Category Archives: Mods - Page 2

DIY reclaimed lumber hanging Edison bulb chandelier

This DIY reclaimed lumber chandelier with hanging Edison bulbs is easy and quite self-explanatory, though I will explain somewhat. Here’s what you’ll need,

Parts for Fixture

  • piece of lumber
  • 2x lengths of chain
  • 4x open/close chain links, to affix the chain to the eyelets you’ll screw to the board
  • 4x screw eyelets, to secure the chain to the lumber
  • 2x screw hooks, to hook the chain to the ceiling *screwed into solid wood joists
  • one or more junction boxes depending on the size of the wood
  • one or more hanging lights, cord, socket, bulb (see below)
  • a cover for the ceiling junction box plastic or otherwise, you may have to cut a notch for the power cable

Parts for Lights

Once you’ve selected your lumber, drill a hole for each light cord. I started with a spacious zig-zag pattern but it’s whatever you like really. Affix junction boxes to the top-side of the lumber and wire the lights into them. Screw an eyelet into each corner of the top-side of the lumber, at least an inch in from any side.

If the lumber is extra heavy you could consider another length of chain and place two more eyelets to support a chain in the center. If ceiling joist placements allows you could also use four lengths of chain straight up to four hooks instead of the swing system I employed.

Screw the hooks firmly into ceiling joists, hang the fixture and wire whichever junction box is closest into the ceiling electrical. If possible the power cable would be less noticeable if it snaked to the ceiling along one of the support chains.

Once hung you can adjust the heights of the hanging bulbs and coil the extra cable on top, it’s not coiled very neatly in some of these pictures but I have since remedied that. There you have it.

If you’re interested in other Edison-style lighting ideas check out DIY steampunk-style iron pipe Edison fixture and the reason I have so many Edison bulbs kicking around, Maker Wedding: Rustic Edison-style hanging light fixtures.

DIY steampunk-style iron pipe Edison fixture

I’ve been seeing these types of steampunk black malleable iron on the net for years; it was only a matter of time before I went and made one. The texture of the iron combined with the warm vacuum-tube glow is quite an amazing effect, and they certainly look easy to make. Previous trips to the hardware store had only resulted in the question of what socket will fit into these types of pipes? I found myself with some spare time this past Saturday, so I went to the local hardware store and laid out 15 or 20 iron gas pipe fittings in the aisle and designed a 4-bulb fixture — roughly designed that is.

While designing the fixture be careful not to screw the fittings together too tightly as they can bind, also keep in mind these fittings will turn your hands black and the sharp threads can easily shred your hands if you slip. This being my first attempt I kept it relatively simple, keep in mind that you will have to thread wiring through all the bends and turns at some point.

I used the largest malleable iron piping I found, which had an inner diameter of 1 inch on the female threaded sections. I then purchased some basic keyless (no switch) brass sockets. These did not fit in the pipes, though I didn’t mind the look of the brass sockets extending from the fixture so I started with that.

The rounded base of the sockets became a problem as when they were wired and threaded into the fixture they lolled this way or that rather than extending straight from the fitting. I tried bulking up the base of the sockets with electrical tape, but they still slipped. I then tried removing the rounded bottom section yet the upper brass part was still too large in diameter to fit in the pipe.

Then I discarded everything but the bare socket with its bakelite base, the middle portion in the exploded image below (not the exact socket, but very similar). These almost fit, I had to crack/shave/cut off some protrusions from the bakelite base. Discarding the brass and cardboard meant that the socket had no protection or isolation for the wiring leads, for this reason I wrapped the hot lead with some electrical tape to isolate it and then ran one wrap of electrical tape around the entire socket. This extra bulk meant I had to twist and fiddle but they still fit in the pipe. If you fiddle so much that you think the electrical tape may have shredded, take it out, replace the tape and start again. It’s better to be safe.

Even though the sockets had no ground lead it was important when wiring be sure to wire all sockets in the same fashion and keep track of which wire is hot as they will all be combined at some point and you don’t want to short the wrong lead to the iron fixture structure.

While threading wire through the fixture you can unscrew fittings but be careful not to twist the wiring too much inside around elbows.

With the sockets wired and the wiring threaded through the fixture the next step was mounting it to the ceiling or wall. The wall mount fitting, pictured right, is not large enough to cover a junction box. For this reason I used a white plastic cover, however screwing the wall mount fitting to the plastic cover would not be strong enough to support the fixture (iron is heavy).

