Solder paste is the glue that holds together modern consumer electronics, binding surface mount electronic components to circuit boards and providing electrical and thermal connections in the process. But have you ever really looked at it?
The park is located very northwest corner of California, nestled against Redwood National Park. The two parks are managed together, as part of the “Redwood National and State Parks.” It’s a substantial six hour drive north from San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but as you will see, it’s unique, and arguably worth the trip.
Junior Evil Mad Scientist Chris came to us for help with what turned out to be a funny little (well, huge) cosplay prop project. The kind of project that starts off with a conversation that goes like this:
“You want to build what?”
“A giant sword for my costume for FanimeCon!”
“And when do you need it by?”
So, we got to help make a 64″ long replica sword, one of several from the flash game Epic Battle Fantasy 3 (which we had admittedly never heard of before), in what turned out to be kind of an interesting (if quick) project.
Chris drew up the outline for the sword in Inkscape, by tracing the outline of a bitmap drawing of the sword in a larger collection (where you can find this one in the top row, one third of the way from the left). We cut the outline on our CNC router from lightweight 3/4″ hardwood plywood— strong enough to not be floppy, yet light enough to be carried — and sanded the sides until it could be handled without creating splinters. We also sanded a slight bevel around the edges of the blade, so as to create the illusion of a sharpened edge without actually thinning it much around the edges.
Next, we needed to paint the sword silver. We had some silver spray paint on hand (left over from our 555 Footstool project!), but if you directly spray paint lightweight plywood, it tends to soak into the wood unevenly, dry slowly, and leave a finish that awkwardly highlights the grain of the underlying wood. Instead, we coated the sword with a fast-drying sanding sealer and allowed it to dry for two hours before getting out the spray paint.
In the mean time, we made the hilt details— what might count as greebles —by laser cutting two sheets of thin 1/8″ thick plywood on each side, in a shape slightly inset from the outline of the thicker plywood. There are two of these, one to go on each side of the hilt.
Once the sanding sealer had dried enough to gently sand, we test-fit the parts together. The photo above shows how the parts look after laser cutting and with the slick, yellowish finish that the sanding sealer gives to the plywood.
Next, we spray painted the body of the sword. Primer gray for the hilt section and metallic silver for the blade section, and allowed it to dry overnight.
Separately, we painted the laser-cut overlays black with black one-part polyurethane finish (the same type that we used for our ASCII art Tie Fighter project), and allowed them to dry separately.
In the morning, a little superglue attaches the newly-black hilt details, an old leather belt becomes some lashing details, with the help of a staple gun, and… it’s off to the show.
In case you’re interested, you can download a copy of Chris’s sword design here, as an Inkscape SVG file.
Kitty’s Morning Tea: Kinetic Theory of Matter for Kids, by Christine Liu, is a remarkably charming book and physics lesson for young children. It’s a short twelve-pages about tea, molecules, and kinetic energy that you can read (in its entirety) above, in a digital edition released by the author. We love seeing science-themed educational materials for youngsters— and this is no exception.
Christine and friends are running an (already funded) campaign on Kickstarter to print the book and get it into the hands of children, and you can get your own printed copy as one of the rewards. It’s also available in a Kindle edition, free for the short remaining duration of their campaign.
Congratulations to reader VAX-Dude for winning the Name that Ware contest for May 2013, by correctly identifying our mystery ware as a VAX 9000 series High Density Signal Carrier (HDSC).
Which might lead you to ask another perfectly reasonable question: What the heck is a High Density Signal Carrier? Continue reading
As the review chair for this year’s Open Hardware Summit, I’m very pleased to announce that the call for papers is now open:
The Open Hardware Summit is the world’s first comprehensive conference on open hardware; a venue to discuss and draw attention to the rapidly growing Open Source Hardware movement. The Open Hardware Summit is a venue to present, discuss, and learn about open hardware of all kinds. The summit examines open hardware and its relation to other issues, such as software, design, business, law, and education.
We are seeking proposals for talks, posters, and demos from individuals and groups working with open hardware and related areas.
Submissions are due by JUNE 21, 2013. Please see the complete call for papers for additional details.
