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MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: Many of us are parts hoarders, and mostly with good reason: one never knows when something in the stash can come in handy. But what are parts or materials that you simply have an overabundance of? For other readers, what sort of projects would you use those parts for? Maybe in the comments thread we can get some match-making action going.

I have ten 4N32 Opto-Couplers that I don’t see myself using anytime soon. I’d gladly trade or give them away if you can find a use for them. Hit me up in the comments if you’re interested.

Post your responses in the comments section.

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.


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Comments

  1. chuck says:

    I recycle as much as possible. I have never payed for a capacitor! I find old audio gear and strip it for components. I sort the loot by type and put it in zip lock bags, and when there’s enough I sort it into clear Plano divided tackle boxes. I have a surplus of very high and very low value components. I can’t get enough .1-4.7 mf caps, but I end up with tons of other values.
    I also have way too many of the little momentary switches used in most every digital board these days. I know as soon as I throw them out I’ll have a use for them, but for now I have a baggie with several hundred of the things.
    I cannot throw away a wall wart! I’ll grab them from the trash whenever I see them. I have a large Rubbermaid tub full of them, but I have a mysterious surplus of 12vac.

  2. Alan S. Blue says:

    I’d like a couple -dis-assembly guides and part-identification please. Not “This is a capacitor”, but pointing out which parts are the particularly pricey bits and how to find their specs.

    Random “Free” printers and other electronic waste contain plenty of good bits. But sometimes -identifying- the parts is tricky. A free stepper motor is excellent. But when it takes an hour to identify … that’s no longer so free.

    Things like MOSFETs (among a host of parts) are slammed to a heat sink and never have numbers once removed. Ok – that’s actually -the- pricey part sometimes … now can I determine specs from it reasonably?

    1. chuck says:

      Amen! A book with lots of color photos of components and charts to cross reference part numbers from different manufacturers. Maybe some tips and tricks for determining values with a meter and explanations of the different types of specific components. I’ve only been serious about electronics for a year, so this would be incredibly useful. I have a couple baggies full of unidentifiable parts that I’d like to know what they are and what they do. If only there was a publisher who specialized in books of a technical nature who might see this post and respond to market demand, hint hint wink wink.

        1. chuck says:

          Wow- That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. You’re like a magic genie. Do I get two more wishes?

          1. you can make more wishes, but I make no guarantees for fulfilling them.

  3. wow says:

    In general, there are reasons one keeps replacements, consumables, and project specific tooling. As parts age, replacements often become unavailable, and lot-specific characteristics change.

    Manufacture IP phobias have fractured the pin-compatible era of discreet logic chips, and almost every project will now require re-drawing some proprietary pin-out for most components.

    If you ever get a chance to interview those wieners at Fairchild… Tell them there device specific pin-spacing has earned them a one way ticket to silicon hell.

  4. Trav says:

    I have an overabundance of computer power supplies. I pull them out of old computers before heading to the recycler. The other thing would be the shafts that platens, rollers and print heads go on in printers. I dis-assemble printers for their bits and end up hanging on to the steel rods. I keep meaning to re-use them for a cnc machine but haven’t got around to it yet.

    1. chuck says:

      You could build an electrolytic rust removal tank. I was considering a $300 sand blasting set up when someone suggested electrolytic rust removal. An old bucket, an ATX power supply, and some odd bits from around the shop and the rust melts away.

  5. Chris says:

    I have about 250,000 piranha-style LEDs, mostly in taillight red. I’d love to find someone who’d be interested in taking them off my hands. I’ve also got reels of capacitors, resistors, and boxes of oscillators of various frequencies, but the LEDs are taking up the most space.

  6. Glenn Rice says:

    Motors…. so many motors….

    1. If the subject was “motors”, I’m looking for a 60 HP 3-Phase 3600 RPM (4-Pole) Wound-Rotor (Synchronous) 230-240 VAC Capable ……….. Second-Hand (Cheap) for an electric car project. You don’t have one, do you ? One never knows, but I’m looking everywhere and anywhere – maybe somebody’s grampa just happens to have one lying around from the mill or water pumping station. :) If you’re not amused, Regards….. I’m having fun trying – and it really beat playing the idiodic lottery.

  7. kjunkins says:

    Wall warts. Where did THESE all come from? It might be interesting to build a benchtop power supply box, with a selectable ouotput switch.

  8. I’m a supply chain manager for a small contract electronics manufacture near Chicago. We routinely scrap out small quantities of perfectly good parts from our inventory system along with partially assembled un repairable circuit boards on a regular basis. Up until a couple years ago we would throw most of it in the trash.
    With our companies green initiative and along with my urging (I’m an electronics tech as well) we collect these parts and will either engage an electronics salvager to haul them away or try to contact local institutions to make use of them. I wonder how many other electronics manufactures trash the onesy twosy parts that the brokers won’t take. This is a resource going to waste.

    1. Wow Terry that’s awesome that you had the initiative to do that! I’m sure many hackerspaces across the country would be glad to take surplus off your hands.