Project spotlight: Shou Sugi Ban, or the Japanese art of weatherproofing wood with fire

PS1 member Jonathan Howlette recently completed a project in which he experimented with Shou Sugi Ban (Japanese wood charring) to create some decorative elements for a home office.

Shou Sugi Ban is an eighteenth century technique for preserving wood by burning its exterior, cleaning it, and then finishing it with oil. The process offers several practical benefits-the finished process resists rot, fire, and insects–but the recent popularity of the technique has more to do with the aesthetic qualities of final product. Shou sugi ban is used these days both on exterior finishes and on interior furniture and artwork.

Traditionally cedar was used, but the process works with a variety of woods. Jonathan used 1′ x 12′ pine boards. Here is a before and after:

And here is a close-up of the final product, which shows the textural details revealed by the charring process:

Here are the boards being prepped for installation as wall paneling:

And the final result:

For this project, Jonathan purchased a propane torch, which he donated back to the space so that others can experiment with the technique.

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What’s cooking in: CNC–plus new area host needed!

PS1 is looking for a new host for the CNC area. Becoming an area host is a great way to deepen your expertise and help determine the direction of the organization. In the words of outgoing host Ash Anjani:

Being area host is a very rewarding experience. Not only do you get to be at the forefront of helping members with new technologies that they aren’t familiar with, but you get build on your own knowledge of understanding how the equipment operates and best practices. The best student is a teacher, and I am walking away from area host a much better individual and a more adept maker.

The specific responsibilities of area host include:

  • Maintaining and organizing the area
  • Overseeing training and authorization
  • Working with the Board of Directors to address the long-term needs of the area
  • Acting as an ambassador for the area, and promoting its use and projects.

Applications are due this Sunday, April 15. If you are interested, please send a note to vicepresident@pumpingstationone.org describing why you are a good fit for the position and outlining your plans for the area.

CNC is one of the most dynamic areas at PS1. Here’s a round-up of recent happenings and equipment updates.

Epson 9800 wide-format printer

This is not quite ready for general use. We still need to set up restrictions so that only authorized users can make prints. The machine also needs a fitted cover.

FormLabs Form 1+ SLA 3D Printer

This printer requires a proprietary resin, and although it is more difficult to use than other 3D printers, it can also generate prints with potentially desirable features, such as translucency, high resolution, smooth surfaces, and suitability for us in metal casting.

We ordered three liters of resin (castable, ceramic, and clear), which should arrive in May. Here is the Kickstarter campaign where you can buy your own resin, if interested (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1181157044/functional-resins-for-sla-dlp-3d-printing).

Update: the Kickstarter failed. So we ordered 4 250-ml bottles of monoprice resin for testing. Apparently cheaper resins (like those described in the Kickstarter campaign, are becoming available from Chinese manufacturers.

We also ordered four Z-Vat glass trays (http://www.zvatindustries.com/) that last considerably longer and have much less distortion than the FormLabs trays.

Update: These were briefly out of stock, but are now available. Next week we should be getting three trays and two slip covers.

FDM Printers

Thanks to Zack Sasnow for helping to finish the plywood enclosure for the printers. We still need to buy a vinyl curtain to cover the front and provide insulation. Other needs include a replace SD card and an extension cord for the fancy lights.

Epilog Mini Laser

We will soon be ordering a replacement motherboard so that we can get this machine back in service. We still need an airline hook-up.

ShopBot CNC router

We recently took the ShopBot down for a day to perform a tune-up. Some more involved fixes in the works include:

  • New pinion gears. Some ShopBot owners have upgraded their motors to 7.2:1 for more torque and higher resolution. This requires a controller upgrade, though. We are getting pricing information.
  • New motor driver. Currently we are using the fourth axis driver, so the fourth axis is out of commission.

Tormach CNC mill

As mentioned in the last newsletter, Tucker was able to get us ten free training sessions with Tormach, which means that part of the training budget will go to lodging and meals, and most of it will be saved. The first four trainees will hopefully attend classes in April, schedule permitting.

The electrician should be setting up power for the Tormach within the next few weeks.

New authorizers

We now have four CNC volunteer authorizers who have been doing a bang-up job: Joe J., Joe M., Deanna, and Jeff. Many thanks to them for all their help.

