Hand-Machined Companion Cube Can Be Destroyed and Rebuilt

[Michael Gainer] is a big fan of Portal, and it shows in the Weighted Companion Cube he made. [Michael] hand-machined the many pieces that comprise the Cube’s body and medallions out of 6061 aluminum. Dykem was used to transfer the marks for accurate machining, and the color is powder-coated to a heat tolerance of 400F. A CNC was used to make the distinctive hearts. [Michael] notes the irony was “very Portal” in having them cut by a heartless machine when everything else was done manually. The attention to detail is striking, the level of design more so when [Michael] proceeds to incinerate the poor Companion Cube with a brush burner. In the video shown at the link above, the Cube falls apart as the glue holding it together melts. When all is said and done, just grab more glue to bring that Cube back to its six-sided glory. Repeat to your heart’s content. Huge success! We have to be honest, after seeing all those pieces, we aren’t sure we’d want to do this very often. Companion Cubes have been featured in various iterations on Hackaday before, but they were never built with the idea of repeatedly destroying and rebuilding them. This novel take would make GlaDOS proud.

[Michael] has plans to put an Android device inside it with some light and temperature sensors. He wants to give it a voice resembling Portal’s turrets so it can whine when it needs to be charged or scream when it’s too hot or cold. He dubs this next project the “Overly Attached Weighted Companion Cube.” It wouldn’t be a good idea to incinerate this upcoming version, though we’d probably be inclined to if it demanded so much of our attention!

 

[Peter] and the Amazing Technicolor Phone Wire Bracelet

When a job left him with some extra phone wire, [Peter] didn’t toss it in the scrap pile. He broke out the casting resin and made an awesome bracelet (Imgur link). [Peter] is becoming quite an accomplished jeweler! When we last checked in on him, he was making rings out of colored pencils.

Casting the wire in resin was as simple as building a square form, placing the wires, then filling the form with appropriate amounts of epoxy and hardener. Once the epoxy cured, [Peter] drilled out the center with a sharp Forstner bit. A band saw brought the corners of the block closer to a cylinder.

From there it was over to the lathe, where [Peter] used a jam chuck to hold the bracelet in place. Once he shaped the bracelet [Peter] started wet sanding. It took Lots and lots of sanding both inside and out to finish the bracelet. The result is a mirror smooth finish, with bits of insulation bright copper just popping out of the resin.

One might think that the bracelet would be rough with all that copper, but [Peter] mentions on his Reddit Thread that it feels like plastic, though the bits of copper were “very pokey” before sanding. We’d recommend tossing on a clear coating to protect the exposed copper. Worn on a wrist, all that exposed metal would start oxidizing in no time.

This hack gives us lots of ideas for casting wearable circuits. Some WS2812′s and a teensy would make for a pretty flashy setup! Got an idea for a project? Tell us about in the comments, or post it up on Hackaday.io!

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Digital Caliper Sacrificed For DRO Project

In general, machining metal on a lathe or mill takes skill and patience as the accuracy of the cuts are important. To make those accurate cuts, it is important to know where the tool is located and how far it moves. For manual machines, the most basic method of determining position is by using graduated dials mounted on the hand cranks. Although these graduated dials can certainly be accurate, they may be difficult to see and they also require the operator to do math in their head on the fly with every full revolution of the dial. Another option would be a digital read out (DRO) which has an encoder mounted to the moving axes of the machine. This setup displays the exact position of the tool on an easy to read numeric display.

Professional DRO kits for mills and lathes can cost between a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.  [Robert] has a lathe, wanted a DRO but didn’t want to shell out serious cash to get it. He built his own for super cheap in an extremely resourceful way…. using a Harbor Freight Digital Caliper. A housing was first fabricated so that the added equipment would not hinder the axis travel of the lathe. The caliper was then cut to length, installed in the housing and the entire assembly was then mounted to the lathe.

