The White Towel

I’m giving up. Yes, I know that goes against the whole Maker philosophy but I can’t help it. I had accounted for the weight of the whole box preparing to have kids be able to play with it, but what I’m discovering is that I didn’t account for the weight of the maze in relation to the glue. So as the maze has gotten more complex with more connections, the pieces are just snapping off and falling apart. I am at the pinnacle of frustration. My husband suggested switching to an epoxy instead of the silicone glue I was using but I really wasn’t up for scraping off all the silicone and starting over. 

There are several other things that I could have done better but didn’t realize until after it was too late. Still, I learned a lot and have a few new skills I can use, (table saw primarily.) 

My biggest issue at this point is what exactly to do with 6 squares of silicone smudged Plexiglas with holes drilled in them. I mean, I paid $35 for them so I don’t want to just toss them. Any ideas?

If you are interested is attempting this project I would love to hear the improvements you made and how they worked. I still am excited by my initial idea and I think there’s something there. I just couldn’t make it work this time around. Here is the Handout of the steps I took. Good luck!


Catching Up/Stepping Back

I took a little break from my project these weekend due to extreme frustration with it and the general need to get some other stuff done. I went down to work on it Thursday afternoon and one piece I’ve been having trouble with feel off AGAIN and so I really just needed to step back.

So instead I threw myself into some house projects that have needed to get done, and God help my husband right now. See, we’re both off work (he’s a teacher, I work in a school library, so you know.) But I need to feel productive, so I’ve been a bit of a slave driver this past weekend. 

However! The potting bench that I designed and he built is finally finished and I am thrilled with it! Last summer he built himself a ten foot tool bench from free plans he found online. This summer, I told him I wanted a similar bench, but only five feet, and on lockable wheels so I can push it out of the garage and do my potting in the sunny driveway. He did that but also added pegboard on one side so all my tools are handy. I’ve already pulled it out a few times. It’s great. Not really my project, but still a project. 

Then, we tore out a raised flower bed in front of our house that had become completely run over with weeds and a mysterious shrub that was just in bad shape. We put down new landscape fabric, Colorado river rock and some nice new matched shrubs that will fill in and give the front of the house good color in the winter. A Friday well spent. 

This weekend we finally got around to crawling around in our hot, stuffy, dusty, scary attic crawl space to install actual lights in our two main floor bedrooms. Okay, Paul finally got around to it, but I helped measure and I held the ladder and I made a nice dinner to say thank you, so it was a joint effort. Our house is old and didn’t have hard wired lights in either of the bedrooms. Now I actually have light switches and lights. 

Now, I’m about to head out and help rip out a walkway of pebbles that is also overgrown with weeds and the pebbles go everywhere in our yard. We’re paving it over with brick.

Before writing this post, I finally went back to my maker project to try and figure it out. The one piece that fell off has now fallen off about three times and I’m thinking I’m not going to get it stay. But seeing as I’ve given up on the whole marble  maze idea and moved onto “Abstract Art Sculpture” instead, I may just leave the random hole as part of the statement of the piece. 

Project Not Really Working Out

So, if you read my last post, you’ll know that I’m learning a lot by trial and error here and finding out a lot. I think a big hurdle for my project has been that I didn’t really find anything quite like it anywhere so I’m kind of having to make up this whole process on my own and applying knowledge from one area to a totally different area. 

I’m having three major issues. The first is glue. I’m using the same glue to connect the acrylic to PVC pipe and to vinyl tubing. So I have three different materials and I think that’s really messing me up. I couldn’t find the “acrylic cement” that all the tutorials said to use when connecting acrylic. Supposedly, this cement actually reacts with the acrylic to melt it onto itself. I could have ordered it online but delivery would have taken too long. There’s PVC cement, but it doesn’t work on vinyl or acrylic. So I went with a “all-plastics” silicone glue that the Home Depot guy suggested. It works okay on the PVC and the vinyl, and it seems to work on the acrylic, but not as well. Most pieces are sticking unless they are jarred too much, in which case they snap off and I have to re-glue them. 

The second is time. I thought I could construct most of this in a day or two, but I’m finding that I have to wait for the glue to completely set before I attach the next piece or it just falls apart. So I’ve been slowing working my way around inside gluing one or two pieces at a time, giving them 4-5 hours to set and then coming to do the next. It’s a little tedious. 

