October 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beverage vending machine teardown


Grab a cold soda and look inside an early 90's vintage beverage vending machine as Harley tears down a drink dispenser found in the back corner of a warehouse. Beverage vending machines are basically refrigerated robots that we see everyday. In this episode, Harley takes apart a generic machine to see what’s inside, how it works and what parts might be scavenged.

Playlist of other tear down videos.

For a written transcript, go to Beverage vending machine teardown

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing"
Incidental music: “Quasi Motion” and “Airport Lounge"
All by Kevin MacLeod at Incompetech

Sound effect: living-room-light-switch by alienxxx at FreeSound


If you're squeamish about entrails, this video may not be for you.

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to be dissecting this beverage machine.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

Today we're going to roll up our sleeves... protect our hands from sharp edges... and actually do some work.

My employer had this vending machine back in the back corner of the warehouse and the boss wanted the warehouse cleared out. They told me if I could take it away, it was mine.

So of course I took it.

Nobody knows if it really works, it's been there longer than anybody else has been there. So we don't really know what I'm going to find when I get into this. Hopefully there's going to be some motors, maybe some relays, solenoids, other mechanical and electronic bits and bobs that I might be able to scavenge for the parts.

It also has a nice cabinet, pretty thick sheet metal. So we'll take a look at that and hopefully be able to use it for something.

I don't have a key for it so we're going to have to cut it open.

The way this lock works is there's this metal bezel. And there's this other metal insert part. When you turn the key, this metal insert part pops out and then you can turn the lock. There's a bolt that goes straight back here into the unit and that's what holds the door closed.

So, since I don't have the key, I'm going to have to cut the bolt.

This takes six different types of cans. They go in here. They roll down in a serpentine way down to the bottom where they get distributed.

So the walls are double wall construction. There's the outside heavy thick sheet metal. Then there's looks like some thinner sheet metal, galvanized, with insulation in the middle.

On the door unit, there's also an inside, insulated door that allows... keeps the cold inside and also gives a place in here for displaying product what's in each one of the units.

Down here at the bottom there's this shoot and above the shoot there's six motors with kind of a screw drive mechanism on it that allow it to release one thing at a time when the electronics tell it to go.

Down at the very bottom of this unit there's a refrigerator unit that looks really gunked up. Hopefully that motor's still good. Hopefully the compressor is still good because those can be used as either vacuum pumps or air pumps. But we won't be able to get to that until we take all the rest of this out.

So that's it for the overview of this particular unit. It's designed to work in conjunction with a snack machine that has the money changer in it and has all the control electronics with product selection switches and things like that. So this is just the mechanical side of things.

Tomorrow we'll get into actually taking everything apart.

Very good year!

OK, we're out here the next day since we ran into the sunset last night.

First thing I want to do is take off this inside door so I have a little bit more room to work with. There's just a couple screws top and bottom to do that.

Each product can have it's own price and all the available prices are printed on this strip. The strip is positioned as appropriate for the product setting by loosening the screws, adjusting the position of the strip and tightening the screws back down.

Now that I have the motors exposed, we can see a little bit better how this mechanism works for releasing product. The motors turn this plastic part here and when there's... two paddles offset from each other by 180 degrees. So the first one pops up like this and keeps the product from rolling out. When somebody makes an order, it then rotates so it's like this, there's a paddle behind that keeps the product from coming out more than one, and then this one is releasing just one.

So, it just kind of goes like this letting one product come in and then it just dispenses it. And there's a sensor switch here so it knows where it is in its circular rotation and there's another switch back in the back that tells when it's out of product.

OK, so it looks like this unit that allows the product to roll down and dispense, it looks like this is one unit that just kind of bolts in to the refrigerator portion. So there's a couple bolts top and bottom that I think is all that needs to do to release that and let it come forward.

These bolts are really corroded and so it's taking different combinations of different wrenches to try and get in there and loosen them up and get them out. But I think once I've done all that, this whole unit will just kind of slide out.

At least that's what I'm hoping.

So I've been really impressed by the way this thing is built. It's really modular. Just take out a couple bolts and it seems like things just kind of come apart. Unlike a lot of things that I take apart that are manufactured recently, I'm thinking automobiles specifically and electronics, that once it's put together you can't really take it apart; you kind of destroy it when you're disassembling it. This thing is really coming apart easily and I'm pretty impressed. I'm not sure they did that for assembly purposes or if it's designed to be highly maintainable. In any case, I'm really impressed with it.

So the way this unit is designed, I think this refrigeration unit will come out as a single module. I'm hoping all I have to do is remove some of these screws and it'll just slide right out. We'll see if we luck out.

We'll I think that's about all I'll do for this deconstruction at this point. I was originally going to take these inner walls out and give me an extra inch and a half on each side, I think, of space. But I think it's adding some rigidity to the unit and it gives me something to screw into if I want to build something inside this. So, for the moment I'm going to just leave it as is.

