Low Temperature Low Cost Circular Film Light

With any project I do it is important to have nice photo’s that are in focus and well lit. I occasionally dabble in stop motion and other film as well as just the projects you see on this site. Lighting is something I have always had difficulty with and never spent any time trying to resolve. Occasionally I use a work light but I find them annoying to set up and they get very hot and difficult to work with.

Total Cost $28
New CFL Bulbs (8): $16
New Bulb Holders (6): $12
Glue: Already had a bottle.
Mylar: Already had a roll.
Wood (1 30cm x 30cm square and 1  2M x 2cm x 6cm plank: All recycled from old furniture.
Electrical Cabling (1 Mains power lead, 1M of extra blue/brown for individual bulbs): All recycled from old appliances.
Hobbyist Wire (about 2M): Already had a roll.
Polyfill Wood Filler (200ml): Already had a bag, also this is not completely necessary.
Screws (30? ish): Already had.
Painting Tape (3M): Already had

Tools Needed: Ruler, 90 degree edge ruler, Saw (Jig or Hand is fine), Drill, Various Screwdrivers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I show you how to do some mains electrical wiring. Please exercise extreme caution and seek advice if you are unsure about anything! If you test this before its finished being wired you MUST make sure any live wires are appropriately secured, tape the ends or leave them screwed into a socket.

I watched the indy mogul video here (It is worth watching if your interested in this topic)

But It seems I wasn’t paying enough attention and when I got around to building mine, I built my own rendition of his first version which wasn’t that great. Regardless I will show you everything so you can make your own decisions and see what I learned.

I started out with a blank board of MDF and ruled out some lines for a grid of where I wanted the bulbs to go.

Click any of the pictures to enlarge

Then I drilled holes for the cable and wired them up in parallel. In this photo it is the first socket so the mains comes in via a white cable. It is wired properly only mains side cable is hard to see.

The second socket. You can see the two wires per socket. Because I am using a reasonably heavy grade of wire (suitable for mains power) It is quite thick and can be difficult to get into the socket. If it was particularly difficult (notably with older battens with narrower holes) I would spray the ends out of the cable little then cut a few of the copper strands off, this means that the wire is thinner making it easier to twist around another piece of wire.

It sort of looks like series wiring due to the wires going in and out of each bulb but if you imagine where the electricity flows, since there is two wires in an out of each side of each socket its like an entire ‘hot’ line all over the back of the board.

IMPORTANT REMINDER AGAIN: If you don’t feel confident doing this please seek appropriate advice. Make sure any live wires are safe.

After finishing the wiring I put the bulbs in and tested it.

Note how dark everything else is in comparison to the previous photo. It is the same time but the camera adjusts to suit the additional light. I played around with it a bit and took a couple test shots. I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t as effective as it could be. I re-watched the YouTube film above and realised what they did; and that I could do it better.

A lot of the light was going sideways but in this configuration only the top of the bulb was in use. With these particular bulbs they are quite short so the height is only slightly longer than the diameter but still: the side outputs more light than the top. If I upgrade the bulbs to larger/longer ones this would be more noticeable. I started to sketch up some designs to convert my board into a sideways design and eventually I decided if I was going to do it I might as well cut the whole thing up and make a completely new shape. Here we go:

I cut up all of the socket holder squares as small as possible. In hindsight I wish I had been more accurate. I did purchase a jigsaw for this but it would of been a good idea to do some more practice cuts first. You will see what I mean here:

I placed them into the expected layout. You might notice they don’t fit particularly well (see the last paragraph). This cleans up a little better later. I then glued them to some cardboard and wrapped it in some painting tape. I mixed up some poly-filler and filled in the gaps to try and smooth out the layout to make it a little cleaner looking and also to increase the strength since its just cardboard holding it together at the moment.

The next day the I removed the tape and sanded it down a little. It came out feeling really strong and ready for the next steps.

I wired up the sockets again

and tested it out

So far so good! Although I did not realise how large it would be. One upside to this is that the further away the lights are from each other the softer the shadows. Imagine the opposite of the sun which is very far away and very small (relatively) it casts very sharp/well-defined shadows which you generally don’t want.

Next I built a mount for the light. quite basic as you can see. A little glue, screws and scrap wood.

While waiting for the glue to dry I measured and then cut up some old thick poster card for a rear reflective board.

Using some double sided tape and glue I attached some mylar (like reflective tin foil only better)

I then took some hobby wire and twisted two strands together for extra rigidity. Taped them to either side and I could adjust the angles and they would stick really well.

