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Pecan Blaster: A High-Power Inertia Nutcracker

Pecan Blaster: A High-Power Inertia Nutcracker

So your Aunt Harriet introduced you an enormous sack of pecans from her farm — superior! Just one small catch: you get to shell them. No method are we going to do that manually with a “pliers” fashion nutcracker, proper?

One various is to purchase the legendary Texas Native nutcracker from Amazon or eBay for about $50. Whereas this rubber band-powered relic from about 40 years in the past does work, ask anybody who’s cracked greater than a dozen pecans with it how lengthy it took for his or her left thumb to heal.

There are a number of semi-automatic, one-pecan-at-a-time crackers available on the market. All work utilizing the identical precept because the Texas Native: by bashing the pecan from one finish, inflicting a weight on the different finish to maneuver a bit, with appreciable resisting inertia. They are often purchased for a paltry $200–$400 from distributors like Purple Hill Basic Retailer. And you continue to have appreciable follow-up choosing to do.

The Pecan Blaster makes use of the identical primary precept, however with two heavy-duty 115-volt equipment solenoids dealing with one another. Simply load a pecan between the solenoids and shut the clear protecting defend to fireside each solenoids concurrently. The pecans don’t stand an opportunity when bashed from each ends. The left solenoid is fastened, however the suitable one slides to accommodate numerous measurement nuts* and kicks again considerably, utilizing the inertial weight precept of the old-style crackers. Each halves of the nut often survive unscathed and separated from a lot of the shell; the remainder of the time I get quarters and smaller items, that are positive for many baking or snacking functions. Most cracks want no additional shelling.

Right here’s how one can construct one like mine, however be happy to make use of alternate supplies and barely totally different measurements than what I selected.



1. Purchase your solenoids from Digital Goldmine, merchandise #G20264B, the most cost effective I might discover that may do the job. Two of those infants value underneath $10. EG’s obtained a $10 minimal, so go searching for one thing else so as to add to your order.

Or, in the event you actually need them in two days, Amazon has them for round $25 every (plus delivery), merchandise #B01MQ4H6OP.

2. Make a base from an Eight″ size of two×four. I occurred to have some walnut, and naturally it might be slick to make use of pecan! (Ask Aunt Harriet for those who can minimize a limb off one among her timber.) With a band noticed or round noticed, minimize a wiring slot about 1/Eight″ extensive throughout the underside, about 2¾” from one finish.

three. Put together the solenoids. They’re designed to tug, however they need to push. So rigorously drill, with a drill press, a 1/Eight″ gap within the middle of every solenoid within the plain aspect.

The opening is 1″ down from the highest, during the roughly 1/four″ wall. Use a middle punch for accuracy! Every gap have to be consistent with its respective inner plunger. Rigorously widen the opening to ¼” utilizing a number of bits from 1/Eight″ to 1/four″.

After drilling, rigorously blow, brush, and/or wash out with solvent (resembling paint thinner; not water) any chips that fell into the solenoid. A magnetized screwdriver tip may help as nicely. Slide a ¼”-20 or ¼”-28 bolt forwards and backwards by means of the solenoids’ holes till they provide no resistance.

When you’re at it, additionally drill two three/32″ holes in the long run of every solenoid to carry the ends of springs as proven in Step Eight.


four. Mount one solenoid on the bottom’s prime, on the reverse finish from the wire slot. It is going to be in your left as you employ the Blaster and must be on the centerline, flush with the top of the two×four. Hold it parallel to the lengthy sides, with the solenoid’s plunger hanging off the top of the bottom.


Mount it by drilling barely oversize holes via the bottom to match the opening sample within the solenoid. I used two 1¾” Eight-32 machine screws, nuts, and toothed washers; tighten that sucker down.

5. Mount the opposite solenoid on the proper finish. It’ll slide forwards and backwards, from about 2″ away from the left solenoid to about 3½” away. Its plunger have to be to the best. This solenoid have to be guided to slip easily and precisely with minimal friction. I made three rails: two aspect rails from ¼” acrylic (comparable to Plexiglas) and a middle rail from 1/Eight″×5/Eight″ aluminum strip.

