As much fun as it is to build from scratch, even scratch is still something to build from! Today we present a comprehensive guide on my personal favorite household materials for various home-brew engineering projects.
Duct tape and hot glue are of course staples, but if you need a little bit more of a reliable bond, epoxy and zip-ties are also useful!
String, fishing line, and thread are also important mentions. If you are running these through a project, straws (especially small coffee staws) are useful to control strings!
zUNOClips: Originally designed for holding Arduino or chipKIT boards, I am a huge fan of these hardy 3D-printed clips as an multipurpose mounting system. They are cheap and all one must do is build a 5 inch wide platform out of cardboard, Popsicle sticks, or a combination of the two. Once you have done that, you can clip the little board into the zUNOclip quickly and easily. And boy, are they strong!
They are also open-source so you can print them at home.
Cardboard: From thin cereal box style cardboard to heavy duty packing box material, cardboard is the classic go-to for mounting projects.
Plastic/Wood Samples: Many hardware stores carry wood/plastic/plexiglass samples in store. These little platforms offer an excellent, sturdy and clean-looking alternative to cardboard.
Popsicle Sticks: Nothing more needs to be said here.
Legos: The classic toy comes in many shapes and sizes and is perfect for spacing or providing a little 3D structure for a project.
Clothespins: They make great normally closed switches.
Rubber bands: A classic method of adding tension to any project.
Balloons: Awesome if you need a little kinetic energy, say to shoot a plastic bb.
Mousetraps: Useful if you need a little bit of spring for, say, a homemade mini catapult.
Velcro: A staple if you need to have something be unfastenable and refastenable easily.
Paper Clips (and Legos!): You never know how much you need a small strong metal bar. Also if you are building something like an axle, you can use plastic Legos to help mount the paper clip. Simply put the metal end over a small flame then stick it into the plastic. Careful, however — plastic fumes are toxic!
Hinges: A must-have in any toolkit, unless your project is small/light enough to use a duct tape hinge they are well worth the investment. They can be purchased in various sizes at any hardware retailer.
Swivels (the kind used in fishing): These make a great joint if a project needs 360 degrees of rotational movement.
Aquarium tubing: Makes good connections between circular joints. For example, if you need to make a joint between two dowel ends, you can get a bit of tubing and fill it with duct tape and shove each dowel in into it about halfway!
Pen bodies (and the ink tube!): Especially plastic Bic pens, they are invaluable cylindrical parts.
Whats your favorite everyday material?