Anyone who’s tried to encapsulate something in epoxy resin knows how much of a hassle air bubbles can be. If you’re trying to get a perfectly clear finish, the last thing you want is a bunch of microscopic bubbles frozen in time. The best way to prevent this is to put the parts in a vacuum chamber so all the air works its way out before the epoxy cures, but that’s a considerable investment for a one-off project.
But assuming your parts are small enough, [Jasper Sikken] has a great tip that allows you to construct a simple vacuum chamber for just a few dollars. He shows his homemade chamber off in the video after the break, and we think you’ll agree that the change between before and after is pretty dramatic. The best part is that if you want to build your own version, you only need two parts.
The first one is a airtight container large enough to hold the piece you’re working on. Remember that the larger the chamber is the more time it will take to pump down to a suitable vacuum, so avoid the temptation to use something larger than necessary. [Jasper] used a glass jar with a locking lid, which is not only cheap and readily available, but has a decently large internal volume.
Obviously, the second component is the vacuum pump itself. This might normally be a tall order, but [Jasper] recently found that you can buy small battery-powered gadgets designed for sucking the air out of food containers for as little as $5 USD from the usual import sites. All you need to do is pop a hole in the lid of your container, hold the device over the hole, and watch the magic.
Don’t write off your weird ideas — turn them into reality. For years, woodworkers have used pen bodies as a canvas for showing off beautiful wood. But what’s the fun in that? [JPayneWoodworking] made a pen out of Ramen noodles just to see if he could.
The process is pretty straightforward, as he explains in the build video after the break. He hammered the uncooked noodle mass into pieces small enough to fit a pen blank mold, but not so small that they’re unrecognizable. Then he poured in pigmented epoxy in orange, silver, and black. [JPayneWoodworking] chose those colors for Halloween, but rather than looking freaky, we think it makes the pen look like a bowl of beef broth-y goodness from a fancy Ramen place.
After adding the flavor packet pigments, he put it in a pressure tank to remove all air pockets. Once it sets up, the process is the same as any other pen blank — take it for a spin on the lathe, polish it up, ream it out, and fit it with the parts from a pen kit. We’d like to see the look on the face of the next person to ask [JPayneWoodworking] for a pen.
Want to get into woodworking just to make weird stuff like this? We don’t blame you. But how does a hardware hacker such as yourself get started? [Dan Maloney]’s got you covered.
A few years ago a fad ripped through the makersphere where people would build cheap, solar powered LED blinkers, glue a magnet to them, and throw them on anything metal. It was an interesting time, but luckily did not last for too long. With some effort and craftsmanship, though, the solar throwie idea can be turned into something more elegant, though, such as this solar harvesting blinking gadget.
Like its predecessors, the device itself behaves simply, although this one is equipped with a small supercapacitor which can run the device for 8 hours without sun. It has a small solar panel which can charge the capacitor in five minutes, and from there the LEDs inside simply blink. The quality shows in the final packaging, as [Jasper] has taken to encasing them in epoxy shapes such as pyramids, for a nice paperweight or tchotchke. It is also noteworthy because of Jasper’s test device; since he is mass producing them he needed something to test each board for functionality before encasing them in the epoxy, and he built a small pen tester specifically for them too.
While the build is pretty straightforward, anyone looking to enclose a simple circuit in epoxy without bubbles or other problems might want to check this one out. It would also be a good platform for building other throwie-like projects on top of. In the past they didn’t just blink lights but also did things like run small Linux servers.
If there’s one thing that’s universally popular in these polarizing times, it’s colorful glowing objects. LEDs reign supreme in this area, and we’re accustomed to seeing all manner of fun flashy devices hit the tips line. Today is no different, and we’ve been looking at [Modustrial Maker]’s stylish epoxy LED cube.
The build starts with the casting of a black epoxy cube, with a cutout near the top in which the LEDs will be installed. A melamine form is used, with aluminium foil tape, caulk and paste wax to help seal it up. After releasing the cast from the form, there were some unsightly voids which were swiftly dispatched, by trimming the block down with a table saw. With the block cut to size, LED strips were installed, and the light cavity sealed with hot glue before white epoxy was poured in as a diffuser. All that’s left was a simple matter of polishing the cube and installing electronics.
