The Swiss Army Knife Of Bench Tools

[splat238] had a ton of spare sensors laying around that he had either bought for a separate project or on an impulse buy, so he knew he had to do something with them. He decided to build his own digital multi-tool focusing on sensors that would be particularly useful in a workshop setting. Coincidentally, he was inspired by a previous hack that we covered a while back.

He’s equipped his device with a bubble level, tachometer, IR thermometer, protractor, laser pointer, and many, many more features that would make great additions to any hacker’s workspace. There’s a good summary of each sensor, making his Instructable somewhat of a quick guide to common sensing modalities for hardware designers. The tachometer, thermometer, laser pointer, and a few other capabilities are notable upgrades from the project we highlighted previously. We also appreciate the bigger display, allowing for more detailed user feedback particularly in using the compass and bullseye digital level among other features.

The number of components in [splat238’s] build is too extensive to detail one-by-one in this article, so please see his Instructable linked above for all the details. [splat238] made his own PCB for mounting each sensor and did a good job making the design modular so you wouldn’t need to add certain components if you don’t need them. Most of the components take some through-hole soldering with only a handful of 0805 resistors required otherwise. The housing was designed such that the user can handle the tool with one hand and can switch between each function with a push of a button.

Finally, the device is powered using a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery making it very reusable. And, if there weren’t enough features already, the battery can be charged via USB or through two solar panels mounted into the housing unit. Okay, solar charging might be a case of featuritis, but still a cool build either way.

Check out some other handy DIY tools on Hackaday.


20 thoughts on “The Swiss Army Knife Of Bench Tools

  1. Don’t forget to hang it on a 248mm long wrist strap for a 1 second timing reference :-D

    (Yeah, yeah, I know 248mm to the center of mass and local value of g may be +/- a bit.)

    Surprised I haven’t yet seen (Too lazy to actually google it) anyone wire up all 37 sensors of a 37in1 cheapie sensor kit or similar to a mega or a pro-mini with multiplexers or something. Poor mans tricorder LOL

  2. This is something that seriously annoys me about commercial gear. I buy a multimeter, with a display and a probably a microcontroller(at the high end) and empty space in the case. Then I buy a thermometer with exactly the same parts plus an i2c sensor.

    Then I find I want a cable tester, so I buy essentially just the continuity part of a multimeter with different sensors. Laser distance meter? A little more complicated, but it would still fit in a DMM housing with the rest.

    What went wrong in product design that we have so little convergence outside of the stuff smartphones do? Products like this could be the norm if we had a modular standard.

    1. A universal rule of tool-making is that a tool that does everything, also does nothing, I find that having separate tools for different tasks leads to a much nicer experience. I can fine tune the quality of individual tools depending on my budget. and in the end, a specialized tool will always beat a multi tool, both price and performance wise.

      1. When I was a kid I was given a pocket knife that had a fork and a spoon. Oh so neat, except you couldn’t use more than one at a time. So no fork to hold something as you cut it.

        Some things may make sense to combine, if you don’t use them much. But some things will clash.

    2. Most “multi-tools” are like Smart Phones, they do many things, all of them poorly.

      A Smartphone is a :

      -Poor quality phone
      -Marginal quality camera[s] – many of them , all shitty lenses, focal lengths, focus, etc
      -Marginal quality speaker
      -Marginal quality screen / display device
      -Marginal quality voice recorder
      -Marginal quality GPS
      -Marginal quality level
      -Marginal quality temperature sensor
      -Marginal quality magnetic sensor
      -Marginal quality barometric pressure sensor

      It can do many things, but poorly.

      buy the right tool for the job.

      1. the screens on mid to high-end smartphones wipe the floor even with “prosummer” gear…because of the small size, they can afford the quality that would cost and arm and a leg in a big display…

        The satellite navigation chipsets are also usually the best you can buy for a semi-assisted device.

        1. An yet despite incredible abilities, it’s a real PITA to use these devices for anything else than their most basic functionalities, because of really bad and crippled APIs, and plain locked down hardware and software.

        2. > the screens on mid to high-end smartphones wipe the floor even with “prosummer” gear…because of the small size, they can afford the quality that would cost and arm and a leg in a big display…

          That’s the thing, though. They’re small. A 6″ 4k phone screen will never replace a 60″ 4k TV screen for me.

      2. I’d bet though that the last time most people bought any of those devices standalone was over 10 years ago, and a recent phone is a better camera, a better GPS, a better screen, a better media player etc etc than the last one they bought over 10 years ago.

        1. I have bought some of these devices separately in the last few years – a DSLR is irreplaceable when you actually need pro quality photos. Basic physics constraints on optics.
          An HDMI field monitor does nothing a smart phone physically couldn’t do, but gets lower latency than any smartphone based system I’ve seen.

      3. A smartphone usually *is* the right tool for the job. They work very reliably. Sure, all those things are done better by dedicated tools, but I’m not going to carry all that in my backpack on the bus. The quality is good enough.

        A lot of tools don’t need quality, they just have to work, and keep working at the same level, even if it’s marginal.

    1. While that’s true up to a point, the flip side is that accuracy is only important up to a certain limit. There’s not a lot of value in measuring 2x4s with a micrometer.

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