Monday, November 1, 2010

Elevate Your Art

John loves nothing more than explaining to folks how to do things themselves. Back when we were faux finishers, he would frequently talk himself out of a job by encouraging ambitious house wives to faux their own bathrooms, or re-finish their own furniture. So I had to laugh when he came in from the garage last week and asked, "Hey, do you think your Epbot readers would want to learn how to do this?"

I think this blog is growing on him.

So, today's quick project is courtesy of John. It's a back frame - or whatever you call this:

See how the print is elevated off the wall on that wood frame? That's what I mean. We made this one for our bedroom a few years ago. (Yes, my bedroom is orange. And has an India theme. Like you're surprised.) For just a few dollars' worth of materials and a little labor we made it go from "el cheap-o poster" to "wall art."

You'll probably want to do this with a poster or print, like we did, but don't use anything valuable; you'll be gluing it down to a piece of 1/8th inch hardboard (aka Masonite.) You can get Masonite at any hardware store, and most places will even cut it to size for you. Paint the edges of your board black, glue your poster down to the board, smooth out any wrinkles, and you're ready to go with step one below. (The painting John will be using is already on a piece of Masonite.)

Ok. First things first: measure your painting/poster.

I painted this Tigger a few years ago, but we never got around to framing it.

Your frame will need to be exactly the same size as your board, so be sure your measurements are precise.

Next you'll need a length of 1x2 wood. To begin, cut the end off the wood at a 45 degree angle:

CHEATER'S TIP: Don't have a miter saw? Or have one, but are afraid of losing a few fingers? (No judgment here; I'm scared of the vacuum cleaner.) In that case, you can use this instead:

It's called a miter box, and the slots will guide your handsaw into the correct angles. You can find these at any hardware store for cheap.

Now, from the tip of that first angle, measure out your first piece:

Cut the other side at the same 45 degree angle, only in the opposite direction:

Now use this piece to mark out the next:

Repeat these steps for the other two sides of your frame, using your painting measurements as a guide.

CHEATER'S TIP: Don't want to mess with the 45 degree angles? Then good news! You can also do the corners this way:

Just be sure to allow for the difference in your measurements. Since these frames will only be seen from the side, I wouldn't bother with the 45 degree angles at all, myself. John's just a perfectionist. And likes playing with his miter saw.

Ok, now you need to assemble your four pieces. To get the right angles perfect, John has this special doodad:

He thinks it's called a corner clamp. Maybe. (Thanks, dear...) It's unbelievably handy, so I'd highly recommend picking one up. (In fact, I found this exact clamp for less than $7 on Amazon, here.)

Put a dab of wood glue on your end pieces:

Clamp them together:

And then hammer in a few small nails:

You'll want about 2 nails on each side: 4 total per corner.
(Again, no fancy nail gun needed; just use a regular ol' hammer and finishing nails.)

That's the hard part done! Now fill the nail holes with a little spackle and hit it with a coat or two of spray paint:

Black is easy and goes with everything, but you could also use a complementary color from your poster or print.

Next glue your hardboard to the frame using strong epoxy or construction adhesive (Liquid Nails comes to mind.)

If your calculations were correct, your board *should* be a perfect fit.

Once your adhesive is applied, weigh the board down while the glue dries:

I find Harry Potter books to be very useful for this purpose.

And finally, here's the finished product, hanging in my office:

Now, you guys be sure to leave encouraging remarks for John in the comments, so he feels like you learned something. :)

Quick update from john: Hi! A couple of you have noted in the comments that it would be good to use stretcher bars instead of a 1x2 because they are precut and perfectly cured so they won't warp. I would say that while they are precut, that really just limits the size you can make your frame. As far as curing, you should only buy the grade A stuff they sell at your local lumber store. It's usually cured and dry and I've never had it warp on me. It's also important to note the cost difference: 1- 8 foot grade A 1x2 = $3.00. 1- 2'x2' stretcher bar = $40 or more.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Goodies

The Halloween links and pictures are flying fast and furious across the interwebs today! Here are a few of my favorite finds.

Via @ThinkGeek, John DeLancie (Q from Star Trek:TNG) reads Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven":

In related news: John DeLancie rocks. He was one of the first Trek actors I ever saw in person, & I have a photo of my 16-year-old self standing awkwardly next to him to prove it. :D

Craftzine provides today's dose of adorable:

Mini Robocop!

I love this next picture:

There are lots more pics at Sweet Juniper, where Robocop's super dad explains how he made the suit from bits of junk lying around his basement. Crafty parents ftw!

