Contribution from Graeme Douglas.

By day I assist young entrepreneurs to start up their business, by night I take redundant unwanted materials and create masks and props. I can vividly remember my early maker experiences, I used to create small mazes from Lego that I would chase marbles around. This later progressed into my fascination with woodwork, studied furniture design and within a few years, I began work as a professional cabinet maker. Product design was the natural progression and once I obtained my honors degree I had the chance to run a design studio. I became gluttonous in my desire to try as many creative processes as possible; Photography, graphics, vinyl design and manufacture, animation, film, jewelry, fashion, and poetry.  I’ve dabbled in electronics but was never able to master the soldering iron.  Over the course of my professional career, I’ve found myself with less time creating 3dimensional objects. My nine to five job allows me to apply my creative thinking process and I enjoy the ability I have to generate innovative solutions to the problems faced by the organisations many departments. There was still something missing…..the cathartic process and satisfaction of creating something were missing.  All of a sudden my sons Halloween costume became a 12-week build with Gantt charts and project meetings and fittings! It became clear that I wanted to get making again.

A few years back I started making some masks, I’ve always had a passion for taking waste and generating high-quality products. Cardboard is a material that I’ve exploited for a manner of projects over the years.  Whilst making masks I had stumbled across Pepakura online and found a host of free templates. I downloaded a few and began to learn the process of sculpting card. Within the first hour of piecing together a mask I was hooked, for years I’ve drawn the human form. I’ve also honed my hand skills, the process of building the masks seemed to be the next creative development of my practice.  After making one or two masks I began to realise that many of the templates seemed to hint at the original masks. I felt they lack some detail so I started to add more layers and relief to the masks, the results have been really well received.

Dali Lomo awesome Power Ranger template                                                          My adapted 90’s morphing mask

It wasn’t until I had the chance to show some of my work at an event held by Artronix at Glasgow University that I began to share some of the creations I’d made. People started to see the masks and before I knew it I’d been asked to exhibit some work. I’ve literally just downloaded a template ( so lets see how it goes!

3 hours later…

So the first model I made used double core corrugated card, not keen on the finish. So quickly mocked up another with probably my favorite type of cardboard, cereal box. Not only is it the most important meal of the day, the cereal box is perfect for sculpting. The mask has a far better finish. I’ve found some videos on YouTube that utilize this the template, I really like the masks produced by Dali Lomo ( If you are interested in making masks I would highly recommend you start here, I struggled for weeks painstakingly trying to piece together templates. These guys videos show you step by step the best way to assemble. On his make of this template he used some wall filler, it dried out and cracked really badly. I think that its because he has applied the filler straight onto the cardboard. I’m gonna use tissue paper to mache the mask prior to my first attempt at using filler on a mask.


1 hour later…

That’s the masks ready for filling. As a product designer, I’ve seen my fair share of filling! And as a cabinet maker, I’ve had a lot of experience in shaping materials. Still nervous but let’s see how it goes.

The Day after the night before

I applied the filler and let it dry overnight, some of the filler cracked along the nose section of the mask. It seems the surface area the filler was covering is too small and flexible. I had to reinforce this with tissue paper and the applied some more filler a the edges to allow a smoother finish! A quick coat of watered down PVA will be applied as a sealer whilst I work on what designs I will apply.

I’ve settled for a “back to the future” concept with these two masks. A traditional design and a more modern design will be applied, this will allow me to show the skills that I’ve been learning. I will need to generate templates for the sections that will allow me to add the details and relief required for the modern design. Whilst sanding the masks I’ve been developing a plan for a stand, its going to add something a little extra to the display.

A quick wash with some colour and the modern design I will apply

Its time to start work on the templates for the modern design, stay tuned for the next masquerade!


With every new project, I attempt to push my knowledge of how to accomplish the desired result using the software tools at my disposal.

So this, one of my latest designs, was no exception.

The ‘Lucky AT-AT Foot’ is a play on the idea that someone might carry a lucky rabbits foot (actually nobody does this IRL) transposed to the not-really-rabbit-like-more-a-giant-killing-machine-on-legs vehicle from Star Wars.

The execution of this model looked deceptively easy, and to challenge myself that bit more I picked Blender as the tool to carry out the design.

