DIY Copper End Table

At some point, I volunteered to make us some end tables for the house. It turns out that I really don’t like end tables…everything I came across was either way to big or too flimsy to take any kid abuse. The main level in our house is basically wide open, so keeping foot traffic lanes open is key. Long story short, I ended up in the copper area of Lowes and came up with a solution…

diy

Maybe this is brilliant, or maybe my brain automatically looks for reasons to use my torch and Dremel. Probably the later.

copper_assembly

Emma was willing to help with the stress test, but unwilling to put down the GBA…

copper_stress_test

End result:

copper_table

This actually turned out fairly decent, especially considering the fact I did all of the woodworking on that chunk of poplar with a Dremel Multi-Max. My soldering skills are more tuned to electronics, so I burned the shit out of the bulkier joints due to lack of flux. Adds character, I guess.

I have another stick of 3/4″ copper, so plan on doing round two as a winter project. I keep thinking that some sort of electrolysis setup would be awesome for the copper cleaning phase, which could be a project in itself. This project would be a lot more intense with a car battery and a whole bunch of wire.

DIY Baseball Trainer

With men’s league baseball around the corner and a new Baum Bat in my garage, I got antsy to hit some baseballs. Since the sidekick keeps me close to the house on weekends, I had to improvise. Enter, DIY Baseball Trainer…

Step one: Drill hole in baseball

drilling a baseball

drilling a baseball


*Fun fact…I still haven’t had to charge this lithium ion battery pack, after a whole bunch of baby furniture assembly and random tasks in the *lab. Battery technology is great.

Step two: Attach ball tether

baseball trainer

...


*Fun fact… I have been looking for uses for old salvaged power cords. They are everywhere.

Step three: Attach unit to fixed point

diy baseball trainer

play ball


*Fun fact…I had to go nuts with my tree trimmer in order to clear a suitable space to accommodate a baseball swing. I still have a sizable pile of tree that I am working into our garbage cans pre-pickup.

Step four: Get real

broken cord

booooo


*Fun fact…I thought this would hold up for a while. It turns out ‘a while’ was two swings.

How To Fix a Hitachi Leaf Blower

A few months ago, I picked up a killer leaf blower on Woot. Our yard is devoid of leaves.

Last week, I tried to fire it up to clean the pine needles off of our steps…no dice. The thing wouldn’t fire up. I checked everything obvious…pulled the spark plug to see if it was flooded…ensured the kill switch circuit was intact…checked the fuel line for a vacuum…nothing. I came to the conclusion that the issue was with the primer bulb, as it was ‘pushing’ but not ‘pulling’ air when depressed. I was getting a bunch of pressure in the fuel tank, but no fluid was making it to the primer bulb itself.

Time for leaf blower surgery.

hitachi leaf blower

well, this blows

I figured that I could take apart the air filter and figure out how to bypass the primer bulb somehow. It turns out that the filter assembly is pretty accessible. Directly behind the drop-down filter cover, there are two inviting phillips head screws…

hitachi two stroke gas blower repair

well, screw this

I backed said screws out enough to see a disconnected tube staring right at me. Sure enough, it was the rubber tube that feeds the primer bulb. See below—-v

hitachi fuel line disconnected leaf blower

well, this is hosed

It looks like the engineers at Hitachi sunk a spring in the end of the hose to avoid kinks, and relied upon friction to keep the hose in place. It looks like a design flaw, as the two-stroke’s vibrations had the thing rattled loose in much less than an hour’s worth of operation time.

Quick fix though…the unit fired up immediately upon reconnect and priming. Back in business.

It might get old pulling the filter assembly off if this hose becomes a nagging issue. On the plus side, this thing was a steal and is crazy overpowered. I hate to say that I would still recommend this even with the flaw…it really does blow.

HTML to Python to Arduino to LCD

Last week found me standing tall upon my shell script soapbox, shouting command line praises to all who would listen.

Thou ought direct thine output aftways, to-wards thine USB port of thee. And that is well and righteous.

