Category Archives: Sanctum Upgrades

New Process: Miniatures Painting

I finally got around to deciding to paint my 3D printed miniatures, so I needed to tool up and learn painting skills. That all started with a learn to paint kit, some brushes, and lighted magnifier glasses that I received as gifts.

This escalated quickly. I’m going to cover a lot of the things I’ve added or built on the setup here, because if I did it as individual Sanctum Upgrade posts they would stretch out pointlessly and my blog would be nothing but painting posts for the next few months.

If you want to see a more succinct form of this setup (whether out of impatience or for better reference), I’ve added a page for my current setup under Manufacturing Setups.

Direct link is here: Miniatures Painting Setup

I had seen people use painting handles before, and they appeared to help a lot, so before I started painting I 3D printed one for myself, along with a lot of “pucks” to attach miniatures to in order to paint.

Here are some of the results of my early painting setup.

The miniatures from the kit.

I love how the mail came out on the orc.

The first mini I ever printed.
Cyber dog from a kickstarter. All-metal creatures are easier to start out painting.

I’m pretty happy with these early results.

As I painted the miniatures, my painting setup has rapidly evolved.

It might be easier to cover various sections’ evolutions rather than try to keep track of them as setups. Here’s one of the earlier ones, and where it’s currently at.

Early Setup
Current Setup

Water

Originally I used a couple of red solo cups, one for clean water for use in mixing paints (with a dropper in it to measure when thinning washes), and one for rinse water. These were tall and easy to knock over. Not good.

I then switched to smaller plastic disposable cups, with labels on them so I didn’t get them mixed up. After watching some videos on painting and having some discussions with people who paint (a buddy of mine put me in touch with some other people who paint miniatures), I added a second rinse cup, because that appears to help clean brushes more thoroughly.

Finally (so far), I’ve switched the rinse cups to a couple of small plastic cups that aren’t as likely to tip, while still keeping one of the disposable plastic cups for clean water.

Paint Mixing and Cleanup

The painter’s kit recommended using kitchen parchment paper for mixing paints, but that got old fast. The parchment paper had to be cut into sections to be useable (yes I know that’s spelled weird, I don’t like standard spelling of “usable”), and it kept curling, making the paint run. I ordered some circular plastic paint palettes, and they work much better.

I use cut up wooden coffee stirrers to mix paints now. Originally I used some toothpicks I had. I should probably use plastic because of paint absorption, but so far it doesn’t appear to be a major wastage issue, since I’m not frequently running out of paint mixes before finishing what I’m painting. If I start painting a lot of minis in the same colors (if I were to start painting armies, for example) it might become an issue.

Cleaning the palettes was a bit of a challenge at first, but then I started keeping a container with a mixture of dish detergent and water nearby. As soon as I finish with a palette, it goes into the container. When I run out clean palettes, I use a stiff cleaning brush I keep in the container to scrub off any paint that managed to remain stuck to the palettes, then rinse and dry the palettes. It takes so much less time that way. At first I was trying to scrub with my fingers or a cloth and it did NOT go well.

Eventually I want to get a smaller dedicated container for this with a lid, as that pot is my general crafting pot that I want to free up for anything else I might need it for.

Lighting

The glasses I mentioned earlier provides some additional lighting where I’m looking, and my usual workbench light originally provided the primary illumination, but it often required moving it around.

I decided to build something I had seen before on Thingiverse, an arch of LEDs providing light from various angles simultaneously, hopefully reducing the need to move a light around periodically while painting and photographing.

It seems to work decently for now, though I’ve only been using it for one day’s work at the time of writing. I covered the building shenanigans last week here:

Sanctum Upgrades: Arch Lamp

Location

I was originally painting on my primary workbench, covering up the area with a piece of foam core I cut to protect it, and moving stuff around. It allowed me to use the existing lighting at the work bench and mean I didn’t have to pull my auxiliary workbench out (it takes up living space).

