One-Size-Fits-All Wrench Points To A Nut Job

When [Hand Tool Rescue] came across a 1919 patent for a one size fits all wrench, he couldn’t help but recreate it. Described in the patent as “a new, original, ornamental design for a wrench”, the wrench had a slot for possibly every fastener that the inventor could think of. Not only did it have slots for several hexagonal fasteners, but many others for octagonal, square and even a pentagonal fastener.

[Hand Tool Rescue] reckons there are 47 slots for various sizes and types of fasteners, not counting the ones whose purpose he could not fathom. Just in case he missed any fastener sizes, the original designer decided to add an alligator wrench at the other end of the handle, potentially negating the need for any of the other slots. The tool even features a sharp edge along one of the sides, possibly for use as a scraper of some kind.

Why such a crazy design was patented, or what were the functions of some of its slots are questions that will likely remain unanswered. At best, we can all take guesses at solving the mystery of this tool. [Hand Tool Rescue] scales the original drawing such that one of the slots has a width of 1 inch, and then uses that as a template to recreate the wrench. He starts with a slab of 3/8th inch thick, grade 4140 steel, which has a high strength to weight ratio and can be case hardened after machining, making it suitable for this ornamental project.

He then embarks on his journey of excessive milling, drilling, filing, band sawing and shaping (using a slotting attachment), totaling about 11 hours worth of drudgery. Of course, one could argue that it would have been much easier, and accurate, to have used modern machining methods. And we are spoilt for choices here among laser cutting, water jet cutting or even EDM machining, any of which would have done the job faster, cleaner and more precisely. But we guess [Hand Tool Rescue] wanted to stick to traditional methods as would have been available in 1919 to an inventor who wanted to make a prototype of his awesome, all in one wrench.

If you can help explain the overall function of this wrench, or identify some of the more vague slots in it, then [Hand Tool Rescue] would be happy to get the feedback. And talking about less desirable wrenches, check out how this Sliding Wrench Leaves a Little to be Desired.

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Turns Out, Lightning Can Strike Twice, With A Little Help

Few things are more impressive than a lighting strike. Lightning can carry millions of volts and while it can be amazing to watch, it is somewhat less amazing to be hit by lightning. Rockets and antennas often have complex lightning protection systems to try to coax the electricity to avoid striking where you don’t want it. However, a European consortium has announced they’ve used a very strong laser to redirect lightning in Switzerland. You can see a video below, but you might want to turn on the English closed captions.

Lightning accounts for as many as 24,000 deaths a year worldwide and untold amounts of property and equipment damage. Traditionally, your best bet for protection was not to be the tallest thing around. If the tallest thing around is a pointy metal rod in the ground, that’s even better. But this new technique could guide lightning to a specific ground point to have it avoid causing problems. Since lightning rods protect a circular area roughly the radius of their height, having a laser that can redirect beams to the area of a lightning rod would allow shorter rods to protect larger areas.

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Kirby Sucks, Literally

What’s common between one of the most legendary video game characters of all time and a fume extractor ? They both suck. [Chris Borge] is not an electronics hobbyist and only does some occasional soldering. This made his regular fume extractor bulky and inconvenient to position where needed. What could serve him better would be a small extractor that could be attached to a clip or an arm on his helping hand accessory. Being unable to find an off-the-shelf product or a suitable 3d printed design that he liked, he built the Kirby 40mm Fume Extractor.

His initial idea was for a practical design more suited to his specific needs. But somewhere along the way, the thought of a Kirby fan popped up in his head, and it was too good an idea to pass up. Several Kirby fan designs already existed, but none that satisfied [Chris]. Getting from paper sketch to CAD model required quite an effort but the result was worth the trouble, and the design was quite faithful to the original character features. The main body consists of two halves that screw together, and an outlet grill at the back. The body has space for a 40 mm fan and a 10 mm charcoal filter in the front. The wires come out the back, and connect directly to a power supply barrel jack. Arms and eyes are separate pieces that get glued to the body. The feet glue to an intermediate piece, which slides in a dove tail grove in the body. This allows Kirby to be tilted at the right position for optimum smoke extraction.

While Kirby served the purpose, it still didn’t meet the original requirement of attaching to a clip or arm on the helping hand. So [Chris] quickly designed a revised, no-frills model which is essentially a square housing to hold the fan and the filter. It has a flexible stand so it can be placed on a bench. And it can also be attached to the helping hand, making it a more utilitarian design. This design has the charcoal filter behind the fan, but he also has a third design for folks who prefer to have the filter at the front.

He now had a more useful, practical fume extractor, but he couldn’t bring himself to discard his original Kirby. So he printed a couple more 3D parts so that Kirby could fit the end of his vacuum cleaner hose. Now, Kirby sits on his bench, and helps suck up all the bits and bobs of trash on his workbench. We’re sure Kirby is quite pleased with his new role.

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A man sits in a chair atop a hexagonal platform. From the platform there are six hydraulically-actuated legs supporting the hexapod above a grassy field. The field is filled with fog, giving the shot a mysterious, otherworldly look.

