Worst DIY project that you did.

I must have been around 10 or 12 years old at the time. Found my father's soldering gun the one that looks like a gun with a light bulb above the trigger, and I was living in a 220V supply at the time. Got a mains cord only has two wires no ground, decided to solder a mini chrismas tree light light bulb to it. I was smart /stupid enough to know how to use solder/flux and proceed to solder one little light bulb to the end of the wire. Assembled a plug had in my mind wondering how bright it would get. Holding the end of the wire may be six inches away from the buld and went the plug into the wall. Just a bright flash and pop then I could not see the bulb any more. Just blew away all the glass. Count myself lucky that I did not lose an eye or electrocuted or serious injury.

Do you have horror story like this, please share with me.


Paid Member
2002-09-25 11:01 am
An electric heater (useful for cooking food in dormitory situations in boarding school) that we had assembled needed to be brought online post-haste. I must've been around ten or eleven. Stripped lots of wire to make really good contact, as these guys needed about 10 amps of mains power. Made solid contacts with the screws in the plug, sealed up the plug. To be sure stray wires didn't cause injury, braided the exposed wire around itself, causing a dead short at the plug. And then flipped the switch.

I'm still here, thankfully...
* Powering a car halogen lamp (12V, 55W) using a 24V transformer and an electrolytic series capacitor: all went well for several minutes, then the capacitor started smoking real bad.

* Soldering inside a tube amplifier while it is switched on ...; I used to keep the soldering wire in my mouth at that time, so I guess I was lucky then.

* A collegue of mine once made a speaker system, and used a 220V plug as a connector; when his sister connected the "loose plug", the sound was loud but short.
When I was (very) young and experimenting with electomagnets in a kit I decided that a 500' spool of 20 gauge wire might make an excellant one if I plugged it into the mains. I guess the inductance was pretty high because instead of immediately blowing the circuit the lights dimmed and all of the coils of wire on the spool proceeded to dance around like crazy. Didn't try that one again.
:bigeyes: My father and I were putting in doorbell in an old house
when I was about twelve.Dad drilled a hole through the floor which he was planning to run the wiring to the transformer.The
house didn't have a basement just a crawl space.Well,dad told me
to go into the crawl space and pull the wire through.As some of you know crawl spaces are usually kinda damp because of the dirt
floor.The house being old must have had some some wire that the
insulation had rotted off or something, up between the floor joists
I remember raising my head up to look for the wire that dad was feeding through the hole.All of a sudden I felt this jolt through my
head ( I was on my knee's with my hands on the dirt floor )which
made me jerk up.Well,this happen repeatedly until I finally made
it to the door leading out of the of the crawl space.When I came out. My dad was standing their waiting because he heard me crying out.Well, except for the multiple knots on my head, I was fine.
At the age of about 5, I went out into the garage, climbed up on the old round tub washing machine (with the rollers on the side bracket and the Rubber Wheels), reached up to the house fuse box on the garage wall and unscrewed a fuse. Stuck my thumb in the socket.:bigeyes:

Found myself on the concrete floor, with a very sore thumb. Looking back now, I figure the rubber wheels on the washer saved my hide, but I have been

ZAPPED ever since.;)

Larry Wright
Seattle area


2002-01-19 9:25 am
Back in my slot car days (early teens), I started making my own DC motors. These were 100,000rpm screamers that would fly around the slot car track at 60mph (~100kph). My first attempt was a “triple wound” (3 parallel windings), oven-cured epoxy, balanced on a pair of razor blades, and mounted in a ball bearing housing with ALNICO V magnets. I couldn’t wait to catch the bus to the slot car track and try out my new motor. I arrived and bought my track time. I put the car on the track and let ‘er rip. It took off like a bat out of hell, but started slowing down at about ¾ lap. It barely made it back in front of me. When I pressed the trigger to make it go again, it just sat there and started smoking.:hot: :RIP: Back to the drawing board.

