Friday, November 6, 2009

Bicycle iPod Charger

Bicycle iPod Charger
A sidewall dynamo powers both lights and tuneage
Mark Hoekstra | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
After buying an Pod mini a couple of years ago, I started experimenting with ways of extending its battery life. First I tried the Perfectmate hand-cranked flashlight/charger, only to find out that it takes up to 20 minutes of cranking to generate just enough power to boot the device. As well as making me appreciate how much power today's lithium-ion batteries can hold, this got me thinking about otherways to human-power my Pod.

U-G-L-Y Your Bike

U-G-L-Y Your Bike
To deter thieves, camouflage your bicycle as a piece of
crap while keeping it a first-class ride
Rick Polito | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | pgs | mb
Nature is the master of disguise. The tiger swallowtail caterpillar starts out camouflaged as a bird dropping to discourage hungry birds. Take a tip from the crawling turd and keep your bike from getting swiped: dress it down as a pile of rolling junk.

Having an ugly bike doesn't mean having a junky bike. Looks and performance have no exclusive relationship. A savvy bike thief may see the gem under the Krylon, but he also knows he can't sell it as quickly as the tricked-out speedster at the other end of the bike rack.


Dr. Shawn | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
by powerful waves of electrical activity that
cause weak currents to flow in the body,
changing the electric potential between different
points on the skin by about one thousandth of a
volt (one millivolt,1mV). Hidden within that activity
is an enormous amount of information about what
the heart is doing, and anyone who can detect it
can peer into the workings of this incredible organ.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a cardiologist
with expensive equipment to pick up and decipher
that signal. Anyone can do it with this homemade
electrocardiogram (ECG) device. an analog-to-digital
converter (ADC) to digitize the signal and send it to
a computer, and a remarkable book that I'll tell you
about later.

You can assemble the circuit itself in an after-
noon for about $40. The ADC will cost a bit more.
between $50 and $300. But these devices open a
universe of opportunities to the home-based experi-
menter, and so every citizen scientist should invest
in one. (I've negotiated a great deal on one of these
devices especially for MAKE readers. Read on.)

Scanner Camera

Scanner Camera:
Mod a flatbed scanner to take photos that deconstruct time and motion
Mike Golembewski | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 9 pgs | 3 mb
Several years ago, I built my first scanner camera. The idea was simple: I would use an ordinary flatbed scanner with a homemade large-format camera. The camera would focus the image onto the scanner bed in place of photo paper or film. I expected this to be a quick little art project made with a cardboard box, the cheapest flatbed scanner I could find, and lots of duct tape.

But when I got it all to work, the results were wonderful. Stationary objects photographed normally, but moving objects appeared twisted and distorted into fascinating shapes. At first I thought there was something wrong with my contraption, but then I realized that the movement of the scan head was meshing with the movement in the recorded scene. The distortion is similar to the effect created by moving an original on a photocopier mid-copy, but extended into the real world.

Cosmic Night Light

Cosmic Night Light
Kris DeGrave | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 9 pgs | 3 mb
I wanted to make a night light with LEDs encased in resin that required no soldering - I can solder but I don't really Iike to. The project turned out to be one of my favorites, and beyond being a little tweaky getting all of the LEDs set, it's simple. The power comes from 2 coin batteries, so there's no risk of shock. And the finished product is a glossy, atmospheric light with a soft glow that looks great between my Martian lunch box and little plastic dudes landing on the moon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Granny's Nightmare Chopper Bike

Granny's Nightmare Chopper Bike
Chop an old ladies' bicycle into something evil
Brad Graham | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 6 pgs | 2 mb
You know what irritates me? I drive out to the dump, pay my five bucks to get in, and the only bikes laying around are those goofy granny bikes from the late 1970s. OK - enough whining - a real chopper artist can chop any bike, even
a crusty old codger cruiser.

