Tag Archives: Wood

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Pine 10 inch drum

03.03.2017 – Pine and Cedar drums

I’ve been making more and more drums over the winter – I have 7 or 8 now under my belt.  I’m making them because I want to become great at making them – tone, playability, looks, pitch, toughness, beauty, record-ability – all of that – but also because I am doing R&D for Hexagon Craftworks, trying to ramp up to being able to sell a very nice set of items that people will love having in their set of instruments.  I also enjoy the creative process of doing it.  I have made a few improvements with these two, and every time I do one, it gets better.

P I N E   D E C A G O N   D R U M

First, I made a pine-based decagon with 10 sides.  It’s about 10″ wide by 11″ deep.  I have always loved the knots and grain of pine, and it’s look when it’s stained dark.  Before stain, the drum shell was almost white!  Very light.  Pine gets “fluffy”, too – it takes stain deeply and I had to sand the hell out of it, with 60, 150, up to 400, and it came out great!  The reddish stain sank in and gave it a super-awesome look after the clear.

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Pine 10 inch drum

The tone of this drum has the best tone from any drum I have made so far!  And, it’s light.  Maybe the shell resonates more?  I don’t know.  An oak drum that has half the dimensions still weighs twice as much as this (roughly).  The oak ones have their own kind of tone, but this one just came out great with a thicker goat skin.

As I said, the wood is softer, and that comes with advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage is that it’s easy to sculpt, and part of the disadvantage is that… it’s easy to sculpt!  Make one mistake trying to carve that logo in there and it’s very hard to overcome, so I had to be extremely careful carving detail this wood.  But, using the router and sanders to shape it was a great experience.

C E D A R   D E C A G O N   D R U M

I made another 10-sided drum from cedar, but this time I went crazy and made the width 4″ and gave it a foot height.  This thing “pops”!  I love this drum, too!  An added benefit with this one is that it just matches my arm length with my fingers on the head, so I can get my upper arm behind the drum and use it to bend the pitch when I need to without using an extra hand – nice advantage.

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Cedar 4 inch drum

The wood is of course darker in color so the added stain on top makes it darker than the reference.  I used a charcoal-like stain on this one and it came out great!  I did the straps differently on this one and I really like it.  It’s a better “system” for keeping the skin tight, plus managing the exposed strap.  I will do this more.

Now I know what seems to be the limit of a medium-thickness head – I’d say about a 4-inch diameter.  I think it would have been better to use a lighter gauge head on it as the tone is a bit muted, but still has some good overtones – actually probably pretty useful for mic’ing it up, but I do enjoy a small drum that is rather spilling out with higher harmonics.  I also made the bearing edge more rounded, so that affects it.  It still sounds really good and unique and I love playing it.

I N   T H E   E N D

After it’s all said and done, these drums are my favorites, and they’ve gotten great response from the initial groups I have shown them to – from both players and collectors, and including general art and music enthusiasts.  I try to get the most honest feedback from people as possible to help me identify what people are liking and what they would like to see better.  That’s for the market research, but I also just take them to jam sessions to actually play and have fun, as well. 🙂

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Drum Clamps

I have a few more drums I’ll do in March, one with more exotic wood, one with a thinner oak, and another with pine.  And, I’d love to do one with birch!  I’ll do some lighter tints and experiment with mixing paint with some of the stain to get a vingette effect around the borders.  Also, I will do at least one with more carving detail around the sides, like a plant sprouting out or hanging from the top.  And, there’s even the idea of making a drum from a geometric platonic solid – that would be super awesome cool!  Still working on that one…  Lots of ideas, I just gotta keep on making and making!

Native Stave Drum 8 Inch Rawhide

11.25.2016 – New Hand Drums

I’ve been making drums in anticipation of releasing a few lines of instruments through Hexagon Craftworks.  I’m doing a little R&D, making different kinds and proving different techniques.  I’ve built 5 so far and modified a few more that I had built in the past, and I have several upcoming.

I used to work in a drum shop and I’ve been a drummer since school, so making them to play them is a good combination – a great way to spend my time and fulfilling as well.  My academic background is in both audio and computer engineering, so that also helps me tune the sound because afterwards, I can record them to the machine and analyze what sound properties each building technique has produced, and where to go from there.

The goal for me now is to have 10 or so varying kinds that I can take out with me and have musicians play them, collectors look at them and hold them and to see what people like or don’t like about them, in general.  Of course, my vote counts as well.  I’ll be seeing what features I consistently like in them.  Then, once I have the feedback, I can go on to produce more of the drums and features that make the most sense to do.

Hopefully, I’ll be releasing this line of drums to my web store ( https://www.hexagoncraftworks.com ) sometime during the Spring of 2017.  I also have other things I’m making to sell in the store so I will have to determine priorities at the time, such as the Snub Dodecahedron model and the wood tools.

Native Stave Drum 18 Inch Rawhide


This one (above) is a big one – an 18″ hexadecagonal stave drum made out of oak.  It’s got a thick cow rawhide head.  The properties, of course, change with moisture and temperature, but at about 75 degrees F and 50% humidity (comfortable indoors), it’s fundamental tone is somewhere around 38Hertz, with a loud overtone around 100Hz.  Perfect little boom and punch combo.


Native Stave Drum 10 Inch Rawhide

This next one is about 10″ in diameter and it started out as an octagon.  It’s also made out of oak.  The thin rawhide is very transparent and was a pleasure to work with.  I really like the sound of it, too.  It’s got lots of overtones and resonance.

Native Stave Drum 8 Inch Rawhide

And, this one is another oak drum (I love working with oak, but have some made out of cedar and pine, as well).  It’s smaller – about 8 inches OD and is rounded octagonal as well.  It’s got a very high, tight, pingy tone – perfect for a slap or backbeat with ghost notes.  Also, it has a carved logo right in the front, and I took some creative liberties with the lacing and forming.

I have a few more not shown on this post, but these 3 are my finest examples.  All in all, they were all made from hardwood lumber that I cut and processed, and I’m still refining my methodologies, but I have a solid hold on the techniques I’ve used to make these.  After a few more, I’ll have decided on a good base set of techniques to call my “style”.

There were a few challenges along the way – cutting and forming wet wood, getting the router to stay in place and not damage the sides when it binds, the notches becoming to small to twist the leather lace around, sanding across the grain, ripping various angles along a long piece, and of course, heads tearing and popping from excessive tension.  I got those worked out and look forward to doing this again!

Brad's Garden Plan 2016

10.24.2016 – Garden (Part One)

I built a raised-bed garden 2 months ago.  I am excited about growing my own food.  I buy an awful lot of fruits and veggies from the grocery store, and I want to experiment with having my own source.  Plus, I like watching the miracle of plants growing.  And, I like eating different varieties and studying them – all very interesting to me.

So, I grow.  These are my “test beds”, quite literally.  I made 3 beds to study how things will grow (even in this late part of the season – I just moved here).  Later, I will expand it 10-fold when I acquire some larger acreage.  This is a great pre-cursor experiment to see what mistakes I make or what problems I encounter here so that I can learn from them when I scale up – or if it just does really well, I’ll replicate.  I also want to see what dies in the frost and what survives and why.  Come Springtime, I’ll have a better understanding of what needs to be done for each plant I’m interested in when I plan the next layout.

So, here’s what I’ve got growing:  Corn, wheat, cucumbers, garlic, strawberries, tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, Chinese peppers, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, squash, onions, kale, radish, swiss chard, basil, parsley, cilantro, aloe vera, cacti, and probably a few more that I’m not remembering.  And, I have several varieties of some of them.  Let’s see what happens!

I planned the whole thing out before I started growing.  Here’s the chart:

Brad's Garden Plan 2016

So, I started the build in the late summer.  I used as much reclaimed wood (untreated) as I could find.  For instance I found some great 20′ 2×8’s used previously as roof rafters to use and had plenty of standard 2×4’s.  I bought the rest and went to work.

Brad Garden Pickaxe 2016

Muddy Garden Build

To make a long story short, I initially intended to drop them into the existing soil, but I decided to change halfway through to do raised beds as a more controlled experiment – like growing in huge containers with known, looser soil.  And, I ended up matching the building width of 7′ for alignment, so these are 4′ by 7′, and there are 3 of them.

