Author: Carter Jenkins

The Captain's Chair

Ted Huller: 3D Printing Master

Introduction

Ted Huller is a long-time Ace member and also Ace’s resident 3D Printing Steward. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to talk with Ted about his history with Ace as well as some recent work he has done.

Ted’s History with Ace

ted hullarTed is a long-time friend of Ace Executive Director Rachel Crafty, but Ted’s story begins before Rachel was in that role. Ted works in a laboratory, and throughout his working process, he sometimes finds that he needs to make custom-built parts in order to fulfill certain jobs. He normally would make these parts out of wood, (Ted is a master woodworker) but one day the job required a small beaker holder that was too fine to make with wood. Hearing about Ace’s 3D printing workspace, Ted decided that he should learn some basic skills in 3D printing so that he could handle situations like these. He admits the process wasn’t very smooth, but in the end, he had a working product, and that experience made Ted very interested in 3D printing as a whole.

Fast forward a few years, and Ted became a regular Ace member. He still did woodworking at home, but the Ace makerspace had become his new home for metalwork and some 3D printing. Ted quickly got his own 3D printer at home, meaning that his interactions with Ace slowly dwindled as his needs for printing materials shrunk. One day, however, former 3D printing steward Matt stepped down, leaving the position open to anyone in the Ace community. After some deliberation, Ted decided that he should give something back to the Ace community, and with his new expertise, Ted became the printing steward.

The 3D Printing Space at Ace

The 3D printing space is shared with a multipurpose space that houses the electronics lab, a couple of workstations, and the big format paper printer. This room is known as the Clean Fabrication room. There are two Prusa-brand 3D printers, which Ted calls “the Ford F-150 of printers. There’s a lot of them, they’re not the most sophisticated, but they’re pretty darn reliable and thought out.” There’s also a nearby computer dedicated to preparing files for the printers. The printers don’t need a computer to run, but makers will often find that it helps to be able to do last-minute manipulations to the 3D object files.

The Slack community for 3D printing at Ace has members in the hundreds, and pretty much all questions and discussions happen over Slack. Ted considers it the most efficient way to ask, read, and answer questions; he encourages new members to use Slack for almost all of their communications.

An Example of Ted’s Work

Metal plating placed in the Ace metal mill
Some in-progress work being done at the Ace metal mill

Ted and his wife recently bought an old minivan so they can go camping without having to deal with tents. The Toyota they bought was almost perfect for this purpose, except for one thing. The two of them both found the minivan to be a little too small to have both front seating and bed arrangements, so they looked into having adaptable seats that could swivel and lie down to make beds. The Toyota’s seats, however, were bolted to the floor in such a way that commercial seat-adjusting kits wouldn’t work. With no other options, Ted turned to his making skills to fabricate a “captain’s chair,” similar to those found in commercial RVs.

Ted started with drilling out a swivel plate and holes in the floor of the van, making sure to line them up precisely by means of the metal mill at Ace. The actual process of making the seat swivel wasn’t that difficult, but Ted encountered another problem soon after. Modern-day seats in cars and vans have lots of electrical wiring leading into them, whether it’s for operating a heater or controlling the seat’s back-and-forth movement. Ted found that the wires in the seat were dangerously close to shearing themselves on some exposed metal left by the drill holes, which would cause all sorts of maladies if not addressed properly. To solve this problem, he 3D printed a large plastic washer that bolts onto the wire hole. This means that instead of the wires dragging on sharp metal edges, it’s protected by a layer of comparably soft plastic. There were other little 3D-printed objects that Ted made, such as protective sheaths for the wire connectors.

3D printed swivel bushing used in the seat
An example of a bushing used in the project

Interestingly, Ted’s neighbor was going through a similar process with a van of their own at around this time. They had also encountered the same wire-cutting problem, and since Ted had just fitted the washer he offered to print a duplicate for his neighbor. With about a dollar’s worth of filament, Ted solved his neighbor’s problem.

Closing

Ted will continue to make and create at Ace for a long time. There are no big projects in his immediate future, but before our talk ended Ted told me that he was looking forward to, “training some more people, getting them ready, and seeing what people are going to 3D print.” I’m Carter Jenkins and thank you for reading.