Here's how I hacked and welded a granny bike into something evil. Normally, I wouldn't even bother with a bike like this because it has a lugged frame. This means that the head tube and bottom bracket are just press-fit and brazed into place, rather than welded. You can't salvage lugged joints for most projects because they have holes where the tubing fits together, and brazing filler metal interferes with arc welding. But this project was doable as long as I kept most of the frame intact.

Plush Irradiated Sirloin

Plush Irradiated Sirloin
Microcontroller night light illuminates meaty issues
Rebecca Stern | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 2 pgs | 1 mb
Faced with an assignment to make a plush night
light. I thought, "Why light?" and brainstormed
reasons for a stuffed toy to light up. In a glowworm
toy, for instance, the light mimics nature. I'd been
reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma,
and this got me thinking about the chain of refrig-
eration, labor, and irradiation involved in American
beef production. So I thought. glowing irradiated
meat! I know that irradiated meat doesn't glow, and
neither does toxic waste unless it's in a cartoon, but
plush toys typically represent cartoon characters
anyway, so it made sense: Plush Irradiated Sirloin.

Ball of Sound

Ball of Sound
Michael F. Zbyszynski | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 4 pgs | 2 mb
Acoustic instruments radiate sound in a wonder-
fully complex, 360° fashion, while conventional
loudspeakers project a boring spotlight of sound.
You can spend a ton of money on a fancy spherical
audio array, or you can build one for cheap out of
2 IKEA salad bowls and 8 surplus car speakers.

Make04_2005: DIY - Mobile

Make04_2005: DIY - Mobile
Daniel Jolliffe | Pdf | 2 pgs | 1 mb
Throw your voice. Build your own anonymous megaphone.

Spirits Guy

Spirits Guy
How Lance Winters went from basement moonshiner to celebrity vodka distiller
Benjamin Tice Smith | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 6 pgs | 2 mb
When most of us want some tequila, we run to the liquor
store on the way home from work. Lance Winters prefers
heading to Mexico to find the best agave cactus and
bringing it back to his laboratory in a 65,000-square-foot
aircraft hangar on a dormant naval base on the edge
of San Francisco Bay. Winters is a craft distiller at St.
George Spirits, whose vast workspace has three large
stills, numerous tanks, a bottling line, and many cases of
high-octane, high-priced hooch, including the top-selling
Hangar One Vodka.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Net Data Meter

Net Data Meter
Tom Igoe | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 5 pgs | 1 mb
One thing that disappoints me about computers is
how little character they possess. Antique instruments
of information display, like Victorian pendulum
clocks, barometers, and compasses, and Babbage's
calculating engines, have a presence that modern
computers lack.

I dig the look of the iPod as much the next guy, but
even the best manufacturing design today doesn't
match that old brass-and-hardwood handcrafted
love. Desktop widgets replace the need for clocks,
barometers and stock tickers, and multipurpose
display hardware like the Ambient Orb also per-
form these functions. But because these things have
little presence and are so easily reconfigured, it's
easy to forget what information they're displaying.
Does the meter's sudden plunge mean my Gocgle
stock tanked, or that it's going to rain tomorrow?

Fetch the Weather with the Make Controller

Fetch the Weather with the Make Controller
This easy starter project displays your local forecast
Brian Jepson | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
In the expanding universe of microcontroller boards,
the MAKE Controller Kit fills the space between
the easy, cheap Arduino and the more complex,
powerful Gumstix devices.The low-powerArduino
runs 8-bit machine code and can only do one thing
at a time. The Linux-based Gumstix can do what a
Linux-powered PC can do.

The MAKE Controller has the advantages of both,
thanks to its FreeRTOS operating system; it can
run multiple tasks simultaneously but also lets you
allocate processor time more explicitly than you
could under Linux. Because you need to know C, it's
a little more complicated to program than Arduino,
but still easier to use than the Linux-based Gumstix.

Purely Platonic

Purely Platonic
A dodecahedron table lamp
Charles Platt | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | pgs | mb
People appear symmetrical, but even the most
perfect human face shows irregularities if we
compare the left side with the right. Perhaps this
is why the absolute, rigid symmetry of crystals
seems beautiful yet alien to us. Unlike DNA's
soft spiral, a crystal's molecular bonds align
themselves to form regular three-dimensional
structures.,which the Greeks considered math-
ematically pure. The most fundamental of these
shapes are known as the five Platonic solids.

