My guide to building a personal makerspace/workshop at home

I have a new piece on Better Humans exploring some of the main considerations when planning, designing, and outfitting your own home shop or personal makerspace. In the piece, I talk about the benefits of a public makerspace/hackerspace, namely high-end and cutting edge tools that many consumers still can't afford (3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, electronics equipment) and the learning and community aspects of joining such a space. But for those who would rather work alone, many of these technologies are now reaching price-points for more widespread adoption. For this reason, I use the term "personal makerspace" to refer to this type of high-tech home workshop. And I talk about setting up home workshops in general. I cover planning and design, basic tools, specialty tools, "maker tech" (3DP, CNC, etc.), storage, workbenches and carts, lighting and power, workshop as sanctuary, and more. Here is a brief excerpt:

Don’t Hate on the Harbor Freight

In the maker community, it is something of a sport to make fun of the cheap tools found at Harbor Freight. While it is true that a lot of Harbor Freight products are on the cheaply-made side, if you’re careful, discriminating, and do your homework, you can get perfectly fine workbenches, storage tech, hand tools, and even some respectable shop machinery and equipment for hundreds less than higher-end brands.

For starters, Harbor Freight workbenches, work carts, and storage systems are perfectly fine, especially for a home makerspace on a budget. I just bought their multipurpose sheet-steel workbench for $99.

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Super low price on an Arduino clone starter kit

This kit comes with plenty of components to get you started learning how to use the Arduino electronics prototyping platform. It's at one of the lowest prices I've seen. If you don't know anything about Arduino and are curious, check out Tinkercad's Circuits website, which has an Arduino simulator. Read the rest

Teen girl's DIY glitter-shooting unicorn horn prosthetic arm in museum exhibit

Jordan Reeves, 13, was born with a left arm that doesn't extend past her elbow. Last year, Jordan dreamt up a curious prosthetic arm that resembles a unicorn horn and shoots glitter out of its tip. Then, working with her prosthetist and technical designers at Autodesk, she designed and built the magical contraption.

"I wanted show people that our differences don't necessarily hold us back, in fact, they can give us more opportunity," Reeves told WGN9.

After receiving numerous awards for her ingenuity and founding a nonprofit, Born Just Right, Reeves was invited to display her prosthetic at the Chicago Musuem of Science and Industry's Wired to Wear exhibit.

"I love that I can show people that our differences aren't a bad thing... just look at how much fun it can be" Reeves said.

More on Jordan Reeves in Fast Company: "The Girl Behind The Sparkle-Shooting Prosthetic Arm Is Just Getting Started"

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Make a giant DIY moon wall art

Caleb Clark of Make magazine found a shower curtain with a photo of the Moon on it, and turned it into illuminated wall art, using a minimum of tools. The end result is nice. Read the rest

Tour of an off-grid house in Australia

Paul and Annett built a self-sufficient, off-grid house in New South Wales with air conditioning and electrical appliances. They use just 25% of the solar energy that their rooftop solar voltaic system is capable of generating. The also have solar-heated water for showers, a biogas digester that turns waste food into combustible gas, and a composting toilet. They also have a 10,000 liter water tank, but Australia has been experiencing drought as of late, so they have to be conservative with their water use.

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Procedurally generated infinite CVS receipt

Sure, CVS receipts are farcically long, but they're not infinitely long: they could be, though, as Garrett Armstrong's CVS Receipt generator demonstrates, using nothing more than HTML, CSS and Javascript (Armstrong: "I even made a crappy web-scraper to get real product names from their site"). (via Kottke) Read the rest

This 3D printed box looks like a large Oreo cookie

Mike Hutchinson designed a screw-together box that looks like a 4X Oreo cookie (of the Double Stuf variety). He printed it on a 3D printer and it looks great! Here's the Thingiverse model.

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A glowing, 3D printed rose that "blooms" when you touch its petals

Daren Schwenke's 3D printed blooming rose embeds a capacitive touch sensor -- a magnetic wire -- in one of the leaves, which trips an Arduino-controlled actuator that changes the rose's lighting and causes the petals -- 3D printed and then shaped over a hot chandelier bulb -- to splay open or fold closed. Read the rest

Stylophone business card

Master maker Tim Jacobs created a fantastic business card that's actually a Stylophone synthesizer complete with MIDI capabilities. It's based on the original 1967 Dübreq Stylophone, a small synthesizer played by touching a built-in stylus to the metal keyboard. The Stylophone was famously used on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator."

From Jacobs' project page about his StyloCard that ended up costing a bit more than $3 each:

Printed Circuit Boards as a business card are a great gimmick. I'd seen ones with USB ports etched into them, which enumerate as a keyboard and then type a person's name or load up their website. It's just about possible to build them cheap enough to hand out as a business card, at least if you're picky about who you give them to.

A couple of years ago I took a stab at making one for myself, but I didn't want it to be pointless. I wanted it to do something useful! Or at least entertain someone for longer than a few seconds. I can't remember quite how I got the idea of making a MIDI-stylophone, but the idea was perfect. A working midi controller, that's unique enough in its playing characteristic to potentially give some value, while at the same time costing no more than the card would have done otherwise, since the keyboard is just a plated area on the PCB, as is true on the original stylophone.

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I made this cool desktop video game arcade machine with the help of a Glowforge laser cutter

This post was sponsored by Glowforge. Click here to get $100 off a Glowforge Basic, $250 off a Glowforge Plus, or $500 off a Glowforge Pro.

