Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

An exploration of interesting experiments

Getting started

So I have had in mind for a while, the idea of making cube shapes out of 1/4 inch material on the Shapeoko. Most of this came about from a combination of fiddling with a 90 degree bit and realizing that basic math says a cube is just a bunch of 90 degree angles. Maybe I could have some fun with that...

The Basics

The basic structure of the cube is a set of six identical sides cut with a 90 degree bit. Which means that each of the angles you see in this image are actually 45 degrees.

In this case, I was cutting 3 inch square sides out of sapele that was a little less than a quarter inch.

This entire design is just 6 squares in Carbide create and the 90 degree bit just traces the outline (and yes it could be simplified).

This would fold up into a blank wooden cube, which is a little boring but you can do some interesting things from this starter design.

Etching the Faces

Since our cube is currently just a set of flat surfaces, we can use Carbide Create to mill designs on each of the various faces.

The trick is, getting consistent alignment across all the faces. To this end, I created a very simple jig by bolting down a piece of 3/4 MDF to the center of my wasted board. I used a set of dowel centers (like these from Rockler http://www.rockler.com/dowel-centers) to position the holes for attaching the jig to the waste board and then drilled them out by hand. Once the MDF is attached, I then cut a 3 inch square recess in the center to hold the individual sides.

By keeping everything centered on the waste board, I can quickly set the X and Y of the machine by clicking Rapid Position in Carbide Motion and selecting the center dot in the bed (This is also the quickest way to locate the center of the waste board). Once I have my X and Y setup all I have to do is set my Z axis and Bob's your uncle.

The little circles at the corners of the jig help me get the piece back up once milling is finished. If you have a snug fit, you don't even need tape. I have also cut versions of this type of jig where I installed clamps to help hold the pieces down.

I mark the front of the jig so it's easy to swap in and out as needed. I have a small circle in sharpie on the center of my waste board to help me line things up.

Finding the Right Cube

My first test was downloading some files from the Intarwebs and tracing them with Inkscape. I chose the cube from the movie "Hellraiser" as it's  a rather iconic cube.

This one was done in 1/4 inch MDF and finished in a similar fashion to the ubiquitous Aztec Wars project that seems to be a right of passage for CNC users. Check this video for an in depth look at the finishing technique: https://youtu.be/rmqtZjZHpYM

The cubes look a bit dingy in places, but that sort of fit with the effect I was going for, sort of a recently dug up artifact.

Clear cubes

The next idea was to try a new material and see what happened. I had some acrylic laying around and so I cut a cube and used the same pattern with a diamond drag bit to etch. The whole thing is put together with Weld-On Acrylic Adhesive. 

One word on the adhesive, if you get it, take the applicator bottle with needle and throw it as far away as possible. It creates a sloppy mess and fogs the glass. Use a small bristle brush and apply a thin coat to the edges. The brush has much greater control.

I also had some mirror acrylic which I etched from behind with a circuit pattern, removing the mirror portion so that light shines through. It makes for an interesting effect.

These photos are simply lit from below with a single iPhone. I am working on a base to edge light the cubes and I will post more images when I do.

 The shadows they throw are really wonderful. 

Exploring Shadows

The shadows got me thinking about hollow wooden forms, so I took some quarter inch sapele and set to work. This time instead of just etching the design, I cut straight through to create the pattern.

I am happy with the result but I am not sure how to light them. They do make nice sculptural pieces just as they are.

This was the one situation where I had to do a bit of additional clamping. Once the material was removed, the panels became light enough and flexible enough to get sucked up by the dust collection. Double stick tape would have been problematic for such delicate pieces, so I created a set of posts that fit in the corners of the jig and held the wood down for milling.

More ideas...

My next project might be nesting the boxes, using different woods or even wood with acrylic inside. It might be fun to take the wooden hex pattern box and then place an acrylic one with tiny etched bees on it. Then light it from below with yellow LEDs. More to follow...

Posted by John


The look that says “Not sure where you are sleeping tonight buddy.”

Three cats in a king bed.

Three cats in a king bed.

Posted by John

It seems like every time I set up a blog or a website, I end up making a business out of it. 12ftguru.com became a programming company and infinitebiscuit.com has become a loose collective of local entrepreneurs. So this one is just named after me and will probably be used to talk a bit more about business than I have in the past. It seems to take up quite a bit of my life, so this is a good place for it.

