Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coming Around The Bend

Memorial Day Weekend included some time off to go camping with my family.
There was both rain and sunshine, all of it fun.  I frequently talk about how lucky
I am to be doing the work I'm doing, and how much fun it is...but make no mistake-
my work is my passion, but my family is my soul.  Sitting around a camp fire telling
silly jokes and taking my daughter for one of her first 4-wheeler rides are the fuel
that keeps me moving.  We slogged through mud, ate burnt bacon and made the
memories that will keep me smiling long after my little girl has gone off to build her
own family.  Make a deposit in your own memory bank when you can. It's worth it.

Now I'm back in the shop and happy to be back on the steampack...

First off, I used an existing piece of artwork from a series from David Butler called
Butler's Gold.  I enjoy much of his work, and knew that I wanted to use this piece
at some point- I decided to add a kind of "badge" to the pack body and this piece
seemed perfect.  I brought it into the CarveWright designer program and added
the various pieces of text that would customize it for my need.

I set the carving to be about 1/4" into a 1/2" piece of Azek PVC.  I put the material into
the machine and let it carve for just under 30 minutes.  The piece was only 7" x 11" so
I knew it wouldn't take too long.
Now it was time to put my new material and heating technique to good use....I cooked
it for about 4 minutes at 285 degrees and gently and carefully formed it over the 4" pvc
piece I used as a "buck".  Once I was happy with the shape, I poured some cold water over it to quickly
cool it off and set it's shape.
A little Azek brand pvc glue and it was attached solidly within minutes. It'll take overnight to fully cure, but it's more than solid enough now to continue other work.  I'm really enjoying this stuff!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I've Got To Handle It To Ya...

Inspiration comes to me all the time from lots of different places.  When I start a new project, I try to pull in as much as I can from a variety of sources and let it simmer a bit (but not too long).  As I started on this steam powered jet pack, I did much more than type "steampunk jetpack" into the Google search engine. No, I looked at many other pieces of reference.  One place is the work of a relatively new and talented friend named Catharine Cloud Kennedy.  Her engraving work is amazing and just continues to get even better.  While I've done absolutely no engraving in my life, I thought it would be fun to include ends on my steampack handles that looked as if they were engraved metal.  So, time for some Magic Sculpt.

I have more work to do on them and some additional cleanup and detail to sculpt in, but I think it will give the look I'm after once painted.
The process of building an object, sometimes reveals the need for minor modifications to the original design. This steam pack (jetpack) is no different.  As I began to assemble the rough form upon which other carved pieces and sculpting and objects will be placed, I decided to change the location of the control arms.  They were at the top in the original design, but as I played with the form and looked at it in real life, I liked them mounted on bottom better. So- that's the way it shall be!
Lastly, I had a fun delivery today! My first full 4' x 8' sheets of Azek have arrived. It comes in a variety of sizes, and I intend to put several of them to use on this project.  Stay tuned to see more carvings heat up as things begin to take shape.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Steam Ahead...

The discovery of this PVC product couldn't have come at a better time.  I had been mulling over some of the ways to build the steam powered escape packs for a home theater project I'm working on, and now I have my plan in place.
With that, the fun begins!
I decided to use PVC pipe for the body of the pack, but will require a rounded end on one side.  I quickly made one in Google Sketchup and then exported an .stl file that I could bring into CarveWright's .stl importer.   It only took 3 slices to make up my rounded end.
Next, I decided to use CarveWright's new 3/16" round-over bit to do this raster carve.  In a short 20 minutes, I had my pieces carved quickly and cleanly out of a sheet of 3/4" pvc.
Then it was time to try out the Azek glue.  It reminded me very much of other pvc glue that I've used for plumbing fixtures.  I had all three pieces attached to one another and then to my piece of pvc pipe in a jiffy.  One upside is that unlike HDU (where I have to wait a significant time to let the glue-up cure) this was ready to handle in under 10 minutes.  The manufacturer indicates that a full 24 hours are needed for a full cure, but it's ready to handle and work with in those few minutes.
What are those leather pouches you may be asking? Yes...good question. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On Deck...

