Where are you located?
Los Angeles, CA
What is your day job?
It’s complicated, but officially I’m the Director of Content for Carbide3D which is just a fancy way of saying I make CNC videos and run social media. Unofficially, I feel like the chief beta tester of the company and occasionally Tier 3 customer support.
What kinds of stuff do you make?
I’ll make anything I can put a CNC twist on, since I’m a hobby machinist first and woodworker second. But a lot of my projects also involve machining (mostly) nonferrous metals.
I live with one foot in the maker world, and the other in the machinist world.
How did you get started making stuff?
While I was in grad school, I got the itch to make stuff but didn’t have the tools or space to really do much. I bought a Dremel and a drill and did what I could in my living room, but after I graduated I realized I needed to augment my capabilities in a big way. Being an engineer my mind immediately went to a technology I thought would obviate the need for skill: CNC. Of course, learning the mysterious arts of subtractive manufacturing took me down a journey over half a decade long and caused me to quit my first job out of school.
What is something that you’ve made that you’re really proud of?
There are all sorts of crazy thing I’ve made, like a trio of 30+ in long, solid aluminum longboard decks on a desktop CNC router.
But by far the most rewarding one for me was making a knife (the “Carbide Camp Knife”) with a CNC. Machining aluminum is easy and making the longboards was just a matter of patience. Machining steel on a lightweight CNC was uncharted territory for me, and that was just the first hurdle to overcome.
Knife-making is such a deep, rich craft that touches so many disciplines. Selecting the right materials, understanding the metallurgy and science of heat treatment, and navigating the numerous ways to design and assemble a knife left me in a state of decision paralysis for the longest time. But as I started making progress on the knife and gaining confidence in the process that “YouTube University” had taught me I began to really feel a sense of accomplishment. And when I finished my knife, I took it backpacking with me. Very few projects I’ve been able to bring that story full circle in such a satisfying way. I designed my own knife, machined the blade, put it all together, and used it for the purpose I intended it for on an outdoor adventure.
What is next on your project list?
I know I’m like a year or two late, but right now I’m playing with epoxy and learning how to work with it. I can’t bring myself to just make a river table, or do some artistic resin pours, or use epoxy to inlay a sign. What I really wanted was to use a technique that forced me to think outside the box, used material efficiently (epoxy is expensive), and (of course) had a CNC twist. And I think I found that in this valet tray experiment/project.
These trays were machined from solid blocks of maple, upside-down first. I milled out the negative of the epoxy portion of the trays, forming a near perfect mold for casting. After pouring in epoxy, I flipped it over and machined away the wood. The total volume of epoxy that was wasted was just a couple tablespoons worth. Still lots to learn about epoxy (like how to deal with bubbles), but working within constraints like this was a lot of fun.
What is something you’d like to work with but you haven’t yet?
I really want to get into metal fabrication. I can machine complex, functional parts out of aluminum, yet a metal frame for a coffee table is out of reach for me. I need an angle grinder, I need a welder, I need a mentor… but most of all I need to just bite the bullet and buy some gear and make some time. I also want to work with bigger CNCs. As much as I enjoy showing people that with even a modest entry level CNC router their biggest limitations are their own creativity, I’m feeling a need for speed that only an industrial-grade milling machine can provide.
My friend recently commissioned an anniversary gift from me, a wooden Poké Ball and though the parameters were simple (make a wooden pokeball that could be displayed on a desk or shelf), I really wanted to take the project to the next level. I wanted the Poké Ball to not only look great, but have a secret compartment inside. As I designed it and realized how my ambitions were perhaps getting the better of me, I reminded myself that if my design was a complete bust I could always deliver the Poké Ball, sans-secret compartment. That freedom to try something risky (but having a plan B) was super liberating, fun, and rewarding.