Easy Tetris Christmas ornaments

Tetris Christmas ornaments

Okay, this will probably be the last Tetris project for a while! A couple weeks ago, I made Tetris refrigerator magnets using pieces from the Jenga Tetris game. I had some pieces left over, so I thought, why not add to my collection of nerdy Christmas ornaments?

This project was really simple. You’ll need:

  • Tetris pieces
  • An electric drill
  • Screw eyes
  • Ribbon

First, drill pilot holes into the pieces themselves. The Tetris pieces are two plastic halves glued together: all of my holes were on the seam. If you try to force the screw eyes in without pilot holes, you risk splitting the pieces in two.

Second, twist in the screw eyes.

Third, tie ribbon through the screw eyes to hang the ornaments.

And that’s it! This is one of those projects where gathering the materials takes far more time than the execution. It took me five minutes to make five ornaments.

Tetris Christmas ornament

Game on,
~Dennis

Easy LEGO coffee table play idea

Two ideas inspired me recently.

First, I saw The Lego Movie. The movie makes a strong case about how to play with Legos. There are those that build the sets as intended and never alter them, and there are those who make up their own creations. As a kid I was of the first philosophy, but I always wanted to be of the latter.

Second, I read Brick by Brick, an excellent account of Lego’s financial struggles during the mid-2000s, and how the company turned itself around. The author mentioned how Lego’s headquarters features plastic fishbowls full of Legos on every conference room table.

And inspiration came together. Why don’t I have Legos laying around my apartment to motivate me creatively? And why don’t I be the kind of person who makes whatever he wants with Legos?

A simple solution presented itself: buy Legos, put them in jars, and put them on my coffee table.

Starting sets

That night I went to Walmart to scope out my first Lego purchase in a long time. I found this yellow bucket of basic Lego pieces, and this stormtrooper set.

Lego bucket and stormtroopers

The bucket had all sorts of unique Lego pieces, very few standard bricks. This would open up all sorts of fun possi-build-ities!

I got the stormtrooper set mostly because I wanted some minifigs, and four stroomtroopers, plus an abundance of special gray and black pieces, would add to my piece variety.

The stormtrooper transport wasn’t that interesting of a set to begin with. Is this supposed to be a spaceship? Was this even in the movies?

Lego stormtrooper transport

Lego stormtrooper transport

Honestly, as far as Star Wars sets go, and Lego in general, this set just didn’t do it for me. So I felt no shame in building it once, then promptly demolishing it. Not a big leap of faith, to be sure, but that’s something I never would’ve done as a kid!

Glass jars

I then went to Hobby Lobby and bought three glass jars with lids, jars big enough that I could fit my adult hand in. I got some 1/2″ sticker letters and wrote a phrase on each: “IF YOU BUILD IT…”, “PLAY WELL” (the Dutch translation of “Lego”), and “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!” from the Lego Movie.

I roughly sorted the pieces into the jars: flat plates in one, basic bricks in the second, and small, unique, moveable, and minifig pieces in the third.

Legos in jars on a coffee table

And that’s it! An easy project, to be sure, but one that promises a lot fun. The jars sit on my coffee table. Now when people visit, they have something easily accessible to play with. If Legos sit in the closet, they take effort to bring out and build. But if they are sitting in common areas, they invite building.

My first creations

Every few days, I’ll take 10 to 20 minutes out of my time to dump out the Legos and build something small. It’s been a lot of fun so far! Here are some of my first creations. I have very few duplicate pieces in those jars, and so many different colors, that it’s proven a lot harder than I thought to make compelling mini models.

Lego stormtrooper with ice cream

Seen here is the Imperial Ice Cream Cart, along with the Dairy Trooper, who protects the sweet treats with his bubblegum gun.

Lego airplane with stormtrooper

A tiny bi-wing, piloted by a stormtrooper.

Lego airplane from the back

Another view of the bi-wing. The stormtrooper didn’t have proper controls, so he didn’t get very far!

