Zulagen hurts my brain

Hey kids! Winter break’s over, so here’s a puzzle to thaw out your brain.

You know those mental rotation exercises that are all like this:

Mental rotation exercise puzzle with Beijing's CCTV tower

Well today I give you a violin maker’s variation on that exercise.

I almost broke my brain making zulagens. Zulagens are little helpers that redirect clamping force to where you want for glue-ups. Here, a page out of my notes to explain how it’s used:

0104 zulagen

This zulagen pushes on the ends of the C-bout ribs, and the serrated face reduces slip during clamping. It’s important for the two sides that push the ribs to be squared up nicely. Before you serrate the face, this is what you want:

0104 quiz 1

No light passing through the inside edges of your square.

But this ain’t your regular blocky block! The square reads diagonally across the reference surface (labeled “DOWN”). Sure, you can just flatten your DOWN surface and then square up each angled face individually, but why make it so easy when you can make it WAY HARDER THAN YOU NEED TO?!?!


Turn on your planing brain, it’s time to figure out how to square up the two angled faces with minimal planing.

Based on the light passing under the edge of the square, where should you remove material if you wanna get the job done in one go? Each question has ONE SINGLE ANSWER ONLY!


Let’s do the first one together:

0104 quiz B

The face on the right is fine and good, so the answer has to be A or B. The other answers would affect the squareness of the right face (Remember? Square goes diagonal on reference surface). The left face is reading bigger than 90, so you want to decrease the angle. The right answer is B.

Okay, you’re on your own now. Hover over the image for the answer. Remember, pick only one.


Get warmed up with this one, which is similar to the example.

zulagen mental rotation planing puzzle 1


Now for the good stuff.

0104 quiz 2


0104 quiz 3


0104 quiz 4

So, how’d you do? Comment below if you want to brag (or whimper, or correct me, or point out some technicality that invalidates the whole thing).

And now, circularity for closure.

escher cctv tower


Album Artwork for Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples

My brother-in-law is releasing a double LP called Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples, with his 3.5.7 Ensemble. It’s a richly textured portrait of the city of Chicago, and he’s given me the great honor of providing the cover art!

So here’s a little preview of one of the tracks, called Wandering, set to a little timelapse of the creation of the front cover:

If you’re in the great city of Chicago next Saturday (12/13/2014), come to the album release party in Logan Square!

More info on Facebook and on their website.

the 3.5.7 Ensemble - Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples album cover art

the 3.5.7 Ensemble - Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples album cover art

the 3.5.7 Ensemble - Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples album cover art

the 3.5.7 Ensemble - Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples album cover art

Even if you don’t have a record player, you should get the LPs so you can own giant prints of my awesome artwork 🙂 🙂 🙂

Bass bar + architectural rendering tutorial

Back to school! Thankfully, I found my bass bar more or less the way I left it nearly a month ago. It’s all done and glued in now. Definitely not perfect, but a decent first attempt, I think.

fitting a violin bass bar with tension

This little animation explains the ridiculous challenge of the bass bar. You aren’t fitting it to just plop down and sit perfectly (though some people do?), you have to put it under a little tension. This means gradually over-cutting or lifting the ends of the bass bar, but still making sure the entire bar will make contact if you are pressing it into the plate. But you have to make sure that the way the bar contacts doesn’t twist your plate either! Just a few things to worry about. There’s probably only like a million other things too.

I glued up the bar yesterday and snapped some photos.

bass bar rendering tutorial - take a picture like it's a perspective

Those clamps. That bar. Those little cleats. The straight grain accentuating the topography of the spruce. All this inevitably leads me into….

Architecture RE:lapse

Did you know that I was once a great master of Photoshopping horribly underdeveloped models into magical architectural wonderlands? I exaggerate only as much as an architectural rendering does. People ask me how I do it. The methodology is very very simple, but making a good rendering requires some pretty well-developed eye judgment. Kind of like violins… That said, let’s take the above photo and make a rather ridiculous rendering lacking in good judgment.

1. Get you a nice sky

bass bar rendering tutorial - add sky

2. Add some green stuff

bass bar rendering tutorial - add green stuff

3. Busy things up with scalies and texture

bass bar rendering tutorial - add people and some random lines to make it more building-y

4. Fluff it up with some filters and highlights

bass bar rendering tutorial - fluff it up with some filters and fix it with shading!!!

Other notes: I am a heavy user of Multiply, masks, brush and pattern presets, and Flickr. I am a very light user of layers. Keep that file light.

And remember, if anything’s looking off or ugly, or if something’s underdeveloped, or if you’re too lazy to solve some particular detail, you can always just FIX IT WITH SHADING!