Posts filed under ‘Crafts’

Open Source: Making a School Bus Wine Stopper with Blender, Shapeways, and Niles Bottle Stoppers

My mother drove a school bus for 24 years. During the school year she called Friday and Saturday nights “Wine Nights” because she could drink a glass a wine and not have to worry about getting up obscenely early the next morning. Well, after 24 years, she retired, meaning every night could be a wine night!

To help celebrate, I wanted to get her a school bus wine stopper. Oddly enough, there seem to be an absence of products that combine “school bus driving” and “alcohol.” : ) Luckily, that’s exactly the niche 3D printing and Shapeways is for! I designed and 3D printed her a customized School Bus Wine Stopper.

Day of Making - Bus
From Model to Reality

I’m still new at 3D Modeling and Blender and by no means an expert.  But for what it is worth, here’s how I made my School Bus Wine Stopper a reality with Blender, Shapeways, and SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. Maybe something out there will be helpful to your projects!

Recommended Best Practice – Don’t Recreate the Wheel If You Don’t Need To
With 3D printing, you often pay by the volume for the material. With that in mind, was it worth it to me to pay more to print the stopper portion? Bottle stoppers on the internet were just a couple of dollars. It would cost me more to custom-print that portion. Purchasing a pre-made stopper also took some risk out of my process as that was one less piece I had to worry about sizing right and fitting with O-rings and all that. An added bonus is the only material (as of this post writing) at Shapeways that is “food-safe” is the ceramics and I knew I wanted my stopper to be in steel.

I purchased Bottle Stoppers from SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. It was already a proven product and manufactured in FDA-grade food-safe stainless steel. They have many different types of stoppers to choose from for different applications.  I used the 302 product which included a 3/8” stud.

Wine Stopper from Niles Bottle Stoppers
#302 from Niles Bottle Stoppers

Recommended Best Practice – Plan Ahead
It really really really helps to know what material you plan on printing in and what it’s limitations are, so you know your measurements from the get go. Shapeways has detailed design recommendations for each of its materials. For my mother’s wine stopper, I knew I wanted steel. I knew from the breastfeeding pendants that it feels solid and sturdy. I also knew the gold plated steel (which happens to be school-bus appropriate yellow) is gorgeous. A rigorous review of the steel materials properties page had me mentally poised that all my walls, all my engravings, etc would have to be 1 mm deep and wide. Knowing that from the very beginning was immensely helpful for the design.

I took measurements of existing wine stoppers and the stopper I ordered from Niles Bottle Stoppers so I knew my dimension of my bus right away. Although it is easy to scale things in Blender, I still recommend knowing your base object size right away. Here’s why– if you do all your engravings and additions and then you size your object up or down– you’re also mucking with the sizes of all your details. So if you had a compliant 1mm engravings and you size it down to 75%, suddenly, you have engravings that are now too short and you’ll have to fix them all.

Recommended Best Practice – Naming Your Objects
My day job is programming and I definitely know the benefits of naming your form elements. I found the same thing to be beneficial in modeling in Blender. I ended up with dozens of objects for my windows and doors and headlights. Keeping the default names of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003” would have been tedious to keep up with, so I made sure to give them more meaningful names.

Naming Objects
Naming My Objects!

Process – The Bus Base
I started with two “cubes” that I scaled to make the body of my bus. I selected them both and went to Object->Join to fuse them into a single object.

Joining Objects
Joining Objects

I wanted to round the corners, but I didn’t want to bevel every single edge, so I got to learn about setting the Bevel Weight for specific edges in order to control how each edge was going to be beveled.

Setting Bevel Weight
Setting Bevel Weight

And then I went under Modifiers and added a Bevel Modifier.

Bevel Operator
Bevel Operator

Process – Engraving Versus Embossing
With my details for the bus, I had a couple of choices, I could engrave my windows and doors into my bus base so they were set into the bus body, or I could raise them out of the bus base. At the time I chose engraving. Why? I’m a cheapskate. With the steel pricing at the time, the amount of material was the biggest factor in cost. Everything you engrave out of your design, that is less material and saves you money!

Process – Hollowing the Object
And speaking of saving on material cost, my bus is hollow underneath. There are different techniques to hollowing objects out. With this project, I simply made some smaller cubes and used the Boolean Modifier (more on that below) to subtract them from the bigger bus.