This got annoying quickly, as with my 3D printed miniatures I have to clean them up before priming, so I had to keep switching the workspace back and forth. For now my painting setup is going to be a temporary or “deployable” setup that will occasionally live on my auxiliary workbench (aka the other folding table, yes, I like being pretentious sometimes). I still need to figure out storage for when I pack up my painting supplies, but that’s a problem for down the line.

I covered the table in brown paper to protect it (like I generally do for projects, thanks Adam Savage) and have run my extension cable over to it for the lights. I just had to remember to run the wire a certain way so it’s not in the way of my rolling stool. Don’t want to fall off and injure myself because I forgot there was a wire there!

Paint Brushes and Holders

The kit came with a couple of starter brushes, and I was also gifted a nice set of fine tipped brushes. For the first 3 minis, I only used the brushes from the kit, as I wanted to learn more about brush care before putting any wear and tear on the nicer ones.

I also ordered a set of wider brushes for priming, which I’ve been using on all my 3D printed minis. I haven’t used the fine tipped brushes yet, but I’ve definitely been seeing places where they’ll be useful when I paint certain details.

For holding the brushes when not actively in use, I initially just propped them against a small tin.

I 3D printed a brush holder that holds them over the tin very soon after, as the brushes kept rolling around.

I also wanted to see what additional brushes I had available. I couldn’t leave them just lying out on a flat surface as they could roll off or I could damage them by putting something on them, so I finally added a rotating brush stand.

Now I can see an access what I have. I still want to go back and label it to keep it organized.

Paints and Primers

The minis in the kit did not require priming (Reaper Bones minis are like that), so I didn’t need any for that. The kit did include a number of paints to get started with, though.

For the 3D printed ones I’ve been priming them, and I’ve got primers in two different colors. The white was for one thing that I still wanted to be white when I was done. I was hoping the gray would be darker so it’d be easier to distinguish from the white while I’m hand-priming (I’m kinda sick of spraying paints from my time with previous projects), but it’s still not that far off from white.

The starter kit covered a lot of colors, but it was missing some colors I’d want to use for my general collection (flesh tones and red, in particular… which sounds much more ominous than intended when I phrase it like that), so I did a bit of looking and decided to get the next kit in the series, which had the colors I was looking for, as well as more brushes, minis, and instructions. Now I think I have enough selection to paint the rest of my collection (after I get additional practice with the included minis).

That grid for holding the paints in place moves around and kept being a nuisance for regular use, so I locked it in place with hot glue.

Final Thoughts

I think this setup is settling towards a form now, but being this early in this new hobby I wouldn’t be surprised if there were further changes upcoming. At some point I want to replace the lamp with a better-made one, and I’ll probably swap out the wood coffee stirrers with plastic when these run out. Some people have recommended adding a wet palette to my setup, but I don’t yet see the need for one.

I’ve been enjoying priming and painting my miniatures, and look forward to gradually painting my 3D printed miniatures collection.

Sanctum Upgrades: Arch Lamp

I built this lamp as part of my rapidly upgrading painting setup, to provide light from different angles.

Originally I wanted to build a version of this lamp.

LED Bridge Lamp Universal Segment by Opossums on Thingiverse

However, it’s too big for my workspace, and it’s complex enough that I need to study it some before attempting scaling.

It’s a beautiful lamp, but doesn’t work for my original intent of painting on my primary workbench. It also would take a lot of space to store. I also wanted something I could construct quickly so I would have it available ASAP since I had paints coming in soon.

I did find this one, however:

LED Bridge Light Mini by FeedMePi

I ordered the LED strips and began printing.

Assembly, barring some issues I’ll get to further in this post, was rather straightforward. Cut the LED strips to length at one of the marked locations. Slide it through the guides section by section, coming in where you see the wire in the pictures below. Make sure that the LEDs are facing out of the slot. Then do the final attachment of the sections together.

When finished, set the arch upright, and turn the LEDs on. Then you’ll have lighting from many angles at once while working on your projects.

I did run into a couple issues while building this.

Issue 1: Warping

It’s become apparent that I have some warping issues with my 3D printer that is large enough to print these parts.

