Power Log Splitting: Trying (and Sometimes Failing) to Build a Better Ax

Wood. Humans have burned it for to heat their homes for thousands of years. It’s truly a renewable source of energy. While it may not be the most efficient or green method to warm a space, it definitely gets the job done. Many homes still have a fireplace or wood burning stove for supplemental heat. For those in colder climates, wood is more than just supplemental, it’s needed simply for survival.

Splitting maul by Chmee2 via Wikipedia
Splitting maul by Chmee2 via Wikipedia

The problem with firewood is that it doesn’t come ready to burn. Perfect fireplace sized chunks don’t grow on trees after all. The trees have to be cut up into logs. The logs must be split. The split wood then needs to dry for 6 months or so.

Anyone who’s spent time manually splitting wood can tell you it’s back breaking work. Swinging an 8 pound maul for a few hours will leave your hands numb and your shoulders aching. It’s the kind of work that leaves the mind free to wander a bit. The hacker’s mind will always wander toward a better way to get the job done. Curiously we haven’t seen too many log splitting hacks here on the blog. [KH4] built an incredible cross bladed axe back in 2015, but that’s about it.

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Build a Foam Cutter Right Now

Cutting foam is difficult with traditional methods. The best way is with a hot wire. If you read Hackaday, it is a good bet you can figure out how to use electricity to make a wire hot without any help. However, there’s something  clever about [MrGear’s] minimal build.

As you can see in the video below, he uses a 9V battery, a clip, some popsicle sticks, and the wire from a ballpoint pen. He also used a switch, but we couldn’t help but think that was unnecessary  since you could just unclip the battery to turn the device on and off. Since he used hot glue to attach the switch to the battery, replacing the battery would be a pain.

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Ugly DIY Portable Soldering Iron

If you’ve ever wanted a battery-operated soldering iron and you just can’t stand the thought of buying one, you might check out the video below from [Just5mins]. In it, he takes a candy tube, some scrap materials, a lithium ion battery, a nichrome wire, a USB charger, and a switch and turns it into an apparently practical soldering iron.

Paradoxically, [Just5mins] used a soldering iron to build this one, so it probably can’t be your only soldering iron, although we suppose you could figure something out in a pinch. Maybe in rep-rap style, make a poor quality one with no soldering and use it to solder up the next one.

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[Alan Wolke]’s How To Use An Oscilloscope

If you were to create a Venn diagram of Hackaday readers and oscilloscope owners the chances are the there would be a very significant intersection of the two sets. Whether the instrument in question is a decades-old CRT workhorse or a shiny modern digital ‘scope, it’s probably something you’ll use pretty often and you’ll be very familiar with its operation.

An oscilloscope is a very complex instrument containing a huge number of features. Modern ‘scopes in particular bring capabilities through software unimaginable only a few years ago. So when you look at your ‘scope, do you really know how to use its every feature? Are you getting the best from it, or are you only scratching the surface of what it can do?

[Alan Wolke, W2AEW] is an application engineer at Tektronix, so as you might expect when it comes to oscilloscopes he knows a thing or two about them. He’s spoken on the subject in the past with his “Scopes for Dopes” lecture, and his latest video is a presentation to the NJ Antique Radio Club which is a very thorough exploration of using an oscilloscope. The video is below the break and at an hour and twenty minutes it’s a long one. We make no apologies for that, for it should be fascinating in its entirety for any oscilloscope owner. Even if you find yourself nodding along to most of what he’s saying there are sure to be pearls of ‘scope wisdom in there you weren’t aware of.

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Tools of the Trade – Through Hole Assembly

In our last installment of Tools of the Trade, we had just finished doing the inspection of the surface mount part of the PCB. Next in the process is the through hole components. Depending on the PCB, the order may change slightly, but generally it makes more sense to get all the SMT work done before moving to the through hole work.

Through hole used to be the standard, but as the need for size reduction and automation increased, SMT gained favor. However, there are still a lot of reasons to use through hole components, so they aren’t going away entirely (at least not any time soon). One of the biggest advantages of THT is mechanical strength, which makes it better suited for connectors than SMT. If you’ve ever popped a microusb connector off a PCB by breathing on it heavily, you’ll understand. So, how do we most efficiently get through hole components on a PCB, and how do the big boys do it?

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Simple Beetle Robot Uses Smoking Soldering Iron

As robot projects go, [creative ideas km]’s isn’t going to impress many Hackaday readers. Still, as an art project or something to do with the kids, it might be fun. But the reason it caught our interest wasn’t the actual robot, but the improvised soldering iron used in its construction.

The robot itself isn’t really autonomous. It is just a battery, a motor, and a switch. The motor vibrations make the robot scoot around on its bent copper wire legs. Some hot glue holds it all together, but the electrical wiring is soldered.

If you look at the video below, you’ll see the soldering is done with an unusual method. A disposable lighter generates a flame that hits an attached copper wire with a coil wound in it. The coil acts as a heat exchanger, and the wire becomes a soldering iron tip.

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3D Printed Diffuser Lights Up This Magnifier

If you are working with surface mount electronics and don’t have the handy heritage of a pulp-comic superhero to give you super-high-resolution eyesight, then you will quickly find yourself needing a magnifying glass. And since you’ll be using both hands doing the soldering, you’ll need some way to hold it.

There are multiple solutions to this problem on the market, from headband magnifiers and inspection magnifiers on arms to cheap “Helping hands”. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them appealed to our reader [Anil], who wanted an illuminated magnifier to fit the Hobby Creek arm on his Pana-Vise.

His solution was to 3D print a surround for a lens from a set of helping hands. This is no simple print though, it’s made of three layers. There is a translucent diffuser, a layer that holds a set of LEDs and attaches to the arm, and a cover to hold the lens in place. Power for the LEDs comes via USB.

The print itself was a bit tricky, his diffuser used T-glase translucent filament, and was fused to the PLA LED ring in a single print from his dual-extruder printer. He takes us through the various steps he needed to get it right, and shows us a few of his failed prototypes. The resulting magnifier looks to be a useful addition to his bench, he’s made the STL files available towards the bottom of his post so you can have a go at making one for yourself.

This is the kind of simple hack that can make life so much easier for the SMD constructor. We’ve had  another set of augmented helping hands featured here in the past, and of course there’s the ultimate portable SMT station. If SMD soldering is new to you, please also read our SMD guide for the nervous.