Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fun with the Birds

Ok, so blogger sucks at uploading images - it always puts them in reverse order and is a pain to rearrange them.  So... to keep up and posting, the images will be in backwards order.

Kind of like a Seinfeld episode, right?

Here is a chicken with our Hawk-cam attached for testing.  She wasn't too happy about it, but was a good 'sport'.

This young rooster liked the camera even less - he pounced and wouldn't rest until he had taken it off the princess.

Fortunately, no one hurt.  The rooster became the testbed for the other Hawk-cam design.  One observation - feathers can get in the way of the video port...

 We've been using these small, light, cheap cameras on balloons, (see nwpodcast.blogspot.com), and lately helicopters.  It is down there on the skid.
 Folks have been using cameras on birds for a while... and in a few weeks we'll be attending a Hawk & Falcon Hunting Association meeting and thought "wouldn't it be cool to put one on a Hawk as it hunts!"

 So, we've come up with a few different designs for 'spy cameras' to mount onto a bird.  Hence, the world's first "Hawk-cam" is born.  Now the pictures of the chickens are making more sense, right?

Lots of dimensional changes, design changes, etc.  The learning process is fun, and the testing (with the chickens) is even MORE fun!  Hopefully, in the end, we get some good hunting videos from the belly of the beast - off a hunting hawk!

Stay tuned...

Smartphones on Guns

There are more and more products coming out to mount a phone to a telescope, bicycle, and riflescope.  We've been working with different designs, too.  Here are some of the things we've been doing.

The simplest design (KISS) is simply modifying a hands-free mount for our older Droid.  Not only are older smartphones available for cheap, so are their accessories.  We got this car mount for < $4 on ebay.

We simply drilled a hole to expose the camera lense, then took off the adjustable arm from the suction mount and connected it to an aluminum picatinny rail adapter for a flashlight.  Easy peasy.

 Here is the adapter, without the arm attached.
 Here is the final assembly.  This works great for pistol mounting, and is easy on, easy off.

For use on a carbine or rifle, the simple design wasn't enough to put the phone out of the way of the action.  So, we cut off the base of the suction cup, and mounted it to the picatinny rail.  Now, with the adjustable arm, it puts it out of the way and right where we need it on an AR or AK platform.

 Here is the mount on a Glock's rail.  The whole assembly, including the phone is quite light and fun to shoot with on the Glock.  We added some pistol sights to the Smartphone (found here) and it is a blast.

A mount for a rifle has been more difficult.  The biggest problem isn't mechanical, it is dealing with an existing scopes parallax.  Parallax is the focus of the scope - when you are eyeballing through the scope there appears to be a small, dark "window" for viewing that changes in size as you move your eye around.  Positioning the smartphone just right to view through the existing scope is alittle tricky, but not too bad.

Our first design was basically a PVC pipe cap with the phone's mount connected to it.  This worked, but didn't give enough range along the scope's axis to adjust for parallax.

 Here is the final design we like best for a long gun.  We put a picatinny rail on top of the existing scope that can hold a 1" flashlight, and then using a 1" dowel with the car mount's adjustable arm, we can adjust the phone's position as needed to sight through the scope.

There is a demo on the Smartphone's page at Google Play (here)

I'm sure we'll see lots of different designs and products out soon...

Remote Shooting Camera

We have an inexpensive IP Webcam that we've started using as a spotting scope when shooting > 100 yards.  Basically, the remote camera shows us where we are hitting on the target, without having to walk back-n-forth to the target.

Pretty simple - with a jumpstarter to power the camera we put it out at the target.  We also have a wireless router we needed when doing some >500 yard shooting - the router gave us more range on the camera, and we didn't have to switch to an ad-hoc network.  The older droid phone we were using is only running Android 2.2 and doesn't have the ad-hoc capability.

We've been using the wireless cam to watch rats in the chicken coop.  It is actually quite useful, especially with a smartphone.

 Here's the basic setup.  We are now working on batteries to use with the camera and router, so we don't need the jumpstarter.  The router uses 12V and the camera 5V inputs.
 The ad-hoc works great with an Android 4.0 tablet.  No router needed, except when you get about 300 yards out, then the signal seems too week for reliable images.
 Of course, we have created an Android App for the camera.  There are lots of them out there for use with Webcams, however we've added some image processing to ours to automatically show us where the new strike is located.  And, we have the phone listening for a gunshot, and when we shoot, it automatically takes a new picture, saves the image to the SDcard, and processes it.  Easy peasy!
 Here is the image showing where the new bullet strike is (below in red).  Each file is saved, so we don't have  to do anything but keep shooting.
 We will upload it to Google Play after we finish with our demo video.
More to come.  This was a fun one.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mini Blacksmith Forge

Ok, so besides all the gun stuff lately, we've fired up the small blacksmith forge we built last summer.

Yeah, I know... knife stuff.

Thought I'd post some details on the forge we built, because it was fun, simple, and works great!

Got the idea from Church & Son ( http://churchandson.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/lets-do-a-neo-tribal-forge/ ).  We had an old crab cooking pot that rusted through, some 1 1/2" fence pipe, and a bag of sack-rete.