Those were the days.
Rodd Yamas***a
The reason I work solo...
--I was repairing the tube mono amplifer out of a movie projector back when I was in school. I had my hands deep in the innards in much the same twisted way that you have to do to get to spark plugs, oil filters, and such in cars. Some jerk wandered by and thought it would be hilarious to switch the amp on. I couldn't get my hands out before he hit the switch. I still sport a scar from a 2nd degree electrical burn on the forefinger of my right hand.
--Another amp, another day, another idiot. He wired the AC mains directly to the speaker output. I thought we were done--din't check behind him. Switched it on. The little four inch speaker jumped clear across the room. I jumped nearly the same distance vertically. Since it was dead, I took the speaker apart after I calmed down (they had to restrain me from killing the moron). No voice coil. None. The coil former, however, was still there and wasn't even scorched.
--The absolute dumbest thing I ever did involved gunpowder, a ketchup bottle, and a magnifying glass, but since it doesn't involve electronics, I'll leave that one in the back of the closet. I've been scatterbrained enough this week without people thinking that I'm worse than I really am.
I promise I'll get some sleep...someday...

It was 1981 and I was asked to have a look at my friend's receiver. I just started playing with electronics about that time and didn't have much clue about what was going on inside that thing. I remember having my head above the receiver, looking inside, while suddenly I was hearing increasing in volume, strange sound and then baam! Out of nowhere I was hit right in the left eye. It was an electrolytic capacitor.

I spent two weeks in hospital and left out with a cataract (small dot on the inside of a lens) and my iris doesn't work well since then either. Six years ago I had an inplant done (artificial lens) and with correction glasses my left eye is OK.:cool:

That's how my affair with electronics started. There is no escape for me now.;)
In 1971 at the tender age of 12 I was busy in the kitchen heating a soldering iron on the gas stove(!) and building my first ever mains powered valve/tube radio, a 12AU7A used as a regenerative detector and audio amp, for driving headphones. A 5Y3G for a rectifier. I had a square hole cut in the chassis under the power tranny (385-0-385v ~80mA, way to big) and the tranny terminations were on a square tagboard on the bottom that fitted through the chassis hole. This hole wasn't quite big enough and the mains active tag was in contact with the earthed chassis. I had the filaments of the valves wired up by now and was just bursting to plug in and turn it on so I could bask in the luxurious sight of the orange cathodes. Oh, the enchantment of it all! Anyway, plugged it in and let 'er rip, and flash! sparks flew all across the kitchen with mum watching. It's a wonder my parents ever let me near these things again! I still get reminded of it once ina while. BTW, the radio was not a success, that would have to wait for the next one a few months later.

GRollins said:
--The absolute dumbest thing I ever did involved gunpowder, a ketchup bottle, and a magnifying glass

1st year in Uni, we were building some noise/smoke bombs. We had one of those 8" diameter aluminum ashtrays full with a nice cone of aluminum powder & potassium perclorate all mixed up and one of the roommates came in reading a book, sat down and butted his cigarette out in that very ashtray -- thankfully he got away with loss of all the hair on his hand and a bad "sun burn".



2002-08-22 4:16 pm
I guess I was 10, my dad explained the concept of serial/parallel connections. Next thing you know...I was soldering a few hundred 3V torchlight bulbs in various configurations and lighting up the whole room. Got zapped several times at different voltages depending on point where I touched (by mistake). I guess I was 12 my dad explained the concept of transformers and motors. Next thing you know...I was manually winding my own transformers and motors! Well I blew up quite a few coils as well as fuses (by now I was smart enough to know how not to get zapped).

Now, I have never worked with wood (or metal) before. Last week I got a router for speakers as well as wood chasis construction. I was trimming 4 layers of 1/4" plywood (1" total) with a 3/4" deep trimming bit! Well, the bit flew away like a bullet and landed about 2" from my foot (there is a crack in the kitchen ceramic tile where it landed). I was wearing safety eye-glasses but no shoes! Guess, I was lucky.
Last March I nearly shorted the unfused output of a 25kVA 480-208 stepdown transformer. That's what I get for not verifying the wires that fed the auxilliary power distribution panel via a load breaker were not backfed! After disconnecting the wires and pulling the breaker, I eventually traced the conduit back to the main panel, about 3 feet away. To my surprise I noticed the pair of 6AWG cables connected to the mains on the live side of the breaker! The wires at the aux box were less than 1" apart. :bigeyes: I nearly had to change my underwear.