Megahex Will Give You Robo-Arachnophobia

Some projects start with a relatively simple idea that quickly turns into a bit of a nightmare when you get to the actual implementation. [Hacksmith Industries] found this to be the case when they decided to build a giant rideable hexapod, Megahex. [YouTube]

After seeing a video of a small excavator that could move itself small distances with its bucket, the team thought they could simply weld six of them together and hook them to a controller. What started as a three month project quickly spiraled into a year and a half of incremental improvements that gave them just enough hope to keep going forward. Given how many parts had to be swapped out before they got the mech walking, one might be tempted to call this Theseus’ Hexapod.

Despite all the issues getting to the final product, the Megahex is an impressive build. Forward motion and rotation on something with legs this massive is a truly impressive feat. Does the machine last long in this workable, epic state? Spoilers: no. But, the crew learned a lot and sometimes that’s still a good outcome from a project.

If you’re looking for more hexapod fun, checkout Stompy, another rideable hexapod, or Megapod, a significantly smaller 3D-printed machine.

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From A 6502 Breadboard Computer To Lode Runner And Beyond

As disruptive and generally unpleasant as the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 were, they often ended up being a catalyst for significant personal growth. That was often literal growth, thanks to stress eating, but others, such as [Eric Badger], used the time to add skills to his repertoire and build a breadboard 6502 computer and so much more.

For those of you looking for a single endpoint to this story, we’re sorry to disappoint — this isn’t really one of those stories. Rather, it’s a tale of starting as a hardware newbie with a [Ben Eater] 6502 breadboard computer kit, and taking it much, much beyond. Once the breadboard computer kit was assembled, [Eric] was hooked, and found himself relentlessly expanding it. At some point, he decided to get the classic game Lode Runner going on his computer; this led to a couple of iterations of video cards, including a foray away from the breadboards and into PCB design. That led to a 6502 emulator build, and a side quest of a Raspberry Pi Pico Lode Runner appliance. This naturally led [Eric] to dip a toe into the world of 3D printing, because why not?

Honestly, we lost track of the number of new skills [Eric] managed to add to his toolkit in this video, and we’re sure this isn’t even a final accounting — there’s got to be something he missed. It’s great stuff, though, and quite inspirational — there’s no telling where you’ll end up when you start messing around with hardware hacking.

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Supercon 2022: All Aboard The SS MAPR With Sherry Chen

How do you figure out what is in a moving body of water over a mile wide? For those in charge of assessing the water quality of the Delaware river, this is a real problem. Collecting the data required to evaluate the water quality was expensive and time-consuming, taking over six years. Even then, the data was relatively sparse, with just a few water quality stations and only one surface sample for every six miles of river.

Sherry Chen, Quinn Wu, Vanessa Howell, Eunice Lee, Mia Mansour, and Frank Fan teamed up to create a solution, and the SS MAPR was the result. At Hackaday Supercon 2022, Sherry outlined the mission, why it was necessary, and their journey toward an autonomous robot boat. What follows is a fantastic guide and story of a massive project coming together. There are plans, evaluations, and tests for each component.

Sherry and the team first started by defining what was needed. It needed to be cheap, easy to use, and able to sample from various depths in a well-confined bounding box. It needed to run for four hours, be operated by a single person, and take ten samples across a 1-mile (2 km) section of the river. Some of the commercial solutions were evaluated, but they found none of them met the requirements, even ignoring their high costs. They selected a multi-hull style boat with off-the-shelf pontoons for stability and cost reasons.
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Several people at a museum exhibit about magnetism

Hands-On Museum Exhibit Brings Electromagnetism To Life

Magnets, how do they work? Although the quantum mechanics behind ferromagnetism are by no means easy, a few simple experiments can give you a good grasp of how magnets attract and repel each other, and show how they interact with electric phenomena. [Niklas Roy] built an exhibit for the Technorama science museum in Switzerland that packs a bunch of such electromagnetic experiments in a single package, appropriately called the Visitors Magnet.

The exhibit consists of a big magnet-shaped enclosure that contains a variety of demonstrators that are all powered by magnets. They range from simple compasses to clever magnetic devices we find in the world around us: flip-dot displays for instance, on which you can toggle the pixels by passing a magnet over them. You can even visualize magnetic field lines by using magnetic viewing film, or turn varying fields into audio through a modified telephone receiver.

Another classic demonstrator of electromagnetism is a color CRT monitor, which here displays a video feed coming from a camera hanging directly overhead. Passing a magnet along the screen makes all kind of hypnotizing patterns and colors, amplified even more by the video feedback loop. [Niklas] also modified the picture tube with an additional coil, connected to a hand-cranked generator: this allows visitors to rotate the image on the screen by generating an AC current, neatly demonstrating the interaction between electricity and magnetism.

The Visitors Magnet is a treasure trove of big and small experiments, which might not all withstand years of use by museum guests. But that’s fine — [Niklas] designed the exhibit to be easy to maintain and repair, and expects the museum to replace worn-out experiments now and then to keep the experience fresh. He knows a thing or two about designing engaging museum exhibits, with a portfolio that includes vector image generators, graffiti robots and a huge mechanical contraption that plays musical instruments.

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