Bootstrapped Tools, Live Stopped Motion, and a Dekatron Computer


Dallas Texas played host to an epic Hackaday meetup last weekend. The Dallas Makerspace was kind enough to open their doors, and we sure used them. Attendance was over capacity, with a line all night to screen-print your own T-shirt, a set of lightning talks that lasted nearly two hours, and plenty of hardware show-and-tell.

We’ll start off with three of the most impressive builds displayed. First is a set of simple designs that can be used to make tools in parts of the world where even a hammer is a luxury. Then it’s on to a clever entertainment device that uses discrete stopped-motion figurines to make live animations. We’ll take a look at the Witch-E project which is building a replica of the famous Dekatron-based computer. And finish up with the surprise hit of the meetup.

Cool Tools From an Engineer Without Borders

It was a pleasure to meet Larry Bentley, who gave a stellar lightning talk about the tool designs he’s been working on for the developing world.

A lightning talk is only seven minutes, but Larry spent the rest of the night with people crowding around his table to get a look at the very functional tools he built with the most basic of materials. Above you can see him holding a hack saw and a bit brace, both made out of rebar.

Larry is active with Engineers Without Borders, which has taken him to many different parts of the world. For some communities, even a hammer is a tool beyond reach. Check out his toolbox above and you’ll see a stick with a big bolt through it. Financially, this is a more approachable version of a hammer.

So how do you cut the hole in the stick to make your hammer? Larry brought along a DIY drill press he had made. Our fancy electric drill presses spin up to high RPM, but this one uses low RPM and high pressure. A bolt is used to apply leverage to the work piece while the bit is twisted by hand. Check out the close shot on that mechanism. It uses dimpled washers and some ball bearings to create a DIY bearing. And it works well enough to drill through a hardened steel file!

Live Stopped Motion