Time-Lapse: Building a Laser Etched, Basswood Butcher Block with Black Pipe Legs from Scratch.

SO MUCH FUN!

This was a really fun project! It took me a week to complete rather than the single day (ha!) that I had planned for. My wife really wants to redo our kitchen cupboards and top them off with butcher block counter tops, so this was a bit of a practice run for me. Boy am I glad for having it, too! I learned many lessons!

MATERIALS

First, I ordered basswood blanks from Bell Forest Products. I have to confess that I did not research the company before hand (no excuse) so I have no idea about sustainability practices or fair trade policies, or anything like that. I literally just googled “basswood blanks” and voila, up they popped!

Why basswood? I lucked into working with basswood a couple of years back when I built a chest for my daughter for Christmas. It was one of the few choices for “hobby lumber” that I was able to purchase locally, in person. It’s a fairly light stock, not as light as balsa wood, but not too much heavier, either. It sands quickly and effortlessly, takes stain like a sponge, has enough structural integrity to build sizable (though not huge) projects with, and just has a damn cool name.

(Full disclosure, I’m a long-time bass player, so I may be biased.)

You don’t have to go with Bell, but at $55 the price was right for me! Here are a couple of other options, though:

Of course, I like to build with as few fasteners (nails and screws) as possible. So, you’ll need a good wood glue, and lots of it!

For this table I used a polyurethane spray around the edges (3 heavy coats) and a glaze coat epoxy kit for the work surface.

Last, but not least, I fastened the whole thing to a set of black pipe table legs. These come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Here are some of my favorites:

PROCESS

First, I laid out the pieces of basswood as they would be arranged in the finished project. I then snapped a photo, and began planning out all of my laser etchings:

The laser etcher that I used was by LaserPecker. I ordered the deluxe version (thanks to the S.B.A.), but it comes in many different configurations. Here are a couple of them:

I then glued together only the 3- and 4-piece blocks that would have to be glued together prior to etching. This was primarily necessary for the 4 portraits, but also for the H.S.T. Gonzo emblem and the ship’s seal for the USS Reuben James, etcetera. From there each individually etched piece was processed through the LaserPecker and assembled, piece by piece, to form the entire surface of the table.

I stained the surface and edges of the desk, then flipped it over and glued four 1 x 4 furring strips cut to match the depth of the tabletop. This may or may not have been necessary, but it gave me piece of mind in the sense that it shores up potential structural integrity issues with the butcher block pieces by adding cross supports that bridge most, if not all, of the basswood blanks with the others.

Next, I flipped the whole thing back over and created a basin for the epoxy resin (glaze coat) using several layers of tightly pulled painter’s tape. Glaze coat pours out pretty thick, and maintains a high viscosity all the way through to curing (hardening). This gives it what the manufacturer calls a “self-leveling” quality, which is probably just marketing hype, but it’s also not untrue. You have to work the liquid around a bit to make sure that it gets into all areas, but once it has contact with the entire area, thicknesses pretty much level out on their own thanks to gravity and time.

The key is to have a heat gun or flame available to work out as many of the bubbles that you will inevitably find trapped in the goo–once it is spread evenly–as possible. If you miss this step, you will get dimples and holes where the bubbles remained during curing. They are actually pretty easy to coax up through the gelatinous epoxy, so long as you warm the goop from a proper distance and don’t overheat or boil it. I found that a heat gun was also good for fine tuning the spread of the resin, as it was able to move the material without leaving behind a depression in the surface like the mixing paddle did.

Anyway, the rest is pretty much self-explanatory. Please do watch the time-lapse above of me building this project as described in this blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid

1st Drone Flight of 2021!

Today I successfully flew my first Part 107 drone flight in over a year! About time! =-)

FULL HD VERSION HERE

Explore the 3D Panoramic on Kuula!

TikTok version here:

Stand by to stand by! -Mad Squid

Time To Celebrate The Renewal Of My Part 107 Drone License!

I will soon have new footage to share with everyone. In the meantime, I’m going back through some of my old content from YouTube and publishing some of them to TikTok.

I won’t be posting many from TikTok here because of the video rotation. Come enjoy my new stuff on TikTok!

Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid

Thank The Gods (ALL of them) For The Small Business Administration!

In the face of the COVID pandemic, which only exacerbated my already shaky financial situation, Mad Squid Productions™ could easily have dwindled away into nothing more than the memory of a dream I once had. I was fired from the only good job I’ve had since leaving the Navy in 2003, on Trump’s Inauguration Day. Luckily for me, I had my personal projects at Mad Squid to keep me going. And my food delivery gigs.

