AT-ST High Chair Elevates Lucky Jedi Youngling

As a new parent, there’s lots you have to do. You have to buy a car seat, get the baby’s room ready, figure out daycare; all the boring but unavoidable minutiae of shepherding a tiny human. But for the more creative types, that list might include warming up the 3D printer or putting a fresh bit in the CNC, as there’s no better way to welcome a little one into the world than giving them some custom gear to get started with.

That’s certainly been the plan for [Matthew Regonini], who’s been showering his son with DIY playthings. He recently wrote in to tell us about his awesome AT-ST high chair build that manages to turn the drudgery of getting a baby to eat into an epic worthy of a John Williams score.

This isn’t the first time [Matthew] has turned dead trees into Imperial hardware. Last year we covered his fantastic AT-AT rocker which utilized the same construction techniques. The parts are cut out of plywood with his CNC, separated, cleaned up on a spindle sander, and finally assembled with wood glue and a few strategic fasteners. The depth and level of detail he’s able to achieve when the individual pieces are stacked up is exceptionally impressive. If builds like these don’t get you thinking about adding a CNC to your workshop, nothing will.

As with the AT-AT, the finish on the high chair is simply a healthy application of polyurethane. This keeps the wood from being porous (important as this build will be seeing its fair share of food and liquids) while retaining a natural look. Some might be tempted to paint it up in appropriate Imperial colors, but that might be a bit imposing considering its intended occupant.

Really, the only downside with this build is how quickly his son will outgrow it. The obvious solution to the problem is a constant supply of fresh babies to pilot it, but that’s one type of creation that we don’t generally detail here on Hackaday. If you have questions, ask your parents.

Incidentally, it’s starting to look like we’ve got a plywood arms-race going on. We’re excited to see somebody take it to the next level. A little scared, but mainly excited.

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Celebrating the Olympics With Flaming Windmills

Like many of us, [Gustav Evertsson] was looking for an excuse to set stuff on fire and spin it around really fast to see what would happen. Luckily for him (and us) the Winter Olympics have started, which ended up being the perfect guise for this particular experiment. With some motors from eBay and some flaming steel wool, he created a particularly terrifying version of the Olympic’s iconic linked rings logo. Even if you won’t be tuning in for the commercials Winter Games, you should at least set aside 6 minutes to watch this build video.

The beginning of the build starts with some mounting brackets getting designed in Fusion 360, and you would be forgiven if you thought some 3D printed parts were coming up next. But [Gustav] actually loads the design up on a Carbide 3D CNC and cuts them out of wood.

A metal hub is attached to each bracket, and then the two pieces are screwed onto a length of thin wood. This assembly is then mounted up to the spindle of a geared motor rated for 300 RPM. The end result looks like a large flat airplane propeller. Five of these “propellers” are created, one for each ring of the Olympic’s logo.

Once the sun sets, [Gustav] takes his collection of spinners outside and lines them up like windmills. At the end of each arm is a small ball of fine-grade steel wool, which will emit sparks for a few seconds when lighted. All you’ve got to do is get the 10 pieces of steel wool alight at the same time, spin up the motors, and let persistence of vision do the rest. If you can manage the timing, you’ll be treated with a spinning and sparking version of the Olympic rings that wouldn’t look out of place in a new Mad Max movie.

Generally speaking, we don’t see much overlap between the hacker community and the Olympics. You’d have to go all the way back to 2012 to find another project celebrating this particular display of athleticism. We would strongly caution you not to combine both of these Olympic hacks at the same time, incidentally.

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Optical Tach Addresses the Need for Spindle Speed Control

With CNC machines, getting the best results depends on knowing how fast your tool is moving relative to the workpiece. But entry-level CNC routers don’t often include a spindle tachometer, forcing the operator to basically guess at the speed. This DIY optical spindle tach aims to fix that, and has a few nice construction tips to boot.

The CNC router in question is the popular Sienci, and the 3D-printed brackets for the photodiode and LED are somewhat specific for that machine. But [tmbarbour] has included STL files in his exhaustively detailed write-up, so modifying them to fit another machine should be easy. The sensor hangs down just far enough to watch a reflector on one of the flats of the collet nut; we’d worry about the reflector surviving tool changes, but it’s just a piece of shiny tape that’s easily replaced.  The sensor feeds into a DIO pin on a Nano, and a small OLED display shows a digital readout along with an analog gauge. The display update speed is decent — not too laggy. Impressive build overall, and we like the idea of using a piece of PLA filament as a rivet to hold the diodes into the sensor arm.

Want to measure machine speed but don’t have a 3D printer? No worries — a 2D-printed color-shifting tach can work too.

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Review: LinkSprite Mini CNC

It’s a great time to be a hobbyist. No matter how you feel about the Arduino/Raspberry Pi effect, the influx of general enthusiasm and demand it has created translates to better availability of components, a broader community, and loads of freely available knowledge. When people have access to knowledge and ideas, great things can happen. Tools that were once restricted to industrial use become open source, and the price of entry-level versions goes into a nosedive.

