Art of the Hands

Time to Tinker

Category: Projects

Peculiar Parachute

This week I decided to test a concept for a unique parachute system I had seen used in model rockets before. The general idea is to deploy a giant streamer to produce the drag instead of a traditional parachute. The idea seems sound, there is still lots of surface area to produce drag so it should work. I know the idea work too because I once put a streamer on a model flying airplane so my dad could fly his airplane through my streamer, just for fun, and even though the airplane I was using was usually overpowered to the extent that it could accelerate while pointing straight up. However, when we attached the streamer to the plane, it struggled to move forward fast enough to maintain flight.

This is great and all but I wanted to see if I could use this concept on a smaller scale. As a testing platform, I decided to make a blowgun out of PVC and copper wire. The PVC was the barrel and I made a cylinder out of the copper wire to use as the projectile. The copper itself didn’t fit well enough so I perfected the fit with lots of tapes so there would be a good nearly airtight seal with the inside of the PVC.

At this point, I was ready to make my parachute. I started by cutting a plastic trash bag into strips about 1.5 inches wide and taping them together to make a very long streamer. I attached that to the end of my projectile and spent about 5 minutes stuffing the whole thing into my PVC barrel. However when I went to test it, I ran into a problem that I would be facing a lot with this project, the streamer was packed in so tight that I could not muster enough air push the projectile out of the PVC. The problem is that there was so much plastic touching the wall of my barrel that no matter how I folded it there would be so much friction that I would not be able to muster enough force to move it with just my breath.

Next, I decided to try to shorten the streamer to about ¼ of the original size. At this size, I was able to shoot the weight out of the barrel with enough velocity to send it flying down my hallway and slamming into my wall. I got lucky as there were no holes in the wall but I would recommend all blowgun projects to be tested outside. This success was a double-edged sword because while it allowed me to shoot my weight and proceed with my tests, the streamer was not slowing it down any appreciable amount. To try to combat this, I cut the rest of the tail I had already cut off into three more pieces and attached it to the back of the projectile with the original part of the tail. The idea was that the added tails would allow the drag to be increased and still let it get shot out of the blowgun. This was an incorrect assumption and I was completely unable to shoot the dart again.

I tried removing two of the streamers and while I was now again able to shoot the projectile, there was again no appreciable difference in the velocity of the weight. As a last ditch effort, I tried attaching the removed 2 streamers to the front of the weight and fitting those down the barrel in front of the main projectile. This took a long time to do but did allow me to actually shoot the projectile with just the power of my breath, again however the velocity of the projectile was almost entirely unchanged.

Upon further review, I think my problem was with the setup of this experiment, not with the experiment itself. Drag, at least air drag, is partially dependent on velocity. This is why when things fall they reach a terminal velocity because at that point the drag caused by the air is equal to the pull of gravity and equilibrium is achieved. I think that the reason why the streamers didn’t work better is that they were moving relatively slow compared to the terminal velocity of the system and so they couldn’t provide enough drag to be noticeable. The weight of my projectile also didn’t help any. Had I redone this test by launching something out of a model rocket and so allowed the streamers to reach terminal velocity then I could have seen how effective they were in slowing stuff down but because I wanted to make this home scale the project was ultimately a failure but a good lesson learned.

I wanted to share project because of it a very important thing about tinkering. A failure is always an option. Part of what makes tinkering, tinkering, is the ability to change or scrap ideas on the fly. This project changed multiple times while building it and finally was determined to be a lost cause. Could I have fixed these problems and found a solution that works, yes, but that would have required more time and effort that I was willing to expand on the project? Failing is the bread and butter of tinkering. When you succeed you learn one way to do one thing but when you fail you learn one way that a concept doesn’t work and that can be much more broadly applied to multiple topics.

I hope that you enjoyed this project and I hope you will join me for my next project. In the meantime though, have a good day and Happy Tinkering!

Unusual Candles

From a young age, I was one of those boys who grew up loving to run outside playing the dirt and get generally filthy. As I Grew Older that’s developed into an enjoyment of learning about how to survive in the wilderness on your own. One of the things that I have seen often in books was the concept of using the cooking grease to make a candle that you can use to light up your the past I’ve been skeptical of the idea because of two facts:

  1. Meat has a lot of bacteria in it and so it I always thought that the candle would mold in a matter of days making it a fairly impractical idea.
  2. There would be so many impurities in the grease that I figured it would either not burn cleanly or it would pop like a campfire throwing hot liquid everywhere.

I finally got around to putting the project to the test the other day and the results surprised me.