A single strand of this gauge wire would not be strong enough, I have heard of using electrical wire although I did not think it would stay in the right shape. The paint tape seems to be strong enough though.

I cut holes in the card for the bracket and the power.

The bracket attaches quite simply and then slots  into the rear reflector. Below is the light with bracket before being slotted in.

Then inserted and tested. The sides hold their position quite well, the card is thick enough and the slot is tight enough that it doesn’t need to be glued or screwed into place.

Time to make some test shots!

With the light bulb in the roof only (150W)

With an indirect work light only (100W)

And the new lamp by itself

Obviously the new lamp beats anything else I have in the workshop.

I built a floor stand which is pretty basic. It stands 2M ish tall and holds the setup pretty well. This way I can adjust the angle and height.

Test shot using camera on auto settings with just the ceiling light

and with the light

Home Brew – Temperature managed fermenting cabinet

When home brewing beer, it is important to keep a constant and cool temperature. I like to aim for around 19 degrees C (66F) for ales (references) and 4 degrees C for lagers but in New Zealand the general yeasts sold or packaged with kits for lagers are really ‘lager style’ top fermenting (ale) yeasts; also I don’t have the budget or equipment to go for a lager style ferment anyway.

So I wanted to build something that would smooth out daily temperature variations and could potentially have some temperature management (eg peltiers in the summer, incandescent light bulbs in the winter) to assist in smooth and appropriate temperature management.

Total Cost: $2
Tallboy: Recycled
Scrap Wood: Recycled
Polystyrene: Recycled (Sometimes you can find large sheets on the roadside in industrial areas)
Masking Tape: Already had a roll.
Screws: Already had
Adhesive Insulating Foam Tape: $2 a roll
Hinges: Already had

Tools Needed: Screwdrivers, Drill, Hammer, Torch or other light source


I had a tallboy waiting to be junked so I removed all the drawers, stripped the front panel off them and attached them together to form a solid pseudo wall/door. I also drilled a 8cm hole and installed a fan although currently I am not using it.

After creating the front ‘door’ I removed the drawer sliders, mounted it on hinges, and placed a small block on the bottom of the door so it would fit into the cabinet and stay closed. Then I glued polystyrene to the sides, floor, roof and back panel. The back panel sheet is on the rear of the cabinet otherwise there would not have been enough room for the fermenter.

I did the torch test (put a light inside and close the door, if you see light there is a leak) and found quite a few flaws. I also thought that there might be some problems with gaps between the sheets in the corners etc so used duct tape to try and seal it up a bit. I also got some door seal padding strips and lined the door where it was appropriate.

The twisted pair cable you see in those pictures is the temperature probe to test the effectiveness which I graphed and will explain here.

This is the raw temperature data for 20 days from 4 probes. (The second graph is of the same data but only 4 days so you can get a better idea of what happens on a day to day basis)

One is on a shelf to the side of the the cool-box, one is inside the cool-box, another one is on the floor just outside the cool-box and one is outside.

Some obvious things to note is

  • Purple (outside) has a very large variation and has some quite significant drops as you might expect. The probe is subject to direct sun, wind and any other environmental factors.
  • Blue (shelf) is basically right next to the computer recording the data, although the exhaust fan is on the other side and blowing the other way. It currently can get direct sun for a few hours though, and as it is higher I would believe that it is subject to generally higher temperatures as heat rises.
  • Green (floor outside cool-box) is, except for the cool-box, the least affected by direct sun. and being on the floor should generally be the lowest of them all, although there is still some large variations
  • Red (Cool-box) is the smoothest of them all, although it is noticeably but only by a little bit, higher in temperature than some other probes most of the time.

This graph shows how much time is spent in the optimal temperature zone (16-21 degrees c) and how much time is in the extremes. Outside and garage probe 1 are in the red quite a bit as you would expect. Surprisingly, garage probe 2 spends the most time in the optimal temperature, and almost no time in the extremes. This is good as this is about where I plan to have an air intake to cool the box should its internal temperature be higher than the external temperature.

So far the project is a success, but I need to install either an internal cooling system, either by peltiers & light bulbs or possibly using mains water to cool the box. Over winter I may use a relay switched heating pad to maintain an even more constant temperature. Although this assumes it’s going to be too cold in there of course.



High Speed Photography without a high speed camera using an externally triggered flash

I wanted to do some high speed macro photography and read online I could do it with an external flash and a trigger, so I tried it out and it was quite easy. Here is how I did it.

