A Piecemeal Lab for ‘chump-change’ -29Dec08

Odds & Ends
Odds and ends make up the majority of my bills ‘o’ materials, with most materials very cheap if not free.

Yes, certain “consumables” do require expenditures at the drug store or beauty supply (hydrogen peroxide, acetone), hardware store (muriatic/dilute hydrochloric acid) or (in the case of copper-clad PCBs, semiconductors and more “interesting” chemicals) even ordered in from the internet.

Still you can have a lot of fun by just becoming a “rational pack-rat”.

Maybe it’s the thrifty Scots-Irish genes on my mother’s side, but face it: junk is fun and very useful!
Recycling is very chic these days.  Remember: it’s only garbage is you don’t make use of it.

I’m not talking about old car parts type junk (though I wish I had space for more of that), I’m talking the more mundane items of everyday life that are free for the storage space.

I am a container freak, I admit this freely:  pill bottles, film cans, margarine tubs, the little plastic cases that doodads come in. There is nothing so useful as an appropriately reusable/disposable container. (Did you know that PET plastic pop bottles will turn into little gloopy boogers when sulfuric acid hits them? Know your plastics!).

Dead Appliances and Electronics

Wall Warts
I never throw away a wall wart, EVER!!! I’ve got a drawer of them, most with the plugs still attached. There are so many plating, etching and hydrolysis experiments that require you to pinch off just a little bit of the power on the Grid that I’m sure most of us would go to Hell for wasting such a resource.

Dead Circuit Boards
Always have a few sacrificial circuit boards (from a dead UPS, say, or last year’s VCR/DVD) around to play with.

Organ Donors
When your weed-whacker dies, keep the motor, switch, power cord.
Become a recycling Ressurectionist, a ‘Knox-doctor of Appliances’, a ‘Parasite of the Disposable Culture’.

My favorites are cheap inkjet printers. They usually cost less than a set of replacement cartridges, and every one of them has a power supply (usually external/wall wart), a stepper motor, a “regular” DC motor and at least one photointerrupter-type paper edge sensor.

A real “Cannibal Commando” can come up with at least a dozen ways to use parts like this to start his new Warlord Kingdom: “Every Person a Monarch, Every Home an Embassy”.

On Amateur Science

If you want to explore bad enough, you will. If you are lucky, you will find the tools &  supplies you need (beakers and stuff show up at brewing supply shops, I find) and hopefully, someone more experienced to influence your efforts in positive (not getting ARRESTED)  direction.  Mayhaps you’ll found the next Bose or Intel?

These  are the best of times and the worst of times. Drop me a line if you can find a chemistry set with anything stronger than dilute ammonium hydroxide solution in it. Then go to the grocery store and buy a pound of “household lye”: the world seems immune to irony, no?

I read the other day that prescribed drugs caused something like three times as many ODs as illicit narcotics… but don’t let me get on any soapboxes. I just LOVE Big Brother all over the place, in every mathematically conceivably way and every chance I get.


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