Introduction: Free Parts for Electronics Projects and Experimentation
This instructable is about getting free parts for electronics projects. You probably have all the stuff you need to get started, and your supplies will grow over time as you break things, buy new things, or sometimes people give you their old or unused items.
Edit/Adding: Another way you can get free parts is by contacting parts manufacturers and asking for a sample. This isnt turning trash in to treasure, but its a valid way to get parts for electronic projects and experiments.
Im breaking it down into steps to make it easy to understand, in the end, I will provide many examples, go ahead and check those out and come back for all the groovy details.
To start, you should set aside some nice boxes, bags and totes to store things. I like to call these magic bags and boxes, because you put junk in, but when you need something, you can pull that out, and that to me is magical.
You can use your recycling for a good selection of various bags and boxes. Save nicer boxes and bags for keeping your parts. You will need many different sizes and you can use a big bag to hold many many bags, or even many bags of bags.
Whenever you replace something (like an old phone, or computer,...) and you dont have a use for it, keep these items in a bag or box or tote or any combo that seems appropriate. Sometimes people will bring me things to repair, but for whatever reason, its not feasible, sometimes those items end up in my box/bag/totes.
Leaving things as completed assemblies is generally a good idea, for a few reasons, but eventually things take up too much space, and if you harvest the parts you want, you can make space for new stuff. Take those items apart, remove the sweet juicy parts (electronic and mechanical), then put them in bins or bags and organize them by type and size to make it easy to find when you need them.
Repair items, You can pull parts out of stuff in your magic bags and boxes, or if you have salvaged parts and binned or bagged them, you can check your parts for something that will solve your immediate problem, and repair some item. Sometimes its easier to find the right part by looking over parts on a printed circuit board, other times it may be easier to sort them out of a pile.
As you find items that are not feasible to repair, they go into your pile of parts that you can use to repair other things.
When you want to make new things, you have a large selection of parts, you may not have all the parts you need, but when you already have many of them, then you only need to buy a few things, and that makes it a lot easier to get projects and experiments moving forward.
The pretty lights being displayed here were damaged and broken, the cell phone battery was salvaged from an old phone, but I had to buy the charger circuit, and a switch. The parts cost was under $1 because I had the other parts from salvaging.
Step 1: Bags, Boxes, and Totes
Start by setting aside a few bags, cardboard boxes, and a plastic tote or two.
You will need a few different sizes, You dont need to spend any money, your recycling bin probably has a nice variety, but spending a few bucks on a container that has lots of little compartments makes things nicer.
These are just containers for storing broken things, but you can also decorate them in fun and meaningful ways.
You may want to have a few sized bags in a box, to put different sized broken things, cell phone sized things in on bag, another bag of small individual components, another bag for larger items like tablets or laptops.
You may want a box or tote for larger items, like home stereo items, dvd players old computers...
Now that you have these containers established, you can use them to put items that no longer serve you, maybe they broke, or maybe you replaced them, maybe you intended to repair them, but just never get around to it. Closet and garage are good places to put these magic boxes.
I have several boxes, some are things Ive broken, some are things other people donate, it doesnt really matter where they came from, but it is important that they dont end up in the landfill. So never put this stuff in the trash.
One important thing to remember is to remove/disconnect any batteries, and store the batteries in a way that they wont short on each other. Keeping rechargeable batteries charged is also a good idea to make them last longer.
Step 2: Repair Stuff
When you go to repair something, you will often find that you need a part. Where I live, we dont have good access to new parts, and typically it takes a week or more to order parts, often shipping costs more than the part itself, and the whole time you are waiting, you have a pile of some broken thing until your parts arrive, and thats really annoying. Even when you can get the parts locally, sometimes you may have to wait till the next day or after the weekend to get a part, so having parts on hand can really be helpful, you might even think its magical.
Having access to parts that you need, when you need it is kind of magical, but I call these magic boxes and bags because you put broken stuff in them, but you pull out parts that you need, and turning broken stuff into needed items, is really quite magical.
An example of this is the time I needed a 3.3v voltage regulator, I reach into the magic box of old computer parts, find an ethernet card, look around the board for similar parts, identify one, look up the datasheet on the part, and read the specs, and confirm that it will work for my needs. Then its just a matter of removing the part, and testing it in your circuit.