How it Works:

In a completely dark room, open up the aperture on your camera and leave it open. The camera wont be able to record anything as its completely dark. Fire a flash unit at a certain time and anything illuminated during the flash’s duration will be recorded on the camera. The trick is to have whatever you want captured triggering the flash somehow so it fires at the right time. Trying to do this manually wouldn’t really work. In my case I built myself a laser tripwire circuit, and a sound activated switch. this is how it works:

1. Open the camera aperture, generally I use a 5 exposure time, use a low ISO (100-200) Aperture F 11-16 and if possible use manual focus, although it has worked without it. If your doing macro it will need to be manual focus.

2. do the ‘triggering action’, in most of the example shots, the action was dropping something onto a hard surface, this could also be firing a bb gun, popping a balloon etc

3. the sound activated switch picks up the noise and triggers the relay

4. the flash fires

5. whatever is illuminated while the flash is on (which is fast) the camera will capture it.


This is what my current setup actually looks like, although I am experimenting with different flash positions as having it further away gives better results.

I have put it all into a 40L plastic box so that I can explode some glass light bulbs without making a big mess. I used a sheet of glass I had around to protect the camera, the sound activated switch is inside a little plastic box with the microphone on the hard surface (a brick)

Some of the shots I have gotten so far using a glass surface and dropping ice cubes (click for big)


Grass Cutter Mk II

Important Update: This doesn’t work! 🙁
I thought this was going to be an awesome re-purposing of my old hand mixer but turns out these things aren’t meant to be used for more than a few seconds at a time.
The second or third time I was using it, I went for about 10 minutes and it overheated and caught fire. I wouldn’t recommend going down this path. Read on if you want to see anyway

(<- Part 1 )

I present to you, the Grass Cutter Mk II

So a list of upgrades/changes

A new handle, taped up to keep it safter and secure. inside this is a lightswitch embedded in the wood for off/on and the control board.

A new adjustable angle handle, I can loosen the bolt and change the angle so if its not really comfortable where it is, I can change it.

The engine is now parrallel to the ground, much more ‘mower-like’ less ‘weed strimmer-like’.  Also I removed the rubber as it wasnt providing any vibration releif and was just making it smelly. The strimmer line (orange twine) is also attached in a more reliable way: I threaded it through a drilled hole in the shaft head, then tied a double knot on each side so it cant pass through either direction.

And a new height setting/adjustment pole. there will be a wheel on here soon, I tried a couch floor knob but it doesnt slide very well. The point of this is to make it easier to push around rather than having to manually hold it at a certain height. although doesnt mean you cant flip it upside down and go manual if you want to do edges etc.

String trimmer from a hand blender (Failed)

Important Update: This doesn’t work! 🙁

I thought this was going to be an awesome re-purposing of my old hand mixer but turns out these things arent meant to be used for more than a few seconds at a time.

The second or third time I was using it, I went for about 10 minutes and it overheated and caught fire. I wouldn’t recommend going down this path.

Read on if you want to see the original

I planted a lawn out the back of the property where the gardener couldnt get to without a key so I needed something to cut the grass. My lawn mower is a bit pre-occupied and my weed-wacker was wacked. So in the usual recycling manner I made my self a string trimmer (weed wacker) out of an old hand blender

Wow look at that, badly thrown together lense flare, a fluro background. This thing HAS to be awesome.

To be honest, the only reason I am calling it MK I  it because its rather hastily assembled and has some design uglies, I’ll probably never rebuild it because it works* (edit: not really see top of this page) and that’s all I care about.

So I started with an old hand mixer/blender motor I had lying about, and thought about strapping it to a peice of wood, without anything else more suitable I made a sort of wooden vice with two threaded steel rods and 4 bolts. This worked really well!

I basically just nailed the control board onto the length of wood for now, holds fine, but I had to wire up a switch. In the interim I have some twine nailed to the board, going over the switch with another small peice of rubber, then round a nail and back to the top of the board for a lever.

I also attached some twine to the end of the engine so I could cut some grass. simple; effective.

bill of components

* engine: from a hand blender like: * a bunch of wood I recycled out of an old couch.

* about a 1/4 of some threaded steel I bought a while back
* a 6cm bolt for the lever
* 5 bolts
* cut mains cable I had left from another project.
* some weed wacker twine for the controller and the cutting part.


(goto part 2 -> )