A man standing next to a log holds a wooden mallet and a grey froe with a wooden handle. The froe's long straight blade sits atop the end of the log. Several cuts radiate out from the center of the log going through the length of the wood.

Making Wooden Shingles With Hand Tools

While they have mostly been replaced with other roofing technologies, wooden shingles have a certain rustic charm. If you’re curious about how to make them by hand, [Harry Rogers] takes us through his friend [John] making some.

There are two primary means of splitting a log for making shingles (or shakes). The first is radial, like one would cut a pie, and the other is lateral, with all the cuts in the same orientation. Using a froe, the log is split in progressively smaller halves to control the way the grain splits down the length of the log and minimize waste. Larger logs result in less waste and lend themselves to the radial method, while smaller logs must be cut laterally. Laterally cut shingles have a higher propensity for warping and other issues, but will work when larger logs are not available.

Once the pieces are split out of the log, they are trimmed with an axe, including removing the outer sapwood which is the main attractant for bugs and other creatures that might try eating your roof. Once down to approximately the right dimensions, the shingle is then smoothed out on a shave horse with a draw knife. Interestingly, the hand-made shingles have a longer lifespan than those sawn since the process works more with the grain of the wood and introduces fewer opportunities for water to seep into the shingles.

If you’re looking for something more solarpunk and less cottagecore for your house, maybe try a green solar roof, and if you’ve got a glass roof, try cleaning it with the Grawler.

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Building A Semi-Auto Cookie Dough Gun

Are you a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur? Do you want to eat more cookies than you probably should at the push of a button? Don’t worry, [Startup Chuck] has got you covered with his semi-automatic cookie dough dispenser.

[Startup Chuck] tries several ways of dispensing dough, some of which more explosive than others. Turns out that a homemade pneumatic extruder doesn’t exactly rhyme with “safety”. The other methods are more promising dough though, and an empty caulk tube sourced from Amazon and a motorized caulking gun demonstrate a less dangerous, more effective way to dispense dough.

Inspired by this approach, he started development of a servo-driven extruder. It uses store-bought dough cylinders in a sleek metal and acrylic contraption that is then treated with the requisite big mess of wires any good project has. As the dough is extruded, an optical sensor detects how far the dough has moved and it uses sufficiently violent pneumatics to slice the dough, which has the fun side effect of launching pucks of cookie dough at the user.

If you like the idea of edible extrusions, but aren’t so concerned about the rapid-fire element of this project, the concept isn’t unlike some of the food printers we’ve covered.

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Another Chance To Revive Your Nabaztag

The early history of home internet appliances was replete with wonderful curios as a new industry sought to both find a function for itself and deliver something useful with whatever semiconductors were available nearly two decades ago. A favourite of ours is the Nabaztag, a French-designed information appliance in the form of a cute plastic rabbit whose ears would light up and move around as it delivered snippets of information.

The entity behind the Nabaztag folded and the servers went away years ago of course, but the original designer [Olivier Mével] never gave up on his creation. Back in 2019 he created an updated mainboard for the device packing a Raspberry Pi Zero W, which has been released in a series of crowdfunding campaigns. If you have a Nabaztag and haven’t yet upgraded, you can snag one now as the latest campaign has started.

We took a look at the Nabaztag back in 2020, at the time with out bricked original unit. Happily a year later we were able to snag one of the upgrades, so it’s now happily keeping us up to date with the time, weather, and other fun things. The upgrade motherboard is designed to slot into the same place as the original and mate with all its connectors, and even comes with that annoying triangle screwdriver. If you want to stand out against all the Alexa and Google Home owners, dig out your cute rabbit from the 2000s and give it this board!

Alarm Panel Hack Defeats Encryption By Ignoring It

As frustrating as it may be for a company to lock you into its ecosystem by encrypting their protocols, you have to admit that it presents an enticing challenge. Cracking encryption can be more trouble than it’s worth, though, especially when a device gives you all the tools you need to do an end-run around their encryption.

We’ll explain. For [Valdez], the encrypted communication protocols between a DSC alarm panel and the control pads on the system were serious impediments to integration into Home Assistant. While there are integrations available for these alarm panels, they rely on third-party clouds, which means that not only is your security system potentially telling another computer all your juicy details, but there’s also the very real possibility that the cloud system can either break or be shut down; remember the Chamberlain MyQ fiasco?

