DIY Concrete Mixing Wheelbarrow Made from Recycled Parts

[Dan] had a bunch of concrete mixing to do. Sure, it was possible to stand there and mix concrete and water in a wheelbarrow for hours and hours but that sounds like a tedious task. Instead, [Dan] looked around the shop to see if he had parts available to make a concrete mixer. As you may have guessed, he did. Instead of stopping at just a concrete mixer, he decided to make a concrete mixing wheelbarrow!

The frame is built out of plywood left over from a past canoe project. The frame holds a mixing barrel that was also hanging around the shop. From the photo, the drive system looks simple but it is not. First, the small motor pulley spins a larger pulley that is in-line with the barrel. Gearing down the drive this way increases torque available to spin the barrel, and that gear reduction is necessary to spin the heavy concrete slowly. What you can’t see is a planetary gear system that gears down the drive train again. The gears are cut out of plywood and were designed in this Gear Generator program. The sun (center) gear of the planetary setup is supported by another scavenged part, a wheel bearing from a Chevy minivan.

Now [Dan] can mix all the concrete he wants, wheel it over and dump it wherever he needs it. With the exception of the drive belt and some miscellaneous hardware, all the parts were recycled.

New Cross Bladed Axe Not For Cosplay or Larping

Firewood aficionado and general axing enthusiast [KH4] likes to cut and split his own fire wood. To burn a tree trunk sized piece of wood efficiently, it has to be split into 4 smaller pieces. [KH4] does this with 3 axe swings, the first splitting the main log in 2, then splitting each half in half again. Although he likes swinging the mighty axe, he still would like to increase the efficiency of each swing.

Well he’s done it! This is accomplished by making a Cross Bladed Axe that has an X-shaped head. Each axe swing should split a log into 4 pieces. That results in 66% less swings for the same amount of wood split!

This projected started with two spare axe heads. One was cut in half with an angle grinder. The two axe head halves were then ground down so that they match the contour of the original axe head. Once the fit was good, the welder was broken out and all 3 axe head pieces were combined into one beastly mass.

After the new head was polished and sharpened, it was re-assembled a new hickory handle. We have to say, the end product looks pretty awesome. There’s a video after the break of this axe in action. Check it out!

Have you ever seen how these axe heads used to be manufactured?

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Printed Tentacles for PCB Probing

Every hacker workbench has one or more of those “helping hand” devices to aid in soldering and assembly. When it comes to testing and debugging though, it could get tricky if you have to start handling test probes while looking at the meter display or fiddling with knobs on the oscilloscope. Sometimes one has to test a board that has just pads for test points. Or maybe you need to directly probe pins on an IC. Checking multiple signals on I2C, SPI, Serial or USB is not too easy with just two hands. [Giuseppe Finizia] is an electronic engineer at the Scientific Investigations Department of the Carabinieri in Italy. He works as a senior analyst in the Electronic Forensics Unit and deal’s with technical investigations on seized electronic devices. To help him in his investigative work, he designed and built a 3D printed PCB workstation with octopus-like tentacles that provides all the additional fingers needed.

The tool is basically a base with adjustable clamps where the test PCB can be fixed. Around the base, up to twelve articulated “tentacles” can be fixed. Various test accessories are attached to the ends of these tentacles – Alligator Clips for holding electronic parts, IC Hook Clip Grabbers, Micro SMD Grabber Test Clips and some others that he is still working on. [Giuseppe] used  MOI 3D modeling software to design his device, and the files are available on Thingiverse for download. He does warn that printing all the parts, specially the tentacle units, can be quite tricky on a regular 3D printer. He used a ZORTRAX M200 printer in high resolution mode and Z-HIPS filament. However, it may be easier to just use machine shop flexible coolant pipe for the tentacles. This may require some sort of modification to the base mounts and the business end of the tentacles though.

Thanks to [CFTechno] for sending in this tip.

Portable Workbench Is Solid And Space Saving

Last week we covered the topic of electronic work benches. But we know that there’s more to life than soldering irons and tiny components. Sometimes to pull off a hack, you need to get your hands dirty, and get some sawdust in your hair. If you’re limited on space, or need to be able to move to different locations quickly, this shop workbench may just be what you’re looking for.