If you assemble equal-sided triangles -- all the
same size, with the same angles to each other --
you can create three possible solids: a tetrahedron
(with 4 faces), an octahedron (8 faces), and an
icosahedron (20 faces). If you use squares instead
of triangles, you can create only a hexahedron,
commonly known as a cube. Pentagons create a
dodecahedron (12 faces), and that's as far as we
can go. No other solid objects can be built with all-
identical. equal-sided, equal-angled polygons.

The Platonic solids have always fascinated me.
My favorite is the dodecahedron. which is why
I used it in this project as the basis for a table lamp.
By extending its edges to form points, we make
something that looks not only mathematically
perfect, but perhaps a little magical.

The Maker State

The Maker State
William Gurstelle | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 2 pgs | 1 mb
In a "nanny state:' somebody else - governments,
insurance companies, education administrators
- decides which projects makers may attempt and
which they may not. In the nanny state. experi-
menters and builders find themselves deprived
of the materials. tools, and information they need
to carry on their interests.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the "night
watchman state." Here, authorities try to keep thugs
off the street, keep the electricity on, and that's
about it. You're pretty much on your own.

Most of us prefer to live. work, and play some-
where in the middle. Let's call it the "Maker State."
In the Maker State, everyone takes reasonable
precautions and wears protective equipment. Safe
working practices, if thoughtfully incorporated into
the act of making things, can become a performance-
improving feature, just as athletes wear better
equipment to enhance their performance.

The Maker State provides freedom to attempt
projects on the edge. Still, laws of chance and sta-
tistics ensure that sometimes stuff just happens.
There are two fundamental realities of working in
the Maker State: risks can be reduced but not
eliminated, and not everything is somebody's fault.

Orange Crate Racer Project

Orange Crate Racer Project
Mister Jalopy | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 2 pgs | 2 mb

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Batteries

On Batteries
How to decide which batteries will run your project best
Limor Fried | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
If knowledge is power, then knowledge of batteries
is power squared! Here's what I know about dispos-
able and rechargeable batteries and their tradeoffs.

Electronic Crickets

Electronic Crickets
Create a nighttime chorus by modifying solar yard lamps
Michael F. Zbyszynski | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 3 pgs | 1 mb
For this project. I wanted to make something
that reminded me of many beautiful phenomena
of summer nights: crickets, chirping frogs. and
fireflies. By day, the lamps seem ordinary; they sit
and charge their batteries like all their unaltered
cousins. But as the sun goes down, each one
starts blinking and chirping. The sound and rate
of their song are determined by the temperature,
the amount of sun they receive, and the natural
variance of their components. The emergent quality
of dozens together can be fascinating. This project
has a certain affinity to BEAM robotics (see MAKE,
Volume 06, page 76).

WII Will Rock You

WII Will Rock You
Bill Byrne | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 4 pgs | 2 mb
I grew up in the 80s with a Commodore 64, Game
Boy, and Nintendo Entertainment System, and
I feel more comfortable with an NES game pad
than a TV remote.

Many years later, the NES game pad has evolved
into a monster: the Wii Remote wireless game
controller, affectionately known as the Wiimote.
My wife, Suzanne, and I also perform and record
electronic music in a band called the Painful Leg
Injuries. I've played with numerous MIDI controllers,
but despite my years of childhood piano lessons,
nothing feels as natural to me as the Wiimote.
Blame it on all those hours with Tetris and Mario.

Here, I've written up 4 of the setups I'm using
to control music with this thereminesque, ether-
bending joystick.

Safety Spectrometer

Safety Spectrometer
Eric Rosenthal | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 2 pgs | 1 mb
After air travel security banned bottled water and
baby formula, I began wondering why they didn't
use a device to determine the contents of liquids. If a
liquid was detected to be safe, security could allow it
on the plane. Spectrometers can identify the chemi-
cal makeup of a material by shining light on it and
analyzing the precise mix of colors that bounce back.

