Steve Lodefink guestblogging Dinosaurs and Robots


Steve Lodefink (left) is guestblogging at Dinosaurs and Robots, a new blog about extraordinary objects that Mister Jalopy and I started.

An inveterate tinkerer and "broad-spectrum hobbyist," Steve just can't say no to a cool project. At 3, he was already reverse-engineering the peanut butter and jelly sandwich: "I figured out where all of the parts were, found a good tool, and built one. I've been doing it ever since." He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons, two cats, five tarantulas, and 24 African cichlids, and thinks that one of life's great pleasures is a really sharp aged cheddar cheese. "I'm a simple man," he says. He looks at life's debris at

Steve has written a lot of projects for MAKE and CRAFT, including the high-altitude water bottle rocket that was featured on the cover of Vol. 5. (see video), the RetroVision 2000 AV cabinet, an atomic ball clock, a cool cardboard fort, and lots of other incredibly fun stuff.

Lately, he's been interested in the idea of using coconuts as packages for his electronics projects. From Dinosaurs and Robots:


In Praise of the Coconut Shell

Although coconut shells do have some well established niche market uses such as novelty tableware and small caged-pet shelters, I can't help but to feel as though too many of them are going to waste.

The New Altoids Tin?

No I don't mean as a mint holder, but as an improvised homebrew electronics project enclosure. The Altoids tin does make a nice project case. It has a hinged lid, giving you easy access to your business, a great pocketable form factor, and of course they are everywhere for free. But despite these merits, I think that the ubiquitous mint tin has been used to excess, and its use may be nearing the saturation point. I have a hunch that the coconut shell might just turn out to be the next big thing.

When I was recently trying find an enclosure for the ukulele amp that I was building, a coconut came to mind, and I don't think that I could have found a better case. In addition to the obvious thematic tie-in with the ukulele, the coconut shell has a number of other redeeming qualities.

The shell is hard and durable, easily machined, has a pleasing organic texture which can be left hairy, sanded smooth, or anything in-between. The little brown dome of a half-shell is cute as a bug, bringing a smile to all who see it. The dome shape is extremely stable and tip resistant. I could go on all day.




  1. “Although coconut shells do have some well established niche market uses such as novelty tableware and small caged-pet shelters,…”

    How could you miss coconut bikini top?

  2. One of my (minor) interests is the African mbira, a “thumb piano” that traditionally uses a gourd as a sound chamber.

    I came across a different version a few years ago, using a coconut shell for the chamber.

    Much sweeter sound from the coconut.

  3. The Altoids tin does have *one* very clear advantage over the coconut shell: It has built-in electrostatic screening. Reliably screening a coconut shell is not going to be easy.

  4. Cool — but what really blew me away was the digital version of CRAFT magazine that was linked above. Wow! Amazing look, speed, controls, and nary a PDF in sight. How do they do that? Anybody know? I’d love to get any scoop on that beautiful code.

  5. I want to know if that dummy of mini-Darth means he has a ventriloquist act?

    I could imagine a tiny Vader would have considerable comic implications.

    I’ve scanned over his site and didn’t see an explanation for that picture. Please tell me there’s a hilarious ventriloquist bit to go with that funny as hell picture.

  6. Oh, it is more hilarious than you realize. That diminutive Darth Vader is Steve’s son.

  7. Aw, I thought it was a ventriloquist dummy the way it was posed, but now I notice the kiddie sneakers. Too bad, it would be a great gimmick for a ventriloquist act.

    But hey, if he used his kid and a spot-on James Earl Jones voice – perhaps an accomplice backstage doing the voice so no ventriloquism was actually required- carried the kid out like a dummy, had the kid do no more than turn his head as though he were a dummy and then for the finale leap off his lap and they ‘dual’ with lightsabers to get off stage it would be pretty funny.

    That is if one wanted a Forceful “ventriloquist” act…

  8. Coconut milk, unlike bitter instead of sweet cow milk, tastes like human milk. High milage lapdance days in NYC were the source of this observation.

    A search shows that sites that sell coconut bras are all out of D cups, but also indicate that coconuts can indeed be polished to look like a spotted ebony.

    A search for coconut lumber (akin to bamboo lumber) only turns up normal forestry having nothing to do with the fruit.

    On drying, coconut shells tend to crack after a few weeks, so a quick inner scrapping/sanding/drying followed by a scooped on coating of fiberglass in epoxy would make such projects last longer. Enough 1/16″ fiberglass filler makes epoxy not run.

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