Mar 6 2015

## Happy Birthday

You know I love a surprise party, especially if it’s themed. This year, playing off 32, which is how old Tiffany is turning, I went with a 2^5 theme. In this context that means packing in 5 “party of two” dates in one day.

Thank you to all the people who took care of the kids so we could get out so long.

Date one:
Lunch at Nitty Gritty (the Official Birthday Place)
and a game at I’m Board!

Date two:
Swing by Sonic on the way to Fired Up Pottery

Date three: Strolling to Picnic Point and out onto Lake Mendota for the sunset

Date four: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Date five: Dinner downtown and home with no kids

Feb 14 2015

## Happy Valentine’s Day

To Tiffany. I love you (nerdily).

Feel free to copy the following into the wonderful Desmos Calculator:

$\left(\frac{2\sqrt{2}\cos \left(t\right)}{\sin ^2\left(t\right)+1},\frac{2\sqrt{2}\cos \left(t\right)\sin \left(t\right)}{\sin ^2\left(t\right)+1}+1\right)$

$\left(\frac{3}{2}\cos \left(\frac{7}{4}t\right)\cos t,\frac{3}{2}\cos \left(\frac{7}{4}t\right)\sin t-\frac{5}{4}\right)$

$\left(4\sin \left(t\right)^3,3\cos \left(t\right)-\cos \left(2t\right)-\frac{\cos \left(3t\right)}{2}-\frac{\cos \left(4t\right)}{6}\right)$

Domain: (0, 50) is sufficient.

Aug 12 2014

## Cardboard Bookshelf

The planets aligned a couple weeks back. My wife was out of town for a couple days, which meant lonely evenings and less concern for tidiness: a great combination for a large craft project. This coincided with move-in/out weekend at my apartment complex, which equated to substantial amounts of cardboard in the recycling bin, which I gladly rescued.
We have been needing a solution for the toys that find themselves downstairs. Upstairs we still use the Tetris shelves I made a couple houses ago. They are still holding up.
I’ve been on a bit of a cardboard kick lately [see some previous posts].
I figured the cubbie-hole style would allow the cardboard to hold more weight than trying long shelves. The holes needed to hold toys so I made them 14-inch cubes (theoretically; more on that below). I estimated that 4 corrugations thick would be about 5/8 inches and would be sufficiently strong. You can see from the sketch the form of the six internal interlocking pieces and the four external pieces.

I wanted to alternate the locking because I thought it would be sturdier, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult (but clearly not impossible) piecing together would be.
Most of my pieces ended up a bit fatter than 5/8 because I found most the large boxes used doubled corrugation. Therefore I ran the doubles on the outside with matching direction and used a single in the middle with opposite corrugation direction. I think the design would hold the pieces together with no glue, but gluing makes cutting much easier. I used hot glue, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Some white or wood glue would be better, I think, but I didn’t have it on hand (plus, it dries more slowly). To keep the shelves square I needed to fix in two bracing pieces 14×14 inches with 5/8×2 inch tabs, as shown in sketch. I ended up just finding some very stiff cardboard and going with a single layer (same for the front pieces (though the front is not so stiff)). The back pieces I glued in. I added some glue to the external boards as well. I think longer connectors would have helped and could be trimmer later if need be.

The personalized covers were fun but can be a bit tricky to put on. I wanted covers so the kids could have some autonomy in storing their junk (they collect a lot of junk) without Tiffany and I needing to look at it. Because my boards were thicker than 5/8, I cut the front squares 13 7/8 so they would fit better and notched the boards ¼. The big kids chose their fonts from a list of stencil fonts and told me the color they desired (I had to mix the Princess Else-inspired light blue).

Plus, if you happen to have six covers, you can show how two consecutive triangular numbers add to a square number.

Jul 20 2014

## 3 Cardboard Storage Creations

Whereas some of my projects span several days, weeks, or even years (from concept to completion), the 3 designs featured here hardly take any time at all if you have cardboard, packing tape, and something sharp.

Depending on the care (read: time) one wants to take and the aesthetic desired, cardboard projects can greatly range in look. Don’t write these off just because of the quick and dirty examples here.

1. Paper Organizer
This project went through two iterations. In the first the shelves were only taped in. After overloading it with projects and the occasional child using it as a ladder to get to the counter, it needed some repairs. The second version has slots cut in so the shelves poke through and are more stable.

