Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Assembling the Megasquirt controller

June 14th, 2006

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Megasquirt Fuel Injection

Here is the Megasquirt-II controller board all populated with components ( minus the processor ). All references to MS, or Megasquirt in these articles, generally refer to the Megasquirt-II PCB3. Look at the Bowling and Grippo site to learn about the different versions of Megasquirt.

Start with a kit

Although it is posssible to save yourself $100 or so buy purchasing a controller PCB only, and then ordering all of your components from Digi-key, I would strongly recommend that you save yourself some heartburn by getting a complete kit from one the many vendors listed on the Megasquirt site. I bought my stuff from DIYAutoTune and was happy that I did. Each component was in its own little polybag, with a label that described the part by ID as it would appear on the PCB ( R-21, etc.) as well as by component attributes, like 220 Ohm, color band pattern and so forth. Very helpful.

Assembly of the controller was straight-forward and can be done by anyone with basic soldering skills. A good way to warm up for the job is by assembling your stimulator kit first, since it is less critical, and you will need it anyway to test various circuits as you assemble the ECU.

There are only a few components in the MS-II that have very small and close-together leads that require some careful work and inspection to avoid solder bridging.

Plan your system first

There are some variations in the way that you will build certain circuits in the MS, depending upon the specific types of sensors and actuators that you will be using on your engine.

For instance, depending on how you will trigger the MS ( Hall-effect sensor, Variable Reluctor sensor, ignition coil, etc) you will build a slightly different circuit to accept the trigger signal. In my case, I am using a Ford EDIS ignition module to trigger the MS. The EDIS will get its signal from a crank-mounted trigger wheel, and Variable Reluctor sensor that I will install, so I instinctively started to build out the MS to take a Variable Reluctor signal. However, I actually needed to build the MS as if I were using a Hall-effect sensor, because the signal that the EDIS will pass on, is closer in wave-form to that of a Hall-effect than a VR sensor. Make sense? Exactly. You need to plan your system before you build the computer.

The only other stumbling block that I encountered was in the area of Idle Air control. If you plan to use a pulse-width modulated idle air control valve (as opposed to an on/off solenoid type) you will need to replace one of the transistors in the MS to handle enough current to drive the valve directly, since this type of valve cannot be operated by a relay.

Megasquirt Fuel Injection

Relay board

Next came assembly of the relay board. The relay board is optional, and as the name implies, holds the EFI related relays as well as fuses. It also provides you with a single spot to wire in all of your sensors, injectors, and fuel pump – all of which can be hooked into the labeled terminal block.

If you are just installing a Megasquirt as a tuneable replacement for your car’s black box ECU, you will probably choose to use your existing relays, sensors, and wiring harness, and simply splice them into a pigtail cable that you will make to hook into the MS. Since I am installing an EFI system where none was before, I went with the relay board. The relay board is very simple to assemble. You won’t have any problems. I did, but that’s because I am an idiot. You will read the instructions and not install the relay sockets backward.

Megasquirt Fuel Injection

Communications cable

Now, before you can test your finished MS with some actual, real-world sensor data (since it did so well on the stimulator), you will need to get yourself a cable to hook the 2 boxes together. If I had this to do all over agian, I think that I would just buy a premade cable from one of the kit vendors, as this thing was a tad more labor-intensive to build than I had estimated. Instead, I bought a 24 inch wire bundle and built my own cable. The wire bundle came with all the wires that I would need, each a different color and in the appropriate gauge, and with their application printed right on them. In theory, you could just use a single color of 20 gauge wire for all of these, since they get wrapped up in tape and hidden anyway, but I wanted to be able to tap into the cable in case I wanted to add a MAF meter, or knock sensor at some future date. This way I will be able to tell which wire is which.

Megasquirt Fuel Injection

It works!

I cabled the MS to the relay box, hooked up a laptop via the Db-9 serial port, wired some sensors to the relay board’s terminal block, applied 12 volts to the system, launched MegaTune, and held my breath.

Sure enough, when I brought up the real-time display, I could see temperature data for the temp sensors, and when I turned the input shaft of the throttle position sensor, I got a nice smooth variation. What a geek! If it weren’t 2:00 AM I might just have dug up some vacuum line and tested out the Manifold Absolute Pressure sensor.

