Shop-Made Fixture Turns Out Dream Welds

You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep, and you can tell a lot about a craftsman by the tools and jigs he or she builds. Whether for one-off jobs or long-term use, these ad hoc tools, like this tubing rotator for a welding shop, help deliver results beyond the ordinary.

What we appreciate about [Delrin]’s tool is not how complex it is — with just a motor from an old satellite dish and a couple of scooter wheels, it’s anything but complicated. What we like is that to fabricate some steering links, each of which required three passes of TIG welding to attach a threaded bung to the end of a rod, [Delrin] took the time to build just the tool for the job. The tools slowly rotates the rod, letting the welder keep the torch in one position as the workpiece moves under it. The grounding method is also simple but clever — just a wide strap of braid draped over the rod. The result is some of the prettiest and most consistent welds we’ve seen in a while, and with an order for 28 steering links, it ought to be a huge time saver.

It may be time for a little more TIG welding love around here. Sure, we’ve covered the basics of oxy-acetylene welding, and even talked about brazing aluminum. Perhaps your humble Hackaday writer will take the plunge into a new TIG welder and report from a newbie’s perspective. You know, for science.

[via r/welding]

The Most Useless Tools You Can’t Seem to Part With

I’m a tool person. No matter how hard I try, I eventually end up with a bunch of tools that I just can’t bear to banish from my workshop. Why? I’m gonna keep it 100%: it’s the same emotion behind hoarding — fearing that you might need a thing later and not be able to have it.

The stuff costs money, and if you have to script to buy a bunch of tools pertaining to Project X, you expect to still have and probably need those very same tools — even if they have to sit in a box on my shelf for 20 years, taunting me every time I have to move it to one side.  “Heat-bending element” the box’s label describes at tool I haven’t used in at least 5 years. I have a bunch of these white elephants. I’ll probably need to heat-bend acrylic real soon… yeah.

I’ve found that pretty much everyone in our crowd can relate. You buy a special tool for one project and it was expensive and tremendously helpful, and since then it’s been sitting around uselessly. You certainly couldn’t part with it, what if you needed it again? So you store it in your house for 20 years, occasionally coming across it when looking for something else, but it never actually gets used.

Join me now in a walk down our memory lane of useless tools.

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Ask Hackaday: What Tools Do You Reach For First?

Let’s face it, in your workshop there are convenient tools, and there are quality tools, but so often they aren’t both. Think back to the tools you reach for first. Very often for me, speed and convenience win out. I don’t want to look too hard for that drill or saw, and want them to work as expected when I reach for them. At the same time, there are some tools that simply must be stored away, and can’t perch on my workbench forever or sit on a shelf.

It really is a balancing act sometimes. I don’t have a sure fire formula for when to break out the expensive tools, and what jobs are easy with the less expensive. I’ll lay out some of my most-often utilized tools in my arsenal, then I want to hear from you on your own faves.

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Laser-Cut Modular Toolbox

[ystoelen] created this modular wooden toolbox out of laser-cut 5mm plywood secured with leather hinges bolted into place. The leather strips secure the various tool boards with grommets connecting to plastic plugs. The toolboards use cross-shaped holes with laser-cut plugs and strips of elastic securing the tools, allowing each board to be uniquely configured depending on what tool is being stored there. There is a larger, “main” board, onto which smaller boards can be placed depending on what tools you’ll need.

While this is a clever approach to tool transport, we have some concerns about this project. Usually the problem with a box full of tools is that you’ve overloaded it and can’t readily lift it up. Often this involves a steel toolbox that won’t break, no matter what happens. But a plywood construct isn’t nearly that strong, and if overloaded or dropped it’s gonna take some damage.

For more toolbox inspirations, read our posts on a machine shop in a toolbox as well as this Transformers-themed portable workbench.

