Today I’m sharing my cargo van build, optimized for my needs in and around New York City. I got my 2006 Ford E350 in 2020. Since then I’ve been customizing it to comfortably carry everything I might need on the road, two motorcycles, and a dog or two.
I’ll take you through all the upgrades I’ve made, including installing a rear bench seat, fixing the rusty floor, making my own custom storage solution, and what I pack inside. I’ll also share more info about the supplies I used in my van build.
This year I pulled This Old Tony‘s name for Makers Secret Santa. I was inspired by Tony’s love of benders and bending, and built him a toy from my childhood in the shape of a letter T. It’s got a magnetic spinning device that rides along the wire, and these little bends provide a turnaround point so you can, with practice, get the spinner to move continuously along the track.
This mini iron is perfect for anyone who solders (or would like to). Don’t worry whether they have a soldering iron already, this portable USB-powered iron makes a great second iron for your favorite maker’s travel kit.
Today I’m taking a look inside the Embr Wave 2, a wristband that helps with temperature regulation. It’s the only wearable I’ve ever seen with a Peltier cooler in it. Watch the video above to see me try it out, take it apart, and analyze the design and manufacturing of the circuitry inside. Thanks to David Cranor for lending his EE expertise and to Lumafield for the 3D scan.
Here’s how I made a custom replacement circuit board for a PS4 controller. I had been hanging onto a few broken controllers, hoping to turn them into something new. I thought that if I connected to all the switches, I could repurpose the controller.
Inside, there’s a circuit board that hosts the joysticks, a few switches, and the brains of the operation, but most of the buttons are wired up through a membrane keypad. The connector on the circuit board is a rectangular cutout with small pads that line up with the membrane’s contacts. So this is what makes a custom PCB necessary for this project– there just isn’t another way to connect to all those membrane keypad switches.
So I got to scheming a breakout board– a circuit that would have the required membrane interface, but then wire it to headers I can wire out to the rest of my circuit. I started by drawing a circuit diagram with the joysticks and the 19 membrane contacts each connected to its own header pin.
This is a tour of my compact New York City studio, which I use for my work as a full-time content creator. I’ll show you how my small space pulls off some big tasks, share with you some of my favorite storage and organization tips, and answer your frequently asked questions about my workshop.
My studio is the biggest bedroom in my Brooklyn apartment– it’s about 200 square feet of space, and it has one closet, laminate floors, central air, and a small but useable space outside one of the two windows.
You can get tools and supplies for your own dream workshop at Digi-Key, the sponsor of my workshop tour video. Check out all my favorites on Maker.io.
We’ll start with my tool chest. It holds way more stuff than shelves or a pegboard while making everything easy to reach for a short person, and provides an additional work surface. I keep my 3D printer on top of it and use the space next to it for whatever I’m working on. For a space with floors that aren’t necessarily level, it was important to me to get a tool chest with drawers that latch shut and casters with locks, so nothing goes sliding around. The color is a bonus for me– it matches the rest of the space and I can draw on it with dry erase makers. I like that everything can have a place in these drawers and be out of sight when not in use.
Here’s an easy method for etching metal with electricity. I wanted to make some brass plaques to commemorate my brother, who passed away recently. Other methods use toxic etchant chemicals, but this method uses salt water. Both methods have pros and cons, but I prefer the electric method because it’s safer and the cleanup is more straightforward.
Thanks to Digi-Key for sponsoring this project! Check out this project on Maker.io.
I designed the artwork in Illustrator to mimic the Cafe Bustelo logo– really I only needed to make up an R and an N, since I could just trace the rest of the letters. Before you etch, you’ll need to get your artwork transferred onto the brass, masking out everything you don’t want to etch. There are a few methods for this step, as well. I first tried the toner transfer method of ironing on a laser print-out, then soaking off the paper in water, but I couldn’t get the temperature and pressure worked out well enough to successfully transfer my image. So instead I used my vinyl cutter to make a sticker of my design and stuck it to the brass.
Welcome back for another teardown! This time I’m taking apart the Muse S meditation headband. This biofeedback wearable sends sensor data back to the app to help inform the audio experience during its meditation or sleep sessions (iOS/Android). Thanks to David Cranor for lending his EE expertise and to Lumafield for the 3D scan.
If you’ve been following my work for some time now, you may remember I’ve also taken apart Muse’s first headset a few years ago. The Muse S isn’t the new version of that, it’s a different product designed to be softer for sleeping. Hence the S. There is also a Muse 2 that is made of harder materials and is a more direct iteration of the Muse 1.
Here’s how to make a portable soldering station with a USB iron and a battery pack. I’ve 3D printed some sides for a plain stand that turns it into a storage box for the soldering iron and solder.
The TS80P smart soldering iron is super tiny but packs a ton of features. It’s got a little OLED screen, adjustable temperature, customizable firmware, and comes apart to get even tinier.
You need to power it with USB-C, either with an AC adapter or a beefy backup battery.
I picked a full-size soldering iron stand for three reasons:
I am super clumsy and therefore never liked the mini stands, which leave the iron exposed not only to my flailing arms but to other things on the desk. I prefer an enclosed design to prevent burning myself or the things around me.
The full-size stand has a brass sponge for cleaning the tip, which I’ve been spoiled by at home and therefore can’t live without.
The open space in the middle will fit all the things I need to carry in a portable kit.
You can get all these supplies, even the 3D printing filament, at Digi-Key, the sponsor of this project. They carry all kinds of soldering supplies, backup batteries, and other tools, and they ship super fast. Here are the specific items I used to build this project.