Bar Monkey Relay Assembly

Relay Kit CompleteSo Alan has made some good progress on the Bar Monkey. The relays are mostly complete (a few nights soldering between grading finals) and the next step is testing them out.

According to Alan the relays were fairly straight forward. The only big challenge was figuring out the orientation of the IC chips. Thankfully they mount in sockets so it’s fairly easy to switch them around.

Check out my Bar Monkey Gallery for some pictures of the relay in various states of assembly.

Check back often for updates on the project!

drinks, cocktails, alcohol, bar, bar monkey, electronics, drink, cocktail, alan baker

A Bar Monkey in the Making

Alan Baker, a good friend and co-worker has decided that it’s time to build a Bar Monkey.

What’s a Bar Monkey? Well the idea comes from the guys at Basically the idea is to have some computer controlled hardware (relays and pumps or valves) that pour precisely measured amounts of liquors and mixers to make your favorite drinks.

Among all the different variations on the Bar Monkey there are really two ways to deliver the mixers from bottle to glass. The first is to use pumps to carry the liquid. The major problem with this is that food-grade pumps are very expensive ($50 and up). Others have used cheaper windshield wiper fluid pumps but Alan and I were concerned about the safety of the materials used being in direct contact with consumables.

That led us to the other option which involves pressurizing the line (either with compressed gas or gravity) and using shut off valves from a refrigerator to control flow. Alan has chosen to pressurize with CO2. Originally we were going to use a CO2 canister from a paint ball gun. The small size and low price of these is ideal, however we are having trouble finding proper threaded fittings.

Flow control will be accomplished with refrigerator ice maker valves. Alan found these valves for $15/each at however they seem to have gone up to $22 almost immediately after Alan bought them.

The brains of this operation are the Kit 108 Serial Relay Kit from Each kit can control 8 relays capable of running the shut-off valves. The kits are connected by the serial module upgrade kit which allows you to join two of the controllers together to control 16 valves.

So the purchasing phase is nearly done and we hope to start assembly soon. Click here to view the complete shopping list and check back frequently for updates on our progress!

drinks, cocktails, alcohol, bar, bar monkey, electronics, drink, cocktail, alan baker

RadioShack Screwdriver Sets – Great Tools for Small Work

National Weather Service LogoNeed a good $5-$10 gift for the tinkerer on your list? Buy them the last set of precision screwdrivers they’ll ever need!

RadioShack offers some fantastic precision tools, but only a few make it onto my must-have list. The Kronus 6-Piece Precision Phillips Screwdriver Set and corresponding slotted set are the exception. These are the type of tools you will wonder how you ever lived without.

The slotted set, RadioShack Model 64-2968 span from 1.0mm to 3.5mm in logical steps. Similarly, the Phillips, RadioShack Model 64-2969 ranges from 1.4mm to 3.8mm (the largest is roughly Phillips #1, but the others are too small for the normal Phillips measurement). Also, unlike some sets which come with a single handle and several interchangeable shafts, these are all fixed to the handle so there’s no more switching bits!

At $4.99 per set I highly recommend buying one of each, but if you take a look at the selection, RadioShack also has some combined sets with more or less tools.

Several years ago I purchased both these sets after being frustrated at not having the correct size of slotted driver while working on a turntable. Since then I have never been at a loss for the correct sized driver!

With free-spinning tops and great grips it is easy to apply the right amount of torque, and as for durability… well, I’m rough on tools and I don’t think I’ll be needing the limited lifetime warranty anytime soon.

While I’m sure I could get a comparable or possibly better set of precision drivers through one of the popular mail-order tool dealers but you just can’t beat simply walking into RadioShack and picking these up. You even save on shipping!

tool, tools, radioshack, building, electronics, repairs, diy, do it yourself, repair, modeling, models

MAKE Volume 2: More Good Stuff

Make: Vol 2In the gaps between teaching, work, bloging and working on some pet-projects I have finally finished MAKE: Technology On Your Time, Volume 2. Chock full of home entertainment projects, I am yet again impressed with the quality and quantity.

Highlights include HDTV on Your Mac, Atari 2600PC, and instructions on how to build a twitchy little robot out of a computer mouse. I’m glad the magazine only comes out quarterly… I could spend three months working on the projects from just one issue!

While the quality of the projects outlined in MAKE is undeniable, I am finding the true value of the magazine is how it has changed the way I look at things. I can only equate this to when I learned how to pick locks. Once you have picked a Masterlock and a few door locks your attitude toward locked doors changes. What was once a barrier is now a challenge, even one to look forward to.

MAKE has changed the way I view the world. A broken answering machine, old mouse, dead entertainment system, even a cheap Commadore64 direct-to-TV game have taken on a new value. I’ve always been a hacker, never afraid to take the screws out and rewire, but this is going to a whole new level!

More than a book full of projects, MAKE is full of new ways to apply technology, new tools, and true “maker” attitude. The value of MAKE, and it’s true spirit, is realized when you view it not as a bunch of projects and reviews, but as 200 pages of raw information just waiting to see how the reader will put it all together.

Will I build a Lego robot controlled by an audio chip? Podcast a lecture for a class I will be teaching? Perhaps build a desktop linear accelerator to annoy and harm my cube-mates! (just kidding)

Well, one thing is for sure… I’m glad my girlfriend got me a subscription for my birthday. Time to dig into Volume 3. I’m afraid I’ve only got a couple months until Volume 4 will arrive.

For more information on what started this new obsession of mine, check out this article about MAKE, and this retrospective on Volume 1.

make, oreilly, make magazine, hacks, hack, hacker, electronics, electronic, entertainment, technology, electric, home entertainment, diy, do it yourself,