Hogan’s Heroes is one of the television shows that dominated my childhood viewing, and I still enjoy it immensely today. Making and repurposing objects figured prominently in the show, and the most iconic prop is the coffee pot.

The coffee pot contained a speaker connected to a microphone in Col. Klink’s office that allowed the prisoners to eavesdrop on the Germans. It’s a simple prop made from a few common items:

  1. A Universal Model D655 coffee pot made by Landers, Frary &Clark
  2. Altec Lansing grill cloth
  3. Dialco 1/2″ pilot light
  4. a length of wire

I found a model E956 coffee pot on Etsy that is indistinguishable from the original prop, and set about my build. I wanted the replica to actually play audio clips from the show, so I added a small bluetooth speaker in the basket. As I cannot find the correct grill cloth, I was pleasantly surprised to see the speaker’s face formed a reasonable approximation.

After drilling the hole for the pilot light, I needed to replace the bulb with a LED but did not have the right materials here. I found a pen in my desk that had a small LED torch in it, and dismantled it to recover the needed parts. The entire torch unit fitted into the pilot light perfectly and is held in place with a little hot glue. The back end of the pilot light was removed to allow access to the LED switch.

This is a great temporary solution but I plan to rewire it so the light comes on when the power cord is connected to the coffee pot. I also need to fix the light into the base with JB Weld to replicate the original look of the prop but I’ll leave that until I complete the rewire.

I waited almost a year to start this build and yet it was relatively simple one to complete. I often find myself intimidated by the thought of cutting into expensive material or rare items crucial to a successful outcome. Once completed they are amongst my favourite items in my collection, and this one will have a place of honour in my Curiosity Cabinet.

https://youtu.be/k_0qmefz-gs
Sound check

A table in need of a little love and elbow grease.

Two close family members recently returned from an overseas trip in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdowns, and went into mandatory self-isolation for two weeks. One is on paid leave but the other is working from home and asked us to buy find a secondhand over bed table.

After a fruitless search of secondhand stores I remembered they had an old one in their garage I might be able to resurrect.

I schlepped the table home and stripped it completely before cleaning all the parts and checking the mechanisms. It was actually in pretty good shape but in disparate need of a refresh.

I stripped and repainted the metal parts with a Rust-Loeum grey primer, and cleaned all the plastic end-caps and wheels. My wife cleaned the tabletop, and I used a liberal amount of cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) to reseat the rubber edging in place. I changed two old replacement screws that were too long with new and appropriately sized replacements, and reassembled the table.

Refurbished table.

I had fun bringing the old table back to life for them, and it cost less than $10. Now I need to get on with my on projects.

In 2014, Sarah Urist Green and John Green created The Art Assignment to explore art and art history. The channel initially featured established and emerging artists who created art assignments for anyone to complete as a path to understanding their art practice. The site expanded to explore art through a variety of different forms but it is the Art Assignments that inspire me to dig into my tool boxes and make something.

I plan to complete each of the 68 assignments, in no particular order, and I started with this one.

Become Someone Else

That’s Me on the left, and Him on the right. Me, I’m the creative type, I just want to make things and travel. I’m drawn to the weird and strange things in life, and care very little about other people’s opinion.

Not Him, he’s punctual, dependable, hard-working and just a little old-fashioned in his views and opinions. He’s also the bloke who finances Me in my life.

Thing is, six years ago I was Him and he was Me. I enjoyed his life, and the unique experiences and opportunities his career provided me. But now I prefer to just be Me, I earn less money but I’m richer for time and freedom I have to be Me. Oh, occasionally I pull on the old uniform and head off to be Him again and raise a few extra dollars. He’s good like that, self-sacrificing to fund my travel dreams.

I like Him, I’d just rather be Me these days.

My replica of Indiana Jones’ satchel.

Scrolling through Market Place listings on Facebook I found two old army bags that looked similar to Indiana Jones’ satchel in the films. Without further research I grabbed them both for $20 (Australian dollars), and drove across town to pick them up.

Although similar neither matched the Mark VII screen used prop, one is a Mark V and the other a Mark VI (pictured above). A Mark VI is used in one scene in Temple of Doom but both are similar enough to use for cosplay or display purposes.

I removed the original shoulder strap, and replaced it with a 25mm (one inch) leather bridle strap cut to a length of 1625mm (65 inches). Each end is secured by a Chicago screw (also known as screw or binding posts). A slide, in this case an altered buckle, is used to adjust the strap length to get the bag sitting right on the wearer’s body.

That’s it, I will probably weather the strap to match the well-worn bag and I am looking a for a more screen accurate slide. A quick but satisfying build to get me back into making stuff after a few months of procrastination.

I gifted the Mark V satchel to my Replica Prop Forum Secret Santa recipient, and the Mark VI is for my personal collection. Now what items do I need to put in it?

