Fab Final: The BearBooth Box

For my final fabrication final, I decided to combine pcomp and fabrication.

Paula and I are creating an infinity mirror photo booth that is triggered by a soft-switch chin rest. The photo booth is turns the user into a bear and also contains servo motor spinning  bears .

The project revolves around the fabrication of a box that is lined with mirrors and this is what I set out to make for this final project.

To save money, we decided to use silver, acrylic mirrors from Canal Plastics. It also seemed infinitely easier to cut acrylic rather than mirrors.

We decided to cut the acrylic first and then build the box around the measurements of the acrylic to ensure that the panels would fit perfectly. Since the acrylic panels are sold 32”x18”, we decided to make a cube and cut the panels into 2-16” x 18”.  Unfortunately, our Illustrator file was off or the laser was and we ended up with 2-16.5” x 18” panels and 2-15.5” x 18” panels.IMG_5318

We held these together with corner clamps to get a better sense of the final dimensions and how the acrylic panels would sit against one another.

For our box, we needed a panel that had an opening for a face to peer inside. We needed the hole to be just big enough for the face as the chin resting on the edge of this hole would serve as the switch. If the hole was too big, it would be more difficult to trigger the system.

Based on our prototype, we decided to laser a 7”x9” hole for the face. Not only did this prove to be too big, but the laser was absurdly dirty and did not cut the acrylic well and as a result, we ended up breaking our panel trying to snap the cut portion out.IMG_5322

We glued it back together with acrylic glue to test it out in the box, nonetheless. This was insanely useful.

We next measured a panel for the bottom so that the side panels would sit on top of the bottom acrylic piece.


The entire next day we dedicated to the actual fabrication of the box using 1/2” plywood. A fellow student, Katie Tackas, who is part time at ITP and works as a set designer at NYU offered to help with the process and even offered use of her shop on Saturday. I’m stating it here for the record that Katie is the Queen of Fabrication!

While we had some help with this project, I undoubtedly learned the most about intelligent fabrication from this project and this woman. Plus we got to use some new tools.

We decided to make a box with beveled edges so that we could build the box exactly around the measurements of the acrylic.

The Plan
The Plan

We used the arm saw to cut some plywood sheets down to size. We left some extra material so we could adjust while beveling the edges.

Cutting the walls of the box with the arm saw
Cutting the walls of the box with the arm saw
more arm sawing
more arm sawing

Next, we tackled the infamous beveled edges. We wanted to use the table saw to tackle this job, but unfortunately, the saw was having problems sitting at a 45 degree angle.

For Plan B, we decided to use the Miter Saw. The Miter Saw in Katie’s shop is a compound miter saw which allowed us to angle it at 45 degrees in either direction. Since the side panels of the box were longer than the arm of the miter saw would extend, we had to make an initial cut and then rotate the panel to get the entire length. Miter Saw

After cutting one side in a bevel, we went back and measured exactly where the other 45 degree bevel needed to be so that the face of the panel would fit the acrylic exactly.

Exactly measuring the 2nd bevel
Exactly measuring the 2nd bevel

Somewhat beautiful beveled edges

While making these beveled edges and working with Katie, it really hit home that nothing is ever perfect and that there are always ways to fix and work with the imperfections…like putty.










We assembled the box using wood glue and a pneumatic brad gun to keep it together. Having pneumatic tools was incredibly useful for this project!


Katie shows us how to use the brad gun
Katie shows us how to use the brad gun
Discovering the joys of a table saw
Discovering the joys of a table saw

Next, we cut a bottom piece so that the sides would fit on top of this panel and we used the table saw.

Next, we fitted the acrylic to the sides and it fit almost perfectly, except that we had a few extra mm on the sides. To fix this, we added a bit of particle board to the side to account for that extra space.


Next, we needed to cut a hole for the face. To do this, we used a jigsaw, my absolute new favorite tool!!


Next, we started finishing the box by sanding with a power sander and filling in any brad gun holes or misaligned beveled edges with putty.


Last but not least, we used 1/4” plywood to create a top. We wanted the box to be accessible to us easily while we were building it and in case we needed to get in and adjust any elements. Therefore, we decided to add a single hinge to the side using very small wood screws.IMG_3783


As you can see above, we had a bit of the screws poking through the lid. I suggested we cut them off using snips, but Katie decided to give us a show and sand them down.IMG_3791

Finally, we had a box!!! When we added the acrylic mirrors, it looked much better than we imagined.IMG_3792IMG_3795



The next day, I painted the box, which was too big to fit into the fumehood, but it more than fit on the ample ledge outside the window in the shop.IMG_5426 (1)

The next step in our project was mounting motors. We wanted to mount the motors on the back of the box, which meant making holes in both the box and the lining acrylic.