2. Toy Food Cabinet
The kids had a bunch of small items that needed stored such as food and dishes to go with their toy kitchen, so I put together this cabinet and drawers. It has held up about a year so far.
It has closable cabinet doors on top that open to two shelves. The hold by tabs cut into the doors that match to slits in the middle shelf. The bottom housing two removable drawers.

3. Bed-side Table (x2)
The first one was made for Tiffany to put her glasses and bedside books and whatnot in. We had less than a foot of space beside the bed so I put this together to fulfill the need in the space we had. It has two removable drawers in front that fill half the depth. The top of that section is reinforced so a drink can be placed on it. The back half opens from the top and provides a nice space for larger items.

Later my oldest daughter wanted one of her own. She didn’t have the space restrictions, so I opted for a slightly larger version made from a diaper box. That way I had less cutting. I also tried to size the drawers more carefully.

Jul 16 2014

## Fibonacci Sequins Cube

As you may know from the previous Modular Origami Bedlam Cube post, an anniversary a couple years ago was Fibonacci themed. While exploring gift ideas to make, I thought of or stumbled across (I don’t recall, but I’m certainly not the first to think of it) the play on Fibonacci sequence, Fibonacci sequins. I decided to put this to work on a cube I had already made for another purpose.
The cube is an old t-shirt cut into two 1 unit by 3 unit rectangles and held in the shape of a cube with fabric glue baseball-style and dryer lint stuffing.I made them mostly inside out like one would if one was sewing a pillowcase or something.
The die features “1,2,3,5,8,13″ in glued on sequins. I opted to start with 1 and 2 because it allowed me to get to the 5, 8, 13 portion of the sequence, which was the important part for the anniversary.

Because half the numbers are higher than the traditional 1-6 die, you might try it for games you want to speed up. It is also soft, so it can be used when harder dice might be too loud.

Jul 13 2014

## Magic Square 15-Puzzle Bookshelf Covers

Finally, after at least a couple years after the concept popped into my brain, I have completed the Magic Square/15-Puzzle Bookshelf Covers. Before we moved to Madison we picked up this Ikea bookshelf. Long before we got one, the 4×4 design immediately led me to think about the two aforementioned number puzzles that utilize such a grid.
I collected a whole bunch of cardboard scrounging through our apartment’s recycling bin. Each square is two layers with the corrugation crossed to increase the strength and magnets glued to the back.

I wanted a solution to attaching them to the bookshelf without damaging it, so they could be removed later if we wanted.
I finally decided to go with can lids with holes poked through like buttons, stirring straws affixed to the back to better hold them in place, and then tied around the back with fishing line.

Here is a magic square arrangement.

And here’s a solved 15-puzzle position:

Jun 16 2014

## Paper Pulp Pentomino Chess Board

Back when Asante was starting to get into chess, I decided to try out this riff on my theme of paper pulp and puzzles. Similarly to the Bedlam Cube (because they both have 64 units), the 8×8 pentomino chess board uses 12 pentominoes and one tetromino, a square in this case. The difference is that because these pieces are effectively 2D, there exist only 12 pentominoes total. Also, because they need no specific thickness, I made these pieces only half as thick as the pulp units featured in the soma cube and snake cube. This allowed them to dry much faster.
I checkered it with a small amount of watercolor paint. It is made out of paper, so getting it even moderately wet is a bad idea (unless you are recycling it into something else).
This is a challenging puzzle without the checkering, but with checkering it can be brutal. If you are just looking for a quick game of chess, you may want to memorize or write down a solution.

To go along with the board I made some abstract chess pieces from a mix of paper pulp and homemade playdough. The playdough serves two purposes: it shapes better and gives a bit of weight. Also, it seems I set these up on the other side of the looking glass, because the queen and king have swapped places.

Jun 14 2014

## Modular Origami Bedlam Cube

Tiffany and I celebrated our 8th anniversary last year. Because we were married May 13th, the Fibonacci sequence popped into my head (particularly the 5,8,13 part). So to commemorate this special day I romantically created a Modular Origami Bedlam Cube. I choose the Bedlam cube, not to represent the state of our household, but because it is a thirteen piece puzzle made predominately of pentacubes, thus achieving the 5 & 13. Additionally, I wanted to embed the Fibonacci sequence, so I created a clear plastic ’0′ piece using the single tetracube, then created the other pieces in color groups for the next numbers in the sequence. Each piece, besides the ’0′ piece, was created using a modular origami technique from mini-post-it notes. The number of modules needed matches the number of faces of the pieces. Putting them together is pretty straightforward but takes some practice, especially for the inward corners. I found using a straight pin to push from the inside helped shape the pieces.
The modules are a great thing to do waiting at the bus stop (or proctoring an ACT) because they easily slip into your pocket.
If you’ve mastered the soma cube and snake cube, this 4x4x4 puzzle is a good next step. This great resource can help if you get stuck and just need a solution. It also alerted me to the Big Brother cube, a very similar puzzle which uses a different set of 12 pentacubes from the 29 possible that I have yet to try.

