3D Modeling as a Service

Recently I have joined the network of designers for hire on Shapeways.com, and I was a bit surprised by the high level of interest. 3D printing has been a growing way for designers and others to make ideas come to life quickly, and I'm glad to be joining that movement to help make that possible for those who have great ideas but don't have all the pieces yet to make them reality.

I will be launching Lowry Labs Design, which will be my 3D design, 3D modeling, Reverse Engineering, and Design for Manufacture (DFM) service.

Keep calm and model on,


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Wood Burning and Image Transfer Class at Parsippany Library

Fellow Makers, this May I will be hosting a Wood Burning and Image Transfer class at the Parsippany Library on Halsey Rd.

Coming May 16th 2015: Wood Burning and Image Transfer class at theParsippany-Troy Hills Public Library System. The class will take place at the Halsey Rd Location (Main Branch).

Learn how to use a wood burning iron to create beautiful artwork that you can enjoy for years, and how to transfer full color images to wood surfaces. Skills to be covered are: basics of how to use the various tips of the wood burning iron, the concept of layering, and methods of image transfer onto the wood. The program is open to individuals 12+.

Cost: $25 for re-usable supplies (including a wood burning iron).

Sign ups are being taken at the Parsippany Library with the form at the link: http://www.libraryinsight.net/eventdetails.asp…

See you over there!

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Announcing the Classes Section

The Maker Classes page is now live, where you can find out about the classes I am offering and how you can get involved and sign up.

Over the past several years, I have taught people from all age groups and diverse backgrounds. My classes have taught skills from woodworking and wood burning to basic Arduino, 3D printing, programming, soldering, Raspberry Pi, and soda bottle rocketry.

This Spring I am bringing more classes to more locations around the northern NJ area and online, covering topics from a wide range of technical and hobby subjects.

Check out the Upcoming Classes page for more details about when classes will be scheduled, and look at the Class List page to see my complete course catalog.

You can also sign up to my mailing list here for more information about classes and other news.

It’s going to be an exciting spring and summer, so don’t miss out.

More coming soon,


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Memorial Day Guitar Building: Guitar Project Update

Over Memorial Day weekend, I brought half my woodshop on the road to Penn Hills PA and my grandmother’s basement. With my sister working two jobs and my father having work to do around grandma’s house, it was a great chance to utilize my time and I made significant progress.




The main work bench in the shop was quite cluttered and there was a significant amount of rust, dust, and general mess in the work area. It took me half a day but I think it was totally worth it to clean it all up. In addition to being generally satisfying, it also allowed me to get full use of the space.




The next order of business was jointing up the edges. Having only a 1-4″ shank trimmer router and a power planer but no jointer, this required clamping a fence and taking multiple passes to join up the 1.85″ thick body balks. I had to also plane down the walnut center board on one body piece because it had cupped and bowed during transport.

Once I got a few extra wide quick clamps, I was able to get good clamp pressure and the wood glue joints dried overnight.




Day 2 was spent using a surform rasp plane to knock down any high spots on the body. The next step was tracing the templates and rough cutting the timbers. This was grueling work for my dad’s old craftsman jig saw that’s older than me and in the end, a part of the tool holding the metal foot of the jig saw broke and brought things to a grinding halt.



After the trip to Lowes for a replacement and a nice bench plane to augment the work from the Surform, it was much quicker and easier going. At this step my time was up and it was time to return home and pick this up another weekend.


It was a somewhat mystical experience to work in my late grandfather’s shop and I felt as though I was getting to know him how guys bond over tools and the way they keep their shop. Despite years of extremely limited use for minor household and yard maintenance tasks, I could see the full potential of this place and try to imagine it as it once was in its prime. It might just have been the first wood working project worked on there in ten years or so since my father made wooden boats on strings with us as young kids. The endless unexplored corners still hold secrets worth exploring and there’s so much there to sort through. I imagine over time I will try to go through more of it for the sake of both cleaning up and making full use of it on visits.


This last weekend was busy with other things but I plan to do more work on this project during the week nights, yet I don’t want to rush through it. I have come into possession of a full size plunge router that Nancy gave me from her basement which is exciting because I now can get and use larger stronger bits and take the body to size in a single pass. This will also be a beast for hardwoods and for plunge pocketing. And I will be able to drastically diversify my collection of router bits unhampered by restrictions of shank diameter. Once I can get some extra cash, I may even find a suitable table that fits this router to make the full size router table and open even more possibilities. I could even use this as a poor man’s jointer and a biscuit joiner and even toss sanding drums in the chuck to make a poor man’s spindle sander.

