Create a 10-Foot-Tall Fire Tornado

Create a 10-Foot-Tall Fire Tornado


Caution: This project is all about fire. Make the proper precautions to keep your fire from spreading. If you are in an area experiencing drought, you shouldn’t be making fires at all. Contact your local fire department for help with controlled fire experiments. 

Fire, on its own, can be beautiful. It is beautiful, intangible, and seemingly alive. When we can add a bit of control to that fire, it becomes mesmerizing and entrancing. I’m going to show you how to harness this beautiful and dangerous phenomenon called a fire tornado on your own.

Start Small


To build the tiny fire tornado, you’ll need the following:

  • A “lazy susan” of some kind to spin everything
  • Wire mesh trash can
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Small fire proof container

Place cotton swabs in your small container and add some denatured alcohol. The cotton swabs keep the alcohol from splashing out as you rotate everything. This container goes inside your wire mesh trash can, which is sitting on top of the lazy susan.

Once you light the alcohol on fire, give the assembly a gentle spin. In a moment you’ll see your flame climb upwards in a beautiful little fire tornado.


  • Turn the whole thing very slowly and gently. It does not need to go fast to make the tornado.
  • Make sure your fire is as close to the center as possible. Having it off center will cause the fire tornado to fail.

Safety Note: Suffocate this flame with something that fits over your fire container. Do not blow this out or pour water on it.

Go Big


To go big, you’ll need the following:

  • 12 box fans
  • A metal container for the fire
  • Denatured alcohol

Building the big fire is pretty easy. Place your box fans in a circle around a metal container. Slightly angle them all in the same direction so that they are not facing directly toward the fire. Light your fire and turn on your fans. Go around your circle and adjust the fans as necessary.


  • Turning the fans on too strong of a setting can kill the fire tornado. Try weaker settings first.
  • The angle of the fans should be barely off center. Turning them too far will kill the fire tornado.

Safety Note: do not throw anything into the fire container. Your fuel will splash out and spread fire. A damp piece of plywood can be used to suffocate this flame if needed. The entire metal container and contents will be extremely hot. Let it sit and cool before anyone touches it.


How to Cast Your Own Vinyl Records


Editor’s note: This project is meant for reproducing your own work or work in the public domain. It is not meant to be used for illegal duplication. Support your favorite artists by buying their records! And if you’re in the UK, you can catch Jess on tour.

A run of records. Photos by Jess Morgan

Setting the needle and hearing your song play out over the hi-fi speakers is usually a thrill reserved for only those with a few quid to spend on a factory pressing of their latest release on vinyl. I spent a year experimenting with colorful “mock vinyl” and picture-disks that I made at home in my spare room and wrote a blog post about my experiences over on my website. Here’s a video of one of my homemade records in action:

silicone needs 24 hours to dry. Make sure it dries somewhere completely level. Use a spirit level to make double (and triple) sure everything is level. If you have a few small air bubbles once the silicone is poured in, these will disappear as the mould sets. Pop any very large bubbles with your mixing stick.

After a day to dry, carefully peel away your hardened silicone from the mould. This can be a bit tricky. Take your time and do not tear your mould. Give the bottom of the mould a little scratch with your fingernail. You should feel some very fine grooves in there.

5. Casting with Resin

Wherever you work, it needs to be level. Get that spirit level out again and make sure. Protect hands and eyes and work somewhere ventilated. A basic Polyurethane Casting Resin comes in two parts, part A and part B. In most cases you need to mix these by weight — so a set of digital scales is vital.

A kitchen scale is useful for measuring proper ratios

Check your instructions from the supplier. To avoid over-pouring mistakes, I poured out part A and then part B into individual paper cups, and then mixed them together. While part A and part B are separate, you can relax. You have time. Once they are mixed, you have got to be fast.

If you want to add color, add to one of the parts while they are separate and mix that in well. Buy special resin pigment from your supplier if you can. A little goes a long way with this stuff. Although, using a blob of color will buy you a little more time once the two parts come together, it is still a good idea to work quickly.

Mix parts A and B of the resin together really well and pour the mixture straight into your mould. You can mix up several batches (different colors for example), and add them one at a time once the previous layer has dried. If you are spot on with your measuring each time, the joins should be seamless.

