Five Lesser Known Parts to Complete Your DIY Projects

Solenoid Valves

Kathryn Taylor

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.

TUBING

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.

GAROLITE BOARD (A.K.A. "G-10")

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.
Uses: Electronics

CABLE CLAMPS

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

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

PANEL LAMPS

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