On my way to the cocoa shaker

yes, that is my goal, what is it? 

A mexican cocoa shaker

I find them not only crazy  beautiful, but incredibly useful...I mean foamed cocoa, what else would anyone need in life.

So before I aspire to even try and do one of those I went and did the skill builder in the wood lathe aiming to learn how to do the rings first.

I started off with a piece given by Ben, I have no idea what kinda wood it is, but it is very very hard wood

First ring was a a good success, it took me around 20 minutes to get it loose

After this first ring though I noticed that as I tried to work the wood it kept on stoping on me. So I sharpen the tools several times...worried I was doing something wrong because wood was still not being properly chieseled.

Then as I was still pushing into the piece the lathe stopped completely, terrified that I was doing something wrong I checked the whole set to discover I had been kicking the connection and finally got it unplugged.

But that was not my problem. As I incorporated myself I grabbed on my piece and discovered it was loose. That was the problem!! A little adjustment on the live part of the lathe and I was good to go. I did a big ring, worked the rest of the cubic part in the middle into a cylinder and did another ring that sadly broke.

So I would say I have the feel of what it takes to make a ring, but I am a LONG way away from making a decent one, and I say that moving forward I need to find a proper wood to work with, I do know that the mexican shakers are made out of ocote pine which is quite soft.

Stay tuned for the next atempt

Doll size automata == Sustraction midterm

Automatas are fun, not just because of what they can do, but because building them requires a lot of wit.

I've been obssesed with making a butterfly, so I figured that having the possibility of creating fairly small part would allow me to build a butterfly automaton that could work through a small music box.

This meant that I decided to use the Other Mill, following basically the same steps as I did for the skill builder. Using this time: plywood and MDF as materials.

Working on the Other Mill gave me not only the capability of creating really small parts, but also became an excellent tool for quick iterating. Something very important since my time contrains were very high due to the fact that I spent a really long time researching how to do my automata.

This meant that I went over the same shape several times, trying to understand how to calculate the sizes of my design on the CAD, because even though I was using the digital caliper all the time it is still very hard for me to imagine how much my piece would loose on its contour.. Since Other MIll's CAM is incredibly straight forward redesigning on Illustrator was the only time consuming part of the production.

These iterations let me test the weakeneses of the design, which I will try and improve, starting by the mechanism doing exactly what I want it to do instead of just an approximation.

Joints, its all about the math

Three things I learnt:

  1. That thing I said about vectorworks, Forget it! It is a PAIN, it makes no sense what it does to the designs
  2. When your instructor sais you should start working early, start working early
  3. Joints are all about math

So I started off as early as I could and with the easiest design I could imagine. two rectangles that were going to meet with a simple square. Apart from loosing my 0 point in MasterCam the cutting process went quite easy, but then it was the problem of the fact that I did not calculated the sickness both of my pieces had to sum up to.

Since the first try went fairly well I decided to make my final joint a "Halving with Elliptical Tenon" so I went for the design of a flat cube which will join in one of its "faces" with a circle.

And it was ANYTHING but easy.

I went through seven different digital designs, one cut that was way to large (my material couldn´t provide enough space for it), one design that was badly cut and finally my piece which due to its size needed to get a little bit of sanding.

After these two CNC experiences I come to be more and more convinced that the trick with CNC is all in the software side of it. My great battle this time was translating my design from one program to another into what I wanted it to be.

I tried a lot of times, and every time Master Cam translated my design into a set of lines and not many figures together. So I ended up moving to ilustrator to do the CAD, and since I had changed the origin point so many times it was really easy to translate my Illustratod design into MasterCam and then FINALLY the CNC Router.

Here I had one more mistake: I realeased one of my figures before I did the central cut, so of course the piece got barely poked but it did not got properlly cut.

So it was all about going back to mastercam and rearrengin the order of the operations in order to get my desired piece. 

CNC - a lesson

Three things I learnt in this skill builder:

  1. I love Adobe Illustrator but VectorWorks is not that bad - it has enough youtube documentation-
  2. Plan you designs with the amount of material that will be lost due to the bit. I ended up with a super thin useless wheel - useless for my purpose at least-
  3. Seeing how perfectly figures get cut out is soooo satisfying

BONUS...do not play with the bit's end...you will get cut and cover all your work in blood

So for this project I wanted to do a lamp shade for my brand new hanging lamp but nothing went according to my plan.


Following the process in the instructions was fairly easy, I just ran into two problems

  1. Once I clicked start the screen on the CAM requested a said Tool 1 == "Load Tool 1" flashed in red letters. John told me it meant that the machine was asking for a machine change, so he just clicked 'RESUME' and the process started.
  2. One of my pieces moved and was not cut properly, I was able to sand the cutting afterwards, but it could've been not good at all.


