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When I started using Blender again recently with Vista, I noticed that when I launched it I would only get a blank (black) screen. The command window screen was black, of course, but at least it reported “Checking for installed Python… got it!” The problem was that the main Blender window was blank.

It will work again if you switch from “Highest (32-bit)” color to “Medium (16 bit)” in Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Display Settings, but that doesn’t make for good rendering. Instead just turn off the Windows Aero color scheme.

How to Turn Off the Windows Aero Color Scheme

They say Windows Aero doesn’t slow anything down on your machine, but if you can’t use the tools you need, you might need to disable it. Here’s how:

In Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Window Color and Appearance, select a Color Scheme other than Windows Aero, them make sure you’re using “Highest (32-bit)” color in Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Display Settings. You’ll lose the fancy transparent chrome effects, but you’ll be able to use Blender again.

In the A $6 Custom Branding Iron post, I showed off a branding iron I had “printed” in stainless steel by for US$6, after using the free vector image editor Inkscape, and parametric modeling software Alibre Design, which also has a free version called Alibre Design Xpress.

This tutorial requires a working knowledge of Alibre Design (or other 3D parametric modeling software) and Inkscape (or other vector graphics editing software).

$6 branding iron

$6 branding iron

Here are the steps I took to make it happen: (I’ll add more detail over time.)

  • Design in Inkscape
    1. Convert all text objects to paths (Path > Object to path)
    2. Convert all stroked lines to paths (Path > Stroke to path)
    3. Ungroup all objects
    4. Union all objects (Path > Union)
    5. Select object
    6. Save As… Type Desktop Cutting Plotter (R13) (*.dfx) – Output will be in mm
  • Import into Alibre Design (File > Import, type DXF)
    1. Select mm for file units
    2. (It imports into a drawing)
    3. Select everything and Explode (Edit > Explode Symbol)
    4. Activate the sketch
    5. Analyze (Sketch > Analyze…)
    6. Heal all problems
    7. While activated, select the figures
  • Copy to a Alibre Design Part
    1. Open a new part
    2. Activate a design plane and Paste (the figure may appear far from center)
    3. Select the curves, shift-left-click to drag to better location
  • Model the branding iron
    1. Extrude sketch 1.25mm — this is the depth of the brand.
    2. Select *top* face and insert a plane. (right-click > Insert Plane…)
    3. Select the new plane, Project to Sketch (if necessary), to create a foundation for the brand.
    4. Extrude 2mm for foundation
    5. Insert another plane on the back of the foundation
    6. Extrude a mounting hole, 4.9mm is 0.1375mm larger than 3/16″
    7. Cut a set screw hole in an accessible location if necessary. 3.048mm is 0.12″, the tap size for #6-40 set screw.
  • Export & Upload
    1. Export as *.STL file
    2. Upload to
    3. Order in stainless steel
  • Finish
    1. Tap the mounting flange for a 10-32 screw
    2. Thread a 3/8″ steel rod with 10-32 die or use a 10-32 screw
    3. Build a handle
    4. Sand down the surface of the branding iron to make it nice and flat

Here’s a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) drawing of a 24-tooth saw blade. I needed a simple circular saw blade clipart image for a logo I’m working on, but I couldn’t find a usable one online so I created my own.


Download here
Creative Commons License

Here’s a cool painting of the Matterhorn. Please comment if you happen to know who painted it, or if you have any ideas on how to find out.

Here’s a close-up of the signature.

Here are a couple more piano tunes I wrote a while back while I was tinkering around with the fugue style.

In a 3-voice fugue, the main theme is introduced in the first voice, then repeated an interval above with the second voice enters, then again below when the third voice enters. In most cases, after the voices finish their themes, they go off and do their own things for a little while (actually with some variations of parts of the theme) before the main theme comes back again at the end.

I chose a different instrument to record these (other than piano) mainly because I liked the sound of it.

Click the “Play” icon to listen.
Alex Franke - Fugue 1
Alex Franke - Fugue 2

Here are several pencil sketches by Ernst Franke, probably from around 1905-1910. They were all drawn, in the order shown, in a small sketchbook.

Please comment if you are able to identify any of the subjects. They may be from Kempen, Nettetal, or Kaldenkirchen in Germany, or from Venlo in the Netherlands.

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