Clear and colored resin

Most opaque resins will need an hour to dry if you are layering. Adding color slows the drying time a little. Always wait at least a couple of hours before removing anything from the mold. You want it to be as hard as possible. If the resin has not completely cured then your record will warp and it will sound a bit funny on the turntable.

Clear polyurethane resins are a little trickier to work with, but they can be used in layers alongside opaque resin. Allow much longer drying times if working with clear resin. If you want to make picture-disks, you can use clear resin to trap images, photos, ink, or pretty much anything you want inside the record.

Take care not to introduce moisture to the clear resin. Mix with a plastic utensil in a plastic cup, and do not touch it too much with your fingers when it is curing — even when you think it’s dry! There are plenty of tutorials which give advice on working with the different types of resin.

You will need to experiment with measurements, but unless the label tells you otherwise, you will need to mix equal amounts of parts A and B — and measure by weight. You can get hold of casting resin kits fairly easily — though if you get hooked, you are going to want a lot more than what you get in the starter kit.

6. Separate the Mold

After half a day or so, you can separate the mold from the record. You might need to use an electric drill to re-make the hole through the centre.


All that is left to do is to pop the record on your turntable and listen to it play!


…and if you do lose your rag with the records, you can use your silicone and resin for other things. I made this cool scratch plate for my Tele:

Build a 1930’s Style Dieselpunk Cellphone

It’s a golden time for makers. With a handful of components and access to common maker tools, it is now possible to build your own functioning cellphone that makes and receives calls and SMS texts, and even plays FM radio.

Adafruit’s Fona microcontroller, with a GSM phone module, came out around the time I had just discovered dieselpunk (like steampunk, only the era begins roughly in the 1930s and concludes at the end of Word War II), and I was inspired to make a cellphone in an imagined retrofuture style. Something fun and artsy that actually made you think about our relationship to tech and culture.

I started out just drawing sketches on napkins at the coffee shop. I’m no artist, but these little sketches helped me visualize what I wanted.

Most of the concepts I came up with were way too advanced for me. I would have to improve my 3D printing skills (from rank beginner) to make the sketch shown in Figure A.

Figure A

After a lot of thought and some prototypes (Figures B and C), I inched closer to the final concept.

I kept refining things and finally made a critical design decision. Up until late 2016, I had been trying to “re-invent the wheel” and create custom parts and features that already had available solutions. I thought, “Gee, why not use off-the-shelf parts?”

Finally, I settled on a case I could make that could fit all the off-the-shelf components.

There were still design constraints. I wanted this cellphone to have the footprint of an iPhone 6. It would be thicker, of course, by about one inch. Then Adafruit released its Feather Fona update. This was a great improvement over what I was doing. It made everything compact: processor, Fona module, and battery charger on one board! I had to modify my design a bit to fit the Feather Fona in — the case had to be made wider and I had to move a cutout for the USB charging port, among other changes.

At last, I had a case that achieved my goals with a few given compromises for what I could do. Let’s go over how I put the whole thing together. Please visit my project page if you need additional help. I will also be referencing several different code and CAD design files throughout this project. You can find those on this project’s Github page.

Tip: Starting with the case is exactly the opposite of what you should do! I should have begun with the components in the first place, gotten them to work, and then figured out how to make a case for them.

Download Sketch and Assemble Components

Download the Arduino sketch from the Github repository and upload it to the Fona. Assemble the components (Figure D) and make sure everything works.

Figure D

Cut the Case and Bezels

Mill the case from ½” wood using the design files (with or without the back badge bezel) on the project’s Github page. Sand the case and remove the holding tabs.

Laser-etch the front of the top case. I created a logo and graphics that are available on the Github page. You will have to center the art on the OLED cutout for this (Figure E).

Make the Call

To use the cellphone, push the red on-off button on the back. The microphone will light up and you will see a brief “Welcome to RadioPhone” splash screen. Next, the screen displays “Looking for Network.” If the phone connects to the carrier, you will see the message “Connected to Network!” for a few seconds. The speaker backlight will illuminate and the menu will appear. Otherwise, with no carrier signal, you will just be stuck on “Looking for Network.” 

