Valentine LED chaser part 2: transfer to the perf board

Last Friday and Saturday I transferred the components to the perf board. I used regular perf board this time instead of the breadboard type perf board that I used for the alarm circuit. I had to make a sketch of the circuit on the perf board before I started to solder. The sketch was simply hand drawn and depicted all the components positioned on the perf board and all the solder joints. I realised this circuit needed a lot of soldering. The wire cutting and soldering indeed took a serious amount of time even more than anticipated. The end result looked like a spaghetti of wires (see image). I attached the 9V battery and… only one LED started glowing. Disconnecting and reconnecting the battery prompted other LED’s to glow but nothing like the LED chaser. I replaced the 555 timer and the 4017B counter. Same result. This leads to the assumption that the 555 timer isn’t properly triggering the counter. Alas no finished LED chaser for this Valentine but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to solve the problem. To be continued.

LED chaser. Just one LED glows. Probably due to the 555 timer that doesn’t properly trigger the counter.
Almost finished LED chaser connected to a 9V battery.
Spaghetti of wires at the back of the perf board. I could have given the lay-out a little more thought.

Valentine LED chaser part 1: the breadboard

It is time to take a temporary departure from Make:Electronics. The question is: has all these theory and experiments from the book enabled me to finish my own project? After working with the 555 timer in astable mode last week I remembered an article about this chip that I read a year ago, the so called LED chaser. I read the article last year on the Makezine website. It’s an electronic circuit that illuminates ten LED’s in the shape of a heart (you can find the article here). With Valentine day next Saturday this could be a nice present for my wife. The circuit needs a 555 timer, a 4017B decade counter, some capacitors and resistors, a potentiometer and of course 10 red LED’s. Luckily I had all the components (I used 1.2K resistor instead of 1K and 250K potentiometer instead of 200K).  I have built the circuit on a breadboard today and it worked almost immediately. That leaves me almost a week to solder it to a board. Take me to part 2.

Print out of the schematics of the LED chaser found on Makezine.
Finished circuit on breadboard. The LED’s do not resemble the heart shape yet.

DIY bar stool as part of the bar table

A couple of weeks ago I built a bar table out of scaffolding wood. Today I had the time to build a stool of the same material. I used a drawing of Cando (a Belgium based DIY shop). You can find the link of the drawing on their website here together with the bill of material. Cando has a series of drawings of scaffolding wood furniture even of a complete outdoor kitchen (as long as you don’t mind deciphering the Dutch instructions). I got the scaffolding wood cut at the desired length at our local DIY shop. It just needed a little sanding. As with the bar table building was straight forward using 5 x 50 mm chipboard screws. I’m happy with the result. The stool is sturdy and has a nice rough look. Given the low price of the scaffolding wood it is also cheap.

Stool happily together with the bar table


Experiment 17: The astable mode of the 555 timer

Last weekend I had a chance to continue with the next experiment. Make:Electronics suggests to set it up on the same breadboard that still has experiment 16 on it. This is for later experiments when the 555 timers will be chained. Again this is an easy experiment although I almost forgot all important connection between pin 6 (threshold) to pin 2 (trigger). Instead of one pulse in the monostable mode a stream of pulses is generated. The loudspeaker that is connected to the pin 3 (output) generates a (faint) tone. According to the book it is 1,5KHz (this equals to 1500 pulses per second).

Overview of breadboard with on top experiment 16 (with led and potentiometer) and beneath it experiment 17 with the speaker on the side
Close-up of experiment 17 (bottom IC)

Experiment 16: monostable mode of the 555 chip

This experiment (and the next experiments) are centered around the 555 timer chip. The circuit that been built (figure 4.14 of Make:Electronics) results in the monostable mode of the 555 chip. Once triggered the 555 emits a single pulse of a fixed duration. I lacked the required 5K linear potentiometer and I used a 2.5K instead. I decreased the resistance of the potentiometer step by step and at a certain threshold the led that is connected to the pin 3 (output) emitted a pulse. At this time I measured a voltage on pin 2 (trigger) of 3V. This experiment is straightforward and I encountered no problem. Afterwards I changed the capacitor on pin 6 (the threshold pin) from 47uF to 22uF. The duration of the pulse halved as expected.

