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    Bits to Atoms: Building an 'Evil Dead' Chainsaw

    Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite movies of all-time; one that I may have bought more times than even Star Wars. (I own it on Betamax!) My wife even took me to the site of the original Evil Dead cabin near her home in Tennessee. For those who have not experienced this gem, at a pivotal moment in the film, Ash, played the amazing Bruce Campbell, replaces his severed hand (which he cut off because it was possessed) with a chainsaw. He then uses said chainsaw to saw off the barrel of his shotgun, holsters it and as the camera zooms in, proclaims, ‘groovy!’. Instant classic.

    My original chainsaw with fabricated top.

    About three years ago, I find myself at the grocery store and look at a jug of Arizona Ice Tea. My brain connects the dots and I decided that it looked like the base of a chainsaw, which lead to me building an Evil Dead 2 chainsaw replica for Halloween. Unfortunately, that was also the same year Hurricane Sandy hit New York, so we were evacuated and Halloween was cancelled. But the year after that, I am even more ready with an exact costume that’s weathered and bloodied…and I get one of the worst colds ever which cancels Halloween again. Mark my words--this is the year that I will finally get to use my Evil Dead 2 chainsaw--and maybe you can too!

    The parts and tools needed to build your own Evil Dead 2 chainsaw are all actually pretty reasonable. A key piece is 3D printed--I’ve provided the files for download--and we’ll discuss alternatives if you don’t have access to a 3D printer. To start off, I captured a bunch of screengrabs from the film for reference, but the best photos I found were from the excellent Evil Dead Chainsaws site, which makes amazing replicas.

    The original prop was based on an actual Homelite chainsaw that was heavily modified and cast in plastic and rubber so Bruce could fit his hand inside and use it safely. I tried to duplicate key aspects of the original for my first version, which required some light metal work for the top piece and 3D printing the distinctive side-grill. For the version I’m presenting here, I’ve simplified the parts and process while still producing a killer chainsaw replica.

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 6

    With the frame of the arcade cabinet constructed, Norm and Wes head back to the garage to begin the wiring of the buttons and other electronics. In this episode, we discuss the different types of custom arcade controls, the hardware to link them all together, and the tiny computer we're going to build to run the software. (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Arduboy Bracelet Plays Tetris
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    The Arduboy is a pocket-sized computer that's as thin as a few credit cards but still has a screen and controls to play basic games like Tetris and Breakout via an AtMega328p running Arduino. While that device is still in development to be made for sale, its makers have also whipped up a digital bracelet running multiple .66-inch OLED screens running on a flexible circuit. The first prototype looks awesome and ripe with potential, so I'd love to see this turn into a customizable kit!

    Announcing Tested: The Show!

    Here's a short promo video we shot announcing our live stage show for YouTube subscribers. The important stuff: it'll be at 1PM on Saturday, October 25th, at San Francisco's historic Castro Theater. We'll all be there! More details here. Tickets are on sale now!

    Show and Tell: The Useless Box Kit

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm assembles a kit of a machine he's always wanted: a useless box. Flip the switch on the box and all it does is turn itself off. Simple, yet mesmerizing. The kit of laser cut plastic and some basic electronics isn't difficult to put together, and makes for a great afternoon project.

    Tested Mailbag: For the Suit

    Time for another ceremonial opening of a reader package! This one is related to a Still Untitled episode we recorded with Adam earlier this year, with a piece of hardware that may come in useful for a project we talked about. It's really cool! Have a great weekend!

    We're Putting on a Live Stage Show!

    Update: Tickets are now open for everyone to purchase! You can buy them here. See you next month!

    Hey everyone! Will and I have something exciting to announce. On Saturday, Oct 25th, as part of the Bay Area Science Festival, we're putting on our very first live event at San Francisco's historic Castro theater. It's called Tested: The Show (remember that?) and it'll be an afternoon of presentations, demos, and conversations with some of our favorite people about the culture of making and technology's role in it.

    This is the first time we've done anything like this, so we thought a bit about how we could best present the type of stuff we do on Tested--showcasing awesome maker project, geeking out about technology, 3D printing, and more--on stage to a live audience. We don't want to give away too much yet, but you're going to see familiar faces like Game Frame creator Jeremy Williams and The Zoidberg Project's Frank Ippolito show off what they're working on today. And just wait until you see what Jamie has to show.

    For those of you who can make it, we'd love for you spend the afternoon with us on October 25th. We're opening ticket sales tonight to Tested Premium Members first (check your email for instructions!) and will be putting tickets on sale to the general public this Wednesday evening.

    We know that not all of you will be able to make it to San Francisco, so we're going to be recording the entire show and putting it up on the site (and on YouTube) as soon as we can after the event. This is first time we're doing a live event of this kind, but we hope it won't be the last--we'd love to travel your way in the future. We're super excited to put this show on for you, and can't wait to hear what you think.