Another problem was that the wall mount fitting’s screw holes would block the plastic cover’s screw holes. I decided to use a steel junction box cover on top of the plastic cover to support the fixture. I drilled a center hole in both covers, two holes to line up with two of the iron mount’s screw holes and ensured that one of the remaining two screw holes in the iron mount fitting lined up with one of the plastic cover’s screw holes. This meant that the iron fitting would not be centered on the plastic cover, but it did allow access to both of the plastic cover’s screws even after the iron fitting was secured.

In this manner the iron fitting could be bolted to the steel cover, through the plastic cover and still allow access to the plastic cover’s screw holes in order to affix the entire assembly to the junction box.

The photo above shows the steel cover which has been drilled, in this photo the white plastic cover has not had the center hole drilled for the wires yet. I’m confident this system would have worked with a full sized junction box, however once I removed the old fixture I realized my desired location had an old-style smaller junction box and this system wasn’t going to work.

As it turns out, mounting to an old-style smaller junction box is even easier as the two junction box mounting bolts do line up with the iron fitting and therefore there wasn’t a need for the steel plate after-all. I put bolts right through the iron mount fitting, the white plastic cover and into the junction box, which allowed the junction box to directly support the weight of the fixture.

If you’re confident wiring fixtures, outlets, sockets and such this should be right in your comfort zone — if not perhaps enlist a friend who is to help out.

If you’re interested in other Edison-style lighting ideas check out DIY reclaimed lumber hanging Edison bulb chandelier and the reason I have so many Edison bulbs kicking around, Maker Wedding: Rustic Edison-style hanging light fixtures.

A Maker Wedding

Initially I wasn’t sure how much our wedding was truly going to represent my fiancée and I, after all, we wanted our family and friends to enjoy themselves and feel included — as with any large event there are a lot of expectations to manage. After deciding to craft my own Edison-style light fixtures for our reception I realized that the occasion was, in addition to a celebration of our life-long commitment to each other, an opportunity for us to showcase our creativity and perhaps introduce some of our family and friends to aspects of ourselves they may not have known existed.

In retrospect we probably took on too much, but it allowed us to feel the occasion was a true reflection of ourselves — for me this meant soldering, stripping, crimping, twisting, programming and no small amount of brow furrowing. None of these projects could’ve come together without the help of my wonderful wife Ester, who not only said yes, but also collaborated throughout and trusted me to deliver on some very important aspects of our big day. In addition, a big thanks to my dear old Dad who took time to help me with the lengthy task of wiring the Edison fixtures and to the friends and family who helped us setup and teardown these, and other installations.

Animated Arduino LED matrix lounge table top

Vinyl “flexi” record wedding invitations

XBee remote relay as photobooth RF camera trigger

Bachelor party wireless Arduino accelerometer Stab-O-Meter

JQuery Animated Wedding Website

Various puppet arms available at Obscura Antiques & Oddities, New York

Maker Wedding: Animated Arduino LED matrix lounge table top

Finally got around to making an LED table top, as it turns out — for my wedding reception. We decided to have a lounge area and an LED coffee table seemed like the perfect centerpiece for it. I decided instead of making a full table that I would make a table top that fit onto an existing ottoman. I affixed the LED strips to a plywood board which had a 2″ raised frame with aluminium duct tape, to help with brightness.

Arranging the LED’s in a proper matrix turned out to be quite a job as the strips I used came pre-wired and there isn’t all that much length between LED’s on the strip. I ended up having to cut and re-splice the connection leads for each row of the 7 x 7 matrix, after that the construction went quickly. You could get around this by using a more modular LED strip solution, I initially had ShiftBrites slated for this project, but I made something else with them and when I got around to this table top there were much less expensive options available.

I created an outer frame with a bevel to support a glass top. Initially I went with plexiglass but it would bow in the middle with anything of weight on the table, I didn’t want to add supports as this would disrupt the light diffusion, so I opted for a piece of tempered glass (actually intended for table tops to boot).

Adding adhesive obscuring film to the glass didn’t have the diffusion effect I’d hoped for so I sandwiched a sheet of white tracing paper between the tempered glass and a similarly sized piece of plexiglass and this gave the soft white diffused look I wanted.

The issue of programming the animations took a little longer. I wanted to use the disco(esc) animations available from the fine folks responsible for the 1E Disco Dance Floor — which I also used in my ohDisco! app for iPad. These animations are 32 x 16 and can have hundreds of frames — too much to load completely into the Arduino’s memory. But I didn’t want to have to deal with reducing the animations to 7 x 7, or reducing their total frame count, as this would affect the quality and overall impression. Instead I opted to add an SD card reader to the setup which stores the animations. The 7 x 7 section of each frame is loaded on-demand from each animation file and displayed on the table, with this setup the Arduino has no memory problems whatsoever and with a little more code it could index and play animations from the SD card without the need for code changes.