If you haven’t tried Blender, well, let’s just say it has a fairly steep learning curve. It is also one of the most complete 3D rendering and animation tools available for free, with incredibly deep and complex processes for creating 3D scenes and movies.

3D Printed OSCARd

OSCARd a credit card sized, 3D printed, posable action figure by Steven.

But enough of that; I’m using Blender for the creation of something that will be 3D printed, and because of that, I can play a bit fast and loose with what makes a ‘good’ Blender model.

So the overall shape of the AT-AT foot is relatively simple. The details – simple shapes combined to form a whole – were straight forward.

The hardest part – for me at least – was getting the plate detail around the foot to follow the cone profile the foot consists of. I found a great tutorial on YouTube demonstrating the technique and eventually adopted this with a few modifications.

With a few tweaks to fix thickness issues for my target material of 3D printed steel, the model was ready to be uploaded to my preferred 3D print bureau, Shapeways. Of course other 3D print services are available depending on your requirements.

The Shapeways servers then perform some automated integrity checks on the model based on the chosen material.

With the model green lit for printing, I can have the model printed and shipped in a couple of weeks.

If I’m happy with the result, I’m able to offer it for sale to others through my Shapeways shop.

By Steven Gray.


I am really looking forward to the new Glasgow Mini Maker Faire this year, and am planning on being there helping my good pal Kyle McAslan help other people make his synths – sure to be noisy and creative!

The projects I have been working on of late have all been rather too large for mini makerfaires sadly, so difficult to share (ie. expensive to transport and run), but great to build! I’ve been involved in exhibitions at the Edinburgh International Science Festival for two years running – last year with Be The Goalie (, and then this year with An1mal.

Be the Goalie from Geraldine Heaney on Vimeo.

An1mal is an attempt at recreating animal behaviour in an interactive exhibition, using a camera, proximity sensor, microphone, plus animatronics, puppetry and theatrical techniques. It is basically a fantastical animal (an Elevark to be precise) that responds to the viewer’s facial movements, body movements and, in theory, sounds (although that didn’t make it into the exhibition piece as it turned out). It responds with a range of emotional outbursts – various flavours of uncertainty, anger, and happiness – interspersed with bouts of feeding, grooming and sleeping.

It is currently on show as part of EISF’s ‘Existence’ exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, until 5pm this Sunday, the 15th April. It is a collaboration between puppet maker Fergus Dunnet ( , animal behaviourist Elaine Henley ( and myself ( .

I won’t lie, this wasn’t the quickest or easiest process of design and making I’ve been through. There were times when things progressed really rapidly, and others where things slowed to a stall. And then went into reverse for a bit. The puppet contains 9 servo motors, and the days we got up and running with those and the MiniMaestro servo controller ( , and things started to move, were great.

An1Mal GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Other days, when I was trying to wrap my head around getting face tracking working using openCV/Raspberry Pi at a useable speed for an exhibition, I could maybe have done without. But then I’ve learned a heck of a lot from it, that will hopefully be useful for something else in the future! In the video below, the wee black spot between the eyes is the Raspberry Pi camera, which is on the end of a long ribbon cable running down into the perch that the animal sits upon, containing all the computers, audio equipment, power supplies and many of the servos.

Speaking of the workings, here is a peek inside at the mechanics:

Photos by Fergus Dunnet

It was an interesting change for me to work on a project where we were actively trying to hide the inner workings of things, as I am more used to making a feature of the innards of machines. So Fergus took the lead on that, as being a theatrical designer, he is more familiar with the art of misdirection (I think its fair to say?).

Hopefully that is a small insight into this project – grab a chance to see it at the National Museum of Scotland until Sunday, and I hope to see you at Glasgow Mini Makerfaire!

Roy Mohan Shearer

I’m a Computer Scientist by training and profession, but in my spare time I like playing music and writing poetry.  So, when making digital things, a fair bit of both music and poetry tend to feature.   Here’s a quick overview of a few recent projects.

Sheep Dreams

In this project a cuddly sheep is connected to an “EEG” device that displays its dreams on screen.  People can also listen to the sounds of the sheep’s dreams, which incorporate randomly chosen tunes like “Sweet Dreams are made of this”, “Together in Electric Dreams” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.  The visuals are provided by Electric Sheep‘s fractal animations, and the sounds by a Sonic Pi script that incorporates outside sounds “overheard” by the sheep into the music.    You can read more about the project here.