 

Procrastination is a beast to master, and this project has been hiding in a drawer for nearly four years. I bought several model kits in Tokyo but I had only completed one small kit before this week.

Miyazaki’s film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, is a classic and this model of the Red Pirates ship captures the beauty of his art and cinematography. 

I had set everything up to film the whole build but a focus error left me with a few hours of unusable footage. So I’ll just leave at this short fly-around of the finished model.

Leather Pouch1

My son has a set of mini-cables he carries for work and wanted a small leather pouch to carry them on his belt. So I pulled out the sewing machine and fashioned the little pouch you see in the photo.

It’s a little rough around the edges but I kind of like the rough-made aesthetic, and it fits with the pen case I made him a few months ago. Making something useful from leather scraps, a couple of clasps and thread from Colleen’s sewing drawer is very satisfying even if it looks a little rough.

By making a few simple items I have opened myself up to many more possibilities when I have a need for something. My first instinct is to make it or re-purpose something I already have into a new use. It saves us money, and it just feels good to make a thing rather than buy it.

Leather Pouch2

Lampshade

My desk started life as an industrial sewing machine table, and bares the scars of a long working days in this guise. Local artisan, Lloyd Kellett of One Man’s Trash, turned it into a kick ass desk lit by a beautiful Edison light bulb. It creates a wonderfully warm glow for my workspace but I always felt it needed a lampshade.

When I bought a couple of 1940s vintage flash units to replicate the lightsaber props from Star Wars, I thought one of the reflectors was a perfect solution to my lampshade dilemma. I pulled it apart, cut off the stem and used the Dremel to smooth out the rough surfaces. Then I slipped it over the socket and screwed it into place. Job done.

Making something new out of old stuff does not have to be difficult, a simple job like this can take less than an hour with basic tools (hacksaw, screwdriver and a file). In the past, most people kept their things working or created the new things they needed to live a good life. Consumerism and mass production led to a rapid loss of those skills but the maker movement is starting to revive old skills and develop new ones modern technologies.

Search the Web for makers and you find a massive community building everything from stools to small houses, from massive mechanical sculptures to miniature dioramas. Makers come in all shapes and sizes but all share a passion developed by picking up some tools and building something simple. Starting with something simple allowed them to make mistakes, develop new skills and find satisfaction in making things.

As their skills grow they move on to more complex projects but it is often the simple ones that provide us the most satisfaction. It took longer to write this post than make the lampshade, yet it makes me immensely happy to see it sitting above my desk.

Anyone can do it, so what will be your first simple project?

Leather Pen Case8The gift of a new pen (Thanks Liam, Lola & Lamb) inspired me to make a pen case to hold it and the fountain pen I received as a retirement gift. Here’s how I approached this project.

A simple design.

Every project begins with a period of contemplation to sort through ideas and search for inspiration. For this project I knew I wanted a leather case, and a bag of scrap leather recently liberated from Mum’s crafting supplies (Thanks Mum) provided the raw material. All I needed was a pattern to start making it.

Leather Pen Case1

I prefer simple designs, the case must protect the pens but remain small enough to fit in my pocket. I grabbed a piece of nubuck leather, and as I thought about the design started folding it into rough shapes. I quickly honed in on a simple three fold pattern, a rectangle folded up to form a pouch for the pens with a flap to close over them.

Leather Pen Case2

Sewing the leather.

The soft nubuck leather allowed me to use my wife’s sewing machine to sew the three straight lines to form the pouches. Transitioning from two thicknesses to three where the strap is attached proved to be a little finicky. We had to lift the sewing machine foot to get the strap under but then the machine happily worked away to complete the stitching.

I tapered the flap to fit under the strap, and the build was complete in a little over an hour.

Leather Pen Case4
Be prepared to fail.

Failure is always be an option when making something, particularly when developing new skills. My maker idol, Adam Savage, is steadfast in his belief that we learn more from our failures than our successes. He encourages makers to build prototypes out of cheaper materials like paper and cardboard before tackling the final product. Even a simple project like this one can benefit from prototyping.

I planned to build a paper model first but I decided to just dive straight into the final product. As a result, I only discovered an error in my pattern after I finished the sewing. I wanted the smallest possible case for two pens but my conservative pattern was too wide, and just looked wrong in my hand.

Luckily I could correct this mistake without a complete rebuild by resewing the outer edges to give the case a slimmer profile.

I am really pleased with the final product and it feels good in my hand.

Leather Pen Case7
Making vs Buying

I looked for pen cases in the shops, and they typically cost $50-$100 for a simple leather model. While speciality stores displayed beautifully crafted items I found taking the time to make my own case a joyful experience. It gave me a sense of achievement that buying stuff can never emulate, and I started me thinking about other leather work projects.

It feels good to be a maker of things.