I love surplus stores. They're basically the tech version of a yard sale, with tons of stuff that would be nearly impossible to find or afford new. These are three of my favorites. Between them, you should be able to find just about anything you need, no matter how crazy the project.
If you’re looking to gin up a project that can interface with the world--say, a device that tells the weather using sensors--you’re probably going to need a microcontroller, a simple computer system on a circuit board that consists of a processor, memory and an input/output system. They are the centerpiece of many of my past PopSci projects, such as a desk clock that keeps superaccurate time by pulling in a signal broadcast from an atomic clock.
I've accidentally dropped an engine on my foot, set myself on fire, fallen off all sorts of things—and now I'm here to tell you about safety. Four of the biggest risks to DIYers are ones that often don't get taken seriously, but they all can be mitigated with some easy-to-find gear.
What happens when life takes you somewhere that lacks Internet access or electricity, but you need to use your computer? Whether you’re faking out your boss while on a long fishing trip, or suffering through an extended power outage, there are times when laptop batteries won’t cut it. That’s when this portable solar office setup comes in handy. With a few off-the-shelf parts, you’ll have continuous juice and Wi-Fi anywhere there’s sun and a cellphone signal.
Fire enthusiasts have long used propane "poofers" to shoot huge fireballs for oddball art projects and theatrical special effects. As someone who has always been, as my grandfather puts it, "interested in exothermic reactions," I've seen and built my share of them, too. But this time around, I decided to try a new approach that incorporates some striking visual elements as well as a bit of science.
You may associate remote control with the urge to jump little R/C cars through walls of fire in your backyard, but that’s just the beginning of what you can do with the technology. Once you’ve mastered the basic concepts, the same parts and techniques used in toys can be used to control machines big and small, practical and absurd.
The vast amount of information at our fingertips these days can be as distracting as it is useful. Tracking something like the movement of an index on the stock market by feverishly checking a ticker all day is often more than you want to deal with. So this cube lets you display data it receives wirelessly from the Internet—trends in the market, the weather, your Twitter traffic—in the simplest form possible, as light that subtly changes in color and intensity. Say the skies are expected to clear up: Per your programming instructions, the cube will just turn a pleasant blue.
I've always loved taking pictures from the road when I travel, but on returning home I often had no idea where I had shot many of them. The only way to figure it out was by placing them on a timeline and working backward through my route. Recently I found a way to make it easier. I mounted a Canon digital camera on the dashboard of my car, installed software on it that enables it to automatically shoot pictures every few seconds or minutes, and set up a GPS unit to record the location of each shot.
Some form of jig is a practical necessity for fabrication in volume, or when dealing with tight tolerances, or both. While it can seem like a lot of extra work, making a jig is within the grasp of the average home builder and can actually save significant time.
From the men who brought you bakelite, Tesla, and air brakes came Micarta: a super-tough fiber and resin composite that has been in use since the early 20th century. Micarta is used in a huge variety of applications, from power generation to countertops. In this writeup, two knifemakers show you how you can make your own generic version from epoxy and blue jeans that will stand up to a sledgehammer.