You need a part, you look into your magic bag/box/tote, and pull out just the thing you need to solve that problem. This is particularly handy when you are fixing something that you want to use, and you dont want to wait till you can buy a part.
Another time, someone came to me with a broken phone charger, they were very upset, they were away from home, and their phone battery was getting low, and their charger stopped working. I dug through my tote of cable and wallwarts, and pulled out a used phone charger that was no longer in regular service, and gave it to her. It solved her problem, she was happy, and thanked me.
Step 3: Make Awesome New Things From Old Junk!
Having parts to repair stuff is probably the primary reason that I dont throw away old electronics, but whats really fun is making stuff from old useless things, and you can make a lot of neat stuff from just one broken thing. Sometime you can create new things by combining parts from a few other things, and thats real fun too.
Often, when stuff breaks, only one thing breaks, but there are still many good components and parts. Sometimes things are replaced not because they are broken, but simply because they got something better, or no longer need it.
Electronic stuff is very modular, and when you break things down to their modules, sometimes that individual module can be used as is. A good example is power supplies. If you need a power supply, you can often find them in consumer electronics, stuff like computers, tvs, cd/dvd players. The parts that make the modules are also modular in nature, and they can be broken down into individual components. If you need a big cap, chances are pretty good that you will find one in a power supply. If you need an LED, chance are good you may find one on in just about any devices with a power indicator. There is a wide range of of modularity, sometimes you can find a module that does everything you need, or other times you may find all the parts to build a module for your needs.
One interesting case was when I needed 3.3v power source to experiment with LEDs and shift registers. I found a old router, looked over the board for parts, found a voltage regulator, dug up the datasheet on it, found example circuits, then compared those components to the ones around the voltage regulator, and I was able to build a buck converter, from parts I pulled off the board. You can find this in one of the examples.
Sometimes I dont have the thing I need in one of my magic boxes or bags, and I cant find a suitable thing at the one electronics store in town, and I dont want to wait for shipping. You can sometimes find a suitable thing in a thrift store, or electronics recycling or surplus store. They often sell used items cheap, and you can find the thing you need there. Its saved me a few times to make quick repairs, or just find the part to complete a project. One time I needed 64 tiny wires (thicker wires would be cumbersome in such large numbers), they only needed to handle around 20 mA, so even very tiny wires would be ok. I ended up getting a used 80-wire IDE cable, and striped it down to 16 segments of 4 strands of wire.
You can find more than just electronics, you can find other things helpful in other ways. I took took apart a couple DVD players, and ended up using the top cover for a soldering station. I put all the solder stuff inside on the metal, and was able to move the whole soldering station around to where I need it, and I dont have to worry about burning anything, because everything is nicely contained within the metal DVD player case cover. I even used that same DVD player case cover when working on my car. I used it to put my tools and fasteners, so that I can organized my nuts and bolts to make it easier to put back together right. It also made it easy to find the tool that I needed, because I knew it was in the tool/fastener tray formerly known as dvd player case cover.
When working on electronic stuff, I often clip wires and strip insulation. You should keep these instead of throwing them away, I put mine in a jar, and when I need to jump a circuit, I pull out a tiny piece of wire from my jar. LED leads are a perfect example, they are hard steel, not copper, and they hold their shape very well, You can bend these with pliers or tweezers and replace damaged circuits, or solder one component to another. They are very handy, and you will see some in my examples. Insulation is another thing that you may need just a tiny piece for, there are many times when you just need to cover some wire, or put a bunch of wires in a tidy bundle, some old insulation works great for that.
Step 4: Harvesting Sweet Juicy Part
At some point you may find your bag/box/tote get full, or you just want to build up a supply of spare parts. You can take your old or broken devices out one at a time, strip them down to just electronics and recycle the stuff you dont need (like metal cases and stuff can be recycled, or you can even use them to house new projects)
Some things will have complete assemblies that are useful, like power supplies, or displays, but there will also be circuit boards that you have no use for, but are full of sweet juicy parts that you can use for other things. Since these boards are not of any real value other than scrap parts, they can also be used for educational purposes, like learning or showing others how to solder, or do repairs.
To harvest the sweet sweet juicy parts you will need some tools. and you may want some safety gear, like safety glasses, or a fan with filter to remove fumes. I usually just take things outside if they are going to be fuming. I dont normally wear safety glasses for soldering, but I do for harvesting parts, just to be extra cautious.
