It’s Time You Built A Smart Pocket Watch

There’s just something about a pocket watch that screams class compared to the barbaric act of bending your arm, or the no-fun way of looking at your phone.

But smartwatches are dumb, analog things that mostly look pretty. Or are they? [JGJMatt] proves otherwise with their stunning DIY smart pocket watch. It is essentially a cheap smart watch from Amazon stuffed into the shell of an old pocket watch, but you know it’s not quite that simple.

On the easier side of things, [JGJMatt] had to come up with a 3D-printed bracket to hold the smart watch’s guts. On the harder end of the spectrum, he ended up building the charging port into the crown, where the latch used to be.

This is a beautiful build for sure, and a great way to reuse something that might otherwise end up thrown away or melted down.

Looking for a cool alternative pocket watch that’s a little easier to build? Check out [JGJMatt]’s pocket sundial.

Old Film Camera Modified For Different Chemistry

While most photographers have moved on to digital cameras with their numerous benefits, there are a few artists out there still taking pictures with film. While film is among the more well-known analog photographic methods available, there are chemically simpler ways of taking pictures available for those willing to experiment a little bit. Cyanotype photography is one of these methods, and as [JGJMatt] shows, it only takes a few commonly available chemicals, some paper, and a slightly modified box camera to get started.

Cyanotype photography works by adding UV-reactive chemicals to paper and exposing the paper similarly to how film would be exposed. The photographs come out blue wherever the paper wasn’t exposed and white where it was. Before mixing up chemicals and taking photos, though, [JGJMatt] needed to restore an old Kodak Brownie camera, designed to use a now expensive type of film. Once the camera is cleaned up, only a few modifications are needed to adapt it to the cyanotype method, one of which involves placing a magnet on the shutter to keep it open for the longer exposure times needed for this type of photography. There is some development to do on these pictures, but it’s relatively simple to do in comparison to more traditional chemical film development.

For anyone looking for a different way of taking photographs, or even those looking for a method of taking analog pictures without the hassle of developing film or creating a darkroom, cyanotype offers a much easier entry point and plenty of artists creating images with this method don’t use a camera at all. There are plenty of other photographic chemistries to explore as well; one of our favorites uses platinum to create striking black-and-white photos.

Planar Speaker Build Uses Hard Drive Magnets

We like to see people building things that are a little unusual, and we really like it when said unusual thing uses salvaged parts. This project from [JGJMatt] ticks all our boxes — the build creates a planar speaker that uses salvaged magnets from a hard drive.

A planar speaker, according to the post, uses wires and magnets to manipulate a flat film that acts as the transducer. The speaker housing is 3D printed and looks great but is otherwise unremarkable. The fun starts when a Dremel with a diamond disk cuts the magnets in half. Cutting neodymium poses several challenges. For example, if you heat the material up too much while cutting, it can lose its magnetism.

With the proper magnets, you can move to the tedious method of creating the coils. The post shows three different methods. But the part we really liked was using a resin 3D printer as a UV source to expose a resist mask which transfers to a copper or aluminum foil that will be the sound-generating film. [JGJMatt] used a similar technique to put resist on PC board blanks, too. Unfortunately, there were some issues so the finished speakers didn’t use the foil prepared using this method. Instead, a quick modification to the resin printer allowed a thin film of resin to rest on the foil, which was then exposed.

Once you have the pieces, there isn’t much left to do but put them together. Honestly, this is one of those things you probably won’t do yourself unless you are obsessed with speakers. But there were a lot of interesting techniques here that might come in handy, even if you don’t care about audio reproduction.

[JGJMatt] showed us a ribbon speaker before. We have seen some speakers that are practically all 3D printed.

Modern Brownie Camera Talks SD And WiFi

If you’re at all into nostalgic cameras, you’ve certainly seen the old Brownie from Kodak. They were everywhere, and feature an iconic look. [JGJMatt] couldn’t help but notice that you could easily find old ones at a good price, but finding and developing No. 117 film these days can be challenging. But thanks to a little 3D printing, you can install an ESP32 camera inside and wind up with a modern but retro-stylish camera. The new old camera will work with a memory card or send data over WiFi.

The Brownie dates back to 1900 and cost, initially, one dollar. Of course, a dollar back then is worth about $35 now, but still not astronomical. After cleaning up and tuning up an old specimen, it was time to fire up the 3D printer.