I ended up working around this by using a chisel to remove one of the pegs in each section, and using a lot of tape. It’s not perfect, but at least it gets it functional for now until I can reprint it properly.

Issue 2: Height

The arch is a bit short to comfortable use with the painting handle that I use for painting. While priming I don’t think that it’s so big of an issue, as I can easily just use the pucks to hold the mini, but for stability I’m going to want more space for both the stand and the brush in my hand.

To fix this, I designed and printed some extenders to raise the arch up approximately 2 inches. This gives me more space to work with.

They are designed to just stack the arch on top, and route the power cables out the back.

If you want to build one of these lamps with the extender pieces, you can find my extenders here:

Base Extender for LED Bridge Light Mini by Ralnarene

My current hope with this arch is that I will not have to use my workbench lamp on my secondary workbench, and can keep my painting and 3D printing workflows separate as much as possible. I also hope this means I’ll be able to see what I’m painting more clearly without having to move a lamp arm and my head around so much.

Sanctum Upgrades: 3D Printer Control Console Panel

This one was a relatively straightforward and simple upgrade to my workspace.

I took an old tablet of mine out of storage, cleaned it up (charged it, ran updates, etc), added shortcuts to my Octoprint controls, and put a snazzy screensaver on it.

Then I found a spot on the wall over my workbench, attached it with my old standby (command strips) and stuck it to the wall. I routed power to it from the workbench, and… done!

I now have access to controlling the software for my 3D printers set up to be in the same room as the printers themselves. It makes it easier if I need to access the controls for calibrations and such, without the need to bring them up. It’s still not as quickly accessible as I’d like (it still requires waking it up and punching in a pin) but it’s still more convenient than bringing up the controls on my phone or running to the other room to my shortcuts on the computer.

And I get to pretend a bit more I’m on a starship at times. Win-win.

Sanctum Upgrades: HOTAS Chair

I got tired of having to find spaces for my HOTAS controls on my desk, and having them competing for space with my keyboard and mouse. I had time and parts on my hands, so I decided to revisit clamping the HOTAS controls to my gaming chair.

I hadn’t done it previously because the clamps I had did not fit my newer gaming chair. The clamps I printed from here had a bit too short of a length for the screw to get a grip on the underside of the armrests.

Saitek X52 (Pro) and X55/56 Mount by Harrishedge

So, I finally got around to modifying the socket for the screw clamp to fit my style of chair here:

Extended Clamp For X55/X56 Mount

I printed the new clamps, went digging through my parts to find the screws I’d used previously to connect the mounts to the controls the clamping hardware. That took longer than it should have.

I used a corded USB hub, some velcro straps, and the straps on the chair cushion to control the wires in a way where they wouldn’t get in the way, and I can still lift the armrests up out of the way when I don’t want to use the controls.

I also added a USB extension cable to my computer to easily connect to and disconnect from the chair, so I wouldn’t be permanently tethered to the computer.

Here’s what I ended up with.

This makes flying in spaceflight sims a lot more comfortable, and doesn’t require me to keep moving the controls around on various table surfaces in my computer room. Certainly makes it a lot easier to jump into Elite: Dangerous whenever I feel like it. Just plug the hub in, fold the controls down, and I’m ready to fly.

Technomancer’s Spellbook aka Codex Technarcana

There are oftentimes bits of information that I frequently need to look up. Originally some of the stuff was on bits of paper, or I would have to repeatedly look up documents online. I got annoyed with trying to keep track of it across multiple locations, so I decided to get a binder or something. Then I decided to lean fully into the wizard/technomancer theme, compiling my everyday references for my technological hobbies as a “spellbook.”

One thing I liked from reading gaming rulebooks about wizards was their description of their spellbooks. How they could vary, and how there were two general categories of spellbooks: workbooks and grimoires.

The workbook is an everyday spellbook that had their notes that they cobbled together as they traveled. It can be messy, and written on all sorts of bits of paper that they tucked together in a cover. They could add new information as they came across it rather easily, and they could be carried around anywhere.

Grimoires were fancy neatly written books that require preplanning, and are often kept locked away somewhere (like someone’s gilt-edged special editions in a private study).

