Making Steel


I’ve always wanted to learn to make metal from scratch. Not for everyday use but for emergency situations like getting stuck in a time machine in 20,000 BC or something like that. I figure it would be very handy.

Here’s the answer!

Work Bench from Pipe

I came across this really cool diy bench in makezine.

Anybody know what kind of supplier would have those pipes? What about connectors? Even if they’re ugly. I think this would make great meccano like reusable parts for a lab.

ModLab is the place to be


Last nights modlab was a blast (ModLab is the open house of ArtEngine the Ottawa HackSpace).

A newcomer made his first solder connection!

Lots of microprocessor and Arduino activity. An LED game of life. A controller for an autonomous quadracopter (in progress), a musical hat and much more.

Also the new laser was sitting around. This will have a lot of positive impact on the space I’m sure. Currently a solution for air cleaning is being looked at.

I had my drawbots running. I found that it runs nicely on 9v or 6v for motor power. You get .7A and .5A respectively. Quieter on 6v. Also we ran the same drawing more than once and observed some reasonable repeatability.

We actually made a happy face with the drawbot. Mike cooked up a happy face and transferred the data into the drawbot.

I attended a brief aftersocial at a Scottish pub but kept it very short and light since I was pretty bushed.



Check out this eye project.

This looks like a fun non-arduino project. I listed the BOM below which is quite affordable.

Also the code.

Some people have argued that you just pick one family of micro-controllers. I’ve already got arduino on my drawing board but that’s an easy learning curve so even with the one technology argument, I’m good to go. I’m not fully subscribed to the one tech argument yet though. 🙂


Parts List Details
The parts list for this tutorial is very short, and that should be welcome because it means less time spent assembling electronics and more time building!

Pico Servo || Sub-Micro Servo
While any type of servo is suited for this project, the best in my opinion would be one of the smaller sized servos. Torque is not a problem we will encounter, we just need an actuator that can move to and hold position. I would opt for the Sub-Micro Servos just because they’re typically lower cost.

PIC 18F452
To test out the eyebrows with a demo program, we will use the PIC controller with some pre-programmed movements in software. Alternatively you could buy a radio system if you wanted to have dynamic remote control of the servos.

Ping Ping Balls
For the actual eyes we need something light weight that is mobile and has low friction. A ping pong ball fits these needs quite well with the added bonus that it is white in color just like human eyes! Just draw on a pupil and connect some mechanicals to it and you’re good to go.

Clothes Hanger || Jumper Wire
The wire from a clothes hanger or breadboard jumper wire will be used to connect servo actuators to the mechanics. This is a very cheap solution with mechanical drawbacks, a ball and rod system would be better suited if you want to spend a few extra dollars for a more professional internal look.

20 MHz Crystal
20 MHz is chosen as the clock speed for no specific reason. Any clock speed in the MHz range would work just fine, but you need to make sure you alter the timing in the firmware to reflect your different clock speed.

7805 +5v Regulator
This is the system’s power supply regulator. Everything should be running at +5v, even the servos. Typically servos should run straight from the battery, but in this case they are low power and there will be no difference if we connect them to the regulated supply or the batteries.

Jumper Wire & Breadboard
All of the electronics will be done on a simple tried and true breadboard. Luckily there aren’t many connections to be made so the electrical side of this project should be a breeze.

Makergear Extruder Batch 5

Yesterday I finally started assembling my extruder that will be mounted on one of my mills.

It’s uses a stepper with a gear box to control flow rather than a dc motor that uses pressure like a Makerbot.

-Plastruder ~ $180.00
-Stepper controller
-A few pounds of material to work with. I got some black and some orange.

It’s actually pretty satisfying bolting these plastic chunks together with springs, ball bearings and bolts. I can’t wait to be making this sort of stuff.

CNC Control Box Construction

I made up a box out of hardboard for my Chinese CNC Mill.

Still needs some work but I have most of the wires out of the way.

If my weekend goes well I’ll have the on-off switches for the stepper controller and spindle wired up too.

DIY laptop cooling system

Here’s a cool laptop cooling system I came across at recent wordpress lab/meetup.

It looks like a computer fan was broken out into parts.

The fan itself and the frame of the fan was split to create legs to keep the laptop away from the table.

I suppose it gives great airflow!

DIY Spindle ideas

collet holder

Two interesting things arrived yesterday.

One is the flex drive for my dremel (description “DREMEL AND/OR ROTARY TOOL FLEX SHAFT”). It seems to run really smooth at high speed. I think this is a great idea. Everybody already has a dremel and this thing was just 12 bucks or something like that.

I also received a collet holder mounted on a shaft. I can’t remember the shaft size but I have a model airplane motor on order that has that exact shaft size. So this may also be a good candidate. The description of it was “ER11 C8 100L Collet Chuck Holder&A Spa Milling Lathe-US”. I was a bit cheesed to see that it doesn’t have a collet so I have to order that separately. Boo hoo.

Another DIY CNC

My friend Harsha Wijesooriya has just completed his CNC Mill.

He has already made a model plane using his mill! See the third video below.

He told me he made it out of some old scanners.

I think that’s a great starting point. I have a couple of old scanners and would like to try the linear bearings that are in there.

Cardboard Box Revision


Tonight when I did my small orders (5 and less), I decided to refine the box to to make the gluing faster.

I decided to try and have the parts interlock so that I wouldn’t need as many clothes pins to clamp them. Clothespins are pretty fast (what a cool invention) but it’s still a significant amount of time (everything counts).

I was able to get an interlocking thing going that seemed to drop quite a bit of time off the assembly time. Of course it took a lot longer to do the small order boxes (the smallest size I make). But at the end I shaved time off the creation of future boxes.

Now I have box up the larger orders of model airplanes for tonight. I only make boxes for orders under 30 or so since there are lots of off the shelf boxes available for that.

DIY CNC Thoughts


I’d like to make a simple portable CNC. It would make learning more fun because I could bring it with me and share it with people, plus I could do work when I’m on the road.

I came across this site which has some interesting simple CNC designs. There are a lot of interesting ideas there for cutting soft materials. The catch is the site operator is selling the plans. Some of them look worth buying just to see some of the design details.  🙂

I think linear bearings are a bit of a tricky problem because they seem expensive everywhere I look. You can buy them but then you need to figure out how to mount them. I think it’s a bit intimidating for a beginner.


Here’s another site describing a cool DIY linear bearing. This one is cast but I wonder if this could be an opportunity for “Makerbot to the rescue!”.

It looks printable and I wonder if it would work well for a lightweight machine.

Here is a picture from the site.

Another thing that comes to mind for this one is some sort of angle bracket. Looks like it could be a bolt together linear bearing.

Also, I wonder if this could be done based on 90 degree angle. The bearing would be unstable on one direction but I wonder if it matters or if might be easier to just have 4 bearings in around the circle.

linear ball

I just poked around on the internet a little more and found an example of using aluminum angle to make linear bearings.

Also I came across (March 10) the bearing to the right. It’s based on 8 small ball bearings. I think this might have some potential. You’d only need two per axis because you could just make them long enough for whatever application (rather than using 4 per axis like most solutions).  So that’s just 16 bearings per axis.

Now that I said that out loud, I realize that it might not be price competitive since the real linear bearings are often 20 bucks for four.

And this still uses the same shaft/rail but it wont work for supported rail.

What about plastic? more

Here’s a bearing blog.


Here’s a design that I find pretty easy on the eyes.

Looks like it could be excellent for light work.

I found it here.