There may still be some random posts about woodworking and cats, just so that my family is entertained.

Anyway… this marks the transitional line between the new blog and the old one…


Posted by John

Let me bring this thing under control and I’ll be right with you.

Posted by John

John Ringo: Into The Looking Glass

John Ringo's Into the Looking Glass

John Ringo's Into the Looking Glass

Having thoroughly enjoyed Ringo’s Posleen series as well as his Council Wars series, I had high hopes for this book. The premise is solid; an experiment gone wrong triggers a massive explosion at a Florida University and opens up a portal to another world.

Unfortunately this book is a classic case of an author being unable to get out of his own way and just tell a story. Ringo feeds you his politics with a shovel in this book. About half way through it, I found my self saying, “Okay… Ringo thinks all Liberals are cowardly, un-American scum who should be shot on sight… I get it… Can we get back to the story now?”

In the first half of the book it is difficult to make it ten pages without some wonderful anecdote about the evils of liberalism and the glories of conservatism. Whatever your politics (mine fall squarely in the middle), it gets boring after a while and it makes a potentially good read drown under the weight of the author’s convictions.

Next time I hope we get less screed and more story.

Baen Books

Posted by John

Takashi Yamazaki: The Returner

Picture this… somewhere in a parrallel universe, John Woo gets the script for Terminator and the script for E.T. at the same time. He can only afford to make one film, so he decides to combine the two and get those odd new Wachowski fellas to handle the effects.

The result would be the Returner.

There are so many reasons that this film should not work, but somehow it does. Much of the credit belongs to the beautiful Anne Suzuki and her co-stars Takeshi Kaneshiro and Goro Kishitani. Suzuki is the girl every amine boy will drool over, equal parts shy and mischeivious. She makes a fool of Kaneshiro’s Miyamoto with such a practiced ease that it’s almost unfair. Goro Kishitani, as the over the top villian named Mizoguchi, has the playful psychopath routine down cold.

The thing that carries the film is the obvious fun they are having with it. The Returner is good clean mind candy. Don’t expect an oscar winning plot, just expect to have fun.

Columbia Tristar

Posted by John

Joss Whedon: Firefly

Firefly premiered as part of the fall 2002 lineup for Fox broadcasting. The Fox website describes Firefly this way:

“Set 500 years in the future in the wake of a universal civil war, FIREFLY tells the tale of Serenity, a small transport spaceship without a home port. Captain Malcolm (“Mal”) Reynolds commands Serenity for legitimate transport and salvage runs, as well as more “entrepreneurial” endeavors.

On Serenity, crew and passengers live together in close quarters as they shuttle between the Alliance-governed galaxy and the border planets that delineate the new frontier. The crew undertakes almost any job — legal or not — to stay afloat and put bread on the table. Each of the passengers has his or her own motivation for being on board – some honorable, some more questionable. All have unique pasts and different reasons for wanting to get to their destination.

Serenity and its crew flies to the border planets, many of which are barely inhabited, because they want to stay away from the Alliance and below its big radar. Thrust together by necessity, the disparate men and women of Serenity face constant challenges, which test and reveal their true identities. FIREFLY is about their unpredictable lives and relationships, as well as their search for meaning in a very uncertain time.”

Firefly is so much more than that. It’s a western. It’s a mystery (several actually). It’s science fiction. It’s good writing, brilliant humor and engaging stories. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world of “Who Wants To Be/Marry/Sleep With/Give Birth To/Have Dinner With/Serve Cheese Fries To A Millionaire.”

Unfortunately it looks as though Firefly will not go beyond this season. Fox has cancelled the show and UPN, while reportedly interested, turned down the option to pick it up. Television is lessened by this unhappy event.

Update: The gods have smiled upon us! Firefly has been released on DVD in its entirety. There is also a possible feature movie in discussion. Sometimes…. life is good!

The DVD release contains the series in the original order, not the butchered order that Fox used (hey, let’s put the first episode last… that won’t confuse anyone… dorks). The DVDs also contain 3 episodes that never aired. I have watched the series again from start to finish and I believe it is one of the finest TV shows ever made. Don’t believe me? Go to amazon.com and grab a copy. You will believe.

Posted by John

MediaWrapper Preview 3

Preview 2 is now available for OS X!