And for one of the coolest costumes in the history of robots, check out this clip:

Via One Cool Thing a Day

I wish there was a slow-motion version of him when he stands up; I STILL can't wrap my brain around how it did that. Really, really cool.

Speaking of costumes, some of you expressed a little exasperation with the whole "sexy" costume phenomenon during my Stay Puft post - which I totally get, and actually tend to agree with. That said, I find it more hilarious than offensive when I see things like this:

Yes, that's a "sexy" Chewbacca costume. Really.

For nine more ridiculously horrific, "sexy" geek costumes, go here. (The "Brian" from Family Guy has got to be the worst. Am I right?)

I think the worst part of these travesties (other than the whole pornification of beloved characters thing) is that they don't even look like the characters they're supposed to be! I mean, c'mon, who would ever look at that girl and think, "Hey, a Wookiee!" [eye roll]

That said, I'm still waiting to see a "sexy" costume more ridiculous than this:

Sexy Big Bird.

In stripper heels.

Does anyone *not* feel the need for therapy after seeing this?

And to end on a fun note, have you heard about the steampunk haunted house in New York? I'm a scaredy cat to end all scaredy cats, so I could never go, but this thing sounds amazing. It relies on psychological thrills instead of blood and gore, and has a beautiful steampunked aesthetic. Photos are hard to come by, so this is the best video clip I could find:

Note: the end of the vid may be a little intense for kids or wussy wimps like me. :)

Go here for more videos reviewing the house and going behind the scenes of its creation.
Also, Kat wrote a beautiful description of her own experience touring the house here. If any of you find more photos of it, be sure to let me know!

Have any fun Halloween finds or links? Share them in the comments!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Playing With Food

Wednesday was my friend Julianne's birthday, which gave me an excellent excuse to ditch work for the afternoon and bake a cake instead.

I know, I know, I promised I'd never talk about cake here...but I hadn't made a cake in forever, and this was really fun! It's butterscotch pecan with ganache filling, homemade caramel frosting (my first time making it, and YUM. That is all.), and then another thin layer of ganache and toffee bits on the outside because the caramel frosting looked ugly as sin. Heh.

And before you go thinking I'm some kind of "baker," I should tell you I use The Cake Mix Doctor religiously, and *always* start with a box mix. Judge away. I'm lazy.

That night we had a small pumpkin carving party. Julianne and her husband Ray are the parents of Ninja Baby (remember the Ninja Nursery?), and they kept to the theme by carving these two mini pumpkins:

I'm actually getting a Ninja Turtles vibe here.

Which only makes it better, of course.

And this is their last name:

Man, why can't my last name look that cool? Maybe I can get Ray to write out Yates in Chinese...

Our friend Mary is a home decor diva, and despite the fact that she and her hubby Jordan had never carved a pumpkin in their entire lives, they still managed to make this:

Sickening. Just...sickening.

I meant to carve that cute Harry Potter design for my own pumpkin, but as I was printing it out I found something else that I knew would make John very, very happy. So instead of Harry Potter, I carved this:

Yep, it's Puss n' Boots, from Shrek. This scene where he goes all big-eyed and cute is one of John's favorites - the only thing that made him laugh harder was the hairball scene, but that would have made for a pretty gross pumpkin. :)

(You can get the Puss n' Boots stencil for free here.)

John, meanwhile, spent this time cleaning and roasting pumpkin seeds, taking embarrassing pictures of the rest of us, and mocking Ray for having such tiny pumpkins:

John [in his Ah-nold voice]: "Ok, now hold up your ridiculous pansy pumpkin and look sad. Ya."

So in other words, John was being John.

So, now all we have to do is buy more Halloween candy (and promise ourselves that this time we won't eat it all) and wait for Sunday! We'll be watching Ghostbusters here with friends while doling out candy to the neighborhood kids. How 'bout you guys?


UPDATE: By popular demand, here's the recipe for the caramel frosting:

- In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick butter with 1/2 c of dark brown sugar & 1/2 c light brown sugar. Bring to a boil.

- add 1/4 c whole milk and return to a boil

- remove from heat

- add 1 tsp vanilla & 2 cups of confectioner's sugar

- beat with a wooden spoon until smooth, & use immediately. (If the icing hardens too quickly, you can put it back on the heat to soften it.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I Love John (Reason #157)

John and I have recently succumbed to a slight obsession with Cracker Barrel breakfasts.

Proceed judging.

No, wait: first try their thick-cut slabs of extra crispy bacon, and *then* judge us. IF YOU DARE.

Anyhoo, being "professional" bloggers we're rarely awake during traditional breakfast hours, (I'm writing this at 3AM. What.) so we often partake in what Scrubs so delightfully termed "Brinner" - aka, breakfast for dinner.


