Christmas 2013

I’m a bit of a miser when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. If I can get away with making something cheap and novel that gives the impression of caring instead of buying something, I probably will. More often than not, I end up actually caring and going way too overboard on my creations. This Christmas was no exception, and the addition of a Sherline mill and lathe at my work only encouraged my habit.

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Target One: My Roommate and her Boyfriend

A Japanese major and her mechanic boyfriend, I tried to think of something that was both simple, seemed nice, and the two of them could enjoy together. Seeing her near-obsession with Japanese food, I made her a lovely set of turned aluminum chopsticks for two.

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6″ length with a distal end taper and a proximal end round, I think these came out looking pretty nicely, especially after a scotch-brite pad. Ultimately, I was limited on length due to the size of the lathe, but they did serve as a nice early test on the length abilities of the Sherline.

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The four of them sit nice and tightly inside of a piece of aluminum tube extrusion, and the large proximal ends force them to “jam” against the sides of the tube and keep them firmly in place. Tied up in a clean rag with a pretty bow and it made a nice project.

Target Two: My Dad

A bit more difficult, but I had this one in mind for a while. Being a professional and fan of simplistic and easy to use items, I figured an aluminum pen with a Zebra cartridge would go pretty well with him. Messing around with the lathe for the first version though made me realize the necessity of a prototype, so two versions were made: a shortie for my friend back home, and the second that would actually go to my father.

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The pens were of a simple cap style, nothing fancy. There is an inner tube, front taper, cap, rear ‘weight’, stock pen cartridge, and a clip stolen off of a few pens. The first, smaller version used an O-ring to retain the cap on, but the second used some simple colored wire banding.

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Target Three: My Girlfriend.

A mechanical engineer like me, I figured she’d appreciate a more “raw” present. She’s also a pretty big Americana fan, especially with religious iconography. This, coupled with my ongoing exploration with a Replicator 2 3D printer lead me to want to make an aluminum Christmas tree decked out with a new 3D printed ornament for every day of December. This coincided with Thingiverse’s contest on a similar subject, making finding designs easy. 

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The trunk was made up of the hollow aluminum tubing seen in the chopstick set. Coupled to a lab-stand base made it stable and easy to attach to any surface.

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Alternating 90 degree holes evenly spaced up the length held press-fit reducing lengths of 1/4″ aluminum rod (noticing a trend with my materials here?). 22 gauge wire was wrapped around the outer points of the branches in a double-threaded spiral, and 28 gauge was used in the opposite direction on the lower branches to make a second spiral. 

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Finally, to throw it all together, I used a laser-cutter to cut out a nice little star to top the tree. Using some acetone and c-clamps, I welded it together and threw it on.

Needless to say, she was pretty happy about the whole affair, and I was pretty pleased to get to call messing around with engineering tools a Christmas shopping spree. 

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