilings with headers and footers added, for example.  And saws?  OMG – Two framers with worm-drive Skil saws is like watching ballet!  I mentioned air powered framing nailers, right?

The ‘Making’ Changed

By the end of the Second World War, the home shop became a glorious place where in addition to woodworking, metal working tools showed up.

Beginning in the mid 1930s, Popular Mechanics began ‘How-To’ articles on how to make more metal-working tools.  The PM  Shop Notes series is still savory reading for committed Makers.

If you’re interested, CD collections can be found on eBay for under $20-bucks.  Some of these offer 1905 to 1930  Shop Notes.  And single copies of print editions are also available.

What Changed About Making?

Short list?

  • Soldering and Brazing:  These became common as the use of copper pipe in lieu of galvanized (or black iron) pipe made “pipefitting” into a measure, cut, join *(by solder or brazing), and finish (usually by having a beer, lol.).
  • Gas Welding:  The arrival of small portable acetylene welding rigs.  I saw my first  Victor regulator set-up in 8th grade (before lawyers ran school districts, working people did! Lawyers and Insurance killed the Industrial Arts!).  It was love at first sight!  Oxyacetylene art has been an often-suppressed lifetime source of pleasure.
  • Electric Welding, too:  Came to farms first as the iconic Lincoln tombstone looking 220 V arc rig.
  • Basic Fiberglass.  Just a standard 2-part (resin-hardener) and the glass matts shed like hell and made one itch for weeks, but plastic was evolving into a home- use product.

More Recent Home Shop Tools

Just this short list here, or we could be here all day:

  • Additive tools included FDM plastic printers.
  • Cutting tools included Plasma Cutters.
  • And one of our electronic faves:  CNC milling machines.

Which is what the Ultra-Make site is all about…

Modern Making Processes

Unlike the simple measure, cut, join, finish of the previous century, the modern Maker has to navigate through many more complicated decisions:


  • The Maker has a “customer” (even if Self).
  • The customer has a product vision to render.
  • But, in what material(s)?
  • And with what kind of ‘making’ constraints?
  • Recycled or new materials?
  • Is it a “one-off”?
  • Is it a “one-time”?
  • Will we make more and sell ’em?

At the end of the rat maze, a ‘Making Path’ comes into view:


The Process Orientation

As an extreme simplification:  Making a 3D project consists of:

  • Defining a product.
  • Getting a design as a stereolithography file (.STL)
    • Which are premade and available from Thingiverse or Yeggi as search start points.
    • OR you can make your own design with TinkerCad or similar.  Dozens of choices!
  • Then you “slice” the .STL file so that your printer can render it correctly.
  • Load sliced filed into 3D printer.
  • Recheck bed leveling
  • Print
  • Finish (take off print ‘flashing’) and deliver.

CNC is different:

  • You get a design or make one.
  • Convert to GRBL Code
  • Load
  • Run

The more friendly info is on the Wikipedia page here:

“G-code is a language in which people tell computerized machine tools how to make something. The “how” is defined by G-code instructions provided to a machine controller (industrial computer) that tells the motors where to move, how fast to move, and what path to follow. The two most common situations are that, within a machine tool such as a lathe or mill, a cutting tool is moved according to these instructions through a toolpath cutting away material to leave only the finished workpiece and/or, an unfinished workpiece is precisely positioned in any of up to nine axes.”

Simple!  (Well, maybe not, but the learning is the fun…)

There are a million, or so, ins and outs – devil’s always in the details.  Just remember, smaller printers can give more accurate prints than big ones.  And when comes to printers like so much else in life?  You tend to get what you pay for!

What to do next?

On to more posts on the Ultra-Make site!

I will be “serializing” a couple of 3D machine builds in November on Ultra-Make ( Ender 3 ) ($200-class printer) and in December (Creality CR-10 V2). ($500-class printer)

Carboard Perfection

Long-time reader Ken has finished (99%) his cardboard making project.  Turning this box:

Into this bar for a college student in his family:

His notes:

“Well it’s pretty much done. I just have to attach the tap tower and the watermelon party tap.. and three small pieces of cardboard toast as trim.

The grandson is anxious for it..

I do like how the angry orchard box made a header.. it will hold and gas a divider for six two liter bottles .

The tap tower is simply a document tube.”

Ken is a Magician!

