Saturday, January 31, 2015

The best part of my job...

One of the absolute best things about my chosen work is that I get to see a very special
look on the faces of children of all ages.  Whether it's a group of adults learning how to carve, sculpt, or paint...or a group of roughly 7 year old children, the look is the same.  There is a recognition that creation can be a form of 'play' and that 'play' doesn't necessarily mean 'waste of time'.  The truly awesome thing about sharing with children is the complete sense of exploration that they have and the willingness to try new things.

On Thursday I had a chance to share some time with a great group of children, teachers and parents at a school called "Lingua Garden" a bilingual preschool in Peoria, Illinois. 

Denise Hecker-Leitch invited me after spending part of an afternoon at my workshop.  We've been discussing a sign for her shop. She saw a sculpture I made for my daughter and asked about some private instruction on how the sculpture was done.  I spent a great afternoon with Denise and her two children sculpting and talking about making things.

Since I was to speak to a larger group of children, I thought it would be great to do a little project. So I whipped up a quick carving that we could all paint!

I took a robot pal with me, and we spent a little time talking about what it is I do.

I understood, though, that these kids wanted to get their own hands into a project, so we quickly moved from talking to doing!  Instead of asking them to paint anything specific, I thought it best to let each child pick their own paint colors and to personalize their own rockets any way they liked.  
We had a great time laughing and painting and making.  I was so pleased to see each child do a very different and creative version of the paint on their rocket.  Some added stripes. Some did cool mixes of color...all special.

If that's not a great way to spend a day outside the shop, I don't know what one is! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


A new year is always a good time to be thinking about doing new things...and correcting things from the year before.

In my case, I made a decision to upgrade a control board on my Shopbot. What does that mean?  It increases my machine's speed by about 3.5 times.  It also improves the accuracy/resolution by about 2 to 2.5 times. All in all, a great improvement.  It now seems like it's screaming across the table!  This means things get carved more quickly and resolution is generally improved.

It took about 3 hours to change out the board. Actually the board replacement only took about 10 minutes.  I decided to generally clean everything and apply new grease to all the rack and pinions (insert Tool Time Tim grunts here).  I also cleaned up lots of wiring and attached it more securely to the table and the computer. This keeps it mostly off the floor and less likely to have a wire come loose or get pulled out.

That means, of course, that I needed to run a quick sample to see how fast it ran a file and to see how the accuracy looked in reality and not just on paper.  I carved this piece in just under 35 minutes. It's about 12" x 22".  I need to do some tweaking on the ramping values and I think I can get even better times on 3D items. (wha? This generally refers to how fast the machine takes corners and speeds up coming out of a corner).

For those of you who speak french, I assume you'll be shaking your heads and saying, "oh". 

I'm very pleased with the carve.  In fact, I didn't even do a profile cut around the "Skin Care" letters as I would have before.  The 3D pass was decent enough to just leave it.  As a comparison, with my previous control board/motor setup this would have taken about 2 to 2 1/2 hours because of all the texture. 

When it comes to skin care, use sunblock folks. Protect that skin from burning!