It occurred to me recently that a lot of people don’t have the kind of tools that I now have at my disposal (CNC router, lathe, etc). Some people hopefully like to check this site out just because it’s interesting, but for those that would like to participate with a low capital investment, here’s some really cheap projects featured here in no particular order.
Hack an Automatic Air Freshener: Not only are these devices chock full of useful mechanical and electrical components that can be harvested, they are available in both the timed and passive infrared version for under $10. Why not use one to trigger your camera, or even make an extremely crude walking device by adding controls from a cheap RC SUV?
No Drill? Build one from a pencil sharpener! Again, extremely cheap to make, but you have to find an old-school (literally) pencil sharpener to use. This shouldn’t be as much of a barrier because they should be available for well under $1000.
Stop-Motion Animation: this is one of the cheapest hacks on the list in that you only need a computer, which if you’re browsing on it shouldn’t cost you any more money, and a camera. A tripod is nice, but if you’re really hard up, a camera holder made from a block of wood works as well.
LED light nunchucks: for less than $2 off of Amazon, you can have the internal “wheel lights” to make this contraption. You’ll also need a foot of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and some sort of cord or wire, but you may have these components laying around in your shop. Cheap and fun, this project can also be used to do light painting, which is a cheap project in itself if you have the proper photographic equipment. See my “Camera and A/V Hacks” category for more on this.
Shop Vac Muffler: Made from found parts, my latest version of the Shop Vac Muffler uses only Styrofoam, tape and glue, scrap towel pieces, and the connector to the vac. Pretty effective in my fixed configuration, and super-cheap. I had a hot foam cutter from Zen Toolworks to help with this, but there may be more commonly available ways of doing this. It’s not like you need a diamond cutter to work with Styrofoam!