The middle rail’s ends have to be elevated 1/Eight″ to stop binding. I made two 1/Eight″×¾”×¾” acrylic spacers, which double as restrict stops. Mount them in order that the appropriate solenoid strikes easily forwards and backwards with out extreme play, and stops about 2″ from the left solenoid at their closest positions. Journey distance can be about 1½”. Later, two springs will join the 2 solenoids.

6. I made the pecan holders/bashers from ¼”-20 bolts (¼”-28 is OK, too). Use 2 bolts with no less than 11/Eight″ of clean, unthreaded size. Minimize them with a hacksaw, and file the ends clean in order that they’ll simply go into the solenoids.

The heads want a conical recess to correctly find the pecans. With a drill press and vise, clamp every bolt and drill a 1/Eight″ gap within the middle of its head (use a middle punch) about 1/Eight″ deep. Change to a 45° or 50° angle, ½” diameter (minimal) countersink bit, and countersink over the drilled holes till the diameter of the conical form is 5/16″–three/Eight″ on the tops of the bolts.

These cups are essential to correctly maintain the pecans for bashing.

7. I made bolt-head spacers out of a ballpoint pen housing (assume least expensive Paper Mate), about 7/16″ lengthy. They need to match snugly over the bolts. If not, hot-glue them in place beneath the heads.

Poke the 2 bolts into the solenoid holes — they need to slide in freely — and convey the solenoids as shut as they will go collectively (about 2″, keep in mind?). The bolt heads ought to now be in keeping with one another, about ¾”–7/Eight″ aside at their closest. As well as, when each bolts are pushed in till their spacers hit the solenoids’ laminations, the gaps between the outsides of their laminations to their plungers have to be round ¼”. That is the space every solenoid would/might/will push its plunger (relying on the toughness of the pecan). If not, reposition the best solenoid or regulate lengths of bolts and/or spacers as needed.

Eight. Make and set up the springs. Truly, alter is the most effective phrase. Purchase a pair of Hillman 5/16″×1½”×zero.zero23″ wire diameter springs. Lowes shares them. They’re too lengthy for this activity, however about half-length is good. Snip each of them roughly in half, so the stack of coils measures about 5/Eight″. Bend out one coil on every for a hook.

Hook the springs into the three/32″ holes you drilled within the sides of the solenoids.


The fitting solenoid will now be held inward. Examine your dimensions once more as in Step 7 above.


A defend is important to maintain pecan bits from flying towards your face. Whenever you shut the defend, it’ll activate a change to energise the solenoids.

9. Make the defend from a 2¾”×9″ strip of 1/Eight″ clear acrylic. I used a 23/Eight″-diameter rolling pin as a type to bend the strip round. A piece of acrylic pipe or different cylinder of that approximate diameter ought to work.

Clamp your type in a vise and start slowly to warmth the strip within the center on each side.

Because the strip heats up, it’ll start to sag.

You’ll want to apply sufficient warmth in a four″-long space within the middle for the strip to type right into a U form round your type.

Take your time; getting it too scorching will trigger the acrylic to distort and/or bubble. When you bend it across the type, maintain it there, with its two ends roughly parallel, till it cools and rigidifies.

10. As a result of defend dimensions will differ, becoming your defend to your Pecan Blaster is a trial-and-error course of. The aim is to mount and hinge the defend in order that it swings freely from broad open (to permit putting a pecan) to all the best way closed, utterly shielding the opening between solenoids. When opening or closing, the defend should not contact the solenoids. Because the defend absolutely closes, it (with an hooked up change actuator) will activate a 115VAC micro change which energizes the solenoids.

Utilizing 6-32 machine screws and nuts, fasten a 1″-wide hinge to the again middle of the defend. Briefly mount, with solely a drop of scorching glue, a small hinge-supporting wooden block (about 1″×5/Eight″×½” excessive) about three/Eight″ from the again of the bottom, centered between the 2 solenoids of their closest place. Utilizing the hinge as a template, drill two small holes within the prime of the block and use wooden screws to lock the opposite aspect of the hinge to the block.

Swing the defend from again to entrance, enclosing the area between the solenoids. Regulate the block’s measurement and site to make this work. Attempt to hold the defend as little as attainable. You’ll have to take away (briefly) the hinge and trim both or each ends of the defend to make it extra compact. Security is paramount right here, so take your time and do it proper. Don’t completely mount the block simply but!

