Friday, June 5, 2015

Make Rock Facts For The Garden

You don't have to decide whether garden markers are practical, or just pretty... couldn't they be both? And you don't have to go Over the garden wall for your own rock facts. These rock facts are practical, pretty, and homegrown.

Supplies:

Smooth stones, preferably with a flatter surface.
Acrylic craft paints + Acrylic gloss sealant (optional)
Small brushes

Maria and I first dabbled in rock painting for a Thanksgiving craft. We really enjoyed how easy and gratifying it was to make tiny painted tokens. We kept playing, and soon had a rock farm. Now, we have markers for the sprouts and veg popping up and spreading in the garden.

I don't think this necessarily requires a tutorial, but I can offer a few tips.

#1. You can use a pencil... it helps with spacing, and giving you a base to start from.

#2. Use slim, and small brushes, and start by making your letters, or veg small... so that when mistakes happen, you can layer paint, and correct lines... your painting will get bigger, and if you start big, you might feel like it becomes too big.

#3. Relax and have fun. This is rock art... not masterpieces! Or maybe it is a masterpiece. Just try not to overthink it.

#4. When Maria decided to join me, she went to the garden to look at chard colors, and she picked a basil leaf for inspiration. Visual references are helpful.


Our craft paints are flat, and the finished look was a bit dull, dry. It's not bad, in fact I sort of like the naturalness of it, but I decided to liven it up with the gloss sealant. Maybe it will help them last longer?

Maria didn't get where I was going with this. The end of the cucumber is sliced. Okay, like I said, "Try not to overthink it!"

This is for the Anaheim peppers we are growing, or as Geoff likes to call them, "The chile relleno garden."

Okay, did I overthink this one?

Simple, crafty, fun.

Lettuce agree to play in the garden, to grow something good.

I think it would be fun to be a multilingual gardener... zanahoria, carrote, ninjin, marchew, wortel, morot, karoti, cà rốt, carrot! {Spanish, French, Japanese, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Swahili, Vietnamese, English}

The basil smells really good.


I'm thinking of recipes, and dinners to come!

Need some sage advice? Make something!

Monday, June 1, 2015

BackYard Mini-Make

We did it again... a homegrown, mini-Make event and Lemonade sale!

It starts with lemonade. Fresh squeezed. We invite all of our friends, put a sign up at the Little Free Library, then dust off our bots, spruce up our tent, and get ready to play, tinker, share, learn, and make. Donations for those homemade cookies and lemonade go toward replenishing supplies... like duct tape, paint brushes, clay, epoxy, sandpaper, drill bits, and pizza. Our Young Makers Club goes through a lot of epoxy, and pizzas, and we like to share with everyone.





This post is a Big Thank You! Thank you, Paul... for all the pre-event support and heavy lifting. Making, and preparing to make, always goes better with help. Thank you, James... for explaining our purpose, in such succinct and lyric prose. You give us that air of totes legit:

"A glorious Sunday to ye all!
Come one and all to the Bird House, humble abode of the Van V. folk, for a lovely time of comradery, creativity, and cuisine. What cuisine (you ask)? That of the gods: a potent symphony of lemonade and cookies awaits your face-stuffing. The best thing about face-stuffing is that it often goes hand-in-hand with patronage.
Some of you may be wondering what the purpose of such patronage is. Well, you see, there happens to be a retinue of creative folks here who appreciate utilizing the industrial, artistic, and intellectual resources of the House of Bird.
So while we socialize, nosh on snacks, and sip on liquid snacks, we will be bringing and working on whatever projects need our love. We shall raise aggregates of magic metal and cotton that will allow us to buy infinite quantities of duct tape, gorilla glue, pistons, 3D scans, MIDI controllers, circuit boards, cloth, yarn, butter, flour, and all the like.
Come celebrate the manipulation of space-time events by sentient biological systems!"


Thank you to friends who came from near and far, who were curious enough to see what a "Lemonade & Robots & ChickenBlog" event is all about. Thank you for your support, for playing, for sharing your enthusiasm, interest, knowledge, and company. And I must thank my family, who want to create things, who cannot not make things, but who don't necessarily need to promote what they are doing, yet endure my aggressively friendly passion for sharing their accomplishments; indeed anyone's projects, interests, tinkering, making, learning makes me want to celebrate... It's a huge reason why I maintain ChickenBlog, as well as this blog.

Max finishing his pasta and hot glue bridge for Physics. Long may it stand!

