Tools are a key part of any maker’s pursuit of their work. For most of us, our tools come from the local hardware store or are purchased online. Some prefer to craft their own, however, and [Uri Tuchman] is just one such person.
[Uri] starts at the absolute beginning, with a piece of unfinished rectangular stock. The workpiece is marked up, and the shape of the hammer head meticulously filed out by hand. The wooden handle is similarly prepared from raw stock with a combination of planes, chisels and files.
It may not be the fastest way to work, but careful hand craftsmanship is always impressive to watch. The build also showcases [Uri]’s talent at engraving, with the complex designs all carved out of the surface a millimeter at a time. [Uri] recommends enamel paint to highlight such works, for its rich color and the ease of removing excess paint.
We’re partial to musical instrument hacks around here, mainly because we find instruments to be fascinating machines. Few are more complex than the piano, and, as it turns out, few are quite so hackable. Still, we have to admit that this ragtime piano hack took us by surprise.
We always thought that the rich variety of tones that can be coaxed from a piano, from the tinny sound of an Old West saloon piano to the rich tones of a concert grand, were due mainly to the construction of the instrument and the way it’s played. Not so, apparently, as [Measured Workshop] demonstrated by installing a “mandolin rail” in a small upright piano. The instrument had seen better days, so step one was disassembly and cleaning. A wooden rail spanning the entire width of the string board was added, with a curtain of fabric draping down to the level of the hammers. The curtain was cut into a fringe in the same spacing as the hammers – marking the hammer locations with cornstarch was a nice trick – and metal clips were crimped to each fringe. The completed mandolin rail can be raised and lowered using a new foot pedal, completely changing the tone as the hammers hit the strings with the metal clips rather than their soft felt heads. It makes the piano sound a little like a harpsichord, or the aforementioned saloon instrument, and at the touch of a foot, it’s back to its original tone.
Most of the piano hacks we offer tend toward the electronic variety, so it’s nice to see a purely mechanical piano hack for a change. And if the hacked piano doesn’t work out as an instrument, you can always turn it into a workbench.
When [Leon van den Beukel] found a toy glockenspiel in a thrift store, he knew what had to be done – Arduinofy it. His first attempt was a single hammer on a pair of gimballed servos, which worked except for the poor sound quality coming from the well-loved toy. The fact that only one note at a time was possible was probably the inspiration for version two, which saw the tone bars removed from the original base, cleaned of their somewhat garish paint, and affixed to a new soundboard. The improved instrument was then outfitted with eight servos, one for each note, each with a 3D-printed arm and wooden mallet. An Arduino runs the servos, and an Android app controls the instrument via Bluetooth, because who doesn’t want to control an electronic glockenspiel with a smartphone app? The video below shows that it works pretty well, even if a few notes need some adjustment. And we don’t even find the servo noise that distracting.
Hammers! They’re good for knocking in nails, breaking things apart, and generally smashing up the joint, if you’re in such a mood. Typically, they’re made of iron or steel and come in a variety of sizes depending on the purpose — from tiny chipping hammers for delicate sculpture work, to the heavy-duty sledge for tearing through building materials. But what if you built your own comically large mallet? Enter UnMaker 2.0.
Basically, it’s a really big hammer. It’s vaguely reminiscent of a dead blow type design, in that it consists of a moderately shock-absorbing outer shell filled with heavier material. In this case, steel ball bearings find a home inside the shell made out of maple and with a traditional tapered handle. In many ways it’s quite a typical build — other than the fact of its gigantic size and 34-pound head weight. Both of these make it a shoe-in for the ACME catalog. That roadrunner won’t know what hit him.
[Kevin] reports that it is not so much “swung” as it is “raised and allowed to drop”, due to its impressive weight. Clearly, it packs a punch. It’s a solid follow-on from the group’s former work – a truly gigantic utility knife.
Any way you look at it, blacksmithing is a punishing trade. Heavy tools, a red-hot forge, flying sparks, and searing metal all exact a toll on the smith’s body unless precautions are taken. After proper safety equipment and good training, a blacksmith may want to invest is power hammer to replace at least some of the heavy hammer work needed to shape hot metal.
Power hammers aren’t cheap, though, which is why [70kirkster] built one from an old engine block. You’ve got to admire the junkyard feel of this thing; it’s almost nothing but scrap. The engine block is a straight-6 from an old Ford pickup stripped of everything but the crankshaft and one piston. An electric motor spins the crankshaft and moves the hammer against the anvil through connecting rods and a trip arm fashioned from a trailer leaf spring. Everything looks super solid and the hammer hits hard; the videos below tell the tale of the build and show the hammer in action. Not bad for $100 out-of-pocket.
I had a friend who was an electronics assembly tech for a big defense contractor. He was a production floor guy who had a chip on his shoulder for the engineers with their fancy book-learnin’ who couldn’t figure out the simplest problems. He claimed that one assembly wasn’t passing QC and a bunch of the guys in ties couldn’t figure it out. He sidled up to assess the situation and delivered his two-word diagnosis: “Bad crimp.” The dodgy connector was re-worked and the assembly passed, much to the chagrin of the guys in the short-sleeved shirts.
Aside from the object lesson in experience sometimes trumping education, I always wondered about that “bad crimp” proclamation. What could go wrong with a crimp to so subtly futz with a circuit that engineers were baffled? How is it that we can rely on such a simple technology to wire up so much of the modern world? What exactly is going on inside a crimped connection anyway?
It’s obvious this was a controversial product, and maybe the Hackaday verdict had been a little summary based on the hammer aspect of the story. So to get further into what all the fuss had been about I ordered a Pi Zero and the solderless pin kit to try for ourselves.