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DIY Oven Build Using a Filing Cabinet

April 26, 2016
Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic; you name it!

Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic and any other idea that needs heating or baking in future.

You did what?  Hacked a filing cabinet to make a home DIY workshop oven?!

Yes, perhaps we are crazy, but this DIY oven really IS made from a standard office filing cabinet and it works like a dream!

It is great for curing electrostatic powder coating on CNC milled metal parts; melting plastics; bending acrylics; scorching wood, sealing natural bamboo wood wax and any number of other DIY projects where oven heating is required.

See more about how we made this DIY oven from a filing cabinet here.

Industrial, or even DIY hobby ovens are extremely useful in a home DIY workshop. Unfortunately, they are also usually unjustifiably costly for most small projects.

Cheap toaster ovens can be used for small scale applications as a ‘make-do’ alternative, but are often not physically large enough to fit many DIY projects.  They also usually offer very poor thermal efficiency.  A big downside when working over longer periods as the units tend to get hot inside as well as out.

We recently cut some large aluminium parts and components using our home built CNC machine. We wanted to coat the metal parts using an electrostatic powder coating system to give them a lasting professional finish. Powder coat curing however, requires parts to be heated to high temperatures for extended periods. (And strangely, the cooking department said the kitchen oven was considered off limits well before we mentioned curing powder coat paint or the carcinogenic gases they produce….)

We needed a large, cheap DIY solution. A robust, purpose built DIY oven capable of maintaining high, evenly dispersed temperatures for lengthy periods.

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Onion Harvesting Machines in Japan

July 3, 2015
Rows of mature Japanese onions on raised soil mounds.

Rows of mature Japanese onions within raised soil mounds in Ibaraki, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

summer-seasonJapanese onion harvesting machines save a huge amount of time and effort for the farmers of rural Japan.  The machines automatically pull the individual plants from the ground, remove soil, cut away excess root material and present the stalks to the operators for neat bundling.

Non-bulbous straight onions (commonly known as “Japanese Onion”, or “Naga-negi” lit: long onion in Japanese) are a popularly farmed vegetable in Japan. We have written about this particular variety of onion in the past, so if you want more information about it’s farming and general use in Japan, please check our original post here.

Japanese onions are usually grown within mounded rows of soil approximately 3 feet apart and 1 foot high.  The mounds are formed during the growing season, as a machine is used to partially bury the plants from the side to provide development of the desired long, white stalks below ground level.  This growing arrangement is also suitable for providing access to the harvesting machines that straddle each row during harvest.

Skip to the bottom of this page to view a video of a typical onion harvesting machine in action.

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

A Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine makes fast work of harvesting an onion field in Ibaraki, Prefecture, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

Japanese farmers use a Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine to save themselves from back breaking work.
(Click to Enlarge)

Machine harvesting of Japanese onions requires at least two operators for efficient workflow.   Many farms plots however, are owned by individual families, so harvesting tasks are shared amongst family members to reduce workloads and to get the crop to market more quickly.

Harvesting machines have an automated uprooting system towards the front of the machine and a bundling and cutting area at the back.

The first part of the uprooting section is equipped with angled guide wheels that run along either side of the deep onion rows.  Along with the main rear tracks, these wheels help the machine stay on course as it moves.
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Etching DIY Circuit Boards (PCB)

November 29, 2014

PCB Screen PrintingElectronics hobbyists who have never ventured into the realms of making their own circuit boards, are missing out on half the fun.  Here, we present a quick step-by-step guide to the UV light transfer and Ferric Chloride etching method for making your own printed circuit boards.

Home DIY electronics projects can be a lot of fun for discovery and learning.  They can also be extremely useful for those  extra buttons and remote devices in your home.

What is even better, is being able sit the project components on a printed circuit board (PCB) that you also made yourself.

It is extremely satisfying seeing a finished DIY electronics project which looks so professional it could have just as easily come from the nearest electronics store.  Learning the skill of etching your own PCBs will help you obtain that same satisfaction in your home electronics projects too.

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Looking Inside a Lead Acid Battery

November 21, 2014

lead acid car battery cut awayHere’s something just for interest’s sakes.  Photos of a modern, but humble lead acid car battery and its internal electrode plate arrangements for those who may not have seen similar before.

Common lead acid batteries in cars and trucks work by developing and storing electric potential between sets of positive and negative electrode plates.  The electrodes are commonly made of Lead (Pb) and Lead Dioxide (PbO2) mesh and paste, separated by a non-conductive porous material to stop them touching and short circuiting.  The battery cells are submerged in approximately 35% Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4(aq)) which acts as an electrolyte and allows electrons to flow between the plates and to deliver current when the battery terminals are connected to a circuit.

The basic energy storage and delivery concept of lead acid batteries was invented over a century and a half ago by French physicist Gaston Planté.  Since that time, this kind of battery chemistry has been developed to become a standard and efficient workhorse in everyday life for us all.

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Drone Helicopters for Spraying Crops

May 20, 2014
Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are quickly finding their place as efficient tools within the Japanese agricultural industry.

Drone helicopters specifically designed for crop spraying and inspection are well suited for use over confined farming land with numerous obstacles.  Drones do not have the same drawbacks or carry the same risks as alternative ground or aerial spray application methods.

Rice paddies and other farming plots in Japan tend to provide exceedingly poor access to farmers for servicing of crops once planted.

Irregularly shaped plots scattered over the semi-rural landscapes are closely entwined with a multitude of barriers and confinements in surrounding infrastructure.   Deep drains, pump  houses, power lines, communication towers, houses and roads all become access barriers and dangerous aerial hazards when it comes time to spray crops.

