Tag Archives: oak ply

111: Bottlecap Sign

The full bottle cap holder. Read on to find out how it was made!
The full bottle cap holder. Read on to find out how it was made!

It wasn’t all that long ago that the craft beer explosion happened, but it’s hard to think back to when beer—at least in my life—was a choice between Budweiser and Miller products. While I’m sure there’s debate aplenty about the community that formed around craft beer, you can’t dismiss all of the awesome artwork that community has produced. One of the best design ideas I’ve seen spreading around the Internet has been beer cap holders. They come in many sizes and shapes—usually states and countries—and are an artistic way to keep track of which craft breweries you’ve sampled fizzy drinks from.

The fact that most of these holders were laser cut was only part of the reason for my interest; many of the examples I saw had different amounts of studs to grip the bottle caps, and I wondered which one was the best solution. Sure, I could’ve done the research and stopped there, but that’s not nearly as much fun. A bottle cap holder I would make!

A stack of prototypes, some with six studs and some frightfully too small.
A stack of prototypes, some with six studs and some frightfully too small.

In my research, I learned that most pop caps (and the twist caps based on their design) have 21 teeth. Despite this, my first few prototypes had six studs. Once I realized they didn’t fit very well on the teeth of the caps I redesigned to include seven evenly distributed studs. I also experimented with stud design, settling on trapezoids after rectangles were too tight and triangles were just a little too loose. This mission to match the studs with the cap teeth would eventually cause me an issue: Goose Island’s caps have 27 teeth! Every other cap I had was only 21. While some size variance made some caps tighter and some caps looser, only Goose Island had to sit this one out. I hate geese anyway.

Bottle caps have feelings too. Look at how well the studs fit between the teeth!
Bottle caps have feelings too. Look at how well the studs fit between the teeth!

Once I had a single cap holder squared away, I spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to fit a grid of them into the word “beer”. I agonized over spacing, wanting to stick to some kind of grid without ending up with awkward, noticeable gaps. It wasn’t long before I realized I’d have to design my own letters based off of the grid rather than relying on otherwise well-made typefaces.

The initial design, with three caps per stroke. Way too big!
The initial design, with three caps per stroke. Way too big!
Another attempt, at a slightly more manageable size.
Another attempt, at a slightly more manageable size.
The final layout (apologies for how difficult it is to see!)
The final layout (apologies for how difficult it is to see!)

After a few attempts at grid-based letters that turned out far too large for the scope of this project, I ironically ended up back at a typeface: one I designed years ago based off of the bitmap version of Chicago present in Final Fantasy VI. Why not add a geeky touch? It also very easily solved the issue of making the letters fit on a grid due to its low resolution pixel quality.

Mounting holes and box joints.
Mounting holes and box joints.

Once I had the design complete, I whipped up a quick (and honestly lazy) box joint connection to hold two pieces together; the sign was very nearly three feet long and I couldn’t cut it out of one piece of oak ply. In hindsight, I should have engraved the sections of wood that held together each letter; they’re just a little too noticeable and wouldn’t be if darkened. I also inserted some small holes for screws that will eventually hold this a small distance from whatever wall it ends up on. A light sanding later and the finished piece was ready for caps!

Goose Island just had to have 27 teeth. Figures. Geese.
Goose Island just had to have 27 teeth. Figures. Geese.

…As it turns out, I don’t have many caps. I’ll fix that!

 

29: Spirit Dial

One of the most interesting things I’ve done as a museum curator is work on a script for a Victorian Halloween drama presented by the museum.  There are many interesting aspects to death and dying in the Victorian Age, and their interest in the afterlife.  In an interesting juxtaposition, the Victorians were advancing technology and science at an amazing rate, yet clung so stubbornly to a belief in the supernatural world.  They truly believed that science could explain all, and that all the scientific innovation would some day also explain what people knew to to be true of spirits and the afterlife.

A shot from Death Comes to the Tanner House, with the original Spirit Dial on the table.  Authentic Victorian ghost? ;) Photo by Photographic Services International.
A shot from the 2013 Death Comes to the Tanner House, with the original Spirit Dial on the table. We fast forwarded into the future and set it in the 1920s last year, so that is an authentic 1920s ghost! 😉 Photo by Photographic Services International.

