The Internet of Soldering Irons

The Internet of Things needs — well — things. Do you really need your paper shredder hooked up to the Internet? Maybe. But [Vegard Paulsen] put something on the network that every hacker can relate to: his soldering iron.

In typical hacker fashion, fixing a broken digital display on the soldering station turned into a development project that allows [Vegard] to monitor the temperature of his soldering iron on his phone. He found a handy source of power on the station’s PC board and connected a NodeMCU WiFi device (that uses the ubiquitous ESP8266 and an onboard Lua interpreter).

internet-of-soldering-irons-meterThe data pushes out to the Thingspeak server which handles pushing data out to the bigger network, and data representation (like the cool Google gauge in the picture). The best part: [Vegard] gets a phone notification when he accidentally leaves his soldering iron on. How perfect is that?

One unique challenge he faced was soldering the power wires to the soldering station. This could be a problem because the iron tip is grounded so making the joint while the iron was energized would probably blow a fuse (or worse). Luckily, [Vegard] thought ahead and devised a plan that apparently worked.

We’ve seen other examples of how easy NodeMCU and Thingspeak work to put the mundane on the Internet. It seems particularly appropriate to hack a soldering iron, though.

Frankensteined Cordless Drill Lives Again

With tools, especially cordless tools, you’re going to pay now or pay later. On one hand, you can spend a bunch of money up front and get a quality tool that will last a long time. The other option is purchasing a cheap cordless tool that won’t last long, having to replace it later and thus spending more money. With cheap cordless tools it is common for the battery to fail before the physical tool making that tool completely unusable. Sure, another battery could be purchased but sometimes they cost just as much as the tool and battery combo originally did. So what’s a cordless tool user to do?

[EngergySaver] had a set of DeWalt cordless tools with a bunch of working batteries. He also had a cheap drill where the battery had died. His bundle of tools included two flashlights, one of which the case physically broke in half, probably from a clumsy drop. Instead of tossing the broken flashlight pieces in the garbage, [EngergySaver] kept them around for a while. Then one day he had the idea of combining the base of the broken DeWalt flashlight with the top of the old battery-less drill. He had the parts so why not?

The battery pack was 18 volt and the cheap drill expected 16.8 volts. [EngergySaver] figured the voltages were close enough and decided not to worry about the difference during his hack. He started by disassembling both the drill and flashlight down to the bare plastic housings. He marked an appropriate place to splice the handles and made some cuts. After the wiring was spliced together and the tool casings reassembled, a piece of sheet metal was cut and bent around the handle at the joint between flashlight and drill. Hose clamps hold the sheet metal tight around the handles, keeping the new hybrid tool together. And although we’re not crazy about the sheet metal and hose clamp method, it seems to be working just fine. With a little work and ingenuity [EngergySaver] resurrected an old tool for our favorite price; $0.

Foot Pedal Switch Specifically Made For PCB Drilling

Using the Toner-Transfer and Etch method for making prototype circuit boards is fairly common. One downside to this process is that any holes still need to be drilled. [Giorgos] hand drills boards all the time. He has a Dremel with a drill press attachment but he still prefers using a small pen-style mini drill to make the holes. There is one problem with this tool though, the on/off switch is in an non-ergonomic location. After flipping the switch tens of times during a drill job, [Giorgos] has felt some digit discomfort. He knew there had to be a better way.

His solution: a foot pedal on/off switch. This isn’t some off-the-shelf foot switch, [Giorgos] made it from parts and pieces kicking around in one of his junk drawers. The foot pedal frame is made from acrylic sheet. A couple of hinges allow the pedal to press down on an old switch, very similar to the ones found in guitar effect pedals. This switch was heavy-duty and had a strong spring that easily pops the switch and pedal back up after being pressed.

Wiring was easy, the positive lead of the DC wall wart was split and attached to the pedal’s switch. Pressing the switch makes or breaks the power connection, turning the hand-held drill on and off. [Griorgos] solve his ergonomic problem and cleaned out his junk drawer without spending a dime. We’d say that’s a triple win!

Making A Wooden Bowl Without A Lathe

Typically, when creating a wooden bowl a crafts person would do so on a lathe. A chunk of wood would be bolted to the head stock and the bottom of the bowl turned to an appropriate shape. Then the half-bowl-shaped wood is flipped around on the lathe so that the material on the inside of the bowl can be removed. This traditional method of bowl turning requires a lathe, turning tools, and the serious technique and skill required for the task.

The master maker of weird wood working tools, [Izzy], decided to make a wooden bowl without the use of a lathe. He created a unique fixture to cut the shape of the bowl on a table saw, a piece of equipment that is a bit more common for the average DIYer to have. The fixture itself is made of wood and supports a standard hand drill in a vertical position. The soon-to-be bowl is bolted to the drill and hovers just above the table saw blade. The table saw is turned on and the fixture allows the work piece to rock back and forth creating the bowls outside shape. The drill rotates the piece so that the contours are consistent around the bowl.

