Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Friday, July 30, 2021

First Laser Project Complete!

Finishing a project is certainly a rare thing these days but since there was a very specific deadline involved I was definitely motivated to finish it on time! I engraved about 70, or so, of these blanks that my brother gave me. There are still 20+ blanks in the box. They get progressively smaller as my brother chopped his way through the branch. In theory, they only need 54 for the reception, I figure 30% or so over is probably about right! These took 3 days to engrave but I was mulit-tasking with other chores. I could have done it a bit faster if that was the only chore.

The hardest part of this was getting it centered on the blank. You can see a lot of variation of "centered" in the ones you can see in the first picture. Centering an asymmetrical design on an asymmetrical object using a very symmetrical "preview" square is a bit difficult. If these had all been the same size I would have just set up a couple of stop blocks and I could have dropped in each piece in the same location every time. In the end each one is definitely unique. 

I really wanted to run all of these through the planer at least once or give them a quick sanding but my brother thought the cut right from the chop saw was smooth enough (Really? And we have the same mother? My mom is notorious for making sure her wood finishes are as smooth as glass, we went through a lot of sandpaper growing up). I thought I nice oil finish afterwards would have been nice but they are going out as is. They still look quite nice and a bit eclectic with the variations of "centering".

Definitely excited to try out some other ideas with this now that I have fully broken it in. I would like to find a good piece of design software that doesn't have an annual or monthly license fee, or doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

70+ laser engraved place name holder bases.

Same batch but now with holes. That was definitely the easiest part. Load up the drill bit in the drill press and drill holes till there are no bases left in the stack. Took about 15 minutes, maybe less.

And the wire holder in place. Note the slight sundial effect from the morning light through the window.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Bit the bullet - Pulled out the Laser


Neje Master 2, 20Watt Laser Engraver/Cutter, mounted up and in action.

I had talked to my brother about getting the laser engraver but I hadn't really mentioned that I hadn't done anything with it yet. I was a bit intimidated and I thought that I needed some software for the design element. He asked if I could engrave some wood blanks that he was cutting from branches from his backyard that would then serve as name plates at the reception tables. With a little pushing from my wife I agreed and I pulled it to see what I needed to do.

First things first I mounted it on a sturdy piece of 1/2" plywood that was leftover from another wood project. I finished the edges a bit to avoid splinters and gave the surface a quick once over with the sander as well. So much for the easy part.

Using the QR code on the side of the engraver I got to the instructions and downloaded the controller to my iPad. At this point I discovered that all I needed to do was bring in the image and the controller would actually create a cleaned up image for the laser. I think I spent less time getting the image and adjusting it than I took mounting the engraver to the base (which did involve a run to the hardware store for some #8 screws, washers and nuts). Then it was just adjusting the output of the laser to get a good image on the wood. Something to keep in mind with these types of laser is that the wattage stated is the power usage, the actual output is about 7 watts.

Full power, 100%, pretty much a charred mess. I could actually see flames!

50% power,  better but still a lot of charring but a lot less flaming

25% power, much better, edges still a little rough and the cut is deeper than it needs to be.

15%, nice and sharp, but figured I would try the lowest setting to reduce the depth of the engraving

10% power, pretty much bang on. This is what I'm running with.

The image as created by our soon to be sister in law. I'm not sure why the letters are sharp and the heart is pixelated but I took a photo, loaded into the Neje software and it created a couple of images for me to choose from. It worked out quite nicely in the end. I had to darken a couple of areas to make a nicer cut at the top edges,

Friday, July 23, 2021

Game Design Thoughts - Updating the search for Data


Redtail Hawk, one of a mated pair that lives in one of our neighbor's trees and regularly hunts over the field behind our house.

The Redtail Hawk is riding the thermals constantly scanning for his next meal. I have been feeling much the same this past week or so, scanning for information and sometimes finding it. Let's just say if I was the hawk I'd be really hungry most of the time.

I have continued to dig for information on Colorado mountain passes, maybe to much but some sources have at least been revealed. The first was a long shot a book by Larry Rynearson called Colorado's Historic Mountain Passes. It has some good information and even information that is helpful but its definitely not the definitive resource I would like it to be.

While I was scouting around for maps I stumbled across across a couple of pdf documents that apparently came from the USGS. There are 11 in total but I have only been able to find two and they don't cover the entire state, most of the western third is missing including the SW corner which is a pain since its a big focus for Colorado railroading from a mining standpoint. The first pamphlet is: "Historic Trail Map of the Leadville 1 (degree) x 2 (degree) Quadrangle, Central Colorado", the second one is  the "Historic Trail Map of the Denver 1 (degree) x 2 (degree) Quadrangle, Central Colorado. These maps and the supporting pamphlets were prepared by Glenn R Scott. There was an anniversary edition including all 11 maps in 2004 but I haven't had any luck in finding it.

The maps are great but the most interesting aspect is the sure amount of historical information that is included which far outweighs the value of the maps. The information includes all the mountain passes in the area and how they can be accessed (foot, road via 4WD, road via car, railroad built on it, railroad still present etc.), not to mention all the wagon toll roads that proceeded the railroads. There is just a wealth of information to be had. Now if I could just find the rest of the pamphlets and maps.

Here is a bit of an example of the information included about a pass:

Argentine Pass (In 1860s' called Sanderson Pass; in 1870's called Snake River Pass, also Georgetown Pass), 13,207 feet. On the Continental Divide between Peru Creek and old Decatur in the Peru Creek Mining District ad Leavenworth Creek and Georgetown in SE 1/4 sec. 9, T. % S., R. 75 W., Clear Creek and Summit Counties. Jeep trail on the east side and foot trail on west side

What it doesn't say is if it was surveyed as a possible railroad pass. However, at 13,207 feet of elevation the answer is likely no or it was deemed to be a useful route.

Here is another example for a pass that did carry a railroad line:

Boreas Pass (earlier Tarryall Pass, Hamilton Pass, or Breckenridge Pass), 11,481 feet. From Tarryall Creek and Como to Indiana Creek branch of Blue River and Breckenridge, NW 1/4 sec. 26, T. 7S., R. 77W., Park and Summit Counties. Railroad built over pass in 1881 (Brown, 1972, p.58). Auto road - closed in winter.

At least it gives me something to work with and since it includes references it should help the search for more information.

Something else I have been working on is transcribing the rules for 1869; The Golden Spike. This was the first 18XX game I worked on with my ex-father in law, Colin Barnhorst. Unfortunately I can't find my copy but I was able to acquire a set of the beta rules that had been converted to pdf. I took the trouble of retyping the whole thing since the scan wasn't very good, mostly to jog my memory on what we had done. We published this in 1996 and there are maybe 40 copies or so out in the world. I have been toying with the idea of publishing it again, but I need to track down an individual who I gave permission to re-publish it. I don't know if there are any of his versions out there or not but I at least need to see what happened there. This time I will include some designer notes in it, tough after 25 years, but we introduced a lot of concepts that make it a very different 18XX game.

So there you go, a small update on the nonsense that has been running around in my head.