Ed. note: Senior Editor of MAKE magazine Phil Torrone joins us to celebrate a few modern-day MacGyvers as we continue DIY week at Lifehacker. Today's maker(s): EVIL MAD SCIENTIST LABORATORIES, the dynamic duo Lenore M. Edman and Windell H. Oskay.
Hi Lifehackers! MAKE is best known for sharing all the goodness of making things for yourself, learning new skills, and many times, voiding warranties. Marcus Chan of the San Francisco Chronicle said we're the "The kind of magazine that would impress MacGyver", and that's what this week is about. It's a little known fact, but MAKE even has the creator of MacGyver writing at MAKE: Lee D. Zlotoff is a writer/producer/director among whose numerous credits is creator of MacGyver (you can see his articles here).
Now that's out of the way, let's talk science, evil.mad.science — the best kind of science. There isn't a more creative force on the internet than two of my favourite makers: Lenore M. Edman and Windell H. Oskay. They're the duo behind "Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories". Their motto? "Making the world a better place one evil mad scientist at a time". They're prolific, bringing us such fascinating projects as how to turn a toothbrush in to a robot!
Before I show you my favourite EMSL MacGyver-like projects you can do yourself (and some, well — good luck!), let's see what these two say about themselves.
Lenore M. Edman, a veteran bike commuter, used to live in Portland, Oregon, where her son Chris got to ride in her bike's sidecar. Abandoning wet for warm, she moved to Austin, Texas, where she designed and sewed her own wedding dress. Later, as a regular of the Boulder, Colorado weekly cruiser bike ride, she overhauled a mid-century Hawthorne ladies bicycle (named Stella) which she has only crashed once—and it wasn't her fault. Since moving to Sunnyvale, California, she has helped to popularize edible origami and has learned to make some wicked curries. Her college studies in classical Greek prepared her well for her career working with professors, librarians, engineers and scientists.
Windell H. Oskay owns only one slide rule, but plans to acquire more. A published playwright, award winning cartoonist, and obscenely creative amateur chef, he has been variously employed as a quantum mechanic, photographer, and (atomic) clock maker. Several people have described food that he has prepared in terms more positive than "edible." He is notorious for disrupting a Shawn Colvin concert (on a first date, even) and for putting (and using) an "Ooga" horn on a bicycle. Some of the other things that he somehow ended up designing and building include an interactive dining table, a carbon-fiber electric guitar, hard-drive wind chimes, radio-controlled hovercrafts, nixie tube clocks, and magnetohydrodynamic-powered boats.
Now for a quick tour of some of their handy work — evil handy work — some of which could save your life, save the day or drive you mad. You've seen the "Bar bot" above, but that's a little advanced, so try these on first.
Five Minute Project: Hot Dog Bun Grilling Jig
A quick DIY Hot Dog Bun Grilling Jig, which holds your bun open at the perfect angle while it warms on the grill, forming a sturdy toasted structure with potentially good hinge integrity. Bonus: By grabbing the jig, you can use tongs to set down and pick up your bun without fear of a squished bun. You'll just need wire cutters and stainless steel welded wire cloth, McMaster-Carr part number 9322T631, described as "EASY-TO-FORM" Stainless Steel (type 304) welded wire cloth 2x2 mesh (2 lines per inch, i.e., 1/2" squares), with wire .047" in diameter, and overall size 12" square. ($9.92 for one square foot).
Quick and Dirty Electric Motor
You have one drywall screw, one 1.5 V alkaline cell, six inches of plain copper wire, one small neodymium disk magnet, and no other tools or supplies. You have 30 seconds to make an electric motor running in excess of 10,000RPM. Can you do it? Surprisingly enough, you can.
The $US1 C-to-D Battery Adaptor
How about this one — boom, a quick hack: The $US1 C-to-D adaptor:
Here's a common problem: You want to power your gizmo that runs on D cells, but all that you have handy are C cells. In many (but not all) circumstances, you can solve this problem by using the C cell and making up the battery length difference with a few quarters— typically three or four. There is a 12 mm length difference between a C cell and a D cell, and quarters are about 2 mm thick, so if your gizmo has a really weak spring it could take up to six quarters to do the job.
Yes, commercial battery size adapters are available. They typically cost between 1.5 and three dollars and can only be used for the one purpose— adapting battery sizes. (Well, that, and as a set of matryoshki.) Using quarters can also potentially end up costing as much as $US1.50, but it can go straight back into your wallet when you're finished! Much more importantly, when you really need it, you can probably find a few quarters no further away than your pocket.
LED Garden Lights
Quick, easy, temporary and beautiful LED garden lights — they can't stop themselves. "For a late night summer party, we wanted to deploy an array of maybe 20 or so little LED garden lights along the periphery of our back yard. And since it was for a one-time event, there wasn't much sense in buying (or building) a set of nice looking permanent solar lights. So here is an alternative: make your own ultra-low cost temporary garden lights using LEDs, lithium coin cells and mason jars."....
OK, these are just a few great projects from the halls of Evil Mad Scientists Laboratories. They have over 304 projects on their site. If these quickies wet your palate, you might want to check out some of the more advanced projects — including a personal favourite — the CandyFab 4000. Solid freeform fabrication: DIY, on the cheap and made of pure sugar.
Phil Torrone is Senior Editor of MAKE magazine, contributing editor to Popular Science and creative director of Adafruit Industries, where they make educational electronics and kits like the TV-B-Gone and some "other" hacky projects that sometimes make the rounds in these parts of the web. You may have seen MAKE in bookstores, public television, online or been to one of their Maker Faires (there will be three this year, they are expecting over 100,000 attendees!). His personal site is http://www.braincraft.com.