Picture of Junkbot Safari: Motors, Gears, Capacitors and Gravy
This tutorial was designed mainly for a group named N-List at the CADRE Laboratory to help explain how to salvage and collect parts for our enthusiast robotics projects. Please if you have some information that would help me or questions please feel free to email me.

I have recently gotten a taste for electronics and despite the fact that I love to ramble around stores like HSC, I am amazed by the largess of the south bay in the way of cheap/free materials that often are abandoned and on the way into our waste stream.

insert a photo of part on my bench

Step 1: A few words of caution

Picture of a few words of caution
A few words of caution before I start.

Dumpster diving is a risky activity. Be aware, wear appropriate personal clothing and protective equipment (gloves/boots/etc). Never put yourself in a dangerous situation. You should go with a friend in the case of a mishap there will be someone to help or call help.

Electronic components are hazardous material.

You should be cautious when handling materials such as capacitors, transformers, or anything that stores or builds voltage. These types of parts can kill you.

Many electronic components are toxic you should use due care when handling them and wash your hands, especially before eating, smoking, etc, etc.

Understanding and being able to identify components is very important. I use a bunch of resources but here are a few that I have found:


btw, most of these originally came from a simple google search for identifying electronic components
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ALogan974 years ago
Any idea on what to dissect to get bike-sized gears (meaning gears the size of ones in bikes, not gears the size of bikes :D)? I'm building a pedaled hexapod-type thing for halloween but have no more bikes to scavenge gears from :p
kidNeutrino (author)  ALogan974 years ago
i haven't worked on bike gears, but I have see the tool usually used to extract bearings from the center of pulleys/gears. is that what you are looking for? sounds like a very cool project.
hmm, i don't really know what you mean by tool used to extract bearings... i don't know much about gears and stuff since i'm relatively new to this and most of my projects so far have been with legos... im going to bike shop tomorrow for gears though since my dad is friends with the owner and we can get free gears/frames and stuff so i dont really need any help with finding them anymore. and yeah im being a unicorn rider for halloween so im making a quadruped robot for the unicorn :D (yeah, im so cool ive been a fairy for the past 2 halloweens)
i sware with god that i turned my psu-on and while it is on touched capacitors and nothing happened 235w psu (i was making hydrogen)
CrawdadMan6 years ago
What could i use the Cd drive laser for? I've found a use for everything else besides the laser?
Laser Range Finder
have you taken apart a printer? i found a film canister sized capacitor that still had a charge apparently(i, as a precaution, discharge all capacitors i find with a screwdriver) and it discharged at a high enough heat to actually almost solder the screwdriver to itself!
I once took apart an old generator, possibly 3000watts if I remember correctly. The largest capacitor was about 2" in diameter and 4" tall. I discharged it with a screwdriver like you did, and I ended up with three parts of a screwdriver that had a 1/4" thick shaft. It had enough power to melt my screwdriver in a sceond! It also melted the handle a little bit.
crap. i've seen bigger capacitors, though. they come as large as milk cartons, in my experience. fortunately, i've never been allowed within fifty feet of one.
I know someone that works at this place (don't remember what they were or what they did) that he said had very large capacitors in some of the equipment. When I asked how big they were, his exact words were "Some of them stood about as tall as you do." That's a 6 foot tall capacitor! He said they were 4' in diameter and were upwards of 250lbs! Now that's a big capacitor! Also, why are you not allowed within 50 feet of yours?
1) they're not mine, they're my friend's, and 2) he knows that i'd end up blowing something up. or setting it on fire. or electricuting it. in short: it's a VERY bad idea to let me near something with any amount of destructive force because i will use it efficiently
wow good thing u discharged it!
Modarius6 years ago
HSC is my favorite electronics store! And it is about a 1/3 of the price at radio shack.
ooo yeah i definitely agree. but the hsc near me is about 15 mins away. :(
Here in Ankara,we have this whole street that is FULL of electronics shops.But my dad usually doesn't have time to drive me there and it's like 30 mins away without the nasty traffic over there.
same here but I have to get my mom to drive me so I don't get to go near as often as I would like
Xellers7 years ago
Does anyone know what I can salvage relays from? I really need some, but I can't afford the quantity that I need, therefore, I must salvage. Please help me.
santy22 Xellers7 years ago
you can get some from a GNC emulator, i found 4 last night!
Xellers santy227 years ago
What is a GNC emulator? Please post some images. TY :)
santy22 Xellers7 years ago
it is a thingy that you can found in cars with compressed natural gas (GNC)
Derin santy226 years ago
I think those are CNG.
garage door openers
old modems
Derin Xellers7 years ago
old fax machines may have them,also look inside UPS's ,they have about 5 relays
I went to the big junk yard here in my hometown. I was going to ask politely if I might buy some broken computer equipment. I was expecting a "NO!", but got a "Yes, the electronic trash is right around the corner, please wear this yellow west. We sell everything by a fixed kilo-price". Wow... I found some big (from the looks of it, military) control box. It was basically a wardrobe full with rackmounted relays the size of my palm. I didn't need any relays then, so I only took one for reference. If there is a metal handling junk yard near where you live, you can try and see if they too sell junk with price per weight unit. That might be a unopened treasure chest. What are you planning to build and how many relays do you need of what size? Shipping from Sweden is a bitch, but I might be able to help a fellow dumpster diver in need.
I need any kind of relays that I can get. So far, I've found them inside of things like microwaves and air conditioners that use microcontrollers to control high voltage devices such as pumps, fans, and magnetrons.
Hijackthis16 years ago
One question, how could I use these parts to make a robot(s)?
wats with the gravy
edfel016 years ago
really liked 2 bad i live in the country so not many things to salvage but wat i can find at home... Good Job!!!
altomic6 years ago
i go to photo developing stores and ask for their old disposable flash cameras. not only do i get FREE AA or AAA batteries but also LEDs, capacitors, small amounts of copper, but some other stuff. the lense can be turned around and made into a basic fish eye lense
awkrin7 years ago
man u'r lucky. I only got in my hands a amd k-6(p2) and p3, and the p3 was only the motherboard and a few leds.. tell, do u get more voltage from pairing the capacitor -_+_-_+ than in series?
how i learnt it: basicaly, capacitors and resistors can be wired in the opposite way, by this i mean: you have two 1k resistors, you want a 2k resisitor, so you put the 1k's in series. OR you have two 100uF caps, you want a 200uF cap, so you put the 100uF's in parallel. Hope i helped. Dave
kidNeutrino (author)  awkrin7 years ago
just another thought, go for the older electronics. Everything is SMT now. It is so miniature it is a bear to deal with.
symet.jpg (586x600) 59 KB
that's a work of art, really!
kidNeutrino (author)  awkrin7 years ago
I think I understand but, the way you wrote "-_+_-_+ " reads as in series. In my junkbot symet we achieved a bigger "kick" by stacking multiple capacitors in parallel; that way they should all charge to the same limit and then dump.

this is a great example of this technique (Solarbotics rules! IMHO) [http://bots_by_jbs.solarbotics.net/symet.jpg here's a pic]
[http://bots_by_jbs.solarbotics.net/symet.html http://bots_by_jbs.solarbotics.net/symet.html]

good luck and show us your bots when you make them.

symet.jpg (586x600) 59 KB
omnibot6 years ago
Good instructable. I'm lucky enough to live in a "good" (environmentally bad) neighbourhood. Ever since flatscreens came along I've had three or four crt-TVs in the recycling and it's just downstairs.
Hmmmm gravy!!!
you mean ummmmm gravy god stuff
wtf? jullian you cant cheat and get your "bot" idea from instructables
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