Hacked Calipers Make Automated Measurements A Breeze

Now, digital calipers with wired interfaces to capture the current reading are nothing new. But the good ones are expensive, and really, where’s the fun in plugging a $75 cable into a computer? So when [Max Holliday] was asked to trick out some calipers for automating data capture, he had to get creative.

[Max] found that cheap Harbor Freight digital calipers have the telltale door that covers a serial connector, making them a perfect target for hacking. A little Internet sleuthing revealed the pinout for the connector as well as some details on the serial protocol used by most digital calipers: 24-bit packets is six four-bit words. [Max] used his SAM32, a neat open-source board with both a SAMD51 and an ESP32 that can run CircuitPython. An inverting buffer interfaces the serial lines to the board, which is just the right size to mount on the back of the caliper head. It’s hard to tell how [Max] is triggering readings, but the SAM32 is mounted as a USB device and sends keystrokes directly to a spreadsheet – yes, with the ESP32 it could have been wireless, but his client specifically requested a wired setup. Taking multiple readings is easy now that the user never has to swap calipers for a pen.

Cheap calipers like these are pretty hackable – you can add Bluetooth, turn them into DROs for a milling machine, or even make them talk.

Automatic Cut-Off Saw Takes The Tedium Out Of A Twenty-Minute Job

For [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle], the question was simple: Do I spend 20 minutes slaving away in front of a bandsaw to cut a bunch of short brass rods into even shorter pieces of brass rod? Or do I spend days designing and building an automatic cutoff saw to do the same job? The answer is obvious.

It’s only at the end of the video below that [TCME] reveals the need for these brass bits: they’re for riveting together the handles of knives he makes and sells. That makes the effort that went into his “Auto Mega Cut-O-Matic” a little easier to swallow, although we still think he ran afoul of this relevant XKCD. The saw is built out of scraps and odd bits using angle iron as a base and an electric die grinder to spin a cut-off wheel. A small gear motor feeds the brass rod down a guide tube until it hits a microswitch stop, which starts the cut cycle. Another motor swivels the saw to make the cut then moves it out of the way so the stock can advance. The impressive thing is that the only control mechanism is a series of microswitches, cams, levers, and springs  – no Arduino needed. Heck, there’s not even a 555, which we find a refreshing change.

Yes, it’s overkill, but he had fun and made something pretty ingenious. [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] always has something interesting going on in the shop, and we couldn’t help but notice him using his aluminum-melting tea kettle to make some parts for this build.

Continue reading “Automatic Cut-Off Saw Takes The Tedium Out Of A Twenty-Minute Job”

Tiny Forklift Makes Unusable Space Usable

Houses with crawlspaces are fairly common in some geographic regions. The crawlspace can make it easier to access things like plumbing and electrical wiring, and can even be used as storage in homes that don’t (or can’t) have a basement. Along with improved building ventilation, these some of the perks compared to homes built on a solid slab of concrete. These crawlspaces aren’t exactly easy to get around in, though, but [Dave] has an easier way to get stuff in and out of these useful, but small, spaces.

Enter the crawl space forklift. Made with largely off-the-shelf components, the robot includes a few standard motors and linear actuators to move around and operate the front fork. That’s all pretty standard, but this build really shines with its use of FPV camera, monitor, and transmitter that allow the pilot to navigate the robot in the small space using remote control. For those safety-conscious among us, there is also a fire extinguisher ball on board which self-activates in case the robot catches on fire under his house.

This is a great, high-quality build that shows how common parts can make something revolutionary with the right idea. Identifying a problem and then building a solution, while not forgetting to spring for some safety equipment, can really make a difference even with something as simple as unoccupied space in a home. They can tackle tasks around the home, too.

Continue reading “Tiny Forklift Makes Unusable Space Usable”

Printed It: Parametric Hex Key Holder

Desktop 3D printing is an incredible technology to be sure, but it’s not a cure-all. If you’re interested in making something in large numbers, or if production speed is a concern, 3D printing probably isn’t what you’re looking for. But on the flip side, if you want to make a few highly specialized or customized objects, desktop 3D printing represents an absolute revolution in capability for the individual hacker and maker.

In our ongoing mission to prove that desktop 3D printing isn’t just a novelty, we keep a close eye out for printable objects which play to the strengths of the technology. You won’t find any benchmarks or dust collectors here; everything featured in Printed It is a bona fide practical object. An ideal entry into this series is something that you wouldn’t need to print more than a few times, isn’t easily sourced or made via traditional means, and if possible, offers some form of customization which makes it more suitable to the individual’s needs than what’s commercially available.

