Acquiring Materials For Projects
My projects require an assortment of materials. From lumber to metals to electronic components to plating solutions to electrolytes to conductive materials all the way down to elements & gasses. I've had to learn how to acquire an extremely long list of materials in order to even consider starting any of the projects that will ultimately end up making up the different aspects of my workshop. Sometimes I'm tearing apart other objects like appliances or electrical devices. Sometimes I'm creating a rare or expensive material by mixing cheap or commonly available materials. On the other hand, sometimes I'm extracting a material from another commonly available material. Sometimes it's as simple as buying one product that's named/marketed for what it does rather than what it is. And sometimes It's processing a material that came in one form into a different form that I need for my application. In order to have a dirt cheap workshop, I need to use dirt cheap materials. For example, I acquired a set of 2" casters ( two locking, two not), about a dozen assorted servo motors, another dozen assorted stepper motors, 20-50 high-end steel linear rods, 100+ bronze bushings/bearings, 50+ optical endstops, surge protector, circuit breaker, 12-18" hinge, cabinet magnets, MOBO, HDD, (2) RAM sticks, 5 PCIe cards,
Good Materials & Material Donors
When building certain items, some materials can be extremely useful. Sometimes one component can be used for many of the items that you want to build. One such item is a microwave oven transformer (MOT). MOTs can be used to make an isolation transformer, stick welder, spot welder, power supply, step-up transformer, step-down transformer, 12v to 120/240v inverter, Tesla Coil, Jacob's Ladder, and the list goes on... Therefore, MOTs are very desirable components. I think I have somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen that I've accumulated. There are other good sources of transformers other than microwaves, though I've not found as many uses for them because for one reason or another, it's incapable of something the MOT can do. However, often the donor devices often have other components that you won't find inside a microwave. One example is uninterruptable power supplies (UPS). A typical UPS will have a smaller 12v battery (3-7Ah), a fairly large transformer, a circuit breaker, a circuit board with smaller components (like resistors, capacitors, etc.), 3-prong AC power outlets, and a 3-prong AC power cord. Some even have a useful case. For example, I used a UPS case to build my original 2-transformer stick welder. Another device like that is stereo receivers. A typical stereo receiver will have a large transformer like the other two, a pair of large electrolytic capacitors (typically 63 or 71v and around 10,000 microfarads), assorted potentiometers and knobs, and typically a BUNCH (in the neighborhood of a dozen) pairs of banana jacks that are very useful in PSU builds - or anything requiring multiple inputs or outputs. Other useful items for assorted projects are printers/scanners/copiers which can have components like linear rods (typically high grade carbon or stainless steel), assorted motors (servo as well as stepper), gears, belts, optical endstops, DC power supplies (typically between 12-24v). All in all, it's really just about keeping your eyes - and your mind - open. A good example of finding great use for something that you'd never expect is a washing machine shell, big and bulky, but metal so thin that it's useless as an individual component, not only seen as garbage, but inconvenient garbage as you can't just throw it in the trash - but by adding the long hinge from a copier I just tore down and some scrap cabinet spring-loaded magnets, I made the front panel into a cabinet door. and then by using refractory materials I got for my new foundry build, I built a small foundry inside. And then using parts from my stick welder, welder included (as the power source), I made it into a perfect self-contained arc foundry/furnace. The front cabinet gives access to the internals to easily add or remove the welder, and then the top door gives access to the actual foundry for smelting. It's a super clean and easy to use design. A couple of dead mini fridges turned into my vacuum pump once I replaced the starting capacitors. And then the shell of one became my shop power distribution center and the other became my outdoor storage for foundry accessories protected from the elements. All costing nothing.