Entries Tagged as 'Tools and Tech'

Molten Glass

February 12th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Tools and Tech

Glas-1 Glas-2 Glas-3

Our next video features a molten glass grand finale. Here’s some behind the scenes shots. The hot liquid glass is dripping into an aquarium filled with shredded paper (and burning the paper as it drips). Special thanks to Sean Salstrom and the Glass Sculpture class at RISD.

This Rigid/Steel City Table Saw Can Kill You

August 23rd, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tools and Tech


This Rigid Model R4511 Table Saw from Home Depot recently was recalled. Apparently, in certain situations the blade comes off and can kill you. Here's the link. Also note that Steel City table saws might use the same parts and factory: owners should contact Steel City. 

So, that said, what's a good table saw these days? I have three recommendations:

1) For the artists who are accident prone (i.e. those of you who generally go too fast, work too late, take risks to get the job done, ignore safety rules and don't use safety devices with table saws), or if you are purchasing a tool that less experienced users will use (like a school shop) then there is only one brand you should consider: SawStop. They are twice as expensive as anything out there and for good reason: if you accidently touch the blade they stop. Really. See the site and the videos on the site. This is a new tool, but one many professionals and universities are trusting. Brace yourself: these are $1700 – $5000.

2) For the artists who follow safety rules (and who recognize that there are many tools that can hurt/kill you: one safer tool doesn't protect you from the others) then our best recommendation is buying a used cabinet saw like a Delta Unisaw or a Powermatic 66 off of CraigsList. We just picked up a 1952 Unisaw in great shape for $300. The trick about large tools is the older ones are built better. The newer ones are built overseas and are designed to save the company money. Further: when you decide to sell it you can get the same price you paid. Be patient, it took us a couple years to find our Unisaw. Get a RSS fishing line going on your local CraigsList.

I should note that there are 3 kinds of table saws: benchtops, contractor style, and cabinet saws. Benchtops are ultra-portable and ultra hard to use on anything larger than 20" or so. Contractor styles are generally full sized, have more stable fences and are cheaper but they generally have the motor hanging out the back. If the motor hits anything than the saw can easily get off alignment. Since the trunnions (the metal that hold the blade and rotating assembly) are mounted to the table on Contractor style saws, it's generally voodoo to align them. Cabinet saws have cabinet mounted trunnions and internally mounted motors but are more expensive. A used cabinet saw is SO MUCH BETTER than a new contractor style.

3) For artists who appreciate safety, are perhaps scared to death of table saws, or use a lot of plywood sheets and don't like wrestling them on a table saw, or don't have a lot of space for a table saw or need a portable and DUST FREE solution we recommend the Festool Plunge Cut Circular Saw and Track System. This is a totally different way to think about cutting wood. It's a circular saw that fits on a track. Put the aluminum track on your plywood and the saw fits snugly on the track and makes a perfect AND EASY cut. CRAZY SAFE. The saw is a plunge cut saw which means that the blade always retracts into a metal shield. This also means you can easily cut a hole in the middle of a sheet. Work with angles? This is your tool. Hook it up to the Festool vacuum and it's almost dust free cutting, perfect for galleries or if you live in your studio. This system can replace a table saw or be a brilliant compliment to a table saw (if you're using a lot of sheets). Brace yourself: this system starts at about $450 and you'll need/want options (like a 107" track for cutting a sheet lengthwise) that drive the final price up towards $600-$900. 

Here's a lower priced competitor to the Festool system that many like as well. It's a $160ish track that works with the circular saw you already own.

Axiom in Boston on Sept 11

August 10th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Tools and Tech


We’re pleased to be a part of the Pulling Back the Curtain exhibition at Axiom in Boston from August 17th to September 27th, with a reception on September 11th from 6-9 pm. We’re projecting 5 videos in HD.

Which raises the question: how does one show HD video art content? Allow me to nerd out for a moment.

This question has bugged us for the last 6 months. This was one of the main reasons we resisted upgrading to HD. For the last three shows, we’ve tried the usual solutions to get around this problem and haven’t liked anything until now. Here’s what we’ve considered:

1) An SD (standard definition) disc playing on a DVD player. This is by far the worst way to see video art. It’s even worse than VHS. At least with VHS you get a authentic older technology feel. The compression (those jagged geometric shapes that live in the dark places) is absolutely horrific (unless the artist is making work about them). HD content on SD discs is much better than SD content on SD discs, but still: the low resolution combined with the high amount of visual artifacts is downright embarrassing. 

2) Blue Ray discs. We have several video artists friends who have successfully started to rely on this format. They all have battle scars though. One friend said it took 6 months to resolve a workable solution (his price for always being ahead of the curve). Final Cut Pro (standard pro video editing program we–and everyone we know–use) just came out with a new version that can burn Blue Ray. Sort of. I’ve talked to the Apple FCP reps and it’s not fully supported. It only works through Compressor (part of the FCP suite), not DVD Studio Pro (the program designed to master discs) and is filled with holes. Like for example you can’t custom design a menu or a disc without a menu (like for exhibitions). 

There are other programs like Toast that people use to burn BR discs, but I’m suspicious: Meg and I use too many funky formats and have such specific needs (being able to burn a disc with no menus that loop, being able to customize a menu, being compatible with 24P, 30P, etc) that I’m wary of investing the money into the software, burning hardware and playing hardware only to discover there is something we need that all this third party stuff mashed together won’t do. There are just too many variables.