Bus Hollow Underneath - Save Money
Hollow Bus

Process – Boolean Modifier Crazy!!!
After that, pretty much of the rest of this project was all done through the Boolean Modifier. I did a LOT of subtracting of objects from each other. A lot of it.

The Boolean Modifier is pretty easy. You click on your Base Object and then you click on the Modifiers icon. You select Boolean. Then for Operation, most of what I did was Difference (Subtracting one object from another). Then you select your second object.

Boolean Modifier in Blender
Boolean Modifier!

Remember above when I recommended naming your objects? Here’s a situation where is it’s helpful. You aren’t sifting through dozens of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003”. Naming your objects makes it easy to pick the right one to subtract.

All my windows, doors, stop signs, were just outer objects with smaller, inner objects subtracted from them. For example, let’s take the school bus door. That was a big cube with two smaller cubes subtracted from it:

Making the Bus Door with the Boolean Difference Modifier
The School Bus Door is Just Cubes, Scaled and Subtracted From Each Other

So in the above photo, I start with three objects—a large rectangle and then two smaller ones. I use the Boolean modifier to “Subtract” the two smaller rectangles from the larger one and I end up with my school bus door.

With my end result intended to be steel, I made all my engraving lines 1mm thick and 1mm deep.

Does it look hard? Well, as proud as I was of my handiwork, it’s not hard. In fact, after I finished my modeling, I discovered this technique of making your object out of a bunch of little objects is prominent in a 3D printing tutorial for CHILDREN. CHILDREN! So if I can do it and children can do it, you can do it. : )

Quick Tip on Object Sizes
And a quick tip. I initially made this mistake and I’ve seen others on the Shapeways forums make the same miscalculation. When you are making your object sizes, it’s easy to think, “Oh, my minimum wall requirement is 1mm, so I want my outer object to be 1mm larger than my inner object.” That’s not necessarily the case because you are likely making more than one wall. Take, for example, my cylinder to hold on to the Wine Stopper stud. My outer cylinder has to actually be 2mm wider than my inner cylinder– because I’m going to have TWO walls. I want them both to be 1mm thick for steel.

Gotcha!  You Have To Account For TWO Walls
Gotcha! You Have to Account for TWO Walls

Continuing the Boolean Modifier craziness, once I made all my windows and doors and headlights and grill lines, I used the good ole Boolean Modifier again to subtract (aka engrave) those items from my base bus body.

And the same went for the text at the top of the bus.

Engraving Text with the Boolean Modifier
Getting Ready to Engrave My Text

Quick Tip With Engraving Text—I’ve found it to work better if I convert my text to mesh and then extrude it. The normals of the faces work out better for the Boolean Modifier Difference operation.

Process – Fixing Thin Walls
When I was ready to try my model out on Shapeways, I went to File->Export and saved it as an STL file. When I uploaded my .STL to Shapeways, however, their checks indicated that I had some thin walls with the “A” in my engraved text. I fixed that by manually moving vertices around and uploaded a new model.

Fixing Thin Walls in the A
Fixing the A

Math – Making the Stud
I’ve only been 3D modeling six months or so and I’m finding math to be quite valuable. A good example of this is fitting my bus on the stud for the Niles Bottle Stopper I purchased. The stud itself is 3/8” in diameter. I work in millimeters, so I just used Google to figure out the conversion.

Math - Converting Inches to Millimeters (Thanks Google)
Converting Inches to Millimeters, Thanks Google!

So basically what I wanted was a nice little cylinder to fit over that stud. If I was going to error, I would want my hole to be TOO big. I could always fill it with adhesive or Gorilla Glue. I didn’t really want my hole to be too small and put myself in a situation where I would have to drill it (or rather ask my husband to drill it) to make it fit.

Now, looking at the material page on Shapeways, I noted steel does have a margin of error.

Margin of Error for the Shapeways Steel
Steel’s Margin of Error

3/8″ == 9.525 millimeters. To calculate the margin of error, I multiplied that by 0.01 (1%) and added 0.1 to it (per their accuracy statement). Since there would be TWO walls (one of each side of the cylinder) that could affect my fit, I multiplied that by 2.

The meant I would probably want to increase my cylinder opening by 0.3905 mm to account for possible margin of error. I went ahead and rounded up to 0.5mm just to be safe (And again—I would rather my hole to be too big than two small)

MATH!  Calculating my Cylinder Diameter
Behind the Scenes Glimpse of my Notes

I decided my hole would be 10.025. So my inner cylinder had a diameter of 10.025. I wanted my walls to be 1mm thick, so I made my Outer Cylinder 12.025 in diameter (remember there are two walls). Then using, you’ve guessed it, the Boolean Modifier, I subtracted the inner cylinder from the outer one.