That’s the old deconstructed, broken-down pyramid vocal booth that I built for my old home, in the background.  I broke it down to use the wood.  I found another sound booth solution for this place.  As you can see, the frames came up nicely – it was much easier after it stopped raining so much!  It was a pleasure to design and build these things – there’s great fulfillment that comes from it.  And, the garden area has remnant parts of that vocal booth and another climbing wall that I harvested wood from.  So, there’s some memories in there, as well.  🙂

Garden Under Construction


Brad's Bed Design - Close Up

And, finally, the finished product (below) with a few plants growing. 🙂  It took me about a month of evenings and weekends, after trial and error and design changes to finish it.  I used all untreated lumber for contact with the soil and plants.  For the treated 4×4’s, they are lined with plastic all the way up on the inside.  There are cons to using untreated lumber, too – they rot with extended water contact.  But with the chemically treated wood, I fear that they’d leech into the soil.  Cedar was overly expensive for my budget, so I went with what I had.  It’ll be fine for a few years.  It’s looking good!

Brad's Finished Garden with Rainbow

I am really enjoying my new location and being able to build stuff – having a great place to work out of.  I’ll be here for about a year while I save up and scout for a more permanent, larger acreage that I can live at for 10+ years.  The structures are transportable, so I can re-use them if need be.  My workshop is just adjacent to the garden, so I work wood and paint and carve stuff just right there nearby with the scenery – very inspiring to me!  I have a saw station, an “assembly” station, and a covered tool rack and deck that I’ll show more of with the 2nd garden update.  A fun, relaxing place for me to be.

In the evenings, like in this pic, the plants do go out of sunlight, but they get full sun from the time it comes up until about 6 or 7pm, in the Summer and Fall.  I specially prepared the soil with carefully-measured, all organic compost, vermiculite, peat moss, and other “dirt” to serve as an experiment to see what happens, built also of course, I made the soil rich and organic to grow good plants to eat, too.


Brad Ormand Ibanez 8-String RG Prestige

07.11.2016 – New Ibanez Prestige 8-String Guitar

Yep, that’s right!  I got a new guitar.  It’s beautiful!  Now I have a USA Stratocaster and an Ibanez RG on hand to work with (Plus the Precision Bass and my acoustic, a Fender Del Mar).  This Ibanez has 8 strings (with a low B and an F# below the standard open E).  Some of you already know about this kind of guitar.  It’s an RG Prestige model with a  Hazelnut Ale finish.  It has EMG 808 pickups, and I really like them, actually – I don’t plan on changing them.  Very “woody”, and with lots of grain.

But, yeah – I was looking for more strings to play than the standard 6.  And, I at least I knew I wanted the 7th string for a lower appeal.  I wanted to continue the scale down and was looking to be able to play some lower accompanying notes with my chords and double-stops as well.  Muting has been a challenge, though.  When you wanna play, for instance, the regular E major shape, you can’t just pick the bottom 2 strings as well, you have to either mute them or skip them on the fly before the strum.  Ha – I’m still getting used to that, but actually, it’s helping my technique.  But, other than that, I have no other problem at all navigating the vertical direction.

Brad Ormand - Ibanez RG Prestige 8-String

Coming from 6 strings, the “targeting” is different.  Usually, you’d just either do it by feel or count strings from either top or bottom, from either E, to find out where to fret/pick in the moment.  But, with the 2 additional strings there, if you need to get to the low E, you have to be able to quickly count from the high point: 1 (F#), 2(B), to 3 (the low E string) to get the quick targeting right.  Or, you could just think in terms of F#.  It takes a while to get used to it – just like if you get a new tool belt with more slots on it, it takes a bit of practice to become familiar with it to where you can just reach, grab, and go.  But, it’s no problem, it’s fun to learn.

In the horizontal direction, lengthwise along the fretboard, the scale length is 27″ – an inch and a half longer than my Strat than I’m used to.  But, actually…  I find it even more comfortable!  Especially past the 15th fret.  I’m excited to pick it up every time.

F# to B is a fourth, B to E is a fourth, as E to A is a fourth, and so on…  So, I can continue scale patterns right down the strings and the patterns are the same.  And, believe me, it’s awesomely fun to rip through an extended scale or lick from the lowest to the highest string, doing all 8 in a row – great fun!

I have experimented with tuning on this thing.  As I said, the standard tuning is: F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E, (although Ibanez, I think, ships them all with a step lower) and I tried to turn the B down to an A, like F#, A, E, A, D, G, B, E, so I could have and extra “fundamental” tone when I play in Am or Cmaj.  And, it allowed me to do similar dropped-D-style  playing in the middle there.  However, it just was awkward and I felt like I’d be better off using standard tuning and just reaching when I need the dropped stuff.  I also experimented with dropping the F# to E, but man, that low string gets floppy fast when you deviate too much, but it’s possibly workable.  Maybe one day, I will write something specifically for that, but for now, I like the standard fourths.

Brad Ormand Ibanez 8-String RG Prestige

So, I recored a demo of it – take a listen if you want.  I think it sounds rad!


I look forward to writing more and more songs in the rock and metal genre this Summer and Fall.  Also, I am learning how I can incorporate the lower strings to standard chords to get really full ring-outs.  And, lastly, I’m really enjoying the Ibanez RG Prestige “sound”.  There’s so much tone to explore, just by holding notes, bending them, pinching harmonics, and the pickup positions – You can make this guitar “talk” – it’s really a great experience!





Sheet Music Unfolded

04.07.2016 – Guitar Practice and Crafts

I just spent the month of March on an initiative to improve my music theory and guitar playing skills.  I worked on other projects, too during this time, but haven’t finished anything to show.  The results of the practice are pretty amazing, though.  I’m doing it again for April.  I wanted to be able to take my existing guitar skills and augment them to be able to play all of my Major and Minor scale shapes, plus the Blues scale, clean, in every key, all up and down the neck at 90 BPM, sixteenth notes.  I couldn’t do it March 1st – it was too fast, but by April 1st, I was able to do it!

I’m not primarily a guitar player, but I knew the keyboard and a lot of theory, so I could visualize the intervals and know what each sounds like on the keys, but to use my left hand fingers to do it was hard.  I have been playing guitar at a casual level for a long time, and have come up with the parts and recorded guitar on all of my songs, but wanted the ability to express my ideas with more ease.  And, I’m getting into using the guitar as a MIDI instrument and harmonic EFX generator, too.  So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  I’ve practiced every day for at least 30 minutes for 30 days – getting these left hand fingers and picking hand stronger!  It’s a lot like working out (and speaking of, I have been exercising for 30 days straight, too, but that’s beside the point).  For May 1st, I’m trying for that group of scales and positions, up and down, at 100BPM, sixteenths.  120 in July.

After I get to a good technical point, then I can start creating patterns and phrases and learning the songs I had previously written in a new light and see where I want to take them.  New stuff, old stuff, and stuff yet to be laid down.  And, re-create these ideas in a way that inspires the greatest of good-feeling emotions.  That is the goal for that.

Brad Ormand - Guitar Practice Left Hand


My other projects, like the audio granulator, woodcarving, and drum construction, are in a holding pattern.  I notice my tendency to “cycle” through each discipline every few months.  But, actually, I’m fine with that.  I noticed last night when I came across some code for my audio apps while backing up my drive, that I actually held myself back from working on it, as if to say, “No, not now – I’m practicing guitar and I have green paint waiting to be used on the canvas before I can get back to you, audio app“.  And, that’s fine.  Why not?  I think…

I’m inspired more to explore ideas that are just surfacing and “hot” right now so I can “lock them in”, and then get back to them on the next cycle.  But… the downside is that I lose some momentum.  But, I capture the “hot” ideas in the stream of consciousness.  Just an observation.  Evens out, I guess.  And, this project log shows me what I come back to and what I don’t.  Most I cycle back to.  I sure do have a lot of interests, though – that’s for sure.

However, I do think about the different categories of projects I have active every day – and I always have a base level of inspiration for them all that never leaves.  And, it’s more exciting to get back to them after a bit of a break and after a large success in another field.  Rationalization or not, it is what it is right now, and until I get to the point to where I do them as my primary business, I can continue to operate in this way.


My job takes up most of my time (as does driving to and from it).  I’m okay with it because it funds my projects.  However, I would rather my PROJECTS fund my PROJECTS.  haha – I mean that makes the most sense, right?  I’d be hard at work all day on them if I didn’t have these other responsibilities.  On the flip side – my career is in Software Development right now, I’ve worked hard on it,  and they need me and I need them and it’s a good “handshake”.

So, for now, I’m happy.  But, fueling my choices, somewhat, when I decide how to spend my project time is definitely motivated by what I can come up with that #1) I love to do, and #2) that will provide me a profit to put back into the skills that created it.  The audio app and drum construction ideas are the hottest right now, as far as crafting.  And the idea of making excellent music that does well in the marketplace and licenses well (and that I really like!) is an inspiration for my theory and guitar practice right now – to really bump up my ability to produce well-made songs.  Better than before.