The bowl is then flipped over and re-attached to the drill. This time to cut the inside of the bowl, the fixture is locked in the vertical position and the wood is dropped straight down on the spinning blade while being rotated. The saw blade cuts a perfectly hemispherical cavity in the wood. The final bowl looks great after a little sanding and an application of oil. Check out the video after the break.

This isn’t the first time [Izzy’s] projects have been here on Hackaday, check out his DIY Band Saw and Wooden Sphere Cutter.

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Fully-Automatic CD Launcher Looks Dangerously Fun

When [JZSlenker] was challenged to find a creative way to destroy a bunch of compact discs that were burned incorrectly, he did not disappoint. He came up with a rather simple but fun contraption that launches the CD’s at high speeds and with a fast rate of fire. He doesn’t share many details about how this machine was built, but the 18 second video makes it pretty obvious how it works.

The CD gun is built mainly from a piece of plywood. This provides a flat base with which to mount the other components. A stack of compact discs is held in place by what appears to be a metal cage that was welded together. An inexpensive angle grinder is used as the propulsion mechanism. The grinding wheel is mounted just in front of the stack of CD’s in a vertical orientation. The wheel must be placed just high enough above the plywood base for a CD to fit in between the wheel and the base. This design is remarkably similar to the Sticker Gun which our own [Brian Benchoff] is building.

Some type of linear actuator is used as the firing mechanism. The actuator is hooked up to a thin piece of metal, cut into an L shape. It almost looks like a reaper tool. When a button is pressed, the actuator fires instantly. This pushes the metal hammer into the CD on the bottom of the stack. The CD is pressed forward into the grinder wheel which then shoots the CD into the air. Based on the below video, it looks like [JZSlenker] is able to fire at a rate of about three CD’s per second with this rig.

This has got to be a super-villain weapon for an upcoming movie, right? Maybe AOL-man?

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The Nicest Home Made Spot Welder We’ve Ever Seen

By golly, look at the build quality of this homemade spot welder.

Just about everyone on here knows it’s quite possible to build one of these things using a re-wrapped microwave transformer, but they’re usually made of wood like the one we swap on Friday, and we often wonder how much real use they get other than “hey look I built a spot welder!”. I myself made one, but then ended up buying a professional one because it works better. Not [Matthew Borgatti] though, his looks better and has more features than even the one I bought!

Screen-Shot-2015-07-01-at-3.09.59-PM

Why? Because he put some serious thought into his design. He even 3D modeled the whole thing in SolidWorks.

Beyond the excellent laser cut enclosure (complete with ratcheting work piece clamping), [Matt’s] also added an Arduino to create a timing circuit. Most times you just squeeze the clamp, press the button, and watch the metal heat up — “I think that’s good…”

But with an actual timing circuit you can calculate how much time you need versus current and electrode size to produce a good quality weld.

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Exploding Multimeter Battle Royale

If you check out eBay, Amazon, or the other kinda-shady online retailers out there, you’ll quickly find you can buy a CAT III (600V) rated multimeter for under $50. If you think about it, this is incredible. There’s a lot of engineering that needs to go into a meter that is able to measure junction boxes, and factories in China are pushing these things out for an amazing price.

Over on the EEVBlog, these meters are being pushed to the limits. Last month, [joeqsmith] started a thread testing the theory that these cheap meters can handle extremely high voltages. A proper CAT III test requires a surge of electrons with a 6kV peak and a 2 ohm source. With a bunch of caps, bailing wire, JB Weld and zip ties, anyone can test if these meters are rated at what they say they are. Get a few people on the EEVBlog sending [joeqsmith] some cheapo meters, and you can have some real fun figuring out how these meters stack up.

The real experiments began with [joe smith]’s low energy surge generator, a beast of a machine that can be measured with an even beastlier high voltage scope probe. This is a machine that will send a voltage spike through anything to short out traces on poorly designed multimeters.

How did the cheapo meters fare? Not well, for the most part. There was, however, one exception: the Fluke 101. This is Fluke’s My First Multimeter, stuffed into a pocketable package. This meter is able to survive 12kV pulses when all but two of the other brands of meters would fail at 3kV.

What’s the secret to Fluke’s success? You only need to look at what the Fluke 101 can’t do. Fluke’s budget meter doesn’t measure current. If you ever look inside a meter, you’ll usually find two fuses, one for measuring Amps and the other for all the other functions on the scope. There’s quite a bit of engineering that goes into the current measurement of a meter, and when it goes wrong you have a bomb on your hands. Fluke engineers rather intelligently dropped current measurement from this budget meter, allowing them to save that much on their BOM.

There’s an impressive amount of data collected by [joeqsmith] and the other contributors in this thread, but don’t use this to decide on your next budget meter; This is more of an interesting discovery of how to make a product that meets specs: just cut out what can’t be done with the given budget.