Sep 1, 2014

cooking with powertools

What do you do when you live on a hall that loves to build ridiculous things? You propose a ridiculous building event. Putz Hall Rush 2014 featured an event called "Cooking with Powertools", where the freshmen made edible things in silly motorized/electrical ways. 

Earlier in the year Putz acquired an apple lathe, a device that can core, slice, and peel apples using only a hand-crank. By hand, it takes 2-3 minutes to turn an apple on the lathe. A motorized version would be a grand improvement.

An easy way to do this would be to remove the hand-crank and rotate the shaft in a drill chuck. But after examination, the only removable part of the apple lathe was a single screw at the end of the hand-crank. I didn't want to ruin a functional kitchen device for the sole purpose of silly hall events, so I made do with just modifying the screw.

I designed a plate that allowed a drill to be held in-line with the shaft and turn the hand-crank. The hexagonal hole in the center mates with a drill driver bit, and the screw-hole is a loose fit to avoid misalignment and overconstraint.

The plate is circular mainly for simplicity. I wanted to have Pi Tau Zeta visible on a hall-rush device, and the curved cutouts were placed for aesthetics and to reduce weight. I also wanted to minimize the risk of injury by avoiding using a spinning arm that could whack unsuspecting fingers. 

An unexpected bonus with this design was that, when not in use, the plate hangs from the hand-crank screw and Pi Tau Zeta is always right-side up.  


The improved apple lathe


(it doesn't work with tomatoes)

I've always been a fan of wood lathes, and too many kids these days have never seen one. I brought highschool shop class into the kitchen by constructing a carrot lathe and teaching the new freshmen to turn carrots. An old single-speed drill was clamped to the table with a 5/8" spade bit in the chuck. A philips driver bit jammed into a 2x4 block comprised the endstop. The endstop could be moved to three different positions to accommodate carrots of all sizes.

First, I carefully measured the drill dimensions to make sure the spade bit and endstop would be aligned. A 3/16" pilot hole and a hammer drove the driver bit into the endstop. A 1/4" throughhole supported the spade bit. 

The rest of the lathe box was simple 1x3 structure. I started with the endstop against the back wall, screwed in a 1x3 wall, then moved the endstop forward. Repeat. Afterwards, I secured the drill to the table with a small box of 1x3 and clamp. The lathe box was left unsecured for tolerancing. 

I finished the carrot lathe in the two hours right before hall rush, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. This was the first time my creations had been perfectly aligned on the first try. I considered clamping down the lathe box as well to preserve this perfect alignment, but leaving it unclamped turned out better during the course of the night.   


The carrot lathe was a two-person machine. The operator pressed the drill trigger to turn on the lathe and placed pressure on the back of the endstop to ensure carrot stability. The freshman used a chisel to carve the rotating carrot with varying degrees of success.

If I made this again, I would add two things: a stabilizing bar for the chisel and a splash guard. Many students had trouble smoothly moving the chisel along the carrot, so the addition of a 1x1 bar or metal rod would help. I would also add an acrylic screen to the back of the lathe as a splash guard, since carrot shavings got absolutely everywhere in the kitchen. In addition, a splash guard would also protect the operators hands from possibly getting nicked by a stray chisel.

I was also involved in Spirograph Pancakes, inspired from Nathan Shields's Saipancakes. (He made a cool build-process video as well.) But I wanted to add a level of silliness and fun by making the batter-mixing an interactive activity as well. I took 1x3 blocks, carved out a mortise with some chisels for a 1-1/8" spade bit, then clamped the blocks together using four 1-1/4" drywall screws (sanitized with isopropyl, of course.) I rounded out the corners to better fit the mixing attachment to our bowl, taking care to avoid unbalancing the center of mass. Someone pointed out to me that real mixers have holes in them to force batter to flow, so I added those. Stick the attachment in a drill chuck and done! The stand mixer was complete with a quick frame of 2x4 and one 2x8 with a 1-7/8" hole to accomodate the drill (big enough to fit; small enough to minimize splash.)

Lauren Herring designed spirograph templates that we lasercut from 1/4" acrylic. The pancakes turned out beautifully, but using acrylic over a hot griddle for 6 hours ended up not being the best decision. Acrylic warps over high heat, so next time we will use plywood.

Wesley's event "Resistor Sausages" was the most noticeable. "Would you like your hotdogs cooked in series or in parallel?" was the best tagline ever invented, and the smell of burnt electrode permeated the entire length of hall. His sausages were extremely tasty, though.      

Lauren and Wesley being awesome with their food events

Cooking with Powertools: would do again every year.

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