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

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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Hack a webcam and a film camera into a USB microscope

Most of you probably have a webcam sitting around somewhere, and after all the high voltage projects you’ve done using disposable cameras, we bet you have some camera lenses too. You could always do what [Butch] did and combine the lens from the camera with the webcam to do some up close inspection.

This seems like something we’ve seen several times, but we can’t find it in our archive. Such a simple and quick hack looks surprisingly effective in his shots. If you want to see the details, like where he tied into the webcam’s board to power an external LED, you’ll have to download the PDF.

Tiniest bot, sort of. CNC controlled


Here’s an interesting concept, the bot pictured above has no internal control mechanisms.  His claims to have built the smallest bot are dubious, considering it requires a much larger control platform to function, so lets just set that aside and look at how it works. The bot itself is basically a hollow box with a hinged manipulator mounted on it. He has then built a modified CNC type structure with various magnets below a platform. The magnets can move the bot and control the manipulator (assuming the bot isn’t trying to pick up anything magnetic). He talks about this being a possible control scheme for smaller bots, though we think he would have to make some major advancements to his magnetic controls for accuracy’s sake. As for his claims of being the smallest, well, we’re sure we’ve seem similarly sized bots, even hexapods,  that were completely self contained.