We decided to make perfectly snug holes in the acrylic so that just the front of the motors peeked out and then larger holes in the wooden box for the backs of the motors and the wires to come out.

We first made holes using a drill in the box (and attached particle board).

Holes aligning with the laser cut acrylic
Holes aligning with the laser cut acrylic


Next, we used the jigsaw (the best!) to open the holes. We had to use a technique that Gabe showed us which involved running the jigsaw in parallel to the last piece we cut because it was impossible to turn the blade.


Finally, we used the jigsaw to cut a piece in the top for the camera to fit.


Adding the acrylic panels with liquid nails:


We are still in the process of mounting the motors, but I am extremely happy with the way the box came out and very grateful to Katie for her guidance!

Fab5: Mixed Materials

This week, while not the most successful, was one in which I learned a lot, particularly because I got my hands dirtier than normal.

Given we had to use 2 materials and they could not be either plywood or acrylic, I definitely knew I wanted to use some metal.

I ordered a sheet of copper with the intention of making a wood/copper candelabra , but I changed my mind.


For my pcomp project, I would love to build an motorized automata.


This is definitely gong to be the last step in the project (if we get to it), but I really think it would bring the project to life.

I thought I would use this opportunity to try and build one.

I found some beautiful scraps of wood in the shop to use for the base of the structure and screwed these together.

cool scraps
cool scraps


I also used a leftover piece of dowel and some smaller dowels to create the moving legs of the automata. I drilled snug pockets and then glued the 2 together.

dowels for days
dowels for days


The next day, I found some more scrap wood materials in the shop. With finals, it’s a goldmine right now. I also picked up a couple of larger dowels for the rotating mechanism, some wood screws, and copper wire.IMG_5256

In order to drill the holes for the rotating dowels into the sides of the base, I had to unscrew the base — I initially thought I could just swivel the legs around and use the drill press, but the dimensions did not work.

I used a 3/8 drill bit to make holes in the base and in the circular pieces that would be affixed to the rotating dowel that would move the legs up and down. (I found the circular pieces in the shop)

This went relatively smoothly, but when I went to connect the re-screw on the base using the pre-existing holes, I ran into issues. I think most of these were power-drill based, but maybe something to do with the thread?IMG_5262

clamps + wood glue
clamps + wood glue

IMG_5267 IMG_5268

The main things I learned in making an automata were that the base on which the moving parts sit need to be large enough to cover the rotating dowels underneath, otherwise, the bottom parts snag and drag. Using the copper sheet actually worked well because I could bend the metal to arch around the dowel and thus, keep the legs in place.


I also did not make the rotating dowel cross-sections large enough. The up and down effect is fairly minimal because of the small radius of the dowels. I should have used larger pieces to create more of an effect.


Things I learned:
The importance of pilot holes
Which buttons reverse the power drill and which buttons do seemingly nothing (well-earned lesson)
The power of wood glue and clamps
When in doubt, drop the power drill and grab a screwdriver

Things I would like to understand better:
How to more interestingly shape and sand the copper sheet I had
When to use which screw re threading
How long it takes to power a drill battery.

In the end, I ended up with a good learning experience/objet d’art.

Fab4: Enclosures

This week we were to create an enclosure with for an electronics project that included multiple components.

I really wished I would have had this assignment earlier in the semester while we were making small pcomp projects as a nice enclosure would have been perfect.

While I do need an enclosure for my pcomp final, I’m not at the point of actually fabricating the wood box.

So in lieu of a full construction project, I decided to take the advice of using pre-fab enclosures. I ordered some on/off, panel-mount toggle switches from DigiKey literally the day after class, but as per-usual, the shipment did not arrive in time. In the future, I sadly may have to defer to the online ordering overlord that is Amazon to get these weekly projects done in time. Or an actual store, which I’ve read about.

In my mind, I would have loved to create an oversized object with 100’s of toggle switches, but time and money didn’t really allow for such a project this week.

I picked up one of those handy gum containers from Walgreens and decided to mount a few potentiometers on it. IMG_5163

I used a hand drill to make the holes, but I’m not sure this was the best option given the soft, bendable aluminum. The hole was a bit shredded from the drill and the surface was warped. In retrospect, I should have used a sacrificial/stabilizing block of wood behind it.IMG_5164IMG_5165

Next, I added an LED and sanded the container so that I could spray paint it afterward.IMG_5166

Finally, I sprayed it with a white base coat and then a purple stray. IMG_5173

The material did not cover very well and the white layer was still a bit tacky, so it appears speckled. I do kind of like it, however. As of now, it is non-functional, but full of potential!

