Team Spotlight: Davon Maddox

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Davon Maddox has been working for The Foundery for two and a half months, making cornhole boards for corporate and individual clients. He has made about 70 so far.

To make a cornhole board, Davon first cuts the pieces using a miter saw. Then he makes the pocket holes and drills the pieces together. He uses wood-fill to clean up any cracks or crevices, then lets it dry for 24 hours. He sands the boards, uses a silk screen to paint a design, and then adds a gloss to finish it off!

Davon’s path to The Foundery started when he got an internship at the University of Maryland. While in his role doing maintenance there, he was selected for another internship with the Station North Tool Library. For this job he worked with The Surface Project, an apprenticeship program that works with individuals with high barriers to employment and shows them the skills to take locally sourced reclaimed materials and create value-added products, like table surfaces. Apprentices learn the business from start to finish, while sales of these products go towards creating full-time jobs for graduates who successfully complete the program. It was through this program that Davon was connected to his current job at The Foundery.

In his spare time, Davon is designing and making a wood and metal table for his 11-month old daughter, Paisley. He is laser engraving the image of his daughter’s footprint to the outside as a border. After he completes this table he’s hoping to make similar tables for others using the same techniques!

Come in to The Foundery to say hi to Davon sometime soon! Maybe he’ll even give you some tips on making cornhole boards.

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What you can make at The Foundery: A Real Live Mario Kart

         Foundery team members Corey Fleischer and Jess Goldfinger have made a real live Mario Kart controlled wirelessly by a wii remote. See a video of it in action here!

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          The idea for the vehicle came from a casual watercooler conversation at Corey’s former workplace. He and a few coworkers saw a beer-tossing mini fridge on TV and thought it was very lame. They knew they could one-up it, so they started to brainstorm a better product. Their ideas started with a beverage-delivering cooler on wheels and ended on a go-kart that could be controlled by itself wirelessly. They set out to build the latter.

          The cart’s control system is connected by a wii remote, which talks to an Arduino through bluetooth. The Arduino knows which direction the remote is pointing and can move the wheels to match it. The cart itself is made from miscellaneous parts of electric scooters, wheels of a hand truck, and the seat of a lawn tractor. Fellow Foundery instructor Jess Goldfinger programmed the software for the controls and wired it up!

          Corey actually used this cart as part of his audition for the show Big Brain Theory. He subsequently was accepted for the show and won. See his application video in which he puts a lightbulb in the microwave here.

          Come by the Foundery to make a go-kart of your own, or just take a spin on ours!

 

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Member Spotlight: Debra Williams

          Debra Williams is one of the most loyal members of The Foundery, joining on the 6th day it was open! She uses it for two purposes: to remodel furniture for her home, and more importantly, to work on her new business, Campus Canopies. Her favorite part of The Foundery are the tools that she uses to develop her products and the knowledgeable experts who are on hand to answer all of her questions.

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Debra outside of the Foundery with some chairs she remodeled

     

          When Debra first walked in the doors of the Foundery, she took a tour and was thrilled by the space. She became a member immediately and soon became a regular. She took classes like metal-working, wood-working, sewing, and powder coating to familiarize herself with the tools and equipment at the Foundery, and she uses two Foundery computers in her work space to do market research for her company.

          “Working at the Foundery gives me separation between my home and my work,” Debra says. “After thirty years of being a stay-at-home mom, I love having a place to go to work that is so inspiring.”

          Debra’s new company, Campus Canopies, began when she took her oldest child to boarding school. While doing back-to-school shopping, she saw a window display that was being taken down. The display included a set of long bamboo poles. “I have an idea,” Debra told her daughter. She purchased the poles. When they arrived at the school, she turned them into a canopy for her daughter’s dorm room bed, attaching chic curtains on the sides for privacy. Her daughter and daughter’s friends all loved it.

          Last Fall, when her youngest child matriculated at the University of Maryland, College Park, Debra built her second canopy, this time using poles from Home Depot and fabric from J.C. Penny (see photo below). The canopy attracted a lot of attention. Her daughter loved it, and her daughter’s roommates said, “I want one, too.” At that point, Debra realized she was onto a new idea, and a business was born. “There is an unmet need for privacy in student dorm rooms,” Debra says. “Campus Canopies is a game changer for students. Our mission is to inspire campus interiors and give students privacy.”

