I got tired of having to find spaces for my HOTAS controls on my desk, and having them competing for space with my keyboard and mouse. I had time and parts on my hands, so I decided to revisit clamping the HOTAS controls to my gaming chair.
I hadn’t done it previously because the clamps I had did not fit my newer gaming chair. The clamps I printed from here had a bit too short of a length for the screw to get a grip on the underside of the armrests.
I printed the new clamps, went digging through my parts to find the screws I’d used previously to connect the mounts to the controls the clamping hardware. That took longer than it should have.
I used a corded USB hub, some velcro straps, and the straps on the chair cushion to control the wires in a way where they wouldn’t get in the way, and I can still lift the armrests up out of the way when I don’t want to use the controls.
I also added a USB extension cable to my computer to easily connect to and disconnect from the chair, so I wouldn’t be permanently tethered to the computer.
Here’s what I ended up with.
This makes flying in spaceflight sims a lot more comfortable, and doesn’t require me to keep moving the controls around on various table surfaces in my computer room. Certainly makes it a lot easier to jump into Elite: Dangerous whenever I feel like it. Just plug the hub in, fold the controls down, and I’m ready to fly.
There are oftentimes bits of information that I frequently need to look up. Originally some of the stuff was on bits of paper, or I would have to repeatedly look up documents online. I got annoyed with trying to keep track of it across multiple locations, so I decided to get a binder or something. Then I decided to lean fully into the wizard/technomancer theme, compiling my everyday references for my technological hobbies as a “spellbook.”
One thing I liked from reading gaming rulebooks about wizards was their description of their spellbooks. How they could vary, and how there were two general categories of spellbooks: workbooks and grimoires.
The workbook is an everyday spellbook that had their notes that they cobbled together as they traveled. It can be messy, and written on all sorts of bits of paper that they tucked together in a cover. They could add new information as they came across it rather easily, and they could be carried around anywhere.
Grimoires were fancy neatly written books that require preplanning, and are often kept locked away somewhere (like someone’s gilt-edged special editions in a private study).
I decided to make my own workbook, and instead of going with a plain binder, I did a bit of looking around online, and found a place that sells custom laser-engraved leather binders. These awesome people here:
After a little back and forth on the customization, and swapping out the chicago screws binding with ones I liked better, this is what I’ve ended up with.
In here I collect my notes for commonly used bits of information, divided by categories such as 3D printing, software, etc. I’ve thrown in some of my favorite inspirational quotes, too.
The 3D printing section in particular includes my notes on what temperature settings work best for the various filaments I have, my versions of procedures for calibration, modeling and slicing considerations, and a handout on checking bed levelling.
I’d show you guys more of the contents, but for now it’s not exactly an IP friendly collection.
At any rate, I highly recommend putting together your own for your own maker hobbies. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as a custom leather binder, a folder or slim 3 ring binder would work just as well. My main recommendations for building your own are these:
Either get something with pockets or a way to store hole-punched sheets. That way you can insert printouts our handouts that you get, and not have to rewrite everything if you were using a notebook. It also gives you the freedom to reorganize later.
Pick something very portable for your workbook/spellbook. A 3-inch 3 ring binder might be able to hold a lot, but it’s rather unwieldy to carry.
Include information that you frequently need to look up or often forget (for me it’s partly the tolerances and temperatures I often need to check).
Include some blank paper in there somewhere so you can add stuff in when you become aware of it, and not have to track down more paper.
I’ve long complained that one of my printers, the Monoprice Select Mini Pro, was not designed well for maintenance. The vertical column does not seem particularly accessible. The column is made of a couple pieces of bent sheet metal that is structural but can’t be removed without fully disassembling it, and I had no idea how to do that and be able to put it together again.
I was in the process of photographing it to point out to someone where there should be a door on the design so you can access the Z-axis screws and rods for lubrication. And I noticed something.
That silvery piece is not one continuous piece of metal!
In fact, it’s cut in places where I would want to be able to remove a panel!
I had to open up the bottom and carefully look for what appeared to be the appropriate screws.
