February 2011

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If the hot shoe (flash mounting point) on your Canon Digital Rebel camera is loose, then your flash might not be stable on the camera or operate properly. It may not be immediately obvious how to fix it. This video shows you how to do it with a couple of flat screwdriver tips and a tiny PH000 Phillips head screwdriver. (They often sell these in sets of five or seven.) The trick is to lift up on the clip so that the front lip clears its catch and it can slide back. You may need to lift it over the screws as well if they’re really lose.

(Yes, that’s a Spider Man bandage. I have an excuse; I’m a daddy.)

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We took a chance on this $129 inner spring mattress from Walmart. It came vacuum-packed, flattened, rolled up, and stuffed into a bag. The packaging was so unique I decided I’d better set up the video camera so people would believe me when I tried to tell them about it. (The folks at Walmart had a hard time believing me when I was trying to describe it so they could locate it in the store!)

The mattress is surprisingly comfortable — on par with those twice the cost or more. It was a great purchase!

(And yes, I know I spelled Walmart wrong in the video.)

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Here’s a hot wire foam cutter that I made from scraps, following a general design I saw in Make magazine a couple years ago. I picked up 20 feet of 30-gauge nichrome (nickel chromium) wire on ebay for $2.09, shipping included, and the rest of the stuff I happened to have on hand. Aside from the wire, I used a 12V power supply [see power details below] that I got from Radio Shack decades ago, a bit of peg board, some scraps of pine, a few nails, a foot or so of standard household electrical wire, and a steel rod.

Hot Wire Cutter

Hot Wire Cutter

I used the ground wire to fasten the cable tightly against the rail.

Hot Wire Cutter, Side View

Hot Wire Cutter, Side View

From the bottom, you can see how the ground wire loops around, and how the nichrome wire is attached.

Hot Wire Cutter, Bottom View

Hot Wire Cutter, Bottom View

Here’s a name that I carved out of foam. I tried using carbon paper to transfer a printout to the styrofoam, but that wasn’t very effective. Instead I mostly followed the little dent made by the pencil as I tried to trace.

A Name Cut out of Styrofoam

A Name Cut out of Styrofoam

Power Details

I originally used a 12V power supply because that’s what I had on hand, and it didn’t look like it would pull enough current to melt the wire. At about 2 amps, though, it made the wire glow, and I knew that was more than enough heat for the styrofoam. So I decided to reuse an old camcorder power supply that was rated at 7.5V/1.6A. With this power supply, the contraption ended up drawing 1.1A and the wire was at a more “Goldilocks” temperature — not to hot and not too cold. It slows down the cutting a bit, but I think it also makes it more controllable.

Resources

Here are some great resources I found. I wish I’d found these before I started!

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