Shoot The Moon With This Homebrew Hardline RF Divider

You can say one thing for [Derek]’s amateur radio ambitions — he certainly jumps in with both feet. While most hams never even attempt to “shoot the Moon”, he’s building out an Earth-Moon-Earth, or EME, setup which requires this little beauty: a homebrew quarter-wave hardline RF divider, and he’s sharing the build with us.

For background, EME is a propagation technique using our natural satellite as a passive communications satellite. Powerful, directional signals can bounce off the Moon and back down to Earth, potentially putting your signal in range of anyone who has a view of the Moon at that moment. The loss over the approximately 770,000-km path length is substantial, enough so that receiving stations generally use arrays of high-gain Yagi antennas.

That’s where [Derek]’s hardline build comes in. The divider acts as an impedance transformer and matches two 50-ohm antennas in parallel with the 50-ohm load expected by the transceiver. He built his from extruded aluminum tubing as the outer shield, with a center conductor of brass tubing and air dielectric. He walks through all the calculations; stock size tubing was good enough to get into the ballpark for the correct impedance over a quarter-wavelength section of hardline at the desired 432-MHz, which is in the middle of the 70-cm amateur band. Sadly, though, a scan of the finished product with a NanoVNA revealed that the divider is resonant much further up the band, for reasons unknown.

[Derek] is still diagnosing, and we’ll be keen to see what he comes up with, but for now, at least we’ve learned a bit about homebrew hardlines and EME. Want a bit more information on Moon bounce? We’ve got you covered.

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A DIY Stun Gun You Probably Shouldn’t Build

In these troubled times, when a trip to the grocery store could turn into a brawl over toilet paper, you might be inclined to build yourself a low-cost electroshock weapon. Or at least, that’s what [Alex Zidros] did. We don’t necessarily recommend you follow in his footsteps, and we’re certainly not advocating testing it on a loved one. We just bring you this information, you have to decide what you do with it.

This is what peer pressure looks like.

So what does it take to build an improvised stun gun? Not a whole lot, it turns out. As you might have guessed, the star of the show is a high voltage transformer which supposedly puts out 400 kV. Just looking at it (and the price) we’re going to go out on a limb and say the performance specs are way overrated, but in this case that might actually be a good thing.

Beyond the transformer, there’s a simple 9 V battery holder and electrodes made from the prongs of a hacked up travel adapter. To deliver the lightning, [Alex] is using a pink arcade button. Just because you might be fighting for your life doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, right? Everything is packed into a simple 3D printed enclosure, but you could easily replace that with any suitably sized box. Something made out of wood might be a good idea, considering.

If you’d like to see another person shocked by a cobbled together high-voltage weapon, and potentially even learn something in the process, check out the “tutorial” video [Mehdi Sadaghdar] did back in 2014. We did mention you definitely shouldn’t do this at home, right?

DIY Electrolysis Tank: Removing Rust While You Sleep

Anyone who’s done a bit of metalworking will know how quickly your stockpile will pick up a coating of rust with even just a bit of humidity. While welding requires only a bit of wire brushing at the joint areas, cleaning a large frame for paint is a completely different story. The projects [Make it Extreme] gets himself into tend to involve a lot of steel, so he built his own electrolysis tank for rust removal.

Electrolytic rust removal involves placing the piece of steel to be cleaned into an alkaline electrolyte solution (water and washing soda) with a sacrificial steel anode and connecting a low voltage DC supply over the two pieces. [Make it Extreme] started with an old plastic container, around which he built a very neat trolley frame. He obviously put some thought into how the tank will be cleaned, since it can be removed by unscrewing six bolts and removing the top part of the frame.

The high current, low voltage power supply that is required for the process was built using an old microwave transformer. The secondary coil is removed and replaced with coil of thick insulated wire, to convert it into a step down transformer. After the rewinding the transformer outputs about 13 VAC, which is then run through beefy bridge rectifier modules to get a DC current. A custom machined copper bolt terminal is mounted through the side of the tank to attach the sacrificial anode plate to the positive lead of the power supply, while the negative lead is clamped to the rusty steel to be cleaned.

[Make it Extreme]’s projects never get old, with everything from rideable tank tracks to rotary electric guns. Check out the video after the break to see the build and an impressive demo. Continue reading “DIY Electrolysis Tank: Removing Rust While You Sleep”

3D-Printed Transformer Disappoints, But Enlightens

Transformers are deceptively simple devices. Just coils of wire sharing a common core, they tempt you into thinking you can make your own, and in many cases you can. But DIY transformers have their limits, as [Great Scott!] learned when he tried to 3D-print his own power transformer.