Everything else

  • We ordered a shop filter that needs to be mounted the ceiling.
  • We also got a floor mop and Ash spent a few hours mopping. He reports that the floor is now less nasty than before.
  • A 6″ to 4″ splitter and tee were purchased to handle exhaust from the Universal laser. It still needs to be hooked up.
  • And we need to move the 6″ x 6″ x 4″ tee over to the Epilog.
  • And we need to install an air hose with compressed air for clean-up.

 

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We have a photo stream–and you can post to it

We included a poll in the last newsletter to determine which photo sharing sites are most popular among PS1 users. The runaway favorite is Instagram, which is more than three times as popular as the runner-up, Youtube, which also happens to not be a photo-sharing site.

So here’s the deal: if you post photos or videos to your Instagram account and tag it #madeatps1, it will show up on the PS1 website. It will also show up in our Slack workspace. And in the future it might get pushed out to other places as well, like Twitter or Facebook or the Russian dark web.

The most recent handful of images from the Instagram feed shows up on most pages of the PS1 website. And you can browse the entire set of photos here:

#madeatps1

Check it out, here’s Grant Wagner’s custom tabletop arcade console, including authentic buttons and joysticks imported from Japan:

Machining custom copper bolts for a six-way motion sensor:

#madeatps1 machining custom copper bolts

A post shared by Pumping Station: One (@pumpingstationone) on

Stained glass!

Folks, I’m not a huge social media guy, but I’ve been wandering around PS1 snapping and posting pictures of people lately, and I’m here to tell you that this is easy and fun. This Instagram thing might just have a future.

“Look at this thing I made”

Try it out! Of course we love people to write up blog posts that dive into the details of their work, but if you’re pressed for time and just want to show the world this thing you made, take a picture and tag it #madeatps1. There is an astonishing diversity of projects underway at any given time at PS1. Publicizing your work serves as inspiration to others and helps likeminded people connect.

What if I don’t have an Instagram account?

Well, you could always shell out the $0.00 required to set one up and start snapping away. But if you don’t want to do that, we still have you covered. Just email your pictures or video, plus any relevant caption, to pics@pumpingstationone.org. We will take it from there.

Can I geotag/use Flickr/post daguerrotypes instead?

Not at the moment, no. It has been suggested that we expand the feed to include pics that have been geotagged at PS1, or that mention the @pumpingstationone Instagram account, etc. These are all good ideas, but the plugins we are using don’t do this out of the box. (You can however tag your photos with #madeatpsone instead, if you like typing extra letters on your phone.)

What else can I do?

I’m glad I pretended you asked. You can follow the PS1 Instagram account @pumpingstationone.

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We have a Slack

PS1 has had a Slack workspace for a while, and if you’re a member, you should have by now received an invitation to join.* The rest of this post is a brief intro to Slack, broken up into sections for beginners, intermediate level users, and experts. Jump to whichever section grabs your fancy.

For beginners: what is Slack?

Slack is a messaging app that has caught on for a few reasons:

  • Slack is pleasant to look at, fairly easy to use, and sort of breezily fun.
  • It has decent search. (Kind of. Not really. But better than most of the alternatives.)
  • It has excellent synchronization across mobile and desktop clients.
  • Tons and tons of other services have integrated with Slack, which makes it easy to monitor and do stuff from within the tool.

But basically Slack is a nicely designed chat app. It is not a replacement for something like the Google Group, but rather a way to have different kinds of conversations, and especially quicker, less formal conversations.

You can log into Slack via your web browser at pumpingstationone.slack.com, but this is probably the least appealing way to use Slack. Consider downloading the desktop or mobile client.

Slack lets you have private 1-on-1 conversations with other users, but most conversations take place in public channels. When you log in for the first time, browse the available channels and join the ones that seem interesting.

For intermediate users: manage multiple workspaces and customize your Slack

If you are an intermediate user, presumably you already have some experience with Slack. Good news: it is very easy to manage multiple Slack workspaces using the desktop and mobile clients. Just log into the PS1 slack by opening up your Slack client, clicking on the workspace name in the upper right, and choosing “Sign in to another workspace…”

Or open up the mobile client, swipe right to access the sidebar, and then swipe right again to switch to the Workspaces sidebar. Then click “Add workspaces”.

Once you are signed into multiple workspaces, you can easily receive notifications from any of them, and jump back and forth quickly between them.