Just for fun, I decided to make two candles, one from sausage flavored meat and the other from taco flavored meat. I did this partly because that is what I happened to be cooking at the time and partly because I was curious if the flavoring of the meat would result in a scented candle. Because this is a survival-themed project, I decided to cut strips out of an old shirt to use as a wick. I’ve experimented with the concept in the past and so I know that pretty much any clothing will do a fairly good job of acting as a wick. The burn characteristics are slightly different as the cloth will probably wider meaning more fuel for the fire and thereby more heat and light but at the cost of burn time.

Since almost everyone has or knows someone with an old shirt that needs to be retired, this can work as a perfect substitute wick for a survival or DIY candle. The only downside is that I won’t have the little metal stands that usually come with store-bought wicks so it will be impossible to stand them up in the middle of the grease. You could make your own stand with some copper wire if you want to but I was lazy and I didn’t think it was necessary for this test.

Because I was nervous about the bacteria growing and making the candles disgusting, I decided to put the glass containers I was planning to use in boiling water so they would be sterilized, hopefully, so they would not be the culprit of any bacteria growth. One that step was done, it was time to get cooking, literally.

Once I collected the grease and set the wick, I let them sit in the fridge for a while to harden before testing.

The candles ended burn remarkably well. The grease seemed to burn as slow or possibly slower than traditional wax and had almost no smoke of any kind. The sausage flavored candle had no discernable scent but if you paid attention you could smell the taco flavoring. The light that they gave off was nothing to scoff at either. Having experimented with using shirts as a wick in wax candles in the past, it is my opinion that the grease candles outperformed their wax competitors in both burn duration and was easily their equals in light output and smoke quality. The only downside is that you have to store the grease candles in the fridge but if you froze them I would not be surprised if they had an unlimited shelf life.

This project thoroughly surprised me with both how easy it was to do and how well the final product worked. I would defiantly recommend trying this yourself. These types of ideas are what inspires me to keep tinkering because the creativity required to use grease for a candle is truly inspiring. Thanks for joining me and happy tinkering!

Solar Balloon Part 1-The Beginning

I recently started a project with a friend to make whats called a solar balloon. The concept is to make a hot air balloon that uses no heat source other than the power of the sun. There have been various attempts over the past few years. Most of them have been small toys or science experiments but some people have able to get full-scale versions capable of carrying a person. If you are interested In learning more, look at this website of one that flew for 2 hours.

My friend, Andy, has been making these for a while and invited me to see what he was working on. We met up at a field one cold morning and spent several hours working to get his Solar Balloon flying. I was impressed how small the whole thing was. deflated, it was smaller than a breadbox but inflated it grew to be as tall as me and much too big to fit my arms around.

we inflated it by means of a hair dryer and kept control of it by means of a fishing pole and fishing line. We had various problems that made flying it much harder than we anticipated, stuff like the tape we used to fill the seams of the trash bags that make up the skin of the balloon coming loose, to the wind making the balloon virtually uncontrollable. After many hours of work, we finally succeeded in getting it flying!

if you want to do the math to find out how high the baloon went, both me and andy are about 6 feet tall.

It was the only flight we got that day and we had a lot of fun getting it to work but we both agreed that there was room for improvement. The next series of posts will be about our process as we strive to improve upon our last flight and to hopefully make one big enough to fly in one day (that’s the goal at least). Some of the things we decided to work on was

  • A better method for joining the trash bags together. Ideally, we would like to use a heat seal like in vacuum packing but if that doesn’t work then possibly double-sided tape.
  • We need to decide what shape would produce the best lift per gram of weight for our balloon.
  • We wanted to see if there was a mathematical way to know how much our balloon will lift so that we know if it will both lift itself but also a cargo (like a person).
  • We need to know how hot the balloon is getting on the inside so that we can get trash bags that can handle the heat
  • We want to know if it is better to have the back of the balloon be reflective to help trap the heat or if it would be better to keep it all black
  • Or is it better to have the side facing the sun be clear like a car window

When we start getting ready to go full scale

  • We need to have a way to control of our orientation to the sun and our ascension/descent (up/down)
  • We will need to know weather pattern and how things behave differently at altitude
  • We will need to know what paperwork we need to do with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) so that we know that no airliner will be flying into us while we are testing our balloon.

While we are working toward a full-scale model, we decided to set ourselves intermediate goals (we are guys but we are not complete idiots) and so the immediate goal is to have a balloon that can carry a remotely-controlled camera to a decent altitude and then take pictures for the heck of it. This project will take a while and we will be taking lots of safety precautions so I will be reporting on our progress over the next while. In the meantime, thanks for joining me and happy tinkering!