These devices are usually very expensive, but
I've designed a simple and inexpensive one that can
identify liquids. You can also adapt it to determine
the color of a swatch of paper or cloth or to identify
a gem or semiprecious stone.

I spent less than $100 on this project and it took
just a few days to design, fabricate, and test the hard-
ware, plus another two days to write and debug the
source code. Collecting the liquids and building the
database took one evening, and it was fun!

Wall Eye

Wall Eye:
Build your own opaque projector
Steve Lodefink | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 5 pgs | 2 mb
What's an opaque projector? You know, one of those contraptions that takes flat, reflective subjects such as printed pages, leaves, or coins, and projects them onto a screen or wall. Opaque projectors were common classroom presentation tools during most of the 20th century.

Although made largely obsolete by the use of video cameras coupled to video displays, opaque projectors are still being made and sold. Marketed today mainly to art students and hobbyists for use as drawing enlargers, entry-level models tend to be dim little plastic toys that can only accommodate puny 3" or 4" originals, and have to be used in a totally darkened room due to their small apertures and weak light sources. If you're lucky enough to find one of the majestic 1,000-watt giants from yesteryear at a swap meet, then consider yourself charmed. I was not so lucky.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Big Blowhards

Big Blowhards
William Gurstelle | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 4 pgs | 2 mb
Punkin Chunkin ( began
officially 21 years earlier, when its three founders
met informally to build hurling machines capable
of flinging leftover Halloween pumpkins. Little by
little, the hurlers improved their machines, and
every year the pumpkins flew a bit farther. Things
changed radically in 1995 when Trey Melson, one
of the co-founders of the event, upped the ante.
This competition isn't about money or trophies or
even the teardrop-shaped mass of gooey pumpkin
flesh a mile away in the middle of a Delaware farmer's
field. It's about pride. It's about being the best, about
setting a goal and achieving it. When told of the time
and money invested in making these guns, a lot of
people simply smile and shake their heads. But not
real makers. Real makers understand.

Hammer Time

Hammer Time
Making the antiques of the future at Black Dog Forge
Kirsten Anderson | Make Vol. 11- 2007 | Pdf | 4 pgs | 2 mb

Print-and Fold Ames Room

Print-and Fold Ames Room
This classic illusion makes objects --- and hobbits- -- seem to change size
Ranjit B. | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 5 pgs | 2 mb
An Ames room is a distorted box that creates an illusion, from one vantage point, of varying depth, distance, and size. Invented by American ophthalmol- ogist Adelbert Ames Jr. in 1934, setups like this were used to make the hobbits look small next to Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Here's how I constructed a miniature Ames room out of paper and card-board. I'll start by explaining how I derived the template that I used, which you can download at You can make your own template using this explanation or just use my template to make your own room.

Wireless Motion Sensing Made Easy

Wireless Motion Sensing Made Easy
Tom Igoe | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 4 pgs | 2 mb
I was never much of a sports fan until my friend
Mattie introduced me to the Gotham Girls Roller
Derby ( Once you've
seen a good blocker send the opposing team's jam-
mer sailing into the sidelines with a solid hip check,
you're hooked. Add all the bad puns in the players'
nicknames, and you've got a sport I just can't resist.

Soon, I had to find a way to hack it. If the skaters
wore motion sensors, I figured, you could make
things react to the action. Sound effects on every
hit! A synchronized soundtrack! Flames shooting up
every time a player gets knocked out of bounds! The
possibilities are endless.

Parabolic Microphone

Parabolic Microphone
Jim Lee | Make Vol. 14- 2008 | Pdf | 2 pgs | 1 mb
This is a ridiculously easy way to build a parabolic
microphone using dollar store items. You'll attract
lots of attention walking around in public with this
rig. I usually welcome the inquiries, and let people
listen to what I'm doing. Kids especially love it.