One of the reasons I’ve read so many books on (Disney) Imagineering is that I want to “own” some of their magic.  When I happened to get a look at my favorite ride one day *(Pirates of the Caribbean) from an unusual angle – and saw the exterior was just a big white flat-sided, flat-roofed warehouse looking building….  Well, I wanted some of that magic in my home, by God…

Slowly, over time, a “movie set” home appeared inside our old “trailer in the woods.”  The main thing, as co-conspiring wife Elaine puts it:  “We want to live in a home where every room transports you to a different mental space…

The only obstacle – ever – is that most people don’t challenge the idea of “living in a box.”  Which is why we have a Trader Vic’s themed dining room while most people eat in a box.  Reeds and rum, thanks.

Even the outside of my office has been “themed” as it occurred to me:

Quirky, did you say???  We like quirky….quirky is part of “the magic!”

Quirky is hard to put into words.  It’s a cuing system that tells the brain “Hey, this is somewhere ELSE….”  

In small doses of cuing, it’s “interior design.”  In larger doses, it becomes immersive.  And that’s what we like – immersed.  We can’t age if we’re not here, can we?

Design Axioms

I’m starting to collect “design axioms” because when people begin to design things intending to render in 3D, they often don’t get designs perfect.

Since a printed (bought online) center ham radio antenna insulator failed in the winds this week, I found my second design axiom:

“Extreme caution using light “infill” in structural prints.”

The only other design axiom (this was from Pappy back in the day) which has saved my bacon uncountable times?

“Design so fasteners can Fail.”

This is why you ALWAYS put drywall ceilings in FIRST if you’re a serious Maker.  So if there’s drywall screw fastener failures, the ceiling joint will be held up by the wall-mounted sheet.  (The ceiling overlaps).

This kind of thinking is SO obvious, but it’s why some drywall looks like shit in 20 years – all crappy joints.  While other looking tight as ever…

If you have design axioms, please post them as a comment…

Off to fix and “too much 10% infill in the wrong place error” and get a ham radio antenna up.

Write when you make something – even if it’s only money,


29 thoughts on “4Makers: Ultra-Make Site, Cardboard Art, Design Axioms”

  1. LOL he wants a couch and chair now… end tables.. LOL..I want him to make it though this time I will show him what little bit I know..
    and a grand daughter wants two dressers for my great grand kids…( I will incorporate a doll house in the two dressers still working on the idea)LOL.. the violin is going to be next though.. I have a couple of frosted flakes boxes with tony the tiger on them…It’s GRRREAT

    • god it is hard to think back at that dam box and visualize it the way it was seeing it today .. took longer than wood though. You always have to wait till the glue dries..

      someone was telling me about toilet paper sculptures to..

  2. As you know George, we have recycled at least 50% of materials we use at our farm – from pallet lumber used as trim to creosote poles for barns, tin, and RR ties to all the plumbing fixtures. We recycled old burial vaults for making veggie grow beds set waist high for “old man” access. The list is long.

    This week, I rented a forklift for the farm, and took delivery of 25 granite blocks that are 4’x4’x2′. I put them in the pasture next door. They are going to become a dam or two – one just to raise the level of our spring-fed creek so we can draw water for irrigation and the other to make a pond in a blind gully behind the farmhouse.

    These blocks cost us nothing – the company using them could not find disposal (concrete recycling machines choked on the stronger granite blocks) and their shop was overrun with these blocks – they paid for the shipping to our farm and even half the forklift rental!

    I will have to rent more heavy eqpt to get this done, but from where I sit – “making” does not necessarily need to be a micro thing. And recycling needs to be pushed – the sunk energy cost in materials that can be re-purposed is distributed longer in the timeline, and while there may be some additional labor, making anything new requires as much or more.

    My Toyota FJ Cruiser just passed the 360K mileage mark. It was paid for in 2012, and average cost/year for maintaining is running about $1000, or around $80/mn all in – try that with a new vehicle.

    Our F250 is about to broach 300K miles, and cost for it is running even less per month.

    Our 2001 Honda Ranchers are averaging cost of around $10/mn.

    If you are handy at all, recycling and retooling older things pays very well, and you can upgrade the weak links as you see them. While this isn’t “making” it is sensible and very economical. Maybe “Re-Making” ought to be a thing?