The screws on the top of the column were pretty obvious. Once I removed it, my hunch bore out. It actually was an access panel. I’d been trying to lubricate it the hard way.
I cleaned up the overspray from previous maintenance cycles, and directly applied lubricant to the rods and rails this time.
Sometimes we really should take more time to get thoroughly acquainted with the inner workings of our tech!
At least now I know how to get at parts. That had been driving me nuts ever since I’ve had one of these.
I had the printer time available and a couple of skateboard bearings already on hand. I decided to go with black filament to keep the aesthetic matching with other hardware around my computer and let it blend into the background a bit.
I did in fact finish that project just before Christmas of last year, in time to hand out as presents.
When I last left off, I had designed the top portions of the staff, but had not figured out how to get the threads I wanted to connect it to the broom handle. I ended up remixing a model that someone else had made:
I just left the extra gap in there since it wasn’t really hurting anything. As a point of comparison, this is also how I test fit the other components.
Once I found out that everything fit, I had to paint the pieces. I used a primer/pigment spraypaint, with a couple coats of a clear gloss coat to minimize the occurrence of the paint rubbing off on things.
I simply clearcoated the “crystals” so light could still pass through.
Another modification I made was to the light of the flashlights themselves, by ordering some red filters sized for maglites, so that they wouldn’t interfere with people’s vision at night. Apparently the lenses are a bit vulnerable to heatwarping from the LEDs, but I didn’t think it was a significant enough issue to warrant leaving them out.
Since I knew these walking sticks would also be brought and stored indoors a lot, and I didn’t want to get parents angry at me for damaging their floors, I added little rubbery caps to the end of the walking sticks. Usually these are meant for chairs, but by boiling them and zip-tying them on, I think they were able to stay on well enough.
With that done, I had my semi-final products.
I say semi-final, because these were rather tall for the kids. I got some help from the rest of the family to figure out what height they needed to be, and then cut them down to their final heights for the kids.
I did find out quickly some modifications I may need to make for future versions. With all the lockdown times this year, I realized I still had leftover parts from making them, and started working on a variant for myself, incorporating what I had learned from the originals.
I still have work to do on it, but I think I like it. I need to reprint a couple parts with adjusted tolerances, then paint, glue, and assemble. I’m also thinking of making a connector to hang just this top portion from my belt if I feel like it, as a belt greeblie for cyberpunk costuming.
The tack at the bottom is holding a piece of metal in that positively retains the end cap of the maglite without just relying on the glue, which was a failing of the originals.
If at first you don’t succeed, iterate, iterate, iterate!
If anyone is interested in making their own (of the original design, I’m not sure if my personal one will be posted), the files are located here:
This project is part of what first got me to get my first 3D printer, but I got discouraged at the time with print quality and later by my replacement printer being too small.
But I finally did it!
A while after I originally wanted to create it, someone updated the quality of the models and manufacturing methods, making it more feasible to do.
So, earlier this year, I posted about how I had printed the parts (though it took me a couple attempts).
One of the nice things about this version is that most of the parts were broken into easier to print and clean up pieces. There was a bit of a tradeoff, though. It required coat hanger wire for some parts and replace others with stainless steel rods.
It was easy enough to buy the rods, and purchase and cut the steel coat hangers… but I was unable to cut the rods myself. I ended up supporting a local business and contacting my local machinist (who I’ve gone to before when there were metal parts I couldn’t fix or fab myself). It was kinda pricey… but precisely and cleanly cutting and finishing stainless steel is no joke, and this guy did an excellent job of it.
Unfortunately, I found out later that the lengths I have him did not precisely match what was needed for some of the 3D printed parts.
This led to a bit of experimentation with modifying the 3D models and reprinting the “tension members” to “cheat” them to a length that would work with the steel rods. That took a bit longer than it should have due to unexpected 3D printer problems.
By the way, if you’re wondering where the coat hanger wires went, they are inside those gray pieces around the clear section, spaced between the steel rods.
Getting the lights in there and getting them to work took a bit, but I finally finished that recently. The system runs off of an Arduino Nano board, with a small board to break the wiring out. Before I get to the final stuff, I want to share a lessons learned.
