Work progresses on the sonic screwdriver.

Aug 27, 2008

One of the main reasons that I've been hanging out at HacDC lately is the fact that they've got a pretty well stocked electronics lab in the loft. There are shelves on the walls holding parts for sale and parts that have been salvaged from discarded equipment, boxes and boxes of spare everything you can imagine, and a couple of racks of power tools and other sundry equipment... in short, all stuff I don't have at my apartment.

More the point, the HacDC loft is a place where I can safely work on projects and not mess up the environment. Like the good couch. Or the kitchen table.

So, here's what I got done...
This is what I got finished.
There really isn't much to it - the brass pipe forms the body, there are two endcaps, and there's a hunk of circuitry that'll be inserted into the pipe. The endcaps fit snugly enough that I won't have to build locks to hold them on (though it might be an interesting look for the one at the butt of the device). The sound generating circuitry is what I extracted from a toy sonic screwdriver last month because my knowledge of electronics isn't yet advanced enough to figure out how to build my own. The biggest problem I ran into was having to re-solder a wire or two because the originals broke off at the solder joints on the circuit board; they were never designed to be handled, after all. Thankfully, I figured out that turning the adjustable soldering iron at the workbench up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit was sufficient to do what I had to do without damaging any components.

A couple of bench tests were encouraging - everything still works.

After finding a power drill that wasn't cordless (I still hate those things) it didn't take me very long to drill a couple of holes in the pipe and one of the endcaps. Of the components I'd picked up at Radio Shack last weekend, I'd chanced across a couple of mounts for LEDs that would not only protect them from damage but also look pretty spiffy when bolted into a panel of some kind. After pushing the rubber insulating plug out of the base and re-installing it with LEDs suitably positioned, it only took a pair of pliers to mount them to the end cap. The metal, though it's a bit scratched in places because I had some difficulty drilling the mounting holes, is very reflective, so it took me a couple of tries to photograph it. I had to angle it toward the camera to keep it from whiting out the image.

Next up: mounting the switches (which is proving a bit more difficult than expected due to the diameter of the pipe), making the final wiring connections, and working the guts of a USB key into the (non emitting) endcap for schtick's sake. The cosmetic bits of the project, like making the leather-wrapped handle and possibly taking some other interesting parts on will come after the circuitry's fully installed.

One nice thing about using the battery harness from the original, it can be dropped down the barrel of the device and it'll work just fine. I might even be able to change out the batteries if I'm careful.

One question I still have, however, is when, exactly, did my hands start looking so old?