Dead Bug Arduino Is Lively And Shield-Compatible

Microcontroller demo boards such as the Arduino UNO are ubiquitous on Hackaday as the brains of many a project which inevitably does something impressive or unusual. Sometime someone builds a particularly tiny demo board, or an impressively large one. In the case of the board featured here, the Arduino is a gorgeous labor of love which can’t really be called a board since there is no PCB. Instead of the traditional fiberglass, [Jiří Praus] formed brass bars into the circuitry and held it together with solder.

This kind of dedication to a project leaves an impression. His notes show he saw the barest way to operate an ATMega328, built it, tested, and moved on to the power supply to make it self-sustaining, then onto the communication circuit, and finally the lights. The video below shows a fully-functional Arduino happily running the blink program. He plans to encase the brass portion in resin to toughen it up and presumably keep every bump from causing a short circuit. The components are in the same position due to a custom jig which means a standard shield will fit right into place.

The Arduino started far less flashy yet nearly as fragile, and it has grown. And shrunk.

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Casting A Cannon Is A Lot Harder Than You Think

We’ve seen backyard casting, and for the most part, we know what’s going on. You make a frame out of plywood or two by fours, get some sand, pack it down, and very carefully make a mold around a pattern. This is something else entirely. [FarmCraft101] is casting a bronze cannon. Sure, it’s scaled down a bit, but this is the very limit of what sanity would dictate a single person can cast out of molten metal.

This attempt at casting a cannon is more or less what you would expect from a backyard bronze casting experiment. There’s a wooden flask and a greensand mold, everything is tamped down well and there’s a liberal coating of talcum powder inside. This is a large casting, though, and this presented a problem: during the pour, the halves of the flask were only held together with a few c-clamps. This ended poorly, with molten bronze pushing against the mold and eventually flowing onto the garage floor. Doing this alone was perhaps a bad idea.

The failure of the mold meant some math was necessary, and after some quick calculations it was found that more than 300 pounds pushing the sides of the mold apart. A second pour, with the sides of the flask bound together with nylon straps, was much more successful with a good looking bronze cannon ready for some abuse with a wire wheel.

This is only the first video in the series, with the next videos covering the machining and boring out of the barrel. That’s some serious craft right there.

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Freeform ESP8266 Network Attached Data Display

Like many of us, [Josef Adamčík] finds himself fascinated with so-called “freeform” electronic designs, where the three dimensional circuit makes up sections of the device’s structure. When well executed, such designs really blur the line between being a practical device and an artistic piece. In fact his latest design, an ESP8266 MQTT client, would seem to indicate there might not be much of a “line” at all.

The inspiration for this project actually comes from something [Josef] had worked on previously: an ESP8266-based environmental monitoring system. That device had sensors to pick up on things such as humidity and ambient light level, but it didn’t have a display of its own; it just pushed the data out onto the network using MQTT. So he thought a companion device which could receive this environmental data and present it to him in a unique and visually appealing way would be a natural extension of the idea.

As the display doesn’t need any local sensors of its own, it made the design and construction much easier. Which is not to say it was easy, of course. In this write-up, [Josef] takes the reader through the process of designing each “layer” of the circuit in 2D, printing it out onto paper, and then using that as a guide to assemble the real thing. Once he had the individual panels done, he used some pieces of cardboard to create a three dimensional jig which helped him get it all soldered together.

On the software side it’s pretty straightforward. It just pulls the interesting bits of information off of the network and displays it on the OLED. Right now it’s configured to show current temperature on the display, but of course that could be changed to pretty much anything you could imagine if you’re looking to add a similar device to your desktop. There’s also a red LED on the device which lights up to let [Josef] know when the batteries are getting low on the remote sensor unit; a particularly nice touch.

If you’d like to see more of these freeform circuits, we’d advise you to checkout the finalists for our recently concluded “Circuit Sculpture” contest. Some of the finalists are truly beyond belief.

LED Jewelry Makes Neat Use Of Brass

Wearable electronics can be both fun and fashionable. However, there are certain challenges involved in neatly integrating electronic components in a way that is both functional and comfortable for the wearer. In this vein, [Jiri Praus] has managed to create some glowing earrings that are remarkably simple to boot.

The body of the earring also acts as the conductor and battery holder, all in one.

The earrings start out with brass rod, bent with pliers and soldered at the ends. By following a paper template, it’s possible to get neat and accurate bends by hand, which is necessary to make a matching pair. Through careful design, the brass rods are soldered to the LEDs, and more rod is then used to create an integrated holder for a coin cell battery, which powers the lights.

