Curious Inventor Blog

  • We're happy to release a new section to the site that contains open-source, fully documented kits. Lots are coming soon, but our first one is a plug-in bread board power supply module designed by David @ Instead of stripping wires from a wall wart and cramming them into a bread board, this module lets you plug the barrel jack straight in or neatly attach stripped wires with screw terminals. It's configurable to supply 3.3V, 5V, 6V or 9V from either an AC or DC input. We've put together instructions that make a great starter guide for someone just beginning with electronics, covering basics like soldering, which way to install caps, clinching leads and more.

  • Having lost a just-out-of-the-oven Quiche and a meal of freshly delivered Chinese food to an otherwise very well behaved dog, one of the guys that works here used a salvaged industrial emitter / detector pair, relay and car horn to provide a bit of doggy defense for his kitchen counter. The industrial emitter is a tad expensive, but you could probably use a laser pointer and photo transistor just as well.

  • We're proud to release our first home-grown product: a tapping block. If you're not familiar with tapping (cutting screw threads), the hardest and most tedious part is starting--an off-angle start can ruin parts and break taps. However, by guiding a tap through the close-fitting holes, it's easy to keep the tap straight. You can always make your own, or if you want something that will survive a nuclear war, get this one.


  • If you haven't checked out Gizmodo's videos from inside the lego factory, here's another encouraging link. They also have video of the shelving system robots that automatically store and retrieve legos from over 65 square miles of equivalent storage space. A couple more Lego fun facts:

    • The tolerance on the bricks is less than .00008 in. Human hair varies between .001 and .01 in.
    • Only 18 / 1 million pieces fail inspection, according to this HowStuffWorks article.
    • Lego now makes some 19 billion bricks a year.


  • We've gotten several requests for a DVD of our videos to show at club meetings, labs or classrooms, so we're happy to announce the release of just such a DVD. It contains our three most popular videos: an Introduction to Soldering, Surface Mount Soldering and Basic Metal Working. The resolution is much higher than the flash videos so it looks great full-screen on a TV.


  • You can now subscribe to our blog, which will feature tips on soldering, pcb design, working with metal, electronics, robotics, cat-fish farming and news. We'll also post tips from anyone that wants to submit one. Click the contact link at the bottom of any page. Cheers.


  • We just finished up a new set of guides showing how to solder surface mount components--without expensive equipment. They cover everything from soldering basic resistors, to fine-pitch QFPs (.5mm), to QFNs (no leads at all!), to using solder paste and a toaster oven. There's also a 9 min. video to get you started: Surface Mount Soldering 101.

    Surface Mount Soldering Guide Contents


  • We now have forums covering Soldering, Metal Working, a general How-To section, and a place for Imponderable Questions that bother us to no end. Post your questions and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction. Also, there are now comment sections on all of our guides. We greatly appreciate suggestions or corrections on the guides.

  • All sorts of people are using toaster ovens and skillets to reflow (meltl) solder paste on PCBs, but one bottle neck is applying paste to the pads. Using a syringe takes a long time, and getting custom made stencils is fairly expensive. tymm posted a cool instructable showing how to roll your own solder paste stencils. He uses the same process for etching your own circuit boards but does it on a thin piece of copper bought from a hardware store.

  • Motors inside the ball work against a counterweight to allow it to move without external wheels. I believe certain pitches and sequences control how it moves. It can also play music itself--a piezo actuator uses the entire outer shell as a speaker to play back manipulated portions of what it hears. From a Robotics and Art conference that was taking place near RoboCup 06.

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