Carl Bass, Former Autodesk CEO


Cool Tools Show 143: Carl Bass

Our guest this week is Carl Bass. Carl has been designing and making buildings, boats, sculpture, and machinery for the last 40 years. He is the former CEO of Autodesk and now spends his time researching the boundaries of digital fabrication in his shops in Berkeley and with a number of companies he’s working with.

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Show notes:

Shinto Saw Rasp ($18)
“I’ve spent a lot of time sanding, and grinding, and filing, and rasping wood, and then sometimes you just come along the perfect tool. In this case, my Shinto rasp. It’s inexpensive, a cleverly made tool, and it works perfectly. ..The cool thing about it, it’s got like a coarse and a fine side, and they really are different, and it’s sharp as could be, so it actually cuts wood. Compared to all the crappy files, first of all which mostly are made for metal that people use, and all the rasps that aren’t really sharp, this thing really cuts wood. I just used it on this canoe I’m building for soft wood. I’d used it before on this gigantic sculpture I did out of ash. If anyone’s ever tried to carve ash and particularly the end grain, it’s really hard and this thing was perfect.”

Decimal tape measure ($11)
“I found a decimal inch tape measure. It is like the bridge for me between my world of computer control tools and the world that I normally live in. Over the last decade, more and more of my tools are either numerically controlled or computer numerically controlled. For example in my wood shop, I have a planer where I press in 2.35 inches. I’d like to be able to measure that as opposed to going 0.0625 is a 16th of an inch or whatever it is. So, this is the nice thing. There’s not many of them out there. I just bought a handful of them because they really are this perfect bridge between the digital world and the analog world.”

Dewalt Trigger Clamps
“[These] squeeze clamps are made by DEWALT. They have them in Home Depot in a variety of sizes and what I really like about them, they do two things. One is you can use them as just a clamp, and for plastic clamps with just a metal rod. They apply a surprising amount of pressure. The second thing that they do is they’re easily reversible and you can use them to push. People first go, ‘When do you need a clamp to push?’ I just finished planking a strip canoe and most of the job there is actually pushing as opposed to pulling things together. You get a hard surface and you push against it. So, I use it on planking this whole canoe. I have a water jet where I often do it. When you want to push things apart, it’s good for that. So these DEWALT clamps, they’re reasonably prized but they are totally versatile and useful.”

Also mentioned:

dreamcatcher metal chair 1
Homemade metal 3D printer
“A couple of years ago, I started looking at metal 3D printing. I printed a bunch of stuff in plastic, but generally I wasn’t interested in more plastic crap, but I had a lot of need for more metal. I was doing more and more things with crazy organic shapes, and a bunch of us had this idea that a MIG welder is really just like FDM 3D printing machine. It puts down liquid metal and then it solidifies, and that if you were able to control it, you could actually use it as a 3D printer. So I built a machine, kind of a gantry with a bunch of servos in a computer, and I can now print things out of metal. The point is you have a welder that just runs around and lays down material and builds forms, but the more general principle is in this age in which things like motors, and servos, and microprocessors are relatively inexpensive, people should start thinking about not just building old fashioned jigs and fixtures, but you can start building things where you have microprocessors controlling them for any of the things you want to do. I think we still rely on doing things the old way and in some case it’s good, but there are lot of things you can go out and make way more precise easily.”

Plastic Center Finder ($7)

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