Outer and Inner Diameters
Outer and Inner Diameters

So get this—either I had beginner’s luck or my math was solid. My steel school bus arrived and the stud attachment was PERFECT. I had to tap it gently with a hammer to place it on the bottle stopper stud and there it has stayed nice and snug. No adhesive necessary! Score!

Note: If you are modeling for Niles Bottle Stopper #302 and you plan to print in the Strong and Flexible plastic, you may want to choose different diameters. I’ve found the plastic to fit looser and require glue.

Prototyping and End Product
Before diving into the more expensive steel, I did print a version of the School Bus in cheap (and fast) White and Strong Plastic. It looked great (other than I shorted my Mom’s service years by 1), so I changed “23” to “24” and ordered a version in Gold Plated Steel. It arrived just in time for my Mom’s last day of school!!!

3D Printing - Prototype Wine Topper School Bus Wine Stopper - Back, Stop Sign Side and Engraving

Prototype and Final Product

And the end product was a hit! I think I got myself one notch closer to being my Mom’s favorite child. : )

School Bus Wine Stopper with Wine
School Bus Wine Stopper

And if you happen to covet a School Bus Wine Stopper of your own, you can order one to be printed from Shapeways (I have the Personalize option turned on too). Also, I’m a big believer in Creative Commons, so feel free to download the model for your own projects. Just don’t forget that Attribution clause! 🙂

Happy Modeling!

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October 14, 2014 at 10:42 am 2 comments

Open Source: Toddler Mother’s Day Gifts to Grandmas

This year for Mother’s Day, Ryan and I took 22-month old Sagan over to Occoquan’s Paint Your Heart Out one Friday afternoon.

We picked out coffee mugs and sponged on some background colors. Then it was Sagan’s turn to participate. He plopped his handprint on each mug. After that, Ryan and I did our best to embellish the handprints and make them appear like peacocks. The proprietor of Paint Your Heart Out has a little girl two months younger than Sagan. That meant the tiny table full of toys was of great interest to Sagan while his parents worked.

While I don’t think our final products are going to make the rounds on Pinterest, we were pleased with the results…as were Sagan’s grandmothers. : )

Mother's Day 2013 - Handprint Coffee Mugs for the Grandmas
Final Coffee Mugs from Paint Your Heart Out

And the whole process got to impress Ryan and I with Sagan’s memory retention. We didn’t pick up our pieces until nearly a week later. Sagan, of course, accompanied us on that outing as well.

As soon as he saw the mugs he said, “Peacock!” and he quickly followed it up with “Haaaaaaaaaand.”

So he not only remembered that we made peacocks, but that it was constructed out of his hand to boot.

August 23, 2013 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Valentine’s Flowers… Sort Of

Happy Valentine’s Day! I have friends who are getting married in May. Instead of hiring a florist, they have recruited friends and family to help them *make* their flowers. They have all sorts of neat projects in the works– paper flowers, felt flowers, even flowers made out of feathers!

Every now and then I spend some time working on my contributions. Mostly I have been doing five-petal paper flowers, but this weekend I got back on the horse (I had a flop in November) and retried Coffee Filter Roses. I think I’m starting to make progress! Enjoy!

Crafts - Coffee Filter Roses
Coffee Filter Roses

February 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm 5 comments

Craft Day with the Neighborhood Kids – Holiday Gobblers for Relay for Life

Last Saturday was “turkey day”. The neighborhood kids came over. Some of them used the computers and some learned how to make the Holiday Gobblers for our Relay for Life Team. I was pretty busy helping them through the process and rethreading yarn, but I did take a few shots:

Plastic Canvas - Jovon, Tyrek and Jacal at Work
Boys At Work (Well, two of them)

Plastic Canvas - Jacal Glues Eyes
Jacal Glues on Eyes for Greg Z’s Turkey (THANKS GREG!)

Plastic Canvas - Tyrek Works
Tyrek Finishes Up A Piece

Henry was on hand for moral support:
Plastic Canvas - Henry Lays Around
Henry and Supplies

And here are some of Saturday’s efforts:

Plastic Canvas - Tyrek's Turkey, Vicky's Turkey
Two Finished Turkeys

Holiday Gobbler - Grey and Pink
Grey and Pink Turkey

Do you covet a cute little turkey of your own? Simply make a November donation to our Hunter Street Hope Relay for Life Team.

