MakerFestivalTO — What We Learned

Well, phew! MakerFestival Toronto has come and gone and we had a great time at the splendid Toronto Reference Library for 2015’s Extravaganza event.

The New Toronto Booth was busy non-stop with heaps and heaps of visitors who poked, prodded, dialed, peered, printed, and made. The most engaging activities were the 3D pens, the cellphone microscopes, the penny batteries, and the analogue synth hooked up to the anvil-box amp. A lot of people asked about the 3D printing examples we had and many asked about the types of material that could be used.

We also conducted an entirely non-scientific poll—no r’s were chi-squared and there were only 36 respondents—but we still collected some useful feedback about the potential for getting a makerspace going in New Toronto. The biggest outcome we found suggested that adults wanted classes for themselves and their kids on 3D printing, soldering and electronics, and a place to work on projects with power tools and other action. Unfortunately, very few respondents said they’d be willing to pay for a membership. Fortunately, just as many respondents would pay for something. So, that’s a start.

There was less interest in the little free libraries that were all ready to sell. Could’ve been that they were a bit cost-prohibitive, but it doesn’t seem like the festival audience was generally that-much into spending money. The skateboard made using the Roarockit thin air press kit, the papercraft and cards, and the keychains lovingly made by one of the youngest members all generated less interest than expected.

The festival was billed (so to speak) as a free event, so it’s no surprise that people were less inclined to spend money. Perhaps next year the organizers would consider adding some advertising to the effect that exhibitors will have stuff to sell. And on more than one occasion I heard someone bemoan the fact that they had no bag in which to carry said schwag. Perhaps branded totes could be available for a small fee to attendees.

But, it was a great experience and a wonderful opportunity to talk to all sorts of makers who came out to the Extravaganza event. Anecdotally we found that there were a good number of people who wanted a place to work, and were interested in participating. In fact, within days some follow up-up emails have started to trickle in.

Looks like we might just start to get something rolling, here…

Pintail Skateboard

We made a skateboard using the Roarockit thin air press (TAP) kit.

It took longer than anticipated, and there were a few surprises along the way, but the end product is a successful pintail skateboard that is sturdy and smooth.

The deck is all from the Roarockit kit, and this model incorporates a piece of red veneer as the centre layer for a bit of flash. They said the dye permeated right-through, but it didn’t turn out that way when actually cut into. Nevertheless, the end result is a clearly visible streak of red in the middle layer of the deck.

The trucks, wheels, and bearings were all courtesy of the Longboard Living skate shop in Kensington Market.

Deck screws, helmet, and a good bit of friendly advice thanks to CJ Skatepark and school.

The vinyl decal was printed/cut at Graphic Print and Copies, another New Toronto shop.

Using the TAP bag from the kit was pretty easy. The first surprise came, though, upon reading the internal instructions, which say to glue the first three layers, then the second three layers, then the last two layers. This increased the amount of time needed to complete the deck by several days. The expectation was that the deck would be glued-up after eight hours; the reality was that it took three eight-hour sessions with the TAP bag. Not bad, but unexpected.

Rasping off the edges was a snap. The tool included with the kit worked very effectively and it was easy to sculpt the edges of the deck down to the correct profile.

Sanding down the edges was also pretty easy, but did take determination.

Sanding down the deck surface took several sessions as well. Starting with 80 grit, then 120, then 220, then 300 and finally 400 produced a beautiful surface on the maple veneer.

The finish for this deck was spar varnish. Stinky stuff. Not sure it will be used in the next deck. The biggest challenge was getting a smooth surface without burning through the layer; unfortunately this was not an entirely successful result. There are a few spots where the layers show through but generally speaking it’s a nice result.

This deck also incorporates a vinyl decal. To make sure that the deck was preserved properly, the decal only went on after three layers of finish. That ensured that the deck was completely sealed, and there was enough varnish to even out the drips and what-not. There are another 4 layers of varnish on top of the decal, and the profile on the deck face is almost smooth – only a wee bit of a bump where the decal is applied.

Sanding of each layer was 220 – 400 grit. The final layer was sanded up to 2000 grit, which I obtained through the most awesomest of stores, Lee Valley Tools.

Cell Phone Microscope

This latest project is based on the post “$10 Smartphone to digital microscope conversion!” by Yoshinok from Instructables.

With a bit of patience and perseverance we were able to get some great pictures of everyday stuff like paper towel, sand, milk weed seeds, snake skin (ok — not so everyday).

Preparation for 6 – 10 kits took about a day. Assembly can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on skill level.