So let's go down to the basement and take a look at all the different bits and pieces that we have.

Well these are the major components: the outside shell with insulated sides, the inner insulated door, this product holder, a box of motor assemblies and miscellaneous screws and panels and finally the refrigeration unit.

I think I'm going to retrofit the outer box to use as a chemical cabinet. Right now paint and oil and other chemicals are stored in little spaces here and there around the basement. Having them all consolidated in one place would be really nice.

The rest of the items I'm going to tear down some more and put the materials in the raw materials storage for future projects.

I think this video is probably long enough as it is, so I'll do a follow up video where I tear down the motor assemblies and refrigeration unit. The control mechanism on the motors was a bit surprising to me so that'll be interesting to kind of tear down and take a look at in more depth. And the question of whether the compressor is good is still up in the air.

If this is your first time here at House of Hacks, Welcome! I'm glad you're here and would love to have you subscribe.

I believe everyone has a God-given creative spark. Sometimes this manifests through making things with a mechanical or technical bent. Through this channel I hope to inspired, educate and encourage these types of makers in their creative endeavors.

Usually this involves various physical media like wood, metal, electronics, photography, but sometimes it involves taking things apart to see how they work and get materials to recycle for future projects.

If this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and subscribe and I'll see you again in the next video.

Thanks for joining me on our creative journey.

Now go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!


Rollin'... rollin'... rollin'...


[Cute cat video]

Monday, October 3, 2016

How to quickly isolate a subject on white using the histogram


The histogram is a powerful tool for the photographer. In this tutorial, Harley shows how to use this feature found on most cameras to quickly and easily setup lighting to isolate a subject on a pure white background. Properly done, a subject isolated on a white background is simple to cut out to composite into another image.

Histogram playlist
Photography playlist

Special thanks to my wife Diane for being the test model and my buddy Rich at Studio 020 for letting me use one of the rooms.

Overhead diagram created by the Online Lighting Diagram Creator.

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com
Incidental: "Sweeter Vermouth" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com
Sound effect: living-room-light-switch by alienxxx at http://freesound.org


Today at the House of Hacks, I’m going to talk about an impulse purchase I made several years ago that’s turned out to be one of the most used tools in my workshop.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

A number of years ago I had an Amazon order that I needed to fill out to get free shipping on. So I ended up purchasing one of these inexpensive digital calipers. It was just an impulse purchase. I figured it’s cheap enough that if I never use it or I don’t like it, no great loss.

As it turned out, this little thing has… I use it on almost every project. It measures up to six inches and anything under six inches I’m pretty much using this to measure with.

It’s just really, really handy.

There’s a whole bunch of these on Amazon. This one I picked up for around 37 or so dollars. It’s one of the more expensive ones. I’ve seen them on, just searching before this video, I was searching and saw them for under ten dollars. They’re so inexpensive, I’ve seen people buy them new, cut them up to use the measuring device in things like jigs and things like that. So, they’re really inexpensive for whatever purpose you want to use them for. Like I said, I use them for almost every project whenever I need to measure things.

They’re great for measuring outside measurements using these big calipers. Using the smaller inside calipers you can measure inside measurements. And on the end you can measure depth.

They have a zero button on them so you can zero it out. You either close the jaws, zero it out and then you get an accurate measurement. Or, you can use it to get the difference between two measurements. Take one measurement, zero it out, take another measurement and that gives you the difference between the two sizes. That can be really handy.

And it’s also good for transferring distances. You can use the ends, they are sharp so you can scribe a little bit. Measure one thing and then use it to scribe.

It does have an on/off switch which doesn’t really work all that well. All it does is turn on and off the LCD display which really doesn’t draw much power. If you’re going to leave these sitting around unused for a week, you really should take the battery out and that’ll give you much longer battery life on it.

That said, the batteries are 357 button cells. Little things that you can get at Walmart, Target, places like that for a couple bucks a piece. They’re much cheaper on Amazon if you buy them in bulk. So I recommend buying them on Amazon because I think they’re less than a dollar a piece whereas the cheapest I’ve found locally is like a buck fifty, two bucks, something like that.

They have a units switch that switches between millimeters, inches as decimal and inches as fractions. So that can be handy depending on what it is you’re measuring and you’re comparing it to other things and what units you’re most comfortable with.

The device also came with a plastic carrying case. Just kind of inexpensive, but it does protect it. And inside it has a foam cutout for the calipers and two places for batteries. So if you’re carrying it around, that kind of protects it and keeps it from getting beat up.

A really, really handy device. I really recommend getting one.

So that’s it for today. I’ll leave a link down in the description for an affiliate link if you’re interested in helping support the channel.

Until next time, go make something. Perfection’s not required. Fun is!