Posts filed under ‘Mom’

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!

October 14, 2014 at 10:42 am 2 comments

Standing Room Only on Grandma Sawyer’s Lap

Yesterday I took this picture of Sagan and my mother. Was I capturing a beautiful one-on-one moment between grandson and grandmother?

Sagan - August 20 - With Grandma
Grandma and Sagan

NO! You see, Sagan had some company.

Sagan - August 20 - With Grandma and Willie
Grandma, Sagan… and Willie!

My parent’s minature pinscher, Willie, has not been deterred one bit from sitting on my Mom’s lap. No, siree. He’ll readily share that lap.


Sagan - August 19 - With Grandma and Willie 2
Mom, Sagan…and Willie

…..Or Night

Sagan - August 7th - With Grandma and Willie
Mom, Sagan…and Willie

August 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm 2 comments

Sagan Bath Time

With his umbilical cord gone and his belly button healed, Sagan had the go ahead from his pediatrician to get a bath. This pleased his maternal grandmother greatly. She very much looked forward to bathing him. Sagan didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as her.

Sagan - Day Sixteen - Grandma Gives Him A Bath
Miserable Sagan Gets a Bath (Photo by Ryan Somma)

On the package of bath tub, there is a picture of a baby that looks so incredibly happy and bubbly to be involved in the process of getting clean. Sagan, meanwhile, looked like he wanted to flick us off. 🙂

Sagan - Day Sixteen - Bath Time
Contrast of Sagan and the Package Baby (Photo by Ryan Somma)

He pepped up in the end though and Grandma was right– he did smell quite a bit better. 🙂

Sagan - Day Sixteen - As Monkey
Calmer and Cleaner Sagan

July 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm 1 comment

Cookie Decorating 2008

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, my family has a tradition of making and decorating Christmas cookies the day after Thanksgiving. This year may have been the year my mother has been waiting for. Instead of bloody amputees, BEOTCH Christmas trees or the army of butts we saw in 2007, we actually had an impressive inventory of “nice” cookies. Pretty butterflies, unicorns and ice cream cone cookies outnumbered the typical designs.

This year’s cookies featured butterflies instead of butts!

More pleasantly themed cookies

But, of course, we did have some unique appearances sneak in- DNA, Hydrogen Atoms, geek bunnies, monsters and a Kurt Cobain Cookie.

Monster Bunny, DNA, Hydrogen Atom

Kurt Cobain Cookie– with cigarette!

I tried to make an AT Logo and an American Chestnut Leaf, but both of those ventures didn’t come out well, particular the leaf. When it cooked, the cookie expanded and all my great American Chestnut teeth plumped up and rounded out.  So after the oven had its way, I was left with a Chestnut Oak Leaf instead.

Meh. An attempt at an AT Christmas Cookie

2008 was one of our more heavily attended cookie decoratings. This year we had Aaron, Meagan, Jay, Jacqueline, Mom, myself, Carolyn, Ryan Somma, Kipp, Stacy, Louise, Jenn (the bridesmaid I got to escort!), Christina and I think our youngest attendee to date– Oliver!

Stacy, Christina and Louise cut cookies

Meagan, Ryan, Mom, Me, Christina, Stacy, Louise (Photo by ae) – Note if you look at the large version, you can see I have icing on my face!

Louise, Stacy, Kipp decorating cookies

My brother prepares to decorate…by wearing latex gloves!

The youngest attendee – Oliver (shortly before Sunny stole his cookie)

As always, I enjoyed our annual cookie decorating event and I particularly enjoyed ingesting our lovely handiwork.

Additional Pictures
My Cookie Decorating Pictures
Aaron’s Cookie Decorating Pictures

December 7, 2008 at 8:28 pm 4 comments

Innovation at the Occoquan Craft Show

The last weekend of September, Ryan Somma, my mother and I ran down to downtown Occoquan, Virginia to check out their giant craft fair. We were far from alone. The Occoquan Craft Show is as heavily attended today as I remember it being as a child.

Lots of attendees!

My favorite episodes of Project Runway are typically the innovation episodes where the designers have to use unusual materials to make their garments. I believe witnessing the innovation of the vendors is my favorite part of the Occoquan Craft Show as well (though the food is pretty darn delicious).

This year, there were a lot of neat items to look at. Here are three of my favorites:

Percussion Frog
One stand had little frogs carved out of wood with ridges along their back. When you took a stick and ran it down the frog’s back, it made a realistic croaking sound! They also used the same concept with pigs and crickets. I liked that the different carvings produced pitches and sounds that were true to their animal inspiration.