As it was put together in a bit of a hurry for a Raspberry Jam, it’s a bit minimal at the moment.  Future plans include adding the ability for observers to alter the sheeps dreams by interacting with it using touch, rather than just sound.  It would also be interesting to add a fractal element to the sounds of the dreams, matching the fractal visuals.

Sonic Pi Goes Bananas

I’m a big fan of music-coding program Sonic Pi and also of MaKey MaKey, a device that allows people to make music on all sorts of unlikely objects including bananas and labradors.  At the moment, Sonic Pi programs, unlike Scratch programs, can’t be directly controlled by a MaKey MaKey, which seemed a shame.

I’d recently been working with Pygame Zero, a simplified version of Pygame, that makes it easier for new programmers to make games (for this book, which I co-wrote with some friends).  I wrote a small program that sent messages to Sonic Pi whenever an object attached to the MaKey MaKey was touched.  More information and the code can be found here.

Poems in the Gaps

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 14.22.47

Blackout poetry:  not something you write to occupy yourself when there’s a power-cut, but poems created from other texts by obliterating most of the original words. Looking at some blackout poetry recently, I thought  it would be interesting to code a digital blackout poetry-making tool.  This avoids having to destroy your books, and is handy if, like me, you can never find a pen when you need one.  

The current version still needs a few bugs sorted out and I’m planning to add share on Twitter and Facebook buttons (currently you have to screenshot your poem and post the resulting pic).  It would also be interesting to have a way of making it more physically interactive, maybe involving projecting it on a wall.  In the meantime you can have a go at the beta version here.

Read more from Claire Quigley here.

A wise man once said "Failure is always an option".

Before I tell the full story, it is perhaps best to clarify, that although this post is about failing, it does not describe a failure… Riddle me this? OK here goes

Until recently I was the proud owner of a shed bound CNC3040. The CNC 3040 is a relatively inexpensive (and not the best quality) desktop CNC. Mine was sitting unloved in the garden shed far away from power supplies and therefore cutting action. At a previous address it had pride of place on a garage workbench cutting plywood components for model rockets and other projects. But after a house move it has been languishing waiting for a loft based workshop to be built.

Well recently that changed. My workshop was recently completed and the CNC3040 has come back out to play. Trouble is I have yet to build a dust/noise containing enclosure for the thing yet. So I got round to thinking, what else can I do with a desktop CNC? Vinyl cutting, that’s what. More importantly for me, I needed a project that will test and develop my making skills (I have been a year without a workshop now), as well as let me learn a new software package (Fusion 360). The mini-project was born, an attachment for a CNC machine that adds a vinyl cutter. It would be 3D printable and let me use the CNC while I design and build and enclosure for messy and noisy cutting. It would also let me use and learn Fusion 360. I was still using OpenScad for 3D design, and I have been wanting to use something more capable and modern for some time.

I found vinyl cutters straight away. My google searching for vinyl cutter blades brought me to many e-bay vendors and Chinese online stores selling spare parts. Being unaware really as to what makes a good vinyl cutter tool, I opted for the scientific approach as to “what was cheapest/most impressive looking for the money”. The one I settled on was described as “50mm Length Small Blade Holder for Liyu Vinyl Cutter”. It is fair to say, that I had no real appreciation for how a vinyl cutter worked having never used one, but how hard can it be, it’s just a knife that moves around surely?

Failure no 1

The first failure was not unexpected. With the cutting tool in my hand I decided to make a first prototype. The purpose of this prototype was to answer a few questions for me:

  • How was I going to mount the adaptor to the CNC machine?
  • How would I mount the cutting tool in the adaptor?
  • What other hardware would I need?
  • Would the aged roll of 3mm PLA that I discovered during the move be any good?

So a design was born, and of course did not work. The 2nd question on my list was the one that I failed on. I intended to place the tool holder in basically a tube, but the problem I had was it had a protruding collar. I thought I was being smart by shaping the holder in a certain way to allow me to insert the cutter then hold it tight with a tie wrap, but the tolerances were off, and the mount would not hold it tight… Oh well.

More successful was the mount to the CNC machine, a ring that tightened around the body of the spindle. I designed it with a complex tightening system that could be held in place by either bulldog clip, tie wrap or M4 nut and bolt. I ended up though settling for the nut and bolt, it was just easier and less wasteful.

