Print Your Own Vertices for Quick Structural Skeletons

3D printing is great for a lot of things: prototyping complex designs, replacing broken parts, and creating unique pencil holders to show your coworkers how zany you are. Unfortunately, 3D printing is pretty awful for creating large objects – it’s simply too inefficient. Not to mention, the small size of most consumer 3D printers is very limiting (even if you were willing to run a single print for days). The standard solution to this problem is to use off-the-shelf material, with only specialized parts being printed. But, for simple structures, designing those specialized parts is an unnecessary time sink. [Nurgak] has created a solution for this with a clever “Universal Vertex Module,” designed to mate off-the-shelf rods at the 90-degree angles that most people use.


The ingenuity of the design is in its simplicity: one side fits over the structural material (dowels, aluminum extrusions, etc.), and the other side is a four-sided pyramid. The pyramid shape allows two vertices to mate at 90-degree angles, and holes allow them to be held together with the zip ties that already litter the bottom of your toolbox.

[Nurgak’s] design is parametric, so it can be easily configured for your needs. The size of the vertices can be scaled for your particular project, and the opening can be adjusted to fit whatever material you’re using. It should work just as well for drinking straws as it does for aluminum extrusions.

DIY clamp helps with surface mount soldering

Hackaday writer [Gerrit Coetzee] built a simple clamp to aid in surface mount component soldering. This cheap, easily made device uses gravity to hold tiny components in place. The tip of the bolt is pointed, but gently like a ballpoint pen so as not to harm the components with a sharp tip. Roughly position your component, rest the tip of the clamp on its center, then nudge for final positioning. [Gerrit] also points out that this acts as a heat sink, helping to prevent damage to the component if you’re too lethargic with the soldering iron.

It seems like this device has been around in one form or another for quite a long time. But the best ideas do keep on popping up. Another nice tip to go along with this one is the use of a dowel when ironing during toner transfer for your PCBs.

Replace batteries with USB power

[Mark Bog] thought it was a waste to use batteries for his desktop touch pad. Quite frankly we agree that if you can avoid using disposable cells you should. He ditched the dual AA batteries inside of his Magic Trackpad and built a battery-sized adapter to feed it some juice. It consists of a dowel of similar diameter with a screw in each end. He scavenged a USB cord, connecting hot and ground wires to the corresponding pole of the adapter. Now his Trackpad is USB powered and never in need of a battery replacement or even a recharge.

We’re not familiar with the inner workings of Apple’s Magic Trackpad. We assume there’s a voltage regulator inside and we hope it doesn’t have a problem working with the 5V regulated power coming in from the adapter. If you’ve got the skinny on the hardware we’d love to hear about it in the comments. One last thing: because the forum linked above requires a login to view the images in the post, we’ve embedded the rest of them after the break for your convenience.

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Drilling perfectly centered holes

If you’ve ever been caught in the situation of needing to drill a clean straight hole down the center of a bolt or rod, you’ve probably tried and ended up with a broken bit or tilted hole, and a ton of cursing to boot.

[Vik] let us know about this nifty trick for drilling ‘down the middle’ using a simple hobby drill press and vice. He claims it’s ‘physics guiding the bit’ but in reality its just crafty use of a chuck. Either way the quick trick works, and will hopefully save a lot of hackers some headaches in the future.

Let us know in the comments if you have any simple quick tips that you use when you’re out in the shop.

PCB toner transfer with dowel


Pulsar Professional FX has a neat tip on their site for getting a really even toner transfer when making your own PCBs. First, the PCB is cut to size, and the paper is tacked to the board. Then, the PCB is placed paper up onto a dowel and rolled back and forth with the iron. Since the board bends slightly over the dowel the toner sticks evenly to the copper. After that, just remove the paper as usual and etch with your preferred method.