An interview with Victor Lane, Ace Instructor

Who is Victor?

victor with CatVictor Lane may live in Sacramento, but he is still an active member of the Ace community. At Ace, Victor did a lot of woodworking with joinery, and over the past few years, he’s eventually made his way to becoming an instructor. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Victor to find out more about him.

Victor’s relationship with Ace began in a similar way to a lot of other members: finding an affordable and welcoming maker space. In his search, he found plenty of alternatives, but they were mostly for-profit organizations with narrowly defined communities that did not have a diverse environment. “You go to a lot of ‘maker spaces and it’s white guys my age making robots or 3d printing…” as Victor put it. He found that Ace fostered a group of people that was full of people that you wouldn’t find in those other maker spaces. Ace also had different technologies that you wouldn’t find in other maker spaces, such as fabric arts. He appreciates the fact that these “non-traditional” making practices have dedicated homes at Ace.

Two coasters with engravings of California
Two custom made coasters designed by Victor

Victor’s New Class at Ace

Victor is hosting an in-person woodworking class for a small group of people at the maker space. It’s a class he has hosted pre-lockdown, but luckily not a lot about the class had to change. Like before, he’s teaching how to make a basic cutting board out of a single piece of wood, teaching how to properly cut and finish the material. The main purpose of the class is not to walk away with a perfect cutting board but to rather learn how to use the tools properly. As Victor said, “If you are not scared of the power tool you are using, you probably shouldn’t be using it.” He believes that gaining a sense of respect is the most important thing that a maker should have for their tools. The class employs the use of the chop saw and table saw, which Victor hopes to make his students comfortable. For the most part, mask protocol isn’t affecting the class. Most of the time, the people in the class were wearing filtered dust masks, so modified masks are being used.

Talking with Victor was a blast, and the Ace community benefits greatly from having a guy like him in it. His charismatic personality and great communication skills make him an excellent teacher and should make for a great workshop experience.

Lead to Life: An Ace Collaboration

What is Lead to Life?

Lead to Life is an Oakland-based organization of black and queer artists, ecologists, and healers. The group is primarily focused on reversing the effects of violence against black people. They turn the metal from guns into tools that are then used to repair ecosystems, specifically in black neighborhoods.

Lead to Life’s goal is to empower racial and environmental justice through artwork. Their commitment to removing systemic oppression is done through what they call “applied alchemy,” or in other words using nature to provoke new ideas for justice. The group intends to create connections between restorative and environmental justice. The organization also aims to reconnect people to a more natural and peaceful life.

“A people’s alchemy for regeneration”

Lead to Life’s main purpose isn’t just to make gardens and have shovels with words on them (though those are both things they do). Lead to Life was created to foster peace in chaotic places, to provide a grounding factor that many people could use. It was because of this main driving force that Ace decided to collaborate with Lead to Life.

How Ace is Involved

David displaying 2 completed handles

Lead to Life and Ace Makerspace are running a joint project where Ace used its in-house tooling to create a fresh batch of shovel handles for Lead to Life. The three main people who spearheaded and worked on this collaboration were David Perry, Rachel Sadd, and Greg Habiby.

Rachel worked with the laser cutter, sanding blocks, and finishing chemicals, creating the shape of the shovel handle as well as polishing it. David was the primary user of the laser engraver that put the words into the side of each shovel handle. Greg took the role of photographer for the project, taking all the pictures that were used in this article.

Rachel answered a few questions about the project for this blog, ranging from what was challenging about the project to how being a part of this collaboration changed her.

Rachel’s Experience

Multiple shove handles stacked on each other
A selection of the finished handles

As stated, Rachel worked on laser cutting the handles and polishing them. While working with the irregularly sized wood pieces and modifying the lathe to work properly, she had time to think about what the project meant to her. Lead to Life works with organizations she has a connection with, one of them being the Segoroea Te Land Trust. Both organizations work with community gardens and building relationships with nature, which are values that Rachel holds deep in her heart. Working with Lead to Life was a form of direct action that reminded Rachel of her connection to the Oakland community.

If you want to learn more about Lead to Life, check out their website at https://www.leadtolife.org/

Bob’s Guitar Journey

Introduction

Out of Ace’s list of members, Bob M is definitely one of the more unique people to walk through the workshop doors. Nowadays, Bob is most known for his custom-built guitars and basses, and the reason why this is goes back all the way to his high school days. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to speak with Bob about what he does at Ace as well as a little more about how his life has led him to this point.