Sheet Music Unfolded

Sometimes, I just want to paint for relaxation and sometimes, I just want to play music for enjoyment, so it’s both – a desire to make worthy “products”, mixed with a desire to enjoy my skills.

Either way, I’m getting better skills in the process.  And, that leads to being better able to express my vision, which would be the ultimate goal – To be able to express myself in the most powerful ways possible.

Nickel Woodcarving 1 Brad Ormand

2016.01.26 – Woodcarving Pieces – Nickel and Horses

I finished two relief woodcarvings over the last month or so – a Nickel coin and two Palomino horses making a heart.  I gifted the horse one to my aunt and I still have the nickel.  I think they look really good.  I’m getting better and better at this as I go along, and as I gain more inspiration.  There are still quirks in my crafting process to be worked out of course, but it’s definitely rolling.  Can’t wait to keep it going and do some other ideas.

Brad Ormand Woodcarving Palomino Horses

Both are hand-carved with knives and chisels, using my homemade hammer (I love that hammer, I’ll be making some more of those soon, as well).  And, I used various grains of sandpaper to smooth it all out.  At the end, I used a Dremel tool to sand the inside of the smaller crevices.  I think I could have gone deeper and made the edges smoother with my chisels, but I will need to form new techniques, and perhaps use more precise tools – or just make the medium bigger.  Keeping the tools sharp was a constant challenge as well, but I kept the stones and oil on hand and sharpened them every day.  The wood is Basswood – usually pretty soft, but these were actually pretty tough cuts – I have had an easier time carving in Cedar and Mahogany.  And, the areas near the pith were really hard to keep smooth.  But, I adapted.

//  P A L O M I N O _ H O R S E S

Brad Ormand Holding Horses Carving

The horses came out of a Thanksgiving conversation with my aunt.  She collects horse-related artwork of different kinds.  I was chatting with her and some people around the dinner table about what I had been doing lately, about my recent carvings (the old man, the lion, the other faces), and she mentioned she liked Palomino horses, and I said that I’d love to try to do some Palomino horses in wood, with that long hair, one of these days.  I thought it would go great on wood.  That night, I sketched something up, got excited about it and decided to do the challenge!  The carving itself took me about 50 hours or so altogether over the holidays.  I gave it to her for Christmas.

//  N I C K E L

Nickel Woodcarving 1 Brad Ormand

I was sitting at my desk at work one day and was about to buy a soda from the machine around the corner.  I noticed an especially shiny nickel from my pocket and was drawn in by the relief of the Monticello.  I had just bought a few wood rounds to experiment with, and right then [pow], I decided to map that nickel out onto the wood round and carve a huge nickel cuz it seemed like a fun idea.

I got a little caliper and measured the fine detail on the nickel coin, and with a little algebra, mapped it onto the wood.  I started with the Monticello, got it placed right, and then filled in the lettering and borders.  After I carved the letters and windows, I burned them in to be dark.  I did some more rounding, detailing, and cut deeper, over 10 or so sessions a few days apart.  I’d guess the whole thing took me about 75 hours of work.  It was a great experience – just ridin’ in the zone and implementing ideas over and over, havin’ fun.

I plan to do more relief carving in those Basswood rounds.  Lots of fun, but also pretty painstaking, so I want to do the “right” ideas – ones that I feel excited about.  I want to do faces, like a dog or a lion, but I’m having a good time with coins and seals.  I’ll be starting on another soon.


Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

12.15.2015 – Hex Light and Animation Controller

Recently, I have been making a light animation controller.  The prototype is on a breadboard and combined with a separate little 2 x 3 RGB LED matrix module I built last month.  I have the system running on 3.3v with a few test animations programmed in C on a 16-bit Pic24.

I’m excited about this project and I’m continually making it better – both in features and in the kinds of animations I’m writing.  It’s pretty wonderful to see it all come together!

I still need to mount the pieces together and stain them, but it’s taking shape.  I’m also going to carve the pieces with some more detail and perhaps put in some metal inlays – I’m still messin’ with it.  In the end, it’ll all be one piece, but I just have it sitting on the BB for the time being, to get a bearing.

Got some stills here:

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

I cut and sanded some wood last night and put a cut sheet of coated mylar underneath to let the colors diffuse and shine through a bit.  I thought of this design while falling asleep a few nights ago and got back up to draw it out on the wood.  So, it was nice to see it come to life.

Mainly, my workstation has been my pool table (lol), and it’s a pretty awesome little surface.  I clean it off and play pool in between projects, but yeah, it’s central and in the main room and it’s a great place to work.  Also, I have some of my other in-progress projects in the background there that I brought out to be inspired by 🙂  This captures the scene for the end of 2015, for me to look back on…

Hex Light Circuit - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Breadboard - Brad Ormand

The pins talk to multiplexer-inverter chip pairs that gives each anode and cathode of the matrix a 3-bit address that I take advantage of when I control the sequence in code.  I like this way of doing things – the complexity has been offloaded to the hardware.  I handle the current load by never having two or more LEDs on at the same time – it’s just very fast switching that makes it look “on”.  I have a rotary encoder switching the animations, properly debounced, feels great, and integrated into the user event loop to provide more features.

As I go along this month, I’ll be closer to deciding on an arrangement for a reproducible product.  I’m currently investigating putting in an OLED or Chip-on-Glass display to show the current animation and battery state, etc.  Some smaller products won’t have this, but I want other, larger ones, to have that visual piece in there.

All-in-all, I have been busy with software engineering at my day job, but when I have the time, I like to work most on this project – it’s an offshoot, or simplification, of the honeycomb light I worked on earlier this year.

I have been doing a little painting lately using a “crackle” technique, and I have been drawing and carving more human faces, too – gettin’ better with both.  One day, I’ll integrate all of them into my professional projects as well.  The practice in those other disciplines, though, also helps me come up with designs like this to do this project:

Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

And, the next step on this Hex Light project is to design the SMD boards and get those etched and tested.  Once they work and I have the kinks worked out, I’ll send off for some properly solder-masked, dark green and gold boards (fancy), and drop my logo on it for a real nice-looking internal product.  And, yeah, I’m going to make the board a hex shape, too. 🙂   Until next time…

Cucumber Plant - Brad Ormand's Garden

09.25.2015 – Gardening & Land

In less than a year, I am planning on getting a big spread of land to build a homestead on.  I’ll have my wood workshop, my electronics lab, my recording studio, my tool shed, my camping areas, and my painting and crafting area all on the property.  I mean, that’s total paradise to me!  In my mind, I ask, “why spend more in the city for a quarter acre and close neighbors, when you could have your very own territory to expand and grow food out in the quiet country!”  That’s obvious to me (for my life).  There’s still excellent community out there…  But, there are different strokes for different folks, I realize.  I’m going to build a home there, put down some roots, and then get ready to start businesses and raise a family and all that.   Even if I had a billion dollars, I’d still be on this same path – I’d just buy more acreage and have more expensive tools, ha – and probably one or two of those Pro Tools | Avid S6 consoles, as well..  but I digress…

Seedling Garden 1

Anyway, at the land, I envision at least 200 sqft of outdoor farming to start off with.  I have been growing cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.  That’s one of my projects, too.  There’s also basil and eggplant and cilantro, and more, too.  I started from seed (inside) and took care of them and now they are huge!  Well, none have bore fruit yet, but it’s almost time.  And – I wanted to test to see if I could do it in the summer.  It worked – even on 100 degree days as seedlings.  I gave them plenty of attention.  I’m glad I have done these tests/experiments with this right now to see what I have to do with a small sample size.  I’ll report about it some more when I get some fruit!  These 3 photos are about a month apart, each…

Seedling Garden 2

I’m really excited about these.  I might be moving to a new place sooner than later, but I’ll take what I can with me.  I also have about 20 other plants in other portable containers.  I’m not sure I can take the cucumber plant with me, since it has already vined, but I’ll grow another if it’s too “dug in”.  It’s really miraculous how the vines reach out for sturdy things to grab onto.  Incredible!

Cucumber Plant - Brad Ormand's Garden


Brad Ormand Wood Snub Dodecahedron

08.05.2015 – Wood Snub Dodecahedron

I have been making and painting a wood snub dodecahedron – a geometrical shape made out of wood.  These things are so much fun when they are built!  I mean just holding them is interesting.  And, it adds a rustic feel with a modern twist to a room.

Of course, I built it from math and angles and defined the pieces myself out of birch wood – that’s the fun part – I wouldn’t *not* do that part.  Not made from internet plans or anything like that.  Haha.  Just saying…  I made it similar to how I made the Truncated Icosahedron and Regular Dodecahedron.