First, let us preface that this project is not open source. Now before you “boo!” too loudly, the designer [Ron Paulk] only charges $10 for the plans. We think that is a small price to pay for how much though has gone into the design. But hey, if you’re a bit crafty, we bet you could easily reverse engineer the build just from the pictures alone. Personally, we think there are times when it’s a good thing to support a project like this.

The basic design allows the workbench to be very rigid, but light weight. And if you don’t have room for it to be permanently set up, it tears down and stores away nicely. It seems like the plans are well done, but if you need a bit more guidance, there is also a 15 part video series that will guide you along the way (here is the youtube playlist.) Also, there is an overview video after the break.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and make something!

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Router Jig Makes Quick Work Of Flattening Irregular Shaped Wood

[Nick Offerman] is a pretty serious wood worker. He likes to make crazy stuff including organic looking tables out of huge chunks of wood. Clearly, the wood doesn’t come out of the ground shaped like the above photo, it has to be intensely worked. [Nick] doesn’t have a huge saw or belt sander that can handle these massive blocks of wood so he built something that could. It’s a jig that allows him to use a standard wood router to shave each side down flat.

The process starts by taking a piece of tree trunk and roughing it into shape with a chainsaw. Once it is flat enough to not roll around, it’s put into a large jig with 4 posts. Horizontal beams are clamped to the posts and support a wooden tray which a wood router can slide back and forth in. The router’s cutting bit sticks out the bottom of the tray and slowly nibbles the surface flat. Once one side is flat, the block is rotated and the flat side is used as a reference to make all the other sides square to the first. After flattening, sanding and finishing the block results in a pretty sweet piece of functional artwork.

DIY Hydraulic Clamp Saves the Day

[Elton] wrote in to tell us about a little excitement they had after this year’s ridiculous winter. Their pool froze and as luck would have it, crumpled the edge of the liner. They asked around and their pool company said they’d better involve their insurance company because it would not be easy to repair — so they decided to try fixing it themselves.

Now since the pool liner is a fairly heavy gauge sheet metal, they wouldn’t be able to simply hammer it back into shape — so they started brainstorming ways to make their very own hydraulic clamp. What they came up with is a very clever application of physics. And all it cost was about $2 in hardware plus some scrap lumber and a bottle jack they had lying around.

Some of their first ideas included a scissor style clamp, and even a monkey wrench-like vice, but in the end, the following design was chosen — and worked.


Ideally the hydraulic jack would be farther from the fulcrum, but since it’s rated for 2 tons it ended up being more than strong enough. To avoid scratching the liner, they also threw some socks on the end of the lumber. Still rather unwieldy, it was a two person job to pop it out. But once they got the major dents out, they were able to use a rubber mallet to finish the job off. Hooray for fluid power!

If you’re looking for the link, there isn’t one. [Elton] sent us his pictures and told us the story directly.

Improving Active Loads

[Texane]’s job requires testing a few boards under a set of loads, and although the lab at work has some professional tools for this it seemed like a great opportunity to try out the Re:load 2. It’s a nifty little active load that’s available can of course be improved with an injection of solder and silicon.

While the Re:load 2 is a nice, simple device that can turn up to 12 Watts directly into heat, it’s not programmable. The ability to create and save load profiles would be a handy feature to have, so [Texane] took a Teensy 3.1 microcontroller and installed a resistor divider in front of the Re:load’s amplifier. A simple script running on a computer allows [Texane] to set the amount of current dumped and automate ramps and timers.

There is a more fundamental problem with the Re:load; the lowest possible current that can be dumped into a heat sink is 90mA. [Texane] replace the amplifier with a zero-drift amp that brought that 90mA figure down to 7mA.

Of course the Re:load and Teensy 3.1 are sold in the Hackaday store, but if you’re looking for a ready-built solution for a computer-controlled active load you can always check out the Re:load Pro, a fancy-smanchy model that has an LCD. The Pro costs more, and [Texane] just told you how to get the same features with the less expensive model we’re selling, though…