New Features include:

  • New DVD slipcase layout
  • MediaWrapper no prints disk labels
  • All Wrappers are now available with double sided printing
  • All Wrappers now have an option for a full page front picture
  • Added a new Wrapper for CD paper sleeves with a circular window
  • Support for multi-Session disks

Preview 2 also resets the usage counter so that users can take a second look at MediaWrapper. The final version will be out by the end of the year and will include an option for easy printing of CD labels.

MediaWrapper 3 features include:

  • Font Control
  • More Layouts
  • More control over layouts
  • Double Sided Layouts
  • New “Pay what it’s worth to you” License

Sound interesting?

What is MediaWrapper?

This version of MediaWrapper is a complete re-write of the original. It offers a new WYSIWYG interface for wrappers as well as lots of great new features.

MediaWrapper Interface View Larger Image

The Preview ReleaseThe preview release offers you, the user, a chance to get in your 2 cents worth. What new wrappers do you want to see? What features work well for you and which ones work not so well? The preview release also offers us the oportunity to make sure that MediaWrapper works as expected on a variety of systems. More Information

Font Control Font control lets you specify how the folders and files will appear on your wrapper. You can control font, size, color and style for the disk name, date, space free, folders, subfolders and files. You can also setup filters for Creator, File Type and File Name which allows you to change the font, color and style for those items. More Information

Font Controls View Larger Image Color Tray Card Example View Larger Image

More Layouts We have added new layouts for CD’s including 2 wrapper designs for cd wallets. The layout engine has also been re-written making it much easier to add new layouts as users request them. More Information

More control over layouts All layouts now have the ability to turn the logo on or off as well as the ability to turn the Date and Space Free fields on and off. This gives you more room for the file list. More Information

Double Sided Layouts A double sided option has been added to this version. Currently it is in effect for the CD Wallet versions only, but will be expanded in the final release to include all wrapper designs. Basically this allows you to remove the paper after printing page one, re-insert it into the printer and print page two. More Information

New “Pay what it’s worth to you” License Perhaps the biggest change of all is the new “Pay what it’s worth to you” license. This means that in order to register MediaWrapper 3 you can pay literally any amount. If it’s worth $20 to you, then pay $20. If it’s worth a dollar to you then pay a dollar. Either way you will receive a full registration key for the product. More Information

Things to note: This is a preview release. Some features may not work as expected. The best way to fix this is to provide good feedback to Twelve Foot Guru. Remember to include some information about your computer and printer so that we can work to fix the issue as quickly and efficiantly as possible.

Posted by John

John Wells: The West Wing

The West Wing has spent 4 seasons growing into one of the most thoughtful and funny shows on television. Creator Aaron Sorkin has a fantastic sense of pacing in his shows and can deliver a message with laughter as easily as with drama.

In its infinite wisdom, NBC decided that Sorkin was no longer needed (possibly due to a high profile arrest for drugs or maybe just the typical stupidity of the old white boy TV network executive club). NBC brought in John Wells, of ER fame to replace Sorkin. The result has been pretty much a disaster.

Wells has the gentle touch of a sumo wrestler, and drives home his points with all the subtlety of a Hustler centerfold. Everything in the new season screams “Drama! Drama! Drama! Look! I’m Important!”

The lighting for the show feels like a mortuary and the cast sleepwalks from one world shattering event to another. This type of “Stories Ripped From The Headlines” is a Wells staple. To me, this is what hack writers do when they don’t have ideas of their own… rip from the headlines.

The dialog has been dumbed down and all of the emotional content is reduced to the typical tired toolbox of knee-jerk hollywood emoto-events (which elicited the appropriate response in all of their focus groups). It’s enough to make you cry.

If you want my advise, buy the first four seasons on DVD and then pretend that everyone was destroyed by giant robots at the end of the fourth season.

NBC and John Wells earn a spot in the poo poo palace with this one.

Posted by John


There is an interesting article online about Apple’s new music service vs the eMusic service.

It started me thinking…

I have been a subscriber to eMusic for the last year. It’s a $9.99 per month all you can eat, music service for mp3 downloads. Apple’s new service is based on a per song charge of 99 cents. (Note: Emusic has changed it’s prices significantly since I first wrote this, but I am still a subscriber and I still like it better that iTunes)
In all honesty, after playing with Apple’s new service for about a day, the cost is only a small part of what bothers me.

