The ramblings and (mis)adventures of a hardware hacker.
Prospecting for Parts:
Grace Under Pressure
Spring Wound Timer
Solar Light Teardown
Scrapping a new light for parts.
Simple PWM
Motor Driver
LED Ring
Circular Display
1Hz Clock
Crystal Controlled
Drip Drip
$3.00 Sprinkler Timer
Wireless Doorbell Hack
Just photos and notes
Project Directory

Blog Archive:
Cheap Video LCDs
Heatsink from Hell
MAKE Forum part searches
Entire Archive

Site Features:
Update Giant Digital Clocks
Nixie Tube Quest

My Online Tool Box:
These are here for my convienience, but feel free to use them.

Onsite Refs:
My TTL Parts database
Display size vs. viewing distance

Online Refs:
AllDatasheet component data sheets
Findchips where to buy parts
CalculateMe conversions
EngineeringToolbox tech info

eBay Locators:
Displays, LED
Motors, Gear
Motors, Stepper & Drivers
Pneumatics, Cylinders

Hacked Gadgets
uC Hobby

Other Sites I Read:
Electronic projects
Electronic circuits
Electronic components
Integrated Circuits
Hardware Hacking
The Hackers Bench Blog

September 5, 2014

HB7: Solar Security Light Teardown

I needed a solar panel and battery pack for my project, so of course I bought a brand new solar light fixture and tore it apart.
Solar Security Light Teardown

August 29, 2014

HB6 : Simple PWM Motor Speed Controller

I needed a simple little PWM motor speed controller, so I built one based on the Microchip 12F1840 microcontroller.
Simple PWM Controller

August 21, 2014

Generic Circular LED Ring Display

I've designed a cool little 16-LED display board that can be used in a lot of applications, and be driven by any microcontroller. You can even buy your own set of boards.
Circular LED Display

September 9, 2010

PROJECT : Crystal Controlled 1Hz Clock

Lots of different projects require an accurate slow clock source. This simple and inexpensive 1Hz clock is crystal controlled to ensure accuracy in your clocks, timers, or wherever it's used.
Crystal Controlled 1Hz Clock

July 18, 2007

TTL Database Open

On the recommendation of a friend, I've made my TTL Parts database and tools public.
TTL Parts Database

July 11, 2007

The $3.00 Sprinkler Timer

There's no such thing as a one-zone sprinkler timer on the market ... so I built one ... and it only cost a few bucks! Granted, there's no great technology in this one, just an exercise in thinking outside the {sprinkler control] box.
The $3.00 Sprinkler Timer

June 25, 2007       New Giant Clock

Added the fairly cool water-jet clock at the Kanazawa eki train station to the Giant Clocks page. There's even a YouTube video.

June 20, 2007       MAKE Searches

This MAKEzine conversation led me to create this search for solenoids.
This MAKEzine conversation led me to create this search for neodymium magnets.
This MAKEzine conversation led me to create this search for barbed hose fittings.

June 16, 2007       Yahoo Group Created
Click to join the Hackersbench Tahoo group.

May 17, 2007       PROSPECTING FOR PARTS

I've just added a new column to the site: Prospecting for Parts. (see left)

On all of the message boards that I read a recurring question is "Where can a get a (insert odd and hard to find part here)". I figured that I'd share where I find a great many of the parts that I use in my projects. While I certainly could afford to go buy or order new stuff, my scavenging has several benefits.

First and most obviously, I save a TON of money. In the first installment, 'Grace under Pressure', I manage to pick up a compressor, a timer, a small gear motor, a bunch of brass fittings, an air pressure gage, and more for less than five bucks.

Second, it is the "green" thing to do. If I hadn't bought the device mentioned above, its 15-pounds and roughly 1 cubic foot would have landed in the landfill. But since it when through the Hacker's Bench shop, all of its parts have been harvested for reuse, its aluminum and copper are off to be recycled, and what finally did go to the landfill was about 3 ounces of wire insulation and plastic that would barely fill a Dixie cup. Think of every old, obsolete, or discarded machine as an organ doner.

Third, scavenging can be educational in a couple of ways. The most obvious is that you see and learn how the machine you're scrapping works. For example, the device in the first article has a compressor, a pressure regulator, and an air output. Simple enough you'd think at first glance, but while studying the machine I noticed that the compressor was feeding the air output and the regulator INPUT in parallel! I had to think about it for a while, but it finally came to me that the small regulator would not allow enough air flow to the output. Configured as it was, the regulator was actually bleeding off excess pressure, allowing full air flow at the appropriate pressure to the output. I'd never seen a regulator used that way, and now that I have I might actually need that technique for some project in the future.

The other educational opportunity arises when you come across parts and have no idea what they are or what they do. Searching the web for data sheets and catalogs has introduced me to dozens of new parts and devices that I otherwise might never have seen or known about.

And finally, scavenging can help charities. In this case, my five bucks went to the Goodwill organization. At times it's the Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul, or some family yard sale.

In short, Prospecting for Parts can be a win-win-win-win activity.

October 05, 2006 Ding-Dong : Hacking a wireless doorbell

The Ding-Dong project actually started back in June. A guy from the MAKE group asked about how to convert a wireless doorbell into a remote control relay. It sounded cool, and I happened to need just such a gadget, so I tackled it. I got most of it done but then life stepped in and the project went to the back burner.

An email the other day from Brett, the guy who originally asked the question, brought it back to the forefront. I still have a couple of things to do, but it is essentially complete. You can read the whole thing here or click the button to the left.

Check back now and then. I still have to do the antenna part of the project.

I also moved the whole Heatsink from Hell entry to the Blog Archive . Yup, I still have the heatsink, and I still do not have a use for it.

The Anemometer project? ... eventually.


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This page contains all of my free hardware hacks, free designs, free plans, and free schematics. These are all projects that I have designed and built myself. Many are in the realm of hardware hacking, or taking scrap or surplus equipment and turning it into something valuable. Others are projects that use LEDs, microcontrollers, stepper motors, LCDs and other electronic components. I always try to include free plans and free schematics that anyone can download.