Next up: Full conversion parts and modifications overview.
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DIY Fuel Injection Conversion

May 31st, 2006

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Advanced car hacking

What’s a Megasquirt?

Megasquirt is an affordable, open-source, DIY engine management computer that you assemble yourself. A large community of developer/users provides for constant development, and great free support.

Me and cars

My car ownership history to date looks like this:

  • 67 Karmann Ghia
  • 74 VW Bus
  • 69 Saab 96
  • 76 BMW 2002
  • 67 Saab 95
  • 73 BMW 2002

One common thread that runs through this list is that these cars all have simple, old, carbureted engines. They have only fundamental automotive electrical systems, with the only real electronics being the instruments and radios, if they even had that. No Check Engine lights here.

I am attracted to these vehicles not only because they are stylish old Euro-cars (capable of surviving a neutron weapon attack), but also because they are cheap and easy to maintain by the self-taught home mechanic. Although I do admire the performance, and “driveability” of a modern, computer-controlled fuel injected car, I have never really wanted to own one.

Not User Servicable

Modern, EFI engines have always intimidated me. I had no idea what all those black plastic boxes, or that tangle of hoses, valves, and wiring was for, or where I would start when it came time to troubleshoot a performance problem. How do you talk to you car’s brain to find out what is really bothering it? You don’t. Automotive ECUs are closed, black boxes of mystery, certainly not user-servicable, not flexible or configurable.

No interest.

After the Engine Rebuild

When I recently rebuilt the engine in my 1973 BMW 2002, I included some performance upgrades, such as higher compression pistons, a longer duration camshaft, and a bigger-bore carb. I was astounded at the increase in throttle response and torque with the new setup, but I just couldn’t get the carb tuned the way I wanted it. There was a bad “stumble” at low speed, and horrible fuel consumption. After a string of jetting experiments, I went back to a smaller, smoother carb (Weber 32/36), but of course, there were some performance trade-offs to live with as a result.

I have been driving in this smooth but de-tuned state for a while now, but knowing that there is a better engine under that hood, just waiting to be let loose, was driving me nuts. So, I started collecting parts to convert my engine to Electronic Fuel Injection using Megasquirt. From what I gather, EFI will deliver both performance and economy. Sign me up.


If you are not intimate with the workings of EFI systems (as I wasn’t), take a look at this Megasquirt wiring diagram.

Pretty much the only things in this diagram that my car has now are the battery, ignition coil, and switch. The rest has to be cobbled together and adapted to my motor. There is also some stuff that isn’t in that picture, such as an air intake manifold, throttle body, and cold air intake, and idle control components. This is by far the most ambitious automotive tinkering that I have taken on to date.

Wideband Oxygen Sensor

Before I had actually commited to going EFI, I decided to install a wide-band oxygen sensor to help me get the carbs dialed in. This was extra satisfying for me because an o2 sensor is a vital part of a fuel injection system, something that I aspired to add some day (and that day has come), and therefore this was a dual-use item for me.

A wideband o2 system consists of an exhaust gas oxygen sensor, and a seperate controller. The controller interprets the voltage from the sensor and displays it to you (or to another controller) as an Air/Fuel ratio.

I chose to install the Innovate LC-1 Wideband controller, as well as a little numeric LED display that shows me current AFR.


The LC-1 also does some datalogging, and comes with software that lets you save the logs as well as read them as graphs and tables.

Since my car did not previously have an oxygen sensor, I brought my exhaust header downpipe to a muffler shop and had them weld in the threaded sensor bung that came with the LC-1 kit.


The wideband o2 was indeed a huge help in figuring out the ideal carb jetting. Without the AFR data, jetting a carb required alot of chicken bone necklaces and voodo peace offerings to the jet gods, to get it right.


Parts buying spree

A recent infusion of cash from the sale of my motorcycle sent me on a massive EFI parts buying spree, and propelled me into full and immediate comittment to the megasquirt project.

I pretty much have everything I need for the converion either on the way, or in the works. The sexiest part so far is the medusa-like air intake manifold that came from an 84 318i. this will bolt right up to the 2002 head, and has the injector ports cast right into the manifold.

