MAKE: DIY Wooden Doorbell Enclosure (and more)

So I finally got around to plugging my iPhone into my computer and upon copying the photos into my digital pictures folder, I saw that in addition to expected pictures of Nefarious shooting machine guns there are quite a few unexpected photos of me napping… Apparently if I’m asleep she not only takes pictures of me in that languid state (embarrassing ones at that — I am sparing you the many shots of my underwear and butt-crack that I am certain brought her considerable amusement) but also at times stacks objects on me to compose the picture more to her liking and/or humor.

That said, it is a huge improvement over past sleeping and waking stunts including writing on my face with a marker (which was achieved at least once without waking me), putting my hand into a bowl of warm water, and worst of all, splashing me in the face with a cup of cold water.

Before you write her off as the world’s worst kid, the last prank, the only one that moves from funny into cruel, was done at my request, because I wanted to know what it felt like — and it really is strange… hard to explain, I think because it takes your brain a moment to put an explanations to the sensations, so while it’s doing that, you get to feel the raw moment, free of context. Try it.

Our doorbell, as you can seeing photo five below (bottom center), is an exposed piece of metal because it’s missing the panel and button. I’m sure this is the reason why we often receive delivery notices on the door, but the driver doesn’t bother to ring — they’re worried that if they push it, they’ll be electrocuted. So one of today’s project was creating a new enclosure. I carved it out of oak, which is nice because it’s really hard, but not so nice because it’s so tough and stringy that it can have trouble holding fine detail unless you work slowly. Anyway, going through the photos below in order:

  1. The freshly carved pieces, both from a single piece of 3/4″ thick oak. The button has a lip as well as a raised numeral “5″ (our address), and the box (which is carved, not built) just has a matching round hole for the button.
  2. I stained the box with a weak cappuccino tint and outlined the button hole with primary yellow. The button is stained with a mix of sesame tint and whitewash, and the raised number five is painted with rubine red and fluorescent pink.
  3. Here’s how it looks like from the back. There’s no hardware holding the two pieces together since the pressure from the switch holds it in position (although it can rotate — if this was a concern it would have been easy to carve slots to limit the movement).
  4. This is what the DIY wooden doorbell enclosure looks like over top of the original naked switch. Definitely a big improvement, and a lot less scary for postmen. We tested it (it fit and worked perfectly) before permanently affixing it.
  5. Here’s the wooden doorbell button and the electrical switch. You can see why it worried people! So after a year of delivery issues, it was either this or a pleading note and “anti-warning”.
  6. I realized that I should waterproof it, so I finished it with a clear gloss layer, which darkened it and brought out the grain as well as making it shiny.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, and it was a lot of fun to create something physical. I’ve created plenty of impressive virtual items — writing and online media and software and so on — but it’s never as satisfying as that which you can hold in your hands.

It’s been rainy today and yesterday, so the pool was closed keeping us home. That meant a lot of reading, which yesterday included — no joke — four and a half hours of The Deathly Hallows. Today we wrapped up with the chapter following the death of Harry Potter, so all that’s left for tomorrow is one last chapter and the epilogue. The last three books have all been video taped as well, so in addition to memories, I hope Nefarious will enjoy me reading to an age seven version of her many decades into the future.

While I was thinking about carving articulated dolls or marionettes or ventriloquists’ dummies out of wood, I doodled this ball joint. I wanted to see how hard it would be to carve a perfect sphere and its matching reverse, split into two halves, and was happy to discover that there was nothing to it. This wasn’t hand whittled or filed by the way. It was done with a Dremel clone (which I have oh-so-missed using every day when I was still a jeweler). That said, doing it with a file or knife wouldn’t be any harder. It would simply be more time consuming. While I’m mentioning tools, the enclosure and button up in the long photo sequence above was carved with my Carvewright (a computer controlled router) using just a 1/8″ bit (the others are misplaced), cuts and carving, and then finished with the Dremel.

Pardon the dirty nails (apologies to Caitlin for that most of all, who has suffered the worst for me) and hairs and so on. Eww, oh for the days when this sort of thing was invisible because a high resolution camera managed at best 640×480 and no one blinked when your 320×240 memories were smaller than the animated GIFs surrounding them. I’m sure there are still photos of Caitlin and I from back then since one of Stainless’s customers was a Kodak engineer or something and brought us toys, but I digress.

Considering some political art, I’ve been thinking about building a 3:1 scale (as in three times real size) handgun out of wood. Every piece would be shaped exactly like in a real gun, but it would be wood. Of course this would be a legal model, but it would show how making a functioning gun at home is getting easier and easier, and that one day fairly soon we’ll be able to “print out” a machine-gun and an infinite number of weapons crowd-sourced on the internet…

Other than that, I’ve mentioned before how much I like the NOS energy drink packaging (shaped like a horsepower boosting nitrous oxide bottle) — and I also like the way the NOS tastes, plus there was an IAM/BME member that worked at the factory back when I first discovered and posted positively about the drink which was sort of cool — but today when I was at the store I saw this similarly awesome “Rage” soda bottle, designed to look like a fire extinguisher… Awesome idea!

That said, I’m sorry to report that it’s just horrible, bright red and cherry flavored. I can’t express here just how awful it is. I really wanted to like this soda but couldn’t bring myself to… Sorry…


  1. Ace wrote:

    The doorbell project looks fun. I think nefarious may have been spending too much time on stuffonmycat!

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 1:26 am | Permalink
  2. Apo wrote:

    The fact that Nefarious takes pictures of you sleeping is adorable beyond words.

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  3. peteD3 wrote:

    Good to see you active and having fun!
    i like NOS too, it seems to be the only “energy drink” that actually works effectively on me!
    the downside is the gas by-product offends even myself!

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  4. Andy wrote:

    Shannon just don’t give a fuck.
    Reference to meme if you’ve never heard of it.

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  5. JuanKi wrote:

    Talk about MAJOR spoilers Shannon! I had no idea Harry died! Not a big fan of the series, only enjoy the movies, so no biggie ;-)

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  6. Indebted wrote:

    LOVE the doorbell and all the tangible makings.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  7. Jason wrote:

    Never mind stuffonmycat, this has been a game for humans for years.
    Based on the spring loaded board game Buckaroo, what Nefarious was playing is called Shannnonaroo, if it was me that was tired/passed out/intoxicated/just sleeping heavily it would have been jasonaroo.
    Much better than the cat thing cos they’re too boringly tolerant, the point of the game is to end up clicking the spring with style points awarded for the best reaction on wake-up.
    You’d be surprised just how much stuff you can pile up on the intoxicated :)

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  8. Erika wrote:

    I’m also reading the Harry Potter series to/with my child (who is a month older than Ari). I hadn’t thought of recording it, but that’s a good idea. We’re finishing up book 2. Apparently the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series needed more attention from him this summer.

    Friday, August 27, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

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  1. Shannon Larratt is Zentastic › New DIY Plastic Skull Doorbell on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    [...] some of you may recall, ages ago I made a wooden doorbell enclosure because our studio’s bell button does not have a cover and looks like the sort of thing that [...]

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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