First, I calc’d the size of each piece and marked them on the flat wood.  It’s made from 12 pentagons and 80 equilateral triangles.  I cut 80, but for the final product, I left some select ones out so it’d be see-through.  Then, I sanded the parts, glued them together at specific angles and started forming the structure.

Snub Dodecahedron Parts

Snub Dodecahedron In Progress - Brad Ormand

There’s such nice grain in this birch wood – I use it for a lot of projects.  But…  it’s kind of expensive.

So, after I had a little bit put together, I’d assess where I was at and just try to correct for the upcoming pieces.  Closing the final piece wasn’t that bad because I took care of angles along the way, but it still was a pretty delicate matter.  And, I still had to paint the inside, so I couldn’t weld it shut just yet…

I chose colors based on another woodburning piece I did when I was a kid.  I made a sign with my name burned on to it.  First, I stained the wood a nice “pecan” color.  Then, I mixed the colors, did a test segment, adjusted, and painted the whole thing, highlighting the seams to be the “burnt” ends.  It was kind of painstaking work.  But, the end result came out looking fantastic.  I already have a few more in the works.

Wood Snub Dodecahedron by Brad Ormand

Brad Ormand Wood Snub Dodecahedron

Also, during that time, I made a pretty cool necklace out of leather, beads, and that cedar wood from my tree in the shape of teeth.  I’m wearing it in this pic. I had the materials, and I just felt like doing it.  I used to be a rock climber and it started by me tying double fisherman’s knots in leather string while watching a movie with a friend.  Came out pretty good, too.  Fun, as well.  If I do more of those, I’ll log some of that, too.

Brad Ormand Lion Woodcarving 1

07.26.2015 – Woodcarving

I have been doing lots and lots of stuff with wood lately – both structure-making and wood carving.  I miss my electronic and software endeavors, but as soon as I catch up with the wood skills and everything is turning out beautiful, I’ll get back to working on those projects.  I have been having dreams of circuit board routing and animated LED light ideas, too…

Again (a common theme in this blog), I’m just following my fancy and doing what I’m inspired to do by the week.  No pressure from any angle.  I have many interests, but I don’t have the time to do everything at once.  I’m okay with that.  Every discipline I mess with is important to me.  And, in the last few weeks, I have done a few halfway-decent woodcarvings.  I had planned to carve things in the drums I made and some of the other furniture / decorative pieces I did, but I lacked the carving confidence to do it.  So, I’m exploring what things can be done, right now – gaining more skill and confidence in the process – more faces, more animals, more borders, more letters, more depth, etc.   Every time I do one, I get better.

I drew a lion onto the wood, then carved a kind of “bookend” or stand-up desk piece.  My round gouge and V-Tool lacked a bit of edge when I did this – I was missing some ingredients for sharpening, but then took care of that for the next few by getting better sharpening equipment and knives.  It came out alright, though.  I went ahead and called it “good-to-go” when I took this pic.  Director’s cut.  I’m happy to have it around!  🙂

Brad Ormand Lion Woodcarving 1

And, then, I did a pair of eyes, modeled on myself.  I kept taking references from looking into a mirror and then went along carving out the face.  Also, the painting experience came in very handy for this type of carving.  (See the Etsy Store for one of the eye paintings)  Especially all the prep work I did on eyes in pencil and acrylic, long ago.  I had to keep carving so far down past the nose end that the wood was running out of depth to do the caves of the eyes and still stand up!  The compromise worked out though – it’s a great little solid standing piece that has that intensity – looking at good eyes in art always has a bit of “magnetism”.

Brad Ormand Face Drawing 3 Woodcarving

Brad Ormand Woodcarving 2 Eyes

And then, after that, I did a kind of a Tiki face.  That was a lot of fun. I have a few more ideas for faces.  For this one, I wanted a calm smile with rounded features and that had a totem pole look to it.  Maybe one day, I will do one that is actually totem-pole sized.  I would love to, with my chisels and hammer, one day.  I do like the way this one came out!  Nice and smooth, and friendly. 🙂

Brad Ormand Face Tiki Woodcarving 3

I find woodcarving a wonderful thing to do for fun and as a productive hobby to bite into.  I’d get lost for hours just refining and refining the different parts of it.  It never feels like “work”, and there’s always a stream of ideas coming up for what the next thing should be like.  This lead to that, that leads to this, leads to that, and so on.  Good time in the deep zone.  It’s good for me.

Brad Ormand 3 Faces Woodcarving

Anyway, I’m looking forward to including carvings into my other products.  As I get them further down the road, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to make the wood things I make look even more beautiful.  Like I said, it’s a wonderful endeavor and will be a great thing to add to any finishing phase.  Big ups to Deepwoods Ventures for providing a great carving blade to work with!  I bought the Big Detail carver and a strop set.  It’s been magic to work with. Razor sharp and good, shiny, durable metal!


Woodcarving: Barbara

07.12.2015 – Wood Stuff, Tool Hanger & Garden Fence

During the last few weeks, I have been using the wood from the fallen Juniper tree to build all sorts of things.  First, I carved some raised letters into a thick, peeled branch to give to my Mom for her 60th birthday.  BARBARA.  Some of the smooth spots were hard to get into, like the inside of the “R”, and breakage did occur once or twice, but I glued the affected parts back.  In the end, it looks pretty nice.  It was a fun project that took a considerable amount of time, and I learned about where I wanna go next.  I worked on it nights and weekends, after my full-time job.  Perfect compliment to logic-heavy thinking all day…  I did lightly paint and finish parts of it, but here it is before all of that.

Woodcarving: Barbara

And, last week, I restored a raised garden and put up a fence around it.  I planted potatoes, tomatoes, and some herbs like Basil in there.  And…  when the tomatoes start to show, I’ll build a small frame out of the same wood.  I want to get my gardening skills up so that I can have a large garden one day on my own ranch land and eat my own organically grown food.  I had this particular garden going with many plants in the past (twice!), but never got to full harvest because the deer and rabbits and foxes ate them up every time!  They even ate the cactus in another pot.  Can you believe that?  Haha.  So, I had to do the fence this time.

Round  Raised  Garden

I had to dig 8-inch-deep holes down into the ground for the poles, and it was really tough going with this rocky soil where I live.  Believe me, I had to take a chisel and hammer to break up the Texas limestone rocks, a half inch at a time.  But, nonetheless, despite the work..  yes…  It was fun.

I made it a hexagon pattern, since I love hexagons, and it was a more round shape for the round garden container.  I used hexagonal plastic chicken “wire”, too.  Yep.  So, we’ll see if this is enough to keep the animals out.  Probably enough for the rabbits and foxes, but the deer can jump right over that.  However, we’ll see if they wanna put up the effort.  Let’s test it.

Garden Hexagonal Fence

And, finally, I made a tool hanger wall.  I cut a few posts off of the fell Juniper tree and skinned ’em to use as supports for the tool wall.  I sanded and shellac’d the posts and the backing board (made of birch) – they all have a nice, rich grain to them.  And, I started to lay out places to hang my tools.  It’s all securely hung up there.  I had a lot to hang and only a little space to hang them in, so it got a bit cramped.  However, this is a fAR better solution than putting them on the floor of my workshop – you know, “that place on the floor over there where all the hand tools go”…  So, yeah – the hanging system has been really awesome.

Brad Ormand's Tool Hanger

And, more importantly, the wood is from a tree that I chilled out under when it was alive.  So, it’s got that nice memory attached to it.  Below the tool hanger is a shelf that I just assembled this week, bought from the Home Depot (likely, my favorite place in the world).  Inside those crates, you’ll find sandpaper, drill and router bits, glues, knives, bolts and nuts, and many other things organized by type so I know right where they are.  Plus, the Sabre Saw, the Belt Sander, the Dremel Tool, and all of that have a home of their own.  I’m stating to get more organized and it feels good.

Brad Ormand's Etsy Shop

06.25.2015 – Etsy Store is Live!

***Update!! …  I have my own storefront now called Hexagon Craftworks .  My Etsy store is closed.  But, a lot of the same artwork is at my new store as prints and shirts and bags, etc!  I also stopped selling original paintings….


I’ve gone ahead and launched an Etsy shop with 12 of my paintings!  They are various sizes and go for various prices.  All originals on canvas – original paint and canvas texture and all.  I even got favorited, too.  Awesome.  I’m glad.  I had been wanting to launch a shop for a while now.

I have made drums and woodcarvings and hexagon lights that haven’t had a chance to mature to make an appearance up there, but, in time, more and more items will make their way to the storefront.  Lots of stuff to appeal to decorators and collectors alike.  The shop is still young.