Stormtrooper looking in house

Hey, how did you get in that tiny house?

Stormtrooper eating carrot

Sorry, can’t hear you. Eating a carrot right now.

Lego stormtroopers with carrots

Right Stormtrooper: I just love munching on carrots!
Left Stormtrooper: My carrot’s green and rotten — somebody’s about to get hurt!!

Lego Imperial Flower Car

After his last outburst, it was decided that Left Stormtrooper needs to calm down. He was assigned to the Imperial Flower Cart, and outfitted with the tulip gun. He even turned his helmet into a flower pot: he’s doing the best that he can!

Lego stormtrooper in hot tub

Left Stormtrooper: And why is there a carrot in my gun?!
Right Stormtrooper: Dude, chill. The water’s nice.
(Note the rubber ducky in Right Stormtrooper’s hand)

Lego stormtrooper jetski

The stormtrooper takes a spin on his battle jet ski.

Lego stormtrooper mecha

This unfortunate stormtrooper had his cappa detated. The Pretty Princess Mecha is a temporary solution.

Lego stormtroopers

Mad Cow fools around with his new battle flyer.

Lego Mad Cow

Look at all those weapons Mad Cow has!

Lego stormtrooper ice cream shop

The Imperial Ice Cream Shop is open for business!

Lego battle pig

Imperial Battle Swine, reporting for duty!

Happy building!
~Dennis

Pokeball Christmas Wreath

This year, as I prepared for Christmas, I wanted to come up with a decoration that fit the season but also fit my nerdy, video game interests. I’d seen wreaths before made out of ornament balls, so I decided to make one myself.

Only with Pokéballs!

All you need for this project are Christmas balls, red and green glitter spray paint ($8 a can at Hobby Lobby), a strong wire (like a coat hanger), electrical tape, and ribbon.

First, I gathered the balls, about 70 total.

White and silver Christmas balls

Because the Pokéballs were going to be green and red, I used white and silver balls to fill in the gaps. I eventually added some plain red balls as well.

The larger white balls served as the base for the paint. Putting painters tape around the circumference, I spray painted the tops of half with red glitter paint and half with green.

Spraying green glitter paint on the pokeballs.

I held the balls in my hand and spray painted them, then set them in a box to dry.

I quickly found that the glitter paint was harder to work with than normal spray paint. You can’t really push the button down lightly. If you do, only a clear glue comes out, not the paint. So I held the balls at arms length and tried to apply the paint as lightly as possible. In some cases the paint clumped together as it dried, but other times it stayed on evenly. I’m not sure what caused the difference.

In the future, it’d probably look better to spray the balls with normal green and red paint first, and then put a second, lighter coat of glitter paint on top.

The masking tape didn’t work perfect: sometimes the paint dribbled through.

Red pokeball ornament with paint dribble.

What was most unusual is that sometimes the glue part of the glitter paint pooled at the bottom of the ball, under the masking tape, leaving the sides cleaner than the bottom.

When painting the balls, make sure to leave the “top” hole of the ornament in the center of the ball and toward the back. Once on the wreath, since this messy back-end will be facing the wall, nobody sees too many dribbles.

I followed this woman’s general plan for assembling the wreath. One thing she recommends, which I didn’t realize until all the balls were strung on, is hot glue the metal top of the ball to the ornament itself. Once all the balls are on the wreath, the pressure of so many objects together can cause the balls to pop out of their holders, making it very difficult (and frustrating) to get them back on again.

After all the balls were strung, the wreath was nearly complete. I put about 3-4 small balls between each Pokéball. Because gravity wants to pull all the balls toward the bottom of the wreath, hide any remaining wire at the top with ribbon.

And that’s all there is to it!

Completed pokeball wreath

To make the black line separating the color and white halves, I used electrical tape. I cut strips of tape into four or five smaller stripes, almost like pinstripping, then cut a line circle by hand. The electrical tape sticks well and hides some of the paint dribbles as well.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with this project, even if some of the paint on the balls isn’t perfect.