    • marvelous remarks! (For those who don’t figure it, 80/mn is $80/month, not 80-million. OM2 is NOT the Fed)
      Ultra-Remake would be a kick ass web site….wanna partner and do content?

    • “These blocks cost us nothing – the company using them could not find disposal (concrete recycling machines choked on the stronger granite blocks) and their shop was overrun with these blocks ”

      I could never get that lucky. Here in Indiana, you pay for every. Little. Thing. You can donate all you want, but being on the receiving end is rare. I’d give an awful lot to have those for my pond area.

  3. Great Post! I checked out your Ultra-Make site the other day, and ended up reading it all. If I wasn’t such an old dog I’d be very tempted to learn some new tricks with these neat new toys/er tools. I am thinking about writing a not too far in the future story which occurs during the next industrial revolution.

  4. From a wise old CAD teacher: (ht JD Mather)
    “Always do the design twice. The first time is for learning, the second time you’ll avoid all the pitfalls you learned about the first time”.

    As a CAD teacher myself, this is often the biggest hurdle in CAD design. People get an idea, they don’t know the software tool, but they can hack something that looks close, so their hope goes up and they spend hours trying to perfect the faulty design. Polishing a turd as it were.

    When I can convince them to redo it, and point out the pitfalls, they always do better. This is a habit of “breaking down the self” that a lot of people don’t do when learning.

    Side note, was in the familiar dream realms last night at the usual convention center/shopping mall. This time with my family, which was new. Over the last decade or so the mall has gone from nearly out of business with only a few stores open, to gradually have more and more occupants each time I’m there, which is a few times a year.

    This time it was roaring full occupancy, the hotel (portal) was busy and unusually I went back and forth in it repeatedly. In and out of the tower, in and out of the mall, in and out of the streets. The concern: it was all in preparation for “tomorrow” the “convention” starts. In my mind it would be wall to wall conventioneers, like CES or something. Also, while walking the streets I did construction in real time (a giant walkway over a short building) and then used the walkway. That was new too. Thinning of the veil it seems, for me anyway. Never had so much control. And no anxiety to drive my actions, just relaxed and exploring.

    • I need to take a class or two and learn the software.. I would love to have a cnc and 3d printer

  5. George

    “Write when you make something”

    Most of my projects tend to be electronic in nature and some have been rather exotic and required a real circuit board. There are companies available to the general public who will do short run printed circuit boards. They will even provide you with the CAD software for free. The one I have used on several occasions is ExpressPCB. The prices are generally based on board size and number of holes for connections. For high speed circuits there is no substitute for a properly designed circuit board. A rats nest of wires will not work! There is enough demand for this kind of service from start up projects and private individuals that several companies provide this service.

    The web site of ExpressPCB is: https://www.expresspcb.com/

  6. george
    laser scan your nose, then make a thin ‘skin’ that covers and looks exactly like your nose, design a clippy thing that squeezes the nose bridge or attaches to glasses, and Voila!… total sunblock without goo. celebrities could have them professionally decorated :)

  7. George
    You need to darken up the comment text. My old eyes are having a tough time reading the text.

  8. Just when George new site Is up an going then along comes grid going down to cover up the Bidens mess. Will it happen …maybe

    • that one is just getting deeper and deeper.. and darker as it goes.. scary.. really scary if you consider that they were using AF2 and brought the big guy along with to seal the deal.. and this very well could be our new extreme leader..

  9. george
    i had a face scan and the beginning of the development. i figured you could do it in kiosks, like the old photo booths. develop a 3d input for the scanned grid, have a ‘nose bridge clip already built you can integrate into the skin scan, and make it slightly hook into the nostrils, nothing intrusive though. imagine the decorative possibilities… like the bad guy in Cat Ballou with the silver nose, all possible. in my ‘other life’ we were using 3D printing practically as soon as it was invented. Compared with hand making models, then cutting steel at great expense and time, then waiting to see how it fit or worked, we had parts that functioned in a week for 500$. a revolution in cost.
    the nose knows. stop the mess.

  10. Agree with Rocket Mike,,,,the text is rather faint, for lack of a better word at the moment. The old eyes are straining.

  11. Fusion 360 from Autodesk is free for makers and has CNC built right into the application. Design and make (print or CAM). Lots of other bells and whistles. Extensive tutorials available in product.

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