As we’ve seen over the last several years, the price of cheap 3D printers keeps falling while the bar of quality keeps rising. It’s happening with laser cutters and carving tools, too. Strolling through Microcenter a few weeks ago, I spotted a new toy on the back wall next to the 3D printers. It was LinkSprite’s desktop mini CNC. They didn’t have one out on display, but there were two of them in boxes on the shelf. And boy, those boxes were small. Laughably small. I wondered, could this adorable machine really be any good? To some, the $200 price tag suggests otherwise. To me, the price tag made it justifiable, especially considering that the next price point for a hobby CNC mill is at least twice as much. I took my phone out and stood there frantically looking for reviews, documentation, anything that was available. It seemed that the general, if sparse consensus is that this thing isn’t a total waste of money. Oh, and there’s a wiki.

According to LinkSprite’s wiki, this little machine will engrave wood, plastic, acrylic, PVC, and PCBs. It will specifically not engrave metal (PCB copper notwithstanding). I’m a bit leery of the chemicals used in the PCB etching process, so the idea of engraving them instead was especially tempting. I pulled the trigger.

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Man-in-the-Middle Jog Pendant: Two Parts Make Easier Dev Work

In a project, repetitive tasks that break the flow of development work are incredibly tiresome and even simple automation can make a world of difference. [Simon Merrett] ran into exactly this while testing different stepper motors in a strain-wave gear project. The system that drives the motor accepts G-Code, but he got fed up with the overhead needed just to make a stepper rotate for a bit on demand. His solution? A grbl man-in-the-middle jog pendant that consists of not much more than a rotary encoder and an Arduino Nano. The unit dutifully passes through any commands received from a host controller, but if the encoder knob is turned it sends custom G-Code allowing [Simon] to dial in a bit acceleration-controlled motor rotation on demand. A brief demo video is below, which gives an idea of how much easier it is to focus on the nuts-and-bolts end of hardware when some simple motor movement is just a knob twist away.

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Star Chart Watch is a Romantic Tragedy

It’s becoming abundantly clear that [Colin Merkel] doesn’t know the definition of “good enough”. Not only has he recently completed his third (and most impressive) wristwatch build, but he also managed to put together one of the most ridiculously romantic gifts ever conceived. While some of us are giving our significant others a gift card to Starbucks, he made his girlfriend a watch with a chart on the face representing the position of the stars at the time and place of their first meeting.

As per his usual style, the documentation on this build is phenomenal. If paging through his gallery of build images doesn’t make you want to get a lathe and start learning metal working, nothing will. A chunk of stainless steel rod miraculously becomes a gorgeous wrist watch over the course of a few dozen images, perfectly encapsulating that old adage of “making it look easy”.

All you have to do is turn this into that. Easy.

Certainly the highlight of this build is the star chart on the face. To make it, he used PyEphem to plot the position of the brightest stars that were visible at the time and place of their first meeting. He then wrote a script to take those stars and convert their positions to G-Code the CNC could use to drill holes in the appropriate locations. The depth of the hole even corresponds to the magnitude (brightness) of each star, giving the chart a subtle 3D effect.

Unfortunately, [Colin] made a couple of mistakes during this build, to the point that he’s not exactly sure how to proceed. He mentions he might even be forced to start over from scratch. It’s hard to imagine how something that looks this good could ever end up being a failure, but the world of watch making is unkind.

To start with, he used 304 stainless instead of 303. This made machining the case much more difficult, and from his very first cut he realized it was going to be a problem. While it was an annoyance he mentions a couple times during the build log, he was at least was able to work through it.

The real problem came at the end, when he put the watch together. He originally made his designs assuming a front glass which was 0.5 mm thick, but in actuality used a piece that is 0.8 mm thick. This slight difference is just enough to cause the seconds hand to rub up on the glass, putting drag on the movement. The end result is that the battery dies extremely quickly, effectively rendering the watch useless.

We can’t imagine the heartbreak [Colin] felt when he realized what happened; we felt bad just reading about it. But given his track record, we have no doubt he’ll get the issue sorted out. It would be a shame to start over completely, but there’s some consolation in knowing it’s part of the learning process: you don’t become a master of your craft without making a couple mistakes along the way.

The predecessor to this watch was covered here at Hackaday last year, and made quite an impression. It’s interesting to see the improvements made between the two, and we’re certainly excited to see his next build.

PCB Production on the Sienci Mill One

A complete start to finish electronics prototyping workshop is nirvana for many of us: being able to go from design on the computer to real hardware without having to get up from your rolling chair. The falling prices of 3D printers have helped make at least part of this a reality: $200 USD is enough to get you a printer that can churn out decent looking enclosures. But there’s more to producing your own hardware than creating slick looking project boxes; at some point you’ll need to put some electronics in there.

For [Chuck Hellebuyck] at least, the last piece of the puzzle has just fallen into place. He’s recently put up a YouTube video describing how he converted his $399 Sienci Mill One into a capable PCB mill. With a 3D printer and this new PCB mill, he’s happy to say he can now go from concept to production all on the same workbench.

The Sienci Mill One is a solid enough mill in its own right but did need some modification to attain the accuracy necessary for cutting at a depth of only .9 mm. First, a block of wood was cut to the same size as the original plastic bed of the Sienci, and then the mill itself was used to drill holes through the wood block and plastic bed. The wood was attached to the bed using a nut and bolt in each corner, being sure to torque it down enough that the head of the bolt is pulled down flush with the surface of the wood.

Pulling the head of the bolts flush wasn’t just to keep the surface free of any snags, [Chuck] uses them in conjunction with a probe in the mill’s chuck as a simple way of adjusting the Z height. With a continuity meter attached between the two, he could lower the probe down until they were touching just enough to make a circuit.

Click through the break for the rest of the story!

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