When I’m building something weird—my pedal-powered Panzer, for instance—I have to pull together all sorts of obscure parts. Over the years I’ve noticed that I continually reuse some of them in project after project. here are the five that I can’t live (or work) without.
Instead of using hoses for projects that require fluid plumbing, I prefer high-pressure tubing. It’s a great solution when you need to plumb for water, propane or even air. I’ve used it for some odder applications too, such as to act as a dry, protected conduit for wires underwater. Many varieties are available, so your best bet is to get a few types and experiment.
Uses: Plumbing for propane, pneumatics, hydraulics, fuel line.
G-10 is a strong electrical insulator that can survive harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures. It’s perfect for mounting circuit boards and other components and is used as the “board” part itself of some printed circuit boards. There’s even a fire-retardant version.
If you’re not already using these to route wires and cables, which keeps them neat and prevents excess wear, you probably should be. Stainless steel clamps with rubber sleeves to hold rods and tubing are also available.
Uses: Electronics, automotives
Solenoid valves are, in my opinion, the best way to make a microcontroller project do something. They can open and close to start and stop fluid flow and, coupled with an air cylinder, affect air movement.
Uses: Process control, robotics, flame projects, really big air cannons
I love the sci-fi look of old panel lamps, which you can program to light up under certain conditions, such as when the project’s power is on or when an SD card has been inserted. Buy these new or at surplus shops, and get the LED-bulb models.
Uses: Control panels
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.