The tools you will need are soldering iron, clippers, screwdriver, pry/wedge tools, tweezers, pliers. A guitar pick works great for opening stap together parts, just jamb it in the crack, and run it around the device to pop it open. A popsicle stick works good for making a wedge or pry tool, a lolipop/sucker stick works great as a burnishing tool, and you can sharpen it to use to poke and scrape out stuff without damaging things. Its real handy for cleaning dirty connectors.
Some tools you will have to buy, but everyday household items can be very handy too. I use an old tuna can to put solvent in for cleaning small electronics. An old jelly jar (with lid) makes a great container for soaking stuff in alcohol to clean off flux. I build LED cubes, and I can take the spires, put them in the jar over night, and they clean up real quick and easy the next day.
You can also use cardboard and plastic from your recycling to make containers to organize your new parts after harvesting.
When I buy stuff, it often comes in bags or boxes, and I keep those around (often in a bag or box, yes, I have bags of bags, and boxes of boxes), and they come in real handy for putting things like electronic parts.
Getting on to the parts extraction will usually require heat, whether its a soldering iron, de-soldering station, or hot air tool. Most folks wont have proper de-soldering gear, but thats ok, you can get by without it most of the time, although good gear makes things a lot easier.
Sometimes de-soldering is too difficult, but you can cut the part free, either by cutting the parts leads, or chopping the circuit board up with pliers, saws, or grinding disks.
I usually start with by removing the biggest parts, then move down to smallest parts, just like the opposite of assembly (assembly you usually start with the shortest,smallest parts then move to the bigger ones).
Circuit boards with through hole components are usually easiest to take off with a soldering iron, having 2 irons can really speed things up by getting both side of the part hot at the same time, but you can also do it with one iron.
I usually add solder to help remove parts, it may sound counter productive, but it really helps to put a blob of solder on your iron, then add a bit more to the part to get the thing hot quickly. Then when its hot, you can use gravity, tweezers or a pry/wedge tool to remove it. If you have an iron with a really big tip, lots of thermal mass, you may not need extra solder, but it usually helps.
Sometimes you have parts that will get melted if you use an iron to de-solder, with those, sometimes you can use hot air on the back side of the board, so you are not heating the part so much, then let gravity pull the part after you heat the solder..
ICs can be a bit difficult to get out, but they too will come out, if you know some tricks. One trick that I like a lot is to put a bunch of solder on one side of the IC, and while heating up all the leads on that side, I pry one side up with a screwdriver or pry tool. Let that cool, then work the other side in the same way. You dont have to get the lead on one side completely out in one pass, you can do it in a couple passes. When I get the part out, I often save that excess solder for removing other parts. just splash it on a mat or bench, and re-use it on the next part.
A neat trick I learned but can be a bit destructive if you arent careful, is to solder a wire to a pin on one end of the IC, then run that wire under the IC, and heat up the first lead on the far side from the pin that is soldered to the wire, and pull the wire when the solder melts on the first lead. It pulls the lead out, and you keep heating your way down the chip pulling one lead at a time until you get to the end. This trick will work on SMT or through hole parts, it does bend the leads, and it can rip a trace or pad, so you need to be careful using this trick if you need to keep the PCB.
You can clip parts out, and thats a good technique of you need to save the PCB, it will mean that the part probably wont be easy to solder into something else, but maybe you dont mind doing some extra soldering, if it means you get the part out quickly and easily.
Sometimes using 2 irons on ICs works best. It usually takes some time to get all the leads hot, I always throw some extra solder on it to help, and you gotta keep them irons moving to keep the whole thing hot enough to pull out.
You can also use solder braid or solder sucker to remove the solder. There will always be a little bit of solder that holds the part in, but you can use tweezers or other tools to break the tiny solder connection on each lead, then put the part out. I find it kind of tedious and frustrating, but sometimes its the best option.
Its good to use this as practice for doing repairs, because sometimes you need to remove a part, but dont want to damage the PCB or other parts nearby.
When using solder braid (aka solder wick), please be careful with the solder wick, its real easy to pull up traces or pads by pulling on the wick while its stuck to the PCB. Be gentile when lifting the wick from the board. You should also be careful not to press too hard on the PCB with the soldering iron, that too can make traces or pads lift right off and cause you more trouble. Using old boards to practice on is a good idea.