 

Modding A Powdercoating Gun For Performance

In life, tools come in two varieties – good tools, and cheap tools. This is where the hacker steps in, to transform a cheap tool into more than the sum of its parts. [Josh] had problems with his Eastwood powdercoating gun. [Josh] decided to fix things with a couple of tasteful mods.

The problem with the gun was related to the delivery of powder to the workpiece. The stream was either too weak to coat properly, or too heavy, delivering a thick stream of powder. [Josh] surmised that with better airflow into the powder reservoir, the gun would deliver a properly mixed cloud of powder as required. By drilling a couple of small holes into the air feed into the reservoir, the powder stream was much less heavy and the gun’s performance was greatly improved.

[Josh] then decided to take things a step further, by fitting a tip from a more expensive gun to his Eastwood model. There were some challenges in getting it connected electrically, but nothing a little electrical tape couldn’t fix. While this did further improve results, it was a minor improvement compared to the air feed modifications.

Overall, [Josh] was able to take a poorly performing tool and transform it into something much more useful, just by drilling a couple of holes. Check out our Hacklet on quick tool hacks, or share your best work in the comments.

Where a Wood Shop Goes, a Hackerspace Follows

The 2×4 Contest at my local hackerspace captured my interest. The challenge was to build something cool out of a single eight-foot 2×4 with the winner getting free wood storage in the space. I had half an idea for a project, but I ran out of time and never even started it. My idea was to cut the board into half-thickness strips and glue them edge-to-edge with some biscuits holding them together — to basically make wider, thinner boards to do… something cool with it.

One of the entries is pictured above. [Jon Alt] designed this clock and phone charger that includes a capacitive charger for his smart watch. He makes use of the 2×4’s grain to make a gorgeous enclosure, carving away the rear of the front panel so only a credit-card’s thickness of wood remained, allowing the 7-segments to shine through. The other entries were great as well and I especially liked the 2×4 guitar.

Mostly what interested me about the contest was what it showed about the wood shop: thanks to the volunteers and board, that is a wood shop doing well. Stuff is going on! A sad wood shop doesn’t hold contests. By extension, when the shop is doing well, that means the hackerspace is also doing well.

A wood shop is one of those areas of a hackerspace that is tool-driven. It’s not just a gathering place for like-minded folks; people go to use a specific tool or tools they can’t afford, and let’s face it, there’s always tools to buy that costs a bunch of money.

I’ve seen this particular shop begin as an empty concrete room with a cheap drill press and someone’s old bandsaw. Pretty soon worktables, shelving, and storage were built. More tools arrived, some donated, some loaned, some purchased with dues. So how can other spaces replicate this wood shop success story?

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Solar Bulldozer Gets Dirty

As the threat of climate change looms, more and more industries are starting to electrify rather than using traditional fuel sources like gasoline and diesel. It almost all cases, the efficiency gains turn out to be environmentally and economically beneficial. Obviously we have seen more electric cars on the roads, but this trend extends far beyond automobiles to things like lawn equipment, bicycles, boats, and even airplanes. The latest in this trend of electrified machines comes to us from YouTube user [J Mantzel] who has built his own solar-powered bulldozer.

The fact that this bulldozer is completely solar-powered is only the tip of the iceberg, however. The even more impressive part is that this bulldozer was built completely from scratch. The solar panel on the roof charges a set of batteries that drive the motors, and even though the bulldozer is slow it’s incredibly strong for its small size. It’s also possible for it to operate on solar alone if it’s sunny enough, which almost eliminates the need for the batteries entirely. It’s also built out of stainless steel and aluminum, which makes it mostly rust-proof.

This is an impressive build that goes along well with [J Mantzel]’s other projects, most of which center around an off-grid lifestyle. If that’s up your alley, there is a lot of inspiration to be had from his various projects. Be sure to check out the video of his bulldozer below as well. You don’t have to build an off-grid bulldozer to get started in the world of living off-the-grid, though, and it’s easy to start small with just one solar panel and a truck.

Thanks to [Darko] for the tip!

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