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Crafty prison inventions

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by CrimpJiggler, Oct 9, 2012.

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  1. CrimpJiggler


    Oct 8, 2012
    I saw this article:
    and was very inspired by the ingenuity and improvisation skills of the inmates that made some of these things. As a learning exercise, I'm trying to figure out how all these devices work and how they were made.

    Heres a tattoo gun:
    I have no idea how they made this, I'm guessing that circular thing to which the needle is attached is a piezoelectric component that vibrates when current is run through it but they made this thing in prison so they had to have used something they found in there. Any idea how they made it?

    Heres a toaster/grill:
    I'm guessing those things under the grill are the heating elements. They just run current through them and they heat up. The aluminum foil underneath is probably just to reflect heat back towards the grill.

    A prison lighter:
    thats a pretty simple one, just a circuit with some not so conductive wire in the middle which heats up when current passes through it. What material is that though and where could they have found it? In this video, the guy makes the same kinda device:

    but I don't understand where he gets the heating element from. He disassembles a kettle but rather than taking the kettles actual heating element, i.e. one of these things:
    he finds a little piece of wire in there and uses that as the heating element. What is that piece of wire he got from the kettle?
  2. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    It's a 'Walkman' or similar drive motor, you file down and reshape the 'pulley' to make it a wobble motor aka reshape the pulley so that the hole is off center to the mass of the pulley to get linear motion... The needle loop goes over the wobble head and this gives it slight up and down movement when the motor is running...

    The 'tube' is a disposable BIC pen cut down, you would pack the pen tube with cotton (cotton ball) soaked with ink, as the needle moves up and down it gets recoated with ink and ink drips down.. Very similar to the way 'tubes and tips' work on real tattoo machines...

    The same rotary wobble head principle is now used in the pneumatic/rotary tattoo machines...

    BTW my brother is now a professional tattoo artist that owns his own shop, but when he was a teen in high school (tattooing in the bathroom) he made a very similar jailhouse machine.. He still has that machine stashed away in a box as a reminder of his humble (Oh my God, I did that) beginnings...

    Probably just a reduction to a thin piece of regular wire, the battery shorting will make a small gauge wire glow red hot, it could also be the filament out of a light bulb, or scavenged section of nichrome wire...

    There is likely a piece of nichrome wire in there, possibly used as a variable temp resistor to switch from low to high heat, a secondary heating coil or even a crude temperature sensor...
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  3. duke37


    Jan 9, 2011
    That looks like a small motor with a crank to push the needle in and out.

    The heating element in the kettle is made of thin resistance wire which is placed inside the large tube. I know not how it is fitted or how a prisoner could get it out without a hack saw.
  4. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    The wire generally extends past the end of the big heating tube and is crimped to the power source, my guess is you would break off the exposed piece...

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