The menu screen displays signal strength in the upper left corner and battery percentage charged in the upper right corner. The date and time from the carrier network shows up in the center top of the screen. Below that are the function choices. You can dial a number (press 1 on the keypad), call one of five favorite numbers (press 2), or listen to one of five pre-stored FM radio stations (press 3). In the lower right corner, there is a pound sign (#). An incoming call will be signaled by tones; just press pound on the keypad from the menu screen to answer it. There is also an asterisk (*) in the lower left corner. Toggle this for a flashlight — it turns on all seven LEDs under the speaker grille.

To make a call, press 1, enter a number on the next “Number Please!” display, and press asterisk. You can back out of this screen by pressing pound. To hang up outgoing or incoming calls, press pound. If you want to call one of your favorites, press 2. Then the number of the favorite you want to call from the next displayed screen. You have to pre-store these by changing code in the sketch. Pressing 3 brings up your favorite FM radio choices. This is also stored in code (no decimals included — “98.1 FM” becomes “981”). Press one of the numbers shown to play that radio station.

When you are done using your phone, just push the red button on the back again. It should instantly turn off without a power down sequence. So gratifying!


Craft a Flowery Teacup Decoration for Mother’s Day

Does your mom watch The Crown? Did she see every episode of Downton Abbey? Does she like Great British Bake Off? Well then, I am sure that she would love a homemade gift that embodies all the loveliness of an English tea in a garden setting. Give her something magical or, even better, work together with your mom to make this enchanting Mother’s Day gift!

1. Take the fork and bend the handle as seen below.

2. Apply a generous amount of glue to the center of the saucer and place the fork within the adhesive.

3. Now support the teacup on a stand to glue the handle of the fork inside the teacup.

4. Balance the teacup without support to see how much pebbles or marbles will be needed to counterbalance the teacup.

5. Once the teacup is balanced and can stay in the upright position on its own, start covering the fork with moss and leaves.

6. Add the flowers.

7. Add ribbons or gems or anything else to enhance this pretty gift.

This craft is inexpensive and should not take any longer than a hour. Its difficulty is entirely dependent on your levels of patience and how elaborate you want the final product to be. You can also use this with fresh flowers, but secure oasis foam in the teacup and the saucer first. Happy Mother’s Day!

Make a Simple LED Flower for Mother’s Day

Looking for a quick and easy last minute Mother’s Day gift for mom? Make her special day bright with this simple but beautiful glowing flower!

1. Make the Petals

To get started, cut out various-sized petals from the felt. I cut one basic shape to start, but you could also alter them later if I wanted a more detailed petal.

2. Prepare the Stem and Wire the LED

Cut the stem out of plastic tubing. Make sure your wires are long enough to pass through the other end!

Next, solder the electronic wire to each end of the LED, so you can run current from a power supply up through the flowers stem to the LED.

Put shrink tubing on at least one of the connections otherwise you risk shorting out the circuit.

3. Make the Flower

Next, start glueing petals onto the back of your LED. You will want to start with small petals first, and then gradually add the bigger petals to give it a more realistic look.

I also added a pleat to the petals to give them a little bit of depth.

4. Make the Stem and Leaves

Next, make a few leaves for your stem using green electronic wire and green electrical tape. Cut a 3″-4″ wire for your leaf stem. Then, make a flat rectangle out of tape, making sure to include the wire inside. Cut the rectangle into your desired leaf shape, and repeat for as many leaves as you want.

Then, wrap your stem (tube) in green electrical tape, adding in the leaves where you’d like. To do this, wrap the wire under the tape a few times, and then fold the leaf back so you can continue wrapping past it.

5. Put It all Together

Finally, slide your leads through the stem and glue your flower in place at the opening.

You’re done! To light your flower up you can connect them all into a circuit, or simply attach the ends to a coin cell battery.

DIY Posable Papercraft Makey Mascot

Papercraft is a fantastic way to explore model making. Generally speaking, paper models are cheap and relatively easy to assemble. You may need a steady hand, and a decent amount of time to devote, but the results can be quite stunning.

One person particularly astute in this area is Rob Ives(@robives). Once a classroom teacher, Ives has been making paper models professionally since around 2000. He has authored two books: Paper Locksmith and Paper Automata, both of which incorporate models that function mechanically as well as look good.

We asked Ives if he would be up to the task of making us a poseable version of our Makey robot mascot and he jumped on the opportunity. Every new model and every new job is a chance to obtain a new skill.