The Beginning

In high school, Bob originally aimed on becoming a violin craftsman. However, that path didn’t work out and Bob had to explore other areas. For 20 years, Bob held a job as a professional juggler while still exploring his passion for playing guitar. One day in 1989, he paid someone to do some repairs on a bass he had. The job was completely botched, leaving Bob thinking, “I could do so much better than that.” After a little mechanical ingenuity and some tinkering, Bob quickly discovered a new skill.

In the early 90s, Bob opened up a hand-crafted guitar shop to both satisfy his guitar fix and to have a career. Unfortunately, he soon shut down the operation. The money wasn’t the biggest problem, rather Bob “couldn’t stand the sales relationship that the job required.” Wrangling what you love into a money-producing machine isn’t a great feeling, and after only a few years of operation, Bob walked away.

2 partially completed guitars

More Recent Years

In between 1997 and 2017, Bob didn’t do a lot of making or tinkering. However, in 2017, he went to the Ace Building for a Fusion 360 CAD software meeting. During his visit, he took a guided tour around the facility where his attention was caught by the CNC machine and the woodshop. While Ace wasn’t the entire reason he got back into making, seeing the necessary tools that Ace offered with an affordable membership compared to other spaces Bob had looked at was a big part of it. Nowadays, Bob still makes custom guitars, no longer for the money but rather for the affection he has for the craft.

The silver bridge of a guitar with a cartoon character drawn into it
A bridge with a drawing inscribed

Advice for Other makers

Towards the end of our meeting, I asked Bob for any advice he had for makers looking to turn a passion into a business. Bob says that if you have a passion, don’t try to monetize it unless you know you can succeed. Take guitar building for instance. The market for that kind of thing is heavily over-saturated, with new builders investing all their money into a business that will last a few years before shutting down.

Bob got out of the business for a reason, now he spends his days doing what he loves, not doing work. If you have something you want to pursue, he recommends finding a group of people that have a similar interest to you and then finding opportunities to put your skills to work through there. A big enough community will be able to supply you with answers to your questions and will also help you grow as a person.

Mauricio’s Big Build

Overview

Mauricio Salmerón has been working on a project recently. What started as a joke request to a friend has now spanned into a multi-month project that is now nearing completion. I got a chance to speak with Mauricio over a weekend and he shed some light on what other workshop members saw as two large pieces of wood glued together.

Mauricio has been an off-and-on member of the Ace Makerspace for a few years now. He used to own a furniture-making shop called “The Furniture Space,” where he did woodworking to create all kinds of custom furniture such as tables and sideboards. After that, Mauricio found Ace to be the best place to continue honing his craft.

A while back, Mauricio was talking with June, a friend of his. The conversation eventually drifted to June’s need for a new bed. After discussing how June’s search hadn’t been successful, Mauricio jokingly offered to build her a bed frame. The two laughed, and the conversation moved on. However, a month or two later June took Mauricio up on his half-serious request.

A half completed bed frame
The bed frame, later in its construction phase

Mauricio worked on the project on and off, but many months later it’s nearly complete. Throughout his build process, Mauricio used many workshop tools to complete the project. The table saw, chop saw, router, drill, and planer to name a few. He estimates “another 10 hours of work and headboard assembly” and the new frame will be ready to send to June. The entire assembly consists of 5 main parts that can be put together to complete the full platform-style bed. June, of course, will have to provide the mattress, but it seems that the bulk of the work has been completed.

Process

  • Early pieces
    • Oak boards were surfaced through the joiner and planer, then dimensioned with the table saw
    • The boards were clamped together and glued to make the large sides of the bed, the tops to the sides with pocket screws
    • The three main pieces were completed by now, each with its own plywood support frame
  • Later pieces
    • The surfaced boards were put together with pocket screws and clamps to create the headboard
    • The last piece, the middle mattress support, was made with plywood, glue, and pocket screws
  • Final assembly
    • The three large oak pieces were attached with latches, the headboard had cleats and bolts to attach to the side pieces, and the middle mattress support piece

Tools and materials

  • Tools
    • Table saw
    • Chop saw
    • Router
    • Circular saw
    • Drill
    • Planer
    • Joiner
  • Materials
    • Titebond III wood glue
    • Pocket screws
    • Plywood and Oakwood
    • Cleats
    • Bolts
    • Latches