Category Archives: Tinkering

Making shelves on the cheap.

We moved into a new apartment last month. We outgrew our last place and desperately needed a washer and dryer for the amount of cloth diapers we were doing.

One thing I always wanted was wall hanging shelves. Danny could never agree with me on what she would like them to be like. One day she suggested that we get shadow box shelves for our DVDs.

Me being the tinkerer I am, I thought. “I could MAKE shelves!”

So I set out to figure out the best way to make sturdy enough shelves for the wall. I had the best idea ever!

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So I got to working and gathered a bunch of them. Folded the flaps to create strength and copious amount of glue. I also put a wood brace on the top part so that I can screw it into the wall and not have it break through.

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Now I have a bunch of boxes with braces to hang with.

I then painted the outside and papered the inside Green and Brown to put on the walls. And here is the final result!

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I only had to purchase two items for this project. A large piece of flat wood to create the backing and some construction paper. I already had the glue, paint, and boxes. I did have to put some wood kabob skewers to provide some strength on the bottom of the boxes to prevent bowing. So far, it is holding pretty well.

Here is to more home projects!

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Solar Cell Testing

I have a dream of outfitting our future home with a solar array and wind turbines, so I spent some of my vacation learning about solar cells and ways I can apply them in the home-building plans.

I wanted to be on the cheap, so I got some $1 solar yard lights to harvest the cells.

Cheap Solar Yard Light

Picked up six of these for $1 each.

To my surprise, I found that they are powered by a 350 mAh Nickel Cadmium AA Battery. There was also some simple circuitry and a small, low watt LED.

Here you can see a cheap battery, simple circuitry and a LED light.

Here you can see a cheap battery, simple circuitry and a LED light.

I took it all apart, carefully peeling the cell from the hot glue and hooked up a voltmeter. I got about 2.5 volts in overcast and 4 volts in direct sunlight. I discovered that in the sunlight it puts out about 25 milliamps. Not a lot. I guess that makes this a 0.1-0.2 Watt solar cell. Pretty weak, but enough to charge a small battery.

Here you see the solar cell producing 2.7 volts in the partially covered sun.

Here you see the solar cell producing 2.7 volts in the partially covered sun.

I want to be able to pump out a constant 5v, so I got all my cells out and constructed a small array of three parallel sets of two cells in series. I also made some circuitry to regulate the cells: a 5V regulator, a one way diode, and a few capacitors. In the direct sun, I was able to get 4.7 volts and 100 milliamps. Overcast, the voltage dropped to 2.7.

Hooked up my makeshift solar array to a voltmeter in the direct sunlight.

Hooked up my makeshift solar array to a voltmeter in the direct sunlight.

In only direct sunlight can it get a phone to recognize a charge state, but I would like it to happen during overcast too. I changed up the layout of the solar cells to have 2 parallel sets of 3 cells in series. This upped the voltage in overcast to 4.7 after being regulated, but the amps went way down. I put the array and phone in a place that had good amount of sun (ironically on the watt meter) facing south. Left it there for an hour with a dead battery in phone. Came back and found 2 percent when I turned it on. Not a lot of charge, but got the proof of concept I wanted to achieve.

I left the array in a the sun for an hour to charge a dead phone.

I left the array in a the sun for an hour to charge a dead phone.

What would I do differently next time? If I were to do this again (and I might), I would order some cheap cells on ebay. The allpowers 5V 150mA ones look promising. Two of those in parallel would provide enough power to charge a phone while in use. Maybe I will do that next month or so… when the sun finally comes out.