There are also mods to the camera to let it accept an M12 lens. There are many lenses of that size you can choose from. There are a few other gotchas, like extending the camera cable, but it looks like you could readily reproduce this project if you wanted one of your very own.

We’ve seen old cameras converted before. Or, you can just start from scratch.

Broken Pocket Watch Becomes Pocket Sundial

Pocket watches are all well and good, but they have some caveats. They either need regular rewinding, or they need batteries. Sundials on the other hand need only the light from our One True Sun. [JGJMatt] has just the project to convert your broken or disused pocket watches to the solar way of telling the time.

The key is to replace the clockwork internals and face of the pocket watch with a sundial instead. The first step is to create a face for the watch marked out for sundial use. [JGJMatt] explains how to do this with a variety of CNC, painting, or etching methods. He also explains how to use simple tools to generate a sundial design that’s ideally suited to your geographical location. This includes methods for aligning the sundial to True North or True South with an offset compared to Magnetic North or Magnetic South. This allows the sundial to be as accurate as possible. [JGJMatt] describes the general techniques while also building a sundial of his very own. The resulting piece is a handsome bit of brass with a lovely gnomon standing tall to cast a shadow on the dial.

It’s not a quick way to tell the time, by any means. However, the next time your friends ask you what time it is, and you whip out a compass to line up your sundial, they’re sure to be impressed. We’ve seen some creative sundial designs before, too, and if you’ve been creating your own fancy timepieces, don’t hesitate to let us know on the tipsline!

Audio Amp Puts VFDs To Work In An Unusual Way

It’s safe to say that most projects that feature a VFD emphasize the “D” aspect more than anything. Vacuum fluorescent displays are solid performers, after all, with their cool blue-green glow that’s just the right look for lots of retro and not-so-retro builds. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t applications that leverage the “V” aspect, such as this nifty audio preamp using VFDs as active components.

The inspiration behind [JGJMatt]’s build came from the Korg Nutube line of VFD-based low-voltage dual-triode vacuum tubes. Finding these particular components a little on the expensive side, [JGJMatt] turned to the old standby DM160 VFD indicator tube, which is basically just a triode, to see how it would fare as an amp. The circuit takes advantage of the low current and voltage requirements of the VFDs — the whole thing runs from a USB boost converter — by wedging them between a 2N3904 input stage and a 2N2007 MOSFET output. There’s a mix of SMD and through-hole components on the custom-etched PCB, with a separate riser card to show off the VFDs a little bit through the front panel of the 3D printed case.

All in all, we find this little amp pretty cool, and we love the way it puts a twist on the venerable VFD. We’ve seen similar VFD amps before, but this one’s fit and finish really pays off.

When Is An LED A Lamp? When It’s 50mm Wide

Call us childlike, but we sure do get a kick out of both larger-than-life and miniature things, especially when they work as their “normal-sized” counterparts do. So you can imagine our glee when we saw [JGJMatt]’s 50mm LED lamp, which looks like a giant version of something you might have wired up on your bench at any given moment — a bent-legged LED, wired up and ready to blink.

[JGJMatt] started by designing a mold in Fusion360 to make the lens, which he then printed in PLA. However, due to the heat generated by curing resin (especially all enclosed like that), he recommends using PETG or ABS instead to avoid any potential warping issues.

This is where things get a bit dangerous. For the internals, [JGJMatt] went all out, hand forming a reflector cup out of brass pipe, and the anode and cathode plates from flat 1 mm brass stock, plated to a silvery gray finish. The light source itself is a 1 W cool white LED that sits in the reflector cup, safe under a layer of epoxy mixed with a bit of yellow paint that represent the phosphor layer in a standard 5 mm white LED.

Once the innards were ready, it was time to cast the huge lens with them tucked safely inside. After the resin cured, [JGJMatt] sanded away the layer lines and airbrushed it with clear lacquer to clear up the lens and protect it from yellowing down the road. Then it was just a matter of bending the legs to form a stand, and wiring it up. What an awesome way to light up your workbench! Or anywhere, really.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a giant, working LED, though it’s probably only the second one since [Mike Szczys] saw some in the flesh at Maker Faire: Rome way back in 2019. Those are for sale on Tindie, BTW, though the shop is on holiday for the foreseeable, so you’ll have to make your own for now.