Some people go with individual throttle bodies, which gives a more period correct and racey look, but presents a bit of a problem, since Megasquirt relies heavily on Manifold Absolute Pressure for mixture control.



I am using a throttle body from an E30 325is, which has a 2.5 litre engine. This should flow plenty of air for my warmed-over 2 litre. TB shown here next to the smaller 318i throttle body that came with the manifold.


Assembled “stimulator”

I ordered all of my controller related kits and components from DIY Autotune, who supplied me with a kit for the main controller board, a relay board, and a Megasquirt “stimulator” kit, which is a little potentiometer board that emulates inputs from the engines’ sensors. You use the stimulator to test and troubleshoot the main controller board while you assemble it.


Unasembled Megasquirt controller board

Next up: Assembling and testing the controller.

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Circular Saw Blunders in 3-D

May 28th, 2006


I‘m a big fan of stereo photography, so when I was leafing through the August, 1953 edition of Popular Science and a pair of Harvey Comics 3-D glasses fell out, my heart skipped a beat.

What did PopSci choose as a subject to showcase this exciting new immersive display technology?

Circular saw blunders.

So, before you hit the woodshop, do youself a favor and strap on the old 3-D gogs and review these images before something really grisly happens:




Dream Bike

April 25th, 2006


Harvested from Popular Science – March, 1953.

One night in March, 1950, O. Ray Courtney worked until two a.m. and drove home discouraged. He was trying to design a better motorcycle. He wanted one with the seat forward, with better cooling, better springing and a more beautiful body. Discarded sketches littered the floor of his shop.
That night in a dream he saw a steamlined beauty skim across a flowered field. Too excited to report for work the next day, he hastily put his dream on paper – and he is riding that dream cycle now through the streets of Pontiac, Mich.

Vespa or Lambretta? That’s been the conversation in my head lately, as I consider taking on an old scooter project. But none of that matters now that I have seen the 1950 Courtney Enterprise. I would have a tough time settling for anything less than a custom mega-scoot!



FRAME is 1 1/8 inch chrome-steel tubing. Handlebars, 10 1/2 inches forward on an extenstion tube, are mounted on a second head. They connect through drag links to the fork.


STREAMLINING continues to tail. Machine is 26 inches wide. Bulges flanking sides of rear wheel are metal-covered saddlebags.


TWO CAN RIDE comfortably on the big seat. Long footboards add to the comfort, and prevent splashing. The Enterprise is 112 inches long and weighs 580 pounds.


Everybody run out and check you grandpa’s barn right now! This bike must still exist. It seems unimaginable that something like this would ever get junked.

Mutant Human Species Imminent

April 11th, 2006

mutant humans

Or so warns this December, 1953 Mechanix Illustrated article ” How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race” with nice opening spread illustrated by the late comic artist Kurt Schaffenberger.

An atomic war could produce an entirely new species of man. Would he be friend – or foe?

“Now hear this Earth! I am Mutant Man, Homo Superior! I have been created by radiation forces out of the loins of you, the human race, after your great terrible Atom War. Yes, I am a step up and beyond you, and I am now your master for better or worse. You created me in your blind, savage, senseless war of atomic radiation. You have only yourselves to blame if I turn out to be your — Frankenstein Monster!”

Will this voice someday thunder ominously over the World from a Mutant Man, not a human being, but as far beyond us as we are beyond the ape man? Will a new race, spawned out of the hellish radiation of a World-Wide Atomic War, go on to challenge Man’s supremacy on Earth?

mutant humans

Schaffenberger was an artist for Marvel and DC comics, most notably doing Lois Lane, Superman’s Girlfriend. The lower left inset panel shows how the Mutant “Friend” scenario might play out, with the Mutants helping to better humanity by teaching chemistry. Is that Lois and Clark in the audience?

mutant humans

The majority of the drawing however is given over to the more dramatic and likely to unfold “Mutant Foe” situation.

mutant humans

This guy bears a bit of a resemblance to Dick Cheney getting ready for a quail hunt.


Thread cutting for beginners

April 10th, 2006

tap and die

I‘ve always wanted to be a Machinist. For a while, I even subscribed to The Home Shop Machinist magazine, an uber-dorky niche mag aimed at the people who like to retreat to their basement machine shops to make things out of metal. There I learned to lust for a Bridgeport Mill, an Atlas Lathe, and a rotary table.