Even though the process went fairly ok. My design was very poorly made, to the point that my main piece came out useless due to the fact I did not plan ahead for the thickness of the bit and how much material I was going to loose, and after everything was cut I realized I needed a pocketing that I did not perform in the useless piece but that I could've planned for in the piece that I ended up using.

So the things I would like to learn going forward are:

  1. If while on the Master CAM I realize that two shapes are too close to each other, how can I move them apart
  2. If while on the Master CAM I realize there is a small shape missing from my design or a dimension is not working, is there a way to modify it?
  3. I am not a designer so I really do not know how to go about a design process, I tried playing around with cardboard, but the planning and measuring was increasingly demanding that I went for the simplest form I could imagine. And even then I do not feel satisfy with the result.

A ladder to the sky

Since the introduction to python included thinking about how arithmetic operations work I was immediatly reminded of the author of my favorite book Lewis Caroll who had a special like on creating math and word games. 

Upon looking for word games I could apply for my assigment I ran into Caroll's word ladders and since I was following the class notes to guide me in the assigment I realized I could make my text look like an actual ladder.

All this ladder thinking  made my mind land on "La Bamba" which is not an origianl song by Richie Valens, or the name of your neighborhood´s hard-shell "taco" joint. "La Bamba" is a traditional "Son Jarocho" a mexican music genre from Veracruz.

(Here are over a jaroch@s breaking a world record while dancing said song)

But I'm getting off track here. 

The reason I landed in La Bamba was because part of its lyrics go: "Para llegar al cielo se necesita, se necesita una escalera larga, una escalera larga ay arriba y arriba" ("To get to the sky a long ladder is needed, a long ladder and up an up"). And since I was planning of going up there I thought that the first person I would visit in the sky it would be my grandfather.

So I decided to develop a program that would build said impossible ladder through Carrolls technique of transforming one word into another, and since land has one too many letters and is way too overated as a place to dwell, I decided to start my climb up from the sea.

Because this ladder would be ultimately connecting my grandfather and me. I picked one of his favorite authors and one of her best poems: Emily Dickinson´s "The brain is wider than the sky" and one of my favorite poets and an adequate (and incredibly beautiful) poem of his: Pablo Neruda´s "The Sea"  

So I used four very basic programs written in python:

lineCopy.py - which prints all the lines that have less than 10 characters

diezletras.py - which prints the first ten letters of a sentence (perfect for form giving to the text)

swap.py - I did various iterations of this one in order to build Caroll's ladder process of exchanging the letters in sea and sky .

And two main .txt files for each of the poems. I tried to write a complex python program to try my talets but it turns out my talents are not quite up there yet. So I designed a process that went like this:

1. $ python swap.py < sky.txt > skydos.txt :

for line in sys.stdin:
    line = line.strip()
    print line.replace ('k', 'e')

2. $ python swapdos.py<skydos.txt>skytres.txt:

for line in sys.stdin:
    line = line.strip()
    print line.replace ('y', 'a')

3. $ python swapthree.py < sea.txt > seados.txt :

for line in sys.stdin:
    line = line.strip()
    print line.replace ('e', 'k')

4. $ python swapcuatro.py < seados.txt> seatres.txt:

for line in sys.stdin:
    line = line.strip()
    print line.replace ('a', 'y')

5. $ python linecopy.py < skytres.txt > skycuatro.txt:

for line in sys.stdin:
  line = line.strip()
  if len(line) >= 10:
      print line

6. $ python linecopy.py <seatres.txt > seacuatro.txt

7. I tried to use a .py cat imitator but it didn´t work to print both archives together. So just for this process I used unix´s cat

$ python cat.py< skycuatro.txt seacuatro.txt > escalera.txt:

for line in sys.stdin:
  line = line.strip()
  print line

$ cat skycuatro.txt seacuatro.txt>escalera.txt

8. $ python armar.py < escalera.txt > escaleraalcielo.txt

for line in sys.stdin:
    line = line.strip()
    first_five = line[:5]
    last_five = line[-5:]
    print first_five + last_five


the be sea
for - side
the ontain
with eside
the be sea
for   blue
the obsorb
as spts do
the bf god
for  pound
and tea do
as sasound
i nkks mk,
i donnkss,
if  iknck,
or onining
thk flkkp,
in sovk in
thk uyvks.
it?s nchkd
ys iflynkt
wkrk kyth;
no, imknt,
thk ssylt,
ynd tnful.
whyt synd.
it sk myn,
to hyfirk;
thk ccold,
thk gstyr,
thk s wyvk
thk q surk
ys y pths,
ynd mntly:
ys i mknt.