Ok. So. The other week we mosied in to our local Cracker Barrel for a late night Brinner. After being seated by a rail-thin emo guy (is Tijuana Flats no longer hiring?) our server came over to introduce himself. I'm ashamed to say I don't recall his name, but it was something fairly common. Joe? Frank? Bill? Not sure. Let's call him Bill.

Bill had the slightly distracted air of someone with a million things to do, and not enough time to do them. When we ordered, his brow furrowed in concentration, and he repeated a few things back with great care. He wasn't overly friendly - he didn't smile - but he wasn't rude, either. I chalked it up to an off night, and thought nothing of it.

While John and I were in the midst of scarfing down way too many homestyle biscuits (apple butter, you sweet nectar of the heavens, you...) a kindly-looking elderly couple was seated directly behind me. As they sat down, they called out to Bill by name, greeting him with smiles and laughter and a sense of long familiarity. Again, our waiter did not effuse much by way of emotion, but as he talked with them, it dawned on me that his standoffishness wasn't the result of an off night; it was, in fact, the nature he was born with.

Some minutes later, a large group of diners made a mass exodus across the room. A well-dressed man broke off from the group and approached our waiter. "You did good, Bill" the man said warmly, pressing something into his hand. "You did good," he said again, clapped Bill on the shoulder, and left.

At this point John excused himself to the restroom, which is my excuse for the following chronicle of blatant eavesdropping: it was quiet, and I couldn't help overhearing. Honest. [Bambi eyes]

Anyway, what I heard went something like this:

Bill (quietly, to the elderly couple): "You guys, look at this. This man came up to me just now and he said, 'you did good, Bill,' and he shook my hand and then look, he gave me a twenty. A twenty. Can you believe it? I'm doing so good tonight." He said it with a child-like enthusiasm, in a tone of genuine surprise and gratitude.

The couple made happy noises of congratulations, but I didn't quite make them out because I needed my napkin just then to get something out of my eyes.

Bill delivered our check in the same manner he'd begun: efficiently, and with an air of distraction. Only now I think I understood him just a tiny bit better. He hadn't changed, but I'm happy to say that I had.

As we stood in line to pay the check, I told John what I'd heard. Will it show you what saps we are if I tell you that we *both* teared up when I got to the part about Bill's reaction to the tip? Yes? Well, we did. And then John sniffed, and laughed, and said, "Did he really say that? Really? Aw, well, now you know I *have* to beat that twenty."

And he did. Anonymously, and grinning like a fool.

A lovely, gorgeous fool.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prepare To Be Dazzled... my "beadazzled" pumpkin!!


Here it is in the sunlight:

And here it is lit up inside:

Now, wanna see how I did it??

Oooof course you do.


First, I printed out my pattern and taped it to the foam pumpkin (no, it's not real. Sorry.):

Next I used a nail to poke holes through the paper to transfer the pattern. (You can also use a thumb tack or needle.)

It's hard to see, but here's the transferred pattern:

Next is the messy part: using the Dremel. Using the smallest engraving bit they sell, I carved out the lines of my pattern.

I did this in the garage, because that dust gets *everywhere* and sticks fast. Which also means you need an immediate shower afterward. Hellooo, itchy!

My main issue when carving with the Dremel was the depth: I didn't carve the lines deep enough at first, and so had to keep going back over them. I recommend keeping a flashlight on hand to check your line depth as you go.

Also, because the Dremel is incredibly high speed, it has a tendency to grab and spin out in directions you don't want it to go. My hand soon became a clawed death grip from hanging on to it: I had to take frequent breaks to shake my numb fingers out. (Usually while intoning, "Ooooo, the claaAAaaaaw!!" 'cuz I'm a geek.)

Here you can see how my bit is buried a good quarter inch into the foam while I carve. These Funkins are thick, so don't be afraid to carve your lines deep.

For the rivets on the bot's body and feet, I used a tiny bit to drill all the way through the pumpkin. (My holes are so small you can't see them very well, though; I may have to re-do them.) I also carved out larger holes for his buttons and antenna.

Once I finished the bot, I took a few days to brainstorm ways to jazz up the rest of the pumpkin. I knew I wanted to embed colored beads in it somehow, to give it an old-school Lite Brite feel. Eventually I settled on a fireworks-style spiral, and enlisted John's help in drawing the pattern for me.