If you use a breadboard of any kind… check how the the holes are connected! For some reason I thought this board left the holes unconnected and that I’d have to spread solder between components to form connections. Turns out they were connected and it hadn’t occurred to me to look at the back of the board until after I had soldered the resistors on. This is also why it is a good idea to buy spares of parts (or multi-packs) when working on a project. Otherwise it could cost you a lot of time and extra shipping.
A new board and a lot of soldering later, this is what I ended up using:
I realized that this time on a project I didn’t want to trap myself with my directly soldering disparate wires to the board, so I added connector pins so I could have removable cables for disassembly/modification. I wasn’t gonna bet on getting it right the first time!
To keep the count of LEDs and wires down a bit, I used the diffusers someone else had designed (links at the bottom).
It uses a “light pipe” design to spread the light around in a mostly circular pattern. There was even a special one for the reaction chamber…but I ended up not using that.
Wiring the LEDs took a while, but it was more tedious than it was difficult. I think it was mainly because I took the time to plan out what I was doing before I started in more detail, rather than trying to wing it and label a bunch of wires afterwards.
To avoid going insane with trying to glue in each LED and try to solder all the connections with reasonable spacing, I designed and printed spacers that I could simply stick the wires of the LEDs through. I think the wires would have held, but to make things simpler on myself (and so they wouldn’t push out during soldering) I hot glued them after putting them in.
To drastically cut down on the number of wires required, I soldered all of the negative terminals to a common grounding bus bar made from a bare copper wire.
Referencing the drawings I had made earlier, I soldered some ribbon cable to the positive terminals, allowing me to have traceability through color-coding. The wiring is mirrored on the opposite side, so that each control output from the electronics board controls the lights in the mirrored position on top and bottom of the warp core lamp. This keeps the number of control pins needed down, and simplifies the coding.
These lights on the spacer bars fit snugly into the diffusers.
As mentioned in the note above, I forgot to wire the ground wire first on the top section, meaning I had to add it in last, connecting it at the far end rather than the close end. In the bottom section I did it first, because I really needed room for the power/programming USB cable to fit in.
These segments then slid into the corrugated sections.
Here’s how the wires connected up before the final closing of the casing.
Note the removable connectors for all the wires in case I needed to adjust anything. The colorcoding made connecting them to the board a breeze. The USB cable goes out the bottom for programming and power.
Now we get to where I kinda got angry. Here are the parts just before I was planning to connect the last couple wires and close it up.
Look at the circuitry. Look at the diffuser that’s supposed to go into the central reaction chamber. Now look at the reaction chamber. Do you see it yet?
THE DIFFUSER AND THE CIRCUIT DON’T BOTH FIT INTO THE CHAMBER AT THE SAME TIME.
I had planned for this somewhat with the board, but hadn’t fully taken into account the flexibility of the wires or the added height of the removable connectors.
1) the diffuser isn’t 100% necessary (though the light would look better in that section
2) the diffuser was weak
3) RAL CAN CRUSH DIFFUSER WITH BARE HANDS AND EXTRACT LEDS INTACT
I kinda went barbarian on it in my desire to finish. I ripped the central diffuser apart, and just shove the LEDs in the compartment with the rest. Also, after a test fitting and plugging it in, I realized that the arduino had red LEDs that clashed with the color scheme, and put some electrical tape over them to get rid of the distracting red glow.
I closed the thing up… and then got to do something that still makes me chuckle a bit.
I pulled out the rubber mallet and began gently tapping on the end of the warp core to make sure all the rods were seated as well as they could be.
After a bit of updating some code I wrote for this years ago (and cursing at two different computers for a few hours because they didn’t want to behave with uploading to the arduino) I finally got it turned on.
I went through a few iterations of code and pseudocode (and had to remind myself that with this board the counting started at 2 rather than 0 or 1), and finally got it to a state I liked.
Here’s the initial light pattern I went with:
I’ve got an intermediate version of this one somewhere with an extra delay built in after the FOR loop because I didn’t like that the light jumped immediately from the bottom LED to the top again. It just seemed jarring.
