The Trouble With Cordless Power Tools

If you grow up around a small engineering business you are likely to gain something of an appreciation for power tools. You’ll see them of all ages, sizes, manufacturers, and technologies. When thinking of the power tools constantly on hand in the workshop of a blacksmith like my dad for instance, I’m instantly seeing a drill and an angle grinder. The drill that most comes to mind is a Makita mains powered hand drill, and given that I remember the day he bought it to replace his clapped-out Wolf in 1976, it has given phenomenal service over four decades and continues to do so.

41 years of hard use, and still going strong.
41 years of hard use, and still going strong…

Of course, the Makita isn’t the only drill in his possession. A variety of others of different sizes and speeds have come and gone over the years, and there is always one at hand for any given task. The other one I’d like to single out is I think the most recent acquisition, a Bosch cordless model he bought several years ago. It’s similar in size and capabilities to the Makita save for its bulky battery pack, and it is a comparably decent quality tool.

So, we have two drills, both of similar size, and both of decent quality. One is from the mid 1970s, the other from the end of the last decade. One is a very useful tool able to drill holes all day, the other is little more than a paperweight. The vintage model from the days of flared trousers is a paperweight, you ask? No, the not-very-old Bosch, because its battery pack has lost its capacity. The inevitable degradation due to aged cell chemistry has left it unable to hold enough charge for more than maybe a minute’s use, and what was once a tool you’d be glad to own is now an ornament.

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Maintain Temperature with a DIY Laboratory Dry Bath

[abizar] lucked into some aluminum blocks, one of which had test-tube-sized holes in it–just the thing to turn into a dry bath for his biology projects.

He stuck a 100W positive temperature coefficient heater into the bottom of the block using silicone glue, and the heater heated the block up in around half an hour. He connected a temperature controller to maintain the temperature at an ambient 95C, with a controller monitoring a thermistor to keep the block within the pre-determined range. The heater has an auto shutoff if it got too hot, so [abizar] felt safe keeping the dry bath on, unmonitored.

The aluminum block sits in a plywood box lined with rubber from an inner tube, with the heater underneath the block and the temperature controller underneath that, separated by more plywood from the heat. The result? A dry, temperature regulated bath for 20 1.5ml test tubes.

Looking to tool up? Check out the plethora of biohacking tools on Hackaday, including a DIY CO2 incubator, a basic biohacker’s toolkit, and a cheap electrophoresis rig.

Scissor Lift Table From the Wood Shop, for the Wood Shop

The value of a mobile adjustable height cart in the shop can’t be overestimated. From moving tools around to installing heavy fixtures on walls and ceiling, a scissor-lift platform is a great tool. Commercial versions get a bit expensive, though, so a shop-built scissor lift table made of wood might be a nice project for the budget-minded to tackle.

Wood might not be your first choice for a fixture such as this, but it’s what [Marius Hornberger] is set up to use, and with proper species selection and careful engineering, it can make for an amazingly sturdy table. [Marius] chose ash for his parts, a wood with a long history of performing well under difficult conditions. The table is not all wood, of course; metal bushings and pins are used in the scissor mechanism, and the lift drive is a stout Acme-thread screw and nut. We’re impressed by [Marius]’ joinery skill, and with how sturdy the table proved to be.

Not a lot of woodworking projects seem to show up in our tip line for some reason, which is a shame. We love to feature wood builds, and like our own [John Baichtal] recently pointed out, the health of the wood shop is often a leading indicator of the health of a hackerspace.

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Give Your Bench Power Supply A Helping Hand

[Sverd Industries] have created a pretty cool bench power supply integrating soldering helping hands into the build. This helps free up some much-needed bench space along with adding that wow factor and having something that looks unique.

The build is made from a custom 3D printed enclosure (Thingiverse files here), however if you have no access to a 3D printer  you could always just re-purpose or roll your own instrument enclosure. Once the enclosure is taken care of, they go on to install the electronics. These are pretty basic, using a laptop PSU with its output attached to the input of a boost/buck module. They did have to change the potentiometers from those small PCB mounted pots to full size ones of the same value though. From there they attach 4 mm banana sockets to the output along with a cheap voltmeter/ammeter LCD module. Another buck converter is attached to the laptop PSU’s output to provide 5 V for a USB socket, along with a power switch for the whole system.

Where this project really shines is the integrated helping hands. These are made from CNC cooling tubes with alligator clips super glued to the end, then heat shrink tubing is placed over the jaws to stop any accidental short circuiting while using them.

This isn’t a life changing hack but it is quite a clever idea if space is a hot commodity where you do your tinkering, plus a DIY bench power supply is almost a rite of passage for the budding hacker.

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This Method of Gluing onto Curves Sucks!

Sometimes the right tool for a job can be unusual, and this sucked only in the sense that vacuum sealing was involved. Recently [Martin Raynsford] found himself in a situation of needing to glue a wood veneer onto a curved surface, but faced a shortage of clamps. His clever solution was to vacuum-seal the whole thing and let the contour-hugging plastic bag take care of putting even pressure across the entire glued surface. After the glue had set enough to grip the materials securely, the bag was removed to let the whole thing dry completely. Gluing onto a curved surface has never been so clamp-free.

The curved piece in question was made from dozens of layers of laser-cut plywood, stacked and glued to make the curved lid of a custom-built chest. It might have been just the right shape, but it wasn’t much to look at. As you can see, giving it a wood veneer improved the appearance considerably. Wood veneers are attractive and versatile; we’ve seen for example that LEDs will shine through wood veneer quite easily.

Simple Shop-made Taps for Threading Wood

Wood can be the material of choice for many kinds of projects, but it often falls out of the running in favor of metal or plastic if it needs to take a threaded fastener. But with a little ingenuity you can make your own wood taps and cut threads that will perform great.

Making wood do things that wood isn’t supposed to do is [Matthias Wandel]’s thing. Hackers the world over know and use his wood gears designer to lay out gears for all kinds of projects from musical marble machines to a wooden Antikythera mechanism. Woodworkers have been threading wood for centuries , so making wood take a decent thread isn’t exactly something new. But doing it on the cheap and making the threads clean and solid has always been tricky. The video after the break shows [Matthias]’ method of cutting a tap out of an ordinary threaded rod or even off-the-shelf lag screws. He uses a simple jig to hold the blank so that flutes can be cut with an angle grinder. The taps work well in the materials he tested, and a little informal stress testing at the end of the video shows promise for long service life of the threads.

Wood threads aren’t suitable for every project, but knowing that you can do it might just open the path to a quick, easy build. This is a great tip to keep in mind.

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Review: TS100 Soldering Iron

Temperature-controlled soldering irons can be cheap, lightweight, and good. Pick any two of those attributes when you choose an iron, because you’ll never have all three. You might believe that this adage represents a cast-iron rule, no iron could possibly combine all three to make a lightweight high-performance tool that won’t break the bank! And until fairly recently you’d have had a point, but perhaps there is now a contender that could achieve that impossible feat.

The Miniware TS100 is a relatively inexpensive temperature-controlled soldering iron from China that has made a stealthy entry to the market, and which some online commentators claim to be the equal of far more expensive professional-grade irons. We parted with just below £50 (around $60) to place an order for a TS100, and waited for it to arrive so we could see what all the fuss was about. Continue reading “Review: TS100 Soldering Iron”