It’s probably for the best that I never bought any of those machines. Although the idea of being able to manufacture my own model internal combustion engines is an appealing one, getting into the machine-shop hobby is for folks with more available free time and money than I have right now.

But there is one machinist-like thing that I do from time to time, and that is to whip out the old tap and die set and cut some threads! If you have never threaded anything before, you should really try it soon, it is incredibly satisfying, and quite easy to do.

tap and die

Most recently, I found myself wanting to install an oil temperature gauge in my car, which required that I create a place to install the sending unit.

tap and die

It turns out that the oil filter fitting on my engine came with an un-used boss in the casting. This spot was used in some applications, not in others so I chose this spot to drill and tap a recepticle for the temp sensor.

Drill the hole

The first thing to do if you desire a threaded hole, is to drill a hole. The hole should be just under-sized, so that you don’t have to remove too much metal while cutting, but you want to have enough there to form the threads. Most taps will come with a spec telling you what size hole to drill

tap and die

Cut some threads

The thread-cutting tap is essentially a tapered bolt, made from hard tool steel, which has multiple longitudinal flutes, that provide cutting edges. To cut your threads, all you have to do is thread the tool into the hole. Tap sets will come with a special T-handle that you use to turn the tool with by hand. I didn’t have one large enough for this particular tap, so I just turned it with a wrench. As the tap goes in, it cuts deeper and deeper until finally, youv’e got threads.

tap and die

You need to use some oil to keep things going smoothly. I’ve found that light machine oil works well for steel, while WD-40 does a good job with aluminum.

tap and die

Like I said, this is an immensely satisfying activity, you really should try it.

tap and die

tap and die

tap and die

Next time, I’ll break out the dies, and make some bolts, just like grandpa used to make.

Desktop Retro Pong Console

April 2nd, 2006

singer television

I‘m not sure whether or not this tiny little Singer portable television set was marketed as a sewing machine accessory or not, but what is known is the fact that I cannot resist buying a cool metal-cabinet vintage TV set when offered to me for $2.

The couple who sold me the Singer out of the back of their rusty Ford Ranger at the Midway Swap Meet told me that the thing worked great when they tried it. I of course wasn’t surprised when it was in fact DOA when I plugged it in later at home. Hey, for 2 bucks I practically stole this Jetsonian masterpiece, even it only serves as a shelf ornament, which is exactly what it has been for the last couple of years.

singer television

Enter the “Classic” brand, super-cheap 5-inch transistor television that I stumbled upon being offered for $5 at the Greenwood Fred Meyer get-this-crap-outta-here electronic bin sale.

Guts transplant

It became immediately clear that I needed buy the “Classic”, and install the woking bits inside the Singer shell, so I snapped it up. The set seemed about the same size as the Singer, and in fact the 2 TV’s have almost identical footprints, but despite this similarity, when I got the new TV home I realized that the ancient set has a screen that is full diagonal inch bigger than the modern one.

This mismatch kind of threw cold water on the transplant idea, and i jet let the TV’s sit around for a few years.

singer television


Well, the TV’s have bubbled back up to the top of the project pile, and the latest idea is to build a little mini desktop pong console using the new tube in the old case. Maybe Asteroids.

singer television


Jeff Rueckgauer remembers this –

My parents bought me that set for my birthday in 1964 or 1965. It was an AC/DC model. The AC power brick on the back is removable (as you undoubtedly know). There was a rechargeable battery pack that mounted flush on the back (extending the cabinet), and you’d put the AC brick on it to recharge. There also was a DC brick to run off a car or boat cigarette lighter.

The set itself was deceptively heavy, like 10 pounds. The AC brick was quite heavy by today’s standards (about 5 lbs). The battery pack weighed a good 10-15 pounds, IIRC. But, for an all-transistor set you could take almost anywhere, it was awesome in my 12-year old mind.

I can still remember the warm electronics smell the set gave off when it was running, especially on AC…the AC adapter got mighty warm after a while…at least as hot as some of the tube sets used to get. I learned quickly to only use the handle to move the set until it had been turned off at least 20 minutes.

BTW, I think the set cost $499 and batteries were another $100-$150 each.