The style, predominately, is geometric shapes, put together in a stylized fashion.  That’s where my heart is at right now.  Maybe one day I’ll do humans and dogs and lizards, but for now, I’m vibing off of the chained primitive shapes.  It’s a thing of it’s own.  Kinda like modern architecture – mostly straight lines and non-traditional.

Brad Ormand's Etsy Shop

Pick something out, and I’ll ship it to you.

That’s about all I had for now, but I’m working on some woodcarvings and plan to get the drums looking and sounding better.  So far, it’s still an adventure as I’m just going through living my life, enjoying it, getting inspired, and making things as I go.

9 Inch Log Drum - whole - Brad Ormand

06.14.2015 – Wood Drum, Mac Pro & WWDC

Every day after work this week, I carved just a little bit more out of the log for the large drum (about 9″) and finally finished it.  I used my wood mallet and 1-inch chisel for most of it, but I drilled some pilot holes with a 5/8’s bit, several times, on both sides to give me some tension relief so I wouldn’t just crack the outer shell as I hit it.  I had figured that I’d go to the hardware store to get a super long and fat bit later, but I was enjoying the chiseling, and I had already core’d it.

9 Inch Log Drum - whole - Brad Ormand

9 Inch Log Drum - cored - Brad Ormand

I set a flat rim up top, and sanded it down.  I went ahead and nailed a piece of mylar to the top opening and started seeing how it would sound.  It sounds awesome!  Like a real drum would.  I noticed that I was getting a lot of sub frequencies, too – like 30 to 50 hertz out of it.

Of course, the head isn’t tensioned really tightly like you could get with a commercial drum, but for now, I’d like to record some sounds off of it while it sounds low.  Earlier, I mentioned that I’d make a rim and lug system for it, but I didn’t have any large enough stock to go around it, and I wanted to just vibe with it and play it.  I think I’ll build a decagon rim (with 10 sides) or something like that to tension heads in the future, with some metal lugs bolted to the shell as I get a few more built.

(The pic was taken after a few days, and it got pret-ty flappy.  Moisture changes, etc.  on to plan B)

9 Inch Log Drum - temp head - Brad Ormand

And in other news…  my Mac Pro died again!  Welll..  actually either the display or the graphics card did.  Just in time for the Apple WWDC show!  It’s okay.  I looked at the diagnostic LEDs on the motherboard and they checked out – except when the display shuts down, the comp goes to standby..  Hmmm. Or maybe the comp goes to standby instantly and that’s what makes the display shut off.   I pulled the graphics card and reseated it,  I reset the PRAM, checked voltage on the backup batt, and reset the SMC.  Still nothing.

So, the next thing I’ll try is to rule out the display hardware itself.  This week, I’ll get some adapters to hook up to the female DVI ports on the graphics card and see if I can get any other monitor rolling.  I’m suspecting that the graphics card is fine, but that my monitor power supply blew.  Yeah, I’ve had that one since 2003.  so, yah – I just kept recycling it because it’s big and 1920 pix across, and new ones like that are expensive…  But, might be time.  I’ll test and find out.

And then…  The WWDC15 Apple developer conference was this week.  I spent a lot of time watching it.  I have an XCode project set up and waiting for me to start rendering objects to the screen.  I did a lot of Sprite Kit, SceneKit and Metal API research.  However, my 3D modeling package and toolkit is on my Mac Pro!  …So, gotta wait for the fix, there.  I have been brainstorming game ideas and have written and drawn out a few concepts.  I do love geometry and that kind of stuff, and I don’t do as much graphics programming as I did in the old days (5 years ago, etc).  So…  I’d really like to try to commit to some graphical software project and finish it and publish it.  I think I can do it, and the project log is helping me see where the bottlenecks are.


Brad Ormand - Building Wood Mallet

06.05.2015 – Woodworking & Drum

So, I took care of cutting the fallen tree down in my yard from the storm.  There’s plenty of wood to work with, and I made some things with it. I did a woodworking mallet for chisels, and a drum.  It was awesome fun.  I’m getting to know the anatomy of Cedar (or Ashe Juniper) pretty well – and, it smells wonderful!  The wood is fresh and green, and although, for some things, I could better use it dried, I’m trying things right now while it’s green, and I’ll learn the lessons from it, directly.

Brad Ormand - Fallen Tree Progress

First, I wanted to build a drum.  But, I needed chisels and I got some new solid chisels to work with – I only had some blunt ones that had chips and heavy use.  Also, I only had steel hammers, and I wanted to hit them with a heavy wood mallet to not mar them up.  So, I built the hammer first, and then the drum, over the weekend.  If I had a lathe, I’d utilize it, but actually I’d like to hold off on that for now, and keep doing stuff by hand until I get the basics down.  Plus, it’s really fulfilling.  I want to record a song later using only instruments from this tree.  Jus’ Cuz.

Wood Mallet:

Brad Ormand - Building Wood Mallet

I have some inner bark that I kept intact that I am going to use as a veneer, and perhaps even a drum head / playing surface.  I have those drying out under weight on the patio…  Also, I talked to my brother about getting some rawhide to use as well.  But, I ended up buying some mylar sheets from the local hobby store, for now.  I used to work at a drum shop (with a drum factory next door), so I have lots of real, practical experience with drum stuff.  I’ll do a few different sizes and types of drums, and then see where it takes me. 🙂


Brad Ormand - Using Mallet to Chisel Drum

The one I made this weekend was a small one, roughly a 4″ hollow.  At first, I put some dry 1/4″ plywood over the top of it with silicone, and well, it’s wasn’t very resonant at all…  at ALL. 🙁   It sounded more like a woodblock than a drum.  It’d be a good addition to a set, but not for a drum sound, and that’s really what I wanna make – a responsive hand or stick drum that has a bit of woooof to it.  Then, later, I made an edge and nailed on some mylar.  Much better!

Now, as I go along, I’m cutting another piece off the (fallen) tree this week (this time 8″), and I’ll make a little rim system for it (out of the same tree) to secure it nice and tight.  Should be a fun project.

All-in-all, I’m really feeling great doing this kind of work.  It’s stress-free, natural, challenging, and it’s real, man work.  After I finish this one, I’ll move on to the table…  But, I revolve from woodworking to software projects and research, to working on music, to electrical stuff, to painting – all at the same time.  And, when I get good updates, I post it here.  But, that’s the thing, everything is working in concert with each other by fulfilling a certain kind of creative interest with each discipline, by which I get ideas for the other stuff as I get my mind directly off of it, and so on.  Ok, until next time…

Shade Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

05.25.2015 – Austin Storm & Woodworking

It has been a combination of exciting, hectic, and sad during these last few days…  In our area of Southwest Austin, we had major floods and a tornado roll through here.  Hectic, because we were met with Nature’s strength which did damage that we are cleaning up, and exciting because of the awe-factor, the witnessing of what weather is capable of…  And, of course sad, because people lost property and were injured and a few died because of it…   I mean, I have never seen winds this forceful before, in person.  I was shaken out of my comfort zone and headed to cover in my “safe place” in my house.  Like, I started hearing trees fall over and structures blow away!  For real.

But, yeah…  I lost a good shade tree out back and the neighboring property lost a carport ( it did a 180 flip and moved 100 feet), and another tree, 50 feet from my shade tree, actually got uprooted and laid down on the ground!  The forces were incredible.  My primal system kicked in when it came through!

Uprooted Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

Shade Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

I was really sad to see that tree go.  I spent half the day today cutting it down / out.  I only got one third of the way through before another storm rolled in.  It became so dark at 3pm that the street lights switched on!  Lots of lightning, and lots of rain…  Again.   Anyway…

Although I was sad to see it go, I am going to build something with the wood.  Something nice to remember it by,  to commemorate this cedar tree’s time on the Earth and role in my life…  I sat under that tree with coffee, tea, girlfriends, the guitar, my phone, exercised under it, my Dad and I cut grass around it, and had many chill times there.  Today is Memorial Day after all…

I’ll make some lumber stock with it, and I want to do a nice workbench with it that accepts a vise.  Also, I want to build a few drums and a guitar out of it.  I have experience building workbenches and drums, but I have never tried a guitar.  My main workbench right now used to be a climbing wall I built that [ironically] got knocked down in another storm a while back.  I recycled it.

