Goodbye Mason, My Beautiful Boy

Mason and building one of his many robots

It is with immense, heart-wrenching sadness that we must say goodbye to Mason. On September 18, 2019 Mason passed away from complications due to Leukemia. He was 12 years old. From before he could even talk, Mason has been busy accompanying Maxwell and me and helping us with projects. We’ve built lots of fun things together over the years including model railroads, robots, all sorts of electronic gizmos, fancy blinking Neopixel lights, programmed Arduinos, built CNC routers and 3D printers– pretty much anything you can think of, if it’s fun and technical, we probably did it!

Mason posing for the camera in his favorite MIT shirt

Mason’s dream was to attend MIT upon graduating high school and he had the grades for it, he was a straight-A student and always on the Honor Roll. He spent hours studying math and science with his tutors, and spent much of this past summer learning Calculus. One day he was sitting in the hospital and received a mysterious package out of the blue. He was thrilled when he opened it up and pulled out gobs of MIT loot! T-Shirts and Buttons and Hats and books– even a photo signed by a real MIT astronaut. He hardly went anywhere afterwards without wearing one of those MIT shirts.

Mason helping me cut the spoilboard for the CNC router

Click here to view the album we put together to celebrate Mason’s life, spirit and creativity…

Mason & Maxwell working on the “Elevator Challenge”

Maxwell and I will continue to tinker, build, poke-around and experiment with fun stuff and in this way we’ll do our best to keep Mason’s memory alive and in our hearts. But it goes without saying that we’re going to miss our little guy every single day– his warmth, his humor, his youthful glee and spirit, and most of all the peals of laughter and giggles coming from behind his computer screen as he sat up gaming with his friends into the wee hours of the night!

Mason, my beautiful boy, you will be greatly missed.

In summary, Mason was many things, a great student, a great experimenter, a great spirit and a great son! He had many aspects and tons of great potential to go very far in life. He was loved by all who knew him and he touched hearts and made friends everywhere he went. He often endured great pain and personal suffering and came out cheerful and smiling.

I would like to end this tribute with Mason’s own words:

Cancer is not fun and unfortunately it can happen to anybody. But it is important to remember that we choose our destinies. Cancer can break our bodies but it cannot break our spirits. Nobody knows how much time they’ve got so you’ve got to make every moment count. Tell the people you love that you love them and go forth and live life with all of your might.

(Here’s the link to the whole video from the start)

Doing more: If you would like to join us in celebrating Mason’s life, please join our “Mason’s Army” Facebook group, or view his photo album. And we would like to take a moment to urge you to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Here is the link to their donation page.

Making the Maker Cart

For a while now I’ve been wishing I had some sort of a portable cart / box / cabinet / work-surface “thing” that I could move around the house from location-to-location as we tend to do projects “in-place” whenever and wherever the mood strikes. And as our projects have grown in sophistication, it gets to be a pain to be constantly lugging and dragging parts and stuff around from one place to the next. So, over time, the idea for the “Maker Cart” began to materialize in my mind– but you know, as a “round tuit” project for ‘someday’…

TL;DR Here is a link to the build log with photos


Continue reading “Making the Maker Cart”

Pontiac Chief


My Dad is a Pontiac nut. He lives and breathes Pontiac stuff. So for his birthday I wanted to see if I could make some sort of “Pontiac Chief” thing out of wood. I searched online until I found a good version of the logo to use and then I hand-drew it into the CAD program. I added the circle behind it and the lettering below it using regular CAD tools. I tweaked it just a little in the CAM program just before I cut it, so you can perhaps see a little bit of revision between the original CAD and the final result that was cut.

My Dad liked it.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.

Rebuilding the Z-Axis on the Old CNC Router


I built the old CNC router using parts and designs patterned after the OpenBuilds “OX” machine. In general it was a pretty good machine for cutting wood but turned out to be not so good for cutting metal, particularly aluminum which is the type of metal that I generally want to cut. So I gave it a shot at rebuilding the Z-axis using a C-shaped OpenBuilds extrusion and that helped quite a bit, but ultimately it just wasn’t as solid as I wanted. Even with the wrap-around aspect of the C-beam there was still too much play to do a good job at cutting aluminum. Then my wife gave me a nice spiffy new ready-built Z-axis for Christmas and that was the genesis for the whole new “Bigger & Stronger” CNC router. But still, someone might find what I did to rebuild this one interested.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.

Adding Limit Switches to the Old CNC Router


I ran the old CNC router for well over a year before getting around to putting limit switches on it. Since I rarely cut anything which approached the sides of the envelope it really wasn’t a big problem. But I really wanted to get it set up so that I could have Mach3 home it to a known location and have a little more consistency. So I bought a handful of inductive proximity switches and started bolting them on. You can click on the build log link below to see how it went.

Click here to see the Build Log with more photos.