Branching Out Wood

Modern Functional Home Decor by David Wertheimer

Nixie Clocks, Wall Sculptures, & More!

David Wertheimer2 Comments

As the summer festivals have slowed down and I've gotten some breaks between commissions, I've had time to work on a few new unique designs.

Wall Art

I enjoyed making - and showing off! - the textured wall hanging, but I wanted to do something even bigger that could be a perfect mantlepiece, or perhaps go above a headboard.

 Thanks, George, for the photo!

Thanks, George, for the photo!

I had just started sketching a few simple geometric patterns when I visited a remodel-in-progress of a friend in San Francisco's Laurel Heights; though they had yet to refinish the floors, I was blown away by the workmanship in the solid-oak original hexagon-patterned hardwood floor.

Thus, we have this first triptych, highlighting the rich contrast between maple, wenge, and walnut. Cutting and fashioning this into each hexagon gave me newfound respect for the workmen installing that floor, as I presume it was done with far fewer power tools when that house was built over 80 years ago!

And on a similar theme, I built this square triptych, with the same woods.

Check both of them - and the "Lenticular" textured piece as well - in the store here

Table Lamp

I had started the woodworking for a table-top lamp back in early March, but it sat half-finished since due to a lack of knowledge of the compact lighting parts with which to complete it. This is the second time I need to give credit to Konrad Jarausch of Sunlight Inside, who pointed me in the right direction both for the form factor and a few suppliers of high-power low-voltage compact LED lights. (Check out that earlier post about LED lighting here).

I paired that with a large heatsink and satin-finished acrylic tubing to create this light, which can be configured from two to five layers for a desktop lamp 6" to 15" tall. You can see this in the online store here.

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Nixie Tube Clock

Several customers have expressed interest in a "Nixie" clock. The first time I was asked, I didn't know what I was, so I started reading up.

Excerpted from Bad Nixie:

The name Nixie is expanded from Numeric Indicator Experimental (NIX); it is a product of the mid 50's to early 90's and is no longer manufactured. Nixie tubes are the predecessor to the light emitting diode (LED). They look like vacuum tubes, but are in fact a form of neon lamp filled with a mixture of Neon gas and a small amount of Mercury or Argon. Inside the tube are ten successive formed wire digits as cathodes, and a wire mesh anode. Each cathode digit and the common anode has a pin at the bottom of the tube. To light a digit you simply apply voltage between the common anode and the digit pin; when energized the digit illuminates with the warm glow of neon.

Though these tubes are no longer made new, there are probably hundreds of thousands of "new old stock" - which despite the apparent contradiction, is not a typo. These are decades-old spare of warehoused inventory that was never used, and in many cases, in the original packaging. The old stock is primarily located in Eastern Europe, though there are a few American supplies as well.

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I've been unable to find a lot of pictures of original hardware using these, though I did come across this calculator - which apparently had a fairly short sales life due to the small time window before the introduction of the much cheaper LED-based display. However, now they show up primarily in artistic and steampunk clocks, or occasionally in a unique one-off pieces like this impressive Sudoku game!

Though I hope this doesn't linger unfinished nearly as long as the lamp I just completed, it may take a while to finish: the circuit boards are from UK; the Nixie tubes just arrived from Ukraine. I just completed the assembly of the first circuit board, though it still needs some troubleshooting. And I'll need to design and machine a (wood, of course) enclosure that has tight tolerances for all the switches and tubes.

Perhaps this is the final motivation to get a CNC, which will also allow me to carve some of those mazes and geometric patterns? Regardless, as I make progress here, I'll share a few updates & photos.

 My partially-assembled circuit board with IN-8 tubes

My partially-assembled circuit board with IN-8 tubes

Political Rant and Call to Action

David Wertheimer2 Comments

Your regularly scheduled programming on art, woodworking, lighting, and the like, has been replaced with a brief rant on our current politics and a call to action for increased civic engagement.

There's a range of political discourse and views with which people of good conscience can disagree, and that can form the basis of animated or even heated debate. But the lack of decency, and disinterest in demonstrable fact and science of the current administration makes me scared for our future and for our democracy.

Here's the rant... feel free to skip past this section...

Economic grabs by the 0.1% disguised as tax "cuts" and "unburdening" business. Demonizing science and scientific discourse, and transforming "career bureaucrat" into a slur when its this expertise and knowledge that keeps, among other things, our drug supply safe and rivers clean. Undermining civil rights for minorities of all stripes, whether via attempting to ban transgender in the military, gutting Congressionally-authorized federal oversight of police, or trampling on voting rights of disenfranchised communities. Singleminded focus on coal as the world shifts in other directions for both economic and environmental reasons. Appointment of agency heads whose professional mission prior to running said agencies was the dismantling of that agency [Pruitt] - or who have zero knowledge in that agency [Carson]. Reveling in divisiveness and holding campaign rallies, all for ratings and press coverage, without even attempting to provide a moral backbone, showing at best, disinterest in, and at worst, contempt for, uniting the nation.

I could continue with more statements, each one of which you could find a hundred well-written articles by those with deeper knowledge than myself, great historical context (such as this blog written by my good friend, Noel Cilker), and more specific thoughts on how to respond.

... continue reading here.

At a lunch in late September, a friend and former colleague asked me what I'm doing about my concerns, which reminded me that, in addition to my nightly YouTube dose of Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers, we should make sure we're engaging in more constructive activities, and encourage our friends and family to do the same.

So put your time and money out there to make the world a better place! If you are already engaged in one (or many) ways, thank you! If you're not, there are so many different ways to engage that can best make use of your time, energy, skills, or whatever you can offer up.

Engage with your community directly via Meals on Wheels delivering food and social interaction to homebound seniors. Help build homes or provide necessary repairs for disadvantaged communities with Habitat for Humanity. Participate in domestic microlending via an online platform such as Kiva. Amplify your voice with your local congressman or senator with an appeal to refocus on the interests of the 99%, environmental protection, civil rights, etc. Donate to the disaster relief efforts of the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico or Houston, or to the SPCA. Do a spring cleaning of your old clothes and give them to Goodwill, or your dusty and useless foreign coins to Unicef, or your battered old cell phones to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

There are so many worthy organizations into which to channel your energy, your money, your unwanted but still useful possessions. And for hundreds of more volunteer ideas, check out Volunteer Match.

What am I doing?

Since the beginning of this year, I have directed thousands of dollars towards net new solar projects across the U.S. - much of this enabled by your business, as I've committed to spending 10% of my revenue in this way. Additionally, I've just installed 4kw solar system on a building I own, and am investigating installing about 20kw more in Arizona.

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I have volunteered about 50 hours this year with Habitat for Humanity and Grid Alternatives to build houses and install solar for low income communities (and about 250 hours last year). I am mentoring a student who aims to be the first in his family to make it to college.

And for something a little more unique, I have shared a few hundred of these cards with friends and family.  Want one? I'm happy to send you a few for free - just reach out on email - or if you want several, they're available inexpensively here.

I'd love to hear about unique (or not-so-unique) actions you've taken to make the world a better place, to take a stand for decency, and to oppose the destructive and self-dealing directions of this administration. Share in the comments below, or feel free to reach out directly.