The 2013 Open Hardware Summit has also opened its call for sponsors; please click here if you are interested in helping to sponsor the summit.
Photo credit: Open Hardware Summit on Flickr.
In cooperation with Bunnie Studios, the blog of renowned hardware hacker Bunnie Huang (of Hacking the xbox and Chumby fame), we’re pleased to present an unusual “ware” that we acquired from one of our local Silicon Valley electronics surplus dealers.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the game, “Name that Ware” is a regular contest on Bunnie’s blog, where the goal is to learn about reverse engineering by analyzing unusual— or common but seldom-seen —hardware. You can read about the contest rules here, and you can see many pictures of past entries with this google image search, or even get a calendar featuring Name that Ware entries from prior years.)
In the detail photos that follow, we’ll show some close-up photos, and provide a little more physical description (without speculating too much as to the purpose of the different features). Can you identify this piece of hardware?
Introducing our newest open source hardware kit: The Blue Edition of Alpha Clock Five.
Alpha Clock Five is our flagship clock kit, which thus far has been available only in a Red Edition and in a White Edition. Whichever color you happen to like, it is a full-featured, beautiful, and extraordinarily easy-to-read desk clock based around oversized 2.3″ alphanumeric LED displays. It’s designed to work equally well as a bedside alarm clock and as a computer-controlled alphanumeric data display device.
We’ve already written extensively about the core design of Alpha Clock Five. We’ve also written about the modes and features added in version 2.0 of our Arduino-compatible firmware (such as date display and daisy chained scrolling text), and about the hardware changes necessary to support the White Edition of the kit. Fortunately, the changes that we made in order to support the White Edition also allow us to support the use of blue LEDs, just as easily. And so— by popular request —we now present the Blue Edition.
Here, the Blue Edition is shown with a soda can for scale. These LEDs are big and bright, and cast a heavy glow on the soda can and tabletop. (The usual caveats about the difficulty of photographing LEDs apply: A camera cannot capture the apparent intensity of pure blue LEDs in the same way that your eyes can.)
As with the other Alpha Clock Five kits, the control buttons are cut as flexures into the top of the laser-cut acrylic case, that can bend down to contact right-angle tactile button switches at the top edge of the circuit board. The top and bottom sides of the case are made of black acrylic, and the rear panel is made from smoke-gray acrylic.
For the Blue Edition, the front face of the case is made of deep blue transparent acrylic, which helps to increase display contrast, especially in brightly lit office environments.
Without the top and back panels, you can see the electronics within: the AVR microcontroller, LED driver chips, transistors, Chronodot RTC module and the other parts that make it all work.
The Blue Edition of Alpha Clock Five is available now at the Evil Mad Scientist shop.
The 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire is a wrap— and it was amazing. And we took pictures. We’ve uploaded 362 photos from maker faire right here for your browsing pleasure. But first, a little preview.
Kids play with giant cardboard robot arms at the Giant Cardboard Robots booth. As they say, “The revolution will be corrugated.”
Glo-Puter Zero, by Alan Yates, with its phosphor-based memory. Truly a highlight of the show.
Lenore shares a nerdy moment with Akiba from Freaklabs.
An unusual LED badge, from the Bay Lights project.
The Western Pyrotechnics Association is a club for people that make their own fireworks. It’s incredible to see the complexity and artistry of the fireworks and the tooling that makes them.
A beautiful hovercraft, designed to look like a flying DeLorean; you can see video of it on the project site.
An unexpected application: Our friend Bilal Ghalib stopped by and enlisted the WaterColorBot to help him make a birthday card for another friend.
And one of our favorite moments of Maker Faire: a young visitor, tickled pink as she tries out the WaterColorBot, watching it paint a drawing that she had just sketched.
Some of the creations are simpler, like this sidewalk-chalk wielding vibrobot, spinning on a tabletop chalkboard at the Exploratorium booth.
Some of the creations are more technical, like the OpenPNP project to create open source pick and place machines for electronics assembly. We’re excited by where this is headed, along with a few related projects.
And of course, there’s no shortage of LED goodness.
Please click right here for the rest of our 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire photo album.