One of the original campus canopies at the University of Maryland

One of the original campus canopies at the University of Maryland

         

          A key resource at the Foundery is the friendly and dedicated staff. Debra says they can answer, or find the answer, to almost any of the questions she has. “The Foundery’s motto is ‘Learn, Build, Teach,’” Debra says. “The Foundery has served me in all three areas.”

          Debra knows that she’s not the typical person to walk into the doors of the Foundery, but she’s always welcome. She plans to launch Campus Canopies officially in the next 6 months, just in time for back-to-school shopping. Check out Campus Canopies on Instagram here!

 

 

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Member Spotlight: Jamie Hodges

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               Foundery member Jamie Hodges has been working on a new design for a dock leveler hold down mechanism for the past four years. In January his patent application was approved! He completed the design in The Foundery and now he’s beginning to manufacture it here as well. He says, “I’ve accomplished more in The Foundery in the last two months than I did without it in the two years prior.”

 

Dock-Levelers and Hold Downs:

               Commercial and industrial buildings that ship and receive product at a loading dock often require a dock leveler to facilitate the movement of materials. Trucks come in at varying heights off the driveway and buildings have varying dock heights. When a truck backs into the loading dock, the bumpers on the loading dock  come into contact with the trailer, leaving a gap between the trailer and building. A dock leveler bridges this gap while also accommodating the dock height and trailer bed height differential. The dock leveler hold down keeps the dock leveler in place so that a forklift or pallet jack is then able to traverse the gap to load and unload the truck. 

               Though the invention sounds specific, there are millions of dock levelers and hold downs in the United States and virtually every item we own has been transported using them multiple times from the manufacturing process to final distribution at retail outlets.

 

A Family tradition:

               Jamie and his family run an 82-year-old family business, Charles H. Hodges and Son, Inc., specializing in selling, installing, and servicing loading dock equipment, overhead doors, high-speed doors, freight elevators, conveyor systems, mezzanines, and pallet rack products bundled under the name material handling equipment.

              Jamie has fond memories of his father, Charles Hodges III, inventing his own version of the dock leveler, an airbag/fan powered unit, in 1993. His father woke him up in the middle of the night to show him a rudimentary  prototype involving a shop vac, a trash bag, and a marble slab, demonstrating the idea. Within two years it became the number one selling push-button operated dock leveler in the United States.

 

Jamie’s Invention:

              Jamie himself began an attempt at designing his own version of the dock leveler four years ago. Through his experience with his family business, he knows that most mechanical pull chain operated dock-levelers last for only a few years before the ratchet bar hold down mechanism on the leveler begins to fail. The existing hold down mechanisms use pawls and a ratchet bar with teeth broached into it. Over time the teeth chip off or round over causing the dock leveler to jump up unexpectedly, creating a dangerous situation at the loading dock.

              Jamie borrowed a piece of technology from a young engineer and inventor named Andrew Kellem who invented and patented the Kellem Grip, a mechanism similar to the classic children’s toy the “Chinese finger trap.” This grip is often used for cable strain relief and gripping, and Kellem’s original designs were used to pull the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge. The basic premise behind the Kellem Grip is that lateral tensile forces are directly converted into diametrically compressive forces. Or in other words, the more you pull the grip apart, the tighter it constricts on the object inside. When you laterally compress the grip, the opposite happens and the weave expands, releasing the object inside.

               Jamie was able to find a manufacturer of these grips who would custom build one suitable for his hold down requirements.

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)

             

                 Jamie’s new hold down mechanism costs significantly less to manufacture, weighs 85% less than the old style, and lasts 5-10 times longer. The hold down has been designed as a universal aftermarket replacement part and will fit on virtually every mechanical dock leveler with little to no modification. Installation is as simple as inserting two pins with cotter pins and then hooking a chain link to the dock leveler pull chain.

Caption: Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism

Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism

 

               He has already sold his product to Under Armour and other local businesses and is excited to expand more soon by doing most of his manufacturing in The Foundery. Check out his website for more information: http://www.hodgesindustrial.com.

Caption: Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler

Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler

 

Jamie Himself:

                Jamie is a mechanical engineer who graduated from the University of Virginia and locally from Gilman School and Calvert School. He lives with his wife, Lexie Love Hodges, who is an IT engineer at Agora Publishing. They recently had a baby girl,  McKenzie, who was born in May. In the Foundery, Jamie takes a break from working on the dock leveler to make a coffee table for his wife as an anniversary present.

