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2019 August 19

Shakespeare cookies v5

On Saturday, my son and I baked shortbread cookies using version 5 of the Shakespeare cookie cutter:

The difference between version 4 and version 5 is mainly around the left eye (on the right in this photo). Version 4 had a lot of trouble with the dough getting stuck in the small regions there. (See prior post for cookies made with the V4 cutter.)

Despite the simplifications, Shakespeare’s head is still quite recognizable.

We used the classic recipe (2 cups flour, 1 cup butter, and ½ cup confectioner’s sugar), but this time I used pastry flour instead of a mixture of all-purpose flour and sweet rice flour.  The dough works about equally well either way.

The cookies came out good, but the cookie cutters are still having problems with dough sticking to the cutters. Chilling the dough after rolling helped a little, but stickiness was still a problem. We also had problems rolling the dough out to a uniform 6mm thickness—sometimes we had the dough too thin, and the interior lines were not clear, and sometimes we had it too thick and couldn’t get the cookie out of the cutter without destroying the cookie.

My son had two suggestions, both of which I’ll follow up on:

  • Go back to having separate cutter and stamp (as in Version 3), but don’t try to connect the two.  Make the stamp just have a few alignment marks so that it can be hand-aligned to the cookie outline.  The stamp can have a lot of open space, so that the visual alignment is relatively easy, and so that the cookie dough can be easily separated from the stamp.  The stamping can even be done after the cookie has been transferred to the baking sheet, to make distortion from moving the cookie less of a problem.
  • Make a set of 6mm thick sticks that can be put down around the dough, that the rolling pin can rest on.

Version 6 of the stamp failed, because I made the alignment markers too thin and they did not survive even gentle handling.  I’m now printing Version 7, which has more robust alignment markers.


2019 July 24

Shakespeare cookies

Tuesday night I tried making shortbread cookies to try out my Shakespeare cookie cutters, both the version 3 stamp and a 1-piece cookie cutter (version 4).

Back view of Version 3 (the cookie stamp) and Version 4 (the cookie cutter)

Front view of Version 3 (the stamp) and Version 4 (the cookie cutter).

I’m not quite ready to release the design on Thingiverse, as there are still a few problems.  One is that the handle is not aligned in any way—it is glued on with just a pair of flat surfaces without any alignment features.

This back view of the cookie cutter shows the handle, glued on with FlexEpox.

This closeup of the handle shows the lack of any alignment features.

I looked online for shortbread cookie recipes and found a lot of them.  The proportions of the ingredients were all fairly similar, with small fluctuations:

 1 cup butter
½ cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
½ cup rice flour or cornstarch
1½ cup all-purpose flour

The biggest differences were in the ratio of the flours—the total flour-to-butter ratio was nearly always close to 2:1 but the rice flour or cornstarch varied from 0% to 33% of the flour, with 25% being the most frequent in the recipes I looked at.  Most recipes called for sifting the dry ingredients together—a useful precaution, as both the confectioner’s sugar and the cornstarch had lumps.  I used a little cornstarch to use up an old box, then made up the rest of the ½ cup with sweet rice flour.

The instructions for mixing the butter, sugar, and flour varied a lot (beating with a spoon, pastry blender, shaving frozen butter, mixer, …).  I opted for one of the simplest methods: softening the butter, beating it with a paddle in the mixer, then adding the sifted dry ingredients and beating the dough for a minute.

The dough came out very sticky, and I contemplated adding more flour, but decided in the end to just chill it in the refrigerator for an hour.

After chilling, the dough was firm enough to roll out between two sheets of parchment paper, but it softened quickly, so I rolled out half the dough while keeping the other half in the refrigerator.

The v3 cookie stamp was a complete failure, with the dough sticking to the whole face of the stamp.  Perhaps if I had used enough flour on the stamp, I could have reduced the problem, but eliminating it seems unlikely.

The v4 cookie cutter was more successful.  The first attempt resulted in a lot of dough getting stuck in the crevices of the cutter, but after cleaning that out and flouring the cutter more heavily on each cut, I managed to get some clean-cut cookies.  Because they were not close on the parchment, I transferred them with a spatula to a cookie sheet that was covered with another piece of baking parchment.

