Rotary Electric Gun Might Not Put Your Eye Out, Kid

This one is clearly from the “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” file, and it’s a bit of a departure from [Make It Extreme]’s usual focus on building tools for the shop. But what’s the point of having a well-equipped shop if you don’t build cool things, like this unique homebrew electric gun?

When we hear “electric gun” around here, we naturally think of the rail guns and coil guns we feature on a regular basis, which use stored electric charge to accelerate a projectile using electromagnetic forces. This gun is much simpler than that, using purely mechanical means to accelerate the projectiles. The heart of the unit is a machined aluminum spiral from an old scroll compressor, which uses interleaved orbiting spirals to compress gasses. This scroll was cut down to reduce its mass and fixed to a complex shaft assembly allowing it to spin up to tremendous speed with a powerful electric motor. A hopper feeds the marble-sized ammo into the eye of the scroll, which spits it out at high speed. Lacking a barrel, the gun can only spew rounds in the general direction of the target, but it makes up for inaccuracy with an impressive rate of fire — 100 rounds downrange in two seconds. It’s pretty powerful, too, judging by the divots in the sheet steel target in the video below.

Like all of [Make It Extreme]’s build, a lot of effort went into this, and it shows. Their other fun builds of dubious safety include these electromagnetic wall climbers and these “Go Go Gadget” legs.

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Hackaday’s Irish Excursion is on 7 April

Try something a bit out of the ordinary with us on 7 April. Spend a Saturday with Hackaday in Dublin without really knowing what to expect. This is the Unconference format, and we’ve fallen in love with the spontaneity and consistently fascinating talks that come out of it.

We’ve booked a fantastic hall in the Temple Bar district of Dublin, lined up snacks throughout the day and dinner for all who attend, plus there’s an after bar and we’ll buy the first round. All of this is yours if you grab one of the rapidly disappearing free tickets.

What we ask of you is to come prepared to give a 7 minute talk on something you’re really excited about right now. This is low-pressure; the point of an Unconference is to learn about what people are working on right now (not to see a 40 minute talk that was polished over several months). There will not be enough time for absolutely everyone to speak but we’ll get through as many as we can and make sure there’s an interesting mash-up of topics throughout the day.

To break the ice, we have a few “ringers” who we’ve asked to lead off each talk session. Beth ‘pidge’ Flanagan is an embedded and Linux expert who is well-known for her work on OpenEmbedded and Yocto and will talk about “how the sausage is made” specifically surrounding some advance metering infrastructure. Rachel “Konichiwakitty” will be speaking. Rachel was at our London Unconference back in September and we’re excited to hear about the stem cell research she’s been doing as part of her Ph.D. work. James Twomey will be on hand to go into some of the craft of stage magic, and also talk about what we can learn from the battery-free magic of crystal set radios like the “foxhole” radios built during WWII.

DesignSpark LogoThere are already enough people to pack the place and we only have about 20 tickets left, so hurry up and grab yours.

This event is made possible, free of charge to the attendees, with generous support from DesignSpark, the innovation arm of RS Components. DesignSpark is the exclusive sponsor of the Hackaday Dublin Unconference.

Building a Static Grass Applicator

A “Static Grass Applicator” is very specialized tool used by model makers to create realistic grass. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that, neither did we. Anyway, the idea is that you distribute a fine filament over the surface, and then use static electricity to make the “blades” of grass stand up vertically. This is a huge improvement over the old school method of manually placing the grass on the model, but the tool itself is somewhat expensive, at least for a decent one.

But thanks to avid modeler [Luke Towan], those looking to up their diorama game without breaking the bank now have a fantastically detailed guide on building their own grass applicator that is not only fairly cheap (as little as $20 USD depending on what your part bins look like), but is robust enough to last for years of service.

The heart of the device, and probably the only part you’d need to go out and buy especially for this project, is a small 12V negative ion generator. This is used to setup an electric charge between the grid of the applicator and a long wire that gets attached to the piece you’re working on. What little wiring there is simply provides a switch and some status LEDs. The design [Luke] has come up with lets the user switch between and internal 9V battery for portability, or an external 12V wall adapter for larger projects.

Building the chamber to hold the grass filament as well as the handle which houses the electronics will take longer than anything else, and even that seems pretty straightforward. Given the impressive results shown in the video after the break, it’s actually pretty surprising how simple the device is.