The coffee table!

 

               Jamie and Lexie, along with other members of their family, worked together to start the One Love Foundation to combat relationship violence after it personally affected their family. You can help the cause by going to www.joinonelove.org. Come by the Foundery to meet Jamie and learn more about his growing business!

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The Foundery’s Power Hammer – A Brief History

           A power hammer is a tool that uses electricity and a revolving belt to apply intense, repeated force to shape pieces of hot metal. They’ve been used by blacksmiths, metalworkers, and manufacturers since the late 1880’s. Shortly after its opening, The Foundery purchased a power hammer to use for its classes and open hours. This power hammer has been on a full-circle journey from 1965 to present-day.

          The Foundery’s Power Hammer, the “100 Pound Little Giant,” was originally sold in 1965 to a Baltimore City-owned bus depot called Central Automotive Repair Shop (CARS). This former warehouse on 101 W. Dickman Street is now the current location of City Garage, the building that holds The Foundery.

          In 2008 CARS closed its doors and the city of Baltimore sold the power hammer in an auction to Jason Roberts of Jason Roberts Metalworks in Philadelphia. Mr. Roberts used it for seven years, after which he sold it to a hobbyist blacksmith in Clinton, New Jersey.

          Foundery instructor Sam Salvati heard about the traveling power hammer and tracked down it down. He bought it on behalf of The Foundery and completed a 21 hour rental-van adventure to New Jersey to retrieve it.

          Now it sits back in its original home in 101 W. Dickman Street in The Foundery. It still has its original “City of Baltimore” sticker, which is now preserved with a clear coat of spray paint. It runs just as well as it did in 1965, and you can come in to learn how to use it with one of our blacksmithing classes!

The Foundery Power Hammer

The Little Giant itself!

 

Foundery power hammer metalwork

Sam Salvati uses the power hammer to shape a hot railroad stake

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The Fourth State of Matter

Here at the Foundery we want to provide our members the tools, education, and encouragement to build anything they can dream. And while we will do our best to educate and support members in their endeavors, it’s all meaningless unless we provide the right tools for the job. To that end we have amassed quite a collection of tools. From the simple, but versatile, hammer all the way up to the Abrasive Waterjet, and everything in between. Today’s post, however, will pull from the higher end of that spectrum and aim to educate you as well.

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CNC Plasma Cutter

What you see here is a CNC plasma cutting system. And while I already know your first question, why is it red, I’m not going to answer that question just yet. But what I will do is answer the first question you should have asked, which is what does CNC mean. CNC stands for computer numerical control, which is just an elaborate way of saying that a computer controls this machine. This, of course, is only half the puzzle to understanding this machine. The other part being what is plasma cutting.

I could go into a long explanation about how plasma cutting works and an even longer explanation into plasma (The Fourth State of Matter), but I’ll leave you to research those topics for yourself. But in the simplest technical sense, plasma cutting utilizes an accelerated jet of hot plasma to cut through any electrically conductive material. In layman’s terms, super hot gas slices through metal like a hot knife through butter! Pretty cool, right.

Photo by Brown Photography – Retro Systems LLC (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Photo by Brown Photography – Retro Systems LLC (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Putting this all together, what we have here is a machine that is computer controlled and can cut through metal. Basically this machine can be used to cut almost any 2-dimensional shape out of metal.  Again, I already know what you are going to ask, don’t you already have a machine that can do that. Yes we do, but there are major differences in the capabilities of these machines and that is why we have both.

Plasma Cutting System Abrasive Waterjet
Faster Slower
Can only can metals Can cut just about anything
Cheaper to operate More expensive to operate
Lower precision High precision

 

Beyond the basic differences of the two systems, there are more specific differences in our machines. For example, our plasma cutter cannot cut metals thicker than half an inch. While the waterjet can easily cut materials which are much thicker.

This post is getting pretty long and I still haven’t even covered the question I know you want answered, why is it red? The answer is quite simple; to make it watertight. However, the explanation for why we decided to do this is a bit more involved.

When using a plasma cutter, a lot dust and smoke is generated in the process. This dust and smoke must be captured and redirected away from the operator and occupied spaces. Our plasma system had a downdraft ventilation system. Basically, the bottom of the table had a large hole which was hooked up to an external exhaust system used to pull all the smoke and dust away. When Jason purchased this used system several years ago our current location and facilities didn’t exist. Once the new location was established Corey and Jason quickly realized that using a downdraft ventilation system was not a viable option. But fortunately for us there is more than one solution to this problem.

