One of the things I have been hoping to do is some formal “projects” with Jacob. Some people might have a workshop, others are big on sports things…I don’t really have much in the way of skills in those areas. Lego is fun, but I wanted something maybe just a little less pre-packaged but not full DIY level. There’s a website called SonicDad.com and it has some interesting projects.
There’s an element that is probably completely sexist in the site — it’s designed for dads and sons, but you don’t operate any of the tools or crafts with your penis, so there is nothing specifically “male” about it. It’s actually more benign in its design than that, as it was started by two dads doing projects with their sons, so I’ll cut them some slack. Just wanted to mention it.
They have about 75 projects in their site now, and some are free for download. If you pay $25 for the year, you can download all of them, or $75 will get you a lifetime membership. I went for the lifetime membership so I can get the future projects too, along with some extra notifications, etc. The year-long would likely be sufficient for everyone as you can download all of the projects and just do them at your leisure.
The bonus for the site is that they have a full Youtube video of each of the projects along with fully downloadable blueprints / instructions for each of the projects. We were inspired by the video for a Hexbug habitat / maze that we’d like to do, but it is a bit more complicated than the basic ones, so I am building our capacity with some of the less complicated projects.
The first project they have is for cardboard boomerangs with three wings. They have five designs in the downloadable PDF file, with a set for both right-handed and left-handed throwers. End result is 10 pages of layouts for the boomerangs, and 8 additional pages of shopping list, overview, and step-by-step instructions. I should also confess that I have been subscribed to SonicDad’s feed for some time, and while I like their projects, I was never that confident that my attempts would look at all like anything they did. They have awesome colour, great layouts, etc. but I wasn’t confident that I could transfer the designs with pen and ruler and have them look as good.
Apparently I don’t have to. They have updated their designs somewhat and they use full-page labels. I’ve seen 8.5″x11″ sheets of labels before, designed for laser printers, and ranging in size from 2 per page for CDs up to 80 per page for file folder labels. I’ve used them before, seemed fine. I have NEVER seen the single page labels that they use here and literally my brain went “pop” with all the amazing uses I have for these labels. I’ve made games with Jacob, and ended up having them printed at Staples on to thick foam board. But if I can print a full-colour label, peel and stick it to foam board, the cost drops exponentially and I’m willing to play with and test designs, games, etc. all at home with dollar-store materials. I’m super-excited, and it motivated me enough to buy a full package of labels from Amazon and a membership to SonicDad.
The boomerang instructions are fairly simple:
- Print out the designs you want (pages 9-18);
- Trim, peel and stick on to some basic cardboard (cereal boxes, poster board, whatever you have);
- Cut them out and adjust the flaps;
- Throw and enjoy.
With the labels printed on a colour printer, they look pretty decent.
They recommended using cereal boxes, and while I didn’t have one handy, we did have some Lego packaging that looked like it would do the trick. I trimmed the first couple down to the actual design, stuck to the cardboard and then trimmed the cardboard to match the size.
I did the first three, using the lego boxes, and the results were a bit disappointing. It was really hard to get them to do a full 360 degree turn back to you. They would go more about 270 before running out of steam. On each wing, there is a flap (the formal name is aileron), and you fold them down at about a 20 degree angle. There is even a little cardboard cut out that you can make that will show you the proper angle — sounded cheesy but it works great. The challenge turned out to be the cardboard. The Lego box is just slightly thicker than a cereal box, and as a result, where the aileron is supposed to “fold”, it is more of a curved bend. Not crispy or snappy. As such, they don’t fly quite as well.
By contrast, the last two I did, I put them on regular poster board (i.e. bristol board) from the dollar store. With the thinner poster board, and a nice metal ruler, I could get the folds a lot crisper and cleaner. First throw came back to almost 360 degrees, and within 2 or 3 tries, was working perfectly. Jacob isn’t the most coordinated for throwing things and he could make it work too. It’s a challenge to catch them and keep going, but it just takes a bit of practice.
Is this something I’m going to use for years and years? Hardly. But it was a fun first project, albeit a bit basic, and Jacob was able to do some of the steps. He wasn’t happy with having to cut them out with scissors, but he stuck with it. I didn’t trust him quite yet with the sharp #11 blade yet, but we’ll get there. Which means it was more of a “dad” project to get it finished, but he helped stick them down, chose the cardboard, helped with some of the cutting, etc.
I am not a “crafty” type, and I admit that I was a bit nervous that we would choose a project that we could actually accomplish relatively easily. Not quite as easily as Lego, of course, but I enjoyed doing it with Jacob, and I think he’s interested in future ones. Still need some practice and capacity building before I aim for the full HexBug habitat, but we’ll get there. I picked up some tools, got some experience with the labels, and had fun with Jacob.
Plus I got to make something that flies. Even if Jacob gives up or loses interest in the projects, I’m going to keep doing them as a hobby.