I decided to make my own workbook, and instead of going with a plain binder, I did a bit of looking around online, and found a place that sells custom laser-engraved leather binders. These awesome people here:

Murdy Creative Co.

After a little back and forth on the customization, and swapping out the chicago screws binding with ones I liked better, this is what I’ve ended up with.

In here I collect my notes for commonly used bits of information, divided by categories such as 3D printing, software, etc. I’ve thrown in some of my favorite inspirational quotes, too.

The 3D printing section in particular includes my notes on what temperature settings work best for the various filaments I have, my versions of procedures for calibration, modeling and slicing considerations, and a handout on checking bed levelling.

I’d show you guys more of the contents, but for now it’s not exactly an IP friendly collection.

At any rate, I highly recommend putting together your own for your own maker hobbies. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as a custom leather binder, a folder or slim 3 ring binder would work just as well. My main recommendations for building your own are these:

  1. Either get something with pockets or a way to store hole-punched sheets. That way you can insert printouts our handouts that you get, and not have to rewrite everything if you were using a notebook. It also gives you the freedom to reorganize later.
  2. Pick something very portable for your workbook/spellbook. A 3-inch 3 ring binder might be able to hold a lot, but it’s rather unwieldy to carry.
  3. Include information that you frequently need to look up or often forget (for me it’s partly the tolerances and temperatures I often need to check).
  4. Include some blank paper in there somewhere so you can add stuff in when you become aware of it, and not have to track down more paper.

Sanctum Upgrades: Mouse Bungee

I’ve been on a spree upgrading my workspace/living space. With a new workstation and working arrangement, I started getting annoyed with the mouse cable moving around and making extra noise.

So, I decided to build one of these:

Mouse Bungee V3 + V4 by mer_at on Thingiverse.

Now it doesn’t make much noise.

I had the printer time available and a couple of skateboard bearings already on hand. I decided to go with black filament to keep the aesthetic matching with other hardware around my computer and let it blend into the background a bit.

Warp Core Table Lamp Finished!

This project is part of what first got me to get my first 3D printer, but I got discouraged at the time with print quality and later by my replacement printer being too small.

But I finally did it!

A while after I originally wanted to create it, someone updated the quality of the models and manufacturing methods, making it more feasible to do.

So, earlier this year, I posted about how I had printed the parts (though it took me a couple attempts).

Failed print…. this is where I found out Octoprint doesn’t like 12+ hr prints

3D printed parts, before I took the time to reprint the failed reaction chamber.

One of the nice things about this version is that most of the parts were broken into easier to print and clean up pieces. There was a bit of a tradeoff, though. It required coat hanger wire for some parts and replace others with stainless steel rods.

It was easy enough to buy the rods, and purchase and cut the steel coat hangers… but I was unable to cut the rods myself. I ended up supporting a local business and contacting my local machinist (who I’ve gone to before when there were metal parts I couldn’t fix or fab myself). It was kinda pricey… but precisely and cleanly cutting and finishing stainless steel is no joke, and this guy did an excellent job of it.

Unfortunately, I found out later that the lengths I have him did not precisely match what was needed for some of the 3D printed parts.

This led to a bit of experimentation with modifying the 3D models and reprinting the “tension members” to “cheat” them to a length that would work with the steel rods. That took a bit longer than it should have due to unexpected 3D printer problems.

Test fitting success!

By the way, if you’re wondering where the coat hanger wires went, they are inside those gray pieces around the clear section, spaced between the steel rods.

Getting the lights in there and getting them to work took a bit, but I finally finished that recently. The system runs off of an Arduino Nano board, with a small board to break the wiring out. Before I get to the final stuff, I want to share a lessons learned.

If you use a breadboard of any kind… check how the the holes are connected! For some reason I thought this board left the holes unconnected and that I’d have to spread solder between components to form connections. Turns out they were connected and it hadn’t occurred to me to look at the back of the board until after I had soldered the resistors on. This is also why it is a good idea to buy spares of parts (or multi-packs) when working on a project. Otherwise it could cost you a lot of time and extra shipping.

