Tired of the Normal Use for Your Toothbrush? Why not an Engraving Tool?

Hardware hackers and makers like us may not be well known for our excellent hygiene habits, but after [Dan]‘s creation, no one can claim he doesn’t know how to use one! Either out of a total disdain for tooth care, or hopefully, after using one properly for many months, [Dan] decided to turn his electric toothbrush into an engraving tool!

At around $4 and meant for cleaning plaque off teeth, this tool isn’t the most powerful engraver on the block, but is capable of good work on softer material such as acrylic. Be sure to check out the heart that was made with this improvised tool that introduced us to [Dan]‘s work.

This is really a clever use of your resources, and the article gives a nice account of how the toothbrush was modified with pictorial directions. Besides it’s use as an engraving tool, this might give someone other ideas for alternate toothbrush uses. For another neat alternate home-item use, why not check out how to repurpose an air freshener as a camera trigger?

Things to do with your laptop batteries when they’re dead


[Roy] over at GeekDad had a dead laptop battery on his hands, and decided he would disassemble it to see what useful things he could do with the cells inside. He mentions in his article that even though your laptop might be convinced that its battery is toast, more often than not just one or two cells are damaged. This may not be news to all of our readers, but is worth pointing out to those who might not be aware.

With the bad cells separated from the good, [Roy] thought up a couple of different uses for his newly acquired batteries. His initial idea was to power an LED flashlight that was made to run on the 18650 cells he recovered from his laptop – not a stretch of the imagination, but definitely useful. The second use he came up with was to pair two of the cells together in order to simultaneously power an Arduino and some small Lego motors.

[Roy] lays out all of the standard caveats you would expect regarding the care and feeding of the lithium cells, and even suggests rebuilding the laptop battery as an option for the more skilled members of his audience.

Now we understand that dismantling and re-using old laptop cells is not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s definitely something that’s worth a bit of discussion. [Roy] admits that his two ideas fall far short of the “18650 Things” his article title suggests, so how about adding a few of your own?

If you have stripped down some laptop batteries to salvage the cells, let us know what you did with them in the comments – we would be interested in hearing about it.

A fantastic collection of slapped together bots

[David Williamson] has put together some pretty amazing little robots from bits of stuff he laying around the house. What initially caught our attention was this drawing robot over at HackedGadgets. We were impressed by the construction, as it looks like almost all of it was scrap. Upon clicking through the link we found a small collection that kept as amused for quite a while. Each one has some aspect that is surprising in its use of mundane materials. Need an omniwheel? Why not use plastic beads. Want a rail from which a robot can hang and drive? why not use drinking straws. Many of them may not have much for a brain, but the construction of the mechanisms is usually pretty interesting alone. You can see clips of some of his creations in the video after the break.

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Recyclebot digests milk jugs to feed MakerBot

The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” may need to be re-evaluated. Students at Victoria University of Wellington are developing a machine that recycles old milk jugs, extruding an HDPE plastic filament that can then be fed into a MakerBot for 3D printing.

The process involves grinding the plastic into small pieces, then pressing these through a heater and extruder plate to produce a continuous bead of the proper diameter for the MakerBot. Nichrome wire — the stuff of hair dryers and toasters — forms the heating element, and this must be regulated within a specific temperature range for different plastics. The initial grinder design is hand-cranked, but they are working toward a fully automated system. It appears that the machine could also recycle old MakerBot output, provided the grinder has sufficient torque.

So one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. We envision a future of crazy-haired makers rooting through their neighbors’ garbage, feeding their Recyclebots’ hoppers “Mr. Fusion” style.

Switchmode LED flashlight upgrade

When [Neelandan]‘s cheap flashlight’s internal rechargeable battery died, he scrounged for a replacement. Ultimately, the brightness of the light suffered with his new battery, taken from an old cell phone since he had dropped the voltage a bit. Upon inspection he saw that he would have to swap the individual resistors for each lamp to get the desired brightness again. This wasn’t really acceptable as he would have to repeat the process if he used another re-purposed battery with different specs. Instead, he added a new circuit to supply constant brightness until the voltage drops below 2.7 volts. We love to see hardware resurrected, even if it is just a cheap LED flashlight.

Refillable canned air

While not very technical, [3eff_Jeff] posted an interesting modification to an empty air canister that makes it refillable. He was tired of drilling holes in the ozone, so he carefully drilled a hole into the top of the can instead. In the name of caution, he made sure the can was completely empty first by tying the trigger down with a rubber band. After waiting a while he carefully drilled the hole using an oil lubricant, and then epoxied in a Schrader valve from a leftover bike tire tube.

Due to compression of the air as it is pumped into the can, it becomes quite warm. He found that if the can is allowed to cool to room temperature, the air would become very cold once leaving the canister, which would cause condensation problems. So he uses it right after filling, and then empties it out when not in use.

We do not recommend anyone trying this, but it is a unique way to make a commonly used disposable resource in the computer field reusable. If we can use something more than once, we’re definitely for it. That’s why we support recycling components that would otherwise make their way to the landfill.

Reusing PCB components

If you’re anything like us, you have a closet full of old electronics, some broken, some obsolete. You can stop using those as paperweights with the help of this guide that shows you how to recycle and reuse PCB components.

The first step of the process is finding electronics you don’t mind taking apart. Next place the PCB you’ll be stripping in a vice, with the components facing away from you and the solder side facing towards you. Grip the component you want with a pair of pliers, and apply a hot soldering iron to the solder that is holding the component. The solder will melt and allow you to safely and cleanly remove the component.

This process can be applied to virtually any component on an PCB, and the author of the guide, [Patented], got a lot of components this way, including resistors, capacitors, switches, audio jacks, and much more. Don’t forget to toss any free-floating metal or plastic parts in the recycle bin when you’re done. You can feel good about the fact that nothing was wasted, you found parts for your next project, and you cleared out some space.