The setup used here reminds us of the DIY powder coating we covered a few years back.

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Icoboard Software Defined Radio Platform

The Icoboard is a plug-in for the Raspberry Pi with a Lattice iCE FPGA onboard. Combined with a cheap A/D converter, [OpenTechLab] build a software-defined radio using all open source tools. He found some inexpensive converters that cost about $25 and were fast enough (32 MHz) for the purpose at hand. The boards also had a digital to analog converter and he was able to find the data sheets. You can see a video with the whole project covered, below.

The video, by the way, is pretty extensive (about an hour’s worth) and covers the creation of a PC board to connect from the Icoboard to the converters. There’s also a 3D printed frame, and that’s explained in detail as well.

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Make A Steam Cleaner From A Broken Clothes Iron

As the old saying goes, when life gives you a broken iron, make a steam cleaner. Or something like that. Anyway, [Claudio] from [Accidental Science] had a clothes iron with a broken head that he decided to adapt into a steam blower that can be used to clean PCBs, glassware, degreasing parts or cleaning stains off the couch.

[Claudio] covers everything from tearing down the broken iron to crafting a new tip that avoids problems with water droplets condensing on the brass tip that he used first. After salvaging the switch in the head that controls the steam, he carved a wooden handle that is soaked and coated with high-temperature resin. The hot end was then reinstalled, and the whole thing put together.

This build should be approached with some caution, though: anything that mixes high-pressure steam with electricity has the potential to go wrong in unpleasant ways, so be careful out there.

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Curved Wood LED Lamp Needs No Fancy Tools

Those of us who aren’t familiar with woodworking might not expect that this curved wood and acrylic LED lamp by [Marija] isn’t the product of fancy carving, just some thoughtful design and assembly work. The base is a few inches of concrete in a plastic bowl, then sanded and given a clear coat. The wood is four layers of beech hardwood cut on an inverted jigsaw with the middle two layers having an extra recess for two LED strips. After the rough-cut layers were glued together, the imperfections were rasped and sanded out. Since the layers of wood give a consistent width to the recess for the LEDs, it was easy to cut a long strip of acrylic that would match. Saw cutting acrylic can be dicey because it can crack or melt, but a table saw with a crosscut blade did the trick. Forming the acrylic to match the curves of the wood was a matter of gentle heating and easing the softened acrylic into place bit by bit.

Giving the clear acrylic a frosted finish was done with a few coats of satin finish clear coat from a spray can, which is a technique we haven’t really seen before. Handy, because it provides a smooth and unbroken coating along the entire length of the acrylic. This worked well and is a clever idea, but [Marija] could still see the LEDs and wires inside the lamp, so she covered them with some white tape. A video of the entire process is embedded below.

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Mystery Nixie Clock From 2001: A Space Odyssey, And Pulsar

Every now and then something old comes along which we’re surprised has never been on Hackaday. That’s especially the case here since it includes nixie tubes and is a clock, two things beloved here by many. Then again, it’s not a hack, but it just should be (hint hint).

This clock’s origins are a bit of a mystery. As detailed in [Asto_Vidatu]’s Reddit post, he found it when cleaning out his mother’s garage. Larger photos of the clock internals are on his imgur page and are sure to delight and intrigue you. It looks very much like a clock widely thought to be the one which the Hamilton Watch Company made for Stanley Kubrick. In 1966, Kubrick commissioned Hamilton to make a futuristic looking clock and watches for his upcoming movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The watches appear in the movie on the wrists of the astronauts but the clock was left on the cutting room floor. After the movie was made, Kubrick gave the clock back to Hamilton, and it ended up in the possession of [Asto_Vidatu]’s grandfather, who worked on the team which made the clock.

All this might lead you to think that this is the clock made for the movie, instead of the one with the name Hamilton on it but the name Pulsar is thought to have been dreamed up around the time the movie came out. So where did it come from? Was it a hack by [Asto_Vidatu]’s grandfather or others at Hamilton? Was it a product which Hamilton had worked on, or perhaps a marketing gimmick for the Pulsar watch?

There’s one thing we do know, this is crying out for a modern remake. If you can find some nixie tubes then perhaps these driver boards will help. Or maybe do it with nixie tube lookalikes, such as these edge-lit acrylic digits.