Thanks to [Jiri]’s smart designs — which we’ve featured before in the form of a blooming wireframe tulip — no wires are needed. The brass rods which make up the body of the jewelry also act as the conductors to pass current to the LEDs. The internal resistance of the coin cell battery also eliminates the need for an in-line resistor. In combination, this serves to create a simple and attractive finished product that should shine for several hours.

We’ve seen other LED earring designs before, too. There are plenty of ways to experiment with glowing jewelry, and if you’ve done something novel, be sure to let us know.

Solar Circuit Sculpture Pumms The Night Away

A word of warning: Google for the definition of the word “pummer” at your own risk. Rest assured that this beautiful solar-powered circuit sculpture fits the only definition of pummer that we care to deal with.

For the unfamiliar, a pummer is a device from the BEAM style of robotics, a sort of cyborg plant that absorbs solar energy during the day and turns it into a gently pulsating light that “pumms” away the dark hours.

[Mohit Bhoite]’s take on the pummer is an extraordinary model of a satellite executed mainly in brass rod. His attention to detail on the framework boggles our minds; we could work for days on a brass rod and never achieve the straight lines and perfect corners he did. The wings support two solar cells, while the hull of the satellite holds a dead-bugged 74HC240 octal buffer/line-driver chip and all the other pumm-enabling components. A one farad supercap – mounted to look like a dish antenna – is charged during the day and a single LED beacon blinks into the night.

No schematic is provided, but there are probably enough closeup shots to reverse engineer this, which actually sounds like a fun exercise. (Or you can cheat and fetch the PDF copy of the old Make magazine article that inspired him.)

Hats off to [Mohit] for a top-notch circuit sculpture. We’ve seen similarly detailed and well-executed sculptures from him before; something tells us this won’t be the last.

Thanks to [Varun Reddy] for the tip.

Blacksmith Elevates The Craft With This Fabulous Strongbox

For most of human industrial history, the blacksmith was the indispensable artisan. He could fashion almost anything needed, from a simple hand tool to a mechanism as complex as a rifle. Starting with the most basic materials, a hot forge, and a few tools that he invariably made himself, the blacksmith was a marvel of fabrication.

If you have any doubt how refined the blacksmith’s craft can be, feast your eyes on [Seth Gould]’s masterpiece of metalwork. Simply called “Coffer”, [Seth] spent two years crafting the strongbox from iron, steel, and brass. The beautifully filmed video below shows snippets of the making, but we could easily watch a feature-length film detailing every aspect of the build. The box is modeled after the strongboxes built for the rich between the 17th and 19th centuries, which tended to favor complex locking mechanisms that provided a measure of security by obfuscation. At the end of the video below, [Seth] goes through the steps needed to unlock the chest, each of which is filled with satisfying clicks and clunks as the mechanism progresses toward unlocking. The final reveal is stunning, and shows how much can be accomplished with a forge, some files, and a whole lot of talent.

If you’ve never explored the blacksmith’s art before, now’s the time. You can even get started easily at home; [Bil Herd] will show you how.

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To Make Reproduction Train Whistles, The Old Ways Are Best

Late last year, artist [Steve Messam]’s project “Whistle” involved 16 steam engine whistles around Newcastle that would fire at different parts of the day over three months. The goal of the project was bring back the distinctive sound of the train whistles which used to be fixture of daily life, and to do so as authentically as possible. [Steve] has shared details on the construction and testing of the whistles, which as it turns out was a far more complex task than one might expect. The installation made use of modern technology like Raspberry Pi and cellular data networks, but when it came to manufacturing the whistles themselves the tried and true ways were best: casting in brass before machining on a lathe to finish.

The original whistles are a peek into a different era. The bell type whistle has three major components: a large bell at the top, a cup at the base, and a central column through which steam is piped. These whistles were usually made by apprentices, as they required a range of engineering and manufacturing skills to produce correctly, but were not themselves a critical mechanical component.

In the original whistle shown here, pressurized steam comes out from within the bottom cup and exits through the thin gap (barely visible in the image, it’s very narrow) between the cup and the flat shelf-like section of the central column. That ring-shaped column of air is split by the lip of the bell above it, and the sound is created. When it comes to getting the right performance, everything matters. The pressure of the air, the size of the gap, the sharpness of the bell’s lip, the spacing between the bell and the cup, and the shape of the bell itself all play a role. As a result, while the basic design and operation of the whistles were well-understood, there was a lot of work to be done to reproduce whistles that not only operated reliably in all types of weather using compressed air instead of steam, but did so while still producing an authentic re-creation of the original sound. As [Steve] points out, “with any project that’s not been done before, you really can’t do too much testing.”

Embedded below is one such test. It’s slow-motion footage of what happens when the whistle fires after filling with rainwater. You may want to turn your speakers down for this one: locomotive whistles really were not known for their lack of volume.

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