    If you have any questions, please email us directly at tips@tested.com or post in the comments. I've also included a show FAQ below. Hope to see you in October!

    Cirque du Soleil Use Quadcopters for a Fantasia-Like Performance

    Cirque du Soleil released a short film earlier this week using tightly synchronized quadcopters so simulate the effect of flying lampshades around a magician. It immediately reminded me of Disney's Fantasia, and the performance is really effective. I wanted to share this behind-the-scenes video Cirque du Soleil shot about the making of this film, which was a collaboration with roboticists at ETH Zurich. 10 quadcopters--consumer-grade DJI Phantoms--were choreographed to become characters in the performance, resulting in this innovative use of technology for stage. Watch the full short film here. It's really quite stunning.

    The World of Modern Longsword Fighting

    Adam shared this on social media last week: a New York Times report on the modern practice of German Longsword fighting, along with the tournaments Longsword enthusiasts hold to practice the martial art. "Longsword enthusiasts are resurrecting ancient sword technique as a modern, organized sport, with timed bouts and complex rules." It's a twist on fencing, using protective equipment and rules from that sport, but using blunt steel swords that can bruise competitors. This year's "Longpoint" tournament drew over 200 participants.

    Bits to Atoms: World Maker Faire 2014 Recap

    Hey everyone, Sean here with a World Maker Faire New York recap! I’ve been to every NYC Maker Faire and it keeps getting bigger. I’ve had a booth the last two years but was too busy to get one together this time. The upside was I actually got to see the convention and all the new 3D printers and accessories that were either just announced or being shown in person for the first time. Since Will and Norm were unable to make it this year, I wanted to share with you some of the projects and cool stuff I saw.

    Charlesworth Dynamics crew Maker Faire 2013

    Within seconds of setting foot in the 3D Printing Village (one of World Maker Faire’s biggest draws) I ran into Anthony Campusano, a fellow maker who I’ve met numerous times and builder of an amazing Lament Configuration box from Hellraiser.

    Makers: Sean - Anthony - Andreas

    The fellow with him enthusiastically exclaimed, “I follow you on Twitter!” and it turns out to be Andreas Ekberg, who made the Tested Cruiser skateboard! I didn’t realize it until later but Andreas is also responsible for the Classic LEGO Spaceman print that has been on my to-buy list. I had a great time hanging out with my fellow makers. Now let’s take a look at some of the good stuff I saw.

    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 5

    We're getting close! In this fifth episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm and John tackle some mistakes made in the original plywood cutting and then work together to assemble the cabinet frame. The challenge of finding a way to mount the heavy CRT monitor inside the chassis requires some problem solving and precise measurements, but this thing is finally starting to look like a real cocktail cabinet! (This video series was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    In Brief: Star Trek's Original Enterprise Model Gets Proper Restoration

    For the past 13 years, one of science fiction television's more enduring icons has had a less-than-prominent home for public display. The original studio filming model of the Enterprise from Star Trek (not the motion picture refit) was mounted in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's gift shop. The large wood prop actually spent several years hanging as part of a "Life in the Universe" exhibit in the Smithsonian's Art & Industries Building, but that method of display fractured the wooden frame of the ship, which was never meant to be hung from the ceiling. But the Enterprise is finally getting some respect--the Air and Space Museum announced that it has taken the model off of public view for an 18-month restoration (just in time for Star Trek's 50th anniversary!) and will have a new home in the Museum's ground floor, in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. I've never actually seen this model in person, so time to start planning for a trip a year and a half from now!

    Norman 5
    Tested Mailbag: Gonk Gonk!

    A special edition of the Tested Mailbag this week has us opening boxes from two readers! The first contains a callback to something Will shared in a previous Show and Tell video, while the second is a great use of 3D printing. Thanks to Fallon and Ben for sending these awesome care packages!

    In Brief: Bartek Elsner's Cardboard Sculptures

    BoingBoing pointed me to the blog of Berlin-based artist Bartek Elsner, who creates sculptures of real-world and fantastical objects solely from paper and cardboard. His works have a striking polygonal look to them, and the flat shading of the light bouncing off each cardboard panel makes the pieces look like video game art models pulled into the real world, sans texturing. My favorite may be this "internet appliance" he built in 2012. Volvo filmed Elsner at work earlier this year for their Art Session web series. I found another good interview with him here. Who are some of your favorite artists that work primarily with cardboard of paper? I'd love to know!

    Norman
    Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 4

    For this week's episode of our custom arcade cabinet build, Norm experiments with the laser cutter at Adam's shop to design some decorations for the control panels. We also begin prepping the cut, sanded, and stained pieces of wood for the final assembly. That means learning some basics about biscuit joining! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Watch How Crayola Crayons are Made

    Wired was recently granted access to the Crayola's Easton, Pennsylvania factory, where over 12 million crayons are produced a day. The facility turns silos full of melted paraffin wax into millions of bright writing sticks to be sorted, packed, and sent off to illustrate the dreams of children and adults all around the world. Mr. Rogers also took viewers on a tour of the Crayola company back in 1981. The process has undoubtedly changed, but it's interesting to see what's stayed the same in the manufacturing process.

