I sharpened a 12 penny nail and have been using it to engrave aluminum flashing. A 10" x 10' roll of it is only $8. It's easily cut into to 8"x10" pieces by just scoring a few times with a utility knife and t-square and bending back and forth until it snaps clean.
I use maximum pressure, multicut 4 to engrave all the lines in the metal, then optionally etch the metal.
This is working quite well, but I plan to upgrade the tip to a sharpened tungsten TIG electrode for even better "bite" on the metal.
EDIT 3/11: The sharpened tungsten didn't work out, I was unable to find a way to actually get a fine enough point on the tungsten, so it wouldn't scratch well in all directions..
Instead I bought a hardened steel pre-sharpened scribing tool that I cut in half to fit inside the machine, and have mounted it in the pen holder but not actually tried it yet.
Tonight I'll be demoing all this at the Ignite/Dorkbot @ SXSW 2021: Vision of the Future event at Austin Music Hall from 6-10pm.
Okay here's another fun process I discovered today!
Take an aluminum can and carefully cut it open and make the largest, flattest rectangle you can out of it.
Design a project where at least one layers is a "draw" layer, and one layer the "cut" layer.
Secure the aluminum, inside up, to a very sticky cutting pad. Best to secure the ends to the mat with some clear packing tape.
Using any old used blade, cut the "draw" layer on blade depth 6 pressure 3, just one pass.
Next, cut the "cut" layer on blade depth 6 pressure max, multicut 2 passes.
Remove the aluminum from the mat (carefully so you don't curl or crease it up any worse), and drop in a Metal Salt etching bath. Etch it, checking occasionally, until the straight lines of the "cut" layer start to break free. Let it go just a little longer and remove from the bath. Wash well in soapy water and dry well. Starting at the straight areas, find a starting point where the cut line has parted, and use your fingers to finish separating the pieces.
I like this because it's like print & cut, without alignment hassles. It also gives you a way of drawing fine lines with the blade that don't have the tiny jitters you get with fine point pens. The double cut lines will etch clean through the metal while the single cut lines just turn really dark gray.
My friend Jerry and I designed and made a custom pen holder for the Cricut the other evening (mostly him , and I finally got to try it out, with mixed success.
He blogged about the build here:
While it fulfills the original requirement perfectly (hold a staples mini gel pen accurately), I realized I wanted something that would hold -any- suitably sized implement.
The fit and finish are outstanding, but as it turns out, the tiny hole in the bottom of the holder end up being the limiting factor and just doesn't leave enough room for adjusting pens up and down. Different pens have different profiles and tip sizes, and a colored pencil with that small of a tip went dull within just a minute or so.
So, much as I hate to hack off that pretty nosepiece, I think I'm going to try making it more useful by just hacksawing off the first half inch or so of the unit, leaving the whole thing just a straight tube down the inside. This certainly simplifies the design as well.
The thumb screw and close fit bore hold the pen well enough already that jaggies in the output are visible from the mechanical and software limitations of the system, and not from slop in the pen rattling in the holder. This should give me enough flexibility to use colored pencils better (they get dull really fast so you need to adjust more often), as well as mechanical pencils or any tool I could make out of a coat hanger or other thin rod or dowel.
Note: the easiest solution for using alternate pens is just wrapping thin strips of masking or metal tape around where you want the clamp to grab and works just fine. Unfortunately the pen cap cant be put on anymore with the tape in the way, and you have to do this with every implement you're going to use.
Ever since my son Zev was born, I keep wishing for adult-sized versions of some of his various toys.
I always loved Spring Riders as a kid, even though I never knew what they were called My idea is to make a pair of them for my back yard, a large one for myself and a smaller one for Zev.
Here's a photo of one. You sit on it and hold on tight and it bounces when you shift your weight. There's lots of possible variations from a flat board with a bunch of springs underneath, to a horse on a leaf spring that just rocks forward and back.
Here's a bunch more styles sold by one company "WillyGoat Toyland>". Prices on these range from $500-$3500, but they do have some really great designs, I especially like the Scoop Digger, Round we Go Playground Rider, and the Two-Seat Retro Rocker.
I notice at least one is "constructed of heavy-duty UV stabilized polyethylene", so I was thinking I could construct a skeleton of 1/4", 3/8", and/or 1/2" round mild steel, and use ironed grocery bags for the skin. I also have at least one old motorcycle shock spring for the bottom.
I still have not yet settled on a design for either yet.