Anyway,  I took a photo and posted it here on my project log a while back.  Here’s a comparison with that photo… (The top photo shows the tree that fell (when it was still standing), but not pictured is another tree to the left of it.  That nearby tree is still standing, as pictured in the [bottom] photo of the fallen tree, from a similar angle)… [whew]

Mowed Grass at the Studio - Brad Ormand

Fell Shade Tree Outside Brad's Workshop

So, that’ll be another set of projects that I can get excited about.  Turning change into opportunity.  I think I like having more projects than I can do at one time because it gives me a selection of things to work on when I get the time to work on one.  I can cycle through the ones that are active and see which ones I feel most like doing at the time.  It’s a blessing and a curse because fewer projects get to completion that way.  This project log is helping me see that.  And, I’m adjusting accordingly.  I have several things to choose from, though, right now, and that’s still kind of exciting.

And..  a few more photos showing the force of the storm…

– The fence post by the fallen tree…  I was amazed to see the metal had bent like that!

Fence Post Storm Damage - Brad Ormand

– And, down the street, the bridge flooded over!  I thought this pic made a statement in itself for why to watch for water on the road. 🙂

Water on Road - Brad Ormand

Now, it’s time to clean up, help neighbors, and move on with what we’ve got.  I was fortunate, but others not too far away were not.  My thoughts go out to them.

iOS Meal Tracker - Brad Ormand

05.04.2015 – Job, Meal Tracker & Wood stuff

I have been immersed in my new job, lately.  I spend a lot of time writing and debugging code all day long, but it’s inspiring.  It has also sparked a resurgence in me researching new software development methods on my own time.  Things change in this industry sooooo quickly!  And, I have to keep up.  I have been intrigued lately in several dev areas – mainly in graphics and animation.  Mostly graphical UI as related to application development, but I have been trying to borrow concepts from video game menus and sci-fi films.  So, most of my time lately, on and off the job, has been spent writing code.  I’m on kind of a rampage right now, as this is where my interests are leading me.

About a year ago, before I started this Project Log, I left behind a halfway-finished personal project that I was calling: “Meal Tracker”.  The name and domain have been pretty much taken in industry, so I’ll choose something different once I get a beta going.  I wrote the app for iOS in Objective-C and used SQLite and Cocoa.  It was a tool similar to MyFitnessPal for tracking calories and macros, but I had it tracking micronutrients, exercise, moods, and sleep, as well.  I have been revisiting that.  I went back and forth whether I wanted to dev it in JS and wrap it with Apache Cordova to deploy on multiple platforms, but ended up starting to port it over to Android separately with the Android SDK, because I had wanted to work with Java FX 2.0, since the newly revamped version looked so excellent.  But, that’s about where I stopped.

iOS Meal Tracker - Brad Ormand

And, now I want to develop in Swift, Apple’s new programming language.  I also want to try to build with Ember JS – we’ll see what happens, what I choose to go with.  It’ll be awesome either way – and a good chance to put together a good experimental UI.  And, I have a secure PHP backend written and nearly ready to go.  So, I’m picking this back up to try to see what I can do, here.  Right now, I’m just going to make my first commit and push to Bitbucket and make some progress toward a first version.

And, related, I am currently tracking my calories and macros in MyFitnessPal (as I work on getting back in the shape I was in last Spring 🙂  One of my goals is to run a 5k in 24 minutes by October…  the one I “ran” yesterday was almost twice that time!  (I walked some – ha)  I used to pop ’em out at about 30 a piece.  Got some work to do, but Anywayyys…. ). MyFitnessPal is great, actually, but I’m just wanting to go a little further as far as data accuracy and with more metrics to track.  I think it would be cool to have these extra non-nutrition-related features to get an overall picture of what’s affecting what in life – sleep, moods, weather, etc.  The extremely hard part with rolling my own app will be the nutrition database – especially getting restaurant menu items from everybody out on the planet to drop into the tracks..  Whew!  (not really feasible).

I have found many discrepancies in the data coming from MyFitnessPal, though – I think the users create them themselves and then share them.  The titles are sometimes all backwards and sometimes part of the nutrition data is missing or just wrong.  It’s ok, though.  It’s a great app, don’t get me wrong, but I was considering having something that was “official” for everything.  I was thinking of using the comprehensive USDA database and designing a way to provide estimates, but I am still doing research on it right now.  Also, I’m still investigating the licensing, too.  I just don’t know, yet, what’d it take to use…  But, there will always be the ability to create *user* profiles, so I’ll have a path there if I needed to somehow create the data myself.  It’ll take a few years.  But, I’d be willing.


Unsanded Wood Blocks

Woodworking has been on my mind a lot, recently.  As I get more and more involved with crafting wood items, the need for better, more precision tools is emerging.   I want to start adding to the equipment in my workshop.  I’ve got a router, a jigsaw, and a belt-sander, but I’d like to have a circular saw and a lathe one day.  And, maybe a lathe that could also double for cutting aluminum stock as well, I don’t know.  I could make my own PCB cages and standoffs, special bolts and nuts, etc.  That’d be fun.

I enjoy this type of work immensely.  And, if I could ever get to the point to where I had a stable production line of electronic modules for lighting coming out, I’d be all set up to create pretty much anything on a small scale.  But, also, I’d need the *time* to do it all, too.  Ha. (I still have to etch those SMD boards…)  I have my hands into a lot right now.  Still…  it’s about enjoying the process and exploring these new avenues as I enjoy them.  This project log helps me see where things change and what trends emerge, and helps me look back on what I was motivated by and when.

Comparing SMD Components

04.16.2015 – SMD In-House PCB Test & Truncated Icosahedron Paint

I painted the Truncated Icosahedron (I’ll call it by it’s shape name cuz I can’t think of anything else fancy to call it yet).  Yep – I got a supply of Metallic Blue, which glistens in the sunlight, for the outside, and painted the inside Titanium White.  What’s the result?  Well, it looks cool as hell, but now I gotta think what to do with it….

I wanna light it up soon, but I’m into 3 projects simultaneously right now and have a job, but, I’m thinking I’ll light this one up with those Philips Lumileds in series with a small dimmer control board.  We’ll see…  More thinking required.  Or, more appropriately, when I get the idea, I’ll start implementing it freely.

Truncated Icosahedron Brad Ormand


I’m trying to see if I can get the precision necessary to etch these micro-trace circuit boards with Ferric-Chloride, in-house.  I have a small lab set up for that, but I have no idea if the resolution from the etching phase will be sufficient.  In the past, I have had a hard time with small traces washing right away.  But, I think that’s an error in my photo-exposure process, not the chem bath.  That’s why I’m gonna try with this test.  I have my AD 654 Adapter (so I can breadboard with it), the RGB LED headers, and the MCU SMD board for my Honeycomb light all put onto a sheet that I’ll run through the process.  I might fail.

However it turns out, I’ll find out what capabilities I *do* have after it’s done.  And, perhaps, I’ll see where the bottleneck is and be able to overcome, we’ll see.  But, it could be awesome and hold electrical integrity just fine!  I hope that’ll be the case.  Then, I’ll be able to pump out usable products from this run.

Comparing Circuit PCB Components

At the top of this pic, I put in my old RGB LED header for comparison which is twice as big as the ones I have slated to make.  That’s good.  These will be nice and tidy.  Also, you can see in the pic, next to the quarter, the tiny TQFP chip that I have to be able to make precision traces for and be able to solder onto it.  And, then there are the SOIC-8 parts at the top left to go onto the other boards.  Most of the passives are 1206, but a few are 0805’s.  I bunched the rest of the packaging next to it because it sets the scene 🙂 .

I’m glad I did a test print on paper because the first one was crappy resolution @ 72 DPI (fixed it), and also, in this one, I left one of the soldermask layers on the design (fixed that, too).   BTW, the moisture test (Cobalt Dichloride Free) turned pink in a matter of minutes taking it out of the package, but was blue just before.  I’m not going to reflow these, but it’s interesting to see the effects, especially here in Texas.  Shipped from Mouser, also here in Texas.  It’s humid today – 89%, reported.

Comparing SMD Components

Anyeeewayees… We’ll see how everything comes together.  I see it like this: If I’m able to fabricate these SMD boards here, more power to me for testing prototypes with small surface-mount components – mainly the chip leads.  But, if I cannot get consistent results, then I’ll either go back to prototyping with through-hole parts, improve my fab process, or just get them made when I need ’em.  But, I *do* wanna find out if I have the resolution necessary, in-house.  Exciting!  I’ll report on what I find.

Brad Ormand Holding Truncated Icosahedron

04.11.2015 – Truncated Icosahedron Model!

This week, I spent a few days on a detour project.  It was something that I had been wanting to do for a reeeeally long time, but didn’t think I had the chops or resources for.  But, I just went into it, and it turned out that it was possible!

