Under-bench timed outlets won’t let you leave the iron on

When we used to use firesticks (the pen style plug-in soldering irons) it was always a worry that we might leave them on. But now we use a base unit which has an indicator light to serve as a reminder. Still, [FoxxTexx] isn’t taking any chances and instead built this timer-based outlet which kills the power automatically.

The parts are all pretty common. The timer itself is the same form factor as a light switch and is commonly used for heat lamps or hot tub jets. It feeds the outlet next to it by way of the indicator switches to the right. We like the use of the switches but since mains voltage is still running through them we would suggest using a three-gang box and mounting them on the cover plate so that all the wiring is contained. If done this way you could just have the electrical box siting on your bench, but it is a nice touch to have it mounted this way.

We’ve long been proponents of a timer system. Back when we put together our Hacker’s Soldering Station we just used a plug-in timer unit.

Building a game clock for Go or Chess

[Matias] is just getting into hobby electronics and decided to push the limits of his skill by building this game clock. He comes from a software design background and that really shows through in the UI design seen in the video after the break. We enjoy the journey through his prototyping process which started with an Arduino and a breadboard, and ended with this standalone timer.

After building the first working prototype with four buttons and a character LCD, he migrated to a plastic ice cream container as an enclosure. This worked well enough, but the flimsy case needed an upgrade. As he looked toward the next version he decided to move to an Arduino Nano board to save on space. The rest of the components were soldered to some protoboard, with a pair of pin headers to receive the Nano. The finished board is the same length as the Nano and only about twice as wide.

The box was modeled on the computer (it looks like SketchUp to us be we could be wrong) then cut from pieces of Masonite. It hosts the character LCD with a pair of arcade buttons for each player to shift the time burden to his or her opponent. The middle button pauses the game, and there’s a trimpot on the back to adjust the screen contrast. [Matias] managed to include a surprising number of settings which will make this little box useful for a wide range of game types.

[Read more...]

Old timey UAV cameras

These brave birds are weapons of war. Well, not these actual birds… they’re just models used for this photograph courtesy of a taxidermist. But their living relatives were used to take spy photographs during World War I. [Dr. Julius Neurbronner] didn’t suddenly jump into the field of avian photography. He, like his father before him, used homing pigeons to deliver prescription drugs in loads of up to 75 grams. This makes us wonder if the birds are ever used in modern drug running?

The inspiration came when the doctor found out about subminiature cameras available at the turn of the twentieth century. Those cameras included a tiny roll of film, allowing for several images to be taken. He figured out a way to make a timer that used a pneumatic system to trigger the shutter in the camera. You can see a diagram of the timer mechanism here. The idea is that the birds will always be able to find their way home. So if you take them to a starting point that puts the enemy lines in between them and home base, they’ll fly over and get some juicy recon in the process.

That’s pretty old school. But we’re still tying things onto birds these days. Here’s some modern tech that uses sun-up/sun-down to track travel habits.

[Thanks F via The Atlantic]

Workout timer has its own fight bell

This workout timer turned out great. We think [Douglas] managed to end up with a professional look and a full range of features even though he was doing a lot of learning along the way.

He wanted a clock that was capable of counting up or down to time different segments of his workout. In order to be really useful it needed to have a remote control and a way to signal when time had run out. He grabbed an Arduino and started prototyping with an LED marquee at first, but after adding a second Arduino to deal with the display scanning issues he finally switched over to these LED segment displays.

The timer includes an IR receiver so that it can be controlled with a handheld remote. The large red bell to the side has a heck of a ding and is used to signal the start and end of timing. Perhaps the driver for that bell could be incorporated into the home automation project from Wednesday. Once the hardware decisions were finalized [Douglas] set out to build an enclosure that he could be proud of (mission accomplished!). Don’t miss the video after the break where he walks through all various aspects of the user interface. [Read more...]

Hacking an AC outlet timer for project use

[Karl] needed a programmable real-time clock for one of his projects. He considered adding an RTC chip, LCD screen, and some buttons for use with a microcontroller. That’s not necessarily hard, but it takes time and can be considered a project in itself. Instead, he headed to the hardware store to look for a cheap solution. He was able to get this AC outlet timer for a song. It’s got everything he needs; twenty programmable on/off events, a calendar to track time and day of week, and a user interface made up of a low-power LCD and four buttons. He cracked open the case and patched into the electronics for use with any project.

You can see the solder-tab battery in the middle of the board (green coin-cell). That actually runs the timer circuitry and display. It’s topped off when the unit is plugged into mains, but [Karl] ended up replacing it with a much higher capacity AA rechargeable battery. The device works just like a thermostat, using very little power and driving a relay at the appropriate time. Batteries in thermostats seem to last forever and we can expect the same performance from this device. [Karl] rerouted the trigger signal from the relay to his own 2N2222 transistor. This way the device can switch loads running at voltages other than its own 1.2V operating level.

Stock timers are great. They’re mass-produced which makes them cheap, and you can do some interesting stuff with them. We really enjoyed see this other mechanical version hacked for hydroponic use.

Kitchen timer makes Mario your Sous-chef

[Alan] was unimpressed by the cheap ticking egg timers that grace many of our kitchens. He decided this was an execllent opportunity to ply his skills with microcontrollers. He built this kitchen timer complete with an enclosure and audible alarm.

The device is Arduino based, which makes driving the graphic LCD quite easy thanks the libraries associated with that platform. As you can see above, his user interface makes use of virtual buttons – three tactile switches whose function is listed at the top of the display.

But we think the alarm sound really earns this a place in his kitchen. He used the same hardware as that that Super Mario Bros. Toilet project to play classic video game sounds when your soufflé needs come out of the oven. We haven’t come across them ourselves, but apparently there’s a line of key chains for sale in Japan (yes, we need to plan a trip there!) that have the tunes programmed into them. They’re easy to crack open and it beats dealing with a speaker and amp circuit.

Troubleshooting household light timers

timer-repair

When [Todd Harrison’s] Christmas lights stayed on well past the pre-defined shut off time, he knew there was something wrong with the timer. He took the device into his workshop and spent some time diagnosing and repairing the device, a process he recorded for all to see.

After busting the screw-less timer open with a hammer, he inspected the PCB for any apparent signs of damage. After seeing what looked like a damaged transistor, he desoldered it from the board for testing. After the transistor passed his tests with flying colors, [Todd] assumed that the fault had to be in the relay which the transistor was responsible for switching.

Sure enough, the relay had shorted out, and upon cutting it open he found that the contact points were fused together. He separated and sanded the contacts down, enabling him to get the timer working – at least for the time being.

Part of [Todd’s] goal with this video was to show off different methods of desoldering, including a manual solder sucker (my favorite), desoldering braid, and a purpose built desoldering iron. If you’re in the market for some desoldering tools, but don’t know what to buy, [Todd] is more than happy to offer his advice.

Continue reading to see a video of [Todd's] troubleshooting process.

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