Automatic Nerf Sentry Gun

I built this Nerf Sentry Gun by grafting a couple of Arduinos, a power supply, a motor, and an ultrasonic distance sensor onto a Nerf Vulcan machine gun. I posted these build notes on Make: online. I’ve never compiled them all in one place, however, so this post serves to tie the whole project together in one place.

Part 1: Wiring the trigger

The first step was to add wiring and a two-wire connector to control the trigger circuit. I opened up the Nerf Vulcan (about 30 screws) and soldered an 1/8″ female jack to the fire selection mode switch. This way, I can retain all the regular functions of the gun when it’s unplugged from the Arduino. To control it from the Arduino, I’ll flip the orange switch on top to “off” and then wire the trigger into the “pulled” position (done here with a classy twist tie). Whenever the Arduino’s trigger circuit closes (bypassing that orange “off” switch) the gun will start firing.

To add the connector, I drilled a 1/4″ hole in the gun’s hand grip, fed the sleeve through, and secured it with a couple of zip ties inside for strain relief.

Next, I’m planning to build the Arduino’s trigger circuit using a MOSFET transistor wired to a male 1/8″ jack I can plug into the gun.

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J. Edgar Park’s Aromatic Bitters No. 1

J. Edgar Park’s Aromatic Bitters No. 1
Make your own bitters to invigorate your beverages.

Aromatic bitters 5

  • 375ml of 151 proof grain alcohol
  • 375ml of 100 proof bourbon
  • zest of one lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/4 tsp. quinine extract (from a health food store)
  • 1/8 tsp. wormwood extract (from a health food store)
  • 2 tsp. Tellicherry peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a 2″ piece of fresh ginger root
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/8 cu. dried cherries
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, with its seeds scraped and reserved to add to jar
  • 1/4 cu. raw sugar (or premade burnt sugar from Blue Mountain or Tippleman’s)
1. Put all ingredients, except for sugar, in a large glass jar, closing it tightly.
Aromatic bitters 3
2. Store jar in a cool, dark place for thirteen days, shaking it daily.
Aromatic bitters 4
3. On day thirteen, filter liquid into a clean jar through a sieve, reserving solids.
4. Place filtered solids into a saucepan, along with 1/2 cu. of water. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, in order to extract maximum flavor.
5. Strain simmered liquid through sieve or cheesecloth, and then combine with other jar of liquid.
6. Filter liquid through a coffee filter or Aeropress to remove small particles.


7. Heat sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until it caramelizes and froths (you can skip this step if using premade burnt sugar)
8. Add burnt sugar to the bitters liquid. Shake jar until burnt sugar dissolves, then let bitters cool.
9. Bottle the bitters using a funnel and or squeeze bottle.
10. Apply bitters directly to your tongue to relieve the fantods, or enjoy a dash or two in most any drink for added flavor harmony.


Klein Tools Bag

kleinBag by JohnEdgarPark
kleinBag, a photo by JohnEdgarPark on Flickr.

Great unexpected gift from a friend a work who knows my style down to a T.
I’ve already used it to transport Bloody Mary fixings and tools to a brunch party. It’ll make a great weekend bag, too. Plus, I’m sure I’ll use it to haul actual tools around when I’m fixing things on the go. Thanks Charlie.

Klein Tools bag

Clyde Common Egg Nog

I’m also making this nog from Jeffery Morgenthaler:

Our tequila-sherry egg nog at Clyde Common has been so overwhelmingly popular that I figured I’d share the recipe here. It’s based on my original egg nog recipe from years back, just slightly modified to incorporate the lower-alcohol sherry into the mix.

Añejo Tequila and Amontillado Sherry Egg Nog

12 large eggs
18 oz (by volume) granulated sugar (~2 1/4 cups)
3 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
12 oz anejo tequila (533 ml. or a little under 3/4 of a bottle)
15 oz Amontillado sherry (443 ml. or a bit over 1/2 a bottle)
36 oz whole milk (about 2 1/4 pints)
24 oz heavy cream (1 1/2 pints)

In a blender or stand mixer on low speed, beat eggs until smooth. Slowly add nutmeg, and sugar until incorporated and dissolved. Slowly add sherry, tequila, milk and cream. Refrigerate overnight and serve in small chilled cups. Dust with fresh nutmeg before serving.