This was admittedly a quickly fabricated project and not one that I was particularly enthusiastic about, though I see the usefulness. I think I will really put my enclosure fabrication skills to the test in the coming weeks and at that point, I’m sure I will coming knocking on your door, Ben!

Fab3: Lasers!

This week, we were tasked with using the laser cutter to create a thing.

A project I’ve wanted to do for a while is decorate one wall in my kitchen with stamps, but haven’t been able to find the perfect design or dimensions. Seeing as the laser cutter can cut rubber, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make my own. Since it was for my kitchen, I was drawn to something food themed.

During my visual language class the last 7 weeks, a fellow classmate decided to make a wooden business cards with his face engraved on the front. There was something particularly humors and delightful about a person’s likeness etched a black and white image with a laser.

The combination of the above made me recall a particular subreddit entitled Celebrity Sandwiches, which is just as it might sound: pictures of celebrities eating sandwiches. I believe the subreddit was probably born from the Sad Keanu meme.  There is something refreshing about seeing the most well-curated people on the planet participating in a generally unflattering and humanizing activity like sandwich eating. That said, the overall sentiment is not malicious, but more playful and entertaining. I also like that it gives the feeling of an old diner that hangs up pictures of celebrities who have eaten there.

I used Adbode Illustrator to turn the celebrities into a black and white image. In doing so, it became apparent that only certain images would work, otherwise it was impossible to decipher. This took some time.

I also had to account for the fact that I needed to make a basic black and white image and an inverted image that I could etch as the stamp, since the final ink stamp would need to look like the original. Simply formatting the images also took the better part of a day since I am still feeling my way around this software.

I eventually decided on the following images:

Tony Blair, Heidi Klum, Marilyn Monroe, Bill Gates, Castro, Jack Nicholson, Natalie Wood, Demi Moore, David Bowie, Bieber

Next, I needed to find some laser friendly rubber. I went to the internet for this and found some low odor, etchable rubber from LaserBits . I had it shipped for 2 day delivery, but unfortunately, it is not due to arrive until today so I will need to update this post!!

In the meantime, I ran some tests.IMG_4983 I had to play around with the laser settings for the cardboard based off of the mat board settings, but it was a fairly successful pass. I was also happy the program recognized the black and white image so easily for rastering. IMG_4985

Next, I wanted to make some handles for the stamps using my extra pine blocks from my sound diffuser panel. I used the wood raster settings (70 speed, 100 power). Unfortunately, as you can see below, I found out just how different the grain in this wood can be and how that manifests as a very inconsistent image.

IMG_5083 IMG_5084

I tried to remedy this by adding some tape, but that just etched the tape and essentially melted it to the block.


Next, I decided to head to the scrap pile to find some plywood. The scraps I found seemed to have a more even tone and they ended up etching much nicer than my pine blocks.IMG_5095IMG_5093

Afterwards, I cut the etchings to size and sanded down the edges. This exercise really hit home the point that the band saw is not accurate. IMG_5096


The stamps are ready for the rubber and I promise Ben, it will be done! I am really interested to see how the rubber cuts.


I received the rubber!

I used the rubber speed/power settings on the 50W laser, but I found that I had to pass the laser 3-4 times to deepen the etching. Below, you can see the difference in each pass.



This ended up taking quite a bit of time, but I really like the outcome. I think the ink pad is causing the patchiness in the stamps, rather than the etching.

IMG_5139 IMG_5138 IMG_5141

Fabrication-2: Multiples

The assignment this week: make multiples of of a multi-process thing.

Immediately, I thought of a sound diffuser panel that I had seen lying around in a venue in Brooklyn. I initially just loved the look of them, but when I asked, turns out they were functional. They do not absorb sound, but rather scatter the sound on their irregular surface to give a space a warmer, less echoey sound. Perfect for my room at home!

The one that I initially saw and wanted to make was a skyline diffuser.

If you do a quick google image search, you come up with a variety of diffusers, some more functional, some seemingly decorative. While I really love the look of the abstract, reclaimed wood diffusers, I wanted to make sure I was in keeping with the assignment and using exact measurements to make multiples of things.

For this reason, I followed an acoustic panel pattern from this site. I tried to look more into the science behind the pattern in this panel, which is a 2D Quadratic Residue diffusor, but math is quite complex and I did not have time to delve that deep for this assignment.

Before I fetched any materials, I did some calculations:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 6.19.57 PM

The 12×12 grid is based off the pattern I was following.  My first calculations were based on a peak 8” grid, but when I totaled this pattern, it turned out I would need quite a bit of wood, so I decide to scale back to a peak 6” grid.

