How-to Build The Internet

A how-to on building The Internet which wouldn’t exist without The IT Crowd:

Inspired by the instructable here I have put together pretty much the same thing but with a bit more detail in some areas and less detail in others.


Materials

Material Layout

I will provide two lists of what is needed to build The Internet. One list will be just the parts required that you may/may not have lying around and the other list will be if you didn’t have anything lying around and wanted to buy everything including tools from scratch.

Just the parts

  • Black ABS Box: As big/small as you want
  • Strip Board: Couple inches by a couple inches
  • LED(s): 5mm Red LED + Bezel (could skip bezel if you wanted)
  • IC(s): 1x 555 Timer
  • Resistor(s): 1x 330 Ohm, 2x 1M Ohm (ratings from 0.25 to 0.5 W)
  • Capacitor(s): 1uF (ratings from 25V up should be fine)
  • Batteries: 2x CR2032 (could use the smaller 25 variant if wanted)
  • Battery Holders: 2x CR2032

All the parts + tools

From right to left (big equipment to smaller):

  • Soldering Iron: You will need one. I use a Weller WES51. It is an analog station that is easy to get parts for and has never let me down. It retails for $98 on Amazon (link). Both Adafruit and Sparkfun sell soldering irons at reasonable prices.
  • Third Hand: You will likely need a third hand so you can solder without too much of a pain. You might be able to get away without one but if you are starting to put together a microelectronics setup you will want to add this to your arsenal of tools. The two pictured are the Panavise Jr. from Adafruit for $28 (here) and the Aven 17010 from Amazon for $13 (here). I also like the Sparkfun Third Hand kit due to the flexibility offered by it but it isn’t pictured here; retails for $30 (here).
  • Heat Gun + Kit: This is entirely optional. It provides a really nice way to cleanly wrap and protect wires if they are exposed. Pictured is the Heaterizer XL-3000 from Sparkfun that retails for $14 (here) and what seems like a never-ending supply of heat shrink (95 pieces) for $8 (here).
  • Paper/Pen: This is entirely optional. Not going to provide links on how to acquire.
Wire cutters + Diagonal clippers

Wire cutters + diagonal clippers: One is needed but an extra clipper is optional. Not pictured above but here they are. I like the Multi-size wire stripper & cutter from Adafruit for $7 (here) and the Flush diagonal cutters from Adafruit for also ~$7 (here).

  • Solder Vacuum: Optional but helpful when you make a mistake! The one pictured is from Sparkfun and runs for $5 (here).
  • Flux Pen: Optional but helpful for any sort of soldering. I use one by SRA that is apparently environmentally friendly but still flammable. It retails for $9 on Amazon (here).
  • Soldering Tip Cleaning Wire: Optional but helpful. I use a Hakko that is ~$9 on Amazon (here).
  • Black ABS Box: I went with the Hammond 1591ESBK available on Amazon for $8 (here).
  • Hook-up Wire: I like the spools from Sparkfun that are 22 AWG and $2.50/ea for a 25ft spool. The red (here) and black (here) but they also come in other colors if you like.
  • Multimeter: I have had one from Radioshack for many years and that is the one pictured. Both Adafruit and Sparkfun sell a variety of them and any of the basic digital multimeters are reasonable. If you are spending more than $20 for your first multimeter it is probably not needed.
  • Resistors: We need a couple resistors for this project. If you are going to be doing other projects with microelectronics it is probably a good idea to pickup a resistor kit that gives you a couple of every size/value that is commonly used. The kits from E-Projects on Amazon have worked well for me. For this project I will be using 0.5W resistors. The 0.5W kit from Amazon is available with 31 values in a pack of 775 for $19 (here).
  • Capacitors: Similar to resistors, picking up a pack of them is a good idea if you will be doing other projects. There are just as many options as the Resistor Kits. I use the 15-value pack of Metal Electrolytic Capacitors for a total of 200 from Amazon for $12 (here).
  • Soldering Mat: Optional of course but a good surface is helpful when you have multiple small parts that you want to keep track of and not lose. A brighter colored surface I have always found helpful since ICs are typically black. I use a 14"x10" silicone pad from Amazon for $12 (here).
  • Breadboard + Wires: Before putting things together in a final configuration using a breadboard is helpful. I use breadboards from Sparkfun that go for $5 (here) and wires from Adafruit for $5 (here).
  • Protoboard: There are two sets pictured: One is the Radioshack board that I will use and the second is a stack of boards that you can buy as an example from a variety of places. Sticking with the theme, Adafruit sells some really nice ones for $8.50 (here) and the stack I am showing is from Amazon of 30 pieces in a variety of sizes for $16 (here).
  • Batteries + Holders: We will be using the CR2032 batteries and holders. We will need 2x of each. You can get a 4-pack of batteries from Amazon for ~$4 (here) and a 10 pack of holders from Amazon for ~$6 (here). You could probably use the slimmer 25 variant for this project too.
  • LED + Bezel: We will be using a 5mm Red LED and a bezel to house it nicely. A Red 5mm LED from Sparkfun is $0.35 (here) and Chrome Holder is $0.50 (here). Pictured above are purchased in bulk on Amazon (holders for 20pc is ~$6 here).
  • 555 Timer: Saving the best for last in the list. If you are not familiar with the 555 and are new to microelectronics, I would recommend giving at least the Wikipedia article a quick read. The 555 can be bought in singles from pretty much any/every local electronics store or bought in bulk. If you would like a single, Sparkfun sells them for ~$1 (here). If you will be using them in multiple projects you could purchase 12 for ~$7 on Amazon (here).
  • Drill + 9/32 Drill Bit: Not pictured above but you will need this to be able to drill the hole in the box.
  • Electrical Tape: Not pictured above but you will need some (or Velcro) eventually.
I am not affiliated with any of the companies that I have provided links to. I have had great experiences with Sparkfun and Adafruit. When possible, I try to support Sparkfun and Adafruit since I believe in what they do for the microelectronics and hobbyist communities.