Overview of the circuit with the 555 in the middle and the potentiometer on the left.
Close-up of the circuit

Building an Intrusion alarm part 5 (finishing up is hard)

I spent several hours fault tracing the circuit from the intrusion alarm. I used the multimeter together with the minigrabber and checked the relay part of the circuit. I was able to measure the voltage over all the components and at first couldn’t find any problem. I decided to replace the transistor since the soldering looked a bit messy. Tried it again and nothing. Then I started applying power directly different parts of the relay circuit. I found that the first resistor (the 10K resistor in figure 3-93 of the book) had a bad connection and blocked the current. The solder joint looked messy. I cleaned it using a solder-pump and soldered it again. Problem solved.

Next I wired the external parts to the circuit board. I finished the soldering and then powered the circuit and again no click in the relay and no alarm. The led’s in the enclosure worked fine however. I took out the circuit and tested it. It works without a problem. So I’m clueless.

Nevertheless I learned a lot from this chapter and especially experiment 15. I learned to make simple circuits and mount everything in a box although I can certainly improve my skills on this. For the moment I will leave the intrusion alarm (it’s taken far too long for my taste) and continue to the next chapter (chips). Maybe I will revisit the intrusion alarm later.


Building an Intrusion alarm part 4: disaster strucks.

I completed the projectbox yesterday. It is looking good (well good enough) and I was eager to wrap-up the project. Just a few solder joints and it was finished. Before I started soldering, as I final test, I screwed the circuit board in the box and plugged in the power, I opened the magnetic sensor and… nothing happened, at least no audible sound either from the relay or the loudspeaker. I checked the voltage on the noise making part of the circuit, nothing. Then I checked the relay part. I measured voltage but the relay will not energize. Probably something has happened when I screwed the circuit board. Now I’m stuck with a nearly finished projectbox and an apparently broken circuit.

When frustration builds up I have learned to leave a project alone. You might end up throwing the project out of the window. On the up-side this may be a learning opportunity. On page 139 of Make:Electronics is an explanation how to trace faults in a circuit. I had no need for that until now. It is also an opportunity to use the minigrabber (see Figure 3-6 of the book) that I had recently bought.

Inside of the finished project box. On the lid two leds, switch, loudspeaker and banana plugs. On the left side the connector for the power.
Exterior of the finished project box
The minigrabbers. Hopefully they will be helpful to find the fault in the circuit

Building an Intrusion alarm part 3

I solved the problem with the circuit. I simply forgot to place a single wire that powers the coil. After this I was ready to solder the complete circuit on the Adafruit perfboard. I started with the noise making part of the circuit and tested it. Then I continued with the sensor and the relay part. It’s strangely exciting to power the board for the first time and hope it works fine. In my case it did so no frustrating fault tracing although one can learn a lot from this. I’m happy with the result but I now need some components before I’m able to finish experiment 15.  This experiment includes placing the soldered board in a project box and add some user control to the intrusion alarm.

Completed circuit on the perfboard.
Overview of the perfboard, magnetic sensor and loudspeaker.

Building an Intrusion Alarm part 2

I had to scale down the circuit that I had built before because the perf board that I’m going to use is pretty small (Adafruit Perma-Proto 1/2 Sized Breadboard). I also decided to change the relay that I used for another type. I previously used the SRC-S-12VDC which works fine but the pin layout is different from the relay used in Make:Electronics. So I used the FTR-F1 CD 012 which is one of the recommended relays in the book. Once I built the circuit everything worked fine except for one thing. Once the alarm is triggered by the magnetic sensor the alarm should be locked even if the magnetic sensor is closed again. This is not the case. I went over the circuit several times but I couldn’t fix the problem. I don’t want to waste to much time on this so I think I will build the alarm without the lock.

Image of the circuit with the new relay.
Close-up of the circuit.

Experiment 15: Building an Intrusion Alarm

A couple of years ago I started working with electronics as a hobby. The reason was that it seemed cool to create electronics gadgets and learn about electronics in the process. I had limited training in electronics so I decided to start with simple electronics kits. These kits contain a PCB, electronic components and a simple step by step instruction. So I built a FM radio, an amplifier and some simple LED gadgets but apart from enhancing my soldering skills I didn’t learn much about electronics. Then at I came across the Make:Electronics book by Charles Platt. The book from 2009 but it looked very hands-on and I ordered it. By now I have almost finished the first three chapter and I arrived at experiment 15 which proved to be the most challenging so far.

In experiment 15 I have to build a alarm circuit. After some setbacks I have a working circuit on breadboard.

Two breadboards with on top the magnetic sensor, the breadboard with the noise making circuit and the loudspeaker. At the bottom the relay circuit that triggers the noise making circuit.
A closer look at the relay circuit

If you’re interested here is a link to the next part of this experiment: