The new Glowforge laser cutter is amazing


Laser cutters are machines that cut and engrave flat material – such as plywood, acrylic, chocolate, leather, cardboard, seashells, glass, even sheets of dried seaweed. Today, Glowforge introduced a low-price laser cutter that blows away the competition at a much lower price.

Glowforge is a game changer in many ways, and I haven't been this excited by a technology in a long time. The things you can make with one (see images below) are orders of magnitude better looking than things you can make with a 3D printer of the same price, and the Glowforge is much easier to learn how to use than a 3D printer.

Dan Shapiro, the founder of Glowforge (he's the creator of the Robot Turtles game), gave me a Skype video demo of the machine in action earlier this week. He showed me how to make a votive candle holder out of two different materials. He placed one sheet of thin walnut and another sheet of frosted acrylic on the Glowforge's cutting bed (which has a 12-inch x 20-inch working area). He opened his iPad, which had a live image of the cutting bed displayed on it (the Glowforge has a camera and is conected to Wi-Fi). Dan then dragged the cutting patterns for the pieces of the candle holder onto the video image of the walnut and acrylic pieces. This neat software solution for aligning material was developed by Dean Putney, who was a contractor for many years at Boing Boing, and now works for Dan in Seattle. Read the rest

Ultra-thin USB powered light box


A light box is an excellent tool for illustrators. It allows you to place a sheet of paper with a sketch on it, then place another piece of paper on top of it, and trace the original drawing. A lot of artists do a pencil sketch on a sheet of paper, then use a nicer piece of paper to trace the sketch in ink.

Andreas Ekberg, a wonderful illustrator who makes beautiful stenciled skateboards (like this Jackhammer Jill deck) and other things, told me about this USB light board. I already have a light board, and I've used it for over 30 years. It's a clunky metal box with fluorescent tubes and I used it draw illustrations for the early issues of the bOING bOING zine.

If I didn't already have my lightbox, I would snap up this 5mm-thick USB powered light box ($45 on Amazon). It looks so much better than my old-school light box. The brightness level is adjustable, the LEDs will last much longer than the bulbs (mine currently has one burnt out bulb and I've been using it that way for years), and best of all, it is much more portable. If I get back into hand drawing in a big way, I'll get one. Read the rest

This $3 illuminated jeweler's loupe comes in handy


Early this week I gave an online Arduino sensor workshop, and without this LED jeweler's loupe, I wouldn't have been able to read the tiny markings on many of the components. The battery has lasted for years. It's $2.72 on Amazon with free shipping even if you aren't a Prime member. I'm very happy with mine. Read the rest

Build this brain-teasing golf ball in a block of wood


Gareth Branwyn is blogging for Make, and I've been enjoying his posts. Take a look at this golf ball inside a cage that's hogged out of a single piece of wood.

Read the rest

How to make cool copper wire tiaras with LEDs


The Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio has a nice tutorial on how to make tiaras/copper crowns with copper wire, solder, batteries, and LEDs.

[via] Read the rest

Swingline Thermal Laminator on sale for $15


My daughter Jane has been asking for a laminator so she can make bookmarks, club ID cards, and other projects. I just learned that Amazon is selling a Swingline thermal laminator for $15 (regularly $60) so I ordered it. It comes with 5 letter-sized lamination pouches. (A pack of 100 lamination pouches costs $10.) Read the rest

How to tie the world’s fastest shoelace knot


Most people tie their shoes with the inefficient "bunny loop" shoelace knot. Let kindly Professor Shoelace show you the superior “Ian Knot."

Besides being faster, the Ian Knot is also more symmetrical, works equally for right or left handed people, and has fewer steps to memorize, all of which make it easier to learn.

Read the rest

My kids-and-grownups project book, Maker Dad, on sale for Kindle: $1.99


My book, Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects is just $2 as a Kindle right now. Read the rest

How to hack Amazon’s $5 WiFi button to track baby data


Amazon is selling Dash Buttons for $5. They contain a Wi-Fi radio and a battery. You are supposed to stick them to your washing machine, inside a cabinet door, etc, and when you run out of Tide, Gatorade, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, etc., you just push the button and Amazon will ship you more.