Worth noting is that the SdFat library used to interface with the Seeedstudio SD Card Shield wouldn’t run reliably (or at all sometimes) on an ATmega128 so be sure to use a more powerful Arduino running an ATmega328.


Arduino Sketch

const int chipSelect = 10;

#include <SdFat.h>
#include "SPI.h"
#include "Adafruit_WS2801.h"

uint8_t dataPin  = 2;
uint8_t clockPin = 3;   

SdFat sd;
SdFile myFile;

int rows = 32;
int cols = 16;

long framesize = rows*cols*3;
long rowsize = cols*3;

int ledrows = 6;
int ledcols = 6;

int rep = 0;
long reps = 5;

int brightness = 15;
int delaytime = 40;

char* files[]={

int fileCount = 9;

char* file;
int frame = 0;
int frames;

Adafruit_WS2801 strip = Adafruit_WS2801(50, dataPin, clockPin);

// strip to matrix addressing array
byte addressMatrix[7][7] = {

void setup() {
  delay(400);  // catch Due reset problem
  if (!sd.begin(chipSelect, SPI_FULL_SPEED))

  file = files[ random(fileCount) ];

  strip.setPixelColor(0, 0, 0, 0);;

void loop() {
  if (!, O_READ)) {
    rep = reps + 1;

  // seek to next frame
  if(myFile.fileSize() < ((frame*framesize)+1))

    frame = 0;
    rep = rep + 1;

    if(rep > reps)
      rep = 0;
      file = files[ random(fileCount) ];


  // adjust reps for number of frames
  if(frame == 0)
    frames = myFile.fileSize()/framesize;
    reps = 750/frames;

  int data;

  int column = 0;
  int row = 0;

  while (row <= ledrows)
    while (column <= ledcols)
      data =;
      // read red
      int r = map(data,0,255,0,255);
      // read green
      data =;
      int g = map(data,0,255,0,255);
      // read blue
      data =;
      int b = map(data,0,255,0,255);

      // set pixel address
      byte address = addressMatrix[row][column];

      // set pixel color
      strip.setPixelColor(address, map(r,0,255,0,brightness), map(g,0,255,0,brightness), map(b,0,255,0,brightness));

      // next column
      column = column + 1;

    // reset column count
    column = 0;

    // increment row
    row = row + 1;

    // skip extra pixels

  // turn off first pixel (7x7 matrix, 1 unused pixel)
  strip.setPixelColor(0, 0, 0, 0);

  // send current frame to strip;

  // close the file

  // increment frame
  frame = frame + 1;

  // rest

Maker Wedding: Bachelor party wireless accelerometer Stab-O-Meter

Since I had disassembled the Wine-O-Meter I’d made for a friend’s bachelor party I needed to come up with something else for my own, I wanted to do an updated strongman competition. I decided to put together a wireless accelerometer to hopefully measure the speed and impact of various activities such as swinging a baseball bat, a sledgehammer, a hatchet, a tennis racket — get the idea? Sort of like the measurement tools used on shows like MythBusters or Deadliest Warrior. Along the lines of the Wine-O-Meter I dubbed the project the Stab-O-Meter as measuring arm movements reminded me of one of my favourite Futurama characters, Roberto.

My plan was to use an Arduino to read an accelerometer and use a pair of XBees to wireless relay the information to a laptop. The laptop would be running a Processing sketch to handle the high score display, reset and current readings. It took a little bit to find the right Arudino code to read the LIS331 Triple Axis Accelerometer I’d selected but it worked well once I found it. I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about accelerometers, but this one measures g-forces on three axis, x, y and z. After some trial and error I decided to add all positive g-force readings together and then add all negative g-force readings together. If the positive total was higher I used that as the current amalgamated reading otherwise I used the absolute sum of the negative values. Comment if you’re aware of a better way to translate x, y, z g-forces into a single number representing the speed of the motion (see Hank’s comment below).