Circuit

We will be putting together a test circuit on the breadboard with most of the parts prior to soldering. Here is a rough diagram of what we will be doing:

Circuit Diagram

This is the same circuit from the instructable since I like the values and configuration as well (and have the parts). It is drawn in a more physical layout.

  • Start with placing the 555 across the center of your breadboard in the same orientation as above.
  • Place the battery holders at the top of the breadboard flip-flopped (since we will connect them in series) noting the pins that they plug into.
  • Start at pin 1 and work your way around the 555 adding the appropriate components until completed.
  • Connect the batteries in series to the +/- bars.

Once this is completed, you will end up with a circuit that looks something like this:

Box

Now that we have a working circuit let’s prepare the box for the eventual circuit. For this step you will need the box, a small drill, a 9/32 drill bit, and optional ruler + pencil.

If you purchase the Hammond box, it has a 1" diameter outline in the top of the box. You can take a small ruler and pencil to mark the center.

Hammond box

Go slow from the outside/top to the inside if a handheld drill and not a press (both work fine). Once drilled there may be some fragments on the inside. You can pick those away pretty easily or use a small clippers to remove any remaining.

Hammond box: drilled

To make sure that the LED Bezel fits, let’s do a test fitment. You may notice as I did that it doesn’t fit. I used a little bit of sandpaper and a larger drill bit to slowly expand the hole to the necessary width. Once completed, push through the bezel and from the underside put on the spring washer and nut.

Hammond box: test fit
LED with plastic insert

We won’t push in the LED yet since we will want to solder and heat shrink the anode/cathode.

One note about the LED and bezel fitment is that I didn’t experience the fitment problem with the plastic insert that the author of the instructable experienced because I preferred to mount it slightly differently. I chose to have the LED sit on top of the bezel mount.

Solder Time

I started with the RadioShack board but quickly noticed I didn’t have enough room to wrap the wires nicely.

Too Small

I switched to one of the larger boards mentioned in the parts list.

Battery Holder Mounts

This positioning allows for a good amount of wiring around and to the edges for the rails. Start by soldering the holders in-place (without batteries!) and adding some small hook-up wire to attach them in series.

Battery Holder Solder
Battery Holder Solder

Note the black to the GND rail and the red to the VCC rail. A dab of flux helps with each connection.

Next we will add the 555 to the bottom and run the GND and VCC to the appropriate rails.

555 Solder

Next we will place the resistors and capacitor in proximity to where the associated connections will be made.

Adding Resistors and Capacitor

Once all of the components are soldered we can start to add more of the connections. Work your way around the 555 adding the appropriate hook-up wire until all connections have been completed.

All connections nearly completed

Before we put our equipment away, we should probably test our connections (and possibly should have throughout the process).

Before we do that though, we are going to make one slight change to increase the durability of the project. We will add posts with flexible wire for the LED similar to what the author of the instructable did. This step is entirely optional and the only equipment not mentioned in the original parts list is the posts (the flexible wire is mentioned in Breadboard + Wires).

Adding posts

With the posts soldered, it is finally time to make sure it works as expected. I chose to shorten the stiffer hook-up wire since the flexible wire that I used

Off/On

Final Assembly

After you push the LED through the hole and slightly bend the stiff wires (to hold it firmly in place) you can mount the board on the bottom of the box. I chose to use some velcro but you could use electrical tape as well.

Box Assembly
Off/On Assembled

One thing you may notice is the amount of fingerprints the glossy black attracts. A quick shine can be done with an antistatic eyeglass wipe which will remove the fingerprints.

Here is a video of the final product: