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08/07/2012 / thriftomancer

Maker Faire 2012, Part 2

Hold it! If you’ve just arrived, be advised there’s a part 1. Go read part 1.

In the last part I focused on the big things and spectacles of the faire, now let’s talk about the people (and organizations). After all, people are the heart of makerdom. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them and their works.

Maker Bot and a few others had booth with their 3D printers up and running. No Shapeways this year, which means I missed out on seeing Wombat’s lovely thorn dice again, but I did find that someone’s finally made a nicely detailed pattern for an anatomically correct human skull. There were two lying about the Maker Bot booth, one in pearlescent white and one in neon green. The top of the brainpan was a separate piece and the lower portion was hollow and watertight, effectively a bowl “for when you want to eat Lucky Charms from the skulls of your enemies” as the lad on duty said. I want one, though it’d be used for tea.

Some folks from the US patent office were there too, helping educate the public on the wibblier details of the fairly wobbly system. The really cool stuff was with the individuals though.

Beth Johnson had an origami display and was folding up a few little things to pass the time.

Beth's origami

I adore her designs, especially that hedgehog.

The most adorable hedgehog

I’ve seen pictures of them floating around the internet, but seeing the models in person reinforced how cool they were and that sense of ‘wow, how many times did she have to practice that fold to make it look that perfect?’

Sharing tent space with her were some members/representatives of an Ann Arbor-based makerspace called Maker Works that had nifty examples of projects and tools on display.

Remember those balsa wood dinosaur skeleton puzzles/models you’d put together as a kid?

The greatest dino puzzle ever


I must admit, that’s what drew me over to the tent in the first place. It’s made of MDF which, while awesome for most things, apparently lacks the structural integrity to make a durable dino skeleton. The gentleman running the booth pointed out that the poor stegosaurus’ ankle had snapped under the weight and been repaired with packing tape. (Clearly, the next one needs to be made of steel and go in my garden.)

They also had an Amaya 16-thread CNC embroidery machine. (Just typing that makes me laugh manically.)

Bravo indeed

Truly a thing of beauty. ‘Twas this lovely machine that made my Minecraft sword patch that I showed off a few posts ago. Watching this thing work (at approximately 800 stitches a minute) was incredible, enough to make you stop and wonder at what engineering is capable of.

Oddly, this is one thing from the faire that I admire, but, cool though it is, wouldn’t actually want to own. Don’t do enough embroidery to warrant it.

Across the way, kicking digital to the curb, was inventor/musician Tom Malinowski and his bizarre, handmade analog instruments. Fascinating artifacts like:

The Angel Box

The Angel Box

You know how you can make a wineglass sing (and annoy an entire dinner crowd) by running your finger around the rim? He made this to auto-do that, with a twist. You can tell it’s an old record player, wineglass, and foot pump. He filled the pump with water. It and the hose running to the glass allow the player to change the level of water in the glass at any time, changing the pitch of the note produced.

It was still a work in progress, but the hope was/is to make something like Franklin’s armonica. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

The Qwertypiper

The Qwertypiper

Take 1 mechanical typewriter, attach plastic flaps to its arm levers, position tuned PVC tubes so they’ll be struck when you hit the typewriter’s keys. Play like a keyboard.

It did work, but it was too quiet to be heard very well where it was (next to a dancing robot spider tank.) It would also likely take a lot of muscle to actually play a tune with any speed, seeing as how the typewriter was, as noted, a mechanical model and, as we modern folk have been spoiled by electric keyboards, it’s tough to consistently hit keys that hard.

And the Waits-O-Matic

The Waits-O-Matic

This one was particularly cool. It’s a drum machine made out of random found objects and works by running electronic music/beats/loops through MIDI converters. The converters transform the digital info into electrical signals that fire the statue’s motors and make music. In short, it takes digital signal, turns it analog, and uses it to make music by banging junk together. Unspeakably cool.

And that’s just outside. The inside section of the faire seemed much larger than it was last year. it could be because the museum got in on the act and set up a slew of tables with staff to give visitors a closer look at some of the cooler things in the museum’s collection. Like Mr. Ford’s Stradivarius or the violin-playing nickelodeon.

Piano and violin nickelodeon

It played a song for violin with piano accompaniment. The piano part works just like your average player piano, but the violin has some (conceptually simple, but) wonderful engineering behind it.

Each string is played (now bowed) by a rosin-coated wheel that spins over it and is lowered to touch the string and make the noise. The individual notes along each string are produced by little levers that drop on cue to press the string against the violin’s fingerboard and change the length of the string, just like a finger would on a human player.

I’ve actually seen one of these before up north at the Music House, a museum dedicated to antique and self-playing musical instruments, but they’re pretty rare and very cool.

Also found inside was the 501st Legion’s Great Lake Garrison, back for another year’s festivities. I didn’t see any patrolling Stormtroopers this year, but they did have Chewie, several Tuskens, a Jawa, and a multitude of droids. Chief among them being the RC R2.

RC R2!

Little kids love R2! (Sort of. This particular little kid seemed very bemused and even a little upset when he realized that R2 would react to what he did.)

And if you walked down in the direction of the ‘History of Aviation’ exhibit, you came upon the con’s hybrid artist alley/dealer’s room where at least 40 crafters, many/most of them local Detroit artists, set up shop and were selling their wares.

Practically all the goods offered were handmade and DIY-flavored (sort of required, considering the venue), and what wasn’t had a strong green/sustainable ethic to it. For example, one booth was run by a fairly large-scale designer whose clothes were made with only organic, ethically-produced cotton and linen. Good stuff.

My favorite crafter was Knitter Who, for obvious reasons.

The geekiest knitgoods

Not sure how I feel about the Weeping Angel pillow, seeing as how it’s both the image of an Angel and I’d be asleep, eyes closed, while using it. The Dalek pillow though, that’s just adorable.

That general area was also home to the needle arts teaching booths, where I spent the latter half of Sunday teaching knitting. (I actually signed up to teach crochet, but everyone who came up wanted to learn to knit so that’s what I did. Give the people what they want, right?) Over 4 hours I had 5 students, 1 of whom was really young/wiggly and decided that his yarn was more fun in ball form and best used for throwing at his brother (I can’t argue with that.), and at the end of the day I got sent home with a sizeable haul of yarn that was donated to the booth but deemed too challenging for beginners to work with.

A thank-you

Personally, I don’t see why it would be too hard for them to work with, but I’m happy to have it. It’s really nice stuff. 34% hemp, 41% cotton, and 25% modal. Each ball has 153 yards in it and is relatively light, so I think I’ll either use it to make some tall stripe-y socks or a skull-and-crossbones fairisle hat.

And so ended another year of Maker Faire! Only 356 days until the next one.


One Comment

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  1. Erin Hagman Jones / Nov 1 2012 7:55 pm

    Thanks for plugging my Etsy shop. I like your blog! – Knitter Who

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