The cube runs from a single-cell LiPo battery, and there’s a wireless power receiver and charging module to keep the power flowing. The cube can be used on most wireless phone chargers, as well as its own dedicated charging base. The LEDs are controlled by an off-the-shelf module, which offers a variety of flashing displays as well as a music-reactive mode.
While the electronics side is done with off-the-shelf parts, the real art in this piece is in the build of the cube. Its glossy, attractive form would look stunning on any coffee table or bedside shelf.
If you want a big CNC machine you need a strong, vibration-resistant base. They build bells out of metal, so that might not be the best if you want something that doesn’t shake. Epoxy granite is your best bet, but what epoxy granite is the best? That’s the question [Adam Bender] answered in a series of experiments that resulted in a great-looking CNC machine.
While this is a project that resulted in a completed base for a CNC machine, this is also an experiment to determine the best formula for creating your own epoxy granite. The purpose of the experiment is effectively to determine the best-looking epoxy granite and uses four variables in the composition of this composite. Play sand, gravel, dye (in the form of iron oxide and liquid epoxy dye), and two-part epoxy were used to create seven different samples. Samples using rock didn’t turn out that great and still had trapped air. This was true even if the epoxy was put in a vacuum chamber for degassing. The winning combination turned out to be a mix of 80% sand and 20% epoxy with a bit of black dye, vibrated for 30 minutes on a DIY shaker table.
With the correct formula for epoxy granite, [Adam] set up his mold and waxed everything liberally. The internal skeleton, or what the CNC machine will be bolted to, is assembled inside the mold and the epoxy is poured in. The result is fantastic, and an excellent base for a machine that turns metal into chips. You can check out the video below.
The build is one that could be readily achieved in any decently equipped makerspace. [John] used lasercut steel parts to construct the molds for the epoxy base, with some custom turned parts as well. The precision cut parts fit together with great accuracy, and with proper control of the casting process there is minimal post-processing of the final cast piece required. The mold is built with zero draft angle, and is designed to be taken apart to remove the finished pieces. By using steel, the same mold can be used many times, though [John] notes that MDF could be used for a one-off build.
The base is cast in epoxy, mixed with granite aggregate and sand to create a strong, heavy, and vibration damping material. There are also steel reinforcements cast in place consisting of threaded rods, and conduits for various electrical connections. After casting, [John] has spent much time measuring and truing up the mill to ensure the best possible results from the outset.
The keyboard and mouse are great, we’re big fans. But for some tasks, such as seeking around in audio and video files, a rotary encoder is a more intuitive way to get the job done. [VincentMakes] liked the idea of having a knob he could turn to adjust his system volume or move forward and backwards through a stream in VLC, but he also wanted to be able to repeatedly enter keyboard commands with it; something commercial offerings apparently weren’t able to do.
So he decided to build his own USB knob that not only looks fantastic, but offers the features he couldn’t find anywhere else. It’s another project which proves that DIY projects don’t have to look DIY. In fact, they can often give their commercial counterparts a run for their money. But this “Infinity USB Knob” isn’t just a pretty face, it allows the user to do some very interesting things such as quickly undo and redo changes to see how they compare.
As you might imagine, the electronics for this project aren’t terribly complex. The main components are the Adafruit Trinket M0 microcontroller and the EC11 rotary encoder itself. To provide nice visual feedback he added in a NeoPixel ring, but that’s not strictly necessary if you’re trying to rig this up yourself. Though we have to say the lighting effects are a big part of what makes this build look so good.
Though certainly not the only part. The aluminum enclosure, combined with the home theater style knob on the encoder, really give the finished product a professional look. We especially like his method of drilling out the top of the case and filling in the holes with epoxy to create easy and durable LED diffusers. Something to keep in mind for your next control panel build, perhaps.
[VincentMakes] has done an excellent job of documenting the hardware and software sides of this build on Hackaday.io, and gives the reader enough information that replicating this project should be pretty straightforward for anyone who’s interested. While we’ve seen several rotary encoder peripherals for the computer in the past, we have to admit this is one of the most compelling yet from a visual and usability standpoint. If this build doesn’t make you consider adding a USB knob to your arsenal, nothing will.