Next Meeting – 21 Jan 2008

January 18, 2009 by

Our next meeting will be 21 Jan 2008, 7–9pm in room 039 of East Pyne Hall.

In this meeting, we will discuss: copper etching (for circuit boards, art), plastic casting, 3D-thinking and decomposition as it relates to drawing and design.  Guests may also discuss plaster casting and a pockethole jig.

So come one and come all to MAKE:Princeton.  Bring your friends, and any projects you want to show off!


Arduino Lab – FREE – at our next meeting!

December 1, 2008 by

The people have spoken, and they want to learn microcontrollers. We at MAKE:Princeton will deliver.

At our next meeting, we are offering a free class on the Arduino microcontroller. Topics will include: Basic I/O – making lights blink, reading buttons and knobs; motors – steppers and servos; television – driving an NTSC signal with an Arduino. No prior programming or electronics experience is required, we’ll cover all the basics. And if you have your own Arduino (or other microcontroller) projects to show off, feel free to bring those too.

We’re hoping for a big turn-out, so bring your friends and spread the word!

The meeting will happen next Wednesday, 10 December 2008 from 7–9pm in room 039 of East Pyne Hall, on Princeton campus.

Some of you asked if there was more parking available near the meetings. There are some metered parking spaces along Nassau street, very close to the meeting. Also, there are some free parking spaces along Witherspoon St. Failing both of those options, the University has some parking lots that are free to visitors after 5pm; lot #10 on this map may be your best bet among the PU lots.
See you there!


November 14, 2008 by

While honing our soldering skills at the recent lab conducted by Nick Johnson at Make:Princeton, we began discussing the dangers inherent in working with lead solder (fumes, lead leaching/poisoning, burns) and commented on the concept of dangerous projects in today’s litigation conscious world.

Even the recent best selling book “The Dangerous Book for Boys” by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden is mostly innocuous. Oh, to be sure, there are chapters on tying knots, building a treehouse, making a bow and arrow (“You’ll shoot your eye out, Ralphie!”), and hunting and cooking a rabbit, but these few “dangerous” chapters pale in comparison to boys publications of a century ago.

Take, for example, this opening sentence from a 1913 Popular Mechanics article. “Fortunate indeed is the boy who receives a stock of glass tubing, a Bunsen burner, a blowpipe and some charcoal for a gift, for he has a great deal of fun in store for himself.”

What parent today would give their son a gift of glass tubing and a Bunsen burner and say, “Here Bobby, go learn glass blowing.”? And personally, I had extreme difficulty just finding three test tubes for a project I am working on, and searched every toy and hobby store in a 25 mile radius until I found a package of safety glass test tubes in an educational store with very little else in the way of practical chemical science equipment.

But an article on “Glass Blowing and Forming” is just one of the over 700 truly “dangerous” projects for boys found in Popular Mechanics’ “The Boy Mechanic: Volume 1”. This book, beautifully reproduced and hardbound, is available from Lee Valley Tools.

What do I consider “dangerous”? How about How-To’s on:

  • Etching Brass and Copper
  • Electroplating
  • Creating a Jump-Spark coil
  • Creating an induction coil
  • Generating hydrogen for your own working Zeppelin model
  • Creating an Ammeter and static machine
  • Generating Acetylene gas (where does one readily get pieces of carbide?)
  • Creating a 110 volt transformer
    • and the one that really blows me away:
  • Creating a Lead Cannon

    “Any boy who has a little mechanical ability can make a very reliable cannon for his Fourth-of-July celebration by following the instructions given here:”

Lee Valley Tools has published the four volumes, complete with illustrations, covering 1913 (vol. I), 1915 (Vol. II), 1919 (vol. III) and 1925 (vol. IV) for about $22 each. But you can look at volume 1 and print off your own How-To articles such as “How to Create Your Own Metal Foundry at Home” by visiting Project Gutenberg. Even the images are faithfully reproduced in the PDF version of this book.


