Tardis Corset: Of Sonic Screwdrivers and Doors

Nikki forwarded a question on to me asking if it would be technically possible to build a sonic screwdriver capable of opening the door on the corset.

This led me to ask what a sonic screwdriver WAS.

Once I got that explanation out of the way (and Nikki stopped laughing), I told her I’d post the answer here:


Yes, but there’s no real good reason to want to.

From a *technical* standpoint what you’re really looking to do is basically apply the same principles as a garage door opener, or the push button electronic lock on your car door.  You basically turn the sonic screwdriver into the remote control for the door.  It’s a pain in the ass, but technically doable.

However in this particular case it’s an awful lot of work (and added expense) to the garment for no really good reason.  if you’re using it on yourself, it’s really just almost silly when you could just, you know, open the door. 

If you give the controller to someone else it makes all kinds of sense from a fetish corset standpoint.  But it would really require the doors be placed far more strategically- which they’re simply not on this garment.

It’s just not worth the hassle or expense to do it for this particular design, but yeah it’s *technically* possible.




Where have I been?

No, I don’t want to talk about that.

What happened to the cabinet?

Finished. Been finished since before Gothmas, but don’t have photos yet because there’e still Gothmas decorations sitting on it (I need another box.)

What else has happened?

My cats (specifically Rupert and Rerun, but mostly Rupert) destroyed my original, not reproduction, not reiussue from Herman Miller, ORIGINAL, with original glass, Noguchi coffee table.

What the hell do you mean, “destroyed”?

Does that help answer the question?

Can you fix it?

Sort of.  I can repair the base. I do have a degree in Restoration that might be worth something other than cheap paper. But the glass (which I’m still finding in my floor weeks later) is obviously gone (I saved one chunk for posterity.) I can get an authorized reissue piece of glass from Herman Miller but it ain’t cheap and you know, it will be precisely correct dimension wise( sorry but the knockoff pieces *aren’t.*  I’ve lived with an original for a long, long time- I can spot a knockoff Noguchi table every time), but it still won’t be the original glass. Yes, I know no one will know but me. But I’ll still know.  Not ready to tackle that one yet.

What are you working on now?

Apparently, carving eggs. I saw an article a few months ago about this. Figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s not easy and it does take practice.  You do have some spectacular failures before you get any success. Most people tend to use larger eggs. Goose, duck, Emu, and Ostrich, since all of them are a) larger than chicken eggs and b) more sturdy than chicken eggs. It ain’t easy to crack an ostrich egg, let me tell you.  My approach was the “New York, New York” method. I figured if I could manage to get a handle on how chicken eggs carved up, I could do any kind of egg I wanted.

Of course my *perfect for this application* box of micro drill bits, which is DEFINITELY in this house because I see it *every time I don’t need it* decided to disappear now that I *do* need it, my tools were limited.  More/different tools probably would have led to earlier successes. Fortunately, there’s no shortage on eggs. (and no, none of the eggs were wasted- they were all used)

So by now some people are wondering how in the hell one carves an eggshell.  Maybe. I mean, if I’m lucky. I suppose the answer is “carefully.” But as a step by step process? Not that complicated.

1. Choose an egg.

This sounds easy but after you’ve screwed this up a few times? You get a feel for which eggs will work better.  The thicker the shell the easier it will be to work with without destroying after you’ve sunk four hours into it.  With more practice of course, you can go for more delicate and fragile shells.  How can you tell? Easiest way I’ve found is to simply hold them up to the light and see which ones you can see through the least.   I found that brown eggs were easier to screw up than white eggs, though realistically this could just be a matter of practice. Also, I don’t like brown, so take that as you will.   But you start to notice that though eggs are in general, egg shaped (or we’d call them something else) that there’s a great variety within that and you’re right away having to make aesthetic decisions about “what shape will work best.”  I suggest that your criteria start with “not broken.”

2. Great, so I have an egg. Now what?

Well now, we have to get the inside of the egg outside without crushing the shell.  My first attempts were seriously low-fi.  I used a safety pin.  While it’s possible to actually do this? Far more often? This is the result:

Again, you *CAN* get the egg out, but seriously, it’s a pain in the ass and unless you’re secretly Dizzy Gillespie, your cheeks get tired too.  So, screw the low fi method.  I broke out the machinery. In particular, my trusty flexible shaft machine (which as you will recall from many previous posts, is not a sex toy.)  As mentioned previously, my wonderful and fantastic array of micro drill bits has gone missing. However all was not lost, as I do have some tools to play with. In this case, a box of #52 carbide micro drill bits. ( For those who like engineering porn, the bits are .0635s)In short, they are wee. How wee?

Punch a hole in the top and bottom of the egg. FINDING the precise top and bottom is not unlike finding the north and south pole. I suggest “wing it, it’s close enough.”   I then went back in and made the hole on the bottom slightly larger using a micro cone diamond point file(if you follow this link it’s the one on the far left.). Then you go back and blow the inside of the egg out into a bowl.  It helps if you shake the egg every so often to break the yolk.    I then rinse the inside of the egg, but don’t make yourself nuts- it’s hard to get in there yet.    Let it dry.

