I’ve noticed, lately, that slotted screw heads are all but gone on new equipment. The only thing that I find remarkable about that is that it took so long. While it is true that slotted heads have been around for ages, better systems are both common and have been around for at least a century.
The reason slotted heads — technically known as the drive — are so common is probably because they are very easy to make. A hacksaw is sufficient for the job and there are other ways to get there, too. The only advantages I know of for the user is that you can easily clean a slotted drive and — possibly — use field expedient items like butter knives and quarters to turn the screw. I’ve heard people claim that it also is a feature that the screwdriver can pry things like paint can lids, but that’s a feature of the tool, not the screw drive.
The disadvantages, though, are significant. It is very hard to apply lots of torque to a slotted screw drive without camming it out or snapping the head off the screw. The screwdriver isn’t self-centering either, so applying force off-axis is common and contributes to the problem.
If there’s one thing that woodworkers have always been good at, it’s coming up with clever jigs and work-holding solutions. Most jigs, however, are considerably simpler and more static than this CNC-controlled scroll saw add-on that makes cool wooden spirals a snap.
As interesting as the products of this setup are, what we like about this is the obvious care and craftsmanship [rschoenm] put into making what amounts to a hybrid between a scroll saw and a lathe. Scroll saws are normally used to make narrow-kerf cuts in thin, delicate materials, often with complicated designs using very tight radius turns. In this case, though, stock is held between centers on the lathe-like carriage. The jig uses a linear slide driven by a stepper and a lead screw to translate the workpiece perpendicular to the scroll saw blade while a geared headstock rotates it. Starting with the blade inserted into a through-hole, the saw slowly cuts a beautiful nested spiral down the length of the workpiece. An Uno, a GRBL shield, and some stepper drivers let a little G-code control the two axes of the jig.
The video below shows it in action; things do get a bit wobbly as the cut progresses, but in general the jig works wonderfully and results in some lovely pieces. At first we thought these would purely be objets d’art, but then we thought about this compression screw grinder for DIY injection molding machines and realized these wooden screws look pretty similar.
A Saturday afternoon. The work week was done, the household chores were wrapped up, and with almost a week left until Christmas, there was just enough wiggle room to deny that there was still a ton of work left to prepare for that event. It seemed like the perfect time to escape into the shop and knock out a quick project, one that has been on the back burner since at least March. I’m nothing if not skilled in the ways of procrastination.
This was to be a simple project — adding an aluminum plate to a plastic enclosure that would serve as an antenna entry point into my shack. Easy as pie — cut out an rectangle of aluminum, cut and drill a few holes, call it a day. Almost all of my projects start out that way, and almost every time I forget that pretty much every one of those builds goes off the rails at exactly the same point: when I realize that I don’t have the fasteners needed. That’s what happened with this build, which had been going swimmingly up to that point — no major screw-ups, no blood drawn. And so it was off to the hardware store I trundled, looking for the right fasteners to finish the job.
Finding hardware has long been where my productivity goes to die. Even though I live a stone’s throw from at least half a dozen stores, each with a vast selection of hardware and most open weekends and nights, the loss of momentum that results from changing from build-mode to procure-mode has historically been deadly to my projects. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has run into this issue, so the question is: what can a hacker do to prevent having to run out for just the right fasteners?
So you’ve built a fine kite, taken it to the beach, and let it ride the wind aloft on a spool of line. Eventually it has to come down, and the process of reeling all that line that was so easily paid out is likely a bigger chore than you care to face. What to do?
If you’re like [Matt Bilsky], the answer is simple: build a motorized kite reel to bring it back in painlessly. Of course what’s simple in conception is often difficult to execute, and as the second video below shows, [Matt] went through an extensive design and prototype phase before starting to create parts. Basic questions had to be answered, such as how much torque would be needed to reel in the kite, and what were the dimensions of a standard kite string reel. With that information and a cardboard prototype in hand, the guts of a cordless drill joined a bunch of 3D-printed parts to form the running gear. We really liked the research that went into the self-reversing screw used to evenly wind the string across the spool; who knew that someone could do a doctoral dissertation on yarn-winding? Check out the “Reeler-Inner” in action in the first, much shorter video below.
With some extra power left from the original drill battery, [Matt] feature-crept a bit with the USB charger port and voltmeter, but who can blame him? Personally, we’d have included a counter to keep track of how much line is fed out; something like this printer filament counter might work, as long as you can keep the sand out of it.
Ground plastic bits go in one end, finished 3D-prints come out the other. That’s the idea behind [HomoFaciens]’ latest build: a direct-extrusion 3D-printer. And like all of his builds, it’s made from scraps and bits most of us would throw out.
Take the extrusion screw. Like the homemade rotary encoders [HomoFaciens] is known for, it appears at first glance that there’s no way it could work. An early version was just copper wire wrapped around a threaded rod inside a Teflon tube; turned by a stepper motor, the screw did a decent job of forcing finely ground PLA from a hopper into the hot end, itself just a simple aluminum block with holes drilled into it. That worked, albeit only with basically powdered PLA. Later versions of the extruder used a plain galvanized woodscrew soldered to the end of a threaded rod, which worked with chunkier plastic bits. Paddles stir up the granules in the hopper for an even flow into the extruder, and the video below shows impressive results. We also picked up a few tips, like using engine gasket paper and exhaust sealant to insulate a hot end. And the slip coupling, intended to retract the extruder screw slightly to reduce stringing, seems brilliant but needs more work to make it practical.
There are usually two broad user interfaces for clocks. On the one hand you’ve got the dial clock, the default display for centuries, with its numbered face and spinning hands. The other mode is some form of digital clock, where the current time is displayed directly as alphanumeric characters. They’re both useful representations of time, but they both have their limits.
Here’s a third model — the linear clock. [Jan Derogee] came up with it thanks to the inspiration of somewhat dubious run-ins with other kinds of clocks; we feel like this introductory video was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Whatever the inspiration, we find this idea clever and well executed. The running gear of the clock is just a long piece of M6 threaded rod and a stepper motor. A pointer connected to a nut rides on the rod, moving as the stepper rotates it. There are scales flanking the vertical rod, with the morning hours going up the left side and afternoon hours coming down the right. The threaded rod rotates one way for twelve hours before switching to the other direction; when the rotation changes, the pointer automatically swivels to the right scale. For alarms, [Jan] has brass rods running along each scale that make contact with the pointer; when they encounter a sliding plastic insulator to break the contact, it triggers an alarm. An ESP8266 controls everything and plays the audio files for the alarm.
We recently posted about a spectacular 3D-printer fire that was thankfully caught and extinguished before spreading to the hacker’s house or injuring his family. Analyzing the remains of the printer, the hacker determined that the fire was caused when a loose grub screw let the extruder’s heater cartridge fall out and touch the ABS fan shroud. It ran full-on and set things on fire.
A number of us have similar 3D printers, so the comments for this article were understandably lively, but one comment stood out by listing a number of best practices for wiring, including the use of ferrules. In particular, many 3D printers connect the heated bed, which draws a lot of current, with screw terminals to the motherboard. While not the cause of the fire in the original post, melted terminal blocks are a common complaint with many DIY 3D printer kits, and one reason is that simply jamming thick stranded wire into a screw terminal and hoping for the best can result in increased resistance, and heat, at the joint. In such situations, the absolutely right thing to do is to crimp on a ferrule. So let’s talk about that.