Also I plan to set up the giant architectural plotter that a member brought on loan to the MakerBar and print out more precise templates than I can draw by hand and use the drawings to create cardboard or other types of master templates for shapes. Once I perfect these I can get more permanent master templates laser cut from acrylic or MDF or melamine (or even thin metal). Though they may lack the flair of hand cut templates, they increase the precision and make them also have a virtual master CAD backup even if the physical master gets lost or damaged.

This weekend will also hold more research on components and neck hardware (tuning pegs, bridge hardware, pickups, fret wire, truss rod, nuts, pots, jacks, caps, and wire). It’s something I can’t rush but I need to start so I can get dimensions to include in the templates but also to measure before performing final cuts.

Until next time, don’t touch that dial


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“Tea, Earl Gray, Hot”: Perspectives on 3D Printing

After a long day negotiating some treaty on a distant world or a near brush with death in the form of a Romulan warbird on the neutral zone border, our favorite captain will order up a tea from the nearby replicator and it zips into existence before our eyes without a second to pause for astonishment. Many people will wonder when our 3D printers will be fixing our tea (and don’t forget the cup) and fabricating our cars and flying iron man suits. These are great dreams as “imagineered” by our greatest sci-fi screenwriters and novelists. However, the realities of modern 3D printing are amazing us in many different ways that, while not as dramatic on screen, have incredible merit and exciting socio-economic and scientific potential.

As you have probably heard,
3D printers are here, and they are awesome. But what a lot of people don’t realize is exactly what goes into the whole thing. As many advances and wonderful things you can do with these excellent modern tools, there are still a lot of things they can’t quite do yet.

I don’t want to sound blasphemous to all the Makerbot-ers out there and those who even went so far as to build a rep-rap or a cupcake cnc or any other early FDM clone, or even more advanced powder printers or ceramics printers. But i’m sure any of them who has built a lot of printers will be quick to temper their enthusiasm with the sober reality that we are far from the star trek Replicator style machines who instantly create anything we desire from any innumerable materials.

Concepts on the fringe like the recent articles about “4D printing” with materials that change shape under certain conditions like being soaked in water are pushing the boundaries. Many new materials are emerging in the metal sintering world, and also in the plastics and composites world. There are printers that can make cell structures mixed with scaffolding material. There are even conductive materials that can be printed with insulating materials and there’s printers that can achieve full color prints with various materials–even paper has been used as a 3D printing material.

The technology has been exploding in the past several years as patents long held are expiring and new startup companies find more affordable and innovative ways to make the next big thing in the field of hobby and consumer printing.

Another thing that’s just as important–if not more important– than the printers is the scanning and CAD tools. Scan based CAD design has become a fixture and is the new way engineers are designing and modeling. Instead of a blank screen and a vernier caliper, an engineer can take a scan of an object, model it, change it, and prototype it in mere hours. This potential has great world-changing power. I have found myself with new superpowers of design and the amazing ability to make anything I can conjure up.

Like any means of fabrication, the printers still do have their challenges and drawbacks. Often times the fastest point between idea and prototype still resides within the conventional machine shop. With all the wonderful adjectives associated with 3D printers, lightning fast is not one of them. I should qualify this statement by saying that these methods are faster than tool and die manufacturing but the process as compared to conventional machining and even CNC is still sometimes longer. And it takes just as long to make the second copy and the 10th and the 32nd.

Additionally, the materials can be limiting and very expensive. Although this area is evolving rapidly, the machines that use the most cutting edge in advanced materials still cost an amazing amount and occupy a lot of floor space and cost a good bit to of energy to operate. Some also require special considerations for health and safety as they emit toxic by products (mostly the metal machines). A machine shop, manual or CNC, can use virtually any material, which can even be molded and cast with rubber or fiberglass or even sand molds. These can serve also for prototypes. The cost benefit works best with 3D printing when complexity of the prototype is high and it may be difficult or even impossible to make any other way.

In order to achieve these impossible designs, engineers still have to break decades of habits in terms of how they design things. They need to unhinge from the basics of modeling primitives and traditional cad modeling ideas to more free form or design optimized shapes. Ergonomics, multi physics, and mass customization are concepts that are more center stage than ever before, and these ideas now must be a part of every engineer’s toolbox.

In order that this shift happens, more and more new engineers have to learn how to use CAD in ways we never imagined. Kids in the near future will use mobile devices to scan real objects, modify them, and send them off wirelessly to be made. They won’t have to know as readily the virtues of third angle projection or the art of drafting, although the fundamentals are still important. They will do all of these things strictly in 3D.

There’s a lot of innovation happening and a lot more coming, and the main changes in our world will show new and previously unheard of applications for all of it, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to continue to change our world in real and monumental ways, but not necessarily the ones we think it will today.


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The Beginnings of a Dream: Starting the Guitar Build

This begins a long time dream project: To build a guitar from the ground up. I decided that the only way to start it was to start it. I don’t have all the parts yet but I will be researching and acquiring parts and any missing tools along the way. This is going to be an exciting project and my goal is to finish this by the end of the summer and take it to the recording studio!

I have been reading Martin Oakham’s Build Your Own Electric Guitar book for the past several years, eying the pages hungrily. Two weekends ago, I decided it was a nice day to drive to a lumber yard and begin the long awaited project at last.

I selected a nice Ash board for the main body, for it’s lightweight bright tone and to emulate more vintage style fender guitars. I also selected a curly maple board for the striking figure it contains, and the strength I needed in a neck. Unable to find rosewood or ebony at this lumber yard, I picked up a walnut board to use for the fretboard. I may alter this choice before completing the neck, but I wanted to give myself no excuses as to why I couldn’t go forward with the build.

Once I had the lumber, I got to work on my first templates. The book comes with a large foldout blueprint of plans for a tele/strat looking shape, which I unfolded and traced my body shape onto the acrylic. This method works well for centerlines and the general outer shape (also the bridge line). However, I will have to make careful measurements for pickup placements, bridge position, and neck pocket attachment. The next template needs more work for precice measurement. For this build, I am going to stick solely to the design proposed in the pages of the book, but unlike the kit, I am sourcing all the parts individually as I go so that I can make this high quality and custom.

The body was not wide enough with the wood balks, so I decided to add a piece of the walnut down the middle for a striped look between the bookmatched body balks. The walnut skunk stripe will also go down the center of the neck similar to the strat necks. This isn’t final but this is what I am thinking to do. Part of me thinks I could even stain the body of the guitar a dark color and have a curly maple fretboard for a radically different look.

As a note, I have a lot of extra Curly maple. I am probably going to make another body piece out of one of the boards in two or three pieces. This may have a different body shape but I haven’t decided that factor yet.

This is my progress so far. I need to get some use of a jointer or make a better more carefully aligned and clamped setup with a router/router table to join up the body balks for glueing. Once I do this, I will need to get a few more long clamps to glue them all up. Plane them down to final thickness, and jig or band saw the pieces out. Then I will rout along the template to give the final general shape and i shall have to create duplicate templates to avoid accidentally damaging the master template.

I’ve been following the videos from Fletcher Guitars on how he has built his handcrafted stratocaster style guitar. He has a lot of good advice and hours of material and is very thorough. I have gained a lot of practical insight to supplement the book from his videos and I wanted to give a shout out: right on, mate, you’ve got great videos.  I’ve embedded the playlist here but the channel is certainly worth watching, even if you don’t plan on building a guitar but are just curious about how it’s done.

I imagine this guitar build will take me all summer to finish but I am taking my time and not going to rush this. This will also help spread out the cost and help me afford to invest in the best hardware for the goals I have performance-wise for the guitar.

That’s all for now, but I am thrilled to be started on this long term project which I have been yearning to do for way too many years. I appreciate any advice, encouragement, comments, and general chatter about this project.

Until next time,


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Wood Burning Class at Hoboken MakerBar Turned up the Heat

Today Matt and I hosted our Introduction to Wood Burning and Image Transfer class at Hoboken MakerBar. We had four students show up and everyone created something worth being proud of.

(Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/MakerBar/events/158182262/?a=ra1_vl&_af_eid=158182262&_af=event)

Here are some pictures from the class:

Image transfer methods were discussed, including ironing on of laserjet printed line or color art. Those who were more creatively inclined drew freehand on their boards with pencil to create their art, and it was humbling how great the results came out. I remember my first wood burning with an old soldering iron with a destroyed tip.

It was fascinating to host such an art-focused class at a typically tech-central place, and see nerds and artists alike hang out and make stuff. I also got some good ideas for new classes. There is an interest for a cutting board class, a re-boot of the framing class, and a stained glass making class, which Matt and I will look into. Also there was interest expressed in an embedding/casting class.

My hope is that more classes like this can build a wood working and art special interest crowd. I also want the tech-savvy folks to come out to the artistic classes and the artistic folks to come out to the techie classes. We can get a lot out of using the other sides of our brains where we exercise the other side which we consider to be the lesser developed set of our skills, and often can approach things in a totally unique way.

At the end of the day, it was a lot of fun, and I am glad that I can expose people to something that has become a fun hobby of mine, and to see them embrace it and make such great things!

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