Further: disc formats, including Blue Ray, seem already dead. Video is already going the way of computers and hard drives (see what has happened so quickly to music).

3) Multimedia hard drives. This is an exciting new development. Brands like Lacie have begun to spend a lot of energy here. Till now, they haven’t been able to handle 1080P (without uprezzing smaller files). Lacie just came out with a new one that apparently will. It’s a harddrive with a small computer attached that controls playback. You can load your digital movies on it and then plug it into a monitor or projector.  It’s even got the ability to auto play and loop (heads up artists). It’s not out yet but is coming shortly (it’s already on Lacie’s site so it should be here within weeks/months)

4) Ok so the future looks bright, what do we do now? The Mac Mini. We just picked one up for $634 to drive the Axiom show. We did a lot of research and recommend the cheaper Mini with 2 GB ram (with 2 GB the video card shares 256mb to help with large files–additional ram will not help). This unit plays our intense DVCPRO compressed 1080P HD videos without blinking. Without the additional compression that discs place on work, the images look stunning. Further: uprezzed SD content without disc compression looks SMASHING: better than we’ve ever exhibited it. 

You can easily hook these things up so that when the power comes on, they automatically turn on, open your video and loop it (using Automator–included on all Macs). This means we hand a box to the gallery and all they have to do is turn on and off the power strip to turn on or off a video show.

LA Project: Constructing Cubes Background

January 25th, 2009 · No Comments · 2009 While She Waits for the..., Tools and Tech



Thanks to our friend A, we got a roll of this fabric (with about 300' on it) for a ridiculously small amount.

BTW, that's our home-made tool scaffolding. It's about 5' tall and gives us easy access to our 10' ceiling, which is needed often. More than that: the middle shelf has all of our commonly used tools and the bottom shelf has an air compressor and vacuum. We just roll it to where-ever we're working.

Terrible, but Fascinating

January 25th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tools and Tech

The Tree Terminator – Watch more free videos

Happy 25th Macintosh

January 24th, 2009 · No Comments · Tools and Tech

Broken Tool Grinds Production to a Halt

January 20th, 2009 · No Comments · 2009 While She Waits for the..., Tools and Tech


Omer 12.40 

We're fans of Omer nail guns, and the Italian made Omer 12.40 is a wonderful instrument to build with–as it should be at $271: 2-3 times the cost of common 18 gauge brad nailers like a Porter Cable or Senco. It's built like a tank and has subtle and nuanced features and balance other guns don't have (even better than the $365 Max NF255-ST/18). These features are hard to describe but they make it worth the price for anyone who spends a lot of time with a brad nailer like we do. 

However, a tool is only as good as its weakest component and today we discovered exactly where that is: the plastic magazine cover (and in particular a thinner point on the cover). After working hard for 5 years, I suppose something found a way to get to it. We've sent an SOS to Omer. Hopefully they'll set everything straight asap. 

UPDATE: Omer is amazing. They're fixing it for free (it has a lifetime warranty) and fast (about a 2 week turn around). Pleased as punch.

LA Project: Cubing Lamps

January 16th, 2009 · No Comments · 2009 While She Waits for the..., Tools and Tech



OK for all you artists who work with wood: notice the miter saw with the board bolted to the fence. Bolt on a board to both sides of your miter and cut through it. That gives you the EXACT cutting line and makes your miter fast and accurate. Need to cut an angle? Just slide the fences back and when you return them it's still aligned. We clamp "stops" (chunk of 2×6) to the longer side for repeat cuts. 

We use a 12" Delta Industrial Dual Bevel miter saw. We bought it because its cutting distance is incredible (almost as long as a slider, but with less moving parts it's more accurate). That said, the blade is so far forward it tends to kick more sawdust up and over your head than I like. If I were doing it again I'd go Makita, who make legendary miter saws. 

There is no one brand that makes everything right. All brands usually do a few things MUCH better than their competition and everything else worse. That's how they make their money. The key is to know which brands (and models) to get for each tool. This requires a lot of data, but fortunately there are premium forums to help. I've been a member of this one for a long time (it can be rowdy, but the answers you'll get are top notch). 

I should also note: never get tool advise from anybody who doesn't use the tool (like most store salesmen–not all–but most).

Color Correction

November 26th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Tools and Tech


One of the things that has kept us busy the last couple months is color calibrating our computer monitors, which means getting a colorimeter. Oh my gosh. These things make a HUGE difference. I had no idea I was looking at such bad color before. 

We've tried three systems: an older Monaco OPTIX ($400 4 years ago), a new Spyder 3Elite ($300) and a newer top of the line system a friend has that I can't remember the name of (it's so expensive–something like $1500–that the name doesn't really matter: only publishing companies can justify it). 

Conclusion: the new Spyder 3Elite is by far the best bang for the buck. It easily bests the older colorimeter and it's close enough to the pro model to not lose sleep. To be fair, the pro model produces visibly better grays, but not $1200 better. I'd say it like this: the older colorimeter is 70% better than a non-corrected monitor, the Spyder is 80% better and the pro model is 83% better (and of course these numbers reflect a gut feeling, not a scientific approach). 

The real conclusion: if you are a photographer and you don't have a colorimeter then you need one asap. 


August 21st, 2008 · No Comments · Tools and Tech

We’re still moving into our studio. Here’s the scaffold we made to paint (and will use later for fabrication).