Tyrek’s Donation Page
Khalif’s Donation Page
General Team Donation Page

November 16, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Wedding – The Pink Daisy Blanket

In recent years, I was exceedingly lucky to have a number of supportive loved ones who helped me make my way to Ryan Somma. One of those individuals is my friend Ann. When it came time for my wedding, I wanted to thank her for her contribution to my happiness. All the laughter she brought me with her stories and observations. The times she let me galvanize my resolve by listening to grievances she had heard dozens of times before. And most of all, the times she made me field tough questions– the kind whose answers are hard to say aloud even though they are surprisingly common-sense.

At Ann’s wedding she designed and constructed handbags for each of her bridesmaids. Her creations proved to be so popular that after her wedding, Ann was able to build a business off of her designs. I decided even though the bar was high, that I would like to hand make something as well. I don’t sew and I know very little about handbags. I can, however, crochet.

Pattern
Ann loves daisies, so I scoured the Internet for a daisy crochet pattern. That’s when I found Krochet Krystal. The site shares a free pattern for a beautiful daisy square. There’s a small (and uplifting) catch! In return for the pattern, you are to crochet at least one square and mail it back. The squares are sewn together and donated to hospitals and charities in the Buffalo, New York area. The effort has quite an impressive following and daisy squares have been mailed in from all over the world!

Colors
For colors, I chose black, a light pink and a bright pink. My inspiration for the color palette is drawn from one of Ann’s own classic handbag lines.

CW523808
Color Inspiration from Handbags

Construction
I started the daisy effort in November 2009. Now my recipient was Ann. I didn’t want to just turn over anything. I had to practice first! I made seven daisies in blue. Once I was satisfied I had the hang of it, I moved on to the pink.

The daisy blanket proved to be the most extensive of all our wedding DIY projects. Even near the end of the daisy effort, each square was still taking me between one and two hours. I needed forty and as time ticked by, I had to squeeze in daisy making whenever I could. I worked on daisies while we watched TV (but never during Lost– Lost required complete attention). I worked on daisies in the car. I worked on the daisies during ZJ’s Super Bowl party. I even worked on a daisy on the floor of the Virginia Air and Space Museum while I waited to see Avatar in 3D IMAX.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Making a Daisy Waiting for Avatar 3D
Working on a Daisy Waiting for Avatar 3D (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Despite all that diligence, it wasn’t looking good. So I recruited the most prolific crocheter I know:

My mother!

Crochet is like breathing to my mother and still tried and true, she volunteered to take on the less fun part. When I finished a batch of squares, I shipped them to Occoquan. Mom would weave in the loose ends, surround each square with single crochets and stitch them together. We would send pictures of our work back and forth and it was exciting to see everything come together through team work!

Alas, Mom and I still fell short of the March 20th wedding date. We had 30 daisy squares completed and 20 of them sewn together. But it was enough to present to Ann and give her a preview of what’s to come.

Final Afghan
This past weekend, I met Ann in Blacksburg, Virginia for her birthday. I was able to hand over a pot of a succulents from her bouquet (which are still growing!) and…after seven months– the pink daisy blanket!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket Finished
Finished Blanket

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Closeup of Daisies
Closeup of Squares

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Daisy Blanket - Gwyn and Daisies
Blanket in Use

Ann and I live eleven hours away. While I worked on the daisy blanket, I couldn’t help but think about why I was working on it. I relived happy memories and thought about all the reasons I had to be grateful for the friendship. Now that the blanket is finally done, I do believe I’m going to miss working on it. 🙂

June 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Wedding Behind the Scenes – Centerpieces

Ryan and I now have 30 days until our wedding on March 20th. Going into this, I heard account after account of girls trying on a wedding gown and instantly knowing that was it– that was their dress. Although I feel like a pretty, pretty, ecstatically happy, princess in the dress I selected, I didn’t quite have that instant click the other brides described. (My clicking moment may have been dampened by me knowing exactly how many Computer Literacy laptops the dress was equivalent to).

I did, however, have such a moment with our centerpieces! Over the course of the last six months, we pursued many projects. We still have a box full of origami flowers sitting in the living room. We did architect some super cool floating origami lotuses that were lit by DIY LED lights (I’ll make a blog post with instructions on that), but when a serendipitous 75% off sale at Lowe’s presented itself, Ryan and I secured a whole army of succulents. Succulents teach about green roofs, leaf propagation, patterns in nature and survival techniques in drought conditions. But most importantly in our household, succulents are hard to kill! 🙂 Now we just needed something to plant them in!

