Cutting Wit And Plastic

If you have ever used a scalpel to cut something tougher than an eraser, you can appreciate a hot knife or better yet, an ultrasonic cutter. Saws work too, but they have their own issues. [This Old Tony] uses a hobby store tool to cut some plastic and wood, then demos a commercial ultrasonic cutter to show how a blade can sail through with less brute force. The previous requires some muscle, finesse, and eventually a splash of Bactine antiseptic. The video can also be seen after the break.

This is more than a tool review, [Tony] takes it apart with a screwdriver and offers his snarky comments. On the plus side is that it cuts polystyrene well where a regular knife won’t do more than scratch or shatter it. Meanwhile in the negative category we don’t hear a definitive price, but they seem to cost half as much as his mini-lathe. If you need an estimated return on investment, consider the price of two-thousand X-acto blades, but you may also wish to factor in the reduced hand calluses. While you are shopping, maybe also think about a set of earplugs; when the video gets to 17:30 he tries to cut a ceramic fitting and manages to make a child-deafening screech instead. We warned you.

This is a fitting follow-up to his unsuccessful attempt to turn an ultrasonic cleaner into an ultrasonic cutter, but we have seen success converting a tooth scaler into a cutter.

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Take a Mini Lathe for a Spin

[This Old Tony] is no stranger to quality tools, but he started on a mini lathe. Nostalgia does not stop him from broadcasting his usual brand of snark (actually, it is doubtful that anything short of YouTube going offline will stop that). He rates the lathe’s ability to machine different materials and lets you decide if this is an investment, or a money pit.

Lathe parts range from a chintzy start/stop button assembly that looks like it would be at home on a Power Wheels restoration project to a convenient cam locking mechanism on the tail stock which is an improvement on the lathe with which our narrator learned. We see the speed tested and promptly disproved as marketing hoopla unless you allow for a 40% margin of error. It uses a 500 watt DC motor, so don’t try correcting for mains power frequency differences. The verdict on the lead screw and thread dial is that you get what you pay for and this is demonstrated by painstakingly cutting threads into aluminum. Finally, we see torture tests on cold rolled steel.

Maybe someone from the mini lathe community will stop by with their two-cents. If you appreciate this introduction to lathes, consider [This Old Tony]’s guide to CNC machines or injection molding. But for us, [Quinn Dunki’s] series of machine tools has been a real treat this year.

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Modified F Clamp is Wheely Good

Sometimes, a job is heavy, messy, or unwieldy, and having an extra pair of hands to help out makes the job more than twice as easy. However, help isn’t always easy to find. Faced with this problem, [create] came up with an ingenious solution to help move long and heavy objects without outside assistance.

Simple, and effective.

The build starts with a regular F-clamp  – a familiar tool to the home woodworker. The clamp is old and worn, making it the perfect candidate for some experimentation. First off, the handle is given a good sanding to avoid the likelihood of painful splinters. Then, the top bar is drilled and tapped, and some threaded rod fitted to act as an axle. A polyurethane wheel from a children’s scooter is then fitted, and held in place with a dome nut.

The final product is a wheel that can be clamped to just about anything, making it easier to move. [create] demonstrates using the wheelclamp to move a long piece of lumber, but we fully expect to see these on the shelf of Home Depot in 12 months for moving furniture around the house. With a few modifications to avoid marring furniture, these clamps could be a removalist’s dream.

While you’re busy hacking your tools, check out these useful bar clamps, too. Video after the break.

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From SPIDriver to I2CDriver

Communicating with microcontrollers and other embedded systems requires a communications standard. SPI is a great one, and is commonly used, but it’s not the only one available. There’s also I2C which has some advantages and disadvantages compared to SPI. The problem with both standards, however, is that modern computers don’t come with either built-in. To solve that problem and allow easier access to debugging in SPI, [James Bowman] built the SPIDriver a few months ago, and is now back by popular demand with a similar device for I2C, the I2CDriver.

Much like the SPIDriver, the I2C driver is a debugging tool that can be used at your computer with a USB interface. Working with I2C is often a hassle, with many things going on all at once that need to sync up just right in order to work at all, and this device allows the user to set up I2C devices in a fraction of the time. To start, it has a screen built in that shows information about the current device, like the signal lines and a graphical decoding of the current traffic. It also shows an address space map, and has programmable pullup resistors built in, and can send data about the I2C traffic back to its host PC for analysis.

