Table at Last! (Last Day of Crucible Woodworking)

Done at last! 2 minutes into cleanup time on the very last day. This is meant as a little art table for my sister, who likes to work sitting on the floor sometimes (me too!) Last step is to find out what sort of finish she wants. It was fun taking it home on BART, got lots of “did you make that?” from strangers and it was just the right size to share a seat with me.

little table

Woodworking Week 2



Continued from last week, this week we measured and traced lines for the mortise and tenon joinery on legs and aprons. We used a nifty marking gauge to cut parallel lines for each needed measurement. We used a drill press to remove most of the material from the mortises and then a chisel to cut straight edges on the ends of each mortise. We will route these out next week. I dropped and broke both a marking gauge and a beautifully sharp chisel. I’m feeling fascinatingly clumsy and slow with this new medium, but having fun anyway. I loved using the chisel, it was very satisfying.

Woodworking at the Crucible

I’m taking a Woodworking I class at The Crucible! Here are some photos from day 1 and 2.

We are each going to build a little square side table like this:

side tableThe first thing we did was make a “story stick” as a reference for all the measurements in the table.

story stick and measuring toolsThen we cut some wood to roughly the dimensions of the table legs and aprons (the side pieces) using a circular saw and a miter saw.

circular saw

20160712_213929One of the resulting apron pieces (which will later be cut in half for two aprons):

hand planeNext we used the jointer to flatten one face and one edge and make them perpendicular to each other:

jointer 2And then the planer to get two parallel, smooth faces. Forgot to take a picture of this machine!

Next, we used the table saw with the most square edge against the fence to cut the exact width of each apron (also forgot to take a photo).

apronThe instructor had some demo pieces showing how we are going to connect the legs and aprons, with a mortise and tenon. There’s an easier but less sturdy way:

mortise and tenon And a more complicated cut with a “haunch” that will supposedly stabilize things.

haunched mortise and tenon Everyone’s been very friendly and I am beyond thrilled to be learning this stuff, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. The class is going fast!

Zipper Sewing Tip

This might be obvious but it took me way too long to figure out! When sewing in a zipper, there is this annoying moment when the presser foot hits the zipper pull and your nice stitches previously parallel to and equally spaced from the zipper threads want to go all wonky. Tutorials say to lift the foot and unzip the zipper, but every time I try this the pull is too bulky to go under the foot. What I’ve been doing wrong: you can’t flip the zipper pull towards you to pull it, you have to either push it from the front or pull it from the opposite side. A bent paperclip works quite well to pull it through.

zipper pull

That weird-looking presser foot is an edgestitch foot. You’re not really supposed to, but I’ve started using one for just about everything (you’d normally use a zipper foot for zippers).

Some zipper pouches in progress:


Intro Programming Project: Textile Design With Code (Part I)

I introduced a new class project this past year: textile design! Students used Processing to program designs. Then we printed them using Spoonflower, a custom fabric printing service. Later in the year, Spoonflower launched a new service called Sprout Patterns that lets you print your design onto a sewing pattern (for example, to make a shirt or a bag). Students used this to successfully turn their designs into dopp kits, a dress, and zipper pouches, learning how to use the sewing machine along the way.

A few things I really like about this project: it lets students experiment with color in their designs in a way that they can’t using, say, a laser cutter. It’s quite well suited to “modularizing” parts of a design into functions. It’s great practice with nested loops and conditionals as students figure out how to make different “repeats” across the fabric (a grid, tiled with every other row shifted, radial). And I get to teach them to use the sewing machine, which is a relatively underutilized machine in the shops.

With thanks to Jennifer Jacobs for getting me experimenting with radial patterns after her Generative Design workshop at Adobe last summer and more generally helping me think about how to teach visual pattern design, and to Andrew Kleindolph for his inspiring Number Fog Designs project.

I will write more in depth about my approach to teaching this and the direction student projects took, but here are a few photos of student projects in the meantime:

Elephant Design by Wiley Wadsworth, printed next to her code on a zipper pouch template by Sprout Patterns).


wiley elephant design_DSC1953

Koi pond dopp kit (anonymous by request):

lily koi bag lily design    koi design

Music notes pillow by Ryan Yee

IMG_2532 Ryan Yees Music Design19771

Kitchen Cabinets!

Gasp! We finally got our new kitchen cabinets in!

When we moved into our new apartment a few months ago, we knew we were going to have to do something about the lack of counter space. There was one little IKEA sideboard and one tiny little ledge near the sink that turned cooking into a bit of a juggling act.

Here’s what the area near the stove used to look like:

before cabinets

left of stove before

And here’s what we have now (almost done!)

cabinets almost doneOur initial idea was to get something premade and perhaps modify it a bit, but we couldn’t find anything that quite worked. Forrest suggested cabinets and at first I thought he had lost his mind, but after a trip to Home Depot I learned that kitchen cabinets come in modular, pre-fab units. This seems quite obvious now, but before that I’d imagined they were all built from scratch. I was rather tickled to discover we could pick from LEGO-like blocks, deciding on width and drawer configuration. After we got our landlord’s permission, we decided to go for it! The plain white laminate ones weren’t super expensive, and we managed to get them 20% off, plus a discount for one that was a little bit dinged up. We didn’t much like the laminate countertops Home Depot had, but I fell for a walnut veneer counter IKEA carries.