3.  Then mostly it’s about going to town with micro sized tools, a flex shaft (or dremel) and lots of practice. I just sketched on the egg in pencil and went to town.  There were lots of failures. (eight, to be exact, at various stages.)

yet another failure.

Accidentally profound.

that was short lived.

4. But what about that icky membrane on the inside?

As you can see in the last photo, there isn’t one, but you can see it on all the others. Where did it go? How did I remove it? HOW SMALL WERE THE TWEEZERS?

Nope. No tweezers(I tried that. Doesn’t work well, btw.).  ORGANIC CHEMISTRY! SCIENCE!  CUE THOMAS DOLBY!

*boo doo doododo boo do doodoodo doo doo. boodoo. doo.* (this makes perfect sense if you’ve cued the Thomas Dolby properly.)

No, what you need is the exact opposite of what you need to color Easter eggs.  Easter eggs take color because the dye is combined with acid- generally vinegar. This makes eggshells softer and increases their porosity.  Color goes in, color stays in.   But egg *SHELLS* are not the same thing as the membrane on the inside of the egg. That’s just pure protein.  And what eats protein? Not acids, but bases.

Screw the science lesson- get a glass jar with a tight fitting lid(I used one of Stacy’s former jam jars) pour some bleach into it and carefully place the egg in.  Put the cap back on and watch science go to work.  20 minutes, half hour later? Carefully remove the eggshell and rinse in a water bath til it stops smelling like your white wash.


5. But how did you get those circles so ROUND?

They aren’t. But if you’re asking how I did the touch up work to make them MORE round, I sketched out where they needed to be fixed, and used my cone file on a low speed.  If I were using a thicker egg, like emu or ostrich, high speeds are better because they produce more power and more torque.  But chicken eggs disintegrate under that kind of pressure, so low speed, very slowly, being careful and patient.  I’d mark off each hole that I’d “fixed” with a pencil.  After that, I just used plain soap and water (dish soap) and cleaned the pencil marks off.   Finally,  I let the whole thing dry.  Once it sits overnight you can clearly see the proteins the bleach didn’t get the first time because they will have oxidized and turned golden brown against the otherwise white shell.  Back into the bleach for you!  Just let it sit there for a couple hours to remove any remaining residue, and then rinse carefully.

6. So why did you do all of this?

Honestly? Cause spring is coming and some people collect eggs. If anyone wants to buy one, let me know. I’ve already been asked about black ones(doable).  I can also do gilded ones (silver and gold) as well.  I was thinking of trying squares, too.  But I  can only make like… Three, before I run out of places to put them(and Rupert destroys them) here so it’s mostly going to be a “by commission” thing.  However if you want one, let me know! I can certainly do larger ones as well.

Got it? Eggcellent.

Interior vs. exterior.

Over the weekend, I’d gotten an IM from Jay (Maynard, not Reeder) linking me to a letter published in a Minneapolis paper following the announcement of this year’s Pritzker Prize award.

Although I’ve been to Minneapolis (at length, even. 9 weeks isn’t exactly an overnight stay), I’d never seen the original theater, designed by Ralph Rapson, who died just a week ago at the age of 93. The new one, if you haven’t connected the dots already was designed by this year’s PP recipient, Jean Nouvel.

I have no particular dog in this fight, as I find both designs, at least on the exterior, to be quite pleasant. They’re just very different.



And whichever one you like is whichever one you like. Believe it or not, that’s actually not the question I want to ask with this post.  What I personally found to be more interesting in the letter to the paper was this excerpt:

“the proscenium theatre is uninspired with rows so close together that there is hardly room for your feet and entire rows must stand to allow anyone to enter. Even the parking is a disappointment, forcing patrons to cross the street in winter when Nouvel had the opportunity to include a skyway. Apparently Nouvel had not visited Minneapolis in winter or noticed all the tall northern European stock here.”

I began to wonder if there was a connection between that and the strange disconnect in all the job ads that say they’re looking for designers, but then go on to say they want architects.  Last I checked, these words were not synonymous(also this particular thing pisses me off because it feels like a bait and switch.)  Over the weekend I had a talk with Jack (practicing architect, who teaches interior design at two different schools) about this and have come up with some questions that I want to throw out there to perhaps inspire dialogue.

1. Are interiors really within the scope of training and expertise of architects?  (From all accounts, the answer to this is no, but I’m more than happy to hear about other experiences.)

2. Why is this bait and switch thing going on when writing up job postings, especially if the answer to #1 is no?

3. Why aren’t the architectural and design communities coming together to make that clear?

4. Or (and this is my most cynical response, born of another thing that happened last week) are architects under the pervasive delusion that interior designers are decorators?

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my very favorite people on the whole planet are practicing architects.  I still have plans to go back under the academic rock and get my M*Arch myself, but I am not under the delusion that interior design and architecture have the same focus or do the same jobs equally.

