I started blogging while in art school as a way to document the work I was doing in class. Towards my thesis year, this drastically tapered off due to my workload, and was pretty much forgotten about after graduating as my work picked up. My work is still keeping me busy, but I miss having a non-social media outlet for talking about my work and assorted personal projects. So now after nearly a year of not posting, let me attempt to catch up.
The largest leap in my personal art practice has been indulging my non-video interests. Maybe in the same vein as a house painter with a shabby exterior, or mechanic with a poor running car, my personal work has been mostly devoid of video projects save for one with Lou Watson. I have been playing with my turntables more, building extensively upgraded RC cars, upgrading things on my real cars, drawing, and most notably have been learning how to use my new CNC machine (CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t until googling it just now). I’ve taken several 3d modelling classes while in junior college and done very little since then. But, it created a little vacuum in my brain that activated my desire to design things on the computer for use in the real world.
Once the market started delivering cheap CNC machines for the hobbyist I was quick to justify a reason to buy one. The Inventables X-Carve popped up in my feed somehow and hooked me. After setting it up, and making a couple of tchotchkes from some of my old vector files, I was quickly over it with my brain wanting more. Fortunately my time at PNCA qualified me for free Autodesk account where I was able to download Fusion 360. The program took a little mental gear shifting from my experience with Autodesk’s Maya as far as modeling and interface went. Navigating the difference was a walk in the park compared to the CAM interface (CAM, Computer Aided Manufacturing). The learning process (still in progress) cost a chunk in broken bits and ruined material. Probably about $300 and counting as of this writing.
The first “real” project with the CNC was to make some decorations for Christmas. As an atheist that looks at the holiday critically, I avoid decorating the house with disposable or otherwise resource-wasting ornaments. Almost sarcastically I decided to make decorations using plywood. The design was simple, ever decreasing sized triangles with rounded corners, mirrored, with circles removed to look like bulbs. Using a provided Inventables tool that adds an interlocking slot into parts, I was able to finalize the design and cut it out. The final result looked lovely in my sunroom on our big oak dining table, and inspired me to make more things.
Once the X Carve showed up, this was the first thing I wanted to tackle, and became my first project using Fusion 360. It’s proven to be the hardest thing for me to make so far despite being a simple concept. As one of the billions that start their day with a requisite amount of quality coffee, I exclusively use an Aeropress for making my coffee. This means that when I’m at my most bleary eyed, I have to navigate using a half dozen plastic pieces of the coffee maker. This quickly drove me to find an organization solution. I found a stand on Amazon. It left a world of things to be desired. It was made of bamboo, with holes and recesses that poorly fit the Aeropress parts. The overall design was lazy and not durable. As something that I start every day with, it was far from inspiring.
I knew that I wanted it to be made from hardwood, something dense and substantial so that it wasn’t prone to falling over as I blindly stumble around it while hardly woke. I also wanted the parts of the Aeropress to be presented in a way reflective of the order in which I use them. Lastly, no hardware. The last part became a major source in the design of the stand. I had been watching a ton of Ishitani Furniture videos on Youtube and was very inspired by their work. This lead me to the hardware-less design using plugs (tsugite).
Currently the project is still underway, with design revisions in the works and the current version isn’t meeting my morning scrutiny.
Ever since it opened up in East Portland, I’ve been a fan of the bottle shop NWIPA. Simply put, at the time of their opening, they were the best thing that far out of the city center. The bottle shop has a turntable and shelf of customer provided records on loan. The name and logo is meant to draw a line to Compton’s infamous N.W.A. This with the fact that it’s firmly located in the neighborhood that was my graffiti tagging proving grounds as a teenager long had me wanting to make something that tied all that together. I had long wanted to make something using the shop’s name and my classical Portland-derived handstyle. I spent about an hour trying different letter style combinations and really didn’t come up with something that moved me.
Thanks to the miracle of Illustrator, I was able to write something passable, and clean it up to my vision of perfection. Once I had a vector version of the tagged name, I brought it into Fusion 360 and exploded it into a 3d object. I then took 3 layers of plywood and glued them together, measured the heights of the different finished layers, and then set the heights of different parts of the 3d model to match. After a lot of trial and error, I was able to properly set up the CAM file and set the machine to carve it.
The results were impressive, but not perfect. I then took a chisel and used the sharp edge perpendicular to the wood and shaved off the machine marks and imperfections to reveal a smoothed rough finish on the wood. This method is now cemented as my favorite way to finish a wooden surface as nothing else brings out the look and feel of the wood grain like shaving it (another Ishitani inspired choice).