Mac Millan’s Amazing DIY Raygun Props – STEAMPUNK!

I am so excited to bring this to the web!  I’m even more excited to put the work of a true DIY artisan out there to the world.  All I know is that you need to hire this guy if you have something that needs done like he can do.

I want you to meet Mac Millan – I met Mac at SETC 2011 in Atlanta this year when I was judging the Student Design competition.  I was so taken with Mac’s inventions that I asked for images and video so that the Community and the world could see the skill and mastery put into these devices that Mac built.

You might see these and say STEAMPUNK – I see them and say awesome.  Makers and DIY’ers, take notice!  These raygun props are electrified, illuminated, special effect pieces of genius.  Congratulations on a great project, Mac!

From the creator’s mouth:

Ok, let’s get this out of the way.


Yes, these are steampunk as hell, and while I love the aesthetics of a lot of what comes out of the steampunk culture I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about zeppelins (unless we’re talking about the sandwich, I’m always thinking about the sandwich).

Anyway, back to the matter at hand: three steampunk-as-hell rayguns. These were all built almost entirely out of found objects I had already accumulated in my apartment (I’m a packrat with expensive taste). The initial inspiration came from the silver Thor power drill seen in the smallest of the three rayguns; I inherited a similar drill from my Grandfather, and from the second I saw it I couldn’t help envisioning an art deco pistol of some sort. I purchased a duplicate to avoid destroying an heirloom, glued a photo enlarger I found on the street to the end and filled it with LEDs and flash cannons.

The second model is the orange and brown number, built on a Thor-Nado electric jackhammer purchased off Ebay in high school paired with a photo enlarger. The third is an ellipsoidal stage light and a photo enlarger salvaged from my high school. See a pattern yet? Again, the major structural components for all three were things I had lying around, I just glued and bolted them together and added blinky lights.

On the how and why: I’m a very hands-on learner, and working with my hands is how I clear my head. I wanted to learn more about motors, LEDs, lights and mechanics, so I started making rayguns. A desire to actually use some of the hundreds of pounds of industrial detritus filling my apartment may also have been involved. Specifics are for another day, but let me just say there was a lot of wire and glue involved. A LOT of glue. And let me just say, gluing a nonporous material to a nonporous material SUCKS.

Check out this video – Mac’s rayguns light up, they have smoke effects built in, and one of them fires a magic flash!

Mac Millan’s Steampunk Rayguns from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

Here’s a gallery of all of Mac’s three rayguns.  Click on a thumbnail and a gallery view will open up for you!

Jeri Ellsworth and EL Wire – The Currency of Burning Man

One of my favorite nerds, Jeri Ellsworth, posted a video on making her own EL wire.  Okay, now how cool is that?!  It’s a simple process really, and EL wire is a pretty simple concept.  Check out Jeri talking about it below.  Oh, also – check out some of Jeri’s other videos on YouTube.  She is one brilliant soul!

Thanks, Make!

DIY LED Brake Lights for Bicycle Handlebars


I read these DIY posts about hacking every day stuff and sometimes I wonder why no one thought of this sooner!

Instructables user WyoJustin has posted an article about making a set of LED brake lights for the ends of the handlebars on a bicycle.  It’s a fairly simple project using an arduino microcontroller and a 3-axis accelerometer.  Clever!  Check out the full Instructable here.

Thanks Make!

The Ingravid Festival and Telenoika’s Excellent Video Mapping

The Ingravid Festival in Spain saw a ridiculously interesting video mapping project this year – a group of artists called the Telenoika Cultural Association created this amazing composition using openFrameworks, a C++ toolkit that pretty much rules.

Just an FYI – the video is pretty long (about 20 minutes), but I promise it will be one of the better 20 minute sessions of your day.

Thanks Make, and thanks to Ryan Wilkinson for the heads up on this!

Telenoika Audiovisual Mapping @ Ingravid Festival, Figueres 9/2009 [FULL] from Telenoika on Vimeo.

A DIY Glass Block LED Display

I love do-it-yourself lighting – every time I read an article about someone who has wired up some LEDs in an interesting configuration with a homemade controller, I just get all giggly and stupid.  I’m always sketching diagrams and ideas for luminaires – I am hoping that I am able to take the Luminaire Design course here in the Spring so I can expunge some of these ideas from my melon.

I read an article at Make about Dave Vondle’s DIY LED display wall – Dave wired up a bunch of LED sources behind a glass block wall on his block in Chicago, on Logan Square.  Dave had to take it down, which is a shame, but he documented the project very well.  Great project, Dave!

Check out Dave’s very well documented project page at IDEO Labs, the video, and images below:

Glass Block LED Wall Display from IDEO Labs on Vimeo.




Thanks, Make!

Turn Your Ceiling Fan into A Low Res LED Display

ceiling fan LED

Instructables user UncleBone posted one of the coolest Instructables I’ve read on that site – making an LED ceiling fan display! He remade the blades, added some homemade circuit boards, and created the image mapping himself.  Good sir, I commend you!

Check out a very quick video of his final project – the frame rate’s off and makes the product look a bit choppy, but you get the idea.  Also, check out the Instructable here!




Thanks for the heads up, Make!

Slow Lighting: Go Build Stuff Out of Junk!


Cool!  I’m not so hip on calling it “green,” per se, but Tinker.It is having a lamp-building-from-junk fest in their London office on April 18.  It’s only 30 pounds for lunch and materials – which is only 30 pounds for UK folks, but $12,343.37 for people in the United States.

Boy I certainly do love that exchange rate joke, don’t I?  Yikes.

About the event:

A one day event where you’re invited to make a lamp out of random stuff we’ll have collected at local stores, charity shops, etc. Bring your own materials, bulbs, old lamps, Arduinos, etc. This is a making day, not a teaching day, so team up with some people with skills, and come and make something fantastic. We’ll pick out the best work and take it with us to Milan on the following week. It will be exhibited as part of’s presence at the Milan Furniture Fair as part of the Green Art Festival.

Any UK readers going?  I’d love to know how it went!

Our Friend the Resistor

Collin Cunningham has brought yet another great video to the web about electrical components.  This time we meet the Resistor – and Collin shows us how to make a dimmer by drawing on a piece of paper with a #2 pencil!

Do You Know What Transistors Do?

Another great video from Collin Cunningham over with Make Magazine – this time Collin talks about transistors – some history, what they do, different types, and a little project using a transistor, some resistors, and an LED.

So far, we’ve seen a video on LEDs and one on capacitors.  Collin Cunningham, you’re awesome.  Can I buy you a beer?

Ten from February 2009

I just spent the last half-hour combing through February’s posts.  I spent a good portion of the day at WordCamp Denver today, and during one of the sessions I wondered why I wasn’t doing this every month.  I try to write a lot for the readers, and I try to make sure that every post is quality.  It’s nice to go back through and remember what I had forgotten from earlier in the month.

Here’s ten posts that I enjoyed rereading from February – this isn’t ranked or anything, they’re just all  things I enjoyed discovering:

The Beacon Installation

A Lamp Robot that Eats Bugs

Masdar’s MASSIVE Photovoltaic Array

DA Therrien’s Beautiful Light

Amendment 175 – Colburn’s Proposed Omissions to the Stimulus Package

Meet the LED

ETC Enters the LED Market with the Selador Line

Sha-Do Play – One of the Coolest Things I Have Seen Lately

A Video Homage to Light

Multiverse, by Leo Villareal