The First Maker Space and Tech Community For Markham, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, & Vaughan.

Your high-school periodic table was never this cool.

UNESCO has declared 2019 to the International Year of the Periodic Table to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mendeleev periodic table. You know, that thing you studied in high-school chemistry.

Ylab member and high-school chemistry teacher Karen could not let that go unnoticed. Working with her students at  o they built their own giant periodic table.

The periodic table is proudly displayed at the school and looks fantastic.

Students made illustrations for each element and mounted them in CD jewel cases.

Karen made use of ylab’s laser cutter to add some framing, labels and other great touches.

Congratulations to Karen and all her students for this great effort!


A few of our posts involve some metalwork. That would not be possible without some serious hardware

Thanks to some donations and astute purchases we’ve picked up a couple of things over the summer.

We now have our own drill press. Bigger and better than the loaner unit we had sitting on the workbench. Just in time, too, since the loaner unit had to be returned. It comes has a killer vise and it’s own solid steel stand. Really solid. Profanity-to-get-it-carried-in solid.


Then there’s the horizontal metal bandsaw. A nifty piece of gear that uses gravity to keep the blade on the material.

Yeah, it’s kind of hard to understand what it does by just looking at it in the picture.

We’ve also picked up some minor things – like a pop riveter. We mention it because of this post where we did terrible things to a microwave. There was some nice shiny metal left over from the enclosure, so we used the riveter and some of the other new gear to make a tray for the riveter.

Spot the fabrication mistakes.

We’ll be kicking off some fall sessions to show everyone how to use this and other gear for your own cool projects.

We have more stuff. Check out posts like this one to see what else we’ve been up to with the metal stuff.


Don’t be a hero.

Many pages on the Internet tell you how to make a spot welder from a discarded microwave oven. We always thought it was a crazy idea. And then a couple of the more experienced ylab members told us it made sense and would not result in electrocution or being nuked into a medium-rare meat sack.

That explains some of the microwave parts that were lying around our workshop.

Like any good project and action hero movie, there has to be a critical failure and despair moment. Ours happened during disassembly.  Newer microwaves don’t have the kind of transformer you need for the project.

This isn’t what microwave transformers look like on all those other web pages.


Yeah, manufacturers cheap-out nowadays. You gotta do something to get that price down to $79.

Fortunately, some of the ylab packrats better-equipped members have accumulated some gear over the years and may be under pressure to clean out basement/storage shed/living room/all of the above. A nice one was donated to the cause, along with some awesome copper channels for the spot-welder arms.

This is what a *real* transformer looks like.


Channeling our excess energy with copper.


We won’t get into the detail of how the transformer was modded because (a) other websites have that info and (b) please don’t sue us. That big black cable may have been added as part of the process.

Since spot welder transformers allegedly produce some heat, we decided to make use of the microwave fan.

And that nice, shiny stainless steel enclosure… can’t let that go to waste. A bit of sawing, bending and shearing later, we have a pretty good cover.

Microwave enclosure – before surgery.


An old light switch a PC power cable, some drilling and tapping or the copper channels, and the project is moving ahead nicely.

Action hero movies always have moments of suspense. So we’ll leave you in suspense and post later on how this wraps up. Because we haven’t wrapped it up yet.

Because action hero movies have sequels.

Ylab’s metal master

Ylab’s hosts at the David Dunlap Observatory have a nice simple reception desk – but they want the ability to lock  up whatever is on top. You know, big things than won’t fit in a drawer. Which is kind of impractical because there are  no drawers on the desk.  They asked us if we could do something about it. We like a challenge. We put ylab member Metal Master Miro to work on it.

Aluminum panels can cover the opening, but they need support. The requirement is to make them removable and have them discretely stored.

We started with some solid 1/4” square aluminum bars. We milled a channel on the aluminum to hold the panels, and drilled and countersunk holes for the mounting screws.

Aluminum bars, before and after milling and drilling

Nicely mounted on the desk to hold the panels.

Then we worked the panels. Aluminum sheets in the thickness we use is not quite rigid enough for the span, so we made reinforcement bars and riveted them to the sheets.

Miro knows the drill.

A riveting process, followed by shot peening the rivets.

For all the pieces, a copious amount of filing and elbow grease was required to soften up rough edges.