I transferred John's pinwheel pattern using a nail to mark only the spots I wanted to drill through. Then, using a drill bit the exact size of the beads, John bored through the first few tricky spots where the holes were especially close together:

Once he finished the center holes, I used a cordless drill to finish the rest. (You could do them all by hand with the drill bit, but it would take a while.) This was also tricky: our big drill is heavy, and holding it and the pumpkin steady was hard work. John could have done it perfectly in no time, of course, but I'm stubborn and wanted to do it myself.

Not perfect by a long shot, but dang it, I did 'em myself!

And finally, the fun part: sticking the beads in!

If you make your holes exactly the right size, then your beads should fit snugly, no glue needed. Each of my fireworks uses three colors: light blue, blue, and green, and yellow, orange, red. The mid tones don't show up well in this photo, but they look bright and beautiful in person:

Here's a better shot of the red spiral lit up:

I also inserted beads in the bot's buttons, antennae, and eyes, to make them sparkle:

The eye beads are clear tri-head beads, inserted sideways.

And finally, here's our first test pumpkin:

Which actually looks better in the light, I think:

The eyes are blue glass gems inserted sideways, and the antenna is another gem glued to the inside. Don't they look great against the orange?

If you'd like to try any of this yourself, here are the beads and gems I used:

The beads (in the glass jar) are plastic 6mm ones from JoAnn's. That bag of nearly 500 cost less than $2. The gems are the glass drops usually used to fill vases for flower arrangements, which you can find almost anywhere.

I still have more beads and larger gems that I want to experiment with, plus a *real* pumpkin to carve this week, so you may be getting more pumpkin pictures soon. (My favorite idea so far? Constellations. Wouldn't it be cool to make a pumpkin planetarium?!?)

In the meantime, can you guys help me find some great Lite Brite style designs for inspiration? I'd love to do a geometric pattern or simple shapes using lots of color, but I'm at a loss for a great pattern. (Although I did see a nice Pac Man design somewhere...) If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments. If I don't get to it this week, at least I'll have some ideas lined up for next year!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We're Almost OUTATIME!

I'm having a rough and rushed week this week, guys, but I had to drop in with these geekalicious Back to the Future goodies.

You, uh, DO know that this weekend is the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future, right? RIGHT?

And you also know it's going to be shown in select AMC theaters across the U.S. both this Saturday afternoon and Monday night, right?

John and I are hoping to make the Saturday matinee. Or perhaps I should say: we're hoping I'll be able to sit through the whole movie without any problems. I haven't been in a theater since the last Star Trek movie due to some pesky health issues, but by golly, I'm chancing it for this!

Not to mention it'll be a great time for John to wear the new Woot shirt I got him:

Aw yeeah.

(You can get it here for $15.)

If you're a fellow BttF fan, you'll also want to see the original props and wardrobe currently being auctioned off by Profiles in History. There's no way any of us plebeians could afford so much as a matchbook, of course, but it's fabulous fun to gawk at:

This shoe (that's singular, mind you) is estimated to go for $12,000 - $15,000.

And compared with how it looked on screen, it looks terrible. Heh. Funny how props are like that. I saw a screen-used Storm Trooper helmet from the original trilogy once, and it had peeling stickers on it. Seriously.

Here's the real jackpot, though:

Marty's jacket here is expected to go for up to $50,000 at auction. Unlike the shoes there was only one ever made, though, so I can see why - and the money goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is awesome.

Oh, and did you ever wonder how Marty's re-sizing jacket worked?

Prepare to be amazed.

Or at least to laugh:

Yep, the movie magic was achieved with lots of tubes and cables operated by guys lying at Fox's feet. Ha! Love it.

For more affordable souvenirs, I found replica Hoverboards, OUTATIME license plates, and of course those ridiculous color-changing hats all on Ebay:

They sold these hats (or ones just like them) at Universal for the longest time, back when the BttF ride was still there. Man, I miss that ride. [sob] Curse you, Simpsons!!


I'm sure you've probably seen this by now, but in case you haven't, here are some clips of the original Marty, Eric Stolz:

It's surreal seeing someone else in those scenes, isn't it? And you can see what people mean when they say it was a much darker look for the film; Fox really was the perfect choice.

UPDATE: Oh! Almost forgot! Spike TV teamed up with Michael J. Fox to recreate a BttF teaser trailer, frame-for-frame. Which is cool. You can see both vids (for comparison) here on GeekDad.

And finally, for the real BttF geeks, here's a great post discussing the alternate drafts for Back to the Future 2 (plus a truly bizarre clip of Cripin Glover losing it on Letterman.) Fascinating stuff.

So, guys, do you have any favorite Back to the Future merchandise or memories? Or are you throwing any BttF parties this weekend? Tell me in the comments!