DIY Lathe DROIt is totally reasonable to use the stock caliper display to read the positional information, however, even these cheap digital calipers have connections for the encoder output data, which can easily be read by a microcontroller. That means it is super simple to hook these low-cost digital calipers up to a display remotely located in a more convenient position.

 

Clever Re-purposing of a Power Drill Results in a Mini Wood Lathe

Power Drill Wood Lathe

Ever use a lathe? No? Neither had [Jack Hauweling], but that didn’t stop him from building his own and learning how!

Lathes are a lot of fun, especially for small wood working projects. Using mostly wood and a few small pieces of hardware, [Jack] was able to build one in an afternoon that works quite well!

He’s using a cheap corded power drill to drive the work piece, but what we really like is how he made the spur center and spur live center out of a few pieces of threaded rod and a standoff. It’s a simple system that lets him secure the work piece fairly easily simply by tightening the threaded shaft of the live center.

In the video after the break he goes through the entire build process and even shows off his first attempts at using the lathe — he actually was able to make a very nice tool grip on his third try!

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Lathe CNC Upgrade Is Nothing To Shake A Turned Stick At

7x12 CNC Lathe Conversion

We see a lot of CNC Machines here on Hackaday but not too many of them are lathe-based. [Jim] sent us an email letting us know his dissatisfaction regarding the lack of CNC Lathes and included a link to one of his recent projects, converting a small manual lathe to computer control. This isn’t some ‘slap on some steppers‘ type of project, it’s a full-fledged build capable of tight tolerances and threading.

The project is based on a 7×12 Mini Lathe. There are several brands to choose from and they are almost identical. Check out this comparison. [Jim] started with Homier brand.

The first thing to get upgraded was not related to the CNC conversion. The 3″ chuck was replaced with a 5″. Changing it over was easy using an adapter plate made for the task. For the X Axis, the stock ways and lead screw were removed and replaced by a THK linear slide. This slide only has 2.5″ of travel and is perfect for this application. The travel being so short allowed the final eBay auction price to be under $40.

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LittleBits Little Lathe

LittleBits Lathe

Do you need a practical, useful and fun project for a young hacker who is under your wing? How about letting them get a bit of electronics experience snapping together a LittleBits little lathe to customize their crayons. Truthfully, this isn’t much of an electronics hack, but it does make fun use of a LittleBits motor module and all those old crayons you might have lying around. You could make this a weekend project to share with the kids, plus you never know what will spark that first interest in a young engineer.

If you’re unfamiliar with LittleBits, they are small electronic modules that magnetically snap together to build larger circuits. The modules are color-coded by functionality with non-reversible magnetic connectors to help the little ones understand how to connect and integrate the modules. These LittleBits kits are great for the young beginner in electronics or just for fun at any age. Individually, the modules are quite expensive, but the parts are well worth the price because children will find the system intuitive to use and the modules are robust in the hands of careless kids. A more cost-effective purchase would be one of the kits from Adafruit.com.

In this Instructable, [maxnoble440] demonstrates the little lathe turning a crayon using a variety of tools from the very sharp to the “safe for all ages.” The geared LittleBits motor turns slowly and appears to have enough torque to carve crayons—and possibly clay—packed around a small dowel. To build this project you will need a “little bit” of wood-crafting skill to construct the mini-lathe bed. All the instructions are available in the Instructable as well as a short video, which you can watch after the break below.

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A New Old Lathe for your Hackerspace or Garage

3D printers, or even small CNC routers may seem like relatively easy machine tools to obtain for your hackerspace or garage. They are both very useful, but at some point you may want to start working with round parts (or convert square-ish items into round parts). For this, there is no better tool than a lathe. You can buy a small and relatively cheap lathe off of any number of distributors, but what if you were to get a good deal on a larger lathe? Where would you even start?

In my case, I was offered a lathe by a shop that no longer had a use for it. Weighing in at 800 pounds and using 3 phase power, this South Bend Lathe might have been obtained economically, but getting it running in my garage seemed like it would be a real challenge. It definitely was, but there are a few mistakes that I’ve made that hopefully you can avoid.

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