The Circuitous Rennaisance!

I haven’t posted anything here in some time, and here’s why. For the last several months I’ve been undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. That’s right, the Renaissance Man is having one of his own.

I can trace the start of the journey to shortly after I finished up on the TED 2012 Mimesthai installation. I was working with particle effects and so the first thing I did with my time was to develop a particle effects engine design to be driven by Adobe After Effects. The idea here was to integrate events in AFX to commands issued to the particle effects engine. This allows me to precisely key-frame events in key with (for example) live action footage. 

Around this time I was busy organizing my shed. For international readers, in Australia the usual meaning of 'shed' is akin to a workshop, in which one may build, make, tinker, repair and just generally hang out with friends. (Whilst possibly enjoying a beer and watching the cricket).

During this time, in my travels I noticed a rather large electric motor on somebody's chuck out pile. It turned out to be part of a hand made mulches, complete with scary home made blades! The motor turned out to be nice and powerful though, and I put it to use in an experiment I'd wanted to do for ages- to drip candle wax onto a rapidly spinning container, to build up interesting candles, or at the very least interesting blobs of wax.

After many interesting experiments this eventually became 'Space Candles'

Slideshow of the Space Candles

This 'technology' drove the development of another technology- the wax dripper. It turns out to be rather difficult to accurately do this, but in the end I developed something that works quite well.

At this stage my partner and I were getting pretty sick of our dinky shower, as was our son, who was used to that great childhood institution of bath time in the previous house. We decided to do a bathroom conversion, and so there was a need to get handy with wood. The result was a sturdy bath frame and eventually, a new bathroom, much to the appreciation of all.

Next stop on the journey was of all places, the TV show 'Breaking Bad'. It was during one episode of this show that I found myself wondering "Yeah, how DO they make artificial diamonds?"

The answer to this question sent me in the direction of a series of YouTube videos called "The periodic table of videos"' (about chemistry not surprisingly) which I promptly devoured. This led to another series called "sixty symbols" about physics.

Before I knew it I was down the rabbit hole that is YouTube and was really enjoying the videos of one Steve from Marin, and later, and importantly, Mattias Wandel.

Mattias in particular has an approach that I find very appealing. He is an engineer who works wood. I learned a great deal from him and other YouTubers and it was at this time that I started on building a Tilting router lift, from plans I purchased from Mattias's website.

Pictures of the Tilting Router Lift

This sparked an assessment of the tools I was using, and made me wonder if I could be more effective in their usage. One aspect of these endeavors that I found extremely stimulating was the idea of jigs and fixtures. I had attempted to make a table saw when building the frame for the bath, but I knew very little about it, and given that I was using it to cut only hardwood, I'm surprised it worked as well as it did. However it was pretty dangerous and didn't cut square.

At this time I wanted to build a cyclonic dust extractor; I had wanted to do this for ages but had not had the skill or parts. I decided it was time to get a router and so I bought a low end one, and used it to cut the lid of the cyclonic dust extractor. This is when the renaissance really kicked off! After watching some (You guessed it) YouTube videos about routers, it became clear what an amazingly useful tool it is. It was time to make a router table!

I had another go at making a table saw (still using a cheap circular saw) and had better luck this time. I used it to cut certain pieces in the tilting router lift, and after installing a thin kerf saw blade, its utility improved. I also used this table to make a simple router table, using the fence in two different orientations to support both tools.

I also became interested in lathes, mills and machining in general. I had been promised an old Unimat lathe, and so I began to research it, and thus took a detour via wood turning.

I made a number of home made prototype wood lathes, and became quite interested in turning, One day at an op shop I spied a wood lathe kit, that needed only a power drill to make it work. It took a bit of looking to find a matching drill, but eventually I did and turned some simple pieces, including hardwood.

All this time the shed was getting a little bit of love on a regular basis, and what were dark, dank, spiderweb-filled unsorted corners of my space were becoming light, clean and organised. Spiders are still free to do their useful thing. One thing that was become obvious at this point was that I needed more storage, and more efficient storage.

I've always been a fan of approx 40L plastic boxes, that stack and have wheels and lids. I layed some Besser bricks on the ground of one side of the shed (which is just coal wash and rubble) and placed boxes on them. This gave me some more storage straightaway

I completed the tilting router lift to my satisfaction, and the first thing I made was a solder fume extraction box, using the router lift's tilting feature to make non-90 degree angle walls.

Picture of the Fume Extractor

What next for the TRL? A simple marble run of course!

Pictures of the Marble Run

As you'll see in the Craft section of this site, I'm not adverse to the working of wool. One useful machine to have in this regard is a wool winder, so I set out to make one.

Picture of the Wool Winder

One of the useful aspects of a router is that its 'blade' is omnidirectional, unlike a saw. This makes the cutting of discs rather straitforward, and therefore the manufacture of pulleys. One thing about version one of my wool winder however was the high level of friction between the cam and the follower...

Next stop- Acryllic! A friend of mind had some that she no longer wanted and thus began the next phase of the renaissance- using my router to cut acrylic. I made an acryllic disc for the cam and the follower in my wool winder, and this reduce the friction considerably.

I had a great deal of hardwood from the demolition of the house next door, and I had long been dissatisfied with my clothing 'solution' and so I set to work building myself (and my partner) a new solution.

Acryl disc

Shed shelves...

Windsurfer fin


I've written an article about each of the separate aspects of this renaissance.