Matthias Builds A Belt Sander

[Matthias Wandel] is the preeminent YouTube woodworker, with dozens of machines constructed from wooden gears, amazing machines that produce perfect mortise and tenons, and home-built table saws and jointers. Actually building something instead of buying it is a hallmark of [Matthias]’ channel, and he’s at it again, building his own woodworking machines. This time it’s a 1″ wide belt sander. Of course anyone can go out and simply buy one of these sanders for under $100, but what’s the point in that when you can build one out of plywood and a motor you picked out of the trash?

The design of this belt sander – just like the commercial version he’s improving upon – uses three wheels to guide the 42″ long strip of sandpaper around its course. [Matthias] is using rollerblade wheels for the front wheels. Rollerblade wheels aren’t the best shape for bearings, this can be fixed by using a table saw as a lathe. Yes, [Matthias] lathes with a table saw. He’s just that good.

The rest of the frame was carefully constructed out of plywood and powered by a 1/3 horsepower furnace fan motor pulled from the trash. There are a few interesting features that make this belt sander exceptionally useful: a rounded platen behind the belt makes sanding interior corners very easy, and is something that isn’t usually found on commercial belt sanders.

You can check out [Matthias]’ video below.

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Conjuring Capacitive Touch Sensors from Paper and Aluminum Foil

Stumbling around YouTube, we found what has to be the lowest-tech method of producing a touchpad to make a capacitive touch keyboard, and we just had to share it with you. If you’re afraid of spoilers, skip down to the video below the break now.

[James Eckert] got his hands on a Freescale MPR121 capacitive touch sensor. The chip in question speaks I2C and senses up to twelve simultaneous capacitive sense electrodes; break-out boards are available in all of the usual places. It’s a sweet little part.

So [James] had to make a twelve-key capacitive keyboard on the quick. He printed out a key template on paper — something that he does often in his woodwork — and spray-glued aluminum foil on the back side. The video doesn’t say how many hours he spent with the razor blade tracing it all out, but the result is a paper, foil, and packing tape keyboard that seems to work just fine.

A pin-header was affixed to the foil with conductive paint and more tape. If you’ve ever tried soldering directly to aluminum foil, you’d know why. (And if you’ve got any other good tips for connecting electrically to aluminum foil, we’d love to hear them.)

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Easy Power Supply Mod Takes Control

Inexpensive bench top power supplies are great for the home hobbyist, featuring wide voltage range and current limiting for a low price. What’s not to love? The controls; most have a single-turn pot that is typically very fidgety, especially at low voltage.

The solution is to replace the factory pots with nice wire-wound 10 turn units in order to gain 10x the precision. Of course nothing is ever drop in, the new pots didn’t fit the old holes, but that is nothing a few moments with a drill can’t fix. Also the original knobs no longer fit, but that’s just an opportunity for a knob upgrade.

The end result is still a power supply with fidgety controls, but instead of holding your breath, tippy tapping knobs to get within 100mV of your target, you can dial right in to within 10mV of your target. That makes life much easier, especially on low voltage projects that may not have power regulation quite yet.

Join us after the break for a video with all the info.

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KiCad 4.0 is Released

If you’re a KiCad user, as many of us here at Hackaday are, you’ll be elated to hear that KiCad 4.0 has just been released! If you’re not yet a KiCad user, or if you’ve given it a shot in the past, now’s probably a good time to give it a try. (Or maybe wait until the inevitable 4.0.1 bugfix version comes out.)

If you’ve been using the old “stable” version of KiCad (from May 2013!), you’ve got a lot of catching-up to do.

The official part footprint libraries changed their format sometime in 2014, and are all now hosted on GitHub in separate “.pretty” folders for modularity and ease of updating. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll need to be a little careful with your projects until you’ve switched all the parts over. The blow is softened by a “component rescue helper” but you’re still going to need to be careful if you’re still using old schematics with the new version.

The most interesting change, from a basic PCB-layout perspective, is the push-and-shove router. We’re looking for a new demo video online, but this one from earlier this year will have to do for now. We’ve been using various “unstable” builds of KiCad for the last two years just because of this feature, so it’s awesome to see it out in an actual release. The push-and-shove router still has some quirks, and doesn’t have all the functionality of the original routers, though, so we often find ourselves switching back and forth. But when you need the push-and-shove feature, it’s awesome.

If you’re doing a board where timing is critical, KiCad 4.0 has a bunch of differential trace and trace-length tuning options that are something far beyond the last release. The 3D board rendering has also greatly improved.

Indeed, there are so many improvements that have been made over the last two and a half years, that everybody we know has been using the nightly development builds of KiCad instead of the old stable version. If you’ve been doing the same, version 4.0 may not have all that much new for you. But if you’re new to KiCad, now’s a great time to jump in.

We’ve covered KiCad hacks before, and have another article on KiCad add-on utilities in the pipeline as we write this. For beginners, [Chris Gammell]’s tutorial video series is still relevant, and is a must-watch.

Arduino Powered Knife-Wielding Tentacle will Leave You in Stitches

Writing articles for Hackaday, we see funny projects, and we see dangerous projects. It’s rare to find a project which combines the two. This one somehow manages to pull it off. [Outaspaceman] is familiar with LittleBits, but he’s just starting to learn Arduino programming. He completed the blink tutorial, but blinking an LED just wasn’t enough fanfare for the success of his first Arduino program. He connected the Arduino Mega’s LED output to a pair of LittleBits which then switch a servo between two positions. A bare servo wouldn’t be much fun, so [Outaspaceman] connected a tentacle and a small Swiss army knife. Yes, a knife.

The tentacle in question is designed to be a finger puppet. There’s something about a tentacle waving a knife around that is so hilarious and absurd that we couldn’t help but laugh. We’re not alone apparently, as this video has gone viral with over 1 million views. It’s almost like a violent revenge of the most useless machine. For the technically curious, the tentacle’s seemingly random motion is analogous to that of the double pendulum.

Our readers will be happy to know that [Outaspaceman] has made it to the Arduino servo tutorial, and is now controlling the servo directly, no LittleBits needed. We just hope he has a good way to turn his creation off – without the need for stitches.

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Uses for Quantum Entanglement with Shanni Prutchi

For those of you that weren’t at the Hackaday SuperConference, it started off with a pretty intense talk that could have been tough for anyone to follow. However, [Shanni Prutchi] presented her talk on quantum entanglement of photons in a way that is both approachable, and leaves you with plenty of hints for further study. Check it out in the video below, and join us after the break for a rundown of what she covered in her presentation.

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The Grid Dip Meter: Forgotten Instrument

It used to be a major rite of passage for a hardware hacker to acquire an oscilloscope. Until recently, new instruments were rarely in normal people’s budgets, so you probably made do with a used scope. Now, there are lots of inexpensive options, especially if you include low-end PC scopes and “scope meters.” Digital meters are also now inexpensive (often free at some major stores), along with signal generators, frequency counters, and even logic analyzers.

But there is one piece of test equipment you don’t see as often as you used to and its a shame, because it is a very versatile piece of kit. Admittedly, if you aren’t doing wireless work, it might not be high on your wish list, but if you do anything with RF, it is not only a versatile tool, but a good value, too. What’s it called? That depends. Historically, they went by the name “Grid Dip Oscillator” or GDO. Sometimes you’d hear it called a “Grid Dip Meter” instead. However, modern versions don’t have tubes (and, thus, no grid) so sometimes you hear them now called dip meters or maybe just dippers.

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