Photo by Hep Svadja

In this case, Ives saw an opportunity to learn the common papercrafting software Pepakura. Previously he had done all of his work in Illustrator and by hand, with an expert’s eye. He figured it was about time to give this software, which unwraps 3D models for paper re-creation, a try.

He started by modeling the basic shape in Blender (Figure A), an open source and free 3D modeling software. Then he brought this model into Pepakura (Figure B) and began playing with settings. Once he was happy with the template that was dynamically generated, he was able to bring it into Illustrator for coloring and further refinement (Figure C).

Assemble Makey

1. Download and Print the PDF

Open the PDF — there will be four full-sized sheets. To make him more sturdy and rigid, it is recommended that you print Makey on thick paper or cardstock. If you do not have any available, regular printer paper will do.

2. Cut Out the Pieces

Trim along the solid lines. Be careful, do not cut on any of the dotted lines or you will mess it up!

3. Score the Model

4. Glue it All Together

Apply adhesive to the tabs labeled “glue.” The thicker the paper, the stronger glue you will need. Now have Makey strike a pose!

Ameba RTL8195

The Ameba RTL8195 is an Arduino-compatible development board for IoT. Like many IoT boards, the RTL8195 is optimal for any type of “sensing” project, from solar energy systems and other environmental readings to automation solutions as well as quadcopters and robotics.

The board comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and an NFC tag with ethernet support via the Arduino compatible headers. Programming is easy, as it utilizes the Arduino IDE. The SDK is available for download, and the standard SDK is fully supported for cost-effective Ameba IC that connects to various cloud servers with ease. The SoC is the RTL8195AM ARM Cortex featuring connectivity hardware SSL, SRAM, and Flash.

This is a great board for anyone who’s looking to do more wireless IoT projects and feels comfortable with the Arduino platform.

Realtek 8195 Seeed Studios
WEBSITE: Seeed Studios
TYPE: Microcontroller
PRICE: $23.99
SOFTWARE: Arduino/C++
PROCESSOR: Realtek RTL8195AM ARM Cortex M3 MCU
GPIO: Up to 30
WI-FI: Yes
DIMENSIONS: 6mm x 6mm
MEMORY: 1MB ROM, 512KB SRAM, 2MB SDRAM additional 2MB Flash on board

Adafruit Trinket 3.3V & 5V

Not all projects have to be massive, and some-times you just want a cheap, simple, small solution. The Adafruit Trinket checks all of those boxes, and despite its meager three I/O pins, it’s a great choice for driving just a few LEDs, or control-ling whole LED strips. It can be programmed via the Arduino IDE, is compatible with many basic Arduino libraries, and it’s small enough to fit into just about any project.

Adafruit Trinket 3.3V & 5V
TYPE: Microcontroller
MAKE: RECOMMENDATION: Wearables, Light & Sound, Dirt Cheap
CLOCK SPEED: 3.3 V @ 8 MHz; 5V @ 8 MHz or 16 MHz
PROCESSOR: 8-bit ATtiny85
I/O PINS DIGITAL: 5 GPIO (2 shared w/USB 3 PWM)
DIMENSIONS: 1.1 in X 0.6 in
MEMORY: 8KB flash

Adafruit Gemma

You might think of the Gemma as a “lite” version of the Flora. It has just 3 digital I/O pads, but at 1.1″ in diameter, it’s incredibly tiny. Like the Flora, it has an onboard battery connector, and is programmable via the Arduino IDE. While it may seem that its minimal I/O count limits its potential, many projects don’t require lots of I/O pins, making the Adafruit Gemma the ideal choice for simple wearables designs.

Adafruit Gemma
TYPE: Microcontroller
PRICE: $10
PROCESSOR: 8-bit ATtiny85
MEMORY: 8KB flash

Adafruit Flora

The Adafruit Flora was developed specifically for wearables projects, and has 14 sewing tap pads for connecting conductive thread to your components. It features an onboard battery connector and a 2A power FET, making it easy to add portable power (and plenty of it). With so much power, the Flora is perfect for controlling large numbers of LEDs, and it can even drive up to 50 NeoPixel addressable LEDs straight from the onboard supply.

Adafruit Flora
TYPE: Microcontroller
PRICE: $20
PROCESSOR: 8-bit ATmega32u4
DIMENSIONS: 1.8″ round
MEMORY: 32KB flash
ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Version 2 improvements: micro USB jack and onboard neo pixel