I do know that any decent designer *I* know would have made sure the spacing between the rows in the theater were the appropriate distance apart, because we do that sort of research as part of a programmatic process.  I don’t fault (at all) any architect for not doing the same, because I just don’t think that’s their job.  I just want to know why they’re essentially being asked to do *my* job, and what can we do to change that.

Reader mailbag #1.

And for all I know, it’ll be the only time this title is ever used.

Jay (R, not M) asks:

“You have stated in the past that residential design is about the resident, not the designer. How do you approach learning the sensibilities and directions of your clients?”

At the risk of sounding like “Well, duh.”

You go and talk to them. (and in this case you actually have to GO and talk to them. This is one of those few things that even I can’t do online. And if *I* am saying that, you really do have to go over there.)

That’s really what it comes down to, but realistically you have three things to consider:

1. How do they function in the space they already have?

Basically, there’s something not working with what they have. If there weren’t, they wouldn’t be calling you. You have to find out what that is. Not just by what they’re telling you but by observation. It’s kind of like playing detective. A lot of the distress people feel about a space is not easily articulated by the client. They don’t know *what* the problem is all the time- they just know there’s a problem. Worse, they don’t know what they *want*, either most of the time. You have to be observant. Sit there and talk to them for a couple hours. Not just about their project but about anything. And mostly, you want to simply listen to them. Ask questions, and let them just ramble on with the answers. Take the occasional note, and sift through it all on the way home. I also take photos of the things people LIKE in their houses. I don’t have to like them. I just have to know what they are. There’s generally a common set of threads that links them all together even if it doesn’t seem that way at first glance. Find out what it is, and you’re well on your way to knowing how they think aesthetically.

2. Are they realistic in terms of the service triangle?

I should probably give the service triangle its own post, because it deserves it, but the short version for right now is that you have three qualities: cheap, fast, and good. Pick two. You only *get* two at any one time. Anyone who tells you any different is lying to you. You can pick any of the two you want, but you don’t get the third one as an added bonus for blood or money. And speaking of money, part of your job as a designer is to be able to be honest right up front about what is, and isn’t possible.

Because I know she reads this, and would easily admit it, when I did SFW’s kitchen in Washington DC, the first day I went down there she and her husband asked me if I thought they could do the kitchen they wanted for 20k. My answer was simply “No.” No buts, no qualifiers, nothing after that “no.” There was just too much work that needed to be done to the space (as any look through the before/after photos can tell you.) You need to be able to be that direct and honest with people before they put pen to contract, even at the risk of them not doing the job. And for their part, they need to be *realistic* about their goals, budgets and how the service triangle works(also, they need to NOT back up their projects against a holiday, ffs.) If they aren’t realistic, you’re going to have a hard time working with them, because there will be a vicious cycle of wasted time, energy and money. They can call you back when they’ve gotten a handle on their own goals.

They also have to be honest with you and themselves about who they are and how they function. I beg people *not* to clean up before I arrive. I don’t want to see their house on its “best behavior”. I need to know what it looks like on an average Wednesday, because there are WAY more of those than “best behavior” days. People need to understand that changing a design doesn’t give you a personality transplant. Just because you make every surface white doesn’t mean you’re going to suddenly become a neat freak. You need to be realistic.

3. Can you get along with these people for 6+ months without wanting to kill yourself and/or them?

You laugh, but I mean this. In residential work in particular there’s a lot of psychological hand-holding that goes on because no one is really rational about their house. It’s a very emotionally charged place, no matter whose house it is. It’s one of the reasons residential work is not at the top of my all time favorite things to do list. You wind up being part designer, part psychologist. It can be draining. Some people are more suited to it than others. And there is no project, for any amount of money and any time duration that doesn’t have stressors that come with it. Vendors blow lead times. Your friendly neighborhood designer’s computer decides to melt a motherboard *whistles innocently*. Clients change their minds at the last minute, or decide once something is signed off on that no, they really want to change it. Maybe they have some kind of family emergency that puts their project on hold for a few weeks. The sink has a crack in it when it’s delivered. The cat jumps the barrier and leaves pawprints in the thinset. Your contractor almost cuts off a finger with a circular saw. (and in fact, ALL of these but one has actually happened. Mr. Kitty never walked on the thinset, but Mike did come very close to cutting off his left index finger with a circular saw.) Everyone reacts differently under stress. You need to determine whether the way YOU react and the way *they* react are compatible. (This is why I prefer not to do residential work for strangers btw, because if I already know you, I probably already know which way your lunacy tends to fall. I don’t have to get thrown into the pit of crazy to find out the hard way. Trust me, I am already an expert in my own crazy.)

If you can’t get on with them in that way, then for the sake of your own sanity, recommend them to another designer. You’ll still nab a 10% finder’s fee and you don’t have to want to shoot yourself rather than get out of bed in the morning.

Any more questions? Feel free to ask in comments.