Perviously (and subsequently), I've rewired breakers with a live panel. It helped to know that the lines weren't backfed, tho ;)

Imagine standing in front of 40 of Cornell-Dubilier's 450V, 2000uF DCMC caps wired in parallel that are charged to 400V and dropping 12AWG wires across the 500kcmil "electrodes".... At least I was wearing safety glasses! :angel:

Mark Broker


well lets see...there would be the time i took 4'' sissors and cut through a live extension cord,moved one wire on those fan motors that have the big coil and magnetic rotor,plugged it in,sparks flew,wound about 10 feets (only!!!) onto a pencle sized iron rod to make a mains powerd magnet,plugged it in and boy did those wires smoke thier insulation. Ummm.....working on my car an shorted the battery with a wrench at the alt terminal. plugged in a rewound but not nearly enuf turns transformer 2 times and smoked 2 coils. i've fried more IC's then there are dimples on dom delueses butt. i KNOW i've done alot more but can't remember it right now.
here's a gross one...

When I was in high school, I went on a work-experience bench skills training skills course at BC Hydro.(my province's energy provider) My instructor there told me something nasty:

When he was 10, he used to put oil on the tracks of his electric toy train. He would then hold the train so that the contacts were touching the energized tracks, and the wheels could spin on the track with a minimum of friction. So he had himself a little toy train tire burnout session.

One day, he decided to do this while wearing a chain bracelet. The chain laid across the tracks heating up his bracelet. By the time he felt the burn, the heated bracelet had melted his skin and sunken into his arm. He went to the hospital, where they pulled the chain out, link by link.

Well, not really a project, but still a gross little story...


Paid Member
2002-10-03 10:26 am
A tale of early teens (with what I've read here, it's no surprise most life companies don't offer cover until we're 18):

I'd been given a mono tape recorder as a hand-me-down from my brother, but the mains cable was missing. As I wasn't willing to wait until the shops opened to buy a figure-of-eight connector, I stripped the ends off some two core cable, wrapped one each around the pins of the recorder and stuffed some blu-tac in to the space left to keep the wires apart (cring!!).

BANG! One hole in rug, recorder tried to hit the ceiling, and the only time that I've ever seen part of a transformer actually melt!

Others that are painful but true from my days in DIY retail (painful but true)::xeye:

Store once sold extension cables as a kit for customers to wire up at home. Not surprisingly, we had some returns. One very upset man :mad: had his put together by his son who had stripped 2" of insulation off each wire at the plug end. To keep it tidy he had then twisted them together, bare wire was still visible outside of the plug! I was very impressed they had managed to remove it from the wall socket.

Also the DIYer who back his extension cable, still fully coiled up, as it had completely melted it carrier in half.:hot:

As they say, "If all else fails, read the instructions."

1) my first set of diagonal wire cutters have a nice nick in them as I cut the line cord plugged in.
2) I was cutting battens for a speaker -- ripping 1X4's on my radial arm saw when a piece kicked back and shot through the gypsum wallboard behind me -- it literally went through the wall!!I got rid of the radial arm saw for a 12" Delta contractor saw with kickback protection.
3) We have all picked up the wrong end of a soldering iron.
4) I now put heat shrink tubing on capacitors in switch mode power supplies, having had them blow up. It isn't just for EMI that SMPS supplies are built in metal cabinets.
Another story similar to the one about picking up the wrong end of a soldering iron is one I heard from a former teacher. He had just finished shrinking some heat-shrink with a weller pyropen and decided to switch the pyropens gas nozzle to a soldering tip. He removed the nozzle, being extra careful because it was very hot (the air it produces is about 600 C). After he had put the nozzle on his table and started fitting the soldering tip to the pryopen, the nozzle rolled off the table. Purely by reflex he grabbed for it and he manged to catch it firmly in his right hand. He said it took a week before he could hold a soldering iron again....