Bisected Engine Makes Cute Lamp – Still Cranks

As a beginner’s step towards the famous Top Gear V8 coffee table, [English Tea] converted a small single cylinder engine into a desk lamp that uses the mechanical actuation of the piston to turn on and off. No able-bodied engines were harmed in the making of this hack as this one was already a corpse — perfect for [Mr. Tea] to prop up and display in his home.

Regrettably lacking a lightsaber, he settled for 30 minutes on a hacksaw to split the cylinder followed by some sandblasting to clean all the rust, paint, and gunk off all the internals. Once it was clean he repainted it himself. Between paint and clearcoats, he figured he added 20 layers onto the metal.

Next he created some wood sections and wet-formed leather over them which he later dyed black. Caring less about a new Walmart lamp than the motor, he vivisected it for its electrical components and wired it up.

Without a crank on the shaft it looks a bit awkward to twist the lamp on or off, but, only enough pressure is needed to poke a latching momentary pushbutton and it seems to work just fine. For any readers looking to make their own, dead compressors and gas power tools are fairly common and nearly free at the junkyard. Engine-based projects can be intimidating to start if you need a working engine again at the end. Becoming familiar with them on a project like this where you are mostly only using the engine as a building material is an easy way to get your foot in the door.

See the video after the break of the piston bumping the light on and off.

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Brother Builds “Zerg-Berg” Coffee Table Media Server – 38(!) USB Drives

After [Travis]’s media server died a couple months ago, his brother [Nick] secretly plotted to replace it for Christmas. Admitting it to be an “asinine Rube Goldberg” arrangement, [Nick] wanted something custom and remarkable for his sibling. Rather than go the normal SATA route, 38 USB hot-swap laptop drives were clustered together inside a custom leather enclosure with a bronzed glass top.

[Nick] picked up 45 of the 500GB drives for only $350 and designed the project around those. He spent $1000 on matching metal docks for each of them, powered by $800 worth of PCIe quad independent USB controllers – no hubs. A $550 Xeon motherboard with 14 USB ports, 16GB of RAM, a basic video card and a 1000W power supply rounded out the electronics.

Under Windows 8.1 all drives are arranged in a single giant array under Storage Spaces, no raid.

Everything was built into a wood-framed coffee table wrapped in high-end leather that [Nick] spent 65 hours hand stitching himself. Fancy brass corner braces hold the frame square. All the wires were run underneath the table so the visible surfaces are clean and clear. The table structure is lifted up on legs made from half-inch square barstock bent into a hairpin and bolted to the underside.

All together [Travis]’s Zerg-Berg media server cost in the range of $4500. [Nick] intends it to be something that lasts him a very long time.

See the video below for [Nick]’s rationalization explanation of the hardware and methods chosen.

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Wherein books are judged by their cover

Yes, Kindles are wonderful, a computer full of PDFs are awesome, and [Tim Berners-Lee] will probably go down in history as more important than [Gutenberg]. That doesn’t mean there’s not something intangible about books that brings out the affections of so many bibliophiles. Even a book filled with blank pages can be a work of art unto itself, and most of the time these volumes are handmade.

 This video of a hardbound volume made by Smith Settle bookbinders covers the entire process from words on a page to a finished book. No, they’re not using movable type; the folios are created using lithography, but sorting, gluing, sewing and binding the folios is done in much the same way as it was done in the middle ages.

Next up is a wonderful film from 1968 by Iowa state university on creating the gold tooling on fine leather-bound volumes. You’ll be hard pressed to find a book with gold tooling nowadays, but it’s still a technique accessible to the industrious amateur bookbinder.

First, gold leaf is applied to the leather spine of a book. Then, custom-made tools are heated to a few hundred degrees  and pressed into the leaf. The heat bonds the gold with the leather, and with custom-designed tools designs are burnt into the leather. After that, the excess leaf is simply wiped off, and a fine tooled leather book is born.

What’s really cool about bookbinding is the fact that just about anyone can do it. Go to a craft store, pick up some hardboard and paper, and bind yourself a book. You could make a blank journal, or for the nerds out there (myself included), make a hard bound volume of the NASA wiring standards.

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Impressive steampunk keyboard

This amazing steam punk keyboard was sent in to the tip line, and while it’s not necessarily a ‘hack’ in the purest sense, the level of quality in the build is incredible.

Each key was crafted from brass tubing that was later filled with a wooden dowel and covered with the key cap label. While there’s no mention of how the key caps were made, we do especially like the abstract Windows Key label. After the PCB for the keyboard matrix was enclosed in a bit of plywood, the hand tooled leather was applied to the front. The name plaque that was hand engraved with a modified screwdriver is especially nice.

The build is based around the amazing Das Keyboard with Cherry Blue switches, one of the only keyboards currently being manufactured that comes close to the feel of the One True Keyboard. While it’s not a keyboard built from scratch, it’s still one of the best steampunk builds we’ve seen, most likely because not a single gear was glued to the project.