Introduction to the Lapidary Arts

Lapidary Arts at Nova Labs

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, Nova Labs members met in Blacksmith Alley for the second offering in the Introduction to the Lapidary Arts course series. Christopher J. Evey instructed the class on 3 types of rock saws used to process rough gemstones into pieces ready for shaping and polishing. Carrie Hafer, Brad Clements, Marnie Dollinger, Rob Bowers, and Stacey Lanzilotta attended the class.

Students working at the cutting and grinding machines

Students working at the cutting and grinding machines

Chris began the class by walking through the setup and operation of the Raytech trim saw and the Diamond Pacific Genie Trim Saw Attachment. These saws are used to cut small pieces of rough gemstones and more commonly, cut segments from stone slabs into the pre-forms that will become cabochons. Next, the class shifted focus onto the larger saw, the Lortone Panther, which is a 14 inch diamond saw used to cut flat slabs from large rough rocks. Surprisingly, the saw did not turn on when activated; however, this flaw turned into a teaching moment as the students witnessed how to repair electrical wire connections to this vintage equipment. Brad and Chris successfully rewired and soldered a loose connection to solve the issue and restore power to the saw.

Brad's Oregon Thunderegg

Brad’s Oregon Thunderegg

With the large saw running, the class began to cut some of the rocks they brought to class. Brad cut a beautiful Oregon Thunderegg he purchased specifically for this class. Rob cut a quartz crystal geode acquired during his past vacation. Carrie cut a few slabs from some nice quartzite that she later ground into cabochons.

Throughout the day, Chris made his grinding station available so that student who were not otherwise engaged with using the saws could attempt to stay warm by making cabochons. Stacey, Marnie, and Carrie each made their first cabs during this class.

Rob's Quartz Geode

Rob’s Quartz Geode

The class wrapped up after some additional cabochon instruction and cleanup. The students expressed an interest in more lapidary classes and suggested a course on where to find gemstones and how to identify them. Additionally, all the students voiced an interest in a Nova Labs-sponsored field trip in the local area to collect rocks.

Marnie (Front) and Stacey (Rear) at the Cab Machine

Marnie (Front) and Stacey (Rear) at the Cab Machine

Chris and Carrie discussed potential interest in the purchase of a cabochon grinding machine at Nova Labs. In examining space in the Crafters Cove area of the Orange Bay they thought perhaps a small rolling bench that could fit under one of the wire racks might work to store a grinding machine. This machine would need to be rolled out to the shop in back for use so as not to disrupt other members and cleaned up each time before being returned.  Chris agreed to continue to support investigating and discussing potential lapidary equipment in support of our rock hounds and future classes for Nova Labs.

Carrie's rock slabs and first Cabochons

Carrie’s rock slabs and first Cabochons (photo by Carrie Hafer)

Provided by Christopher Evey

Learn #Woodworking at Nova Labs

Learn #WoodworkingHave you ever wanted to make some wood chips or create something beautiful and didn’t know where to start? Always wanted to learn woodworking, but never could find the time or money for tools? Ever said, “I wish someone could show me the ropes and help me learn a craft”?

Then the Intro to Woodworking classes at Nova Labs are for you.

We offer six different classes this semester, geared to different levels of woodworker and maker.

Certification classes, held on Monday or Tuesday nights, are for woodworkers and makers with some experience using woodworking tools. Red certification covers the big milling and dimensioning operations: table saws, jointer, planer, and miter saw. Yellow certifications cover the smaller, shaper tools: band saws, scroll saws, drill press, and sanders. A few tools, such as the large band saws, routers, and mortising machines have their own classes.

Projects courses offer practice and certification while building a project. This quarter, we will build a step stool, bookshelf and cutting board. Next quarter, expect a class on boxes (starring the router), small end tables and a Japanese-style toolbox.

After your class, stop by for Woodshop Wednesday, Green Bay Thursday or Woodshop Office Hours on Sundays. This is open, free shop time for members and guests to ask for help, work on individual projects and develop skills in a community environment.

The GO! Green Orientation (a general shop safety orientation) is a prerequisite before you register for and join a woodworking class.

Pictures are from the February Cutting Board Project class.

Also, you can check out our instructor pages at www.woodshopcowboy.com.

Thermoforming at Nova Labs

About a week ago, maker Eric K. demonstrated plastic thermoforming for an enthusiastic class at Nova Labs. He used the thermoformer he built himself and maintains at Nova Labs. You may have seen the video of Adam Savage’s vacuum forming machine, which works similarly, but Nova Labs’ machine is even bigger, with a total forming area of 2 feet by 4 feet!

Here’s some video of the Nova Labs thermoformer in action during the class:

A thermoforming machine has essentially four parts:

  1. A hard surface with many holes on it
  2. A vacuum pump underneath, which (when activated) sucks air below
  3. A movable platform onto which you attach a sheet of plastic
  4. A heating element

To make a part, you first place an object on the hard surface, and then clip the plastic onto movable frame. The frame is lifted so that it’s close to the heating element, where the plastic is then heated until it’s soft and droopy. You then lower the plastic and frame toward the platform and object, and flip a switch to activate the vacuum. The plastic is then sucked onto your object, wrapping around it.

ThermoformingThere’s a lot more to it than that, and Eric did a great job of explaining the ins and outs of using a machine like this. For example, you want the plastic to sag to about the height of the object you’re wrapping. The object itself should be solid, not hollow, or it could collapse and damage the machine.

Eric was also kind enough to bring a number of small wooden objects, and each student thermoformed their own object. He even showed off several parts that he was thermoforming for large drone work.

Removing a thermoformed objectThermoformer controls

This class — and many others like it — was provided at Nova Labs. Check out the NOVA Makers meetup for many more!

Ham Radio at Nova Labs

Ham Radio at Nova Labs

Assembling an antenna for Ham radio

Do you know where the term Ham comes from? It relates to the thespian meaning of ‘a bad actor’. This historic link is why we refer to FCC-licensed Amateur Radio Operators as such; In the early part of the 20th Century, Radio was proving its usefulness and then some. Early Radio Frequency (RF) electronic experimenters would homebrew their own radio stations, and begin broadcasting. The burgeoning commercial radio broadcasters would compete head to head for the radio crystal listening audience (themselves early adopters). Broadcast professionals would refer to the homebrewers as ‘Hams.’ Through the power of lobbying organizations, the Hams of the day were relegated to one small part of radio spectrum.

Hams find their purpose

Antenna

In the 1920’s Hiram Percy Maxim saw the value of a public with radios transceivers for emergency communications, and founded the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Through the present, the ARRL has fostered this mission to the point where there are over 700,000 licensed Hams in the US and over 3 million world-wide. Many of them are RF super-nerds, but just as often they are not, they are regular folk; 8-year-olds have passed the intro level Technicians exam.

Nova Labs Hams

Ham radio class in sessionRecently, ham radio activity at Nova Labs has developed legs. A licensing class series has started, culminating in an exam session. Don’t worry, be sure to join Nova Makers Meetup and the hamradio@nova-labs.org email list via www.nova-labs.org  to keep abreast of upcoming events.

Custom PCB for Ham radio with an Arduino

A render of a custom-designed PCB to combine an Arduino and radio transceiver module.

AntennaRoofInstallation