Make: Asks is a new weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column will spark interesting conversation and that we’ll get to know more about each other.

In my workshop is a beautiful old Kodak slide viewer from the 50’s. It’s just begging to be case-modded but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

This week’s question: Do you have anything laying around that’s looking to be utilized in a new project? Or maybe you have an idea from scratch that you just haven’t gotten around to yet. What is it?

Post your responses in the comments section.

Michael Colombo

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

  • NeXT-Generation

    I’ve got quite a few projects that I’ve been thinking about for a while, but probably the most complicated one is the chess playing FlexPicker made out of LEGO. I’ve also been considering motorizing my brothers old toy go-kart, making a robot out of a old teddy bear, and someday I’d like to build my own 3D printer. Preferably with a “carousel” of filaments so it can print in many colors at once.

    • NeXT-Generation

      Ha ha! First comment!

  • John

    1 – Building a dry-stack (i.e., no mortar) brick, wood-fired oven in my back yard.
    2 – Making a big-ass slab dining-table top from some salvaged lumber that came with my house.

    However, I have a 3-month-old and project time just doesn’t happen as much. Still, just thinking about cool projects is sometimes enough to feel a little make-y.

  • Crow Dojo (@NinjaCrow)

    Surprisingly yes, I have two 5gal Hexagonal fish tanks that I am currently working out the best way to convert into two aquaponic herb gardens for my kitchen. Because I enjoy keeping fish and fresh basil/cilantro/mint is good on almost everything!

    I also have the better parts of a crow vending machine (Former bookshelves) in various stages of assembly… Most all the core elements are there just need to commit to a design and finish assembly. Doesn’t help that every time I come back to it I tend to change a half dozen things…..

    I also have some circuit boards that still need to be sketched up and etched for the aforementioned vending machine.

    Then there are a few projects kicking around my brain that will either require parts to be machined or 3D printed that include but are not limited to some ideas involving ROV propulsion.

    In short my cup of un/half finished projects runneth over :P

  • Erika

    I’m trying my hands at this make business, lol. I have always wanted to use an arduino to produce word noise. I love binary text and wondered if their is a way I can use it to translate the 0’s and 1’s into sound. My bf is graduating from his sound engineering program this summer and Id like to surprise him with this little contraption as a gift.

  • Shawn Thorsson

    For the past five years or so I’ve been about halfway done building a 40% scale drivable model of a Sherman Tank. The design is roughly based on plans by Bill Johns of

    All I’ve got left to do is to connect the engine and transmission to the tracks and it’ll be ready to take on 40% scale tigers and panzers. For now it’s just taking up a parking space and collecting dust.

    I keep telling myself I’ll have it done in time for the local Veteran’s Day parade. Maybe this year…

  • werewolf

    I have a notebook full of ideas I am planning to implement at some time :) Also I collect parts for project that are realistic but not first in the schedule yet or things that just might become a project when a suitable idea arrives. Many of the projects actually get dropped even though most of the materials are ready – then other projects evolve from the materials.

    At the moment biggest physical object in my apartment awaiting for work is a vintage radio-vinylrecordplayer (will I put a working stereo into it?). And in the process of experimenting is my motorcycle that is in almost hopeless condition and I have no idea what, if anything, will come from it.

  • jamesbx

    I have most of the parts to make a pneumatic power hammer for blacksmithing. The plan is to use an Arduino to control the intake/exhaust ports on the pneumatic ram, and read a home switch for the cylinder. The main thing I need is a piece of 5″ solid round stock, about 2′ long. Not cheap, and not easy to find at the scrap yard. I’ve built other Arduino based projects, and welded projects of this scale (trailers and a sawmill). But it is just so easy to go hit the metal with a hammer instead, and I can always find something better to spend several hundred dollars on. So my solenoids gather dust.

  • chuck

    My backburner project is a 555 and 1407 based multi channel, multi oscillator sequencer built in an old 8 channel mixing console (basically modded Atari Punk consoles on steroids that learned to count). With four oscillators feeding four channels with eight beats per channel it is a dounting soldering job. All the oscillators, sequencers, and the clock are soldered and ready to go but the final hookup of 60+ pots and about 50 double throw switches keeps being put off. Some day soon I swear!

  • Chris S.

