The weather is cold or wet or it’s late and all you want to do is tinker with a small project on your workbench. You turn on some tunes low in the background, spread out a few tools, maybe a cold adult beverage off to the side and you have some parts of various types sitting on the bench in front of you. You slide your stool over and sit yourself down, and with the light focused on the parts, you feel better already, you’re exactly where you should be, and an hour or two later (was it that long?) you’ve put something together, solved a few problems and your world is a better place. If that scenario strikes a chord, I have a book for you, Marvelous Magnetic Machines.
Not junk, … parts
H.P. Friedrichs saves the parts from old machines and electrical devices, constantly on the lookout for anything that might be useful because he’s always assembling his finds in his mind into something else. If you have a box your wife thinks is full of junk, but you keep explaining, “That’s not junk, those are parts,” then you know what I’m talking about and you’re the target for the projects in this book. You can’t build these projects, not because you lack the skill, but because each one shown depended on the parts Friedrichs had available and you might have a different parts pile and what you build will depend on what you have.
We’ve highlighted sculptures built from scrap before on The Kneeslider and some of them are extremely cool, but no matter how they look, they don’t move, they just sit there, while these projects begin as inanimate objects and turn into little motors, machines that rotate, click and clatter.
Low cost and fits on a workbench, what’s not to like?
One feature of his projects is their cost, or lack of cost, since many, if not most, of the parts are free or purchased for next to nothing at garage sales or swap meets or sometimes just found. An electrical engineer by trade, but a committed tinkerer by avocation, he leads you through a process and after a while, you get the feeling you could do the same.
Personally, when I saw the cover image of the book, I was hooked. After reading some preview text and looking at the images, I ordered it and then I saw he wrote two earlier books, The Voice of the Crystal and Instruments of Amplification and yes, I ordered those, too. The Voice of the Crystal isn’t some new age novel, it’s about building crystal radios and a whole lot more from scratch, every component and it’s fascinating. He shows you how to make condensers, headphones, coils, tuners, all sorts of things and everything is absolutely from scratch. Instruments of Amplification goes further, you can make a vacuum tube, a transistor, transformers, it’s an amazing list of things I never imagined possible.
To be clear, the projects in this book aren’t useful in their own right, you won’t be running some little mini lathe with one of them or powering a little car, they’re more like solving a puzzle, what can all of these pieces be assembled into? They make you think, you have to be a little creative, even ingenious, but if you set your mind to it, there’s no reason you can’t do it.
No, I haven’t built any of these yet, my little project at the moment involves programming and writing a lot of code, but when that’s finished, or at least at a point where I can stop for a short while, I may try one of these to unwind. If a little workbench project sounds like it might be fun, check out these books. I think the kinds of people who read The Kneeslider, people like us, are exactly the kind of people who do things like this.