Speaking of notifications: Slack notifications are highly customizable, so consider spending a few minutes to tune them. Ideally you can find the sweet spot that allows you to monitor the conversation without hitting notification overload. You can, for instance:

Finally, explore some of the dumb/fun capabilities of Slack:

For experts: we have a robot

Meet Gort, our very own robot butler. Gort is an incarnation of Hubot, which originally came to life at Github. (Major thank you to Andrew Vaughan for getting Gort up and running.) Gort is scriptable, and comes with loads of built-in features, ranging from useful to kinda funny to extremely annoying.

To see what tricks Gort knows, start a private conversation with him and type “help”.

If you are so inclined, consider extending Gort to perform useful tricks related to PS1.

* If you haven’t received an invitation to join, email me at press@pumpingstationeone.org.

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Put in your order for delivery from Owl Lumber

Owl Lumber is beloved for its selection of hardwood. If you’ve never been to one of their three stores, they’re very much worth a visit. Unfortunately, none of them are especially convenient to get to from PS:1. If you’ve ever wished that they delivered, now’s your chance.

Hopefully this will become a monthly service, but first we’ve got to make sure it works at all–and that there’s sufficient demand. If you want some wood, do this:

  1. Call up Owl and price out an order. Note that many of the prices at Owl vary with the specific piece of wood, so you may need to restrict your purchase to dimensional lumber to get a firm price.
  2. Go to this form and enter the specifics of your order.
  3. Make yourself a michelada and relax while we take care of the rest.

Depending on the size of our group order, Owl will add a delivery fee that is somewhere between $0 and $80. By placing an order through PS:1, you are agreeing to pay somewhere between $0 and $10 (but not more than that) for delivery.

We will take care of payment later, but we plan to take money via the major personal payment platforms: Paypal, Venmo, and ChasePay. Heck, for this first go-round, we’ll take a sock monkey full of dirty nickels if that’s what you’ve got.

Shooting for delivery by the end of month. 🤘

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Tormach trainees announced–and a gift from Tormach in the works

PS:1 recently voted to acquire a Tormach CNC mill, capable of machining metals such as aluminum, brass, and steel. As part of this purchase, the club also allocated funds to send four members for training at the Tormach facility outside Madison, WI.

The four members will form the core of the Danger Committee for the mill, responsible for designing the authorization process and performing authorizations for six months. Eleven members applied for this opportunity, and four winners were recently announced. Congratulations to:

  • Andrew Wingate
  • Abel Greenwald
  • David Earl
  • Andrew Camardella

A related exciting development is that Tormach has offered to donate spots for 10 trainees to PS:1. A big thanks to member Tucker Tomlinson for arranging this donation.

Full details are still being worked out. As part of the donation, PS:1 will engage in some joint activities with Tormach, including hosting a meet-up for the Chicago-area community interested in CNC milling. All in all, the donation represents both a cost savings to PS:1 and an opportunity to raise the profile of our upcoming acquisition.

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Announcing the Pumping Station: One newsletter

As part of a series of efforts to improve communications both within PS:1 and with the wider community, we are launching an email newsletter.

The content and format of the newsletter will undoubtedly evolve over time. The newsletter will of course publicize upcoming events and important news or announcements. It will also spotlight the innumerable people and projects that make PS:1 such a vibrant community.

Why is this happening?
Perhaps the most basic reason is to reach a bigger cross-section of the membership. The Google Group is a valuable resource, but participation is fairly low, not just in terms of the number of people who post, but also in terms of the number of people subscribed at all.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of stuff happening on a daily basis at PS:1 that simply isn’t publicized in any venue at all right now. If you’ve ever attended a member meeting, you know that individuals and groups are constantly up to amazing things in the space. Find out what your fellow makers are doing!

Finally, PS:1 very badly needs a way to engage the wider community, including mission-aligned organizations in the Chicago area; individuals who have found our website or come on a tour but aren’t yet ready to join; or really anyone who participates in or supports the maker community.

How will it work?
We expect to send out 1 or 2 newsletters per month. The hope is that as we get into a groove, we can hit a more regular cadence. Newsletter content will also be posted online so that non-subscribers can access it.

Needless to say, we will follow normal email best practices: we aren’t going to share your contact info with anyone, and anyone can unsubscribe at any time.