Temperatures for baking the shortbread in the recipes varied from 325°F to 375°F, with baking times from 12 minutes to 35 minutes (and the longer times were not necessarily for the lower temperatures).  On my wife’s advice I opted for the low-temperature end of the range (325°F).  At that temperature, the cookies took about 25 minutes to bake.  She says she does shortbread for even longer at 300°F.

Here are 4 good cookies, two of which are slightly overbaked (30 minutes instead of 25). Even the good cookies sometimes have trouble with the Bard’s right eye and the curl of hair next to it.

Here are three failed cookies. The one on the left has a divot on the top of the head, probably from transferring the cookie to the baking sheet. The top right cookie is missing the curl of hair by the Bard’s right eye—a fragile feature that often gets stuck in the cutter. The bottom right is missing part of the ruff, which broke off when transferring to the cooling rack.

I’ll probably make one more design iteration on the cookie cutter before releasing the design, with two changes:

  • opening up the space by the Bard’s right eye so that cookie dough does not get stuck there so much, and
  • adding some alignment features to the back and handle, so that the handle is more easily glued on.

2019 July 15

Shakespeare cookie cutter v3

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:27
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My first post on the Shakespeare cookie cutter was about versions 1 and 2 of the cutter and stamp—both of which were basically unsuccessful.  I had two ideas for fixing the problems: making the cookie stamp larger and simplifying the artwork.  For version 3, I tried both.

The face is still vaguely Shakespeare, though the mouth is not right. I increased the size to 85mm (from 50mm and 60mm for the first two versions), which is the largest size that would fit on the 100mm-diameter bed of my Monoprice Delta Mini printer.

The printing was much more successful this time, with very little stringing or blobbing.

Here is the front view of all the pieces. The knob is still the one from version 2, as I saw no need to reprint it.

The back view shows the side that was against the glass baseplate (except for the knob, which I forgot to flip over).

I was worried about installing the shaft crooked, and figured that if I just used a machinist’s square, I’d end up supergluing the tool to the stamp. So I printed out an alignment jig:

The front view shows how the alignment jig holds the shaft directly in line with shallow hole in the back of the stamp.

The top view shows how I used 5 cylinders as to fit snuggly around the stamp to hold it in a fixed position.

The hole in the alignment jig closed up a tiny bit, so I held the metal rod with vice grips, heated it, and shoved it through the hole to make the hole just big enough.

Unfortunately, the only superglue I had in the house was several years old (though in an unopened little tube) and it did not set when applied—it was still soft after 15 minutes.  I’ll have to get some more superglue (or other quick-setting strong adhesive) tomorrow to attach the shaft to the stamp.

2019 July 14

Shakespeare cookie cutter

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:49
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I have been trying to create a cookie cutter and stamp of Shakespeare’s head on my 3D printer.  I started by hand tracing one of the engravings of Shakespeare’s head using inkscape, to get a simplified line drawing:

The tracing looked good to me, but there may still be too much detail for a cookie cutter.

I decomposed the drawing into two parts: the outline and the internal lines (as shown by the colors).  I then used OpenSCAD to create three designs: a stamp for the embossing the lines, a cutter shell to cut the outside edge, and a knob for putting on the other end of a shaft for the stamp.  I had to install a new version of OpenSCAD, because the old one I had could not import splines.  The new one does, but gives no way to control the number of polygons created, so I often had 10-minute waits as it tried to generate the geometry.

My first attempt (to make a 5cm cookie) was a miserable failure, because the holes for the shaft closed up, being almost 1mm smaller in diameter than specified. Also the thin lines for the stamp ended up being too thin and too close together (particularly for the mouth), so the printer ended up blobbing them together.  The design might have worked with a higher-quality printer, but the almost any filament printer is going to have trouble with 0.5mm wide ridges that are 2mm tall.

My second attempt widened the lines and separated them a little, increased the cookie size to 6cm, and added some compensation for the spreading that was closing the holes.  Here are the parts:

From left to right, we have the stamp, the cutter, and the knob. The knob has been fitted with a 5cm ⅛” stainless-steel rod and a 4cm spring.

