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Here's My Stuff!

by Robert Clark Rutkowski
Portland, OR

I’ve always had a love for, and affair with machinery; this is one thing I know and perform with well. I build machines out of any material, including the Toy Crane that was posted on your site awhile back.

Everyone always teases me that all of my projects and décor look industrial, so when I had nearly filled my room I rent from my friend with shelving, a shoe rack and other convenience and utilitarian accoutrements (including the laptop stand shown above and in the pictures below), I had thought about doing something over the bed. My friend who owns the house made the mistake of jokingly asking me one evening when I would be going overhead with something so I thought about it all night and this is what I came up with. Naturally like many designs and creations, I came up with the basic idea and modified and improved [got out of control with] it as I went along.

Being that it is so industrial in essence, I decided that it really needed something mechanical to dramatically bring it to life, so I decided on the beam trolley since I had beams. Since I know machinery and technology/engineering so well, I am able to get this effect to come out in my artistic endeavors.

It was fairly straightforward building it notwithstanding my limited tools and shop area in the basement of my friend’s home and my residence. On occasion I’ll actually adjust the design to coincide with the tools I have available and being on a very low fixed income and materials with which I work. My grandfather and father would have had a conniption fit if they knew that I referred to these materials in the context of ‘woodworking’, but I like them for the type of things that I build because machinery is an entirely different art than the fine cabinetry and sash and door work that they were capable of and did.

Having no grain, these materials are appropriate for mechanical components. It is a continuous learning experience working with them though due to the binding resins and the varied weaknesses of the material in drilling and fastening them with screws, for example. For instance, MDF is really nothing more than compressed cardboard with a resin or some sort of adhesive, so drilling into the edge of it and running a screw in can easily split it wide open if the countersink drill is too small or the hole not adequately deep to accommodate the length of the screw.

The resin is really hard on cutters particularly hole saws and circle cutters. With the hole saws, the fine powder builds up in the annulus of the cut and the ensuing friction causes burning and wears down the cutting edge. My tinker toy creations have a lot of sawed circles on them to give the effect of bosses to appear more like real machinery. The materials are hard on Forstners too.

I have a serious terminal illness and therefore a very low fixed income so I am not able to purchase a lot of the really nice sophisticated tools and fixtures that I would like to have, therefore it requires that I create special machining methods and jigs and fixtures to perform these functions. It’s challenging and tries even my love for and patience with machinery sometimes but it is fun and keeps my mind focused away from some of the more troubling things in life.

I hope you all like my tinker toy bed canopy and laptop stand and got some positive moments in your lives viewing them.

Laptop Stand

Bed Canopy

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