The third major issue is precision. If my two connectors are even 1 or 2 degrees off from lining up with each other, the tube doesn’t fit between them and I either snap a piece off or I have to sit holding the pieces together forcibly while I wait for the glue to dry.

At this point, I’m over $100 in so I don’t really want to start over. And I thought about scraping off all the old glue and trying something new, but now time is a bit of an issue. I think I’m just going to keep pushing ahead. I’ve completely scrapped the idea of “test-driving” my toy with kids because it’s far too fragile. It looks really cool, so I’m thinking of changing it from a “Marble Maze Toy,” to an “Abstract Art Piece.”

I think I’ll call it something absurd like, Mother Goose Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Acrylic Snow and Safety Goggles

So I’m halfway into my project and I already have a few pointers I’ve learned: 

a. If your glue looks messy and is frustrating you, the solution is NOT to apply more glue hoping to cover it up. 

b. Cat hair sticks to acrylic like a magnet. Also, cats are curious about this strange thing you just brought into the house and must rub all over it. Acrylic doesn’t hold cat scent very well, so they must continue rubbing until you get exasperated and put it on top of the scary deep freezer they never go near. And now you are working in the basement on top of the deep freezer. Because you’re cool like that. And the cats totally don’t rule you. You are definitely still in charge. 

c. The Centennial High School shop teacher removes all saw blades and hides them for the summer for some unknown reason. And the cabinet labeled “Saw Blades” is a farce. There are no saw blades. In other words, we could not use the school wood shop as planned and had to cut the acrylic at home using our second-hand, slightly askew table saw. 

d. Cutting and drilling acrylic sprays a surprisingly large amount of acrylic “snow” all over the place. This “snow” however, is burning hot and when you’re trying to push a long piece of acrylic through a table saw it will take all of your willpower to not stop and shake it all off. Wear long sleeves, a turtleneck, long pants, closed-toed shoes and gloves.

e. Also goggles. Trust me on this one. You’ll want them. If you have one those welding masks I would recommend it. I’m not kidding, this snow goes everywhere and it’s HOT. It will hit your face like bacon grease and you will want to freak out. But don’t. Because your box won’t fit together perfectly if your lines aren’t perfectly straight. 

f. Frustratingly, slower is better when cutting/drilling acrylic. If you go too fast, your lines end up all jagged and rough and look terrible, like the saw blade chewed up the acrylic instead of slicing it. Slower produces even, professional looking lines. But don’t forget you’ll be barraged by white-hot acrylic bacon grease snow. Seriously, cover up. 

g. The first time you use new tools to create a glue-streaked, smudgy, crooked, cat-hairy, acrylic box all by yourself will be a shining moment. Relish in it. Because you are never doing it again. 

Cameo Silhouette and supplies

I am really proud of the project I made using the shape I cutout with the Cameo Silhouette in class on Monday.


So, I had created the silhouette figure in class, and then I went to Goodwill for an old $0.50 book for the background which I glued onto a tagboard background. Luckily, frames were on sale at Target so I was able to get that frame for about $30.00. I texted a picture to my mom and she was immediately jealous. I really like how it turned out.

In other news, we went shopping for supplies for my project today and already got to make more adjustments to the plan. Yay! I had planned on using special PVC wall flanges to attach the maze to the cube on the inside, but we couldn’t find any. Instead, we found a silicone glue that works on a variety of plastics, including PVC, plexiglass, and the vinyl tubing. This made me extremely happy, because I am still keeping weight in mind, and wanting to keep the box as lightweight as possible. Eliminating the wall flanges also eliminates the needs for screws, simplifying the project even further. I asked Paul to take lot of pictures of me picking out materials and shopping, but most of them are blurry or just in general, terrible pictures. So, I’ll include them in my final handout.

Now, I’m at the point where I’m trying to decide what to make for our next project. I feel like I’d like to try my hand at the Cameo again, maybe making something out of the vinyl. I’m going to look at some things over the weekend and decide what exactly I want to do.