Hank Cowdog

A neg X Acc means acc along the negative X axis. The magnitude of the acc is the important measurement, so a better approach would be to sum the squares of each X,Y,Z component and then take the square root (as per the Pythagorean Theorem). This computes the magnitude of the Acc regardless of the direction (or orientation of the accelerometer chips).

result = sqrt(xAcc*xAcc + yAcc*yAcc + zAcc*zAcc);

The Arduino sent the single number amalgamated reading in realtime (or as close as possible) via it’s serial connection to a XBee which in turn wirelessly relayed the serial data to a laptop running a processing sketch to read and deal with the data. The Processing sketch displayed a realtime reading bar on the right, the highest reading yet recorded in large numbers in the center and a RESET button to clear the current highest reading. With this system each contestant could reset the high score using the RESET button or the spacebar and the proceed to swing a bat or stab a tree or whatnot to find they’re personal best, which was then ranked against other’s scores on a white board.

This part worked great, however in impact scenarios (actually hitting something) it was too easy to max out the sensor, which has a max of 24g, so we restricted our games to non-impact swings. I had added hand wrap to the sensor case in order to secure it to the implement of choice, however I quickly realized that it also needed a non-slip surface for grip, I epoxied some rubber salvaged from a guitar effect pedal. Even with the hand wrap and the rubber footing the first full-force swing with a baseball bat sent the sensor soaring into a neighbouring house — duct tape provided the necessary upgrade in grip, but downgrade in polish.

The video below is, aside from my Roberto impression, an early test using a preliminary Processing sketch and no cases for the components. When I get a chance I’ll record a video of the finished setup, perhaps as I demolish my garage this weekend. Yes, it’s an odd video, but that’s what YouTube is for, right?


Arduino Sketch

// 3-axis Accelerometer
// Sparkfun Electronics Triple Axis Accelerometer Breakout - LIS331
// Arduino UNO

/* Wiring:
    UNO LIS331

    3.3V VCC
    10 CS
    11 SDA/SDI
    12 SA0/SDO
    13 SCL/SPC

#include <SPI.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

#define SS 10 // Serial Select -> CS on LIS331
#define MOSI 11 // MasterOutSlaveIn -> SDI
#define MISO 12 // MasterInSlaveOut -> SDO
#define SCK 13 // Serial Clock -> SPC on LIS331

#define SCALE 0.0007324; // approximate scale factor for full range (+/-24g)
// scale factor: +/-24g = 48G range. 2^16 bits. 48/65536 = 0.0007324

// global acceleration values
double xAcc, yAcc, zAcc;

void setup()

  // Configure SPI

  // Configure accelerometer

void loop()
  readVal(); // get acc values and put into global variables

  int pos = 0;
  int neg = 0;

  if(xAcc > 0)
    pos = pos + xAcc;
    neg = neg + abs(xAcc);

  if(yAcc > 0)
    pos = pos + yAcc;
    neg = neg + abs(yAcc);

  if(zAcc > 0)
    pos = pos + zAcc;
    neg = neg + abs(zAcc);

  int result = neg;

  if(pos > neg)
    result = pos;


    Serial.print(xAcc, 1);
    Serial.print(yAcc, 1);
    Serial.println(zAcc, 1);


// Read the accelerometer data and put values into global variables
void readVal()
  byte xAddressByteL = 0x28; // Low Byte of X value (the first data register)
  byte readBit = B10000000; // bit 0 (MSB) HIGH means read register
  byte incrementBit = B01000000; // bit 1 HIGH means keep incrementing registers
  // this allows us to keep reading the data registers by pushing an empty byte
  byte dataByte = xAddressByteL | readBit | incrementBit;
  byte b0 = 0x0; // an empty byte, to increment to subsequent registers

  digitalWrite(SS, LOW); // SS must be LOW to communicate
  SPI.transfer(dataByte); // request a read, starting at X low byte
  byte xL = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the low byte of X data
  byte xH = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the high byte of X data
  byte yL = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the low byte of Y data
  byte yH = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the high byte of Y data
  byte zL = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the low byte of Z data
  byte zH = SPI.transfer(b0); // get the high byte of Z data
  digitalWrite(SS, HIGH);

  // shift the high byte left 8 bits and merge the high and low
  int xVal = (xL | (xH <<8));
  int yVal = (yL | (yH <<8));
  int zVal = (zL | (zH <<8));

  // scale the values into G's
  xAcc = xVal * SCALE;
  yAcc = yVal * SCALE;
  zAcc = zVal * SCALE;

void SPI_SETUP()
  pinMode(SS, OUTPUT);

  // wake up the SPI bus

  // This device reads MSB first:

  Mode    Clock Polarity (CPOL) Clock Phase (CPHA)
  SPI_MODE0    0    0
  SPI_MODE1    0    1
  SPI_MODE2    1    0
  SPI_MODE3    1    1

  sets SPI clock to a fraction of the system clock
  Arduino UNO system clock = 16 MHz
  Mode SPI Clock
  SPI_CLOCK_DIV32 500 Hz
  SPI_CLOCK_DIV64 250 Hz
  SPI_CLOCK_DIV128 125 Hz