What will happen next?
If you are a current PS:1 member, you will receive the first newsletter soon, which will include instructions for managing your subscription. Anyone can sign up on the PS:1 website, and we will be posting reminders on the Google Group.

Can you contribute?
Would I have asked this leading question if the answer was no? We love, love, love submissions or even just content ideas from members. Please send your thoughts to press@pumpingstationone.org.

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Pumping Station: One building up for sale

When PS:One expanded in 2017, we negotiated a five-year lease with an option to renew for another five years.

At the time, the building was owned by the Khouri brothers, Tony and Dan. Recently the brothers divided their ownership. Tony moved his business closer to his home, and Dan took sole ownership of the building.

A few days ago, the brothers let us know that Dan would like to sell the building and is making preparations to do so. Any new owner would be obligated to honor the lease, including the renewal clause. Even in the event of a sale, PS:One retains the right to stay in its current location for up to eight more years.

Or possibly longer. Another option that has been long discussed is PS:One buying the building ourselves. Alternatively, a trust could by the building on our behalf. Similar arrangements have been made by the Milwaukee makerspace and others.

A third option is to remain a tenant under new owners. And, of course, a final possibility is to move to a new location. Moving is logistically complicated, but it also offers an opportunity to consider the long-term needs of a growing membership.

No changes are imminent, but we do need to begin the hard work of educating ourselves and laying the groundwork for an eventual decision. Likely steps include:

  • Understanding our legal rights as tenants
  • Talking to lenders about the financing options available to us
  • Establishing a capital fund
  • Setting fundraising goals and soliciting donors
  • Appraising the building and surveying the local real estate market

But the most important next step is tapping the expertise and seeking the input of our membership base. We plan to hold an ongoing series of conversations, both in-person and online, to ensure that members have full insight into the process as it unfolds. As always, we will be reliant on dedicated volunteers to ensure that PS:One continues to fulfill its mission and thrive.

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Power Racing Series 2017 Season

Have you heard about the Power Racing Series? It began in 2009, right here at PS1! This year, I joined the team and we went racing around the country. It was road trip season.

We made it to these cities and raced other teams at Maker Faires:

  • Kansas City, MO
  • Detroit, MI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Nashville, TN

The first race was in Kansas City, MO. We picked up some PVC pipes for drift wheels and this awfully nice random person offered us wires to secure them to the trailer.

You can see all the go-carts zoom by in this unrealistic timelapse video at the Kansas City Maker Faire.

This walkthrough video of the pits at the Detroit Maker Faire showcases a bunch of the other teams from all over the country. There is an important reminder about sunscreen at the end.

In the Milwaukee Maker Faire, we had a night race and it was pretty cool.

The last race we went to in Nashville had the nicest paved track ever and we made a bunch of skid marks.

We also had some really good spicy margaritas.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the rest due to distance or scheduling conflicts but races also happened in these cities:

  • San Mateo, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Orlando, FL

The Bluesmobile and the Kart of 1000 Faces were driven between Aaron F, Andrew C, Ash J, Carlos G, Jennie P, and myself. We also had other PS1 members, Casey and Aushra, show up at some of the cities and they drove for parts of the 75 minute endurance races.

It was a lot of fun hacking away at the frames, electronics, and bodies of the go-carts. Between fixing the two carts and racing, we have also been working on new things for next season.

There is a new Catbus body being made by Aaron.

Another new Jackson Storm body being made by Jackson.

Some serious wheels are being fitted onto a new frame by Carlos.

There is a new frame being built by Andrew, which is top secret, so no photos.

There is also a new body being built by Jennie, also top secret, hence photos.

I’m putting together a motor controller.

Last but not least, there is a new drivetrain with Leaf batteries and converted alternators being built by Andrew. He was ecstatic when he got the batteries in Milwaukee.

Come check us out on Monday nights. All of these are group projects. Anybody can work on the go-carts and race them. This was my first year at Pumping Station One and my first racing season of the Power Racing Series.

I can’t wait for next year!

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PS:1 friendship fuels a Kickstarter

Deanna and I have a Kickstarter.

If you are interested in finding out about our Kickstarter (Fingerstender) check us out.
I invented the Fingerstender in 2008 and Deanna and I made improvements to it. The current Fingerstender is better.

We are halfway to our goal and we have 10 days left, so if you are interested, back our Kickstarter.

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