Category Archives: Piecing-it-together



I was visiting my friend Mario Juarez’s metal working shop ( in San Diego recently. Watching him create a useful part from a chunk of metal was a study in materials, skill, technology, and how artist-craftsmen can run a business.  The video below shows the ironworker machine punching out holes.



I’ve been thinking about making as much as I can from recycled (or found) items and have started a DIY category for this blog.

This particular project is an electroscope. Electroscopes are one of the earliest types of instruments used to detect the presence of electrical charges. In the realm of physics, they are another way to render the invisible visible. They are old world, old school, and they do not require batteries. This is not the first electroscope I have constructed.

After I first read about electroscopes I needed to test what I had discovered.  Back then I would conduct experiments using my little brothers as test subjects. To demonstrate the presence of electrical charges I would shuffle my slippered feet on the wool carpeting and touch whoever was closest with an antennae from a transistor radio. Sometimes I would have to chase them to finish my tests. Since they were little, they couldn’t run very fast; they could never escape. But they did yell.  All in the name of science.

An evolved appreciation of humanity (and understanding of the legal system) has modified my research methods to that of a more classical approach.

This electroscope was made from a vinegar bottle, rubber stopper, copper wire, and some Aluminum foil. I charged and tested the instrument with a pvc pipe which  which was first rubbed with a cotton dish towel.

The big surprise came during my demonstration to my wife.  Allyson noticed that the  mobile was also moving in response to the proximity of the charge.  I thought that was pretty neat.  You can see this action in the second video.


Tap and Die

No, the title of this post isn’t the moral of a fringe fundamentalist group. It’s about a shop technique which allows you to thread blind rod and turn it into a bolt, or drill a hole and cut threads in it so that you can insert a bolt or threaded rod. It’s a very cool and empowering process.

You can get a full tap and die set or you can buy components; items that you need as you need them. The latter is the direction I took. Not having every size when you need or want it could be inconvenient. On the other hand, only buying what you need helps keep your kit to a manageable size.

I always use cutting fluid, wax, or some type of lubricant with any cutting tool. Tap and die cutting tools are no different. It’s also good to keep brushing the chips out of the cutting teeth. I use an old toothbrush for this purpose.

I needed to be able to control the alignment of some LED lasers for a project ( created with fellow ITP classmate, Vitor Freire.


Melville’s remains languish in the most beautiful part of the Bronx: Woodlawn.
His work lives on because while, “the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago,” technology on land has changed.  From a dead author’s existential fantasy, to my mind, to Adobe Illustrator, to the laser cutter:  From thought, to ink (many times), to thought, to digital files, to an object milled from plastic, to thoughts in a little boy’s mind: in this manner technology destroys the boundaries of space and time.

Behold the pale monster made for my nephew’s fourth birthday:
from hand to illustrator to laser to table top


HV Capacitor rev. 2

I am using parallel discs for this one.    As soon as I finish stuffing the tube and wiring it up, I will calculate and then measure the capacitance.  Except for the nuts, bolts, and galvanized washers, all materials in these capacitors have been rescued from heading to a landfill. There is something gratifying in that.

Check out the laser action too!  I still think that is like magic.   Prior to cutting plastic parts, I cut diameter samples out of cardboard in order to check for fit inside the pvc pipe.  Using cardboard or paper prior to running “good” material is a cost and time saver (thank you, John Duane!).

Here is a video of the laser re-cutting the discs as the material was a bit too thick for the speed which the head was traveling at.  When you see sparking, that is the laser beam striking the Aluminum honeycomb bed below the plastic.[quicktime][/quicktime]

Assembly went well. The washers and laser cut discs were a great fit. When I get time I will measure and test.



What started out as a need to be able to store and file 5.25″ media (CDs and DVDs, no floppy or zip disks) turned into the motivation to design something more.  The self-imposed design constraints were that it would be easy to assemble, disassemble, require minimal tools, use materials at hand, be aesthetically pleasing, and reconfigurable.

I should probably own up to the fact that I did arrive here by way of at least temporarily shelving the a scaled-down reconstruction of Brancusi’s Endless Column.  That project had way too much geometry going on to get right with my current CAM and CNC skill sets.

After doing a lot of thinking and cutting of paper (by hand) I set my design into Illustrator and burned a few permutations in cardboard with the laser to test the fit and geometry of the pieces.

I obsessed on the idea that one section could be used without nails, glue, or other adhesives, and that it would interlock with like pieces to make a final structure.  There was something about Malevich’s aesthetic that kept coming around while I thought and worked.  The past continues to inform and direct my present….

After the design was settled, Courtney Nadine Coleman doggedly attacked MasterCam and transformed my DXF into a design we were able to mill on the Techno CNC machine at ITP.

After cutting the boards,Rough edges I took them home for Thanksgiving and much to the consternation of my family, spent two days sanding them into submission.

Once cut and sanded the units needed to be finished.

At Eric Hagan‘s suggestion I used paste wax. Unfortunately I forgot that the compound uses petroleum distillates, which meant working outside and leaving the wood to dry out of doors as well.  In addition to the leather gloves worn to protect from splinters, I chose to wear plastic gloves as a liner since the leather quickly became saturated with the petroleum compounds.

Lightning in a bottle

Like every other college student Thanksgiving 2013 was an opportunity to take school work home. I was fortunate to be able to recruit the love and resources of my brothers Anast and Terry Terezakis to work on two projects.

Now living with his family in Florida, Terry has been my often unwilling assistant since we were children. We rarely get to see each other any more and building this foil and polyethylene capacitor was reminiscent of old times.

Fortunately for the two of us, Anast was still away on a deer hunt, so we were able to work like Victorian gentlemen-scientists – albeit as carefully as though we were handling nuclear materials. Unfortunately, we bored our little nephew Nicholas beyond tears.
Thank you Anast and Terry!

Subscribe to the blog if you would like to be updated to the progress and testing of what these components are going into….


put non-rechargeable batteries in a charger.  I know, I know: I should have known better.  But after a lifetime of playing it safe, I put a D cell in my charger.  About a half hour later it made a sound like a high-speed fan throwing a bearing and leaked steaming electrolyte all over my charger and sprayed material onto a wall three feet away!  I was fortunate that the spray just happened to hit the wall.  Had the spray hit me in the eyes I have little doubt that I would have been blinded.

I threw the battery out while it was still spewing its leaking innards.  Not much there to see except ooze.