    I procrastinate a lot. Hmm. The main thing I would like to do is Learn C and use it to program a PIC micro. But for what I need and use, A basic language is a lot simpler to understand when you leave a project for months on end. Specifically I wanted to make a data logger, but I just never got around to finishing it. Some of my other projects include making a HUGE LED light for my room, and seeing how many LED’s it would take to achieve such a feat. I also have quite a few solar Cells from ebay that I just haven’t gotten around to use and another full panel that just needs to be covered. Some day It will also sit outside and do something. I haven’t thought of what I could do with it yet, but it puts out 12V at 3 amps.

    • chuck

      12 volts at 3 amps DC would be a good power supply for an electrolytic rust removal set up. I just built one myself and it is amazing. Google it- it’s a huge time saver and it’s the most useful project I’ve done in quite a while.

  • Derek

    This is a horrible article :). My brain is now swimming in projects past and things yet to be done. My whole shop is completely filled all the way from the mannequin arm that needs painting to the 1930s metal lathe I’m restoring. Mostly it just makes me think that I need to spend more time on shop organization and more time finishing things.

  • John Morse

    Ah serendipity! I just started compiling a list of my forgotten and abandoned projects. Talk about a depressing activity. My problem is that I make stuff for people all day and find that it’s hard to get up the enthusiasm for my own projects. When I do get to the shop to do what “I” want, I usually end up cleaning and/or organizing. My wife tells me I should find a hobby that doesn’t involve making things. Like that’s going to happen…

  • tdave

    I have been putting off building a motorized homey extractor for a family member who keeps bees. I keep using the excuse of not having yet found a suitable salvage washing machine to build it.

    • tdave

      that was ‘honey’. I am also looking for a good proof reader.

    • Rayman59

      I would be interested to see what an extracted homey looks like. Please post when done.

  • Jonathan

    One project on the back burner is lighting up my Solar Panel Jewelry with LEDs and ultra-caps. Either need a small low voltage DC-DC up converter or higher voltage solar cells to work with.

  • Xavier (@FatesClown)

    I have plenty of projects on the back burner. Two airplane kits (An RV-7 and RV-8),hexacopter build, CNC router build, in addition to shop upgrades.

    • rocketguy1701

      Thanks, you just made me feel better:
      -Finish workshop (95% there)
      -CNC build, general tooling upgrades etc.
      -Quad or Hexacopter (Might skip depending on how the quadshot works out)
      -Misc rockets
      -Misc electronic projects
      -And eventually a Sonex Kit airplane.

      So you beat me by quite a bit, particularly the 2nd airplane kit…

  • Lewis Baumstark

    I have a wall-hanging stainless steel commercial food prep sideboard that one day will be the electronics workbench in my shop. It came to me via a friend who worked for a company that designed work areas for grocery stores; apparently it was left-over from a remodel.

    I also have a 50s/60s-era wood lathe, purchased off Craigslist, that needs some work before it can be used.

  • nootropic design (@nootropicdesign)

    I have a 1940 Philco radio that belonged to my grandfather. I want to restore it, but don’t ever seem to find the time.

  • EJ Strauss

    It’s all so terribly *involved*. The on again off again project has been a real, functional, steampunk sidearm. All the noise and ruckus of an explosion right at the end of your arm?! Any proper lord or lady would find it quite reprehensible. So an alternative was sought.

    The design centers on launching small missiles from an appropriately scaled-down launch platform. Each projectile will be a self-contained, monopropellant rocket that will eject—you guessed it—a glorious contrail of water vapor. The beauty of this is that it will be effectively recoilless, clean and quiet by contrast. The other beauty is how well it will go over at cons.

    The missile is its own unique conundrum. In version one, it lacked sufficient fuel to do anything but leave the barrel. And even then, just barely. The current version is unabashedly clever in its design and method for accomplishing fuel delivery. That’s part one.

    Part two, the launch platform, has fewer space constraints, but more parts to coerce to work together. The fuel in the projectile is sealed against an expansion chamber (rather than a combustion chamber like you would find in bi propellant rockets) with a thin, tough gasket. Originally a spring loaded pin concealed in the launcher was going to pierce this gasket, releasing the fuel to the chamber. But that path was a bad idea for two reasons. First, the pin would also have to also auto retract just as quickly in order to not plug the hole it just created. Secondly, the nozzle on the rocket is very slim—if the needle were to break off mid-punch, it could eschew and block the rapidly expanding gases. That’s a recipe for…a rupture, let’s call it.

    The answer to this puzzle, as with many things in life, is a high powered laser–