Giving old appliances a second life with simple tweaks


Cruising estate sales can be a total crapshoot – sometimes you find a goldmine, other times nothing but junk. [John Ownby] recently found a sleek-looking old blender at such a sale and decided to take it home. The chrome plated base and fluted glass immediately caught his eye, but he didn’t buy the blender so he could make mediocre frozen drinks – he wanted a lamp instead.

The conversion was fairly simple, requiring him to gut the machine of its moving parts including the motor and blades, replacing them with a small incandescent candelabra base. While his modifications themselves are not groundbreaking, taking them a step further would make for some really cool (and functional) retro house fixtures.

Indulge me for a moment, if you will, and imagine swapping out the simple incandescent bulb for some LED strips or even EL wire. Replace the blender’s cap with a small speaker, and you can use several of these together as retro-looking surround satellites.

We can definitely get behind his reuse of the blender, which would have otherwise likely ended up in a landfill. It’s great to see solid, durable appliances given a second life, even in ways which were never intended. Have you rescued anything from the trash heap like [John], or do you have other ideas for your fellow hackers who might come across similar goods? Let us know in the comments.

Kitchen hacks: The Margarita Machine

If [Paul Degenkolb] really decided to make this on a whim one day (like he says he did) we think he should quit his job and go into a full-blown state of whimsy for the rest of his life. The Margarita Machine makes five gallons of slushy intoxicants in a quick and relatively quiet process that will have a backyard full of guests lining up not just to imbibe, but to see what the heck you’ve come up with this time around.

It’s easy enough to see that the vessel is an Igloo cooler, but where do you get a motor and blade assembly strong enough to turn ice cubes into slush? Just hit the home center and pick out the Garbage Disposer model of your choice. With the ball-valve serving spigot closed, the disposer sucks down the liquid and ice, shooting the pulverized mixture through some PVC pipe back to the top of the cooler. This circulation helps to mix things up, but at times [Paul] uses a glass as a plunger to wrangle rogue ice cubes.

Sorry folks, doesn’t look like there’s any video of this in action.

[Thanks Brad]

Real-time robotic arm control with Blender


Last year, [Justin Dailey] was coming down the home stretch of his senior year as a Computer Engineering student and needed to build a final design project. He always wanted to construct a robotic arm, and figured that there was no better way to legitimize such a project, than to claim that it was “homework”.

While he originally wanted to control the arm with a joystick, he had been messing with Blender quite a bit leading up to his final project, and thought it would be pretty cool to let Blender do the work. He started out by testing his ability to control a single servo with Blender, then slowly increased the complexity of the project. He prototyped the arm using cardboard, and satisfied with his progress thus far, began constructing the arm out of aluminum.

Once he had all six of his servos attached to the arm’s joints and wired to his Roboduino, he got busy constructing a 3D model in Blender. Using a few Python scripts, the movements inside Blender are translated to serial data in real-time, which is relayed to the Roboduino in order to control the arm.

Check out his site if you get a chance – there’s plenty of code to be had, as well as several videos of the arm in various stages of construction and testing.

Rotary Wall Plug from Scrap

Rotary tools such as a Dremel are useful to have around for all sorts of tasks in a workshop, including cutting, polishing, and grinding. [Konstantin] sent us in his home made wall mount rotary tool based off of parts from a blender and an old bench top jigsaw. Unlike a Dremel where the motor is in the hand held part of the tool, this setup hides the blender motor (which provides the power) behind a wall panel, and is controlled via the blender’s speed settings buttons. We could see this configuration allowing for more delicate work due to the reduction of weight in hand, as well as the added bonus of a near impossibility of losing this tool. Overall an excellent re-purposing of leftover parts, be sure to check out [Konstantin]‘s blog for more build info and photos.

Using Makerbot for dishwasher repair

[Daryll Strauss'] dishwasher had some problems that he traced to a worn out part on the upper spinning arm. The hackerspace he belongs to has a Makerbot and he though this would be the perfect opportunity to print his own replacement part. He picked up some inexpensive digital calipers and set to work mapping out the dimensions of the broken piece. He took his hand-drawn cross section and built a replica part in Blender. Once he had it just right he generated the g-code and printed the part. His replacement works very well, and it’s a bit thicker (by design) than the original so hopefully that means it will hold up longer.

Rendering and Blendering in a file cabinet

The Blender Foundation has just received a new render farm. It came in the form of a four-drawer file cabinet something akin to the popular Ikea clusters. Each draw holds four motherboards, power supplies, and hard drives and the whole cabinet will eventually add up to a 16-node cluster. Join in on the geeky excitement by watching the delivery and unpacking video after the break. We love it when organizations share the details on the hardware they use. [Read more...]

Ditch the LPs and build your own 3D scanner

Find yourself an old record player, a laser level, and a digital scanner and you can build a 3D scanner. That’s what [Rob] did. The camera and laser level are mounted on the turntable for steady rotation. The camera captures the vertical laser line traveling around the room by recording 30 fps at a resolution of 640×480. This data is then translated into a Blender 3D file via a Python script and the Python Image Library. You can scan a whole room or just a small object. The face above is the result of this image capture after a bit of processing. [Rob] found this worked best in the dark and when scanning surfaces that are not reflective.

Make sure you also check out the camera-and-projector scanning method.