The parts looked much better this time, and the shaft fits comfortably in the holes in the knob and the stamp, though I will need to find a good glue for attaching the PLA and the 316L stainless steel.  I don’t think I want to use a 2-part epoxy (I have trouble mixing small quantities), but standard superglue may be too brittle—I’ll probably try it anyway, if I have any that has not solidified in the container.

Both the stainless-steel rod and the spring are leftovers from previous projects: Two-electrode vs. four-electrode impedance spectroscopy and Physics Lab 4: spring constants results.

I did one trick in Cura to save some printing time.  Rather than doing 100% infill for the whole stamp and knob, I used only 20% infill, but requested a thick top layer for the stamp and bottom layer for the knob—thick enough to be solid down to the end of the shaft.  I also requested thick side walls, so that the sides of the hole were solid. The reduced infill doesn’t save much on the stamp, where the hole for the shaft is rather shallow, but it made the knob substantially lighter and somewhat faster to print.

There were still some problems with stringing and blobbing around the eyes and mouth:

The eyes and the mouth still have serious problems with stringing and blobbing.

I tried trimming off the excess plastic in the details and found that the top few layers of the stamp delaminated too easily.  Things look a bit better after the cleanup, but the stamp no longer has uniform height ridges, with a variation from 1.5mm to 2.5mm high.

After cleanup, the stamp looks better, but the details still seem to be too small for cookies, and the printing is too messy.

I’m not sure what my next step is on the design is.

  • I could make a larger print (up to about 10cm), which might make an Instagrammable cookie, but would be a bit large for a really useful cookie cutter.  Even then I’ll probably have problems with stringing and blobbing on the fine details.
  • I could try to simplify the eyes and mouth further, to reduce the need for fine details.  I’m not much of an artist, so I don’t know how successful I can be at that, but I think it will be essential for a usable stamp.

I’m feeling now that I should have been less ambitious for my first cookie-stamp design (maybe even doing a simple cutter, rather than cutter and stamp).

2018 August 19

Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:06
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I have now seen all of the Santa Cruz Shakespeare productions for 2018, except the intern’s show Men I’m Not Married To, which starts on Wed 22 August.  There are four performances left of Love’s Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet, and Venus in Fur, plus the three performances of the intern’s show.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare Venus in Fur 2018
Photo by Shmuel Thaler (from )

All the performances are worth seeing, but Venus in Fur is definitely the highlight of the season—it is the play that the set was designed around (the set doesn’t really work for the Shakespearean plays), it has the best lighting and sound effects, and it showcases the talents of two very strong actors.  Brian Ibsen’s interpretation of Thomas in Venus in Fur is outstanding,  which I had not expected from his rather lackluster performance as Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost.  Even more impressive is María Gabriella Rosado González’s performance as Vanda, switching seamlessly between three different characters: actress, Victorian woman, and goddess.  The only thing that marred the production was the miking of the actors—occasionally the amplification failed.  It might have been better not to mike them at all (I might not have felt that way if I had been seated further back—audibility of some actors can be a problem in outdoor theater).

I reviewed Love’s Labours Lost earlier, when I saw the first preview—I’ll see it again at the end of the run, when it may have improved a bit.

The Romeo and Juliet is a fairly straightforward, traditional interpretation of the play, despite changing the genders of Benvolio and Tybalt to meet SCS’s goal of having gender balance in their cast.  SCS will be ending the season this year with a number of matinees of Romeo and Juliet for local high-school students—probably the best choice for educational purposes.

In addition to the full productions, SCS also did two free staged readings this year The Doll’s House and The Taming.  The reading of The Doll’s House was very polished for a staged reading and was well worth attending.  I had mixed feelings about The Taming: the play was funny, but some of the lines were rushed and the actresses sometimes difficult to hear.  It was worth going, but was clearly not as rehearsed as The Doll’s House. The Taming is also a play with a fairly short half-life, being full of topical references and slang—if they plan to do a full production of it, they’ll have to do it in the next couple of years.


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