Part of being a Maker is exploring this “dangerous” zone and revitalizing the hands on skills of the past. These books will help you explore these skills without protecting your from litigation with the phrase:


The projects you are about to read were conducted by amateurs with years of inexperience …
which is how they learned not to touch a hot soldering iron.



Soldering Lab recap

November 13, 2008 by

With childlike euphoria I rushed home to show my wife and son what I made, I MADE! With the smell of flux fumes still in my nostrils I hooked the thumb sized circuit board up to a set of batteries and gleefully displayed the two blinking LEDs.


It certainly isn’t the prettiest little contraption (my soldering skills have a long way to develop), but thanks to the knowledge and patience of Make:Princeton leader Nick Johnson, I and two other soldering lab attendees were able to get these simple devices to work.


Nick Johnson explains the schematic

Nick Johnson explains the schematic

Nick began the lab with a schematic drawn on the chalkboard. He described how the circuit would work and added a diagram of the circuit board layout. He then showed us the basic tools needed (soldering iron, solder, snips, strippers, etc.) and after a brief demonstration of soldering technique, he handed out the components and we launched ourselves into our projects.


I had suggested the lab to Nick at a previous Make:Princeton meeting, explaining my deficit of talent and experience in this area. In the 70’s I had attempted building one of PAiA’s simple electronic synthesizers (which ended up in a shoebox under my bed, non-functioning) and later in the 80’s I built a Sinclair ZX-81 computer (which was replaced by the manufacturer with a WORKING model after I sent it back with another $30), so my track record with electronics was dismal.


Jon inspecting his handiwork

Jon inspecting his handiwork

But Nick has patience and loads of supportive enthusiasm. With through-mounted soldering techniques we assembled the 555 IC, two resistors, a diode and two LEDs to a small chopped up piece of Radio Shack Universal PC Board. One by one, Rob, Jon and then I were delighted to see our handiwork light up and blink (not without first learning how to de-solder, wick and clean up our mistakes).


In all it was a very pleasant evening. I intend to pay Nick (and Make:Princeton) back with a lab on metal etching sometime in the next several weeks. If you have an idea for a lab, or want to share a project technique that we could all benefit from, please contact Make:Princeton at


We hope to see you at our next meeting.




Next Meeting: 12 November 2008

November 10, 2008 by

Hello again!

The next meeting of MAKE:Princeton will be held on 12 November 2008 in room 039 of the East Pyne Building, from 7:00–9:00pm.

This meeting, we’re going to try something different.  Per the requests of some group members, I’m going to be leading a short lab, “How to Solder,” in which we will practice through hole soldering techniques and make blinking things.  This lab will be free to everyone (though donations for parts are appreciated).  Also, if anyone has a spare soldering iron they could bring, it would be a real help.

In the future, I’d like to offer more short labs, such as “Etching circuit boards at home,” or “Melting metal for fun and profit.”

Some of you asked if there was more parking available near the meetings.  There are some metered parking spaces along Nassau street, very close to the meeting.  Also, there are some free parking spaces along Witherspoon St.  Failing both of those options, the University has some parking lots that are free to visitors after 5pm (see  Lot #10 on this map ( may be your best bet among the PU lots.

I’ll see you all Wednesday night!

Meeting recap

October 30, 2008 by

Last night’s meeting (October 29, 2008) was held at the Small World Coffee Shop due to the fall break and unavailability of University rooms. Nick and Ken began a brainstorming conversation about a collaboration on an interactive light table. When Rob joined us, an idea was sparked about a table where a servo driven magnet mounted below a box with a light layer of sand would drag a steel ball through the sand to draw pictures. The three agreed to pursue this idea as a collaboration.

Rob showed a hand held version of a vortex cannon (a vortex pistol?) that he built with his 5 year old son. He also showed a prototype of a compact, foldable camping grill to be used by back-packers.

Ken showed his “ThinkWell”, a solid state USB memory farm built in a Steampunk style.

Nick showed pictures of his completed concrete bench with lighted interior cavity.

More detailed posts on these projects to come.

The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of possible future “hands on” demonstrations, such as metal and circuit board etching, acrylic casting, TIG welding, and robotics. We will likely put together an etching demo in the near future.

Come to the next meeting, scheduled for November 12th.

Whoops — Change of Venue

October 29, 2008 by


I just found out that the East Pyne building will be closed and locked on 29 October 2008 due to Fall break at Princeton.  This complicates things, because I have to find a new location for the meeting, but have neither (a) sufficient time to guarantee space, nor (b) sufficient time to let the message reach all group members.

I declare Small World Coffee Shop to be the location for tomorrow’s meeting.  Small World Coffee is located at 14 Witherspoon St, Princeton, NJ, just across the street from Princeton’s central campus.

Their page:
Google map

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, 29 October 2008 from 7–9pm.

I apologize in advance for all the chaos that will undoubtedly ensue.

Next MAKE:Princeton Meeting

October 28, 2008 by

Before I forget, I wanted to remind everyone that the next meeting of MAKE:Princeton will be TOMORROW, Wednesday 29 October 2008 at the same place, Room 039 East Pyne on Princeton Campus.  Again, the meeting will be from 7 to 9 pm.  Please feel free to bring your creations.

I should note that this week is fall break for Princeton Students.  I’ll still be there, and I hope you can make it too.

The first meeting was a huge success!

October 17, 2008 by

I am happy to announce that the first meeting of MAKE:Princeton was an incredible success! Perhaps 10 people showed up from as far away as Jackson, Ewing and New Brunswick, New Jersey, and even Yardley, PA!.  Several people brought projects for show and tell.

Bill showed us his HF Start for his Tig Welder. He effectively turned a $200 welder into a $1000 welder.

Here’s Bill’s HF Start… That’s about 1,000 volts arcing between tungsten terminals

Here you can see Bill built it from a light dimmer, a large coil from a car, and some hand made air gaps. Throw in some large caps, and a transformer made out of an old CRT yoke, and you have high voltage:

Jon showed us his new USB RFID reader. He toyed around with all sorts of ideas, even crazy user interfaces build around RFID dice. Unfortunately, the tags are expensive and there is next to no linux support ;(

I showed off my alarm clock,

Ian was kind enough to show us the diy Jukebox and arcade game that he built with his brother. Each of these has an embedded computer and incredible craftsmanship. He said he engineered the arcade game so it could be disassembled and transported in a car,

Overall, I was really impressed by the quality and variety of work out there. Very cool stuff guys.

The next meeting will be in two weeks. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Princeton Students: Fundamentals of Machining

September 29, 2008 by

This just arrived in my inbox.  If you are a DIYer and a Princeton Student, this class should be right up your alley.  I’m signing up for the Friday session.

Fundamentals in Machining: a 5-week, 15-hour workshop; Starts Oct 13

Come and learn to use machine shop and make the most of your research
projects. If you can dream it up, you can learn how to make it.

This non-credit course provides undergraduate, graduate, and technical
staff with hands-on experience in safe operating practices in the
machine shop environment. In this 5-week, 15-hour workshop you will
learn how to machine various types of metals by way of four different
projects. Students will learn how to operate the most versatile and
most commonly used machines in the industry today, the Bridgeport
Milling Machine and the Engine Lathe.

After completing the course, you will be able to use, under
supervision, the facilities in the student shop for fabrication of
lab/research projects in order to enhance your learning experience at
the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

For more information, see:

* Start date: Monday, October 13, 2008

* Class time: 1:30 to 4:30pm (4 students per section; once per week)

* Class size: 20 students

* Location: SEAS Machine Shop, lower level, C-wing, E-Quad

* Registration: Email to Larry McIntyre at

Please include these items in your email: status at Princeton
(undergraduate/graduate & class) and your first and second choice of
days (Mon-Fri).