All posts by john

Evolution of 3D printed hats


I have wanted a 3D printed top hat for a long time. Here you can see the evolution of my hat so far. The first one was very thick. You could probably stand on it, and it’s so heavy my neck started hurting after the first time I wore it. The second is much lighter, but retains the rounded top which didn’t have enough pop to it for my taste. The latest design fits my head better, is light enough to be comfortable, and most importantly has a bit more of the shocking quality that top hats were invented to convey.

Casting a Work of Art

We have experimented a couple of times with doing some aluminum casting, and each time we get better results. This time we re-designed our fire brick kiln to burn some coal and get a boost from a cheap blow-drier.  We also purchased an actual crucible and casting sand from Larsen Foundry Supply in SLC. We had much better results from this pour than we got the last time we tried to burn out a 3D print.


The Statue, “Female Torso, Esquiline Type“, was downloaded from thingiverse. The model was generated from 140 pictures of the original in the Louvre captured by Cosmo Wenman. The original artist is unknown. You can hear more about Wenman and the process on NPR All Tech Considered.


The statue was printed in natural PLA with a single wall, and only 2% 3D honeycomb fill.


We packed the 3D print upside down in refractory sand, and pressed it around the piece to create the mold.


It was a challenge to get the kiln hot enough, but we were finally able to get a silvery pool of aluminum in our 4 lbs. crucible after adding lots more coal and skimming the surface.


We poured the aluminum slowly at first, then quickly as the plastic began to melt and burn. I was a little afraid that the bubbling plastic would create a geyser of aluminum, but it just sputtered a bit.


After the burning stopped, and the metal had a chance to cool, we carefully wiggled the piece free with a twisting motion, and were finally able to see the result. A truly beautiful piece, made from scrap, plastic, and fire.


Mad Science!

We have been doing some exciting stuff at ProVolt lately.

We had a booth at the SLC Maker Faire where we played with several different types of levitation including a diamagnetic levitator, a superconductor, and a couple of different levitrons.

2015-10-10 14.47.29

Back at the space, we mixed Aluminum powder and Iron oxide in a ceramic crucible, then lit it on fire.

We also built an oxygen condenser and collected a bit of magnetic liquid oxygen by running some oxygen through a tube submerged in liquid nitrogen.





And did you know you can detect vibrations with a coil of wire, some magnets, something stretchy and an oscilloscope?


What kind of things will we be doing next?

Good news and bad news…

The bad news is that the Provo city council voted to demolish the jail rather than have it turned into an awesome community workshop. I believe it is the worst decision I’ve even seen made. Their lack of vision astounds me, and I’m a hairs breadth away from giving up on Provo entirely. We will most likely be closing the current location, and paring down tools to just what will fit in our…..

Fabulous New Space! The new space will be a bit smaller(only 400 sqft), and might seem a little cramped because… We’ll have the water jet there! The new space I found will be a bit cheaper than the current space, and has 3 phase power for running the water jet.

There is also a chance that we will be able to keep the current location going if we start getting more donations, or can make money by cutting things on the water jet. A donation packet to seek donations from local companies is in the works.

I’m also trying to put together a program I’m tentatively  calling “Make-ed in Public”, where we will be bringing a basic Makerspace experience to public parks and open spaces around Provo using our Fabulous Donated RV (if we can get it going)!


Electronics Night RIoT

I’ve been hearing about several attempts to foster “Robotics and Internet of Things” projects here in Utah lately, so I was happy to see a member bring an ESP8266 to ProVolt for electronics night. The ESP8266 is an extremely cheap programmable wifi enabled device that some refer to as an “Internet of Things enabler”.

ESP8266 Internet of Things programmable wifi module.
ESP8266 Internet of Things programmable wifi module.

The low cost (around $3.50), and easy programmability of this device make it a great starting point for an IoT project. We’ll probably order a bunch of these to have around to play with.


ProVolt Turns 1

Hey everyone, it’s been a year since ProVolt was incorporated!


Our main objective is still “To act and operate exclusively as a nonprofit corporation pursuant to the laws of the State of Utah, and to operate a space where members and people from the community can gather; learn from each other;  use tools, equipment and supplies; and to create.”

Come celebrate with us!

Provo hosts StartFest!

StartFest is the largest grassroots startup event in Utah, and it’s happening downtown this week. Head over to to find out more and register. There are quite a few influential business people speaking, and it’s a great opportunity to network and see what’s happening here in Utah. I highly suggest coming down if you can.

Of course Provo is trying to be supportive of business, so you’d think they’d love the idea of having the old jail converted into a startup incubator/makerspace. I hope the city leaders can see the trajectory we are on, and make the right choice.

Jail Exploration Stage 2: electric proposaloo

We had a wonderful time exploring the Jail. We immediately got separated, and broke off into different groups. We ventured down into the boiler room where the floor was covered in slippery sand, and climbed onto the roof where we peered down the elevator shaft. Near the end, we had to run because we were running out of time and kept finding great new places we hadn’t been. It was an awesome adventure in and of itself, and then we had pie.


We were on the lookout for structural damage, and water damage. We found a bit of water damage in the cell block area, one place with a wet floor in a basement, and one interior non-bearing wall in the kitchen looked damaged, but for the most part the structure of the building looked completely undamaged. Most of the problems were cosmetic.

I believe the consensus is that there is enough space there to allow us to do essentially everything we could imagine, and it is worth pursuing. There were many areas that would need only minor repair to be usable. These areas could be used almost immediately, and other areas of the building could be renovated over time as needed.

How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time. Looking at individual rooms in the building it’s clear that, for most, the work required to fix them would be well worth the effort to reclaim that space for doing something awesome for years to come.

Now comes the biggest problem: Getting the building. It’s vital that we impress the city to the point that they have no choice but to allow us to move in.

The proposal deadline is August 10th at 5 pm.

I have started a new public Google Doc to act as our proposal. The old proposal that can be used for inspiration is here. The bid packet containing all the information available from the city can be found on bidsync or here.