Makes one gallon.

Charles Dickens’s Punch

This is a totally unauthorized reprint from David Wondrich’s excellent book, Punch, The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.

Punch: The Delights (And Dangers) Of The Flowing Bowl

Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl
By David Wondrich
Hardcover, 320 pages
Perigree Trade
List Price: $23.95



Peel into a very strong common basin (which may be broken, in case of accident, without damage to the owner’s peace or pocket) the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin, and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double-handfull [sic] of lump sugar (good measure), a pint of good old rum, and a large wine-glass full of brandy — if it not be a large claret-glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. [L]et it burn for three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to Time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of the three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up for five minutes, and stir again. At this crisis (having skimmed off the lemon pips with a spoon) you may taste. If not sweet enough, add sugar to your liking, but observe that it will be a little sweeter presently. Pour the whole into a jug, tie a leather or coarse cloth over the top, so as to exclude the air completely, and stand it in a hot oven ten minutes, or on a hot stove one quarter of an hour.  Keep it until it comes to table in a warm place near the fire, but not too hot. If it be intended to stand three or four hours, take half the lemon-peel out, or it will acquire a bitter taste.  The same punch allowed to cool by degrees, and then iced, is delicious. It requires less sugar when made for this purpose. If you wish to produce it bright, strain it into bottles through silk. These proportions and directions will, of course, apply to any quantity.

SOURCE : Letter from Charles Dickens to “Mrs. F.” (Amelia Austin Filloneau),

January 18, 1847



Use an enameled cast-iron pot for the “common basin,” or at least something heatproof. Six ounces of demerara sugar should do — particularly if you can get the sort that comes in rough cubes. Use 20 ounces of rum and 6 of Courvoisier VSOP cognac (the brand Dickens kept in his cellar) to be  authentic, or 16 ounces of rum and 10 of cognac if you don’t want the brandy to get completely lost in the mix; for that rum, I find a sixty-forty mix of Pirate Juice and Planter’s Best styles works well here, although you can also go all out and deploy something in the Reverend Stiggins’s Delight line. Indeed, Dickens’s cellar also held a number of bottles of “fine old pine-apple rum” (the good reverend’s favorite), which may be approximated by combining 12 ounces Smith & Cross

Jamaican rum and 20 ounces Angostura 1919 rum in a sealable jug along with an eighth of a pineapple, sliced, for a week; strain, let the solids settle, siphon off the clear rum and bottle.

Whatever you do in the way of rum, the fire will melt the sugar and extract the oil from the lemon peel. Dickens’s advice about lighting the spirits from a spoon is extremely sound: always bring the fire to the alcohol, not the alcohol to the fire. (And a stainless steel spoon is fine — anything but

pewter or, God forbid, wood or plastic.) The rest of his advice is also sound, as befits a man who was an acknowledged master of the art. The water should probably be an imperial quart, or 40 ounces.

YIELD : 8 cups (more than “three pints,” but who’s counting?).

From Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich. Copyright 2010 David Wonderich. Excerpted by permission of Perigree Trade.

List for a triple batch:

  • 1 1/8lbs. Demerara sugar
  • Rinds of 9 lemons
  • Juice of 9 lemons
  • 48 oz. or 1,419 ml or ~1 bottle of Appleton Estates v/x rum and 1 bottle of Wray & Nephew Overproof
  • 30 oz. or 887 ml or ~1 1/8 bottles of Martell VS cognac
  • 120 oz. or 7.5 pints or 15 cu. of water

Bottling the bitters

I created some labels for the small dasher top bottles, and then filled them up with J. Edgar’s Aromatic Bitters. They turned out very well, in my opinion, and have a particularly peppery thing going on that I really like. One hope is that I can further concentrate the flavors next time. I’ve been using them in most drinks you’d normally dash some Angostura into.


Aeropress bitters strainer

I needed to strain out all the little bits of bark, fruit, spices, and more from my bitters. There are a few ways to do this, including Buchner funnels from the chem lab, coffee filters, french presses, Brita filters and cheese cloth. I’ve tried some of those, but this is my new favorite method: the Aerobie Aeropress. Intended as a travel “espresso” machine (more like concentrated presspot coffee to be honest), it’s a handy filtration/extraction piston you can buy for around $30. Once strained, these bitters are ready for bottling.