We found instructions on DIY Bonsai Pots. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the project, but decided to try it out anyway. So three months ago, two of the teenage girls and I extracted a couple of containers from the formidable recycling pile. We used sand paper to rough up the surface. We painted the outside with craft glue and then rolled it in sand. When the glue dried, the container had a nice stony texture. The concept is very similar to the rustification technique George Washington used to make Mount Vernon appear to be made of stone. At this point, I was still pretty indifferent. Painting the pots is when the tide turned.

I watched my teenage companions paint, laugh and smack talk each other’s designs. Meanwhile the kids that weren’t painting voted on which design was best (mine didn’t win). It was right about then I knew we had it. It wasn’t the end products that convinced me, it was all the smiles.

DIY Pots - Vick Pleased with Results
Smiles Sold Vicky

Another serendipitous sale hooked us up with super cheap Christmas tins and the past few weeks, we have been pulling together the centerpieces. It’s truly been a group effort– so far we have had nine different painters ranging in age from 7 to 18. The centerpieces are still a work in progress, but here are some shots of the process so far:

Prep!
Wedding Behind the Scenes - Sanding Tins
Vicky Sanding Christmas Tins (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Sanded Tins
Sanded Tins, Ready to Be Covered in Glue

Wedding Behind the Scene - Vicky Applying Sand
Vicky Rolling Glued Up Tin in Sand (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Painting!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Risha, Vick and Tyrek Paint
Risha, Vick, Tyrek

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Khalif Paints Pot
Khalif

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Dada Paints
Dada

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Terrance Paints
Terrance

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Jacal Paints
Jacal

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Malena Paints
Malena

Planting!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Planting Supplies
Some of the Planting Supplies

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Ryan Plants Succulents
Ryan Planting

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Malena Plants
Malena Plants

We still have a few pots to finish up. Once all the succulents have been assigned to a pot, we’re covering the soil with white rocks. Each pot will be placed on a 12″ circular mirror and each pot will also be accompanied by a little sign acknowledging who designed it. With that in mind, I put a sticker on the bottom of each pot so I wouldn’t “get them confused”.

Yeah… those stickers turned out to be completely unnecessary.

Each pot is a reminder of the community I call home. Each pot is sentimental. Each pot makes me smile. I know exactly who did which one…and I suspect I’ll never forget.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Vick, Tyrek, Khalif, Risha, Jacal, Terrance, Dada Pots
Vick’s Pot, Tyrek’s Pot, Khalif’s Pot, Risha’s Pot, Jacal’s Pot, Terrance’s Pot, Dada’s Pot

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Khalif, Risha and Jacal's Pots (Close)
Khalif’s Pot, Risha’s Pot, Jacal’s Pot

What couple could ask for more meaningful centerpieces?

February 18, 2010 at 1:46 am 5 comments

Fun with ThinkGeek Ice Cube Trays

The last six months, our little household on Hunter Street has been conducting a lot of proofs of concept. It’s part of our wedding brainstorming process. Although most of the projects won’t make an appearance at the wedding, it’s been incredibly fun trying them all out.

This past weekend, we ran an experiment aimed towards “geeky wedding favors”. Chocolate is a safe favor bet, right? Well, we tried out using two Ice Cube Trays from ThinkGeek as chocolate molds– Pi and Space Invaders:

Pi Space Invaders

As with most of our trials, we had a helper! Thirteen year old Risha showed up just in time to do the dirty, but delicious, work.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Risha Making Pi Chocolates
Risha Filling Pi Mold with Melted Chocolate

We’re going to need more practice with the Pis, which I’m sure no one is heart broken about (more end products to ingest). Those little Space Invaders, on the other hand, are ADORABLE!!!! I love the determination on their faces. They look like they want to be so mean… but they are so dang cute.

Pi Chocolates
Pi Chocolates – We need to fine tune are technique

Space Invaders Chocolates
Space Invaders– They are CUTE!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Mean Space Invader
He’s SO determined!

Regardless of whether or not these little guys show up at the wedding, it was definitely a fun project for a rainy afternoon. The ice cube trays have already paid off! 🙂

February 8, 2010 at 11:23 am 9 comments

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