Well, that still is the case. My latest project has made it glaringly obvious that sometimes a little Python script will render a whole bunch of shell scripting moot. Namely, parsing HTML. Let’s see a picture…

outdoor hacking

bad lab mobile

Lunch hour project: parse the comments from swantron.com; feed said comments to an LCD screen.

I was horsing around with wget from a CLI a few days ago. I found myself trying to smash through the resultant file via pure regular expressions…which is incredibly clumsy. Well, as luck would have it, my go-to after my main go-to is Python, and this type of thing has been issue enough to warrant a library. BeautifulSoup. It acts to parse the HTML info into items, that can be smashed around as I see(med) fit.

My setup was simple: py script to snag my comments and write serial, Arduino sketch to drive a LCD and read/write serial. And a source of shade. And a WiFi signal to snag.

mobile mobile

bad lab mobile-mobile

Check, check, check, etc. Video time:

Pretty slick…hit the fold for the code, as promised, and a summary.
Continue reading

Arduino Solar Cell Night Light Concept

So, I’ve formalized the solar cell project I have been poking at for a while. I managed to clean up my code and mess with some initial conditions, etc., and now have a fairly solid proof of concept for a solar cell-centered night light.

lighty

you may want to ramp up that LED a bit

As was the case in my first few runs, my sketch incorporates a five second initialization phase. This acts to set both relative minimum and maximum values which act to provide “full light on” and “full light off” values, respectively. The generated power from the solar cell is read in to the Arduino via analog input, and the LEDs are driven via digital outs. The rest is some simple math that transforms the range of the analog signal into a digital range of zero to two hundo fifty five.

It’s giant-ass-text-having snippet time!

// Solar LED IO
// Joseph Swanson | http://swantron.com
// 2011

// Define constants
const int sensorPin = A3; // Solar cell Pin
const int ledPin = 5; // varuiable LED Pin

// Define variables
int sensorValue = 0; // wipe read value
int sensorMin = 0; // set initial min
int sensorMax = 1023; // set initial max

void setup() {

// turn on Pin 11 LED…indicates calibration period begin
pinMode(11, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(11, HIGH);

// stay lit for five seconds
while (millis() < 5000) { sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin); // adjust for real max if (sensorValue < sensorMax) { sensorMax = sensorValue; } // adjust for real min if (sensorValue > sensorMin) {
sensorMin = sensorValue;
}
}

// end Pin 11… calibration period finito
digitalWrite(11, LOW);
}

void loop() {
// read the solar cell analog
sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);

// apply a little calibration to the sensor reading
// bit from example sketch at http://arduino.cc
sensorValue = map(sensorValue, sensorMin, sensorMax, 0, 255);

// set constraint for outliers with respect to min/max
sensorValue = constrain(sensorValue, 0, 255);

// fade the LED from one to 255
analogWrite(ledPin, sensorValue);
}

Pretty straight forward. On to the vid…


It’s web2.0-too-many-script-ass-calling embedded video time!

Not too bad. Again, I used an Arduino Duemilanove and a Solar World panel. I might try to further this concept by incorporating my 120V switch and getting a lamp up in here. Stay tuned, as always.

How to Fix a Paper Cutter

I walked into my designated printer room at work today to find the paper cutter broken. What a tragedy, right? I have absolutely no idea why we need a paper cutter, let alone several paper cutters, at our software shop FWIW. Regardless, I took it upon myself to remedy the problem. Sleep tight, thy co-workers…rest assured that you can again transform 8.5″ x 11″ paper sheets into 8.25″ x 11″ paper sheets, thanks to my pro bono paper cutter fixing skills. Observe.

What You’ll Need:

*Broken Paper Cutter
*Tape (Scotch)

Steps:

1) Locate Point of Failure

You can see that this particular cutter has malfunctioned due to a broken cutting arm.

paper cutter

brokos

2) Procure a section of tape

(If you are unsure with what to do with the tape at this point, don’t worry…this will come into play in step 3)

paper cutter

tapos

3) Place tape section on the displaced cutting arm

fix

applyum

4) Place displaced cutting arm on cutting arm articulating housing; secure tape

paper cutter

fixdos

That’s that. Leave it in the printer room for the next idiot who actually uses a paper cutter…I bet bewilderment will ensue