So far the whole project has taken us 7 weeks, 3 trips to Home Depot, 4 trips to IKEA, something like 8 trips to our local Ace Hardware, rides from friends, family, and Lyft, and trekking bits of wood on BART. Also a lot of calls home to our somewhat more competent family members! We learned a lot, but I think the most important part was getting better at not bickering while trying to get it done. At the beginning of the project there was a lot of “you’re not holding it level!” “well you do it then!” and at the end it was more like “can you help me with this?” and “how about you do this part and I do this one” and “wow nice job!” and we were much happier.

Some process photos!

Leveling the cabinets (possibly this is not unusual, but our walls and floor were amazingly wonky. I am still boggled at Forrest’s patience in doing this part. I think I freaked out at the finickiness and shopped for drawer pulls online or something).

cabinets without frontsGetting ready to cut the countertop. Forrest found the most adorable cordless circular saw. I *finally* got to use my folding sawhorses for something. 🙂 After some trial and error we figured out how to cut it smoothly (good side down with blue tape over the cut). We got good at double checking each others’ measurements.

countertop outside

Cabinet in place with no pulls or toe kick yet and with the countertop not yet attached. Still a pretty exciting milestone. We decided to replace the existing pulls on the older cabinets to the left to tie everything together a little better.

cabinets no handlesTesting out removable wallpapers as a non-permanent backsplash. These designs are mint coffee and teapots by andrea_lauren and Dark Matter by spellstone on Spoonflower. Now that we have the pots and pans hanging we’ve decided that both of these are a little too busy for the space (but I have some other projects planned for the samples 🙂 ).

testing wallpaper cabinets Tada! I was particularly proud of the toe kick, which I cut in my school’s woodshop (with some help on the table saw which I haven’t learned to use yet), brought back carefully on BART, and painted to match. Forrest kicked butt on every part of this, including surprising me by putting in all the drawer pulls one day when I was at work. We still have to put in a backsplash of some sort and we’re working on a combination knife rack / cutting board holder on the right. Drawer pulls are these ones and the hanging rack is from the IKEA Fintorp series.

cabinets almost doneOne more kitchen project: on the other side, the storage used to look like this:

before pantry shelfMy friend Wendy of Walrus Oakland let me do some work exchange for this lovely piece which gives us a lot more pantry space.

DSC02678 copyPhew! brb, going to gaze happily at kitchen some more.

Inside a Karlby (It’s Too Dark to Read?)

I couldn’t find a picture before we bought this for our mini-kitchen-cabinets in progress (more on this soon! It’s been hectic.) but here is what an IKEA Karlby walnut + particleboard countertop looks like on the inside:

Karlby cut

This is the countertop (picture from IKEA website):


And here’s the difference before and after learning to cut it properly (compare both cut edges):


The trick, with a circular saw: cut it with the good side down, put blue tape over the cut line before cutting.

We are learning so much! I am currently stressing a little over a drawer handle that is the teeeensiest bit unlevel and hard to fix because we can’t easily patch holes in the white laminate. It’s probably okay.

Mini watercolor kits

My sister Emma made another fab documentation video! This time for my mini mint tin watercolors.

I also have an Instructable here in case you like text/photo instructions.

watercolortinIt pairs well with this 3D printable cap to make a tiny waterbrush even tinier.


If you want a watercolor tin, Emma is going to be making some to sell – ping me or contact her directly. 🙂

The latest ones I’ve been experimenting with are milled rather than lasercut (so the holes have their own bottom that isn’t just the bottom of the tin) and made of even tinier lip balm slide tins. Mostly because I felt bad about the growing ziploc bag full of mints.


I HEART TINY THINGS!!!! I will have to write about my complete (ongoing) obsession with tiny urban survival kits.

Patterns With Code Glitch

Woops! Weird things happen sometimes when you try to draw with code. Which is more than half the fun!

I was sad to learn that this print was no longer for sale after hunting for it in several art supply stores. Then I thought it would be fun to muck around in Processing a bit.


I can’t find the name of the designer of the print :(, but the background image in the video (the print I was referring to) was found at and it’s a print from Nepal on Lokta paper.

Speaking of drawing patterns in code, I ran across Phil Jones’ Patterning library a few days ago and got pretty excited. It’s for drawing visual patterns using functional programming and there’s also a Processing library option. More examples here and a tutorial here. I will report back when I get a chance to explore!

I haven’t yet managed to put into words what I’m so fascinated by in this space, but I LOVE the idea that you can use words to describe visual patterns (and more generally physical objects). Even cooler, you can invent and adapt the language that you’re writing in so that the words you write get closer to your mental model of the object. This is one of the reasons I’m trying to learn a functional language. I have the sense that it’s going to let me go farther in adapt-the-language-as-I’m-writing-sentences-in-it kinds of programming.

DIY Nail Stamping Plates with the Othermill

My sister Emma has a Monster High themed Youtube channel where she does unboxing and tutorial videos. It’s a pretty awesome continuation of the sorts of storytelling games we used to play together as kids. She has always brought life to characters in this incredible way. Nowadays she is both working on her own characters and story worlds as a Visual Development student, and bringing great appreciation and joy to the detailed worlds of existing toys.

This week we collaborated to make a video that combines Monster High and digital fab! When I told her about the Othermill (a CNC milling machine that my partner works on the software for), she asked if it would be possible to make nail stamping plates. I didn’t know what those were, so she showed me: little metal plates with embossed decorative designs which can be filled with nail polish and transferred to your nails with a silicone stamp. We are pretty sure that the commercial sets are chemically etched based on the smoothness of the grooves, but after some experimentation we figured out that engraving works just fine!

Here’s the video:

I’m awkward on camera 😛 I’ll get better at that eventually. In the meantime, isn’t this SERIOUSLY COOL?! I have a spirograph set planned: gears for the thumbs and a different hypotrochoid for each finger.