Percussion Frogs (Photo by farleyj)

Fish Scale Flowers
This concept is not exactly new to me as I already own a fish scale flower (a beautiful yellow rose barrette that is currently somewhere in storage). Yet, I still believe this is my all-time favorite innovation I’ve seen at a craft show. Just the notion of taking something like fish scales and making them into beautiful works of art really appeals to me.

These fish scale flowers are available for purchase from (Photo by oceanlifedesigns)

Recycled Animals
Finally, there was a stand that was chock full of creativity and vision. They took bolts, tools, buckets, bicycle gears, springs, old rakes, you name it! and fashioned them into the cute animal figurines.

A menagerie of innovative animals (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Cranes/Herons made out of rakes! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Cats, Ducks and Dogs (Photo by Ryan Somma)

It was inspirational to see the different designs people come up with and the unusual materials they work with. Kudos to the artisans. I look forward to seeing their work in the coming years!

More pictures of the Occoquan Craft Show can be found on my Flickr site.

October 20, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Rock Star Party

Last week while I was at my parent’s house, I received a text message from my sister.

wanna go to a rock star party on saturday?

In other words, a party where we were supposed to dress up as rock stars. Sounded fun, but I barely had an ample supply of underwear on hand, let alone “rock star garb.”

So what do you do if you are out of town, have limited items in your suitcase and you suddenly get invited to a Rock Star Party?

Raid your parents’ closet, of course!

I have a father who goes to goth clubs and a mother with much better footwear taste than I. The two of them supplied some key components to my outfit. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the full assemble, but I do have a pen and a scanner, so here is a drawing:

Vicky is only hip because of her parents

Sadly, I have to admit that even if I were home with full access to my own closet, my concoction would have been lame. I rode the coattails of coolness… of… my… parents!!!

And so, I will close this post humming along to NOFX’s “What’s the Matter With with Parents Today?” from their Pump Up The Valuum album (not Heavy Petting Zoo like some lameos think):

Mom and dad
How’d you get so rad?
When exactly did you get so hip?

February 20, 2008 at 11:47 am 9 comments

Lent ’08

Yikes. Lent snuck up on me this year– I didn’t realize it started this week until Monday when I noticed Mardi Gras decorations up at the local Cajun restaurant. This year I’m giving up two things:

  • Red Meat
  • Text Messaging While Driving

Red meat builds off Lent ’06 where I gave up beef. Text messaging while driving has no precedence, but it is a bad habit I should definitely curb.

For the last 4 years, desserts have always been on the list. This means this year I can actually have cake on my birthday. Others may benefit as well. Apparently my giving up desserts presents a hardship to my loved ones. A couple of years ago, I called my mother one morning.

“Hey Mom, I have a question for ya.”

“Oh gawd,” she groaned, “Are you trying to decide if a pancake is a dessert again?”

My question was not related to Lent at all, but her reaction certainly said a lot about our past conversations. 🙂

February 6, 2008 at 9:38 am 3 comments

Tried and True Times Two

Well if one worries about spoilers from a movie from 1989, one should not read any further.  

Near the end of Steel Magnolias, M’Lynn  (Sally Field) talks about the death of her daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts).  When the doctors removed Shelby’s life support, Shelby’s father left the room and Shelby’s husband left the room as well.  But M’Lynn stayed with her daughter and held her hand until the very end.  She was the only one who stayed even though “Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something.” (See where the movie gets part of its title?)

On Sunday when it came time to paint the ceiling of the upstairs hallway, I found out who my “Steel Magnolia” was.  Sean didn’t participate in any of the house projects this past week and this one no different– he watched TV.  My mother had given me ample notice that she had no interest in ceiling painting, plus she was weary from four solid days of dedicated work.  She stayed downstairs and read a book. 

It needed to be done, so armed with my roller, my white can of paint, my hiking headlamp (really good to help see missed spots) and an eccletic set of dropclothes, I commenced the chore.  It wasn’t long before I realized I wasn’t alone.  Who was with me?  Jimmie!  He curled up on one of the dropclothes and watched.   His support did not falter– He stayed upstairs the entire time.  And amazingly enough, he never once got in the way.  When I needed to stand in his spot, he took a few steps down the stairs and just waited until my work in that area was done.

Even though he’s just a dog, I appreciated his moral support. 

And where was Henry the Beagle?  Cowering downstairs.  There wasn’t a single aspect of this operation, ranging from rollers to dropclothes, that did not terrify him.  I guess I know which dog will not protect me in the face of danger.