Jeff Rueckgauer

Washington, DC

Detroit Elevator License

April 2nd, 2006


Riker mounted City of Detroit Elevator license.

VDO gauges

March 7th, 2006

vdo gauge

Having suffered 2 cracked cylender heads in the past, I thought that maybe this time around, especially given the high-performance mods that went into the rebuild, I would set up an early warning system to let me know when the car was getting hot under the collar.

You EEEeeeeediot!

The above headline should be read using your best Peter Lorre / Ren voice.

The stock oil pressure indicator is what’s known in automotive circles as an “idiot light”. It’s not clear to whether the idiot light sytem was named for the person who engineered it, or the person who neglected their car long enough to let it come on, but either way, it’s not the most usefull way to keep tabs on your oil pressure, since it only comes on after the sytem has failed.

So, I ordered up a VDO Cockpit series oil pressure gauge, and a matching water temp gauge, since the stock water temp instrument is acting kind of funny, and reads on a scale of blue to red rather than indicating a temperature in numerals.

Just for good measure, and because things look better in sets of 3, I turned to the aircraft section and ordered up a cylender head temperature gauge. Sounded good to me, after all, I keep cracking heads.

vdo gauge

To integrate the new instruments into the car, I decided to go with a center console mounting position. First I cut out a piece of console-shaped, 5-ply, 1/4 inch baltic birch plywood.

Using a hole saw, I cut 3 holes for the new instruments. A jigsaw was used to open up a port for the Becker Europa II Stereo. Next, I gave a nice coating of contact cement to the back of an appropriatley-sized piece of upholstery vinyl, as well as to one side of the wood piece. Using staples at the edges, I stretched the vinyl over the panel. Then, just trim out the extra fabric and slide in the insturments.

vdo gauge

vdo gauge

Next up: Installing the new sensors and wiring for the gauges.

Ramflo 1000 Firegurad FireGuard

February 14th, 2006


Finkbuilt pal Vladimir Kerchenko had the following to say about the new 02 motor:

Golly, it really does look like a hot rod. couple o queries if i may…. is that a sway bar? that big red thing ? if not what, pray tell, is it ? also… isn’t there a bunch of junk missing ? i can see a big space between the motor and the bay where the pavement is clearly visible … i can put my foot through it like fred flinstone and barnes rubble. won’t aqua come up and get yer purty new fangled motor all dirty ? and whats that big red thing that looks like a praying mantis head ?? where the fuck’s the battery ? maybe that accounts fer the hole ? but okay, c’mon you have to tell us how fast it is and stuff….. tranny ? how is it ?? does it pull like the 540i? good werk, my son.

Well, that big red thing is a strut tower brace. It stiffens up the front end by tying the tops of the struts together, preventing some chassis flex during bouts of enthusiastic driving. These old gals tend to start rattling, and developing cracks in the front corners. Chassis stffeners help out quite a bit.

Secondly, yes indeed, the spartan appearance of the engine compartment is a result of there being a bunch of junk missing. I moved the battery to the trunk, and removed a the non-functional windshield washer tank/pump assembly, along with a bunch of derelict smog stuff. I also installed an electric radiator fan, and removed the fan that used to be bolted to the pulley. I was also able to delete some hoses by going from a water-controlled choke to an electric choke. There’s nothin’ left in there but motor! Aint it purty?

Does it pull like your 540? No. But it is plenty quick for my purposes. I don’t really know how fast it goes, I’m still breaking it in, and I havn’t wound it up past 4,500 yet, and since I have changed out the tranny and the differential, the speedo is all out of whack.

Finally, that “praying mantis head thing”. That is a piece of silly, 40 year-old man playing boy-racer, engine-bling known as the Ramflo CF 1000 air cleaner. After I bought it, I read a bunch of horror stories about the things catching fire and going up in a smelly cloud of black smoke at the first backfire, so I decided to add an improvised fire-guard.


First, I cut out a rectangle of thin aluminum material (dryer duct) roughly the size of the carb throats. I cut a couple of little tabs and bent them down to act as anchor spikes, to keep the flame guard in place.


After positioning the aluminum roughly over the spot where a backfire would attack, I put the foam element shaper-thingy back in and re-installed the air cleaner.


Maybe mine won’t go up in flames.