Happy building.

Jun 12 2014

## Snake Cube

This paper pulp snake cube I actually did finish back in Philly.
I made 27 paper pulp cubes. I’m sure you could make them more uniform than I did but they get the job done.
I then drilled holes in all of them; some directly through and some on two adjacent sides so the holes would meet. To figure out how many of each to drill, look at the picture of the unwound snake. If the cubelet forms a corner (that is, the snake changes direction at that cubelet) then drill two adjacent sides. The others, including the ends, drill through.
I then created a chain of rubber bands to feed through the holes using a pipe cleaner as needle. The corner pieces can be a bit tricky. If the pipe cleaner can’t get you through the bend you may have to drill a little more diagonally.
Also, a note about the drilling. You can shred your paper pulp cubelets pretty easily, so I recommend a fairly small bit to start and have it spinning when it hits the cube. You can always wiggle the bit a little to widen the hole.
I also recommend building the rubber band chain as you go so the sizing is right. You will probably want it tight enough to hold together but loose enough to spin and stretch some without fear of breaking. I safety pinned the end of the chain so it couldn’t slide through the hole. Also, to ensure that your snake can coil into a cube (3x3x3 cubelets), thread the cubelets in careful order, which you can match from the image.
After they are all threaded, safety pin the other side and you’re finished. You could fancy up the exterior, but I didn’t.
Simple, fun to make, and fun to play with long after.

Jun 11 2014

## Faux-Rubik’s Soma Cube

Back when I was a SAHD-by-day, tutor-by-night the kids and I did a lot of paper pulp projects. We always seemed to have plenty of paper built up, so we had pulp for the making whenever we wanted. As a way to reopen the blog after more than a year without posting (and hardly any before then) I plan to feature a few of those projects, and any other projects I may do over the summer; hopefully, including a bigger project I’m in holding on final stage of.
This post features one I started back in Philly that I haven’t touched for a long time and decided last night (inspired by some painting my kids did) to finish it.
This project is pretty straightforward. It is simply a soma cube, the pieces of which are made from paper pulp, dressed up with a nice Rubik’s-inspired paint job.
Using rubber bands and the kids’ wooden blocks to construct the formed, I mashed in the paper pulp. I had created a paper pulp soma cube a during my first stint as SAHD that was much uglier. The wetness of the pulp and the amount of smushing need to be fairly consistent to get similarly sized pieces and they still are not going to be tightly fitting. If that is important to you, use a different medium or be much better than me.
After all the pieces dry, put them together to form the cube and write down the configuration. I did a 3D exploded sketch of them and then beside them put six directional arrows labeled with the colors of the Rubik’s cube. Look at a picture of the cube to arrange them appropriately. I first outlined each piece with black acrylic paint, then completed the face colors.
It was a pretty simple project to create but I’m still pretty happy with the concept and the final project, not to mention the relaxing process of creating it.

Feb 10 2013

## Living Life and Blogging It Too

My seemingly tireless wife who blogs at tiffanymalloy.com and playeatgrow.com on top of working full time and managing a home of nearly six is featuring  one of my projects on her blog with a link to here. If you followed that link to get here, you can see that we are not equally adept at living and blogging our lives.  I do have a number of projects that I would like to write up and share, but don’t hold your breath. Whereas I am able to simultaneously be a dragon, a doctor’s patient and a basketball player, I have yet to manage being a stay-at-home dad, a husband, and a tutor very well, let alone a blogger.

Thanks for checking in. If I start blog awesomeness, I’m sure Tiff will let you know, so you can just keep reading the great posts she, Christina, and MaryAnn churn out.

Jun 20 2012

## Why I Make

I make because…

I can see the beginning and end

The problem is solvable

My field of study doesn’t even have clear questions, let alone answer

I can be productive

It eases the pain

It give me the illusion of accomplishment

I can’t wrap my mind around the world

Part of my mind becomes external to me

When I make, the world is smaller, less scary, and I am forming it.

That is why I make.