Great access for wires, right?
D’OH!

A new board and a lot of soldering later, this is what I ended up using:

Ignore the putty, they were holding the connector pins on for soldering

I realized that this time on a project I didn’t want to trap myself with my directly soldering disparate wires to the board, so I added connector pins so I could have removable cables for disassembly/modification. I wasn’t gonna bet on getting it right the first time!

To keep the count of LEDs and wires down a bit, I used the diffusers someone else had designed (links at the bottom).

The circular indentations are where the LEDs go.

It uses a “light pipe” design to spread the light around in a mostly circular pattern. There was even a special one for the reaction chamber…but I ended up not using that.

Wiring the LEDs took a while, but it was more tedious than it was difficult. I think it was mainly because I took the time to plan out what I was doing before I started in more detail, rather than trying to wing it and label a bunch of wires afterwards.

Paper, colored pencils, and a straight-edge go a long way towards helping planning. I used this to make a simplified guide for wiring… but I cleaned up after finishing and don’t know where it currently is.

To avoid going insane with trying to glue in each LED and try to solder all the connections with reasonable spacing, I designed and printed spacers that I could simply stick the wires of the LEDs through. I think the wires would have held, but to make things simpler on myself (and so they wouldn’t push out during soldering) I hot glued them after putting them in.

Madness? THIS. IS. PLANNING!


To drastically cut down on the number of wires required, I soldered all of the negative terminals to a common grounding bus bar made from a bare copper wire.

10 wires enter, one wire leaves.

Referencing the drawings I had made earlier, I soldered some ribbon cable to the positive terminals, allowing me to have traceability through color-coding. The wiring is mirrored on the opposite side, so that each control output from the electronics board controls the lights in the mirrored position on top and bottom of the warp core lamp. This keeps the number of control pins needed down, and simplifies the coding.

Wire the rainbow… to save yourself headaches later.

These lights on the spacer bars fit snugly into the diffusers.

The top section. Easily identifiable by the big red grounding wire because I forgot to connect the grounding wire first. Also…snip your extra wire leg length to reduce problems.

As mentioned in the note above, I forgot to wire the ground wire first on the top section, meaning I had to add it in last, connecting it at the far end rather than the close end. In the bottom section I did it first, because I really needed room for the power/programming USB cable to fit in.

These segments then slid into the corrugated sections.

This was actually when I realized the grounding wire blunder. All positive and no negative wires.

An intermediate stage for no reason other than I like this picture.

Here’s how the wires connected up before the final closing of the casing.

Note the removable connectors for all the wires in case I needed to adjust anything. The colorcoding made connecting them to the board a breeze. The USB cable goes out the bottom for programming and power.

Now we get to where I kinda got angry. Here are the parts just before I was planning to connect the last couple wires and close it up.

Before I realized my planning failure.

Look at the circuitry. Look at the diffuser that’s supposed to go into the central reaction chamber. Now look at the reaction chamber. Do you see it yet?

THE DIFFUSER AND THE CIRCUIT DON’T BOTH FIT INTO THE CHAMBER AT THE SAME TIME.

I had planned for this somewhat with the board, but hadn’t fully taken into account the flexibility of the wires or the added height of the removable connectors.

Thankfully,

1) the diffuser isn’t 100% necessary (though the light would look better in that section

2) the diffuser was weak

3) RAL CAN CRUSH DIFFUSER WITH BARE HANDS AND EXTRACT LEDS INTACT

I kinda went barbarian on it in my desire to finish. I ripped the central diffuser apart, and just shove the LEDs in the compartment with the rest. Also, after a test fitting and plugging it in, I realized that the arduino had red LEDs that clashed with the color scheme, and put some electrical tape over them to get rid of the distracting red glow.

I closed the thing up… and then got to do something that still makes me chuckle a bit.

DRAMATIZATION OF ACTUAL EVENTS

I pulled out the rubber mallet and began gently tapping on the end of the warp core to make sure all the rods were seated as well as they could be.