Clever people are starting to find moire interesting uses for the Dash Buttons, such as Ted Benson, who has written a guide that shows you "how to hijack and use these buttons for just about anything you want." Read the rest

Makey Makey – turn the world into a computer interface


It’s easier to understand what Makey Makey is by watching this video of it in action than by describing it, but I’ll give it a shot. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that you connect to any computer with a USB cable (included). You don’t need to install any software. Your computer thinks Makey Makey is a keyboard. And it is a keyboard of sorts. But it doesn’t use standard keys. Instead, you connect wires from Makey Makey to anything that conducts electricity: a piece of fruit, a bowl of water, a cup of soup, a scrap of aluminum foil, blobs of Play-Doh. When you touch the object with your finger, your computer will think you are pressing a key on a standard keyboard. You can assign the object to be a spacebar key, an arrow key, or a letter key. And you can connect several objects to Makey Makey at the same time, so that you can create game controllers, musical interfaces, and other button-controlled devices.

It might not sound like much fun, but the possibilities are endless, and Makey Makey’s ease of use encourages quick-and-dirty experimentation. My 12-year-old was instantly transfixed by Makey Makey and she started making all sorts of things with it, including a drum machine triggered by apple slices, and a game controller out of a cardboard box and bits of foil.

Makey Makey also works with Scratch, the excellent kids’ software development platform. Check out the Makey Makey games people have created using Scratch. Read the rest

Quick and easy DIY juggling balls


Mike is a good juggler, and when his kids expressed an interest in learning how to juggle, he made some kid-size juggling balls out of balloons and rice. The results look excellent!

Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes.

Read the rest

Watch: How to roll a joint


There are lots of how-to-roll-a-joint videos on YouTube, but this is one by Jolie Kerr (author of the household hints book, My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag) is one of the best. (If you find a better one, please post to comments.)

Read the rest

Interview with Ben Krasnow, the guy who made his own electron microscope


[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

Every week on the Cool Tools Show podcast, Kevin Kelly and I interview an interesting person, and ask them about four of their favorite tools. Our guest this week is Ben Krasnow. Ben works at Google[x], Google’s semi-secret technology development facility, where he creates advanced prototypes. Ben previously developed virtual reality hardware at Valve. After work, he spends time on various projects that usually involve circuit design, machining, and chemistry. Ben makes things that usually require a lot of money and sophisticated equipment: an electron scanning microscope, silica aerogel, and freeze-dried astronaut ice cream (I’ve tasted it, and it’s spectacular). You can follow Ben’s projects on his youtube channel, Applied Science. Read the rest

Deal: Arduino Robotic Vehicle Kit


Meet Cherokey 4WD, a versatile mobile platform compatible with most microcontrollers, and the heart and soul of your robotic vehicle. By assembling the included hardware and tuning the software, you will construct a rapid, rugged, outdoor-friendly truck controlled by an iOS app on your phone. Learn to install sensors on the robot to trigger specific movements and actions, and take your newfound Arduino expertise onto limitless future projects.

Enjoy high-quality micro-speed motors Drive your truck on rough terrain w/ its durable & solid aluminum body Expand upon the highly versatile modular design Easily control w/ your iOS device Write your own code to take advantage of its ultrasonic sensor, BLE-ready microcontroller, IR sensor & LEDs Start your project immediately without the need for an additional motor driver or wireless shield Use for educational purposes, robot competitions, home automation protyping or research projects Read the rest

Make an Arduino puzzle box


"This is my first foray in the world of interactivity," says Grady Hillhouse. "It's an arcade-style puzzle box mini game. Powered by an Arduino with completely custom wooden enclosure and components, the goal was to make it look like something your parents told you not to play with when you were a kid. The object of the game is to adjust the knobs so each needle points at its respective LED, but it's not as easy as it sounds (or is it!?)." [via]

Read the rest

Gotcha Gadgets – A book with a built in electronic mischief maker


Build Your Own Gotcha Gadgets comes with a multifunction electronic circuit, wires, and sensors that kids can use to build a variety of pranksterish devices: A cookie jar that sounds an alarm when the lid is removed, an electronic whoopie cushion, an intrusion detector, a fake lie detector, and more. Once you try a few projects from the book, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with other ways to use the components, both mischievous and mild.

Build Your Own Gotcha Gadgets by Ben Grossblatt Klutz press 2015, 32 pages, 0.5 x 10.2 x 12 inches (paperback) $21 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

LightUp Faraday: a toy to teach electronics and coding


Read the rest

More posts