The Device [Terrain-making]

Basically, I got tired of dealing with simulating all of my corrugated tin/steel with cardboard. It looks.. okay. But it’s not very sturdy, and it’s all fuzzy and shit. So, a while ago I realized I could use all the pop cans I had lying around the house if I could find a way of corrugating them. What did I have? Popsicle sticks. So I tried an alternating arrangement, which worked.. sort of. With a lot of work.

Version one

Version one

This one was, of course, hilariously unsafe. Something about rubbing small sticks right together vigorously next to a sharp-ass metal edge. I did use the test pieces to make that shack a couple weeks ago, though. In the ensuing weeks I’ve gone through a couple iterations, and finally put together something that requires about the same amount of work but far less filing. Or risk of severe finger injury.
Directions below the cut.

Popsicle/craft sticks, plus 2 coffee stirrers per popsicle/craft stick (you want two of them to be about 1.5x thicker stacked up than a single craft stick, and about half as wide. Length doesn’t matter)
Super glue
Wood glue
Scrap wood

C-clamps or heavy objects
Saw (optionally: a razor saw as well)
A fairly aggressive sandpaper – 60-100 grit.
File or emery boards
A flat piece of wood or glass.
Gloves and tin snips for final work.

Step 1: Gluing sub-modules.
Select a craft stick and glue one coffee stirrer on either side. Make sure they’re on the same edge.  Super glue helps here, since it tends to bond the wood tighter but less permanently.

Stick arrangement

Stick arrangement

Step Two: Gluing and basic assembly

Once you have several sub-modules put together (I used six), begin stacking and gluing them together so that the uncovered portion of the popsicle stick is sticking up on the same side. Try to keep the tops as level as possible, but we can fix them later.
Clamp the ends of the stack (make sure not to crack the popsicle sticks – the easiest way is to put the edge of the c-clamp against the coffee stirrers, but not the craft sticks).  Then pour in a couple of stripes of wood glue and paint them into any remaining gaps evenly.

More glue! (don't worry, we're not finished yet)

More glue! (don’t worry, we’re not finished yet). And remember to rinse your brush.

At this stage, you’re going to need to let the glue dry for a bit. It’s cool.

Step 3: Evening shit out
This is an old carpentry trick for quickly sanding shit even. Lay out the glass or wooden sheet, and place the sandpaper on top of it. This ensures a perfectly flat surface. You’re fine using a really coarse and aggressive paper – I used 80-grit – because you’re not really concerned with finish so much as getting this even quickly.
Paint the tops of the craft sticks with a sharpie or other marking device (don’t use a pencil, the graphite lubes up the sandpaper), and run a zig-zag pattern across the back



Once you’ve done that, sand it a dozen strokes or so, flip it over, and see if the ink has been taken off. It will remain in low spots, until you get everything even.

Still a bit of work to go

Still a bit of work to go


Close enough for government work..

Continue until you’re comfortable with the flatness, and repeat on the other side.

Step 4: (optional): Cutting down the module.
Honestly, you’re probably better off doing two full modules and mounting them, but I was in a hurry (famous last words). I used a razor saw to carefully cut the full-sized module in half. Now’s the time to whack those left-over coffee stirrer bits off too.

Be careful not to crack the popsicle sticks, again

Be careful not to crack the popsicle sticks, again

Step 5: Test fit and mounting

it works!

it works!

Slot the pieces together and make sure the alternation looks right. It’s okay if they don’t fit perfectly – that’s what the files and/or emery board are for.

But that filing isn’t happening yet.. we still need to mount the pieces for maximum strength.
Cut a couple chunks from your scrap wood (I’m using remaindered cedar from the Home Depot crash cart..) and sand one side flattish. Don’t worry too much about it though. You can use a straightedge or a square to line up the blocks, and set the two modules so that they line up when the scrap wood does. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it will make things easier later.

Of course, I didn't think of that 'till after I glued and cut the pieces..

Of course, I didn’t think of that ’till after I glued and cut the pieces..

Lay down a thick layer of wood glue, slide the modules around a little to squeeze the air out from under them, and then use the rest of the scrap wood to clamp the two parts together.

I only have three clamps. Fortunately, the big one was deep enough.

I only have three clamps. Fortunately, the big one was deep enough.

A bunch of glue is gonna seep out. It’s fine, that’s supposed to happen. Again, you’re gonna need to wait another hour or two for the glue to dry.

Step 6: Sanding to fit, rounding the formers

Once you pull the clamps, it’s finally time to hit shit with the emery boards and/or file.  img_20161104_142921_937You want to hit it at a fairly sharp angle – you’re basically opening up the top enough for the aluminum to have a place to go. Rounding the sides of the sticks also makes them much less-likely to break in use.

Once you’re done here, congrats – it’s time for testing.

Step 7: Using the corrugator
Put on gloves. Using the tin snips, slice a big sheet from the soda can, knocking the ends off and roughly flattening it.
Place the sheet inside the corrugater, align the two modules roughly with each other, and tap it sharply with a rubber mallet. You can also try to clamp it, but that takes way too damned much time; it’s easier to lean on the damned thing, although either way you do run more risk of breaking the corrugator (trust me, that’s where prototypes 2, 3, and 5 went).
If it doesn’t work.. well, it’s time to do some more filing. Make sure the top edges of the craft sticks are rounded, not triangular, or it can wind up cutting through the aluminum.

Good luck, and happy hammering!

Good luck, and happy hammering!

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Show us a new one with all the Rick’s you learned and then stamp some sheet metal with it.


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