Portable Soldering Station

Following up on getting the new hobby desk and organizing the room, I needed something for all of my soldering tools. A lot of the stuff on these shelves needed to be easy to pull out and use at the desk.

The portable soldering station Adam Savage built gave me some inspiration. I could make something to live in the closet when not in use and being portable would allow me to take it to the basement if needed. I measured how much floor space I had available in the closet and hauled everything down to my woodshop.

I cut up some shitty scrap plywood and started playing around with ideas.

Being able to see things in space really helped with my design process. When I had something I was happy with, I made a sketch with rough details.

When I saw it on paper, it reminded me of a wood toolbox with a handle. Makes sense, I guess, since that’s essentially what I was building. I still have a large pile of old oak flooring, so I spent about two hours milling a few pieces down to 3/8″ thick boards. Then I glued some pieces to make panels for the sides, bottom, and shelf.

I picked up a piece of 1″ (it’s actually 1 – 1/8″) oak dowel from Menards for a handle. After letting the glue dry on those panels for a few hours I cut them to size, designed the side profile, and made other pieces. I realized I need to glue up two other panels for the small shelf bottom and a cross piece on the back. I think I only had to recut one small piece that was originally the wrong size. Eventually I had all of the parts.

I sanded all of the faces with 80 grit and then used glue and a pin nailer for assembly. Since nothing here need to support a lot of weight, I went with simple butt joints.

After a quick fit check for all of the tools and supplies, it was obvious I need some way to organize the power cords, so I made a cord wrap from some scraps.

With a palm router I softened the edges everywhere and did a final sanding. Originally I was planning to use a dark stain to match the hobby room’s trim, but after seeing this put together I really liked the lighter colors and the wood grain. I skipped the stain and applied three coats of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, sanding with a piece of paper bag after each.

I’m really happy with the decision not to use stain. The pieces I selected for the side panels have some great coloring and grain.

All of the tools and materials are easy to access and the station fits well in the closet.

Automated Closet Lighting

After building a rack for my workout shoes a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to tackle another thing about the broom closet that has been bugging me for years. It never had a light! I put together a rough video of the entire process.

I’m really happy with how it turned out, especially since I was able to use parts I had in my electronics collection. The whole thing uses a simple circuit, cost less than $10, and doesn’t require WiFi or any fancy connections. The Working of Transistor as a Switch page on Electronics Hub was a big help. I ended up using a PNP transistor in my circuit without resistors because the LEDs were dimming and I wanted maximum brightness.

Boldport: Juice (FAIL)

I started this build a couple of weeks ago and “finished” it today. It is supposed to be a battery replacement kit for use in prototyping if you run out of batteries. It was project #12 in the Boldport Club.

Mine, did not turn out to be a useable device, because I shorted the connections in the USB connector, which I put on last and should have done first. If there’s one complaint about the Boldport Club kits it’s that the instructions are lacking. I messed around with different desoldering techniques to try and correct the problem, but I might have been fighting a losing battle depending on how deep in there the shorted connections were. I figured something was screwy when the LED never lit up. Then when I connected a 9V battery as the power source instead of USB I knew something was really wrong. With a multimeter I was only getting millivolt readings from the board. I felt the battery and it was really hot, so I disconnected to read the battery it was down to less than 9 volts already, when it had started close to 9.5! That’s when I called it quits.

I’m almost positive I thought this kit was something else when I ordered it with credits I had. I can’t see myself using this during a project if it had been a success, so I’m not too disappointed. Even though it was a failure I figured I’d still post the video. Since it was just over five minutes long at 20x speed with all of the footage I didn’t even bother to do any editing. The camera had filled up somewhere during the desoldering complications and I was too frustrated to bother with getting a new SD card. Enjoy! Or not.

Boldport: LIGEMDIO

A couple of weeks ago I assembled one of the BoldPort Club kits I had piled on my desk. This one was project #8, titled LIGEMDIO. It’s an LED tester and the name comes from the first letters of Light Emitting Diode, LED.

It was a cool little build after I swapped out to an old soldering iron and it’s a project I’ll actually get some use out of. Would have been nice to have when I tested all of the LEDs for the 8x8x8 cube.

AdaBox 012: PyGamer

I recently got the 12th AdaBox.

It’s a cool open source gaming platform, the Adafruit PyGamer, which can be used with CircuitPython, MakeCode Arcade, or Arduino games. I remember getting a GameBoy and staying up late to beat various levels of Super Mario Land when I had a sleepover at a friend’s house. I may have to try making my own game for this device.

 

8x8x8 LED Cube Case

Back in January, I finished assembly on the 8x8x8 LED Cube. Around the same time I bought an acrylic case for $13 from AliExpress. The case isn’t designed for this specific cube, but this style of case is the only option available anywhere.

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Needless to say, it needed some modifications. I had to drill new holes in the bottom to match up with the mounting holes of this particular board. I also opened up some holes in the back for easier access to the power switch and programming pins and in the side for the power plug.

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After the mods, everything went together surprisingly well.

With all of the soldering and LEDs, the cube is very fragile, so this case should keep it safe. Over 14 months after receiving HackerBox #0030: Lightforms, the full assembly is finally complete. Now I have to update the firmware so I can program my own animations.

AdaBox 011: PyPortal

Yesterday I received AdaBox 011: PyPortal.

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Similar to AdaBox 010, there isn’t much here in terms of assembly or physical experimentation using different parts, but the PyPortal is a really cool new device from Adafruit. It’s built for IoT projects, with:

  • 3.2″ touchscreen to display info and interact with the device
  • ESP32 co-processor to handle Wi-Fi connections
  • Analog Devices ADT7410 temperature sensor
  • SAMD51 to handle all of the processing, compatible with CircuitPython, which makes it fun and easy to program
  • Laser cut acrylic enclosure/stand

They’ve also included a 1 year pass to adafruit.io. I’ll likely turn this into something that interfaces with my Home Assistant server to control different devices around my house.

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Took 5-10 minutes to remove the protective paper from the acrylic pieces and assemble the stand

I haven’t done much in terms of electronics, woodworking, or making in general for the last couple of months. I think I burned out a bit when I caught up on so many projects over November, December, and January. I’ll get back to making soon!

Papier Machine Vol.0

I finally received a reward for a crowd-funded project, which arrived on December 31st.

Papier Machine Vol.0 is the first interactive electronic paper toy that unveils the mysteries of electronic black boxes.

Kickstarter

I first heard about the project in July of 2017 and I made a super early bird pledge in January of 2018. The original estimated delivery for my reward was July of 2018, so it was about 5 months late. Not bad considering in that July 2017 post I had just backed a 3D printer on Kickstarter that is over a year late with no updated delivery timeline.

My nieces were down this weekend, so Kennedy and I made the first project.

This piano was an easy one. You use the varying amounts of graphite from a pencil to make a connection as you can see from the filled in areas around each of the keys. On the back side you connect a small circuit board with an integrated chip, a coin cell battery, and a piezo buzzer.