Punched a hole through the pot, fitted the pipe...

There is good, high-temp concrete available, but we had a bag of the plain, cheap stuff and wanted to see how it would do.  We dished out the concrete to form a basin around the pipe, and covered the pipe with plastic.

For a bellows we tried a 5V fan on a reducer.  Worked good, but not quite enough volume when the coal got hot.  The fencing wire attachment was important for asthetics...

After the coal was hot and self-sustaining, the fan needed some help from the leaf-blower.  Unfortunately, the  leaf-blower was more than the little fan could take (we didn't remove it first) and after generating some power, it got too hot!

We bought some dryer ducting and will use it to route the blower-air into the pipe next time.  Here is our basic setup.  With a borrowed anvil, our total cost was ~$50.  The tongs were $44 so only about $6 into the forge itself.

The test run went well.  We got 2 65# sacks of coal, and used about 2 lbs of it this first run.  Good and hot - and easily heated up some spikes for pounding.  We also flattened some heavier nails quickly.  Too quickly.

 The forge worked great!  Best of all, no evidence of the concrete cracking or any sign of damage.  The one improvement we want is for our bellows.  We are watching Goodwill for an electric blower, and the ducting will help keep the noise down and airflow up.

Best part of the project is our 15 year old son did most of the work.  Pounding hot steel gets us tired quickly, and is a GREAT activity for teenage boys!

Now we need to find some useful projects to build BESIDES fat knives...

Gun Mount

As mentioned, here are a few of the "works in progress" for mounting a smartphone to various rifles and a pistol.  All currently use picatinny adapters of some form.

The phone we do most coding on is an older Motorola Droid, running Android 2.3.  It works great, has alot of the sensors and features we code to, and is inexpensive.

Here its mounted on a Glock 17. 

We took a car holder, and mounted it to a picatinny flashlight mount.  Works great, except for on a carbine like the Bushmaster or Bullpup.  Here is the mount, with the upper removed to attach the phone holder.

We drilled out a bit of the phone holder (pictured below in the lower right corner) to give the camera visibility.

Here is the final assembly.  Sorry its sideways, we'll figure that out sooner or later...

Here is the phone mounted on a long rifle.  This is a bit trickier to work around the existing scope's parallax and reticle, but it works and is quite effective.

To make this mount, we took another picatinny mount - for mounting on a scope with a 1" tube, and added a plastic (or wood) dowel.  The phone's mount is then bolted to the dowel and holds the phone in various adjustable positions.  It also lets us change the 'view' of the phone to compensate for the scope's parallax.  The dowel is covered in the cool "flaming" duct tape, below.

On carbines we need to adjust the height of the mount... stay tuned for that one.  In most cases though, we can do a side or "pistol" mounting like below.  Works great.

Same situation with this Bullpup - we put it on the side (left-hand shooting) to allow us to use both the SmartScope and existing HUD.

Definitely adds a 'tacticool' look, right?

It surprised us how easy it is to 'zero' the scope.  Select 'menu' -> "Display Setup" and then starting at the 'zero' mark with your finger, trace out on the screen how big to make the reticle.  So easy to zoom in and out, when you've located where the rifle is hitting, very simple to touch that point on the screen and 'draw' out the size of the reticle.

More ideas or suggestions?  We are also working on an attachment that mounts directly to the eyepiece of a scope, like the iphone's "iscope" attachment (http://theiscope.com/wordpress/?page_id=8).  Don't know anyone who has actually used one of these, but the parallax problem would be tough to deal with.  That is why we went with the dowel.  

More later...

SmartScope Android App

Wintertime is when we have more attention for the electronics, software, and mechanical projects we've dreamed up all year long.  Too much "nerd time" and the boys are eager to get out, so we often go shooting.

Some of our latest android projects reflect the shooting time, and "SmartScope" is our first one.  Its up now on Google Play.  It basically turns a phone into a rifle or pistol scope.

The mechanical attachment is fairly easy, using a picatinny rail adapter.  On the long rifle, though it is more tricky.  The other problem when using with another 'traditional' scope, is parallax - the phone's camera has trouble seeing and focusing properly with the other scope's view.  Not too tough to get around, though.

We've added almost 2 dozen reticles, including some for a pistol - both vertical (portrait) and horizontal (landscape).  It was tough dealing with the phone's camera in portrait mode on older Android OS (2.3 and earlier).

It is alot of fun to use on a pistol.  Works great with a Glock, which already has a small picatinny mount on it.

We'll post some examples of picatinny mounts we've worked out in the future.

With the high refresh rate on smartphones (how quickly and often folks upgrade) there are already alot of very powerful, older smartphones out there.  Many of our projects are oriented around utilizing the computing and sensor power on these phones.

One other cool way we've been using this app is for data collection - it will record the noise levels (sound) and recoil accelerations or "kick", while shooting.  We'll post some of that data soon, too.

First Post

Always new projects we are trying, and this will be where we share some of the fun.  Hopefully the variety will be interesting.