Mailbox Notifier

Note: since the original posting, I’ve added some updates (bottom of page).

A couple of years ago I came across some vintage light bulbs while perusing the aisles of Home Depot. Since then, I’ve been looking for a project to use them in. I thought that it would be cool to use one as an indicator light and started to form this picture in my head of what it would look like. I wasn’t sure what the bulb would be indicating, but the idea was now in my head and once I figured out what to use it for, I’d have to make it.

All that to say that this project was motivated by the need to make an indicator light using one of those vintage bulbs.


Cheap Incandescent Headlamp Conversion

Harbor Freight sells these cheap incandescent headlamps for like $3.00. For what they cost they are not half bad. Still, I’d prefer an LED over the incandescent bulb.

The incandescent bulb the HFHL uses.

I had one of these Harbor Freight headlamps (HFHL) and a broken1 LED flashlight. The flashlight used a 1 watt LED mounted to an aluminium PCB. The flashlight’s driver still worked too so I used it and the LED to convert the HFHL.


Lighted Address Numbers

Lighted Address Numbers

A while ago the Wife Unit™ found some decorative metal numbers in a sale bin at the store. We both thought that they’d make great address numbers for the house and since they were dirt cheap we, bought them.

It didn’t take long for me to decided that I wanted to do something more than just hang them on the house. The numbers are raised, sort of reverse embossed, so the edges are exposed. My thought was to back-light the numbers for a cool nighttime effect.


Hannah the Pet Theft Society

I’ve grown tired having Hannah’s astroturfers using this post as a platform to spew their drivel. Therefore, I’ve removed all comments and have disabled commenting on this post.


Hannah is an Oregon company that offers pet adoption and care services to Oregon residents. I’d originally heard of them through their radio spots where they advertise what seems to be their main shtick – Total Lifetime Care.

According to the ads, the Total Lifetime Care program will provide you with all the care your pet needs for a small monthly fee. The video below sums up the program rather succinctly (if a bit unnervingly given the creepy voice over).


Kee Klamp TV Mount

I needed to come up with a way to mount a 24″ TV in the ceiling. There was no way to mount the TV where it needed to go with more traditional/off the shelf mounts. Having thought on the issue a bit, going back an forth between ideas, I finally came up with a mount that used Kee Klamps.



Coin Operated XBOX

We don’t have any issues with our Child Units™ (CU) playing video games. No fears of them turning into mass murderers or anything. However, the XBOX has a way of making our CU’s oblivious to the rest of the world. This creates all manner of issues, from the dogs not being let out, to chores not getting done at all or completely.

I started to think about a way to control access to the XBOX – the length of time it could be played, a way to forcefully stop game play at set intervals, and make it so that playing it was something you had to earn.

While the XBOX has “parental controls” they don’t work the way I’d like them too. You can set content restrictions and on-line restrictions but can only set a daily or weekly play limit. So, I could broadly limit the amount of playtime but I wanted more granular control and was looking for a way to stop game play and say “Let the dogs out!” or “Go finish the dishes!”

I almost immediately thought of a using a coin or token system as the access control. I took to Google, I was sure someone had done something like this already.


Motorized Pinewood Derby Car 2013

For this year’s Pinewood Derby race I made another remote controlled car for the Outlaw class. Unlike last year, this year I spent a little more time than the few hours before the race designing and building the car.

What I ended up with was a car powered by two micro DC motors, capable of multiple speeds, forward and reverse, controllable with an IR remote.


2013 Pinewood Derby

This year the youngest Child-Unit did the Cub Scout’s Pinewood derby again. Like last year he designed the car and I helped him with the electronics.

The fading LED was done by using a 555 timer. I believe this schematic is close to what we used. The only real difference is that R1 in that schematic was replaced by a trimmer pot so that the fade speed could be adjusted.

Power was provided by 3 CR2032 batteries connected in series for a total of 9 volts. The dome was just a scrap piece of plastic, with two metal pieces from a hard drive glued to the ends.

Unfortunately, this was one of the slowest cars at the race with a top speed of ~5.8 MPH. 

Minecraft Steve – Halloween Costume

This past Halloween the youngest child unitâ„¢ went as Steve from Minecraft. This was a pretty easy and cheap costume to make. For the head I used the pattern from The hardest part was cutting all the paper out.

An old hat (with the bill cut off) was secured to the head via a screw and nut. Some extra cardboard was glued in place to raise the head’s eye level so the child unit could see out the eye holes.

I used some screen to cover the eye holes so one could not see directly into the head – this was mostly superfluous but added to effect.

The sword was made in the same way using this pattern. To make it so that it was “life-sized” I imported it into Acrobat and scaled it to 200% in the print settings (did this twice, once for each side of the sword). This made it print on multiple pages (like the head) for you to piece together and glue on cardboard.

Both the head and sword were covered in packing tape to prevent them from turning into a soggy mess in the Oregon rain.