With these facts in mind, [Valdez] came up with a clever workaround to DSC encryption by focusing on physically interfacing with the keypad. The device has a common 16×2 LCD and a 25-key keypad, and a little poking around with a multimeter and a $20 logic analyzer eventually showed that the LCD had an HD44780 controller, and revealed all the lines needed to decode the display with an ESP32. Next up was interfacing with the keypad, which also involved a little multimeter work to determine that the keys were hooked up in a 5×5 matrix. Ten GPIOs on the ESP32 made it possible to virtually push any key; however, the ten relays [Valdez] originally used to do the switching proved unwieldy. That led to an optocoupler design, sadly not as clicky but certainly more compact and streamlined, and enabling complete control over the alarm system from Home Assistant.

We love this solution because, as [Valdez] aptly points out, the weakest point in any system is the place where it can’t be encrypted. Information has to flow between the user and the control panel, and by providing the electronic equivalents to eyes and fingers, the underlying encryption is moot. Hats off to [Valdez] for an excellent hack, and for sharing the wealth with the HA community.

You Wouldn’t Download A House

Shelter is one of the most basic of human needs, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we continually come up with new ways to build homes. Most building systems are open source to an extent, and the WikiHouse project tries to update the process for the internet age. 

WikiHouse is a modular building system similar to structural insulated panels (SIPs) but designed to be made on a CNC and insulated in the shop before heading to the site. Using this system, you can get the advantages of a manufactured home, but in a more distributed manner. Plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) can be used to make up the chassis of the blocks which can then be assembled very quickly on site versus traditional wooden construction.

One of the more interesting aspects of WikiHouse is that it takes design for disassembly seriously. How many houses have parts that are still good when they’re demolished to make way for something new? In most places, the good is hauled to the dump along with the bad because it isn’t economical to separate the two. Building with end of life in mind makes it so much easier to recover those materials and not waste them. There are certainly examples of careful material recovery, but they’re few and far between.

If you’re looking for some other ways to quickly build a house from wood, checkout the PlyPad or Brikawood.

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How To Spend A Million Dollars On The Ultimate Stereo

We’ve all seen the excesses that the Golden Ears set revel in; the five-figure power conditioning boxes, the gold-plated HDMI cables. As covered by the Washington Post, however, [Ken Fritz] may have gone farther than most. Before he passed away, he estimated that he spent a million dollars on the greatest possible hi-fi setup he could imagine.

There’s plenty of hardcore gear in the rig. Massive cabinets loaded with carefully-tuned speaker drivers. A $50,000 record player built into a 1,500-pound weighted base for the utmost in stability and vibration resistance. Expensive cartridges, top-tier reel-to-reel decks, and amplifiers worth more than most used cars.

As the piece explores, [Fritz] knew that none of that was enough. Sound is all about the space as much as it is the equipment. Thus, the family home itself was transformed to become the ultimate listening environment in turn. The listening room got everything from concrete floors and its own HVAC and electrical systems. Much of the equipment was custom built to avoid wasting money on overpriced name-brand gear. The story of the kit was also the subject of a documentary shared online, by the name of One Man’s Dream.

The piece examines what goes into a top-tier setup like this, while also exploring the human cost that [Fritz’s] passion had on him and his family. The ending is sad and brutal in a way you wouldn’t think a story about hi-fi gear ever could be.  It’s an education in more ways then one, and teaches us that it’s worth keeping an eye on the rest of our lives while pursuing what we enjoy the most. Video after the break.

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Fan With Automatic Door Is Perfect For Camper Vans

Ventilation fans are useful for clearing stuffy or stale air out of a space. However, they also tend to act as a gaping hole into said space. In the case of caravans and RVs, an open ventilation fan can be terrible for keeping the interior  space warm, quiet, and free from dust. “Blast doors” or fan blocks are a common way to solve this problem. [Raphtronic] whipped up a duly-equipped ventilation fan to do just that.

The solution was to create a fan setup with a custom fan holder and a sliding door to block airflow when necessary. [Raphtronic] designed a fan frame for this purpose using parts 3D printed in ASA plastic. This material was chosen such that they could readily withstand the 50 C (120 F) temperatures typical in his Ford Transit camper during the summer. A simple 12 V ventilation fan was then fitted to the frame, along with a sliding door controlled by a 12 V linear actuator.

The mode of operation is simple. A DPDT switch controls the linear actuator. Flipped one way, the linear actuator is fed 12 V in such a polarity as to move it to open the fan door. In this mode, 12 volts is also supplied to the fan to start ventilation. When the switch is flipped the other way, the actuator moves to the closed position, and a diode in the circuit stops the fan spinning backwards. As a bonus, limit switches are built into the linear actuator, so there’s no need for any microcontrollers, “off” switch positions, or additional wiring.

It’s a tidy solution to the problem of ventilating a camper in a clean and effective manner. Files are on GitHub for those wishing to build their own. We’ve seen some great work in this area before, like this off-grid van project that made excellent use of 3D scanning during the build process. If you’ve designed and built your own nifty camping gear, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!