    Making the Automaton from Hugo

    I rewatched Martin Scorsese's Hugo last night, and was reminded of how much I loved the film--itself being a love letter to filmmaking. One of the standouts of the movie is the elaborate automaton that's at the center of the story--a small mechanical boy that winds up and draws a picture. I was pleased to find this behind this scenes video from production house Dick George Creatives that showed the making of this complex and beautiful machine. The propmakers used modern fabrication technologies to build 13 static models, and two that actually drew without the aid of CG (albeit slowly). As I've mentioned before, the Hugo automata was inspired by many automata machines of the 1700s, including watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz's 'The Writer' and the Maillardet automata now at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And as expected, RPF members have attempted to recreate it, or at least the notebook featured in the movie with the automata drawings.

    In Brief: Six Common Mistakes in Creature Animation

    Friend of Tested Fon Davis shared this really useful article from the AnimationMentor blog. It's a list of common mistakes made by animators creating demo reels showing off their creature work for production houses, and written by Shawn Kelly, an animator at ILM. Kelly, who was the lead animator for the Lockdown villain in the latest Transformers film, calls out animation and editing quirks that ruin the suspension of disbelief, like an inconsistency between the size of the creature and the speed the viewer expects of it. A useful read not only for aspiring animators, for but film nerds to understand the difficulties of animating believable CG characters.

    Norman
    Choosing Buttons and Joysticks for a Custom Arcade Cabinet

    Arcade parts website FocusAttack.com sells 11 varieties of 30mm Japanese arcade buttons, and without some research, it's hard to spot the minute differences that separate one from another. Some are push-buttons, which install into an arcade panel with a simple snap. Others are screw-buttons, which anchor into a wooden surface. There are also smaller 24mm buttons, and buttons with clear tops or clear rims that can be paired with fancy LED lighting. But most importantly, there is the choice between Sanwa and Seimitsu manufactured buttons, Japan's two juggernauts of arcade hardware.

    When you're building your own arcade cabinet, you want the best buttons for your games. But wading into the minutia of arcade parts unprepared feels like going up against a world-class Street Fighter player--while you're clumsily figuring out how to throw a fireball, they're stringing together moves you didn't even know existed. There are just as many varieties of joysticks as there are buttons, each with their own nuanced feel.

    Knowing the differences between these components enables building an arcade machine for exactly the kinds of games you want to play--or, by mixing and matching hardware, you can create a machine with inputs that are great for a wide swath of arcade genres. For the Tested MAME machine, that's exactly what we wanted--something perfect for fighting games like Street Fighter, primed for SHMUPs like Ikaruga, and still able to handle classic 80s games like Pac-Man.

    Here's what we learned while researching our arcade controls.

    The General Overview: Japan vs. America

    There's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American.

    Before we get into the nuances of different models of buttons and joysticks, there's an easy high-level way to categorize arcade parts: Japanese and American. If you grew up going to arcades in the US or Europe, you're likely familiar with American arcade parts made by the company Happ. They're easy to recognize: Happ buttons are concave and have to be pushed in relatively far before they offer that classic arcade click. Happs joysticks typically have elongated cylindrical bat tops, as opposed to the spherical tops of Japanese sticks.

    Japanese parts primarily come from two companies: Sanwa and Seimitsu. Each company produces multiple joysticks and buttons, but in general their buttons are flat or slightly convex, require far less pressure to activate, and have slightly larger faces. Their joysticks are also generally looser than Happ sticks, meaning they have more play to them. The round ball tops of Sanwa and Seimitsu sticks can be replaced with bat tops to make their grips more like Happ sticks.

    A big factor in choosing the parts for your arcade machine comes from personal preference. If you grew up going to American arcades and using American parts, they're going to feel more natural at first, but you might be missing out on something better. The website Slagcoin, which contains a wealth of knowledge about joystick parts, outlines some of the differences between Japanese and American designs and offers up a heavily, heavily researched opinion: Japanese parts are better.

    "Sanwa and Seimitsu make high-quality parts which will not likely disappoint. Happ/IL is a company that seems centered more on simple, public vending parts with high durability at the sacrifice of precision," he writes. "I am not exactly a fanboy for Japanese parts, just quality parts. In fact, it is my opinion that many more Americans would compete internationally much stronger in many more games if our country’s standard/common joysticks were of better quality. I would very much like to see Happ/IL or some other company do better."

    The evidence to support that claim is in the nuances of various button and joystick models. Let's start with joystick technology, the Sanwa, Seimitsu, and Happ options, and which joysticks are best for which games.