Not every object we feature hits all of these marks, but this parametric hex key holder designed by [Daniel Leitner] absolutely does. This object was created to address a problem that we imagine most Hackaday readers share: taming an ever-growing collection of hex keys. What’s more, this design is something of an open source success story. It’s an idea that passed through the hands of multiple community members, becoming more refined and functional as it went. Even if you don’t personally need to wrangle some unruly hex keys, this object is a fascinating look at how 3D printing and the community that has sprouted up around it is truly evolving the process of going from concept to execution.

Continue reading “Printed It: Parametric Hex Key Holder”

Woodworker Goes From 3D-Printing Skeptic To Believer

If there’s one place where the old ways of doing things live a longer life than you’d otherwise expect, it’s the woodshop. Woodworkers have a way of stubbornly sticking to tradition, and that usually works out fine. But what does it take to change a woodworker’s mind about a tool that seems to have little role in the woodshop: the 3D-printer?

That’s the question [Marius Hornberger] asked himself, and at least for him, there are a lot of woodworking gadgets that can be 3D-printed. [Marius] began his journey into additive manufacturing three years ago as a skeptic, not seeing how [Benchy] and friends could be of any value to his endeavors. But as is often the case with a tool that can build almost anything, all it takes is a little ingenuity to get started. His first tool was a pair of soft jaws for his bench vise. This was followed by a flood of useful doodads, including a clever center finder for round and square stock, custom panels for electrical switches, and light-duty pulleys for some of the machines he likes to build. But [Marius] obviously has an issue with dust, because most of his accessories have to do with helping control it in the shop. The real gem of this group is the hose clamp for spiral-reinforced vacuum hose; standard band clamps don’t fit well on those, but his clamps have an offset that straddles the wire for a neat fit. Genius!

[Marius] has kindly made all his models available on Thingiverse, so feel free to dig in and start kitting out your shop. Once you do maybe you can start building cool things like his all-wood scissors lift.

Continue reading “Woodworker Goes From 3D-Printing Skeptic To Believer”

A Scratch-Built Drill Press Vise From Scrap

Never underestimate the importance of fixturing when you’re machining parts. No matter what the material, firmly locking it down is the key to good results, and may be the difference between a pleasant afternoon in the shop and a day in the Emergency Room. Flying parts and shattered tooling are no joke, but a lot of times quality commercial solutions are expensive and, well, commercial.  So this scratch-built drill press vise is something the thrifty metalworker may want to consider.

To be sure, [Ollari’s] vise, made as it is almost completely from scrap angle iron, is no substitute for a vise made from precision ground castings. But it’s clear that he has taken great care to keep everything as square and true as possible, and we give him full marks for maximizing his materials. And his tools — nothing more complicated than a MIG welder is used, and most of the fabrication is accomplished with simple hand tools. We like the way he built up sturdy profiles by welding strap stock across the legs of the angle iron used for the jaws, to give them a strong triangular cross-section to handle the clamping force. And using the knurled end of an old socket wrench as the handle was inspired; we’ll certainly be filing that idea away for a rainy day in the shop. Although we might use Acme rather than plain threaded rod.

We always enjoy seeing someone fabricate their own tools, and this one reminds us a bit of the full-size bench vise built up from layers of welded steel we featured a while back. It even looks a little like this 3D-printed vise, too.

Continue reading “A Scratch-Built Drill Press Vise From Scrap”

Restoring A 100 Year Old Vice To Pristine Condition

We love our vices. They hold pipes for us to saw away at, wood while we carve, and circuit boards so that we can solder on components. So we keep them in shape by cleaning and greasing them every now and then, [MakeEverything] went even further. He found a 100-year-old vice that was in very rough shape and which was going to be thrown out and did a beautiful restoration job on it.

It was actually worse than in rough shape. At some point, one of the jaws had been replaced by welding on a piece of rebar where the jaw would normally go. So he made entirely new jaws from solid brass as well as the pins to hold them firmly in place. We applaud his attention to detail. After removing all the old paint and corrosion, he painted it with a “hammered” spray paint to give it a nice hammered look. Though when he made the raised letters stand out by applying gold paint to them using an oil-based paint marker, we felt that was just showing off. The result is almost too gorgeous to use, but he assures us he will use it. You can see his process, as well as have a good look at the newly revived vice in the video below.

Continue reading “Restoring A 100 Year Old Vice To Pristine Condition”