Not the filing cabinet you expected.


We made and mounted supports for discretely storing the panels when not in use.

No visible means of support. At least not when looking from the top.

And finally, it all goes together in four simple steps.

Slide in the top…

… snug it up into the hidden support brackets…

… slide down the front panel…

… and tuck in the locking tabs.

Case closed.

Just add padlock. We’ll take off the protective plastic layer and clear coat it after it’s been inspected.

And with all the milling,  drilling and filing, we got our money’s worth out of this guy.

My job sucks.

It’s alive! And reliable!

Last week, we provided updates 1, 2 and 3 on the City of Richmond Hill’s DDO activities over the spring and summer. Ylab helped out with all of them, but those were not our core maker activities.

Our makers quietly been up to all kinds of things in our basement lair. We’re now taking the time to catch up and update everyone on some of the more interesting projects.

Reliable 3D Printing. Finally.

We got our hands on a Qidi 3D printer earlier in the year. It’s a very flexible unit, with dual extruders capable of handling PLA, ABS and the related support filaments. But it was kind under-used as we worked out how to operate it reliably with PLA and ABS filaments, and with separate support material for the complex jobs.

After much trial and error, software tests, and burning through plastic like a trophy wife on shopping day (ed: we can’t take credit for that cheap line), we were confident enough to hold our first 3D printer certification class and let people at it.

The verdict: it’s a quality, super-reliable printer.

Our first real user was making some robotics parts out of ABS. Test passed, but it was a relatively short print job.

Another member is doing some consumer product re-design (we can’t talk about it), and ran a complex job with lots of support. 4 hour print time. It came out flawless.

The ylab member Craig of Halloween Electric Chair frame gave it a real challenge for his next project. 14-hour overnight job.

The start of a long night of overtime work.

No problems. No jams. All good.

It’s a big step up in quality and reliability from the earlier units our members generously loaned us to get started.

Stay tuned for our next certification class, or just come in and we’ll give you a hand to get your project done.

How did he get hold of that?

Sometimes, ylab is just plain silly fun.

On Friday August 23 the City of Richmond Hill and Deputy Mayor Joe DiPaola hosted their First Annual – Explore the DDO outdoor movie night. City staff invited DDO partners and other groups to participate. Ylab was asked to join the fun because of some shiny light things we’ve been known to make in our DDO workshop.

Some ylab members and friends are big Star Wars fans. They happily volunteered to add some character – and characters – to the event.

This was early. Before the crowds and the line-ups for pictures.

The costume efforts ranged from a quick trip to the local thrift store to years of detailed work.

Parks and Recreation staff came out to give tours of the Administration Building, and the RASC Toronto Centre crew gave tours of the telescope dome. Oh, yeah, and there was a movie – so much fun stuff going on that it almost became secondary to a great summer evening at the DDO site.

Chris from RASC Toronto Center. He’s the one with the hat.

Big thank you to the City’s Explore the DDO, Parks and Recreation and volunteer teams for all their great work; to RASC Toronto Center for their tours of the dome, to all the other participating groups, and finally to ylab members Dan and Pek and friends Kristen and Mark for showing up in costume. Extra kudos to Dan for loaning out extra costumes and making it up and down the telescope stairs in wookie stilts.

History is so cool.

Just in case you didn’t hear or see the news elsewhere…

On July 31 2019, the Government of Canada officially designated the David Dunlap Observatory a National Historic site.

Our congratulations to Maggie Mackenzie and Heritage Richmond Hill for all their hard work. In digging through ylab’s lair in the basement of the DDO, we occasionally find some really cool historical thingies, and it’s always a pleasure to get these over to the Heritage team.

We occasionally work alongside the Heritage group. On May 19 2019, the DDO was included for the first time as a Doors Open Ontario site. and it was a huge success. Ylab provided tours of the basement workshops In prior years, a successful Doors Open Richmond Hill site might get 500-600 visitors. The Heritage Team told us over 1500 people went through – and they had to close off access at the end of the day to stop more from coming in.

And apparently history attracts history. On Sunday August 18, the Heritage Team hosted the Ontario Ford Model A Owners Club at the DDO, and ylab again participated in the tours. Beautiful summer day. The DDO. Old cars. History is so cool.