Thunderbirds and Peace Pipes – my imaginary week off…

I’ve been blissfully unconnected for the last week as we went camping in southwestern MN for the week of 4th of July. I was expecting the campsite to have free Wi Fi (naturally it didn’t work way back at our site,) and I was expecting my 4G phone would be a nice backup. Nope. Nothing. Occasionally we would pop into a coffee shop and my phone would light up as all the updates/notifications/missed calls/texts/emails came through but generally I was unreachable. It was wonderful. To be honest, I had purposefully not brought any homework as this was my first real break in about  a year, but I was still hoping to keep up with reading blogs. Alas, that didn’t happen.

Anyway, I had wanted to really give myself a breather and wasn’t planning on doing any school work, but I found myself thinking about Making anyway. We visited two sites that while I didn’t plan on it, seemed to fit in perfectly with class. The first is a site nobody seems familiar with, but I’ve been wanting to see for years – Jeffers Petroglyphs. This is a site near Jackson, MN where you can go and see petroglyphs carved into the rock on the prairie. Some cool facts about Jeffers: the oldest carvings are estimated to be between 7,000-9,000 years old, and the newest are 150 years old. Which makes this site older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids, except it has been in continual use. It was considered a sacred site by the native peoples, and there is evidence that people traveled from all over to carve in these rocks. One particular carving of a dog was found at Jeffers and at a site in southern New Mexico and they are pretty sure it was carved by the same person. One of my favorite carvings was  the oldest at the site, there are three Thunderbirds carved next to each other.


While there, we also saw a demonstration of an “atlatl” which is a device used for spear throwing, and pre-dates bows and arrows. There are several atlatls carved into the rocks, which show how important this tool was to ancient people.

The other site we went to was Pipestone, a site where sacred rock was and still is quarried and carved into pipes for use by Native Americans. Written evidence suggests that the quarries were being used in 1637, but it is likely they are even older. Like Jeffers, Pipestone is considered an extremely sacred place by Native Americans, and the stone quarried is considered sacred as well. One Native American likened it to a church and Bible.

During my visits to these places, I couldn’t help but make connections to this class, and how these ancient people were Makers, in their own way and their own purposes. They created, crafted, and shared knowledge. What’s more, they marked their accomplishments, with carvings or tools that could be viewed for years. What we’re doing isn’t that different from what ancient people did, just because we’re using PVC pipe or Arduinos. I think all of our texts talked about the “human nature” of making at some point or another. I really felt like these two sites were a great example of that, and made me feel like my Making was part of the human experience, and not just a part of a class. A great trip, all around.

Already making adjustments

I suppose this is pretty common in Making, isn’t it? I took my husband to Menard’s over the weekend to shop around for parts and get his input in this Marble Maze Cube project. I have been describing it to him and we researched some articles, Instructables, and YouTube videos on working with acrylic over the weekend so we were just trying to get a feel for cost and the next steps. (FYI, I probably won’t actually start making this project for another week or so, we are going to go use the shop at his work to avoid having to purchase some specialized equipment – nothing fancy, but nothing that we see ourselves needing ever again, either.)

Within about 3 minutes of looking at acrylic I realized that I was going to have to make some changes and adjustments. Acrylic isn’t terribly expensive, unless you need a lot of it – then the prices add up fast! We realized that with my current plan we would be spending over $150 on acrylic sheets and end up wasting anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of it anyway. But this is why I’m having Paul help me. Because he immediately noticed that if we made a 15″x15″ cube instead of an 18″x18″ cube we could cut the cost of the acrylic down to $40 and have virtually no waste at all. So that’s what we’re planning on doing. It may mean that my maze on the interior is smaller and less complex, but maybe that’s a good thing considering it’s a first try. I’m still concerned with weight too, so a smaller cube with less maze might be a boon anyway. 

We also sat down and worked a rough plan for construction. I honestly don’t think this will take a lot of time, just a lot of careful work. Here’s our plan, any thoughts or advice – please share!!

1. Cut acrylic into squares, pre-drill terminals for marbles and holes needed for wall flanges for terminals. 

2. Glue 3 sides of the cube together, let set (it needs to cure for 24 hours.) Glue 2 sides onto the cube, let set.

3. Attach wall flanges, assemble maze inside (this will be a lot of trial and error and trying to get things to fit while also maximizing amount of variety…)

4. Glue last side onto cube. Let set. 

5. Test run on children – I work in a school district and I’m planning on crashing one of the summer day cares going on here.