Solder suckers are also something to be careful with, Most people damage the PCB by hitting the plunger button while the iron is on the board. It always leaves a dent in the board, and can sometimes lead to a lifted pad. the easy way to never have that problem is to make sure you lift your iron (even just 1/8" is enough) before you hit that sucker button. Ive used them in production, but I dont have one at home, and Ive found that I prefer a different way.
Ive found that I can just tap the solder out of the hole after heating up the solder. I can do many holes fairly quickly this way, and I dont have to pick up and put down tools, so its just a lot quicker and easier. On a similar note, I also sometime blow (with my mouth) the solder out of the holes, Sometimes tapping the board isnt easy, but blowing is.
Sometimes I use solder wick after I use the tap method, just to clean up small bits that didnt clear out well, or on SMT lands to make it easier to place new parts. I probably use the tap method the most, next is solder braid. Solder braid usually leaves things cleaner, and thats nicer when you go to put new parts down. I also like to use solder braid to clean up salvaged parts before installing them.
There are also other good tools to do solder reworking, Through hole desoldering stations are awesome if you have one, Even a cheapo bulb type solder sucker, or spring loaded solder sucker can help. If I had an electric desoldering gun, I would use it, but not a solder sucker, I just dont like them much.
Solder pots also make quick work of removing through hole parts. You can use cooking equipment (like hot plate or toaster ovens) to reflow solder and extract parts.
There are really nice solder reflow stations in manufacturing that allow you to precisely remove and replace all the different ICs.
For the most part, just using a soldering iron, with excessive amounts of solder work great, if not solder wick usually does it, and if I want to do larger mass items, or remove the parts for a whole board quickly, then I use hot air gun, an inexpensive paint stripper/heat shrink hot air gun works great. But use it in good ventilation,because circuit board give off fumes when heated (fiberglass resin)
When you have extracted all your parts, you will want to go back to your bag of bags or box of bags, and box of boxes and get some suitable bags and boxes for all your new parts. I organize mine by type and size. For instance I would put all the SMT caps in one bag, and through hole caps in another bag. put the through hole diodes in one bag, and the resistors in another one. Alternatively or additionally, you can use other containers like pill bottles or weekly pill cases, or paper envelopes, or even egg crates or other containers from the recycling bin.
Step 5: Wires
You may need wires, and old cables and left overs from other projects will help.
When clipping parts leads, save the leads in a container, they come in handy when building circuits, or repairing broken circuits. I particularly like the LED leads, they are square, not round, they bend and hold their shape very well.
I even save scraps of insulation, because it too can be very handy for bundling up wires, or sometimes I re-insulate just a small section of wire, and glue it in place.
The tote full of old cables is for everything from old phone chargers and cables, to power cables, ethernet and phone cables, speaker wire... Ive even organized the tote with bags and boxes. I also have a box of scrap wires, and a jar of small wire scraps, insulation scraps, and leads that Ive clipped off parts (save those LED leads!)
Step 6: Batteries
When you are putting things in your magic bags and boxes, take the batteries out, and store them separately. You may end up with a variety of batteries, that you can use in your projects and experiments. You will need different battery chargers for different types of batteries, you cant charge lithium polymer batteries with a ni-cad battery charger or vice versa, so you may want one of each kind of charger for your batteries. Fortunately battery chargers are fairly cheap.
If you have an old cell phone, chances are you have a perfectly good charger for it too. You can put the battery in the phone, then plug the phone charger in to the phone and into the wall, and it should charge the battery.
If you dont have your old phone, but have the battery and charger, then for about a buck, you can get a lipo battery charger on ebay (or amazon, or wherever you prefer), and wire it up to the battery, and hook it up to your phone charge cable, and it will charge up the battery. Even used, old phone batteries have a lot of power, and can be recharged, they work great in projects and experiments.
You can also take old ni-cad batteries and make use of them. Often ni-cads are used in groups of cells, and when one cell goes bad, the whole battery pack becomes unreliable. If you take the batteries out and test them individually, you can weed out the bad ones, then re-use the good ones.
Whenever you are working with batteries, you should be careful not to short them on things, you dont need to be super uptight about it, but just be aware that they are charged up and not to be tossed about recklessly, keep them separated, and dont mix them up with metal stuff (like screws and nuts, and metal countertops.)