Friendly customers, lining up!

So. Makey Makey? Lani and her daughter brought their Makey Makey, so it could get figured out... any takers?

Here is Da Vinci, the line drawing robot that first appeared at the Maker Faire, Bay Area, in 2012. Of course, he was only a hand, then.

Bridge complete, and ready to take on AP Physics bridge challenge. This is the first time the bridges are not balsa wood, but their fate is the same!

Isaac and James take the Makey Makey challenge, and build a strawberry, banana, and apple band that actually plays music. Yes, it is appalling that I do not have video of this, but trust me, it was pretty epic.

This has definitely inspired us to host another day to tinker with Arduinos.

Arduinos, and Scratch, and Java programming... these things are like magnets, drawing Young Makers into the greatness of S.T.E.A.M.

Chris F captured this moment, showing the big draw of programming with Scratch. Not just playing games, writing them!

Isaac, Paul, Suki, Amira, Grant, and Gabe... so good to see old friends.


Nathan, James, Matt, Nick, Isaac, Gabe, Grant... and campfire dinner.


The chickens and goats are never neglected. Isaac made friends for life when he sat with Tasha and Ada and brushed them.

Some of our youngest Makers, Maria and Amira.

In the back, William and Alex, then Max, James, Nick, and Grant, with Suki in front of all of them, and on the other side of the travel weary bot (he survived Fanime... barely} Matt with Gabe and Isaac, an inspiring lot, all.


And just to round out the day, we went half way Over the Garden Wall.

Our second lemonade sale and robot event, was a success, for sure!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Make A Forge

Somewhere there is a list of all the things we hope to make, that we want to make, that we are compelled to make, and it includes build a forge. The list isn't exactly 'written down,' and we may not always agree on what's at the the top of the list, but the list does exist, and we do aspire to address every line of it, sooner or later. Alex was probably the first one to dream of a home forge, and I am sure Geoff agreed it would be good, William, too. No doubt Max has been on board since his freshmen year metals class. It's certainly something the children have dabbled with for many years. Well, some things on our make list happen right away, and some develop over time, organically. Last September we acquired an anvil, which is a good first step toward building a metal heating hearth. Then at a Viking Festival Alex was recruited as blacksmithing apprentice, and this only fueled the fire. Then, as though it were suddenly, Alex brought build a forge to the top of the list; he called his good friend James to come over, then he collected and gathered all the parts to make a soup can forge.

The Parts To Build It:

Propane torch
Steel soup can
Plaster of Paris
Sand
Steel pipe

The Parts To Use It:

Tongs
Anvil
Hammers
Scrap metal... copper coins, iron nails, clock springs
Goggles
Closed toed shoes
Boric acid
Bucket of water
Spark lighter

The iron nail was a fun one to heat up. Iron's melting point (2,800 degrees fahrenheit) is too high for this mini-forge, which was probably topping off at about 1,800 degrees fahrenheit. The soup can forge is sufficiently hot enough to soften the iron nails, so they can be hammered and shaped.

Copper has a much lower melting point, so we scrounged for some copper pennies, and put them in a steel pipe... the steel pipe turned out to be less effective than just sitting the pennies directly in the forge. Alex prepared some sand with the impression of a sea shell to pour the molten copper into. They were able to get the copper very hot, but it would cool as soon as the heat was removed, and it wasn't possible to pour the copper into the mold before it hardened. No surprise, since they knew the forge was almost 200 degrees cooler than necessary to really heat the copper up.

So... what next? Aluminum! Aluminum, with a melting point of only 1,221 degrees fahrenheit! A perfect match for the heat of the soup can forge.

The aluminum melted quickly...

and poured easily into the sand. Ideally this would not be "playground" sand, but a special sand combination called green sand: "...there are many recipes for the proportion of clay, but they all strike different balances between moldability, surface finish, and ability of the hot molten metal to degas."

We have a homemade aluminum sea shell blob. Which is really cool.

Things have come a long way from those first fire lessons, and it's wonderful to know that all of their experiences, at home, at Maker Faire, in the school metal shop... it builds, evolves, and inspires next steps, new paths, more confidence, bigger ideas.

Alex called this experiment "Good fun, but we need the big one."

The Parts on The Wish List:
Green sand
Leather aprons
Fire bricks
Refractory cement
A steel tube
A burner
Bellows, or forge blower


And the iron nail? They made it into a mini hook! I'd like about ten more of these, for hanging art on the porch, please!