I currently work in a grounds maintenance crew and recently during work I saw some seed pods with some glossy and remarkably sturdy seeds enclosed inside. When I asked my boss he said they were and he said they were seeds from a Purple Flowering Locust tree.

The seeds are small, slightly smaller than a cherry, and unbelievably tough. And when I say tough, I mean tough as in anything-short-of-hitting-it-with-a-hammer-will-do-nothing kind of tough. You can step on these seeds all day and they won’t care in the slightest. I even tried crushing them with some pliers and they still didn’t budge. their only weakness is a sharp impact like a hammer strike but for a seed that is pretty impressive. Apparently, in the old days, if you needed a button for anything, this seed was the one you immediately reached for (according to my boss at least).

I was so fascinated with these seeds that I came back later and filled up my pockets with bunches of them and with no ideas what I was going to do with them but knowing that I must do something. After some thought, I decided that I would make a bead necklace and a matching bracelet out of them. If you are wanting to try this project yourself, I highly recommend that you do but keep in mind that no jewelry loving girl (that I know of) would, in her right mind, wear this necklace instead of a professional one and so don’t expect this to make a good gift or anything.

The first thing that I needed to was clean the seeds, though I collected them recently after the seed pods fell, they still had some sticky residue on them that needed to be cleaned off before I could really start working on them. This was most easily accomplished by soaking them in soapy water then wiping them off with a towel and letting them air dry overnight. After that, I needed to decide on what color the necklace would be. I had two gold colors and one silver color left over from my Mini Master Sword and Hyrule Shield projects and so I did some test seeds to help me choose the color. The seed on the far right is an unmodified seed for comparison. The seed has a very pretty olive green color and a surprisingly good shine to it for just being cleaned lightly with water.

I first chose the color gold on the far left, partially because that was my least favorite gold and so I wouldn’t be heartbroken if I used it up in the process, and a good thing too because that is exactly what happened. About 3/4 of the way through painting all of the seeds, I ran out of paint and so decided to switch to a spray paint that would both let me get a more smooth coating of gold and would speed up the painting process greatly. The next step was to drill the holes for the chain to run through. I went down to my local hardware store and bought a 3/8 inch drill bit and put that in a hand drill. Though this method worked, it would have been much better had I been able to secure the seeds in a clamp and drilled it with a drill press but I don’t have access to either of those tools so I had to make do with the hand drill and my hands. There were three primary problems with this and each was unavoidable without better equipment

  1. The holes were off center. The round nature of the seeds made centering the drill and making a straight hole through the center a nearly impossible task. Because of this, all my beads were off center in the final product
  2. When the drill bit finally broke through the other side of the seed (which took a surprising about of time for such a small seed), the drill bit would get jammed and I did not have the grip strength to hold it in place. The only way to “clear the jam” is to hit the seed till the shell gave way and let the drill bit through. this was a problem because it would often take a decently sized chunk out of the back of each seed that made the final product look that much less professional. This would be a problem even with a chuck and drill press but the problem was compounded by me just using my hands to secure everything.
  3. My hands hurt! Though each seed caused no pain, I had many seeds to drill and by the end of this step, my hands were throbbing and would be for the next few days. Another bonus of the clamp and drill press.

With that done the worst was behind me, I just needed to thread a small gold chain through numerous seeds then hold it still long enough to secure a clasp. The clasp I chose is a non-magnetic clasp that is fairly easy to remove but also strong enough to support the weight of the necklace. The trick was how to get it attached. what I finally decided on was to use a fat sowing needle and a pair of needle nose pliers to pry apart the end loop of the chain then close it around the loop of the clasp. While I worked on getting the ridiculously small chain loop secured around the clasp loop, I found it helpful if I took another needle and thread it through a loop in the chain near to the beads as a way to keep them from sliding up and getting in the way of my work.

I think the project went fairly well and I like how the necklace and bracelet ended up looking when I was done. I know that no one is actually going to ever wear them but it was a fun project and besides, who said all your projects had to be practical. I learned a lot from this project and I would defiantly do things differently if I were to do it again but it was fun and that is what matters. Thank you for joining me on this project and happy tinkering!


Hyrule Shield

As I mentioned in my Mini Master Sword project, when I was commissioned to 3D print the Mini Master Sword, I was also commissioned to make a mini Hyrule shield to go with it. This was a fun and challenging project so let’s jump right into it!

