3D printing is so popular among maker collectives that more traditional technologies seem a bit passe. But anyone looking at creative design or a unique way to touch up craft projects should consider the often over-looked laser cutter.
Just Add Sharks founders Martin Raynsford and Dominic Morrow base their branded products on the humble laser cut. The pair also sell laser cutters to hackers and hobbyists and say they are perfect for beginners to cut precise parts or designs from plywood and other materials.
This explanation from their website says it all: “We love laser cutters and all the geekery that goes with it. Having a machine that contains a truly powerful laser capable of vaporising and cutting material brings the “evil genius” out in all of us.”
Martin writes a blog with details of his efforts to laser cut 365 things in 365 days. There are photo frames, a ring box, a mini-catapult, cake stand and an elaborate icosahedron (a polyhedron with 20 triangular faces). Go to Dominic’s website and you get an appraisal of the maker scene, kite aerial photography and a cool range of t-shirts. Examples of the pair’s work as Just Add Sharks, including marble machines and other creative projects appear on this video taken at Maker Faire 2014.
Wooden robots by Lowbot
Philip Lowndes is another wood worker who is a Maker Faire regular. At this year’s event he brought along a range of wooden automata and animatronic creations, which he makes using electronic components and sensors to give them a really cool interactive feel.
Many of Philip’s pieces are used in classroom science education, introducing 9 to 14 year olds to the world of microcontrollers and coding. Some of Philip’s work is showcased in the video below (again from this year’s event at the Centre For Life in Newcastle). There are many more cool wooden automata and machines at Philip’s website lowbot.co.uk.
Maker Fun supremo Jo Claessen is another maker who is heavily involved in education. She was at last month’s Manchester Maker Faire running stop motion video workshops for children with a modified Raspberry Pi. It looks like the resulting videos were made using clay figures and the Pi’s camera module.
Jo has also put together an excellent nature project using lego bricks, the Raspberry Pi and its camera to record the emergence of painted lady butterflies from their chrysalises. Maker Fun used live caterpillar kits, available from the company Insect Lore, and created a video of the results as well as some great pictures (below).
Print and upcycle
Traditional craft skills are undergoing a bit of a resurgence due to interest in the maker scene. Two enterprising young makers in the north east of England particularly impress – Dabble Dabble (Christopher Folwell) and Crooked Halo Crafts (Lindsey Stevenson). Dabble Dabble markets a hip line of screen prints featuring everything from spooky burial grounds to champion lobsters. Chris is also involved in a project to build a wooden trimaran boat and the Newcastle ‘Make n Mend’ events.
Lindsey showcases her sweet tooth with a range of concept cakes made for any occasion and a cute and curious range of jewellery using found objects, glass fusion, hemp materials and resin. She is a big fan of the recycling/upcycling movement. “Upcycling is one of the current trends, reusing something in a way that gives it a ‘better’ use than it previously had,” she says on her WordPress blog. “But it is really something that has been going on for centuries, nothing went to waste until there was no more life in it. Items would be passed down not only to relatives but to neighbours, friends, or whoever needed it the most.”