The I2CDriver is also completely open source, from the hardware to the software, meaning you could build one from scratch if you have the will and the parts, or make changes to the code on your own to suit your specific needs. If you’re stuck using SPI still, though, you can still find the original SPIDriver tool to help you with your debugging needs with that protocol as well.

Pocket High Voltage Generator Becomes Great Test Tool

[The LED Artist] often found a need for a relatively high voltage (100 to 200 Volt) but low current DC power supply, and it turns out that a small HV generator that uses a single AA cell only took about an hour to make. The device ended up being a pretty handy tool for testing things like LED filaments (which have a forward voltage of over 60 V), or even neon and nixie tubes.

The device’s low current means that nixie and neon elements won’t light up very brightly, but they will light up enough to verify function and operation. [The LED Artist] reports that touching the output terminals of the generator only causes a slight tingling sensation.

Open-circuit voltage generated from a single AA cell is about 200 V, but that voltage drops rapidly under any kind of load. Even regular LEDs can be safely lit with the circuit, with less than a milliamp being supplied at the two to three volts at which most regular LEDs operate.

[The LED Artist] fit the device into a two-AA battery holder, with a single AA cell on one side and the circuit in the other, and says it’s one of the more useful tools they’ve ever made. LED filaments are fairly common nowadays, but if they intrigue you, don’t forget that [Mike Harrison] covered everything you need to know about experimenting with them.

Damaged Power Cord Repaired With Shop-Made Mold

We’ve likely all seen a power tool with a less-than-functional strain relief at one end of the power cord or the other. Fixing the plug end is easy, but at the tool end things are a little harder and often not worth the effort compared to the price of just replacing the tool. There’s no obsolescence like built-in obsolescence.

But in the land of Festo, that high-quality but exorbitantly priced brand of premium tools, the normal cost-benefit relationship of repairs is skewed. That’s what led [Mark Presling] to custom mold a new strain relief for a broken Festool cord. The dodgy tool is an orbital sander with Festool’s interchangeable “Plug It” type power cord, which could have been replaced for the princely sum of $65. Rather than suffer that disgrace, [Mark] built a mold for a new strain relief from two pieces of aluminum. The mold fits around the cord once it has been slathered with Sugru, a moldable adhesive compound. The video below shows the mold build, which has some interesting tips for the lathe, and the molding process itself. The Sugru was a little touchy about curing, but in the end the new strain relief looks almost like an original part.

Hats off to [Presser] for not taking the easy way out, and for showing off some techniques that could really help around the shop. We suppose the mold could have been 3D-printed rather than machined; after all, we’ve seen such molds before, and that 3D-printed dies can be robust enough to punch metal parts.

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3D Printed Radius Gauge, Just Add Calipers (And A Wee Bit Of Math)

With 3D printed arms of fixed measurements, the depth reading from a set of digital calipers can be used to calculate the radius of a curve.

Specialized tools that focus on one particular job tend to get distilled right down to their essentials and turned in an economical consumer product. One example of this is radius (or fillet) gauges: a set of curves in different sizes that one uses to measure the radius of a curved surface by trial and error. To some, such products represent solved problems. Others see opportunities for a fresh perspective, like this caliper-enabled 3D printed radius gauge by [Arne Bergkvist].

[Arne]’s 3D printed radius gauge is a simple object; a rigid attachment for a nearly ubiquitous model of digital caliper. By placing the curve to be measured between the two arms of the device and using the depth measurement of the caliper to measure distance to the curve’s surface, a simple calculation (helpfully printed on the unit itself) of radius = distance * 2.414 reveals the radius of the curve. However, this shortened calculation makes a number of assumptions and only works for [Arne]’s specific design.

Another version by [Fredrik Welander] represents a more flexible take on the same concept. His RadGauge design (pictured up top) has a few different sizes to accommodate a variety of objects, and his Git repository provides a calculator tool as well as some tips on fine tuning to allow for variations in the dimensions of the printed attachment.

3D printing has opened a lot of doors, and items like this show that the plastic doodads created aren’t always the end result in and of themselves; sometimes they are the glue that enables a tool or part to work in a different way. To help get the most out of 3D printing, check out the in-depth coverage of how to best tap 3D printed parts for fasteners, and [Roger Cheng]’s guide to using 3D printed brackets and aluminum extrusion to make just about anything.