The Hyrule shield is a fairly famous shield in the Legend Of Zelda game series and (as far as I can tell) appears in every Zelda game, usually as the final and most powerful shield available to the player, and is often the hardest to get ahold of. The Hyrule shield that I made also proved to have its own share of unique challenges. The first and most prominent challenge is that of its unique shape. The entire shield bent inwards a fair amount, which is probably what the real shield would do if it weren’t from a fictional universe. Although this might be a good trait to have in a real shape, it proved to be challenging in a 3D print because it limits the number of contact points the shield has with the build plate.

Although you cant see in this picture, there is a flimsy handle on the back of the shield that, along with that very small point at the very bottom of the shield, are the only two points of contact this shield has with the build plate. As I mentioned in my Mini Master Sword post, this problem is generally fixed with a setting on your printer that builds support material around the points that need support, and then after the build is done this support material can be broken away to reveal the piece built on top of it. As I also mentioned in my Mini Master Sword post, this process results in rough material in the areas that the build material was used which for this print is the entire back of the shield.

With the Mini Master Sword, this was not that big of a deal, but with the Hyrule Shield, the amount of area that was left rough was kind ridiculous. The problem was compounded by the fact that PLA (the build material) is not very accepting of sanding and so, even though I spent a decent amount of time on trying to sand the area smoothe, I was eventually forced to give up and leave the area rough. This was fine since it was on the back of the piece but as a craftsman, any blemish is a disgrace, especially if the piece is meant for someone else. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to fix this problem so I am forced to accept this blemish until I become more skilled and have learned how to overcome this problem.


The rest of this project was refreshingly problem free. There is, however, a piece of advice I would like to give to anyone who is attempting this project themselves, and it is in regards to the painting of the shield. One of the universal problems facing tinkerers who are trying to paint complex projects is how to paint the entire piece without spilling into areas that are not supposed to paint. With this shield. this was actually a fairly easy endeavor due to the layered design of the shield. The easiest method is to first paint on the blue and to fill in the area that will be covered by the silver, but try to stay away from the yellow unless you have a very opaque yellow that can cover that dark of a blue. 

You may be able to tell from these photos but the red part and the silver on the outside is actually raised up from the blue so if you paint the blue up the walls of these areas and then cover the top with the appropriate coloring, the line you get will be very clean and crisp.

This project was a fun one and was a good match for my Mini Master Sword project. I hope this post has been entertaining for you and if you know how to clean up the rough areas left behind from the support material, please let me know in the comment section below. I had fun making this project and I hope it has inspired you in some way! Soon after this project, my 3D printer broke and so has been out of commission for the last few weeks but I hope to get it up an running again soon so I can do more projects like this in the future. Thanks for reading and Happy Tinkering!

This print was designed by fasteddy516

Pictures by the same (the ones with the wood background are mine)

The Mini Master Sword

3D printers are amazing. They are capable of creating remarkably intricate shapes with incredible precision. However, one thing that is easy to forget is that they are still an infant technology, especially home sized printers, and so they are going to be the cause of some headaches from time to time. I recently got one as a Christmas present while I was home for the holidays and had a blast learning how to operate it and what settings to use for the different prints. When I came home again after the break, I immediately set it up and started getting it back in tune after the flight it endured during the travel. While I was doing this, my aunt came over to visit and my uncle saw it and, being a Zelda fan, immediately wanted the Master Sword and the Hyrule Shield printed out for his son who was also a Zelda fan. I figured this was a good way to test to see if the printer was back in operation again. That and I’m a Zelda fan myself and couldn’t believe I didn’t think to try these prints earlier, shame on me. In this post, I will start by looking at the Mini Master Sword and cover the Shield in the next post, primarily because I don’t want this to get more long-winded than it already is.

At first glance, this Mini Master Sword seemed to be a pretty straightforward print, its wide base made it stable and the sword design was pretty simple and would be easy for the printer to do, or so I thought. One of the first problems that I ran into was that the base seemed to have a hard time sticking to the build plate (the platform the printer lays the plastic onto). It would consistently get 3-4 layer into the base and then the printer would either get clogged or the plastic would break free from the build plate resulting in the printer not properly being able to lay down material anymore. Below are some of the tricks I have learned for how to alleviate this problem

