Experimenting with Turning an Ultrasonic Cleaner into an Ultrasonic Knife

Science Workshop
Experimenting with Turning an Ultrasonic Cleaner into an Ultrasonic Knife

This video from the YouTube channel, This Old Tony, is one of the most inspiring I’ve seen in a while. Which is kind of an odd thing to say since the results are something of a fail. Or are they?

Tony was fascinated by his ultrasonic cleaner. He wanted to learn more about how it works and was curious to see if he could re-direct the soundwave hardware in such a cleaner to do something else useful. So, he bought a smaller $60 cleaner to take apart and to better understand its inner workings. He takes us along for the ride.

With his newfound knowledge of how the cleaner and its hardware works, Tony decides to see if he can turn the unit into a ultrasonic cutting knife. He knows that the engineering of the horn will be crucial, but he doesn’t fully understand the acoustical engineering involved. No worries. He just tinkers towards his solution.

At one point, the video appears to end; the project a failure. But Tony comes back, presses on, and eventually comes up with something that actually kinda-sorta works. Proof of concept, anyway.

This video is a glorious example of the joys and value of tinkering. Tony’s curiosity led him to learning more about the inner workings of a tool he regularly uses, the underlying acoustical properties behind ultrasonic technology, and how an ultrasonic knife works. Tony also has a great low-key and funny presentation style which makes his videos fun to watch.

YouTube player

YouTube player
Not content to rest there (or leave his poor cannibalized cleaner alone to die with dignity), Tony decided to try turning the knife into an ultrasonic welder. Again, not a certifiable success, but the experiments are interesting and tantalizing. With more work, better engineering, and lots more futzing, it looks like you could possibly make your own ultrasonic hand tools.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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