Miniature Work

Sometimes I get ideas that sit and incubate for quite a long time, in the case of the project I’ve finally gotten around to starting, the incubation period has been nearly 7 years. This tiny train is made of balsa wood (with a piece of hardwood dowel for the locomotive boiler) and has been designed to fit into a 4-inch circle – with a turn radius that would be impossible scaled up to an actual train. I’ll leave it to the imagination to guess where this project is headed.

Also, the Sam Bucovetsky ruler came from a bag of miscellaneous stationery supplies bought at the Timmins Value Village a few years ago. The glob of glue was already stuck to it.


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Linocut Prints for Sale at the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge Festival

I set up a table in the Arts and Culture tent at this year’s Great Canadian Kayak Challenge Festival, being held at the Mattagami Historical Conservation Area Participark this weekend. I have an assortment of linocut items – cards, bookmarks, and 4 X 6″ unframed prints for sale between $2.00 and $4.00. There are also some watercolour reproduction cards and photo magnets available. Drop by anytime between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday August 27th, 2016 or between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday August 28th, 2016. 


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Dark Sky Lantern Part 3

The dark sky lantern was completed over a month ago, but I hadn’t gotten around to posting more updates. Here it is after t stained an Aurora Borealis motif on it before covering it in clear glaze. I used a light green, coral pink, and purple for the Northern Lights, turning the lantern upside down to let the stain run. Although it appears to have a purple sky, the lantern is actually a very dark blue for the most part. I also made a base and a lid for it.

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Dark Sky Lantern Part 2

The dark sky lantern’s main shade/structure has been completed A lid and base in the process of being built as separate pieces to go with it.

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Dark Sky Lantern

Another project I’m working on for the summer show is a Dark Sky lantern. I started with a large slab rolled and formed into a cylinder about 6 inches in diameter and close to 12 inches high. Using Northern hemisphere July star maps for reference, I then started mapping the night sky using various sized drill bits, starting with the Milky Way.


Starting to form the holes. At this point, the layers of newspaper, plastic, and the cardboard cylinder form were still in the middle of the lantern.

Milky Way in progress.

The view from the interior once I removed the cardboard form.

The Milky Way completed with Saggitarius, a.k.a. “The Teapot Constellation” off to the left.


From left to right (excluding the far left) the three big holes are Saturn (top), Antares (bottom), and Mars.




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Beach ball and Japanese Fishing Float Salt & Pepper Set

The pottery class I’m in is putting on another show this July at the Black Spruce Gallery here in Timmins. The theme is “Summer”, and the objective is to make something that represents summer to us. We can play around with scale, make display objects/sculptures, or make functional items. One of my ideas was to make a salt and pepper shaker set that looks like a beach ball and a Japanese fishing float sitting on a shoreline tray. Below are the rough greenware forms.


The two ball forms have been made by pressing white clay against the inside the two halves of a plastic Christmas ornament form. These are approximately 2 inches in diameter.


The shoreline tray has been hand-formed with a raised edge. Two impressions have been pressed in using the marble ball seen in the background of this picture.


This is a test to see how well the ball forms rest on their indentations.


Although the tray now resembles a Minion character, the additional ridges were added after I remembered that I still had several flat glass marbles from last year, which I could fire and melt as “water”. The top half of the shoreline tray has been textured by bouncing an old tooth brush all over the soft clay. The forms are now resting for some detailing work once they harden a bit.

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Photographic Experiment: Water Drops

This was a simple kitchen sink set-up done at a Porcupine Photo Club meeting. A plastic glass was placed upright on another inverted glass in a sink. A piece of cardboard with a scrap of black cloth was used as a backdrop. The glass was filled with water, and then the faucet was left on just enough for a steady stream of drops to fall down. I set my camera to a 4-second exposure at ISO 100, f/16 and focussed the lens on a knife blade that had been held right on the drop stream to line everything up. The room lights were turned off, and the shutter was opened. The club president then took an external flash and fired it manually towards the set-up before the shutter closed again. If a drop of water happened t be falling at the time, the flash would capture it in action.



The first two pictures above had a “Holga Effect” added to them using Picasa photo editor.


The above picture shows a bit of the set-up with the flash off to the side. The flash was moved around to get different effects.


The rest of the pictures were taken with flash powered down by half and the aperture opened up to f/8.0.


This final picture was taken using a strobe effect on the flash, giving the illusion of multiple water drops. The same drop (or two) is actually being caught in several positions as it falls into the pool.

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A Warholesque Take on a Frozen Bubble


There was a Winter Hiking Day event at the Hersey Lake Conservation Area, just outside of Timmins today. The Mattagami Regional Conservation Authority and the Wintergreen Fund for Conservation arranged the annual hike, and there was also a survival demonstration put on by the Timmins Porcupine Search and Rescue Group.

The organizers had set up a bonfire and served hot chocolate after the hike. Several bottles of bubble formula had also been left out on one of the picnic benches, likely for guests to tray their hand at making frozen bubbles. It was a nice sunny day and probably consistently -16 degrees Celsius for most of the time. I experimented a bit with the bubble formula and managed to get one bubble to rest intact in the snow and start freezing. However, I alternated between having overexposed photos (1/60th of a second) and underexposed photos (1/1600th) of a second. Since the pictures weren’t that exciting to look at when I got home (I don’t have a macro lens), I decided to play around with the tone curve and white balance settings using my Canon default software. (These were RAW files.) I ended up making some interesting effects this way, and for fun, I decided to take the same photo and skew the colours in 4 different ways and then put the different jpegs together in Warhol-style layout. This would probably make an interesting canvas or metallic image printed out in a large format.

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Miniature Maneki Nekos in Clay

The 3D Printer has been useful in creating a customised impression-maker. One of my projects made with the impression is being fired to bisque presently and I will write about it soon.

The pottery wheel, on the other hand, is not my forte – yet, and so far I’ve managed to spend two sessions processing fresh clay into slurry and something resembling a bowl with a weak bottom.

I went back to hand sculpting for a while, as I had a component project in mind for the holidays, and the first step was to make clay half-spheres. I weighed out 50g portions of white clay as I went along and ended up with 6 half-spheres, and one 100g half-sphere. I also salvaged some red clay from the wheel and made an eighth half-sphere, which was formed with the assistance of a tennis ball.

Each half-sphere would have a small Maneki Neko strung through it like a bead. This is the most time-consuming step, as each Maneki Neko takes a good hour to complete, and requires to have a hole bored from head to the the bottom of the cushion it sits on. These maneki nekos are about 1.5 inches in height or less.

Maneki_Neko_01I finished the first one in class (Nov. 11) and put in the in the kiln room, and took a small ball of the scrap white clay with me to work on the rest over the course of the week. These kinds of things are good to work on if you’re watching a movie or TV at home.


Most of the second one was completed over 45 minutes during a lunch break at work. (Nov. 12)


The third Maneki Neko (left) was completed watching Craig Ferguson’s The Big Tease (1999) on Friday Night (Nov. 13).


Maneki Neko 4 (the bigger one on the far right) was completed while watching the biopic Georgia O’Keefe (2009, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons) on Saturday (Nov. 14) and Maneki Neko 5 (on the far left) was completed on the Sunday (Nov. 15).

The clay ball stiffened up between Sunday night and Tuesday when I intended to make Maneki Neko 6.


The four finished Maneki Nekos went to the kiln room at class on Wednesday the 18th, and the 8 half-spheres were added after they had been drilled through.


Maneki Neko 6 was made during class with a small lump of fresh clay and was put aside to dry more before going to the kiln room. Only two more to go…


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Something Different: Working on a 3D Printer

Finished Hollinger Clock Model

The first time I ever seen a 3D printer was in 2007 in the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Engineering. At that time, like the computer of 40 years ago, it was a costly piece of technology limited to academic and research settings. Two years later, the Makerbot Replicator was introduced to the world and the concept of printing 3-dimensional objects became common. There are many types of 3D printers out there, but the type that comes to most people’s minds involves a process of extruding heated plastic parts and depositing them in layers. This is called Fuzed Deposition Modelling and was developed in the 1980s. In less that 5 years, the Maker movement took off, and public libraries became the new purveyor of the technology, offering 3D printing facilities to their membership for a nominal cost.

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The first object I ever made was at a Makerspace set up at the Ontario Library Association‘s annual Super Conference in January of 2014. I used Tinkercad (first picture below – note: the colours serve to differentiate the components) to create a small fluroscent green torus ring with my initials and the year on it. It was printed off on a Cube 3D printer, which is designed for home use. Its filament requires a lower temperature for extrusion compared to other printers in this class, making safer for children to use. Torus Ring on Screen

Torus Ring Being Printed

Torus Ring Complete

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In July of that same year, I had a chance to see the new MakerBot 2.0 set up at the Reference Desk of the Mississauga Public LibraryMaker Mississauga SignAt that time, the library had just invested in the printer and had not yet set up training classes for patrons, but then did have a menu card of around 8 projects downloaded from the Thingiverse for patrons to print. Each object had a nominal fee of set-up, plus printing time and tax. Since it was a quiet weekday morning, I was able to print off a bracelet, a 3-link chain, and the MakerBot signature nut and bolt. The pictures below are show the bracelet in progress.

MakerBot 2

Braclet Printing


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In October of 2104, I attended a symposium on Creative Making Spaces at the University of Toronto’s iSchool (Faculty of Information, which includes a Library Science program). Part of the symposium included a lunch-hour tour of the iSchool’s Critical Making Lab, run by Dr. Matt Ratto. One of the research projects in the lab was using 3D printing technology to make prosthetic limbs for use in developing countries. The objective was to come up with a way that the prosthetics could be developed and produced domestically (i.e. in the country rather than imported), as the demand for prostheses outweighed the number of people who were trained to manufacture them. Additionally, paediatric patients would require them to be changed regularly as they grew. Seeing the potential applications for 3D printing amongst the students and researchers at the university level demonstrated how piquing curiosity at younger age in a school or library setting is beneficial, as the technology advances and demand will increase for components that would be hard to produce by other means.

U of T iSchool Lab 01

Above: Dr. Ratto holds a 3D printed model of his upper calf below the knee.

Below: A poster outlines the philosophy of Critical Making.

U of T iSchool Lab 02

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The New Year brought with it talk of our own library acquiring a 3D printer, and after several months spent in researching and ordering, a MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation arrived and was installed by our Systems Administrator. Our CEO decided to premier the printer today (October 22nd, 2015), which meant we need a few examples of printed pieces to show and perhaps a project or two to run. (Public access to the printer will be coming shortly.) Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity to try designing a couple projects to print. As cool as the array is on Thingiverse, I much prefer designing something from scratch. The first thing I did, however, was experiment with an old .ply file (polygon file format) I had from working in ParaView software six years ago.

Hollinger Park Clock Model

Within the first week of working in Timmins, I took several photographs of a clock in nearby Hollinger Park. The clock is on a sort of contemporary pagoda-style structure about 15 feet tall with arches on all four sides. It was a Millennium project and serves as the entranceway to the park from the intersection of Algonquin Boulevard East and Park Road.

Hollinger Park Clock Photo

As this picture shows, the clock structure has a fairly simple shape structure that makes it good for starting out in 3D illustration. I started by making a model using a free 3D animation software called Blender – I believe the version at the time was Blender 2.49.

Hollinger Park BlenderAs basic as this computer assisted drawing  of the clock structure looks, it was quite an involved process. (There is a bit of an error on the top right corner of clock frame.) The “grass” below is a tiled jpeg of a patch of dandelions on the horizontal plane.

Later on, I experimented with Google SketchUp (now just SketchUp) to try making a model of the clock for Google Earth (the rendering wasn’t well enough for the public view of Google Earth, but I had it on my private profile).  The file was then exported into .ply to try viewing in 3D on customized version of ParaView for geological applications: ParaViewGeo… and then it sat untouched on my hard drive for the next six years.

I located the old file and found an online converter ( that would let me turn it into a .stl (STereoLithography) file, and within a minute I was able to open the file on our MakerBot software.

Online File Converter

After some time spent scaling the model down to 25mm at the very highest point (to keep the printing task around 20 minutes), I exported it and clicked on “print”. Here is a time lapse I made – 22 minutes of printing time has been compressed into 22 seconds.

When the printing job completed, the printer’s built-in task-monitoring camera snaps a photo of your object on the platform for you. Since our operating computer is right next to the printer, I ended up with a side-profile selfie in the picture of my model.

Hollinger Clock done

Here is a picture of the completed object with its image file for comparison.

Finished Hollinger Clock Model

Next, I was eager to try drawing something in TinkerCAD…

P.S. Yes, this is part of what I do as a librarian.

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