MAKE 23: Gadgets

In this special GADGETS issue, we show you how to make a menagerie of delightful machines: a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amplifier, a magic mirror that contains an interactive animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine — the creepy mechanical box whose only purpose is to turn itself off (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus: how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper, how to use the industrial-strength microcontrollers called PLCs, and a lot more.

Video Preview

Take a tour of Volume 23 with the editors of MAKE.

Table of Contents

blue pdf icon = PDF OF ARTICLE     red content icon = DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCES     orange content icon = SLIDESHOWS AND EXTRAS


» Our New Tool for Community Collaboration by Mark Frauenfelder in Welcome

Make: Projects ( is our brand new beta library of project instructions written by you, the readers. Page 1

» Reader Input

Rosy CupCakes, router safety, shocked kids, and pirate booms. Page 10

» Smiley Face Technologies by Saul Griffith in Making Trouble

I have an antidote that keeps me upbeat, something special and beautiful that keeps me optimistic about the human condition ... people share their ideas with me. Page 13

» Walled Gardens vs. Makers by Cory Doctorow in Make Free

Making is about sharing. The reason we can make so much today is because the basic knowledge, skills, and tools to make anything are already on the ground, a loam in which our inspiration can germinate. Page 16

» The Infrared Thermometer: An Essential Science Gadget by Forrest Mims III in Country Scientist

While I've spent 20 years measuring sunlight, haze, the ozone layer, and the water vapor layer using various homemade insruments, a couple of IR thermometers are among the most important gadgets in my science toolbox. Page 26

» Summer's Here by Dan Woods in Maker's Corner

Time to get serious about that long-overdue MAKEcation. Page 29

Made on Earth

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Rolling Like Luke by Keith Hammond

Daniel Deutsch built his own full-sized, drivable landspeeder. Page 18

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Bright Lights, Big Installation by Laura Kiniry

Firefly 1440 is an LED display of dancing light patterns based on the wind's force, timing, and direction. Page 20

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Shelter from the Bus by Bruce Stewart

Sculptor Christopher Fennell created a bus stop shelter out of actual retired buses. Page 21

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Living Walls by Jeanne Storck

Rufus Butler Seder creates animated glass murals. Page 22

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Hardcore Thread by Shawn Connally

Theresa Honeywell covered an entire motorcycle in knitwork. Page 23

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » DIY Truss Telescope by Bruce Stewart

Dale Sander built a "truss telescoping telescope." Page 24

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Come On, Sweat! by Laura Kiniry

Waste to Work is a project that explores sweat as a catalyst for energy. Page 25


» Fruit Picker by Nicholas Barry

Here's how you can make your own collapsible fruit picker in about 5 minutes. Page 103

» Hypsometer by Cy Tymony

Using simple trigonometric principles, you can closely estimate the height of objects with an easy-to-make-hypsometer (hyps means height in Greek). Page 110


» Kid Robot by Dale Dougherty

Young makers are seizing breakout opportunities on the wild frontier of Detroit. Page 30

» 58 Bagley Ave. by Marc Greuther

The workshop where Henry Ford made his first car. Page 37

» Slag Social by Joe Sandor

The art and community of the DIY iron pour. Page 38

» Hacking Club-Mate by John Baichtal

A popular hacker energy drink gets homebrewed. Page 40

» Stone Age Telegraph by Jamie O'Shea

Armed only with information, I turn rocks and sticks into an electronic signal. Page 42

» Maker Faire 2010: Going East

Born in 2005 as a maker meetup, Maker Faire ( is the world's largest DIY festival, celebrating homegrown technology from robots and rockets to food, arts, and crafts. Page 45


Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Beam Weapon for Bad Bugs by 3ric Johanson

How to make a Mosquito Defense Shield. Page 48

Icon for Downloadable Resources Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Magic Mirror by Al Linke

Make a know-it-all animated reflection that talks back. Page 54

» Mystery Electronic Switches by J. Tregre

Page 60

Icon for Downloadable Resources » My Favorite Gadgets by Larry Cotton

Three handy gizmos that snap, magnify, and play. Page 62

» One-Way Ticket by Jon Thorn

Pressurize with a plunger that pushes but doesn't pull. Page 68


Icon for Downloadable Resources » Squelette, the Bare-Bones Amplifier by Ross Hershberger