Part of the production was recreating a Victorian seance, complete with a “Talking Board.”  Today, they are commercially known as Ouija boards.  As early as the 1850s, spiritualists were creating ways to make it easier to communicate with the dead.  Flat spirit boards are actually relatively simple to make on a laser cutter, as are the planchettes (or pointers.)   For the production, I wanted to make something that wouldn’t be obvious that it was being controlled by the museum volunteer, who was in no way a “professional medium.” I found a reference for obscure “dial plates” and I knew that would be perfect to model my version after.

As this post is not entitled “52 weeks ago,” it’s not meant to rehash what we did, but how we are making it better.  The design and the mechanics of how the spirit dial moves was pretty solid, so what I endeavored to do for this week was to prototype the board for kits.  As it was my first attempt at really any wood construction, has a lot of room for improvement and simplification.

I want to take a moment to insert a little disclaimer.  The kits are made for entertainment purposes only.  The original dial was created based on Victorian beliefs.  It was intended to be a prop; a Victorian-style curiosity.   What you choose to do with it beyond that is  your choice and personal belief.

A ghostly hello!
A ghostly hello!

The basics on how to use the Spirit dial:  the largest circle is the one where the participants’ hands rest, and this is the only piece that should be moved. Around the edge are “Hello” “Yes” “No” and “Good bye”.  The text repeats so the people at the indicators opposite of each other read the same thing.  The Victorians believed you need to start every communication with the spirits with a “Hello.”  The yes and no are for simple answers and when you are finished (or the “spirits” are 😉 ), you tell the spirits goodbye. The pointer (which is  attached to the big circle) is for more detailed messages that need to be spelled out, or have numbers.

The biggest obstacles to making the current design into a kit:

Size:

The large dial is on the right, the 12 inch version on the left.
The large dial is on the right, the 12 inch version on the left.

The original board was 16 inches in diameter, which was the biggest width we could easily get blanks for a the time.  This worked well in a theatrical setting, but the size is almost prohibitive to ship.  It would be less expensive to produce and ship at 12 inches in diameter.  Since we were messing with the design and sizing of it, I also increased the turn radius of the pointer, to the alphabet text could be larger and easier to read / point to.

The turning mechanism is a little sticky: This is where my novice building skills come into play.  I didn’t want board to rub up against board when turning the device. Meandering up and down the isles at the hardware store, I discovered furniture movers.  The original board has little plastic furniture moving nubs between each layer in an effort to make it “glide.”  It added unnecessary depth, and was a little stickier than expected.

In prototyping for the kit, I thought felt might be a logical thing to try. The wood in the kit is not sanded, because it is intended that the you customize and finish your own kits before assembly at home.  The tiny rough bits of wood that were barely perceptible with the hand caught on all the fibers in the felt.   It was not pleasant on the ears.

My second attempt at a new smooth mechanism was with simply, thin, laser cut acrylic washers.  I’m still kind of enamored about how simple this was and how beautifully it worked.  It glides like butter.

Sneak peek at week 29 on #52lasers.

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Complicated Construction:

Photo of the cobbled together bottom.  We are making this not an issue in the kits.
Photo of the original cobbled together bottom. No screws in the new version, so this is not an issue in the kits!

The original board involved screws and power tools.  While it did make it relatively sturdy, it is stupidly hard to drill straight down a dowel rod.  Consequentially, some of the alignment is a bit off.  With such tight measurements, this contributed to the stickiness of the movement.  I also didn’t sink the screws, to the heads were sticking out.  This made for an absolute mess on the bottom.  The one screw made it wobbly and prone to damaging furniture (a no no in a museum!) so I put  felt feet on it.  Well, the stickiness of the movement and the felt feet made it slidey.  So I glued some of the grippy shelf / rug liner to the bottom of that.

There are holes for the dowels to go through, as well as engraved wells to secure the glued dowels.

There are holes for the dowels to go through, as well as engraved wells to secure the glued dowels.

So we removed the screws completely, instead creating shallow glue spots for the dowels to fit in.  Using a craft or wood glue, it stays quite secure!  And, of course, there is always the opportunity for people to modify their kits at home with screws and the like.

Revisiting this project has been a lot of fun.  I was proud of the original, but the kits are going to be so much fun! I can’t wait to see what people do to customize then.  The physical parts are done, next up is writing up instructions for assembly, and a quick history of Talking Boards!

All the laser components necessary for the kit.
All the laser components necessary for the kit.
Here are the attachment points for the pointer.
Here are the attachment points for the pointer.
Some fun suggestions for pointer toppers (instead of the boring disk I cut)!  Old buttons, or cabachons
Some fun suggestions for pointer toppers (instead of the boring disk I cut)! Old buttons, or cabochons