Based on these calculations, I would need 3.8 2x2x8ft studs. However, finding 2×2 studs (and they are not really 2×2, but more like 1.5×1.5, which this pattern accounts for) was a little difficult. Home Depot in Manhattan did not have them and I was having trouble coordinating a possible delivery from Prince Lumber, not to mention delivery fees.

Instead, I went to HD in Manhattan to see what I could find. They were out of plywood this weekend, so I chose to 2×8 piece of pine as my backboard and grabbed a couple of 2×4’s to use as the diffusion pieces. In essence, my careful planning went out the window when collecting materials became an issue. Lesson Learned: obtaining wood in nyc is not a trivial task without a car.

First task: cut the wood into manageable pieces on the vertical saw.IMG_4907

Next, I measured across the backboard to see how many of the 2×4 pieces would fit. The actual width of the backboard piece was 7.19 inches. I cut one test piece of the 2×4 with what I thought was a width of 1.4 inches (so that I would have 5 across). However, when I measured with calipers, the piece was actually 1.765 inches. When I marked the piece out across the board, it seemed like 4 of these pieces across would fit perfectly, despite the math not making sense (1.765×4 = 7.06), which kind of drives me crazy. I’m sure there is some unaccounted open space along the sides, but I guess like any science, there is a distinct difference between the actual and theoretical. IMG_4908



After all my pieces were cut, I needed to adjust their heights. I wanted to keep some semblance of my former plan intact, so I decided to use the same height ratios as before, just adjusted to my new total of blocks (28).IMG_4918


Since the blocks were 3.49”, I decided to use lengths of 3.49”, 2.49”, 1.49”, 0.49”, and 0”.
I marked off the blocks and then used the bandsaw to cut off the tops.



I did have quite a few extra block tops. If I were to do this again, I would have cut half the original blocks and then used the tops as the other heights. Hopefully I will be able to use them for another project…or another panel!

I decided to paint the panel and the diffuser blocks.





Next, I glued the blocks down and tried to secure them with clamps, but due to the different heights, it was a little challenging. I tried to tie them down with string to add some pressure. IMG_4944

Et voila!


Fabrication-1: Flashlight

Our assignment this week in fabrication was to create a flashlight, a task I thought I would never undertake!

My primary concern with this assignment was to find the right tools for the circuitry. I fetched a 9V battery and a 7.5 volt, 220mA screw base lamp. By my calculations, the excess resistance was so minimal that I decided to forego a resistor and ended up with a pretty simple circuit. Shout out to Pcomp.



Next, I found a two prong toggle switch and threw that into the circuit.


Next, for the flashlight facade.
I decided to use a generic Fleshlight product to make a vagina flashlight. A Fleshlight Flashlight!IMG_4836 There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, we spoke about how machoism would not be tolerated in the shop. I took this to heart. We definitely have a high percentage of women in our fabrication class, probably stemming from the societal stereotype that women aren’t builders or “tinkerers” which would dissuade them from pursuing such activities. Therefore, I wanted my first fabrication project to be distinctly feminine.

Secondly, during my last collaborative project, there were moments were I felt slighted or dismissed based on my gender and quite frankly, it inspired a lot of ire. This was a response born from that collaboration.

I liked the idea of using this male masturbation toy, which already has a sort of utilitarian function, in a different utilitarian setting, particularly one that is non-sexual. At first, I thought I could use the whole tube, but it was quite large and cumbersome and it ended up feeling really phallic.
So I decided to pare it down using scissors. IMG_4837

I wanted the flashlight to be smaller and rounded, so I used an old ice cream container as the base.IMG_4832

I painted the base using plastic-adhesive spray paint, first a striped black and white, but then I changed it to something more jovial looking.




As seen above, I punched a hole in the aluminum lid with a hammer and a screwdriver as I knew the hole would not visible in the final product.
Next, I soldered some wires to my switch and place the switch on top of the vulva.

IMG_4840I soldered one of the switch wires to the bulb and then soldered another wire to the bulb that would attach to the anode of the battery. These wires, I fed through the hole in the lid. IMG_4841IMG_4842

I hot glued the battery holder to the bottom of the base and also fed a screw through the base of the bulb and affixed that to keep the bulb from slipping. The material of the fleshlight is most likely silicone based and hot glue would not stick to it, so I had to use some gorilla glue to attach it to the lid. However, the screw does a good job of holding the whole top of the flashlight.

IMG_4845Finally, I had to pop the lid on as the spray paint layers had rendered the screw top useless — note to self!
Final product below!