Squelette is a see-through amplifier that sounds ridiculously good while showing off your soldering (it looks nothing like a typical audio product). Page 70

Icon for Downloadable Resources Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Gyrocar by Matthew Gryczan

Outfit a toy gyroscope with an electric motor to make it run continuously, and add an adjustable drive wheel that lets it chug along a monorail, balance on a string, circle the rim of a pot, and perform other tricks. Page 84

Icon for Downloadable Resources Icon for Slideshows and Extras » The Most Useless Machine by Brett Coulthard

Make a machine that, when you flip the switch on, an arm reaches out of a door to turn the switch back off. Page 94

Skill Builder

» Building with PLCs by Tim Hunkin

Programmable logic controllers never fail. Page 104

DIY: Workshop

» Wilderness Workshop by Charles Platt

Build your own inexpensive yet sturdy worktables and shelving. Page 111

» CD/DVD Parts Container by Steve Stofiel

A new twist on the old baby-food jar organizer. Page 115

DIY: Home

» Compressed Earth Block Floor by Abe Connally, Josie Moores

Lay your own earthen brick floor for about $60. Page 117

DIY: Science

» The Microdoodle by Mister Jalopy

Convert an old-school microfiche reader into a magnifying machine. Page 120

DIY: Imaging

Icon for Downloadable Resources » Time-Lapse Photography by Nir Yariv

Make mini movies from a command line. Page 122

DIY: Music

» Solar Car Subwoofer by Henry Herndon

Self-sufficient station-wagon sonic splendor. Page 124

» Easy Pitch Control Hack by Peter Edwards

Make audio circuits sing higher and lower. Page 127

DIY: Outdoors

» Lily Pad Pool Warmers by Edward Hujsak

Use hula hoops to heat your swimming pool using the sun. Page 131

Icon for Downloadable Resources » College Bike Trunk by Frank E. Yost

Make a lockable carry-all box from sheet metal. Page 135


Icon for Downloadable Resources Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Crash! ... and Burn? by Lee D. Zlotoff

The creator of MacGyver challenges you to get an unconscious person out of a crashed car. Page 138

Electronics: Fun and Fundamentals

» Zap-a-Mole by Charles Platt

The first of a series of columns for readers who have relatively little knowledge of electronics and would like to know more. Page 140

Toy Inventor's Notebook

Icon for Downloadable Resources Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Guitar Amp Bulletin Board by Bob Knetzger

Use a piece of vintage speaker cloth to make a mini "guitar amp" bulletin board. Page 147


» Howtoons: Musée du Dodecahedron by Saul Griffith

Depicting a subject from multiple viewpoints gives it greater context. Page 148


Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Droid Factory by John Baichtal

Milwaukee's Firefly Workshop Page 158

Toys, Tricks, and Teasers

» Fooling Around with Pulleys by Donald E. Simanek

MAKE readers hope that the things they make will work as intended. That doesn't always happen. Meet the fool's tackle. Page 160


Icon for PDF of Article Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Gadget Brothers Reunion by Michael H. Pryor

Gadget Brothers Reunion Page 163

Heirloom Technology

» Tree Moving by Tim Anderson

Transplant a big tree with a giant two-wheeled dolly. Page 164

Dangerous Things

» Drive a Car by Gever Tulley

Take command of 5,000 pounds of metal. Page 166

Remaking History

» Samuel Morse and the Telegraph by William Gurstelle

Despite the fact that Morse had little knowledge of electricity, he plunged ahead as only a man in the throes of a serious midlife crisis could. Page 168

Make Money

» Pennywhistle by Tom Parker

Sometimes it costs more to buy it than to make it from the money itself. Page 171


» My Embedded Entertainment System by Luis Cruz

In October 2009, just one year after I started studying electronics, I decided to build my own video game system, applying everything I'd learned about microcontrollers and game programming to a single system. Page 176