While I am on the subject, I do have to highlight my mother and her contributions this past week.  There were things that were not fun, but she did them cheerfully.  Sometimes we were listening to her CD (Avril Lavigne) but even when we were listening to my CDs, she didn’t complain.  Her expertise and work ethic were valuable, but more so was her company.  That is a trend with my mother– I can really count on her company. 

Here’s a quick example from college.  I loved the Kids in the Hall and I really, really, really wanted to see their movie Brain Candy when it came out.  Alas, I couldn’t find a single person to go with me.   Finally, my mother agreed to accompany me.  There was a scene in the movie my mother found so disgusting she gagged— and she STILL stayed for the rest of the film and she still continues to go to movies with me to this day (though she routinely reminds me about the Kids in the Hall debacle).

I think more contemporary evidence surfaces when you look at geocaching.  My mother has accompanied me on more geocaches than any other person– even the young, adventurous whipper-snappers like Stacy.  Mom’ll tromp through the woods, dodge thorny bushes and when we get close, she’ll point out suspicious piles of sticks or leaves. 

All this stuff– helping me with home repairs, braving gag-inducing movies and finding pieces of tupperware in the woods– she does this, at least in part, for me.

And I very much appreciate it.

(Apparently I show that appreciation by making her remove wallpaper, coercing her to gag-inducing movies and dragging her out into the middle of the woods).

July 24, 2007 at 11:42 pm 8 comments

The Steady Seduction of Montana

Greetings from Missoula Montana!

When we were children and we found a stray or an injured wild animal, my mother would always give us kids lecture before we brought the animal in.  For example, with a baby grackle that fell out of his nest Mom said, “Don’t get attached.  I don’t want to see you playing with it.  I don’t want to see you giving it a name.  This is only temporary, we are not keeping it!”

The next thing my mother knew, that baby grackle was sitting on our fingers and listening to us coo compliments and his name (Simon).  It seems despite my mother’s warnings and knowing the relationship would not last forever, we would still fall in love.

I may find myself in a similiar situation with Montana.  I know I could never live here– the winters are too taxing for my husband to be happy.  But I can’t help but get seduced by all the scenery that surrounds me.  Every direction I look I see something I want to explore and hike and photograph.  Montana has majestic mountains like Colorado–but with more green and vegetation.  It’s a perfect storm!

There’s grass on this mountain!

I’m an adult now and unlike what I did with Simon the Grackle when we turned him over to a wildlife refuge, I will not shed tears when I part ways with Montana.  I will embrace Montana, but for what it is.  Just a fleeting affair.  A 10 day fling.

But, here’s another lesson I can take from Simon the Grackle, even if a relationship is short-lived, it doesn’t mean you won’t remember it and the joys it brought you.  Heck, like Simon, 15 years from now, I could be talking about Montana in a blog.  🙂

April 7, 2007 at 9:49 am 2 comments

Weenos and Boola-Boola

When my siblings and I were young, one thing that would always bring us laughter was hearing a “dirty” word.  I put dirty in quotes because what we considered obscene was much more mudane than what the network censors are on the prowl for.

For example, one of the words we found so hilarious was “weeno”.  That was what we called our genitalia back in the day.  I’m not sure of the full etymology of the term, but suspect it has something to do with where “wee-wee” comes from.

There used to be a commercial for Matchbox cars that aired on Saturday mornings.  At the end of the commercial, a mother would remind her children of chores to be done. 

In unison, the children would reply, “We Know!” and in unison, Carolyn, Jay and I would crack up. 

My mother has a story which features us laughing at another word.  One day we were in church and the Old Testament reading was about Adam and Eve:

So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loinclothes for themselves.

As soon as the liturgist said the word “naked” we were done for.  All three of us kids starting laughing uncontrollably… and loudly.  I’m sure the echos of the church helped amplify our amusement to the congregation.  My mother said at first she was horrified and terribly embarassed. 

But then she shrugged and realized, “Well, at least it shows they’re listening.”

And here’s how I connect this topic to the modern day!  In a post last week I included a number of quotes on Malcolm X’s prison experiences.  Amongst those quotes, Clint found a word that may be as amusing to him as “weeno” and “naked” were to Carolyn, Jay and I.  Clint’s comment:

boola-boola?! HAHAHEHEHHEHE…

That is all. )

My reaction was very much like my mother’s conclusion in church– “Wow, that means he read the Malcolm X quotes!!!”

I got a nice little confirmation that the words were received.  Who knew that laughing at dirty, silly-sounding terms could serve as such functional feedback? 

March 5, 2007 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

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