New semester, more fabrication AKA Subtraction begins AKA Hand router

Even though Shaper (see following video) is almost a reality in this world, learning how to use a hand router is to powertools for making what learning how to hammer is to basic wood-working...right?

So in this train of though our first power tool for the semester was this wonder maker cutter. The task: cut an incomplete circle.

Since there is only one hand-router available in our shop and the line waiting for its usage was long, being the first one of the day I knew I had to be fast, so I skiped the measure taking and the precise drawing and went right into cutting. These are the tools with which I started:

So after discovering that I had never used a driver and hence I was moving incredibly slowly in figuring out which bit to use and how to go about it I ginally got to set up the working space and traced my lines

Then came the getting the router ready. It is impressive how much you learn by doing, what was done in 15sec in class took me a solid 5minutes to figure out

And when I finally got the bit in, and the whole router assambled and working I went and placed the acrylic jig in the silliest way possible. Fixed that and started off with the shown rise

A couple of more turns, another go, and the curve part of my cut was done, now onto the straight line: Easy, I mark it and I fix the jig down to follow along.

WRONG...again, there was no way for the router to follow that line whitout breaking the jig or just going off...fixed this position and went ahead with the cutting


So throughout the process some new tools were added to making this the final roster (yes that is the vacum cleaner):

Eventhough the job was done: YAY! and I didn´t had to break my head with something awesome and creative to do, I still felt disatisfied with just having a something, so I decided to try and imprint some function to this something. This meant using the band saw, laser cutter, band sander and sand paper (felt so nice to breeze through all these tools).

And then: VOILA, a new window to the world


  • How a hand router is put together.
  • How satisfying it is tu cut with a jig attached to the hand router.
  • I need to use the driver more often.


  • It is so nice to know what you are doing and just go ahead and do it.
  • Using the noise cancelling ear covers takes me to a land of ZEN where I can work fast and focused.
  • Using the hand router is chiseling in 2D.


  • MUST GET A CENTER PUNCH (if you were wondering what the hammer was used for, that is what)
  • Laser cutting is chiseling in 2D with a precission machine: patience is required.




6. For the final act: Mounting motors

Artschool is expensive: that seems to be the general agreement. If you are going to be making stuff you are going to be spending big bucks in fancy materials.

This class has taught me a completly different way, I have learnt that as important as the proper tools are, to have a clear knowledge o the result you are going for is incredibly more important than the materials you are going to be building/fabricating with. Genious actually is materialized through limitations.

As I mentioned in the enclosure post it has been inevitable to merge Pcomp final and Fabrication, and is actually that project what I'm continuing for this final delivery.

But, what is all this talk about material costs and solving problems within scarcity about?

The class before this delivery we were introduced to several pre-fab options to mount motors, connect thei shafts to the moving mechanism and even moving mechanisms themselves. All magnificent options to create incredible finalized projects but the question is: How much of a finalized project are we turning in?

I know for sure that regardless of all the work that has been put into designing, prototyping, building, playtesting and correcting, what is going to be shown is still a product in process. Which is getting to a quite decent and solid place as a project, but not a finalized project yet.

And as such it deserves to be treated with respect and be properly built, but it is not yet ready to deserve big bucks to be poured into it,

But enough talk and more show. So for the sake of this argument this motor mounting was built with nothing but humble materials and knowledge from the proper techniques learnt in class.

And that is that, a lot of technique, a little of investment, and a motor that is perfectly fixed and performs wonderfully.

5. The two materials Medeley

This piece starts off with rythm, provided by an off the chart project, The Flashlight Beta. With its main tune delivered by cardboard and plastic the orquestation of water, oil, a basic LED circuit and a lot of Hot Glue, gives way to the rythmic part of the composition.

A pair of artificial lungs made out of two humble materials show how can life can be sprung out of the simpliest of forms if they are stroke correctly. So in this way traslucent tape and pillow filling rise the beat of this medeley.

And to bring everything to an end: the broom rack. A beautiful piece of oak wood (interestingly soft and firm at the same time) and wire make up a very useful household device. 

Actually...scratch that - AKA The Final II

This is the deal...finals are hard, finals happen all at the same time, finals have my head spinning.

We've gone over the subject of how hard it has been for me to up my coding skills, I was hoping to be able to apply what I had to my soundscape idea, turns out I wasn't even able to scratch the surface of a semi built project. So in the spirit of efficency and pragmatism, I recovered my midterm sketch and decided to make it grow. 

Project in question:

My goal for the final? Expand the conversation this initial fortune teller is able to engage in, into a more extended conversation that will maintain the original idea of inviting a reflection towards thinking of our hopes and dreams for the future within the world we exist in.

Now committed to this project I went along and created a mockup for user testing, from which I've extracted excellent ideas to further develop this website in none less than ONE WEEK!!