DIY pipe shelf


When I saw the really nice pipe shelf over at the Brick House, I had an itch to also build a pipe shelf to replace our coat and shoe racks.

So after some quick doodling, off to the hardware store to stock up on pipe and shelves. This was the game plan:

Which translated into this stash. Roughly at least – turns out I forgot a few pieces, and had to adapt the plan a few times throughout.

Some red spray, cause it’s good fun and turns dull steel pipes into awesome red steel pipes.

First, I sprayed all pieces individually for grounding. Pro tipp: Don’t use newspaper but plastic as underground.

Then, later, once more assembled to get all surface covered equally and turn the red nice and vibrant.

Holes to fit the pipes through. Make sure to measure where the holes need to be after a test-assembly. Turns out pipes aren’t produced as smoothly as I expected, so this isn’t an exact science and you don’t want to re-drill these holes.

A long evening of wood staining and waxing later, assembly is relatively quick. Et voilà!

Still missing in this photo is the actual coat rack. Missed a few screws for that.

The shelf is drilled into the wall just at the top end, and rests on its own weight below. Between that and the shelves that provide horizontal stabilty, it seems very solid.

How much effort? Well, first of all if I can do it then you can too. It’s not complicated, just fuzzy. Planned it throughout the course of a week, then the actual procurement of parts, spray painting, wood staining, etc., took up the better part of one and a half days including drying time. (Allow for a bit more if possible, ahem.) The assembly itself was pretty quick.

All parts were easily available at a local hardware store, the wood cut to spec there, but based on available planks.

The full shopping list:

All pipes are 1/2″ (turns out pipes are measured in inch even in Germany, who knew!)

  • 12x pipe 40cm
  • 23x pipe 20cm
  • 3x pipe 15cm
  • 3x pipe 8cm
  • 3x simple pipe connectors (one in, one out)
  • 6x base flange (as feet and wall connection)
  • 18x t-intersection pipe connections
  • 17x 90° angle pipes
  • 2x shelf 128,5 x 30cm
  • 2x shelf 88,5 x 30cm
  • 2x shelf 48,5 x 30cm
  • 3x red metal spray color
  • 2x wood staining dark nut
  • 1x wood wax

Edit: This list doesn’t include the actual coat racks, consisting of another 2 base flanges, 1 80cm pipe, and 8 90° angle pipes each.

A few of the measures are slightly odd to exactly fit our needs, but that’s all pretty easy to customize.

The whole thing is about 2,40m high and 1,30m wide.

Thanks, Morgan, for posting the great tutorial that inspired this!

The Board of Awesomeness


At CES, Chaotic Moon showed off their appropriately named Board of Awesomeness. It’s the result of hooking up a skateboard, a Kinect and a Samsung tablet to control the board’s speed through hand motions.

It’s an excellent example of the kind of unexpected, quirky, wonderfully playful bottom up innovation you only get when you open up technology for experimentation.

There’s a good write-up over at WIRED.

DesignSmash: From idea to product in four hours


Design SmashMy friends Enlai Hooi (oooold website), Fabian Mürmann, Martin Bauer, Wiebke Herger and Jens Nikolaus and a handful of others have kicked off a pretty sweet project, DesignSmash.

When Enlai first approached me to bounce an idea on me we ended up chatting and plotting well into the first night, then again a few days later. And while I had to pull out because I have a full plate these days anyway, Enlai pushed forward and and got the crew together. All that happened in less than two weeks.

So what is DesignSmash? It’s getting from an idea to product in four hours. More concretely, during an event/party, several designers or teams of designers come up with something that can go into the online shop – within just four hours, just in time to join the party.

A number of restrictions apply to make things interesting and shape the process: the designs have to be laser-cuttable, and they have to be shippable in a certain standardized size of envelope.


Once they’re submitted and curated for the shop, the designs will get fixed up to ensure quality control and put on the website. The design files will be shared under a Creative Commons license (which one can be chosen by the artist). Once a product is bought, it’s produced on demand by the local producer – in the case of Berlin that’s Martin of Lasern, and shipped out to the buyer. It’s super lean, and super local.

Parallel events will be taking place in several other cities, the products will be produced locally. And all that just in time to buy Christmas presents: The first DesignSmash event will take place on 20 November at Betahaus Berlin. (Get in touch with the DesignSmash crew if you’d like to host a DesignSmash event in London, New York or another hot spot. Make sure you have access to a laser cutter!)

I can’t wait to see all this in action!

Photo by lasernlasern, some rights reserved

Making my own bioplastics wallet (prototype)


Since I’ve seen Jay Cousins‘ prototype of a wallet he made from self-produced bioplastics a few days ago, I’ve been enthusing about it. Jay kindly offered to run a workshop to teach some of us how to do the same thing. A bunch of people showed up to work with the material Jay had prepared. Below you’ll see some pics to get an idea of general goo-eyness as well as the results.

In case you’re wondering: Nope, it’s not a product you’d want to buy and rely on just yet; and nope, that’s not the point of the exercise. This is a very early prototype where the goal is to learn (about the production process etc) rather than the result. Could my first go at the wallet fall apart? Yes, anytime. But it’d still be totally worth it since I’ve learned a fair bit. And should the thing decide to fall apart next week, it wouldn’t matter: I could just cook up a new one, probably better than the first. (I might even get the stitching right.) Open design, anyone?