To be fair, the bulk of the video below has nothing to do with 3D-printing of transformer coils. The first part concentrates on building transformer cores up from scratch with commercially available punched steel laminations, in much the same way that manufacturers do it. Going through that exercise and the calculations it requires is a great intro to transformer design, and worth the price of admission alone. With the proper number of turns wound onto a bobbin, the laminated E and I pieces were woven together into a core, and the resulting transformer worked pretty much as expected.

The 3D-printed core was another story, though. [Great Scott!] printed E and I pieces from the same iron-infused PLA filament that he used when he 3D-printed a brushless DC motor. The laminations had nowhere near the magnetic flux density of the commercial stampings, though, completely changing the characteristics of the transformer. His conclusion is that a printed transformer isn’t possible, at least not at 50-Hz mains frequency. Printed cores might have a place at RF frequencies, though.

In the end, it wasn’t too surprising a result, but the video is a great intro to transformer design. And we always appreciate the “DIY or Buy” style videos that [Great Scott!] does, like his home-brew DC inverter or build vs. buy lithium-ion battery packs.

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Sniffed Transformer Puts Wired Doorbell Online

There’s certainly no shortage of “smart” gadgets out there that will provide you with a notification, or even a live audiovisual stream, whenever somebody is at your door. But as we’ve seen countless times before, not everyone is thrilled with the terms that most of these products operate under. Getting a notification on your phone when the pizza guy shows up shouldn’t require an email address, credit card number, or DNA sample.

For [Nick Touran], half the work was already done. There was already a traditional wired doorbell in his home, he just had to come up with a minimally invasive way to link it with Home Assistant. He reasoned that he could tap into the low-voltage side of the doorbell transformer and watch for the telltale fluctuations that would indicate the bell was doing its thing. The ESP8266 has an ADC to measure voltage and WiFi to connect to Home Assistant, so it seemed like the perfect bridge between old and new.

Transformer voltage before and after

Of course, as with any worthwhile project, it ended up being a bit more complicated. Wired doorbells generally operate on 16-24 VAC, and [Nick] knew if he tried to put his Wemos D1 across the line he’d release the critical Magic Smoke. What he needed was a voltage divider circuit that would take low-voltage AC and drop it to an even lower DC voltage that the microcontroller could cope with.

The simple circuit [Nick] comes up with cuts the voltage way down and removes the negative component completely. So what was originally 18.75 VAC turned into a series of 60 Hz blips at 2.4 VDC; perfect for feeding into a microcontroller ADC. With a baseline to work from, he could then write some code that would watch for variations in this signal to determine when the bell was ringing.

Or at least, that was the idea. While the setup worked well enough on the bench, its performance in the real-world left something to be desired. If his house guest had a heavy hand, it worked great. But a quick tap of the doorbell button would tend to go undetected. After investigating the issue, [Nick] found that he needed to use some software trickery to ensure the ESP8266 was able to keep up with the speedy signal. Once he was able to reliably detect short and long button presses, the rest was just a simple matter of sending an MQTT message to his automation system.

Compared to the hoops we’ve seen other hackers have to jump through to smarten up their doorbells, we think [Nick] got off fairly easy. This project is also an excellent example of how learning about circuit design and passive components can still come in handy in the Arduino Era.

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A Lot Of Volts For Not A Lot

There was a time when high voltage in electronic devices was commonplace, and projects driving some form of vacuum or ionisation tube simply had to make use of a mains transformer from a handy tube radio or similar. In 2019 we don’t often have the need for more than a few volts, so when a Geiger–Müller tube needs a bit of juice, we’re stumped. [David Christensen] approached this problem by creating his own inverter, which can produce up to 1 kV from a 12 V supply.

Instead of opting for a flyback supply he’s taken a traditional step-up approach, winding his own transformer on a ferrite core. It has a centre-tapped primary which he drives in push-pull with a couple of MOSFETS, and on its secondary is a voltage multiplier chain. The MOSFETs take their drive at between 25 kHz and 50 kHz from a 555 timer circuit, and there is no feedback circuit.

It’s fair to say that this is a somewhat hair-raising circuit, particularly as he claims that it is capable of delivering that 1 kV at 20 W. It’s usual for high-voltage supplies driving very high impedance loads to incorporate a set of high-value resistors on their outputs to increase their internal impedance such that their danger is reduced. We’d thus exercise extreme care around this device, though we can see a lot of value in his description of the transformer winding.

We can’t criticise this circuit too much though, because some of us have been known to produce far hackier high voltage PSUs.

Visualizing Eddy Currents

If [Electroboom] gives up making videos and decides to become a lounge lizard in the Poconos, we hope he adopts the stage name Eddy Currents. However, he is talking about eddy currents in his recent video post that you can see below.

We know he doesn’t really think he can get the magnet to slow down with one sheet of aluminum foil and that he stages at least most of his little electric accidents, but we still enjoy watching it. Meanwhile, he also has a good explanation of why a copper pipe will slow down a magnet and how eddy current affects transformer efficiency.

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