As for the PLA. Well I got it working, even though my hand built 3D printer was designed (by me) to print ABS, by leaving the door open to the heated chamber I could squeeze good quality prints.

Failure no 2

Armed with my new found knowledge and more importantly rapidly improving Fusion 360 skills, I embarked on the next design… This design sported a new tool holder, no longer awkward to load, and much more able to hold the cutter securely in place. It clamped well to the CNC machine, it was even reasonably stiff (having used a denser infill when printing it) I printed it off in an evening, though needed to sleep before I got a chance to test it…

So where was the fail? My complete misunderstanding of how a vinyl cutter works. During my lunch hour at work I began an internet search on how to set up the cut. I figured that a good place to start was the operating instructions for the vinyl cutter the tool was designed to work in. I found a YouTube video that demonstrated the setting up of the machine and then the penny dropped.

You see when I designed the accessory I had looked at photos of the machine, and the cutting head looked to be pretty solid. I guessed that it simply moved the knife up and down when it wanted to cut. This was a mistake. In the setup video, as well as setting the cut height of the blade (I had worked out that bit for myself) the user also set the pressure in grams. This was when I realised my mistake. The photos of the machine did not make it clear that the head had vertical movement. It was being moved down to cut… That bit I guessed, but it was not solidly mounted, it was free to move up and down, held down with some pressure.

So this design I never even tried.

Failure no 3

Back to the drawing board, by now I was becoming half competent in using Fusion 360. I needed to come up with a new design that would allow constant pressure to be applied to the cutting tool. I discovered through more googling and some Facebook advice from someone who had actually used a vinyl cutter that machines were using springs to exert the pressure. This caused me a problem. Where to buy springs, and what spec would I need. The answers were online and no idea! This project was supposed to a cheap and simple diversion. Purchasing springs and testing (and perhaps failing) them was going to take time and money. I had no doubt the manufacturers of commercially available vinyl cutters would have spent time and money developing their products. I needed something cheap and adjustable.

What I opted for was a design that used gravity to apply the cutting pressure. Best of all, it used some parts that I had in my spares box… 8mm stainless steel sooth rod and LM8UU bearings. Users of 3D printers would recognise these, they are widely used in many designs.

In my design I calculated that the weight of the smooth rods (cut to a set length) plus the weight of the rest of the moving assembly would exert 90gm of pressure on the cutting knife tip… No springs would be required, and if necessary I could either shorten the rods lower the pressure or add weights to make it more… Awesome!

For the first cut I simply lowered the cutting knife onto the vinyl and using the jog controls of the CNC machine manually cut a crude shape. It worked! I got clean cuts and perfect depth adjustment. So where is the failure? One word… Bearings!

I put together some g-code using Fusion 360 (yet something else I had not done before with this software) and attempted to cut the openhardware logo. The machine did its thing, but the cut was far from perfect. Why? LM8UU bearings have allow the smooth rod to twist and move laterally in this design. And I don’t know if it is something that can be fixed. If you watch the video you can see the cutting tool moving around. This mal-forms the shapes and makes it impossible to cut detail….

So far I have considered adding a second set of bearings to constrain the movement of the rods. But to do this I need to lengthen the steel rods. I do that and the carefully designed in cutting pressure is increased. Not sure that I am going to pursue this design any further. Instead I have ordered a linear bearing that should be more accurate (I hope)

So you failed right?

All but Edison would have to consider the design a failure. My lack of knowledge, coupled with lack of research and lack of engineering prowess have led me to spend hours designing and printing a pretty useless attachment. But I do not consider this a failure… here is why:

  • I got back in the making saddle. After a year away from the workshop. I both got my 3D printer back up and running and the CNC machine turning its lead screws. It’s good to be back, hell yeah!
  • I cut some vinyl. Sure not well, but I made a functioning vinyl cutter.
  • I know more than the average person about how vinyl cutters function. My new design will use that knowledge I am sure
  • Most importantly, I am now a reasonably competent at designing parts in Fusion 360. A powerful software package that I will be using to create 3D designs and cutting paths for the CNC machine. This is a good place to grow from and I have no doubt I have increased my “Making” capability by a decent margin here. Yay me!

You can see some of my older projects at

I also document projects at

Blair Thompson.