Wallet prototype. Bad stitching: my fault.

Open Design & Tinkering in Berlin


Lately so much has been going on in Berlin that has to do with the whole field of open design, tinkering, DIY – and last week was another highlight. I had the chance to drop in at the Open Design Workshop at Betahaus. (Sadly I could only pop in for a few minutes, but that was enough to see – among many other things – Jay Cousins cooking up bioplastics from some starch and Martin Bauer doing some serious laser cutting. Awesome stuff, all of it!) It was the latest, but certainly not the last congregation of the whole cluster of tinkerers and makers and builders in Berlin. It’s a trend that has been going on for awhile, and all over the world, but it seems that Berlin is a very fertile ground for this kind of maker culture. (We also noticed that by the massive positive feedback as we were putting together the atoms&bits Festival last year.)

The Open Design workshop was a part of Social Media Week and organized and attended by a very diverse and cool group of people, all of which are extremely fine folks (and some of which are close friends of mine, so I’m totally biased here).

These two videos emerged from the workshop:

Delivered in Beta from KS12 on Vimeo.

I can’t find a good link except a Facebook page, so here’s the list of organizers taken off the Facebook page:

  • Michelle Thorne (http://thornet.wordpress.com), free culture advocate, works for Creative Commons, where she coordinates international CC activities.
  • Ronen Kadushin (http://www.ronen-kadushin.com) is a designer and educator pioneering “Open Design” as a concept and also as a company.
  • Luis Berríos-Negrón (http://www.luisberriosnegron.org) is an artist/architect and will contribute thoughts on his ongoing project ‘The anxious prop’
  • Jay Cousins, Mendel Heit, Chris Doering (http://jaycousins.wordpress.com) are part of the palomar5 network, material specialists and upcycling pros.
  • Martin Bauer (http://lasernlasern.de) is an expert at the lasercutting machine. He has used it to produce nearly everything imagineabe.
  • Philip Steffan (http://bausteln.de) is the founder of Bausteln, a network and platform for tinkers to meet, exchange ideas, and build things.
  • Nadine Freischlad is community manager at jovoto and involved in the open_sailing network (http://twitter.com/texastee)
  • Gabriel Shalom is a filmmaker and founder of KS12 studio, currently working on the collaborative (film)project (http://www.postcardsfromberlin.com)
  • Erik Nap and Arne Hendriks (http://waag.org) are representatives of Waag Society who’s hosting Amsterdam’s Fablab. Bas van Abel is representing Creative Commons Nederland, where he coordinates the open design program.

This is great stuff indeed. Props to the organizers, and thanks for the videos!

Mass customization vs DIY?



Today I quickly stopped by Holy Shit Shopping, a medium-sized design and crafts fair that has been held in Berlin annually in the Christmas time for the last three or four years. The stuff I saw made me think a little, so here’s a few thoughts. (disclaimer: unfiltered and straight from the train.)

First of all, a few of the things I saw made me smile, in a way that reminded me of the first time I went to this market: A usb stick in concrete. a breakfast egg holder made from concrete but looking like a cushion. A kit to build lamps from used light bulbs. A lot of artsy and baby stuff that was pretty neat even though I’m not in the market for that.

But there was another feeling creeping up on me. Where I used to marvel at micro label apparel and wallets made from old bike tube rubber, I felt somewhat over-fed on most of this. Between dozens of silk screening tshirt labels and absolutely everything made from rubber (or its more recent offspring, firehose tube), the products lost their special appeal.

Now there’s two things to put this into perspective: where zu many small labels are clustered like this, perception changes, of course. In a different context their wares would still be more appealing. And also, I’ve been reading Cory Doctorow’s Makers, in which he also draws a picture of what mass customization and DIY might look like once the current (almost fetish-like) fascination wears off and we get more used to it all.

It feels like we’re in a transition period in which it’s being figured out what the rules and boundaries are in respect to maker culture, mass customization, home fabrication and (simple but creative) re-use of materials.

Or maybe I’m just making this up. You tell me.

TechCrunch wants internet tablet, builds internet tablet


Just a little over a month ago, Techcrunch announced that they’d like to have a simple, cheap, yet powerful internet tablet. It should run Firefox and Skype, have a touch screen and should be available for $200 max. Nobody had built something like this so far and there were no signs of one being built. Usually, with blogs and magazines alike, the story would end here: We put the idea out there, so now we wait to see if someone takes care of it. Not so in this case. TechCrunch actually is building the thing.

The first prototype is ready:

A humble (and messy) beginning. Prototype A has been built. It’s in a temporary aluminum case that a local sheet metal shop put together for us that’s at least twice as thick as it needs to be, but the hardware has been defined and is nearing lockdown. We booted the machine in the case for the first time today, accessed the Wifi network and were able to navigate a web page via the touch screen.

Still a bit bulky, but hey, it’s been just a few weeks from idea to prototype. How awesome is that?

Here’s a first teaser photo straight from TechCrunch:

TechCrunch Tablet