  1. Protip to any new 3D printer users out there, know both your material and your printer. My printer has a heating element underneath the build plate that will heat the bead up as it is printing, and this theoretically helps the plastic stick better to the tape that is applied to the top of the build plate to protect it from scratches and such. If your printer also has this, you should keep in mind that not all tape is created equal. As it turns out, Blue Painter Tape is great for painting but not printing. The tape has a chemical in it that helps it leave no residue when it gets peeled off a work surface. The problem is that chemical makes the tape slippery when it gets hot so if you are trying to use this for the protective tape on your heated build plate, it will get slippery and your piece will have an easier time falling off. Try using masking tape, all the research that I have done seems to conclude that masking tape is the better alternative when printing with PLA (the type of printing plastic that I use).
  2. I have received tips that putting your printer in a box will help to hold in the heat and will help the print stick easier. I have not tried this but the person who told me this has worked in a 3D print shop so I think his advice is trustworthy.
  3. Another thing that will help with keeping your prints in place is to know what temperature to set your build plate. Although this number differs with what plastic you’re printing with, for PLA that temperature is somewhere between 60 C and 80 C. Set your build plate to a temperature somewhere in this range and you should have better success keeping your prints from moving.

Even with these tips, the Mini Master Sword I ended up printing still had imperfections in its base due to the plastic partially coming off the build plate while printing, however, the defects were not bad and with the total print time exceeding 10 hours, I didn’t feel very inclined to try again just yet.

As it turns out, this was not the only problem that I would be facing while creating this Mini Master Sward. The next challenge I was met with was with the Sword Guard. A 3D printer works by putting down layers of material on top of each other to build up a solid structure. One of the problems with this is that it cant print upside down so the overhang on the Sword Guard was going to need some support material. There is a setting you can use when you are programming the printer that will build a scaffolding as it prints to let it make these overhang areas. This scaffolding is meant to be easily broken off after the print is done and, although this works, it has the flaw of leaving a slightly rougher face in the areas that the scaffolding was used to create. With a little bit of sandpaper, the majority of this problem can be fixed with relative ease. The reason why this is a problem became apparent when I tried to actually sand the piece as the stresses sanding puts on the material awoke a whole different challenge that is entirely my fault, this Mini Master Sword is ridiculously fragile.

While going back and researching for this post, I found a note in the build instructions saying that I was to make the sword out of solid plastic, not the usual shell that 3D printers traditionally do. The upside of doing this would have been vastly increased strength but it would come at the cost of a much longer printing time. Regardless, I decided to be typical me and not read the instructions when I started this project (yes I am a guy) and as a result, I printed it as a shell with some basic reinforcement on the inside like I always do with my other prints. This usually works just fine but this print proved to be the exception. The Sword blade ended up about as sturdy as an ordinary drinking straw and I broke the blade a total of three times by the time I was finished with all the sanding and painting on it. luckily each break was as easy to fix as applying some fast acting glue and a dab of paint over the scar so that it would be fixed as good as new. Speaking of paint, that leads to another challenge I faced while painting this piece, especially the handle of this Mini Master Sword.

As I mentioned before, 3D printers work by laying down layers of plastic on top of the previous layer and repeating this process until the shape is formed. As a result of this, there were tiny horizontal steps at the location of each layer where the printer put down each new layer of plastic. Though this did not detract very much from the overall aesthetics of the print, it did have the side effect of making my acrylic paint run a significant amount when I tried to apply some paint to an area. There was not really anything I could do to fix this as the print was far too intricate (and delicate) to sand smooth. The reason why I think this is worth mentioning is so that you know that if you try to paint your 3D prints with a liquid paint, you should not be surprised when it starts to run out of control. The fix is simple, have very little paint on your brush at any one time to reduce the amount of spreading, and plan on doing touch-ups. you may also find that your paint will run less with the second coat of paint because the paint is filling up the grooves left by the printing process and so the tendency to spread will be decreased. Just be careful and don’t get discouraged when it looks absolutely terrible, if you are willing to put the time into it, it will look much better by the end so just be patient.

Those were the only problems I had with this project. The color scheme was copied off a picture from google and I just went slow and had fun with the project. The paints I got for fairly cheap at my local Michles and there was enough left over for many projects to come. The project ended coming together nicely and I think it turned out respectably well.

I hope that this post will be of some help or interest you. I know that 3D printers can be very expensive but once you get one the printing plastic is very cheap and so doing small projects like this is very fun and surprisingly affordable. I’m sorry that the post was such a long one, in the future I will try to limit myself a little to make it a little more readable. If any of you have any ideas on how would be best to help split this post into more manageable sizes then please let me know in the comment section below.  Good luck with your own projects and Happy tinkering!

Project designed by Zambrana95 and all the pictures (except for the ones with the wood background) are his.