11. Add the change and its actuator. As you probably did with the small block, briefly mount the micro change with scorching glue as proven. I made the change actuator from a scrap of ¼”×1/16″ aluminum bent in a lazy Z form. Connect it close to the underside fringe of the defend with a 6-32 machine screw and nut in order that once you shut the defend, the actuator encounters the micro change’s button and presses it in absolutely. Regulate the actuator and/or micro change to make sure they work completely each time.

Once they do, completely glue the block and change actuator of their locations and tighten all screws and nuts. Mount the micro change with two #four×5/Eight″ screws. (You could have to enlarge the holes to 1/Eight″.) Lastly, completely glue or screw down the hinge-support block.


12. Make a channeling ramp from an aluminum soda or beer can, or any skinny aluminum, about 2″×3½”. Maintain it briefly on the entrance fringe of the bottom, between the 2 solenoids. It’ll in all probability relaxation on the closest spring, and that’s OK! However make it possible for the change actuator misses the ramp when the defend opens and closes. Modify the ramp or actuator size if there’s any interference. Then, with two tiny nails, safe the ramp to the bottom.

13. Make guards for the solenoids from 1/Eight″ acrylic, ¾”×3¼”. Clear the highest surfaces of the solenoids, then use double-sided tape to connect the guards as proven on web page 44.

14. Wire it! I adopted a really primary schematic that exhibits energy switched to each solenoids concurrently.

Use feminine wire terminals that match the male terminals on the solenoids. Use shrink tubing and loads of electrical tape to insulate any uncovered electrical elements. Route the wires from the proper solenoid to the again via the slot within the backside of the bottom and safe all with wire hold-downs or staples.

15. Make the leg plate from ¼” plywood, 1″ longer than the bottom, then screw it to the underside of the bottom. Make sure the crossing wires are within the slot. Connect four or 5 small rubber legs.


16. Make a lever to tug the correct solenoid to the best for loading pecans, from a small piece of walnut or different hardwood about 6″ lengthy. Drill a three/32″ gap 17/Eight″ from one finish. From that very same finish, connect it to the leg plate with one other hinge just like the one used on the acrylic defend.

Thread braided nylon fishing line or skinny wire by way of two holes in the appropriate solenoid, and over to the small gap within the lever. Use a screw to maintain the string or wire from slipping. Depart a little bit of slack within the line or wire.

Check-pull the highest of the lever to the correct to open the hole between bolt heads. The solenoid should slide simply with no bind or extreme play.

17. Make a catch tray. I used an previous clock face and sawed and sanded a straight notch on one aspect about 2″ lengthy.


Earlier than you blast, check your Pecan Blaster by flipping the clear defend again, then plugging within the solenoids. They need to not hearth. In the event that they do, unplug and examine your change and your wiring!


When all is nicely, comply with these steps:

a. Open the defend.

b. Use the hardwood lever to open or shut the hole between the bolt heads.

c. Load a pecan and twist it a bit to make sure it’s held securely by the bolts.

d. Essential and at first unintuitive: Pull each plungers outward so far as they’ll go.

e. Shut the defend to blast the pecan aside!


If the pecans don’t crack on the primary hit (they often do), attempt once more. Be sure to pull the plungers all the best way out earlier than blasting; it’s straightforward to overlook.

» Sliding solenoid. The proper solenoid will not be shifting freely, or could also be shifting too freely (side-to-side or up). Attempt pulling the lever forwards and backwards a number of occasions. The suitable solenoid should slide freely, immediately reverse the fastened one. Simply after the solenoids are fired, the appropriate one ought to bounce a bit to the proper in a straight line; it should not kick up or sideways.

» Sticky bolts. Additionally make sure the bolts slide easily within the holes you drilled within the solenoids.

» Examine dimensions. Three dimensions are necessary:

1. The minimal distance between solenoids ought to be about 2″

2. The (empty) distance between bolt heads must be ¾”–7/Eight″.

three. The gaps between the outsides of the laminations and their plungers have to be round ¼” earlier than you pull them out.

Completely satisfied blasting!


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