Step 7: Power Supplies
You will probably want some kind of power supply for testing stuff, and for projects and experiments. There are many good sources of power supplies. Any computer will have a power supply that has 12,5, and 3.3v You can also find them in home stereo/tv stuff. Ive got a lovely one from a DVD player that has 5,12, and 24v.
I use computer power supplies to charge phones and other 5v devices like power banks, and tablets... They are easy to modify, and have lots of connectors and wires to tap in to. They also run 12v and I like them for running 12v LED strips. You can run many strips on one old computer power supply.
Another good source of small DC power supply is old wall warts, those plastic lumps that you plug into the wall to run a small device, like a router, or clock, or charge a phone or light. Folks often have a drawer full of unused charger and other wall warts. Those things often can be used with a DC-DC converter (buck, boost or buck-boost) to turn it into just the voltage that you need. You can even get a little volt display for a couple bucks to set the voltage on the converter.
Old laptop power supplies are real nice. They are usually around 20v, but if you need 16v, and you have a buck converter, you can turn that old laptop power supply into a 16v power supply.
Step 8: Examples: Old DVD Player
I had an old DVD Player that someone brought by hoping it would be an easy fix. It was a cheapo unit and wasnt worth the trouble to fix, and she ended up donating it to my pile.
I was looking for a metal sheet to set up a soldering work station (see picture above), I wanted something that I could safely solder thing without worrying about damaging nice furniture. Later i found that it was a nice way to contain my soldering stuff, and ive been using it off an on for that sort of thing for years.
I also found that it was really handy working on cars too. I could put all the tools that I need on one tray, take it out the the car, then use it to hold all my fasteners and organize them so that I can put them all back in the right order.
The inside of the DVD player had lots of good stuff, including a computer DVD player inside it. a 5/12/24 volt power supply, and a really neat vacuum florescent display. One day I will figure out a way to make that display work with an arduino, but I havnt gotten around to it yet.
Step 9: Example: Fairy Lights
Fairy lights are LEDs on stranded wire that has a clear enamel like coating for insulation. The wires look bare, but they do have insulation, but not like the standard plastic insulation, this insulation is more like the kind on magnet wire. its really annoying to strip and tin the wire, but it can be done.
This strand of fairy lights was originally used on my bike, to make nice blinky night rides. Its wired for 12v, and thats not very portable, but I rigged up many cells to get 12v, and it worked great.
After a few years, the lights rubbing on the insulation caused shorts, and damaged the wires. I repaired it a few times, but it kept getting worse and worse until I removed it. I was able to repair what was left, and use it a few times, but I hung it on some rusty cup hooks, and it shorted and burned up a bunch of LEDs and was in an unusable state.
I took what was left of the strand, and separated the 3rd wire, and cut the 2 factory splices that made it a 12v strip, and I was left with short strips that ran 2.5 to 4.5 volts instead of 12v.
I had a small section of 6 LEDs on the wire, and I soldered them into a loop, and stripped the insulation on the loop parts, then taped it to a coin cell battery (CR 2032) and turned it into a 6 LED fairy ring hat light/crown/tiara thing.
Since then Ive improved the design by using rechargeable batteries and a resistor to make it run for a couple hours on one rechargeable cell.
Recently I pulled that strand of LEDs out, and dug up an old cell phone battery, a tiny slide switch, and a TP4056 based lipo charge circuit (about $1 on ebay). I put them all together and have a strand of 13 Blinky LEDs that wraps around the hat a couple times. I can turn the lights on and off with the switch, and I can charge the battery with the lipo battery charger circuit, and an old phone charger.
Step 10: Example: Power Bank From Old Cell Phone Battery
I got this awesome extended battery pack for my phone, then a week later I lost that phone, but I still had this battery for it. It sat for years until I pulled it out and charged it up. It turned out that it was still good.
I got a lipo charge circuit soldered some wires to it, taped the wired to the battery and charged it up. Then I wired up a tiny boost converter that is designed to boost lipo cells to 5v, and has a USB connector. Both of these circuits are cheap on ebay or amazon or wherever you buy this type of stuff. They dont have all the features of a power bank, but it works just as good. It even has LEDs to let you know its charged or charging.
This little thing can be used to charge up a phone or run any other USB device. I like them for running LED projects and making them portable.
