Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Make a Genuine Inauthentic Viking Tent

In my research for this {most anticipated post} I discovered an early account of Viking history, told here at Chickenblog, in 2007. Apparently our affinity for Viking culture goes back a bit further than our visit to the Viking Festival, last September. Anyway, today I am going to share the full scoop on our very own, still in development, genuine and inauthentic Van Viking tent. We fell in love with the small village of tents, crafts and trades that we discovered at a local Viking Festival, and by the time we were planning our Solstice party, and thinking about Christmas gifts, and activities, we became even more enamored of the idea of making a tent of our own, and enjoying some of the more festive, and loosely related cultural interests of ancient peoples who explored, built, crafted, ate, slept, and hung out, in and around Viking lands, which as it turns out is a very broad geographic and aesthetic swath of the planet. {Whoa, that was a long sentence. Almost lost my way, there.} So, yeah. We totally got stoked to design, build, and party in our own Viking Van Viking tent!

Our tent is inspired by Alex's extensive research into Viking tents and lodges, and by what we saw at the Festival. Then, Alex and I looked into available resources at the local hardware store, and ran our initial ideas by Geoff. Geoff loves aluminum... he can weld it, and it's strong, and since we were leaning toward something big. Big. We figured that a fifteen foot wood ridge beam would be very, very heavy, and possibly flex too much, so Geoff proposed an aluminum ridge.


Canvas: Two 12' x 15' canvas pieces from the paint department. {These are actually smaller than said "12 x 15", which is something we are trying to trouble shoot, now. Though smaller than advertised, they are still massively heavy and were quite a handful to sew together.} I sewed canvas strips to make ties, and hand sewed those around the tent canvas.

Wood: We employed four 2" x 8" pieces, 14' long, for the A-frame. Geoff and Alex designed dragon wings at the peaks, which will later be carved for detail. At the base sides of the tent floor there are two pieces of 2" x 4".

The pole is 1/8" wall, 6061 aluminum, and 15' long. Geoff made end caps, and added 6" x 1/2" galvanized steel bolts threaded into the caps. These are to attach the wood A-frame pieces.

Rope: 3/4" natural fiber. It's there to maintain tension in the frame to keep it from flexing.

We still need to make and add canvas doors, and this will include extending the length of the canvas, since it's at least six inches shorter than we anticipated. Also, to go with the dragon wings, Alex is carving dragon heads that will fit over the bolts at the peak of the tent... like a figurehead on a ship. And we are also developing a forge, making more wooden swords, and shields, we want to make those sturdy Viking chairs, and a long boat, maybe get some sheep and start spinning wool. Basic stuff like that.

When things didn't go as we had hoped for Solistice, we were disappointed, but not defeated. More slowly, with less pressure to meet a deadline, we rallied to get the tent standing in time for our Christmas celebration. And after exchanging gifts, and enjoying a happy morning around the Christmas tree, we shifted our activities outside... we made waffles outdoors, played games, and raised the Van Viking tent for more holiday fun!

The first night it was up, we had a Swedish-Viking-ish dinner... with meatballs, and veggie-not-meatballs, Irish soda bread, roasted cabbage, salad, steamed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce. Then we hunkered together in the dark, and watched The Hobbit. Outside is such a marvelous place to watch a Tolkien adventure unfold. It was so flippin' awesome, and cold, and dark, and cozy, and awesome. For my birthday, Alex, Max and Maria presented me with my very own shield/serving tray... Alex took Maria's chicken sketch, and used it for inspiration for this gorgeous fat hen. Max helped with chiseling, and Alex finished the dear with paint! We've had naps, games, breakfast, lunches, talks, visits, all in the Van Viking tent, and more ideas and plans keep popping into our heads. I love how one make can inspire so much more make!

The best thing about a tent, or a fort, a tree house, sandcastle, or an idea... ? Sharing it with friends. I would like to thank Sweet Life Farm, and My Home Among the Hills, and Come Away With Me, blogging friends, all, for kindly taking my hints, and nudging me to share.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Think :: Tinker :: Play :: Make :: Program!

Rather spontaneously, a get together happened... an Arduino tinkering gathering at the kitchen table. Lucas was the first to arrive, and he and Maria went straight to playing with the Circuit Scribe. Do you know Circuit Scribe? Please, visit Electroninks and discover a whole new world of circuitry play and making. This Circuit Scribe belongs to James, and he and Alex R arrived in time to help us test out our A-frame tent... but that's for another post!

Alex R happened to come into possession of a second-third-fourth-hand Quadicopter, in need of an overhaul. After it was determined that the little drone needed a lot of TLC, best for another day, they got ready to break into the Arduinos: {"Arduino is a family of single-board micro controllers, intended to make it easier to build interactive objects or environments." Thank you, Wikipedia.} Basically they are tiny, yet open-source mighty computers, ready to interface with devices using sensors and actuators. They're a hobbyist's building block for fun and creative, programmable projects. Alex used Arduino to make his infinity mirror-light mask.

