Wilton 1646
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.
Monochrome EI Core Transformer - DIYShopTools.com
An important tool for any shop that might plug in anything with a questionable electronic circuit. Whether you're building your own circuit, are repairing a circuit, or are just plugging in something old or used - an isolation transformer just might be the difference between success and a disaster. These are prohibitively expensive to buy new, so DIY is the best route IMO. I combined two nearly identical EI core transformers into a single EE core transformer. It actually has FOUR windings: the primary, isolated secondary, and two with multiple outputs of various voltages.
Stick Welder Arc Furnace
This is actually the build that started it all. I really wanted a furnace where I could quickly melt nearly any metal. I also thought it might be handy to have the ability to weld metal parts (though I actually got an Oxyacetylene setup before I finished this). I've seen many of these around the web, and there are plenty that are better built and functionally superior to mine. But what mine offers that those don't is that it actually looks like a welder you might find on the shelf at a hardware store or local welding shop.
Yet another important tool for any shop dealing with electronics. It produces 12v, 5v, and 3.3v. It's built using a 450w ATX power supply that I picked up for $4 at the local thrift shop
Waste Oil Propane Air Oxygen Foundry Burner DIY Project
Like the arc furnace, this is one of the ideas that led me down this rabbit hole of crazy project ideas. My adjustable (0-30psi) propane forced air (also adjustable via a reversed shop vac with speed control knob between it and the outlet) burner. I put this together with almost 0 knowledge on burners/torches/foundries/furnaces based on a few of the most common design propane burners online. But propane is inconvenient/expensive to use regularly in a hot climate. Having the choice of propane and/or waste oil with optional forced air/pure oxygen boost was plenty of motivation for me to build this.