With temperatures dropping in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the time of year when many people start processing firewood for the coming winter months. For the city folks, that means chopping a tree into logs, and then splitting those logs into something small enough to fit in your wood stove. You can do it all with hand tools, but if you’ve got big enough logs, a powered splitter is a worthy investment.
Early on it seemed like [Workshop From Scratch] was putting together a fairly simple log splitter, which in the most basic form is nothing more complex than a hydraulic cylinder pushing a log against a triangular piece of metal. But then he starts layering on the special features, such as the small hydraulic cylinder that can raise and lower the splitter’s fearsome looking blade.
There’s also the ladder-like feeder mechanism, which prevents the user from having to lift the log onto the machine manually; just stop the log between the rungs, and let the hydraulics raise the ramp and send the log rolling towards the machine’s hungry maw.
Corralling electrons is great and what most of us are pretty good at, but the best projects have some kind of interface to the real world. Often, that involves some sort of fluid such as water or air moving through pipes. If you don’t grasp hydraulics intuitively, [Practical Engineering] has a video you’ll enjoy. It explains how flow and pressure work in pipes.
Granted, not every project deals with piping, but plumbing, sprinkler systems, cooling systems, and even robotics often have elements of hydraulics. In addition, as the video points out, fluid flow in a pipe is very similar to electrical current flowing through wires.
A press can be one of the most useful additions to a workshop, once you have one you will wonder how you ever coped beforehand when it came to all manner of pressing in and pushing out tasks. An arbor press with a big lever and ratchet is very quick to use, while a hydraulic press gives much higher pressure but is extremely slow. [The Buildist] missed out on an arbor press, so turned his eye to improving the speed of his hydraulic one. The solution came from an unexpected source, an airless paint sprayer that had come his way because its valves were gummed up with paint.
An airless paint sprayer is simply a high pressure pump that supplies paint to a nozzle, and that pump is easily repurposed to pump oil instead of paint. Testing revealed it could produce a pressure of 3000 PSI, which would be plenty to move the hydraulic jack even if the hand pump would be needed to finish the job when higher force was required.
What follows over two videos is a masterclass in hydraulic jacks, as he strips down the jack from his press, and modifies it not only to take an input from the pump, but also to run inverted by the addition of an oil reservoir pick-up pipe. Along the way we learn a few useful gems such as the fact that a grease gun pipe is the same as a hydraulic pipe, but much cheaper.
The result is a jack that extends quickly, and has the pressure to do most pressing tasks without the hand assistance. He crushes a drinks can for effect, then pinches the end of a piece of pipe, because given a press, why wouldn’t you! Take a look at both videos below the break.
Hydraulic components are the industrial power transmission version of LEGO. Pumps, cylinders, valves – pretty much everything is standardized, and fitting out a working system is a matter of picking the right parts and just plumbing everything together. That’s fine if you want to build an excavator or a dump truck, but what if you want to scale things down?
Miniature hydraulic systems need miniature components, of which this homebrew hydraulic valve made by [TinC33] is a great example. (Video embedded below.) If you’re curious about why anyone would need these, check out the tiny hydraulic cylinders he built a while back, wherein you’ll learn that miniature RC snowplows are a thing. The video below starts with a brief but clear explanation about how hydraulic circuits work, as well as an explanation of the rotary dual-action proportional valve he designed. All the parts are machined by hand in the lathe from aluminum and brass stock. The machining operations are worth watching, but if you’re not into such things, skip to final assembly and testing at 13:44. The valve works well, providing very fine control of the cylinder and excellent load holding, and there’s not a leak to be seen. Impressive.
[TinC33] finishes the video with a tease of a design for multiple valves in a single body. That one looks like it might be an interesting machining challenge, and one we’d love to see.
It’s a sad day when one of the simplest and generally most reliable tools in the shop – the bench vise – gives up the ghost. With just a pair of beefy castings and a heavy Acme screw, there’s very little to go wrong with a vise, but when it happens, why not take it as an opportunity to make your own? And, why not eschew the screw and go hydraulic instead?
That’s the path [Darek] plotted when his somewhat abused vise reached end-of-life with an apparently catastrophic casting failure. His replacement is completely fabricated from steel bar and channel stock, much of it cut on his nifty plasma cutter track. The vice has a fixed base and rear jaw, with a moving front jaw. Hiding inside is a 5-ton single-acting hydraulic cylinder. A single acting cylinder won’t open the vise on its own, so [Darek] came up with a clever return mechanism: a pair of gas springs from a car trunk.
With a pair of hardened steel jaws, some modifications to the power cylinder to allow foot operation, and a spiffy paint job, the vise was ready for service. Check out the build in the video below; we’re impressed with the power the vise has, and hands-free operation is an unexpected bonus.
Yes, most people buy vises, but from the small to the large, it’s nice to see them built from scratch too.
Fair warning that [Freerk Wieringa]’s videos documenting his giant non-electric robot build are long. We’ve only watched the first two episodes and the latest installment so far, all of which are posted after the break. Consider it an investment to watch a metalworking artist undertake an incredible build.
The first video starts with the construction of the upper arm of the robot. Everything is fabricated using simple tools; the most sophisticated tools are a lathe and a TIG welder. As the arm build proceeds we see that there are no electronic controls to be found. Control is through hydraulic cylinders in a master-slave setup; the slave opens a pneumatic valve attached to the elbow of the arm, which moves the lower arm until the valve closes and brings the forelimb to a smooth stop. It’s a very clever way of providing feedback without the usual sensors and microcontrollers. And the hand that goes at the end of the arm is something else, too, with four fingers made from complex linkages, all separately actuated by cylinders of their own. The whole arm looks to be part of a large robot, probably about 3 or 4 meters tall. At least we hope so, and we hope we get to see it by the end of the series.
These Fluid Displacement Thermal Actuators designed by [Andrew Benson] are a delightful and profoundly different approach to the Power Harvesting Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize. While most projects were focused on electrical power, [Andrew]’s design is essentially a mechanical motor that harnesses the fact that Phase Change Materials (PCMs) change volume when they go from liquid to solid or vice-versa; that property is used to provide a useful hydraulic force. In short, it’s a linear actuator that retracts and expands as the PCM freezes or melts. By choosing a material with melting and freezing temperatures that are convenient for the operating environment, an actuator can be reliably operated virtually for free. A proof of concept is the device shown here; a model of a sun-shade that deploys when a certain temperature is reached and retracts when it has cooled.
Turning temperature changes into useful physical work is the principle behind things like wax motors and even some self-winding clocks, but what [Andrew] has done is devise a useful method of interfacing directly to the fluids; abstracting away the materials themselves in order to provide mechanical power on the other end. These devices, in general, may not be particularly efficient but they have very few moving parts, are astonishingly reliable, and can operate at virtually any scale. [Andrew] has been thinking big, many of his application ideas are architectural in nature.
[Andrew] was inspired to enter his design for The Hackaday Prize, and we’re glad he did because it was selected as one of the finalists in the Power Harvesting Challenge, and will be in the running for the $50,000 Grand Prize. If you also have an idea waiting for an opportunity to shine, now is the time. The Human-Computer Interface Challenge is up next, followed by the Musical Instrument Challenge. All you really need to enter is a documented concept, so sharpen your pencils and give your idea a shot at reaching the next level.