In 2018 I became certified by the FAA as a Part 107 commercial drone pilot, and I was gradually figuring out ways to make money with my drone. But when the pandemic hit, my 2-year recurrent test was coming up, and I didn’t see much point in renewing my license if I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere and fly. Procrastination set in, and a few political distractions like January 6th and my TikTok account, and before I knew it a whole year had passed with my drone never leaving the ground.

I do many things under the moniker of Mad Squid Productions™. I sell 3D statues on Second Life. I make MEMEs. I have a handful of social media accounts. I publish music, every decade or two. I do amateur blacksmithing. And on, and on, and on. But the only reliable–and scalable–money maker in the bunch has been my drone piloting.

That money has come primarily in the form of stock media sales, not from for-hire work. I have sold numerous stills and 4k videos captured from the air with my DJI Mavic Air on Pond 5, Shutterstock, and Getty Images, as well as aerial imagery for the Australian mapping company SOAR. There have been a few for-hire gigs, all of them attained through the Drone Base app, but they amounted to less than $1k in all, and often resulted in wasted days and travel time. This was because I would be hired for a gig 100 miles away, only to arrive on site to find that the cloud cover didn’t meet requirements for the gig, or that there was too much snow on the roof, etcetera.

Then, my laptop battery began to expand. My external drives gradually began to fail. My licenses for music and sound f/x expired, and I couldn’t afford to renew them. I had lots of designs for products like posters and metal or glass wall hangers, shirts, hats, etcetera, but zero capital to purchase inventory. Everything that could go wrong with Mad Squid, was going wrong. It was all snowballing on me, and it seemed that the forecast looking ahead would only get colder.

And then the U.S. Small Business Administration stepped in and gave me renewed hope! This is not a joke! First, they approved me for a long term, low interest loan which allowed me to replace my laptop and storage drives. Then, they approved me for a pair of grants that have allowed me to pay off my work car, which I use for both my delivery gig work and my drone missions, upgrade my phone (which is also my camera and drone controller) and, finally, renew my drone license! As of yesterday, I am officially licensed under 14CFR Part 107 to fly drones commercially, again!

Of course, this has caused me to dig back through my 2018 and 2019 drone imagery to consider an improved filing nomenclature that will allow my collection to continue to grow without it becoming impossible to find anything specific. Combine that with the fact that TikTok recently approved me to upload 3 minute videos, and you’ve got a recipe for me to release a TON of content to that platform. In turn, once that is set up and running on auto-pilot, this will free me up to focus on other areas of content there. And, of course, I’ll be flying new drone missions to capture brand new, awesome drone footage.

Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid

I’m An Official Brand On Amazon Now!

That’s right! Mad Squid Productions™ is officially branded and approved to sell my art, products, clothing, etcetera! At the moment I have only one item listed, and admittedly, it’s over priced. I needed to test the process and determine fees, etcetera. Keep an eye out, both here and on Amazon, for more developments. If my SBA disaster loan modification goes through, I’ll have capital (for the very first time ever) to purchase inventory and I think you’ll be surprised at how much I have ready to go! Exciting times!


“Voice Activated, Speak Loudly” Gag Sticker.

Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid

Returning To A Project (Too) Long On Hiatus

If you’ve followed me from before the pandemic, you may already know that I have been working on a 100% solo and independent documentary film about the disappearance of my grandfather in 1987. His story is both enchanting and difficult to believe. It ends, however, in tragedy.

Here is the very first trailer that I mocked up to announce to my audience on an old Twitter account–long since deleted by that service at the height of Trump’s power–that I was beginning real work on the project, rather than just opining and pontificating about it.

This trailer is crude, and not very complete in the sense that you don’t actually come away from it with a sense of the story behind the film. That’s why I decided, shortly thereafter, to craft a better trailer for the potential film. At the time I was flying many drone missions, both for myself and for gig services like Drone Base and SOAR. As such, my confidence was growing and I was really getting a feel for the project. Not to mention that I was capturing some sweet footage!

But I have begun, and paused, and begun and paused this project so many times now that I lost nearly all of my inertia when the pandemic hit, and really believed that the project might be done forever. Until today. Today I had a reawakening.

#TheGreatUntold caught my attention. Check it out here:

https://t.co/DYK1OwBNuT?amp=1

“Stand by to stand by.” –Mad Squid