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      The Slinky was invented by accident

      Today is National Slinky Day. As Rachael Lallensack writes in Smithsonian, a spring, a spring, this marvelous thing was invented by accident:

      In 1943, mechanical engineer Richard James was designing a device that the Navy could use to secure equipment and shipments on ships while they rocked at sea. As the story goes, he dropped the coiled wires he was tinkering with on the ground and watched them tumble end-over-end across the floor.

      After dropping the coil, he could have gotten up, frustrated, and chased after it without a second thought. But he—as inventors often do—had a second thought: perhaps this would make a good toy.

      As Jonathon Schifman reported for Popular Mechanics, Richard James went home and told his wife, Betty James, about his idea. In 1944, she scoured the dictionary for a fitting name, landing on “slinky,” which means “sleek and sinuous in movement or outline.” Together, with a $500 loan, they co-founded James Industries in 1945, the year the Slinky hit store shelves...

      Seventy-two years ago, Richard James received a patent for the Slinky, describing “a helical spring toy which will walk on an amusement platform such as an inclined plane or set of steps from a starting point to successive lower landing points without application of external force beyond the starting force and the action of gravity.” He had worked out the ideal dimensions for the spring, 80-feet of wire into a two-inch spiral. (You can find an exact mathematical equation for the slinky in his patent materials.) It was Betty that masterminded the toy’s success.

      Read the rest

      How to cut the heads out of coins

      In this video, The Q shows how to cut the heads out of coins. Start by putting the coin in a vise. Drill a small hole through the coin. Run a jeweler's saw blade through the hole and start sawing away. That's really all there is to it!

      Image: The Q/YouTube Read the rest

      Plans for 3D printing a Star Trek Phaser Type II

      Shipbrook makes 3D models of "props from science fiction movies, TV shows, and computer games that I enjoy" and uploads the models to Thingiverse so other people can print them out on a 3D printer. Here are the plans for his Star Trek Original Series - Hand Phaser Type II Body model.

      Image: Shipbrook/Thingiverse Read the rest

      This guy made a cool 3D printed kite-string winder

      Ever since he was a kid, Matt Bilsky has wanted to make a kite-string winder. His first attempt, at age 8, didn't work because the motor was not strong enough and the string kept getting tangled. But a couple of decades later, he made one with a 3D printer that gets the job done. Read the rest

      Behold the hand-crocheted watermelon themed bikini

      Surprisingly, bikinis with a watermelon theme are a thing. I think IsneakSush1ToBed's hand-crocheted melonkini is the best of the crop, though.

      Finished the melonkini

      Read the rest

      Great price on an Arduino starter kit

      This is the least expensive Arduino-clone starter kit I've seen. It's just on Amazon, and comes with an Arduino Uno clone, a solderless breadboard, resistors, LEDs, jumper wires, pushbuttons, and a lot more.

      If you need to learn how to use an Arduino, may I recommend my Skillshare video class? If you sign up here you can get 3 months of Skillshare videos for 99 cents. Skillshare has thousands of great videos to teach you about programming, art, animation and more. I've been a happy paying subscriber for years. Read the rest

      Artist builds delightful, impractical Rube Goldberg machines for popping balloons

      Jan Hakon Erichsen is a Norwegian artist whose Destruction Diaries series chronicles his creation of a series of bizarre, whimsical and delightful machines for popping balloons and undertaking other acts of minor mayhem. Read the rest

      This designer makes furniture from single sheets of plywood

      Ken Landauer is an artist and woodworker who designs nice-slooking piece of furniture with two constraints. First, a piece or set can only use one standard 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood, and second, it must use at least 94% of the sheet.

      From Core 77:

      Landauer's signature puzzle-piece style is made of CNC cut pieces that are finished with a UV-cured acrylic coating and can be customized with laminated or lacquered color options. Each piece is sanded, edged, and joined by hand.