Cutting The Hex Parts - Brad Ormand

I created a wood model of a Truncated Icosahedron.  It’s a geometric shape that has 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons forming it’s faces, in the shape of a ball.  The soccer ball is based of of this model.  Icosahedrons are made of all triangles, and Truncated Icosahedrons are the shape left over after the points of the triangle are shaved off by a certain amount.  It’s very interesting how these shapes form and interlock together as even-sided 5 and 6 edge shapes.  I had built paper and 3D computer models of it before, but never something that you could hold that’s rigid and big.  It was a lot of fun.  To me, it’s the most interesting shape there is, on account of it’s pleasing aesthetics.

Brad Ormand Sanding The Hex Parts

Hex Parts Assembly - Brad Ormand

Right now, I left the pentagons out as space, as I’m considering wiring the thing up to make it into a nice light!  Ha. That’s gonna be really fun.  I’ll paint it.  For this one, I’ll use acrylic paint, but in the future I can see a really nice dark stain going on it.  Animated RGB, or just white light…  Many, many options…

I love geometry.  I love seeing shapes in nature.  I like how the mathematics reveal certain commonalities in things, like the golden ratio.  It’s intriguing to me.

Brad Ormand Holding Truncated Icosahedron


Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

04.08.2015 – Synth, Job & Lights

New, in the sphere of my workings is a job that I will be starting at soon as a Sr. Software Engineer.  The recruiting process was long and pretty taxing due to just the management of all of the leads and people to stay in close contact with over the last few weeks.  My goal was to find a “match”, and that’s what I found.  The people are great, the job calls for what I have to offer, and it appeals to me as a developer, as well.  I’m ultra-excited about it!


In other news, I ordered some components to start building a real, accurate, and high-potential analog synth module!  I have the basics spec’d out and ready for a test setup.   So far, it’s going to feature the Analog Devices 654 Voltage-to-Frequency converter as the main oscillators and LFO, and Texas Instruments Active Filters throughout.  I just received them in today.

Synth Keys Idea - Brad Ormand

I posted my thoughts on an idea for a frequency mangler / modulator using digital logic (as an analog signal effect) a while back, and after I get them running, I’ll try to implement that idea with these as I go along.  It’ll produce a kind of ring-modulated effect.  So, there’s plenty to do before I get it up and running as I have to design circuits around them, but I imagine I’ll have something going pretty soon.

I hung out with friends and family over the Easter holiday, and I probed some mechanically-minded acquaintances’ minds about putting together a wooden keyboard (with my electronics inside) to hook into the synth module.  I got plenty of ideas.  I’m visualizing a few scenarios: One, as an all-in-one solution for peeps to just get and start playing as a standalone fun-toy, and two, as a separate controller for hooking into various modules.  I’ll keep that on the back burner, but for now, I just wanna build something that works and makes awesome sound.  The first synth will be on the breadboard, and the first keyboard will probably just be a crazy in-shop, spring-loaded array of chopped wood hitting tac switches.


Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

And, for the lights…  The thing I was waiting for was to write the software to be as fast as possible with the on-chip oscillator, and to see if it’d be fast enough for my scanning.  Well, I did that, and it’s not.  It falls short by at least a few MHz.  So, I have now, in-stock, an external oscillator that will push the MCU to 20MHz, and I’m waiting to see what kind of stability I can get with that.  As the experiments go forward, I’ll know if the solution I have already designed will work.  One more home-made PCB test, and I’ll have the answer.

Now that I have cleared the schedule a bit, I can begin to develop more projects.


Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

03.25.2015 – Main MCU Board & ComCath RGB LED MaTRIX

After hours and hours of taxing my brain for what approach to use to streamline the “guts” of the HoneycombLight (for real – it deadened me for a bit from getting stuck several times and trying to overcome these obstacles.  I lost sleep.), I finally came to a conclusion for the architecture of the matrix routing (and then I was ok).


So, I figured, I’ll just place daughter boards, matrix mixer boards, every 4 pixels and let the pixel driver boards run straight to it, 4 at a time, raw, (R, G, B, and cathode) instead of “mixing upstream” by soldering wires together right on the drivers (like I did last time).  Mix as I go – 4 times downstream to the final MCU – it’ll all be prepared once it arrives there.   …Because the entire thing is really messy if done with twisting or soldering wires together onto connectors at the pixels, believe me.  It’s a “grid”, a Matrix, a mess.  I really needed the double-sided planes, here.  I did it in two “phases” (those 9 via holes in the center), alternating top and bottom copper.  Reminds me of the butterflies in Fast Fourier Transforms, but physical.

This allows the entire path to the MCU boards to be nice and clean with dedicated plugs for easy service and replacement, and I admit, also for the cleanliness of the way it looks – fresh, not cluttered.  I like that. 🙂  That was one of the tradeoffs I made.  The way that “under the hood” looks is important to me.

Brad Ormand RGB LED Matrix1x4 MixerBoard


And, as for the MCU board, most of its architecture is the same as the first through-hole rendition, but it’s just double-sided, solder-masked, and silk-screened, now.  Loads of improvement!  But, the concept is the same…  However, I can’t have it looking like it’s still a prototype.  (I have already built that and it worked (with wires all over the place), so now it’s time to do it for real).  So, every component is now surface-mount, minus the row and column connectors (for rigidity).  It’s not the *final*, final version – I have already thought of things that I’ll have to do to revise it, but it’s a good start.

I am yet to send it off to be manufactured, so I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m really excited to get a small batch back and run it through the ringer!  I mean, I’m almost as excited about how it’s going to *look* as I am about how it’s going to work!  Haha – to me, it’s like a work of art!  Especially with that ground plane in there surrounding the traces – looks dope.

Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

I don’t know if putting “BradOrmand.com” on there is “forced” or not, actually.  I want a “maker’s mark” on there, but am still deciding if that’s the direction I wanna go or not.  I might put in a bitmap with my logo or even transfer it over to the company name I’m thinking about using for the marketing of the lights, etc.  I don’t know, yet.  Decisions, decisions.

All-in-all, though, this board was weeks in the making and took a lot out of me.  I didn’t think I could do it there for a while…  But, I was also kind of stressed out with all of the Portfolio and job stuff, recently.  But, I have it quite in-hand, now.  Let’s hope the electrical connections all check out and that those tiny-ass traces can handle the current I’ll give it.  It’ll be multiplexed, but still only milliseconds between blasts.  We’ll see.  This is all part of the learning.  I’m determined to do this.


Last thing…  The main thing I am concerned about right now with this is soldering the central ground pad underneath the 0.8mm pin pitch TQPF without a reflow oven or a good heat station.  I don’t know how that’ll work.  I’ll be thinking about it.  In fact, I think it has solder-mask under it right now.  I’m going to have to investigate, but the datasheet *does* recommend tying it to ground.  Onward we go…



03.18.2015 – Honeycomb Light Wood Stain

I have changed the name of the “Hex Light” to the “Honeycomb Light” because I am making single hexagon lights as well, and I wanna call *them* the Hex Lights, instead.  Ha – So, the animated light with the integrated 16 hexagons on them will become the “Honeycomb Light”…  cuz the name fits a little better.

Speaking of the Hex Light (errr…)  Honeycomb Light!…. (my bad)…  I stained a whole bunch of different birch wood panels using 4 different stains this weekend.  I had never stained wood before (that I can remember).  It was a pretty cool experience – except for the dangers of the exothermic reaction / spontaneous combustion taking place with the oily rags after you’re finished.  The care and maintenance during the cleanup and after-care was a bit of a pain.  The guy at the Home Depot skooled me in the basics when I bought the gear.  But, nothing caught fire, though.  And, it was fun.


Anyways, I tried water-based and oil-based stains, along with a clear coat, to treat the new cutouts of my light frames.  They’re lookin’ good!  It’s another step toward making the case holding the electronics look super good!  Or, in other words, it’s starting to finally look like art augmented by electronics 🙂

I have already cut another set of wood panels for a second Honeycomb Light.  This one features a deep, dark stain on the backing panel and front hexes with their edges sanded down.  It’s kind of a nice effect.  I’m also making this one look and act much better than the first one I built.  The backing wires are now nice, clean ribbon cable, the switching mechanism is a rotary encoder with a massively good feel to it – that “clicking” action when you turn it.  And, the individual hexes are cut with much more precision this time.  That’s the thing I had hoped would happen – I’d learn each time I did a revision and make the next ones consistently better.  It requires a lot of thinking and planning – especially for the electronics, but it’s fun, and worth it.  I’m having fun with this. 😉

Brad Ormand - HexLightWoodStain

I’m working on a few circuit boards for the whole bunch – the Arrow Light, the Hex Lights (the single ones [micro, mini, and macro]), the Tri-Wing Light, and the Honeycomb Light.  I want them to be able to share modules and components as much as possible.  I’m talking about matrix combiner boards, RGB LED driver boards, main MCU boards with optional modules, electronic components, common C libraries, bulk part orders, etc – I’m ramping up to build like 20 of each.  Plus it’s a chance for me to write and design the stuff as I come up with it.    As I get the PCBs ready, I’ll assemble the lights and see if any other improvements can be made and try to get some good stock, and to get in a “rhythm” with the refined process so that it’s easy and fun.


