Special Tool Engineering

This is my friends families' machine shop on the southwest side of Chicago. It was started by his grandfather; not surprisingly German. They have an absurd amount of really large heavy machines that can make just about anything you can dream up - to absurd tolerances.


This is the coolant leaving the surface grinder.

Large plate bender.

Painting area.


Large CNC mill.

More large CNC's.

Bridgeport endmill.

Surface grinder. It magnetizes the rotating bottom disk and uses a very large abrasive wheel to grind the face of the part flat.



I started a Tumblr. It's linked in the sidebar too. I've been posting a photo almost everyday that shows some small part of my day.

I had a photography professor at IIT who I was a TA for say that if you don't have a purpose/concept when you're making photographs then you're engaging in photojournalism, not art. I wanted to say that that wasn't the case but for me it mostly is. I'm okay with that.


"Everything has been figured out, except how to live." - Sartre

Recently I was asked by an architect why I choose to shoot film. I gave an answer that was technical and spoke about lens size, resolution, quality, etc. It was a poor answer. I use film because the camera is simpler. I have complete control over what's happening. Film forces you to slow down and think. I only get a few photos and they're almost always better than my digital. Similarly, I draft all day on a computer. It's logically better than hand drafting in ever way much like digital cameras are to film. Yet many of the buildings produced this way appear dead in much the same way that digital photos lack life.

Our speech and subsequently our thought and understanding of the world is accomplished through metaphor; largely war and finance (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson). It's something I think about often. Our world is increasingly dominated by rational choice and I engage in this more than many, but it seems large and important issues are missed by this. Relevant TED talk.

This is my Dad's warehouse as it was being torn down.

Walnut Light Boxes for Medium Format Film

My friend Dan had an idea for some light boxes for 120 film (medium format), so we got together and figured out how to actually make it. After a trip to the lumber store and a whole day in the wood shop this is the tentative result. I'll post more pictures and details when they're fully completed.

Dan got this featured on a blog called Shooting Film.

The slide film is roughly 2-1/4" square (70mm, 120 film) shot with a Mamiya C330.

Working At the Farnsworth House

I've been occasionally helping out a former professor of mine, Frank Flury, with one of his projects on the Farnsworth House site in Plano, IL. For those of you who are unacquainted it's considered one of the most significant works of architecture built in the 20th century. The architect was Mies Van der Rohe, patron saint of IIT.

Frank built some nice doors using all wood joinery. I've never built a door from scratch, so it was nice to see it all go together.

Frank and Roland. Roland is an insane artist. He paints these huge acrylic paintings of steel structures that look like photographs. In the background is the Barnsworth project. The Farnsworth House sits on a flood plane so a place to house some of the significant furniture, specifically the dresser, was needed. 

Didn't have a tripod so I used the timer and a rock.

This was the last day that it was open during the season so we went in after hours and drank some whiskey.
It was much more pleasant than I would have imagined. The site at night lends itself to privacy and the home is very intimate; perfect for drinking with several people.


This is a quote from Conan O'Brien when he was on The Nerdist Podcast.
...if you have a creative mind. I've described it sometimes as a very powerful lawnmower. It can do all this great stuff but every now and then it turns around and it rolls over you and chews you up.
When I heard that I felt an odd sense of relief. During school I would get that all the time. I'd have so many ideas and be doing so much research that I'd hardly produce anything. Information can be stifling like that. If you really consider the consequences our your actions, good or bad, inaction at times seems inevitable.

This is a reused liquid CO2 storage tank. The walls are 1" thick steel (I've cut lots of them with an oxyacetylene torch), the insulation surrounding the tank is about 4" of closed cell rigid foam, and the covering is fiberglass. They're actually fairly inexpensive. My dad uses them for hot water storage for the steam systems we build. This way we can spec a much smaller boiler and let it run overnight. Also, when you heat up water it drops all its solids, so by doing the heating in a separate tank we keep our boilers cleaner. Plus these are easier to clean out. We install the pipes which becomes the closed loop for the steam. Over a week the 180 degree water may drop just a few degrees in the dead of winter.


"I want money in order to buy the time to get the things that money will not buy." - Carl Sandburg

This is my friend Derek on my roof a few months back. The buildings from left to right are Lake Point Tower, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, the Aon center, Two Prudential Plaza, Trump Tower, and the IBM Tower (333 North Wabash) - in case you were curious...