      The angular designs have acquired a reputation for being more comfortable than they initially appear. As a trained yogi (Landauer's body was used to develop the male cartoon figure that appears in 108 Yoga Poses for Dummies) Landauer considered proper body alignment and support when deciding on the various angles and surfaces of his pieces.

      Image: Ken Landauer/Core 77 Read the rest

      How to make a replica of the GENIAC Electric Brain from 1955

      Michael Gardi posted instructions for making a replica of the GENIAC ("GENIus Almost-automatic Computer") that was sold in kit form in the 1950s and 1960s for $20. Read the rest

      Creating a first-person adventure game with Super Mario Maker

      Super Mario Maker 2 is designed to let you create your own Mario platformer levels, but the tools are flexible enough that a sufficiently ingenious creator can make all kinds of amazing things with them. Read the rest

      Beautiful, spirographian images created with metal and wood drawing machines

      James Nolan Gandy is a maker/artist who has created beautiful drawing machines that create incredible, multi-spirographic abstract images. Though the machines automate much of the process, Gandy decides when to pause their operation and swap out stylii and change the settings. (via Kottke) Read the rest

      Make: a solar hot-dog oven (then learn the science)

      Making a solar hot-dog oven is a science fair standby, but JohnW539's CNC-milled Sundogger Instructable really digs into the classroom portion, drawing on the creator's experience as a physics/astronomy/computer science prof at Middle Tennessee State University. Read the rest

      Mozart performed on squeeze-ball bottle organ

      Bellowphone made a unique organ and now demonstrates it in action: "the sound of my most recent skweeze-ball instrument, with a song from Mozart's Magic Flute." Read the rest

      Interview with Dan Shapiro, creator of the Glowforge laser cutter

      My guest this week on the Cool Tools Show is Dan Shapiro. Dan is the founder of Glowforge, the 3D laser printer. He's also the creator of Robot Turtles, the board game that teaches programming to preschoolers. He wrote Hot Seat: The CEO Guidebook, and his latest hobby is throwing his wife and twin 10-year-olds in dungeons with dragons. You can find him on Twitter @danshapiro.

      Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

      Show notes:

      Cast iron skillet and Random orbital sander Raw transcript excerpt: "I love cooking for the family and my favorite cooking tool is something that my wife got me for my birthday. She went on eBay and she got a 1950-something 12-inch vintage cast iron skillet. You say, "Okay, vintage cast iron. What's the fuss?" And I wound up super geeking out on this. It turns out that nowadays cast iron skillets come directly out of the cast and they have this rough bottom. You read about cast iron being the ultimate nonstick cookware, but you've got this grating surface on the bottom of your cast iron. Modern cast iron has this, but the old stuff didn't. The old stuff they actually ground down so it was smooth on the bottom. But geeking out, I wanted to figure out, is this something you could replicate today? And I found a really cheap achievable way of doing this. Read the rest

      Activist blacksmith teaches gun violence survivors to melt down guns and turn them into farm implements

      For more than a decade Shane Claiborne has worked with gun violence survivors, teaching them to use a forge to melt down guns and an anvil to makes farm implements out of the metal. Read the rest

      Shipping container converted into a large format camera, darkroom, and gallery

      UK educator and photographer Brendan Barry converted a shipping container into a large format film camera. Inside is a self-contained darkroom to develop the photos along with a gallery to display them. He describes it as “the world’s biggest, slowest, and most impractical Polaroid camera.”

      Above is Exploredinary's documentary about the Container Camera. And you can read more about the project at PetaPixel.

      Read the rest

      Five cool mechanisms made from simple materials

      The Q makes whimsical mechanisms mainly from wood and cardboard, using basic hand tools. In this video, he shows how he made a "fully working gearbox made out of cardboard, Rock 'em Sock 'em board game, a skateboard from newspapers, incredible miniature railway with train track changes, and, last but not least, a semi-auto coin sorting machine from plywood!"

      Image: YouTube/The Q Read the rest

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