Step 11: Example: Old Cell Phones
Old cell phones are also a good place to find really neat electronics. They have a lithium battery and charger, those are easy to re-use as is, you can just use the old phone to charge up the battery, but use the battery for other things. These things always have a tun of other cool stuff too though, like the little vibrating devices (just a motor with eccentric weight.) They also have cameras, LCD displays, touch screens (even if the touch screen is shattered, often the display still works.) They have speakers, microphones, GPS, wifi, buttons, connectors, all sorts of things that can be extracted and used in experiments and projects.
Keep the batteries unplugged, and if you keep the batteries charged up, they can last a long time, but dont leave the batteries in any device, and dont leave them on the charge, or the battery can swell up and make a nasty mess like the one above.
Step 12: Example 3.3v Power Supply
I needed a 3.3v power supply for running little microcontrollers and LEDs. I had several old dead routers, and looking it over I found a 3.3v voltage regulator. I looked it up on the internet, downloaded the datasheet, and scanned the example circuits. I found all the rest of the parts used in the examples circuit on the router board, and removed all the parts that I needed and build a buck converter to run the 12v down to 3.3v
The picture above shows 2 boards, one with the parts, the other with the right parts removed, and the buck converter that I made out of the parts.
Step 13: Example: 3.3v LDO
I needed a low drop out voltage regulator for running lipo batteries with a 3.3v microcontroller. I was able to find one on an old ethernet card, extract the part, and use it with my microcontroller project. Later I salvaged most of the rest of the board.
Step 14: Example: USB Battery Charging Stations
USB battery charging stations are used for charging phones, power banks, running LEDs and other lighting. These are simple devices, basically USB ports, and wires. You connect them to a power supply (like an old computer power supply, or any other 5v power supply. I made the long 10 port USB block a few years ago, and you can see that I cut all the traces, ran huge bus bars and bridged the data pins. Bridging the data pins not only assures that no data will ever get passed, and phones cant be hacked into, but it also makes phones charge a bit faster (They charge around 1 amp instead of .5 amp)
The other one is only a 4 port, and its in the process of being modified. Both of these were donated as dead items given to me for reuse. I put these things out where people need to charge phones, I also use them to charge phones and run LED projects, and for charging a variety of lithium polymer batteries.
Step 15: Example: Oscilloscope Probe
Someone gave me a really cool old oscilloscope, but it didnt come with a probe. I looked the internet over, and found that other people have made perfectly good probes, so I dug though my parts and came up with an old cable TV cable, a broken multimeter lead, a broken jumper lead, and I bought a BNC connector. I was able to turn them into this sweet probe for my vintage scope.
Step 16: Example: LED Cube
I modified a few flashlights, changing out the white LEDs for UV LEDs, this left me with a pile of about 70 LEDs. I ended up making a 4x4x4 LED cube using those LEDs, some left over resistors, bailing wire, an old IDE cable, and a paperclip. I didnt have any connector pins so I made some with a paperclip by cutting it into small pieces, and jambing those into an IDE connector. I soldered the other end to the cube, then I was able to plug the cube into an arduino uno. The only thing that I bought was the uno. Later I modified it to use two shift registers to free up microcontroller pins.
It was kind of a horrible project, I started with someone elses code that was mangled up by a few people before I got it, an I hacked it up a bunch to get things working.
Step 17: Example: Hat LEDs
I wanted to build a charliecube into a hat. To do it, I would need 64 wires to connect to the LEDs. I wanted small wires, because I needed a lot of them in a small space, and they didnt need to carry much current, so tiny was fine.
I dug up some old hard drive cables, the 80 wire IDE kinds. It had enough wires, they were tiny, and they had colored insulation that would help make sure I got the right connections.
Step 18: Example: WOW Blinky Lights
Back in the mid 80s there was a company called worlds of wonder, that made some toys, one of the toys was a laser tag game. The company went out of business, and a local surplus store bought out a bunch of their items. I bought 10 of these boards there back in the late 80s or early 90s. Ive cut them up and put them back together in lots of crazy ways, I had some bi-color LEDs (green/red) and I swapped the original LEDs with the red/green ones to make the more interesting, Ive incorporated them in to halloween costumes, and made them into various wearable lights.