Merry Christmas!

~Dennis

Detail on the Pokeball wreath

Detail on the Pokeball wreath

Update: 1/5/2014

As I packed away my Christmas decorations this season, I couldn’t help but be bothered by all those balls that popped off while I manipulated the wreath. So I took all the balls off the wire, then glued the metal parts in place.

I used super glue, and the process was quite easy, though time consuming. I learned not to pull the metal part off completely: the glue will dry before you bend the little wires to get it back on. So instead I pulled the metal part back just a little bit, put a dab of glue down, then pressed the metal into place.

The only balls I didn’t glue were the Pokéballs. I thought the wreath looked best with all the Pokéballs turned color-side-up, so I left the metal parts unglued so that I could twist them into place once they were back on the wire.

I rethreaded the balls, and only one ball popped off, a green Pokéball at the bottom of the wreath (where all the weight puts pressure on the balls). I’m so glad I took the time to do this. Now I won’t have to wrestle with this wreath next season!

The only task that remains is finding a box that’s wide and flat to store the thing in!

Making a Stop Sign End Table

This post is going to be a slight departure from my usual posts about all things nerdom: I hope that’s okay with everybody! It’s a furniture-related post, my first end table. This table was practice for bigger furniture projects, which are video-game-related, so stay tuned in the coming months for those!

Anyway, back to the table at hand. Seven years ago I moved into a new apartment and saw one of those big construction dumpsters in the parking lot. The apartment complex was renovating much of the property, and for some reason, they got rid of a stop sign. I picked it from the trash, hoping to make it into a table one day. Crucially, I lacked the tools and know-how to do this.

Fast-forward to a month ago. I moved into a new place again and realized I’ve been lugging this stop sign around all these years. So my dad and I put our heads together and came up with a great way to turn this stop sign into a table.

First, my dad constructed a wooden frame around the sign. This softens the metal edges (they are quite sharp), plus gives the sign a bit of a raised lip.

Stop sign table top

The finished table top. Wooden trim, painted white, lines the edges.

Stop sign table back

Back detail of the table. The wood supports hold the frame in place. Plus, the wooden panel serves as a way to attach the base.

By giving the trim a raised lip, we were able to pour clear glaze across the surface of the table, making it smooth and protecting the sign. The sign itself has a few imperfections, and the glaze application isn’t entirely consistent, but the table top looks so much better. The stop sign has about a quarter inch of glaze.

Close-up of stop sign table top

Close-up shot of the molding and glaze.

Next we mounted the top of the pedestal. My dad had an old bar stool (long ago missing the seat) that worked well. I wanted an industrial pedestal rather than legs, as the stop sign is quite wide and legs would get in the way.

Top of pedestal attached to back of stop sign.

The top of the bar stool is attached with three screws.

To give the table top some added height, we added a small length of PVP pipe, raising the table about an inch and a half.

PVP pipe attached to bar stool.

The PVP pipe can always be removed, or shaved down, if the height needs to be adjusted.

Constructing the pedestal was the easiest part of the process. We cut a piece of wood to the shape of an octagon and screwed it to the bottom of the base. The octagon was painted white to match the sign’s trim.

Bar stool pedestal with white octagon base attached.

Stop sign table pedestal.

Because the stop sign is an awkward shape (and heavy! The top probably weighs 35 lbs, the bottom at least 10 lbs), I wanted the top to detach from the base for easier moving.

Here’s the stop sign completely assembled! Because of flaws in the pedestal, the table top isn’t sturdy: it wobbles a bit. However, put a lamp on the edge, just a little bit of weight, and the wobble goes away.

Assembled stop sign end table with lamp on top.

Completed stop sign end table!

Profile view of stop sign table.

Profile view of the base, pedestal, and table top.

The project turned out great and I’m very happy with the new table! Now, what sign should I turn into a table next?

~Dennis