Geoff and Alex have tinkered with the Arduino, making various light projects and effects. Now, we were finally getting the chance to get the Young Makers Club involved. There wasn't a specific goal for this first Arduino Gathering... the initial accomplishment was getting everyone set-up, and in synch. Not too glamorous, but finding the correct cables, enough outlets, and sorting all the bits and parts took some time and effort. Everyone came with varying levels of supplies and resources, and gaps were filled so everyone could be more or less equally equipped.

And of course, no two computers ever behaves the same way, but they were able to successfully get all those issues squared away, too. Soon there was actual programming happening, and soldering.

Maria has become hooked on Scratch: Imagine, Program, Share. She has been doing just that for about a month now, and she is just as eager to take on C and C++!

I am concerned that in some schools having computers, and students using apps and computer programs constitutes their idea of 'computer education,' of being 'computer savvy.' But that's like implying that knowing how to turn on a television is an education in electrical engineering, or movie production. Using software is a handy, necessary skill, but it has little to do with comprehending how software is written, with understanding the origins of making things happen. We need makers, not just users. Writing software is a powerful skill and an essential foundation of our economic independence, and intellectual security. Knowing how to buy a laptop is a helpful ability, but on top of that... knowing how your computer works, understanding the connections between hardware and software is a critical skill for keeping up with the new pace of the working world. I hope that more schools, more clubs, more educators will embrace the teaching of the manual skills, the practical arts, and the fine arts, that enable these empowering proficiencies. Soldering, wiring, circuitry, programming, welding, art, music, math, dance, science... we cannot absorb these through apps on a pad! We need to tinker and make them our own!

Arduino, using open source hardware, is made to give the user the control, the creative access to making, and building.

Lucas, Maria, James, Alex R, Alex, and Geoff.

Lucas programmed his Arduino to play music!

Light! A big accomplishment... no kidding. These first steps, the troubleshooting, and figuring-out is where the learning happens, and from there the improbable becomes possible. I love the process, seeing the effort, the mess, the frustrations, too... because in this comes comprehension, appreciation. It's not in an illustrated manual, no one is doing it for you, then handing you the switch. So when you tinker, and think, then work at it some more, and the light finally works, it's brilliant!

Maria switched from Scratch to making her earrings. I think the good tools, and creative vibe inspired her.

Young Makers are great makers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 and Eclipse Season is helping us prepare for an eclipse season! Today, our post is a visit back to one of the most amazing eclipse experiences we've ever had the pleasure to enjoy, and since it occurred during Maker Faire, it was even more fun... it was a fitting and beautiful finish to a weekend dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and sharing! At the end of our second day at Maker Faire, the hot day began to cool suddenly, and shadows shimmered, doubled and turned every edge into crescent shapes. The sun slowly disappeared behind the moon, and everywhere people were pausing to marvel at the occurrence. We got our hands on some safety viewers, and looked up. We shared the viewers with anyone passing by, anyone missing out on the eclipse, and it was like sharing magic. It was like the whole of the rest of the Maker Faire experience, where everyone is sharing and learning, and there is a constant exchange between people who are teaching and learning, giving, and receiving... but in this instance everyone was enjoying the same event, the same science of nature. Somehow, there is a kind of tangible sensation when hundreds of people all direct their attention to a common purpose and all are reveling in the experience, describing, admiring, engaging with each other and with the almost surreal happening. It feels really good, it feels affirming of the positive, thoughtful, inquisitive nature of people. It was inspiring because of the power of nature to unify us in our curiosity and interest, our knowledge, and our eagerness to learn more. The entire weekend holds some of my fondest memories, for the people, the place, the things we saw and learned, and shared, and I hold these moments dear.

We are thrilled to have our photographs featured in Michelle Hlubinka's article, Packing For Eclipse Season. "The lunar eclipse Wednesday morning kicks off a series of blood moons..." and "then… when the moon swings around to the other side of the Earth in a little less than two weeks, most of the United States (and Mexico) get a peek at a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, October 23rd!" Michelle has suggestions and practical tips for enjoying this month's celestial show, so I hope you will follow the links to her article, and look for her kind remarks about our Young Maker's Club, Love & Rockets! We feel honored to be a part of the good things that happen in the Make community!

Alex, Maria, Bambi, Eli, and Max~
San Mateo, California, May 2012

William's shadow, and the tree's, with the crescent edges created by the partial eclipsing of sun, where a small bit of the sun, like a ring of fire, makes these strange, beautiful forms. Michelle writes,
"... you don’t need to use fancy equipment to play with and witness this beautiful moment. All you need is a tiny hole. Take a piece of opaque board or foil to project the image of the obscured sun, pinhole-style, onto a flat, white surface the right distance away. Forget your hole at home? You can even make a tiny aperture with a curled finger or fist (as William, of Maker Club Love & Rockets showed us.)"