I found that just hooking up 9v to them makes them do the knight rider/cylon/scanner thing, and Ive recently desoldered a whole board and examined the circuits on the PCB. They used some very interesting chips, and did things differently than the standard/common way of using one or more 4017 chip or diode steering. The way that they do it, is to use 4029 4028 chips the 4029 chip has a few interesting features, one of them is that it can go up or down, and you can use a couple of the output pins to make it reverse direction. Its really quite clever and neat.
Step 19: Example: Other Peoples Prototypes
I was talking about 4017 chips, and my buddy had an old project that he had built with one. This one just makes 7 LEDs light up in sequence. He brought it by, and I will probably use it to experiment with 4017 chips and diode steering to turn it into a 5 LED chaser that does both directions, like the knight rider/cylon circuit.
Step 20: Example: Bad UV LED Strip
I got this LED strip and after one day, it overheated and all the LEDs turned brown, and glow a light purple color that isnt very bright. I dont know what happened to them. I had the on while half on the reel, I left them overnight, the next day the ones in the reel looked weird, then when I unrolled it all the way, all of the LEDs were bad, they only make about 1/10 the amount of light that they used to, and are more white than UV. I didnt feel like dealing with the hassle of returning them so I just kept them.
I needed lights for under some steps, so folks could see the steps and not trip over them. I didnt want bright light to make them stand out, I just wanted enough light so folks could see where they were stepping. These lights worked out perfectly no need to rig up a dimmer of some sort, just wire them up to to an old 12v wall wart, and hook it up.
Step 21: Example: Old Computer Fan
I got this sweet computer fan for my fancy computer many moons ago. That computer broke a long time ago, but I couldnt part with that beautiful heatsink even though it wouldnt work on my new computer.
I still havnt found a use for it, but I think im going to turn it into a bike light, an insanely bright light that needs a big heat sink.
Step 22: Example: Cigarette Lighter Plug
This is an old cigarette lighter plug, its on a long heavy gauge wire, and was connected to my car tire pump. I wore that pump out over the last 10 year and this was all that was salvageable from it.
I will most likely use it to help a friend connect some LED lights on his boat to the cigarette lighter port on his boat, but if a shorter one will work, i will save this one for something that needs more current.
Step 23: Example: Free Mulitmeters
We have these stores where they give away items to draw in customers. I pick up these meters whenever I can score a free one. These things come with a battery, and a battery can cost as much as one of these things cost new.
They arent the nicest or best, but they are good enough for lots of things. If you are just starting out and have no meter, this is a great way to get a get started. Even if you do have a good meter, these are nice to have around for doing things that you dont want to do with your good meter.
I use this one to do current measurements and hight voltage stuff, so that I dont endanger my good meter. There are also times where you need one meter to show you voltage, and another to show you current, and having one of these around is very handy.
If you do break it, it becomes more parts for experiments.
Step 24: Example:Old MacBook Power Supply
This old macbook power supply caught on fire and burned up the wire right next to the mag-safe connector. There wasnt enough wire left on the connector to patch it, it wasnt covered under apple care, and apple says this is normal and not covered under any warranty. Its been sitting waiting to be useful for about 10 years now, and I finally found a nice use, to run my new soldering iron. I looked through my stuff and couldnt find a suitable plug for it, and ended up cutting one off a perfectly good cable. Then yesterday when I took a picture of it, I found just the right connector lying on the floor (its in the picture too!), sigh. Anyway This looked like it was going to work on very nicely, my $85 power supply would be of some value, and I like the wires on it, they feel nice. Sadly it didnt work as is. When I plug it in, and turn it on it works fine, until the tip gets up to temp, and drops the current, then the power supply shuts off, turning off the iron. I can probably get it to work by adding a load, maybe some LEDs or something to keep the power supply on after the tip gets hot.
Step 25: Example: FTDI/USB-Serial Adapter
These are a couple failed attempts at making a USB serial programmer. The third picture shows you a usb serial programmer, and the first two are my attempts at making one with parts salvaged off of old arduino nano boards. They are also nice examples of Deadbug/Freeform/Point to point prototyping Sadly I never got them working and had to put them aside
Step 26: Example: Parts/Tool Case
This case came with expensive but crappy tools for fixing a cell phone. I think I paid like $20 because I needed one stupid pentlobe screw driver, for one stupid phone, but the case that it came in is actually pretty decent. It has a nice sliding lock to prevent it from opening. Ive been using it for my small tools, but recently I started using it for holding random SMT parts, and its working great. I can look at the parts without even opening it.