This is the second of two videos on how to make a Raspberry Pi based tabletop retro-video game arcade machine. (Here's the first.)

Once we bought the components and made sure everything worked it was time to design and cut the cabinet.

Any graphics program will work with the Glowforge. You can even use a hand-drawn image because the Glowforge has a built-in camera that scans your drawings and converts them to cutting, scoring, and engraving lines.

Cutting

Once we had a design we liked, we uploaded it to the Glowforge app. It’s as easy as dragging and dropping the image file onto the page, then placing the design on the photo of the material You can move the images around the material in order to fit multiple components onto the same piece of stock.

The first prototype we made had sharp corners, and they poked into our palms when we used the buttons and joystick. So for our second design, we used a living hinge, which is a cool way to bend wood. With these kinds of hinges, you can make beautiful and functional things.

Customization

The Glowforge not only cuts material, it also engraves designs - even photos - in high resolution. We engraved one of our favorite characters  -- Q*Bert, the famous cussing cube-hopper. And my daughter and I took a cue from the original Macintosh team and engraved our names on the inside of the cabinet. Read the rest

Barb Noren makes soldering iron unicorns

Barb Noren, of the highly-recommended YouTube maker channel, Barb Makes Things, has a fun and easy new project video. In it, she turns a Rainbow Dash My Little Pony toy into Rainbow Flux, the soldering unicorn. Read the rest

3D printed replica of the Digi-Comp II marble computer

Michael Gardi (the same guy who made the Think-a-Dot "computer" toy replica, and the Dr. Nim game replica) made a 3D model of the mechanical Digi-Comp II marble computer so anyone can 3D print one of their own.  "I now have the complete collection E.S.R. Inc. products!" says Michael.

From his Instructables page:

Digi-Comp II is a mechanical computer invented by John Thomas Godfrey and manufactured by Education Science Research (E.S.R., Inc.) in the late '60s. As can be seen in the pictures above, the device consists of a frame (about 14 by 28 inches) propped up at an angle. Computations are performed by balls rolling down channels on the top of and inside the platform through gates. Some gates are fixed switches that merely redirect the ball down a particular channel while others are flip-flops that both redirect the ball and change the state of the flip-flop in the process.

Intended as an aid for teaching computer concepts, the Digi-Comp II can count, perform basic arithmetic, and obtain either the "1's" or '2's" complement of a number. The device can be run in auto mode where the balls are released automatically after each step of an operation until the operation is complete, or in manual mode where the user initiates each step.

Along with the STL files and instructions for this project, you will find a PDF of the manual that came with the original Digi-Comp II. I brought this file to a local copy center and had them print me the spiral bound booklet you can see above and I'm really happy with the results.

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BATHDOOM: A Doom level based on a terrible bathroom remodel

For years, Something Awful forum members have reveled in user bEatmstrJ's blow-by-blow account of a terrible bathroom remodel, in which he sought to transform his bathroom "with a woman in mind" with an eye to a future home-sale ("woman play an unfair role in the home-buying process"); bEatmstrJ's saga combines terrible ideas about how a bathroom should look with total home-renovation incompetence, making it the perfect foil for Something Awful's pioneering brand of jeering insults and mayhem. Read the rest

This retro-game player looks like a hamburger

Love Hultén made a Raspberry-Pi based retro-game handheld console in the form factor of a cheeseburger. Below, his making-of video, where we see how he makes good use of a laser cutter. Brilliant!

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The Exploding Kittens Random Item "vending machine" was the most popular attraction at Comic-Con

Elan Lee (previously) is part of the team that brought us the amazing card game Exploding Kittens (previously); writing in MAKE: Magazine, Lee explains how they built an awesome Exploding Kittens vending machine for Comic-Con, to go beyond the boring, traditional ideas of what a con booth was. Read the rest

Make: high-end eyeball props, from humans to monsters to gore

Fourth Seal Studios has everything you could possibly want from high-end prop eyeballs, including $40 "camera-ready" eyes ("Gray cores darken the the 'white' of the eye and can add a more realistic sense to the overall piece the eyes are being featured in"); $22-40 sculptural eyeballs in a variety of scales; "Undead and Creature" eyes (including Red Lich, Hemorrhage, Goat Eyes, etc); kits for making your own eyes and irises; painting and display stands, and custom eyeballs to order. Check back frequently for discounts on seconds and imperfections. (via JWZ) Read the rest

An "e-ink typewriter" that can only do one thing

Lucian's SPUDwriter (Single Purpose User Device) was designed to help him focus on creative writing after a long day of staring at a screen in his engineering job: it uses an e-ink screen and a keyboard, and only outputs via SD card or thermal printer.

As a person who does all of their engineering work on or adjacent to a computer, the idea of coming home and spending even MORE time on the computer for creative writing isn’t super appealing. So I made an e-paper typewriter – no browser, no games, just you and your word count. It has a character LCD at the bottom for the current line you’re typing, to make up for how slow E-paper updates, and when you’re finished you can save your file to an SD card or print it all out with the internal thermal receipt printer for redline editing. I call it the SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device), hopefully the first of a couple of SPUDs. It’s built on MBED and the STM32F401 Cortex M4.

The SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device) for creating writing made with E-paper, MBED, and STM32F401 Cortex M4 [Adafruit]

(Thanks, PT!)

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