  SPI.setClockDivider(SPI_CLOCK_DIV16); // SPI clock 1000Hz

void Accelerometer_Setup()
  // Set up the accelerometer
  // write to Control register 1: address 20h
  byte addressByte = 0x20;
  /* Bits:
  PM2 PM1 PM0 DR1 DR0 Zen Yen Xen
  PM2PM1PM0: Power mode (001 = Normal Mode)
  DR1DR0: Data rate (00=50Hz, 01=100Hz, 10=400Hz, 11=1000Hz)
  Zen, Yen, Xen: Z enable, Y enable, X enable
  byte ctrlRegByte = 0x37; // 00111111 : normal mode, 1000Hz, xyz enabled

  // Send the data for Control Register 1
  digitalWrite(SS, LOW);
  digitalWrite(SS, HIGH);


  // write to Control Register 2: address 21h
  addressByte = 0x21;
  // This register configures high pass filter
  ctrlRegByte = 0x00; // High pass filter off

  // Send the data for Control Register 2
  digitalWrite(SS, LOW);
  digitalWrite(SS, HIGH);


  // Control Register 3 configures Interrupts
  // Since I'm not using Interrupts, I'll leave it alone

  // write to Control Register 4: address 23h
  addressByte = 0x23;
  /* Bits:
  BDU: Block data update (0=continuous update)
  BLE: Big/little endian data (0=accel data LSB at LOW address)
  FS1FS0: Full-scale selection (00 = +/-6G, 01 = +/-12G, 11 = +/-24G)
  STsign: selft-test sign (default 0=plus)
  ST: self-test enable (default 0=disabled)
  SIM: SPI mode selection(default 0=4 wire interface, 1=3 wire interface)
  ctrlRegByte = 0x30; // 00110000 : 24G (full scale)

  // Send the data for Control Register 4
  digitalWrite(SS, LOW);
  digitalWrite(SS, HIGH);

Processing Sketch

 import pitaru.sonia_v2_9.*;
 import processing.serial.*;

 Sample beep;

 float high;
 int count;

 int inside = -1;
 int bx=850; // position in X of the up corner of the botton
 int by=460; // position in Y of the up corner of the botton
 int h=40;
 int w=100;

 float inByte=0;
 float drawByte=0;

 PFont f;

 Serial myPort;         // The serial port
 int xPos = 10;         // horizontal position of the graph

public void stop()

 void setup () {
   // set the window size:
   size(1024, 550);

   high = 0;
   count = 0;

   f = createFont("Verdana",6,true);

   // List all the available serial ports
   // I know that the first port in the serial list on my mac
   // is always my  Arduino, so I open Serial.list()[0].
   // Open whatever port is the one you're using.
   myPort = new Serial(this, Serial.list()[0], 9600);
   // don't generate a serialEvent() unless you get a newline character:
   // set inital background:

  beep = new Sample( "beep-02.wav" );

void draw()
    if(key == ' ')
      high = inByte;


  rect(xPos, 500 - inByte, xPos+20, inByte);

  text(inByte, xPos - 10, 500 - inByte - 25);

  count = count + 1;

  if(count > 2)
    count = 0;

    if(drawByte < high - 200)
     drawByte = drawByte + 100;
    else if(drawByte < high - 10)
       drawByte = drawByte + 10;
    else if(drawByte < high - 1)
      drawByte = drawByte + 1;
    else if(drawByte < high - .1)
      drawByte = drawByte + .1;
    else if(drawByte < high - .01)
      drawByte = drawByte + .01;
    else if(drawByte < high - .001)
      drawByte = drawByte + .001;
    else if(drawByte < high)
      drawByte = high;

  if(drawByte > high)
    drawByte = high;

  text(drawByte, 200, 325);

  rect(bx,by,w,h); // Button 

  text("RESET", bx+10, by+30);

void mousePressed(){
  if(!(((mouseX > (bx+w))
  ||(mouseY > (by+h)))
  ||((mouseX < bx)
  ||(mouseY < by))))
      high = inByte;

void serialEvent (Serial myPort) {
   String inString = myPort.readStringUntil('\n');

   if (inString != null)
     // trim off any whitespace:
     inString = trim(inString);
     // convert to an int and map to the screen height:
     inByte = float(inString);
     inByte = map(inByte, 0, 1023, 0, 500);

     if(inByte > high)
       high = inByte;