The last week has been a whirlwind.  I'm not sure of any other way to describe it.  I've met a variety of new people, made connections that may totally change the scope and scale of my dreams and how quickly they come to life.  A good friend told me something close to "Be prepared.  There will come a point when it seems as if everything has aligned and opportunities come flying fast and furious. It will make your mind dizzy.  Don't pull back. Don't try to slow it down. Ride it out and follow it as far and high as it will take you."  I suddenly understand.
So- my experiements with pvc continue!  There is a website where you can watch a blender attack about anything you can imagine and the tag is "Will it blend?".  My version is "Will it carve?"
This is a 30" piece of pvc decking material.  I added 4" celtic squares that finished carving in under 20 minutes.  With no paint at all, this could take an "ok" deck project to something special.  You wouldn't cover the floor with them, but perhaps a hand rail, or a perimeter border....or the sides of posts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thinking about the outside of the box.

I had an opportunity to give my first presentation last Friday at the first CarveWright conference.  Users from all over gathered near Houston to talk about this amazing little machine and what it could do.  We shared techniques, improvements, materials, methods and ideas. 
I took along some of my signs and showed the "rocket sign" for the first time in public.  I couldn't have been happier with the response.
Along with that, I had an opportunity to meet a representative from a company called Azek Building Products.
They make a PVC product being used widely in the home construction industry for trim and other applications.
It seems some experiments had been going on with carving into their material.  I talked at length with Kirby (The representative from Azek) and obtained some samples.  There were immediately two things I liked about the product: 1. It was even more dense than 30 lb. HDU 2. At high temperatures, the material can be shaped.  In other words, at high temperature you can bend it and form it.  Clearly that's not an option with HDU!(I've been informed by my friend Dan that you CAN, in fact, bend HDU with heat...I stand corrected).

During the long drive home from Texas, I started thinking about possibilities for this material. First, I needed to carve some and see how it handled.  Beyond that, I began thinking about wild shapes, cool signs and innovative ways to use this material beyond trim or siding for a house....then it hit me.  Imagine a customized home that incorporated special designs in the very siding of the home...grape leaves, trees, celtic knots....family names. It could be carved for wrapping mail box posts and sign posts...I boggled at the thought of it. On the small scale, it would be a reasonably priced way to bring true custom options to home builders...on a big scale, it could represent a total rethinking of how we personalize the homes in which we live.

I raced home and hugged my wife and daughter and then headed for the shop.
How does it carve?  Let me put it this way, once I see how it holds up to paint, this may be the only product I use for my custom signs, and just maybe....to help customize many other people's homes.  Let the dreaming begin!  I carved up a logo I've had handy lately (ha!) and then I really went nuts and cooked it at 350 degrees for 4 minutes on the grill...that's right, I threw it on the barby! Then with oven mits I bent it into a nice curve and let it cool down to rigid in very short order. Now THAT you cannot do with HDU!

Friday, May 6, 2011


I wanted to take a moment before I start posting pictures of jet pack parts and talk about potential.  About 14 years ago, a friend of my soon-to-be in-laws was talking with me about how computers were changing libraries and he happened to mention that they would soon be getting rid of the card catalog at the one where he worked.  I had visions of beautiful oak or cherry wood and started thinking about a rich, dark library or study with one of these housing a collection of tid-bits collected during adventures.  I told him that I'd love to have one of those someday...
Someday came at our wedding. I opened a box from him that revealed a single drawer with a note that said 59 others would soon follow. Eventually, the huge card catalog arrived.  It didn't look at all like my vision, and certainly not like the one I described to Ashley, my wife.  It was heavily tinted with an opaque stain that made it look industrial and it was an awful shade of brown.

The thing was, I could see the card catalog I wanted there.  This thing had POTENTIAL.  I knew that with the right skills, the right colors and some effort- it could match the picture I had in my mind.  For the next 13 or so years we hauled it from apartment to home and then to another home..and another.  It became a part of my workshop and I'd look at it from time to time and imagine that card catalog I knew it could be. 
So just a while back I finally made a decision. It was time to bring my vision to life or finally say good-bye.  I looked at the 60 drawers and envisioned all the work it would take to get it to my vision and for just a moment I hesitated. So much work...
Then I remembered all the times I had thought about seeing it done...and how hard it had been to move to our various homes. How much effort I'd put into trusting in the potential this thing had.  I began work immediately. You see, once you realize that the potential isn't going to cause spontaneous transformation and that in order for it to be realized you have to MAKE it your vision...you haven't a moment to spare.  Maybe you have something like this? A thing with POTENTIAL... I bet you do.  Trust in it. Bring it to fruition. You'll be glad you did.