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Japanese Ibis CNC Design Series – Free Download

February 4, 2014

Soaring Japanese Ibis CNC designToday, we have made available for download, the first design in a series of three CNC designs.

Following our earlier cat design series, we decided to give things more of a Japanese touch.  This series is of Japanese Ibis birds with the first design being of this magnificent bird soaring high in the sky.

We chose to produce a CNC design series of the Japanese Ibis not only because the bird is an absolute icon of Japan, but because it is a bird which is commonly sighted in the rural areas from around where we produce this website.  The adult Japanese Ibis birds can often be seen nesting in treetops on river banks, or wading in green rice paddies while feeding on frogs, fish  and insects during the Summer months.

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Free Telescope Automation Software

July 30, 2013
SkyChart - Free Telescope Automation Software

SkyChart (Cartes du Ciel) – Free Astronomy and Telescope Automation Software under GNU General Public License

SkyChart - Free Telescope Automation Software Ever since writing about making DIY serial communication cables for Meade telescopes (DS-114 / DS-115), I have received bundles of questions from budding astronomers wanting to know more about the free telescope automation software shown in the post.

Amateur astronomy really comes alive when telescopes are combined with quality star and planet tracking software.

After calibration of your telescope, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or how much you know about astronomy.  Telescope tracking software makes it easy to just click on a virtual celestial object of interest (on your computer screen) and your telescope motors are off to automatically find and motion track the real thing in the night sky.  Life for an amateur astronomer suddenly becomes far more interesting and all too simple when you have full reference to unlimited viewing options in front of you!

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Fritzing – Easy Access to PCB Manufacturing for DIY Electronics Hobbyists

March 2, 2013
By allows the DIY electronics hobbyist to produce professional quality PCB's through use of their creative commons software and their online ordering service. allows the DIY electronics hobbyist to produce professional quality PCB’s through use of their creative commons software and their online ordering service.

We are constantly amazed by the evolution of fantastic resources available to DIY hobbyists and designers.

A couple of weeks ago, we provided a step-by-step guide to making printed circuit boards (PCB).  The UV imaging and Ferric Chloride etching method is not particularly difficult all up, but there are still serious draw-backs and barriers to making DIY PCBs at home for many.   Suitable work areas and ventilation are required; relatively nasty chemicals need sourcing and handling; and disposal of waste needs very careful attention for environmental reasons because it contains toxic Copper salts.

For anyone who just wants a professional looking printed circuit board on which to place their newly designed electronics project without the fuss, we really recommend considering what has to offer.  They provide a fantastic fabrication alternative for electronics enthusiasts living in close quarters, or where DIY PCB etching is simply out of the question.

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Meade Autostar Damaged BIOS Recovery

January 26, 2013

Meade AutostarSome time ago, during a clear, starry night which was perfect for astronomy, the Meade Autostar handset I was using to drive the motor tracking of a Meade DS-115 telescope, suddenly corrupted itself.  The orange two line LED display was filled with junk.  Both the handset and the telescope motor control became unusable.

Pulling out the telescope power socket and re-booting the Autostar did not fix the problem.  The BIOS couldn’t be repaired by simply resetting the device.

After a lot of trouble trying to find a solution without any suitable information or handbooks to guide me, I (pretty much) accidentally discovered what to do to force the BIOS to a selection mode where the Autostar had erased the previous BIOS and was again ready to receive an uplink for re-installing the new BIOS through the interface cable.

Perhaps there is information elsewhere on the internet now, but there wasn’t when I was trying to figure this out.  Either way, I hope this information can help anyone else who finds themselves dealing with the same frustrating situation.  This solution saved my Autostar and my sanity!

The Autostar damaged BIOS fix can be found here.

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Making a DIY Serial Interface Cable for a Meade DS115 Telescope

January 26, 2013


Meade DS-115 telescope with Autostar handset controller.

Meade DS-115 telescope with Autostar handset controller.

Some time ago, I picked up an older styled Meade DS-115 telescope. It was a 115mm diameter reflector telescope, with a focal length of 910mm.  While the model is becoming a little dated, it is a great telescope and the lenses are still crystal clear and the tracking motors work just fine.

The Meade DS-115 telescope also came with a Meade Autostar handset loaded with a starguide reference database to control object finding and object tracking.   This is a handy device, but on its own is a little limited when compared to the experience offered by fully computer interfaced, graphical night sky mapping from modern computer software.

Unfortunately, the scope did not come with the optional computer interface cable that allows connection of the telescope to either USB ports or the older standard 9-pin (DB9 RS-232) serial communications port. This was despite the included Autostar handset having the required pinout socket on it’s base, ready to use.

Why make my own cable?  Because buying a specialized cable for this telescope from Meade is relatively expensive…for just a cable.  I therefore set out to find a cheap DIY option.

With relatively little effort, I managed to work out the wiring connections needed and make a suitable  9 pin RS-232 serial communications cable from spare cables and connector heads that were laying around.  The interface cable changes the entire astronomy experience with this scope.  It works fantastically.  The cable allows full telescope support from a PC or laptop serial communications port.  All tracking, object location and coordinate pinpointing can now be done with just the click of the mouse on any desired sky map object.

Full and detail specifics of the project, required wiring and how I made the DIY 9-pin RS-232 interface cable in general, are shown here.

There were absolutely no details on the internet about DIY wiring requirements for this particular interface cable, so I truly hope the information I provide can help others harness the power of modern computer software in their astonomy.

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