Here’s what I’ve most recently decided to use:
This one has 2 or 3 “waves” at a time passing through each end to the center. It looks less like a jarringly looped GIF than some of the other iterations I went through.
I originally planned on plugging this into the raspberry pi that I control my 3D printers with, but apparently Octoprint gets confused by the extra USB connection, so I have it connected to a USB wall adapter for the moment. Though I have realized I can plug it into the USB adapter in my car as well…
I hope you all enjoyed this, and I’m glad to have finally finished this project after years of wanting to build this, and I was finally able to take this off my project board.
Reference Links For Construction:
Here’s the original I saw that inspired me years ago:
Now that I’ve submitted it as my entry for the 2020 Zero Day competition, I feel like I can share what I’ve been working on lately.
This may end up being the first in a series of “Standard Runner’s Constructs,” and the instructions are written as such, in an in-universe style. The idea is that runners are trying to make sure their future teammates are properly equipped and educated. If you “can’t find good help anymore,” sometimes you’ve gotta train your own.
I present the 𝝅oneer Falchion, a pi zero w based micro cyberdeck (or microdeck).
I took inspiration in designing this from the Austro-Hungarian M1853 Pioneer’s Falchion. I had gotten the first inkling of an idea of a blade shape from the shape of the keyboard, and then went poking and asking around to find a blade with a somewhat similar shape. That’s what informed the shape of the hilt and the placement of the quillions in particular.
The features include a micro-USB charging port on the hilt end, two USB-A “data-quillions”, a touchscreen display, and a wireless keyboard that folds on a hinge along the back of the “blade” into the operating position under the display. The power switch is accessible through a hole on the backside of the device.
I designed and built it for the competition hosted here:
The gist of it is that we are holding a mini virtual maker faire, with a competition portion. The competition requires using a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Zero W for the wireless version) as the core of a cyberdeck that we designed in a limited amount of time, with a limited number and volume of 3D printed components, and including the required models and instructions as our entry.
The winner gets their design printed in resin and shipped to them.
As part of the competition I had to submit the 3D models and instructions, but I also have them hosted here:
I got fed up with the power cables sticking out of the side of the case, so I decided to make the power switch a more integral part of the build. Also, I didn’t like the gaping hole in the case.
There were two power switches, one for the deck itself, and one for powering the USB hub. I modified this one for the hub, deciding to route it fully inside the case, even though that means I have to briefly open the tray to turn on the hub.
I also made this cable up for the main power to the Pi.
As part of this design process there was a lot of tinkering and iterating.
And, I mean a LOT of tinkering. This is what I ended up with:
I knew I liked the idea of a red safety cover for the switch, but those are designed to turn a regular flip switch off when they closed. I needed a way to have a cover a switch while the thing was still powered on. I found the switch that would fit through the hole of the safety cover (after a little… modification with the deburring tool), and figured out how to design the little bugger to hole the actual switch, the switch cover, allow for proper free movement of the switch to function, and attach the switch neatly and securely to the case. I’ll spare you the iterations, but it took a while, and I think I got it to look pretty good and hold well. I like that I have a red power button under a red safety cover now. It just feels… right.
It’s also been downsized slightly, which makes the large parts fit on my smaller 3D printer.
For another, I’ve been fixing my 3D printers, and have had all this monitored print time available recently, so I’ve had no excuse NOT to make it anymore. So, I’ve been spitting out the parts for this thing lately.
Those translucent sections were much larger and more complex in the original model, each made of 5 toroids. Also, many pieces were replaced with metal rods that I was able to order on Amazon, I just have to cut them down to the correct length.
So… yet another project ongoing! I’ve gotten the tools and hopefully all the parts I need, so when I have some more time (I’ve been kinda busy) I’ll be:
Writing the arduino code for controlling it
Testing the code on a breadboard
Soldering an absurd number of connections
Cutting a bunch of metal rods with a reciprocating saw
And for a random yet practical use of 3D printing: S-hooks for hanging tools up. I needed to get my saws out of the way, and I realized I had a place to hang them up… as long as I had something to hang them up with. S-hooks seemed like what I needed, so I did a quick search and printed a couple out. Now the saws are (reasonably) safely stored out of the way.