It’s exciting.  Soon enough, I’ll have the experience required to get even more creative with them, and to practice up for more involved projects as well.

Hex Light - First Colors - Brad Ormand

01.29.2015 – Hex Light

Alright.  I got the first animation loaded into the piece after fixing the critical circuit board layout problem.  I’m glad I did it this way.  For REV B, I’ll connect the board up in the way I modified it to be just now.

I got red, green, and blue coming through on all pixels, with the 200 millisecond PWM test pattern at 3.3 volts.  So, now, it’s time for testing it to the max.  There’ll never be two pixels on at a time, but…  will the RMS voltage be so high as to drain the battery too quickly when I increase the pulse frequency? Or, even make the device heat up?  I don’t know.  Damn, I’d like this to be a portable app, but my upcoming tests will determine if that’ll be feasible. May have to reconsider my 2200mWh power supply, then, but let’s see.  I’d like to run it as quickly as possible – for video / photography, and for getting the max out of the chip.  I’ll get stats / test data and then go from there… I think it’ll be ok.

Hex Light - First Colors 2 - Brad Ormand

So, what I’m doing now is writing a few killer animations (ha, maybe a bit dramatic, but I *hope* so lol) that will shift ani’s after a given time frame or a user button press, whichever is first.  I’m thinking…  maybe…  8 animations.  Just thought of that now.  Good round number.  I’d like to implement my touch sensors with this, but I don’t feel they’re ready for prime time right now.  More testing needed.  So, I’ll drop in a few momentaries and do it like that right now.

Hex Light - First Colors - Brad Ormand

This will be similar to what I did with the SSD1306 in the programming, in a way, and similar to what I do with any animated display / canvas, but just with a 4 x 4 pixel “screen”.  I’ll abstract out the display, then write useful particle effects, but with an added dimension from the 1306 – Color.  I’m thinking…  slow fades in 4 quadrants, separately, with all of the colors in my power deliberately, slowly cycling through…   I’m thinking – perimeter tracing with trails.  I’m thinking… something smart…  like, maybe using virtual gravity as if you dropped a penny through the top and it found it’s way down – and a flash bang when one “hits” at the bottom.  Stuff like that.  Can’t wait to hit it up.

Hex Light - Front Assembly - Brad Ormand

01.18.2015 – Hex Light Wiring

I made some progress with the wiring for the Hex Light.  I have ’em set up in Common-Cathode-Column configuration, with RGB rows, and started the wiring on the art itself (like I said before, instead of routing all of this on the circuit board 🙂 ).  There are 16 mini-PCBs mounted to house the light, the passives, and the connector headers.

Hex Light - Mini-PCBs on the art - Brad Ormand


After a few days of work, and with some in-situation design, I got the whole board wired and connected up to the main MCU board.  I continuity tested all of the connections, and lit each up with voltage at their respective addresses. I found a short and some mechanical failure, fixed those, and then it tested out perfectly.  I think it’s go for a test with the MCU!   But, that’ll be for another day – Whew!  I’m beat…

Once I test it out with the whole system, I’ll get the wires all harnessed correctly, mount the main PCB, put some standoffs on there, clean it up a bit, and start experimenting with writing nice animation programs.  I programmed a test pattern, flashing each on and off individually every 200ms, but I’m yet to hook it up to the real system –  I did that from a breadboard with a sub-sample of 12 lights.  On the system, there are 48.  We’ll, see if it scales up…

By doing all of this, I clearly see that I could optimize several things – from wire routes, to PCB size and routing, to channels for each harness, etc.  Just had to set this prototype up first to see where I’m gonna have to take it in the future.  Gonna make a lot more. 😉

Hex Light - Initial Wiring - Brad Ormand

But, yeah – despite the ideas for optimization and all of the underlying engineering stuff – I don’t get too hung up on it… I just want to create awesome art and programs and fun products!  In the end, the kinks will work themselves out if I just treat it all with love, care, and patience.

… And, the front view…  ( looks a lot better than the back – Haha )

Hex Light - Front Assembly - Brad Ormand


Wood Dodecahedron - Brad Ormand

01.16.2015 – Dodecahedron

I took a quick break from the Hex Light and implemented another idea that I have had for ages – to build a real, touchable, hold-able Dodecahedron!  It’s a 12-sided pentagonal platonic solid.  12 pentagons, arranged in spherical pattern.

I needed the break from the other project for a while, like I said – there is lots of wiring to do, and I’m spreading it out over the next week.  I built a paper Dodeca one time, and it was awesome to have on my desk and to handle.  Now, I wanted to do one that was more solid and much bigger…

So here, I drew out the pentagons, calc’d the angled and cut them out of Birch plywood.

Pentagon Angles and Cut Paths - Brad Ormand

It took a long time to get the cuts, but eventually I got them all – it was a bit of a struggle, I remember, getting the saw to stay stable with the cuts so close together.  I don’t have a powered saw, either, right now, so I used my trusty hand saws that I have. It was hard work, but pleasant, looking back on it.

Once I got the cuts, I set up a little angle guide for the dihedrals and glued them together, 2 by 2.

Pentagon Dodecahedron Assembly - Brad Ormand

The photos show the progression, but it all took quite a while to end up finishing.  I remember just taking it step by step and not trying to finish fast or anything – just enjoying the process.  Little by little, I got it, though!  A wooden Dodeca, ready for painting 🙂

Brad Ormand - Wood Dodecahedron

Wood Dodecahedron - Brad Ormand

Brad Ormand - Animated Color Light Fixture

12.24.2014 – Holiday & Tri-Wing Light

Whew! I am officially on holiday!  I had to work a half day today, but I have 8 upcoming days off.  Luvvit.  I go see family and friends tomorrow, eat some good grub, play more football, talk shop with my bros, and see what conversations pop up with everybody there.  Damn.  I love it.  It’s also just about freezing here in Austin, Texas – I read 33 F on the thermo just now.  Good enough for the south.  Fine with me.

So, I put together a prototype yesterday and today, extending my work from the other light fixture projects.  Right now, I’m really loving the love I’m getting from this piece!  And, there are just so many things I’m going to be able to do with it!  It’s just one of those moments…

Emitting color in slow fades and then fast bursts, the driver board I designed for the fixture is custom to the application.  It’s angled just right and fits right in to the center, measured and cut just right.  I’m liking this.  🙂  It looks great in real life.  Gotta get some vid up soon to document this.  I have a few prototype products ready to use this driver already.  Same birch wood as the painting from a few days ago, and I’m going to decide on a stain and a gloss during my vacay.  Here’s the working proto pic:

Brad Ormand - Animated Color Light Fixture

I’ve just about got the SMD Eagle PCB design rolling for a V1 semi-production-test version, but I’m going to etch a few on my own with Ferric Chloride from that design first to see what variances I want to make. I made this proto with thru-hole parts I had laying around the shop.  The birch is light, but durable, and it’s easy to work with.  Plus, the grain is super beautiful.  I like working with it.  As soon as I get time (upcoming), I’m going to make a few more embellishments to the Tri-Wing design and fly with it 😉 .  Right now, though, it’s about producing these animations and putting the touch buttons together for the control.  I’ll make some more headway and then toggle back to the V1 driver after I have more information on what API I want to give it and what protocol I want to communicate to it with.  Still in dev…

Brad Ormand - TriWing RGB Driver

I’m really excited right now about this.  I mean, I know lighting like this has been done before, but this is a huge stepping stone for me – I have been wanting to produce my own flavor of these for YeaRs – since at least 2008 when my boss at JPL had a similar fixture in the hallway to his office that entranced me.  There are a few things that I think will make a product like this successful, and I want to prove the concept and add my special Renegade touch.  And, plus, I can combine my handmade art and painting with it.  What a great thing to get excited about.  That’s half of the fun of it.

Brad Ormand - Prototype Fixture Designs

So, as I go along, I’ll be trying to integrate aluminum and acrylic “glass” into the designs.  I have experiments in the lab right now, but that are not ready for prime time.  As soon as I drop those, I think I’ll have some firm ledges to stand on for what I’ll be able to produce in the future with products like this.  Onward we go.  I’m beat.  Time for bed.  Merry Christmas!