Most of this has to do with why and how I listen to music. I like to hear new things and I am not a big fan of radio. The unrepentant sameness of it all makes me want to cry. When I finally do hear something new that intrigues me, the dj inevitably forgets to tell me what the song was. The standard Clear Channel DJ’s don’t even really play music anymore. The tunes are simply a bumper between moments of narcissism that would make Noel Galleger seem thoughtful and introspective.

I like to discover music almost as much as I like to listen. When I was 18 I used to blow an average of $30 per week on records (yes the black discs with the hole in them junior. Now pipe down before I have to use my cane). Some of the stuff I bought was crap… actually a lot of it was. Those got traded back in at the local used record store and more music was then purchased.

On rare occasions I came across an album that totally rocked my world… The Jags -“Evening Standard” (1979) and the followup “No Tie Like A Present” (1980)… Great Building’s self titled first and only album… DB Cooper’s “Buy American” and the first two Gary Newman albums (Yes, he made music before “Cars”).

I picked these albums up because of the cover, a friends recommendation, a magazine review or maybe just because I liked their name. I listened and decided for myself if I liked it or not. No radio reinforcement necessary.

This is why I love eMusic and why Apple’s site seems to be just more of the same. The content on Apple’s site is everything you would expect to see in the Columbia House catalog (I never could find 10 cd’s I wanted… even for a penny) As far as new stuff goes, do I really want to “discover” Linkin Park? (graduates of the Heavy Metal School for Spellin Stuff)

eMusic carries popular and esoteric stuff. I can browse the music by label and have often used this to download an entire label catalog (Matador and Hidden Agenda were two of my fav’s) Again, some of it’s good and some of it stinks, but at $9.99 per month you just can’t beat it.

Where else can I satisfy some of my guilty pleasures like Dead or Alive’s “Nukleopatra” or the Biocraft mix of “Peace and Love Incorporated?” Where else can I discover the incredible music of Green Pajamas, Bikeride and the Acid City Kings? Where else could I explore jazz with Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane. (Jazz is always a killer for me. I inevitably pick up something from the artist’s “experimental – avant – garde – blowing – into – the – wrong – end – of – the – clarinet – and – hitting – the – piano – strings – with – marbles period.”)

Now I don’t worry… If I happen to catch Miles Davis in one of his “Look what happens when you do too much heroin” periods, I can just recycle the electrons and move on. No harm no foul.

MP3 music on the net is the haven of collectors, artists and misfits. The mainstream will continue to buy it’s music from traditional outlets. For most of them, the computer is just another thing between them and their purchase and with the foolish efforts at copy protection this is unlikely to change.

eMusic understands the misfits. So they get my $9.99 per month and I get to listen to the Knack, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Chavez and I Am The World Trade Center.

Fear me!

Posted by John

David Weber: Flag In Exile

Flag in Exile is the 5th book in the Honor Harrington series and it’s one of the best. Given the esteem with which I hold this series, that’s saying something. It’s part of a truly sprawling epic (10 books and host of short stories) with well written characters, excellent pacing and a wonderful attention to detail. Readers of military fiction will be please with the attention to tactics and fan’s of political intrigue will find hidden treasure in this series. The is also an odd combination of British ceremony and feudal customs combined with starships and six legged cats.However, my enjoyment has always been measured by the steady growth and maturing of the main character, Honor Harrington as she moves through the ranks amassing respect, enemies and scar tissue (emotional and physical).

This books finds her pretty much doinked by her own government for shooting a man in a duel. The unfortunate opponent was the son of a man who wields great political influence and so she has been exiled to the one government which is still friendly to her. Unfortunately, the planet run by this government is a bit behind the times in it’s views on feminism and the role of women. The current ruler is in Honor’s debt and strongly in favor of a broader role for women, but he is faced with a long standing religion that likes ’em barefoot and pregnant.

Honor turns the place on its ear simply by being herself and in the process, she eventually earns their respect.

While not as heavy on the Epic Space Battles as the other books, this one is not short on action. The final sword fight is awesome and includes one of the best bits of “Make my day” dialog, which I can remember reading.

Start from the beginning of the series and read them all, but this one really stands out to me. A true hall of fame pick.

Baen Books

Posted by John