Quality tools

Every time I get a little time to work in the shop, I’m reminded of the benefit of quality tools. Like many, I’ve victimized myself with the purchase of low quality tools from big box stores. Most often, these purchases are made with expediency in mind and the forlorn hope that this time a cheap tool will yield acceptable results. But from their purchase, to their use, to their often rapid disposal, the experience of these tools is invariably an exercise in self-flagellation.  I’ve made this mistake less often in recent years, bur even today, I sometimes lapse.

One of the tools that reminds me not to is the try square pictured below. Unlike more specialized tools (in which I often wont invest much, due to their infrequent use), this one finds its way into nearly every project. I inherited it from my grandfather, from whom I inherited all my first decent tools. I didn’t get to know him very well, but in receiving a few of these objects, I feel like I came to understand some of what he had obviously learned — perhaps over decades — about quality.


The tool is a simply try-square, but this one is imbued with a quality of materials and craftsmanship that is unlike any other square — or tool — I’ve owned. I didn’t realize this fully until I learned more about its creator. More information about this particular tool and the maker behind it can be found at https://www.woodworkersjournal.com/john-economaki-designer-of-tools/.

Minimal Office

One of the coolest parts about running Pixel and Timber is the amount of collaboration we get to do with awesome clients and partners. In the last few months, this work has taken me to Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis, Scranton, Harrisburg, and New York City, to name just a few.

Our collaborative work often includes live brainstorm, concept sketching, CAD modeling and more. At past employers, there was a lo of pressure to wait for a presentation before interacting with our clients, yet we had found repeatedly that just an hour or two of onsite collaboration can yield massive gains in both the efficiency and quality of the work. One of the reasons we formed P&T was to make this more collaborative model possible.

To make this collaborative work possible, I’ve created what amounts to a mobile office. The image below shows the contents of this mobile office. Over the years, this kit has changed — mostly in the direction of lighter and smaller. The few items below allow me to operate the entire business efficiently whether at home or abroad.


More Modular Fiddles!

My silent F-F-Fiddle alongside its newest compadre — a lulzbot-colored Modular Fiddle. Both were designed by the brilliant Dave Perry.

My silent F-F-Fiddle alongside its newest compadre — a lulzbot-colored Modular Fiddle. Both were designed by the brilliant Dave Perry.

Obviously, I've become a huge fan of Dave Perry’s work. Pictured here are the first and most recent of his fiddles I’ve printed. I printed the first — his electric F-F-Fiddle — to take advantage of its unamplified nature. (If you’ve ever heard someone new to violin practicing, you’ll understand my motivation.) After the success of that fiddle, I printed one for our violin teacher and, recently, another for a friend whose son is also taking Suzuki lessons. (Needless to say, Christmas will also be covered this year.)

One of the coolest aspects of Suzuki is that parents learn to play right alongside their kiddos. (This is especially nice for parents, like myself, who regret having never mastered an instrument as a kid.) Renting a pair of violins can be pricey, so the ability to print one or both (the second a scaled-down version) is fantastic!

The ability to scale the size of the violin to fit the student is a great feature for parents. It could also be nice for teachers who would like to provide instruments for their students. It also might be interesting to leverage the modular fiddle’s ability to mix and match colors as an incentive to young students to stick with this difficult instrument. Perhaps it could be used like the belt system in many martial arts to indicate the rank (or simply age) of the musician. (E.g. “Stick with it Timmy; you’re almost a red fiddle with blue and white tips!”)

In any case, this modular acoustic fiddle is the fourth of Dave Perry’s design I’ve printed. Like the first, I printed it in black and Lulzbot green to honor our hard-working Taz 6.


The rest of the P&T team will back me up when I say that I’m no one’s first call for computer-related problems (even including my parents). That said, I discovered a solution tonight to one that’s been bugging me since my first 386 PC… I finally learned how to kill the Caps Lock key.

Some of you will say “of course you can do that.” The rest will recall having thoughts such as “$hIt!…I need to google how to disable this stupid caps lock key” for the last decade. If you’re in the latter camp and, like myself, don’t understand why this throwback to the mechanical typewriter still exists, you’ve probably been meaning to disable it (violently, if need be) for longer than you can recall. Lucky for you, Apple provides the sweet, sweet relief you’ve been looking for. (No more Photoshop crosshairs!)

System Preferences > Keyboard > Modifier Keys > Caps Lock> No Action.

Now sit back and let the tide of satisfaction wash over you.


Thank you Apple. You complete me.