Back to Basics: What’s the deal with Magnets?

I consider myself a fairly sharp guy. I’ve made a living off of being a scientist for over 20 years now, and I have at least a passing knowledge of most scientific fields outside my area. But I feel like I should be able to do something other than babble incoherently when asked about magnets. They baffle me – there, I said it. So what do I do about it? Write a Hackaday post, naturally – chances are I’m not the only one with cryptomagnetonescience, even if I just made that term up. Maybe if we walk through the basics together, it’ll do us both some good understanding this fundamental and mysterious force of nature.

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A DIY Mobile Soldering Iron

Cordless soldering irons are, as a rule, terrible. A few months ago, you could pick up a cordless soldering iron from Radio Shack that was powered by AAA batteries. You can guess how well those worked. There are butane-fueled soldering irons out there that will heat up, but then you’re left without the requisite degree of temperature control.

[Xavier] didn’t want to compromise on a mobile soldering iron, so he made a desktop version portable. His mobile temperature controlled soldering iron uses the same electronics that are found in inexpensive Hakko clones, and is powered by a LiPo battery.

The soldering station controller comes directly from eBay, and a DC/DC boost converter accepts just about any DC power supply – including an XT60 connector for LiPo cells. A standard Hakko 907 iron plugs into the front, and a laser cut MDF enclosure makes everything look great. There were a few modifications to the soldering station controller that involved moving the buttons and temperature display, but this build really is as simple as wiring a few modules together.

With an off-the-shelf LiPo battery, the iron heats up fast, and it doesn’t have a long extension cord to trip over. With the right adapter, [Xavier] can use this soldering station directly from a car’s cigarette power port, a great feature that will be welcomed by anyone who has ever worked on the wiring in a car.

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Retrotechtacular: Häfla Hammerforge Healed

Visit any renaissance fair across the United States this fall and you’ll undoubtedly find a blacksmith. He’ll be sweating away in a tent, pounding on a piece of glowing steel set against an anvil. While the practice of the single blacksmith endures today, high-production ‘works of days past required increasing amounts of muscle. The more tireless the muscle, the better. The manual efforts of the blacksmith were replaced by huge hammers, and the blacksmith needed only to turn the piece between impressions and maintain a healthy respect for the awesome crushing power of the machine.

Last week, blacksmith enthusiasts completed restoration work on the Häfla hammer in Finspang, Sweden. The 333 year old hydraulic hammer hadn’t been used since 1924, when operations ceased at the Häfla Hammerforge. The ‘works was built in 1682 and used the German method of forging, which had been introduced to Sweden in the 1500s. Steel production was revolutionized in the 1800s by the Bessemer process, which resulted in a much stronger product. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Häfla Hammerforge Healed”

Woodworking Blemish Removal Technique Pops your Clamping Dimples

If you’ve done any woodworking in the past, odds are likely that you’ll eventually end up fixturing your stock in the crushing grip of a vise or C-Clamp. The results are painful, leaving a lasting impression of the clamp jaws on your beautiful, otherwise-unmarred piece of stock. Often, you’ll need to design around this issue, fixture it gently, or cushion the grip with a softer intermediate material. [Chimponabike] had other thoughts, though, and developed a technique for successfully popping the dimples out, returning clamped wood to its perfectly unmarred form.

wood-ironing-thumbThe Technique itself is dead simple and takes only a few minutes to perform. Simply apply a small amount of water, let it seep into the wood, and then bring a hot iron down onto the soaked wood to evaporate off the soaked water–instantly inflating the wood back into its original form!

It’s not the first time we’ve abused our tools and home appliances to do some clever things with wood, but it’s certainly worth adding to that “Tome of Techniques: Wood Edition” that you’ve been building in your browser’s bookmarks bar.

Thanks for the tip, [James]!

Retrotechtacular: The Bessemer Converter

Here’s a rose-colored look into the steelworks at Workington, Cumbria in northern England. At the time of filming in 1974, this plant had been manufacturing steel nonstop for 102 years using the Bessemer process. [Sir Henry Bessemer]’s method for turning pig iron into steel was a great boon to industry because it made production faster and more cost-effective.

hot ingotsMore importantly, [Bessemer]’s process resulted in steel that was ten times stronger than that made with the crucible-steel method. Basically, oxygen is blown through molten iron to burn out the impurities. The silicon and manganese burn first, adding more heat on top of what the oxygen brings. As the temperature rises to 1600°C, the converter gently rocks back and forth. From its mouth come showers of sparks and a flame that burns with an “eye-searing intensity”. Once the blow stage is complete, the steel is poured into ingot molds. The average ingot weighs four tons, although the largest mold holds six tons. The ingots are kept warm until they are made into rail.

The foreman explains that Workington Works would soon be switching over to a more modern process. As it was, Workington ran a pair of Bessemer converters on a 40-minute schedule, ensuring constant steel production from ore to rail. Between 1872 and 1974, these converters created an estimated 25 million metric tons of steel.

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Iron casting in the parking lot

Here’s one good thing about the bitter cold Midwestern winter, it helps keep you from overheating when working around a hot furnace. Back in February this iron pour happened in the parking lot of the Madison, Wisconsin based Sector67 Hackerspace. Look, they’re making iron hearts!

Now this isn’t just a bunch of members who got together and decided to do some casting. As you can tell in the video after the break the team knows what they’re doing. The event was a collaboration with FeLion Studios, a custom cast-iron art boutique. But the Hackerspace participants did get to take part in the process of building the cast, watching the pour, and cleaning up the rough results.

One of the people from FeLion Studios just appeared on the Martha Stuart Show, along with a 550 pound cast-iron frying pan United States map.  [Chris] from Sector67 tells us the New York frying pan that [Martha] is hold was a product of the parking lot pour.

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Halloween prop: DIY fog machine


Reader [Daniel] told us about a video detailing how to make your own fog machine. This project uses two disposable roasting pans to create a fog chamber. Inside you will find an upside-down clothes iron to convert fog liquid into a gas. The liquid is gravity-fed from a water-bottle reservoir on top, converted to smoke by the hot iron, then the newly created smoke is directed out of the chamber by a 12 volt fan.

You probably have an old iron sitting around (especially if you use the toner transfer method for making PCBs), as well as a fan of some type. The build method used in the video is not at the level we usually look for. Using one blade of a pair of scissors is not what we recommend for stripping wire insulation. We also don’t advocate hot gluing a wire to a battery for a reliable connection (for that you’d want wire glue). But with better building techniques, and perhaps an air intake fan for better fog direction, this has potential.

The project is predicated on the availability of “fog juice”. We’re probably not going to head out and buy a bottle of that so look into making some yourself from glycerin and demineralized water.