Corey, having personally built a smaller CNC plasma cutter in his garage several years ago, already had the solution. Convert the system to a water table. A water table will capture the dust and smoke before it’s able to leave the cutting area.

There were, however, several issues with this approach. Firstly, filling the table will 1,000+ lbs. of water would exceed weight capacity of the table. So Audrey put on her welding helmet and welded several additional support members to the table and frame.

Secondly, what should we use to make the table watertight? After much research and debate, we decided to use an unlikely material. RedGard® is a membrane typically used in construction for waterproofing under tile flooring. (That is spelled RedGard not Redguard for all you Elder Scrolls fans out there) But, as it turns out this product was perfect for our waterproofing application. So we plugged the bottom of the plasma table, leaving only a small drain hole, and proceeded to add several layers of RedGard. And finally we ended up with a watertight and very red plasma cutting system.

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The first coat

Ok, this post has gone on long enough, and you should now know why we have a red CNC plasma cutter. I also hope you learned something about plasma cutting systems. I know I didn’t cover any of the motion control hardware, software, or general repair of aspects of the system that we performed to get this used equipment back up and running. If you’re interested leave a comment and I can always write another post on those topics.

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Let’s Meet the Team!

So I called “dibs” on writing bios of our team…and I’m really excited about this, because I get to write my own bio! I’ll also try to stay around 80% accurate on what I write and let you readers decide what 20% is not accurate.

I’m really happy with our team. We’re a diverse group of people with strengths and weaknesses that all complement each other. Below is a short intro to each team member so you can get an idea of the experience and expertise members at The Foundery can leverage when using the space.

Let’s start with Jason!

Jason “Roll the Dice” Hardebeck:

Jason…what to say about Jason. Jason is kind of the Patriarch of the group. Not just because he’s a lot older than the rest of the team but also because he has legit experience in the world of start-ups, engineering and TCB’ing (Taking Care of Business). Jason graduated from the Navy academy back in 1987 (before Audrey was born) and entered the life of a midshipman as a nuclear engineer. If there’s one thing I have picked up from Jason’s days as a nuke, it’s that you need to know your s**t to work anything related to nuclear energy, which is really comforting to know.

Jason grew up in Montana, I’d like to believe that all of his friends and family from home make fun of him and call him a “city slicker” when he visits.

After Jason got out of the Navy he bounced around working for a couple start-ups and then landed a job here in Maryland working for DeWalt/Black and Decker as a project manager. Jason only worked at DeWalt a few years but for some reason every time we note a cool feature about a DeWalt tool Jason goes “I was the guy who thought of that!”…right.

Jason started a software company, WhoGlue, back in 2000 which gave him legitimate credentials as an official Entrepreneur. Rumor has it, Jason missed the birth of both his kids due to conflicting board meetings.

 

Audrey “The Resident Bad-ass” Van de Castle

Audrey graduated from Hampshire College in Massachusetts where she studied art and gained experience in many fabrication methods. Audrey joined The Foundery back in 2013 as our lead instructor, teaching our welding and CNC laser classes. To date, Audrey has taught close to 1000 student between both classes.

I remember when I first met Audrey at The Foundery. I was welding at one of our fux core stations, Audrey approached me about using our welders for a project and she asked if she could demonstrate her skills. I replied “sorry, you’re not wearing long sleeves” and Audrey said “neither are you”…touché! She was hired about 30 minutes later as our welding instructor.

Audrey is a passionate metal artist who’s always up for a challenge! Check out her art at www.audreyvandecastle.com. She’s also a hardcore feminist so when people taking her welding class say things like “women can weld?!” she might take it personally…don’t be that person.

 

The Jester

The Jester remains adamant that we are not to post his name or photo on the internet. Some people think he’s just an overly paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I want to believe it’s because he owes a ton of back child support for kids he’s fathered across the county.

The Jester has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UMBC where he spent many years as a core member of the SAE Baja Team. Although his degree is in ME, The Jester has taken his love for robotics and electro-mechanical systems to a level well beyond a hobby. The Jester has many years of real world engineering experience related to micro-controllers (Arduino etc.), data acquisition, electro-chemical design and evaluation.