After a bit of updating some code I wrote for this years ago (and cursing at two different computers for a few hours because they didn’t want to behave with uploading to the arduino) I finally got it turned on.

Engineering to bridge, the reactor is online!

I went through a few iterations of code and pseudocode (and had to remind myself that with this board the counting started at 2 rather than 0 or 1), and finally got it to a state I liked.

Here’s the initial light pattern I went with:

I’ve got an intermediate version of this one somewhere with an extra delay built in after the FOR loop because I didn’t like that the light jumped immediately from the bottom LED to the top again. It just seemed jarring.

Here’s what I’ve most recently decided to use:

This one has 2 or 3 “waves” at a time passing through each end to the center. It looks less like a jarringly looped GIF than some of the other iterations I went through.

I originally planned on plugging this into the raspberry pi that I control my 3D printers with, but apparently Octoprint gets confused by the extra USB connection, so I have it connected to a USB wall adapter for the moment. Though I have realized I can plug it into the USB adapter in my car as well…

I hope you all enjoyed this, and I’m glad to have finally finished this project after years of wanting to build this, and I was finally able to take this off my project board.

Reference Links For Construction:

Here’s the original I saw that inspired me years ago:

Warp Core Table Lamp by ThePlanetMike

Here’s the one I actually made:

1701-D Warp Core (HI-RESOLUTION) by Novel_Mutations

Here’s the LED Diffuser I used to reduce the number of LEDs needed in the build:

LED Diffuser for High Resolution 1701-D Warpcore by Novel_Mutations

My github page for the light sequence on the arduino:

Warp-Core-Lamp-Arduino-Nano

Sanctum Upgrades: Surge Protection

I’ve been dealing with a lot of thunderstorms lately, and got kinda fed up with my old habit of unplugging my sensitive electronics every time they come through, so I decided to finish fully surge-protecting my primary workstation and my router.

The internet connection required a few changes while I was at it. Here it was before.

I kinda dropped a whiteboard on the coax connector a while back, and was worried that it might have been damaged a bit in the process, so I replaced it just in case. Also, the coax cable stuck out of the wall, taking up a bit more floorspace than necessary, so I replace the cable with a shorter yet more flexible one and installed a 90 degree connector. I added an in-line surge protector on the coax cable, and replaced the wall surge protector (I wanted to use the other one somewhere else).

Now it doesn’t stick out as far, and I don’t have to worry about surges going through the router. Though, I guess I kinda went a little redundant on protecting the PC from power surges on the internet connection, as the the ethernet cable was already routed through a surge protector. Oh well, there is no such thing as overkill.

While I was making some changes, I also replaced the old surge protectors for the computer’s peripherals. Here are the old ones:

And here is one of the new ones. I’ve installed them on the walls to be neater. Hopefully the command strips will hold in this configuration.

Warp Core Table Lamp

I’ve been wanting to build one of these for years, since before I got my first 3D printer, but I had so many problems with my 3D printers on long prints that I never got around to it.

Well, I’m fixing that now!

For one thing, the models for this have been redone drastically, increasing quality and reducing the print time.

Here’s the original: Warp Core Table Lamp

And here’s a redone version: 1701-D Warp Core (HI-RESOLUTION)

It’s also been downsized slightly, which makes the large parts fit on my smaller 3D printer.

For another, I’ve been fixing my 3D printers, and have had all this monitored print time available recently, so I’ve had no excuse NOT to make it anymore. So, I’ve been spitting out the parts for this thing lately.

Those translucent sections were much larger and more complex in the original model, each made of 5 toroids. Also, many pieces were replaced with metal rods that I was able to order on Amazon, I just have to cut them down to the correct length.

So… yet another project ongoing! I’ve gotten the tools and hopefully all the parts I need, so when I have some more time (I’ve been kinda busy) I’ll be:

  1. Writing the arduino code for controlling it
  2. Testing the code on a breadboard
  3. Soldering an absurd number of connections
  4. Cutting a bunch of metal rods with a reciprocating saw
  5. Filing some metal bits to safer edges
  6. Assembling the lamp