The Jester continues to try and get people to address him as The Singularity…don’t do it, it’ll just inflate his ego even more.

 

Corey “That’s Good Enough” Fleischer

Fueled by caffeine and a hardcore thirst for competition, Corey Fleischer is constantly proving his theory that human adolescence doesn’t end until your mid 30’s. Corey received his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from UMBC where he spent 8 years stretching out the college experience, and building mini-baja vehicles, a mini-trike and a motorized barstool.

In 2013 Corey won the Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius – Corey is still bitter that they never gave him his championship belt that he claims they owe him. Corey is also an undefeated demolition derby champion who will one day defend his title when his current daily vehicle hits the 200,000 mile mark.

Corey worked for 10 years as a mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin where he racked up about 15 US patents related to kinematic designs, super-capacitors and UAV recovery systems. Despite all these accomplishments, Corey claims his greatest moment was “the time I found Bigfoot in my backyard making plaster castings of my footprints.”

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It’s Miller Time!

I wanted to tell everyone about the welders we will have in the new shop! We will have 6 Miller 211 MIG welders as well as 2 Miller Diversion TIG Welders.

Here is the Miller 211:

These welders are super versatile. They have pretty user-friendly controls. Another cool feature on these welders is that you can change the plugs on them from 120 to 240, something that has definitely come in handy while we are still getting our electricity in the new space and running most of our tools off of extension cords. I’ve welded over 30 table frames with these welders in the past few months, and they are extremely reliable even running on 120. Highly recommended if you’re in the market for a welder, or if you are in the market for a welding class taught by yours truly 😉

Here’s an example of some of the welds made on these welders:

(disclaimer: I found this image on google images! Not my welds!)

These MIG welders are a H U G E upgrade from our previous flux core welders that we were using in the old space which give you welds that look like the image below:

Not to hate on flux core welding, but I am so happy we get to use these new welders in the new space and with our new welding class! I know my previous students and future students will enjoy the ease and precision that comes with these Miller machines.

We also will have 2 TIG welders in the new space! TIG is great for aluminum and thin/thick metals – as well as standard steel. TIG allows for way more manual control than MIG and many people prefer it! There is virtually no cleanup needed with a TIG welder (once you get good at it).

Here is the Miller Diversion that we will have:

And this is an example of a TIG weld on mild steel with the Diversion:

Wowie! *_* That’s a beautiful weld! TIG has a lot steeper learning curve than MIG – but once you get good it is a lot of fun! Kind of like learning to drive a manual transmission car when you are used to an automatic!

What do you think of the welder upgrades? Have you used any of these welders before? Are you as excited as I am to get time in on these machines?!

*** A big shout out to our welding equipment partner, Earlbeck Gases and Technologies. If you want to go 211 as well, tell Jim and Joe that the Foundery sent you! ***

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Masters of Our Domain

It’s official.  We are now the owners of a shiny new domain.  Introducing…

foundery.com

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be migrating everything over from our old website as well as our build blog to a brand new website with a permanent home at foundery.com.  That means our email addresses are changing too. Just change the @bmorefoundery.com to @foundery.com.

Stay tuned for the launch of our new site!

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Spot On

It’s been quite a while since my last post. So many things are happening so quickly that I could post several times a day and not run out of topics, but I never seem to find the time to write something in the heat of battle.  I’m making a promise to myself to do better.  Perhaps the last thing I do before heading up to bed is to share a few of the amazing things happening every day during our buildout.

One of our goals is for the Foundery to be the place to go when you need a special tool or capability to accomplish a task.  A good example is our new spot welder/soldering station.

Our new combination spot welder/soldering station

Our new combination spot welder/soldering station

This machine makes it easy to weld tabs to batteries.  I used it to repair the lithium battery pack in one of our portable AEDs (defibrillator).  A new battery pack costs $150, but instead I just bought replacement cells for $15, cracked open the case, and used the spot welder to rebuild the pack.

Closeup of some tabs I spot welded onto new batteries.

Closeup of some tabs I spot welded onto new batteries.

 

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How to save $135 in 20 minutes

I would have loved to have this machine when I rebuilt about a dozen 18 volt cordless tool battery packs a few years back with a soldering iron and a roll of electrical tape.  It would be difficult to justify buying one just for my occasional use, but now every Foundery member will have access to it any time they want.  That really hits the spot!

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