Tag Archives: The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Zheng3

PowerEx Maha MH-C801D AA/AAA Battery Charger Review

TL;DR Summary: The PowerEx MH-C801D AA/AAA battery charger is easy to use and worth the higher price tag over a dumb charger. The LCD screen can be a little difficult to read, especially under low-light situations. Don’t believe the marketing photos when it comes to readability.

Last week, the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 suffered through a night of fitful sleep brought on by the pathetic hourly chirping of a dying pager desperately trying to suck the last few electrons from its poorly-charged AA batteries.

It’s my fault, really. For years the battery charging duties in Zhenghaus have been attended by a venerable Die Hard battery charger. McClane, as it has come to be called, is what the Folks Who Know About Such Things call a dumb charger, which means he’ll just sit there and keep pumping juice into an already charged battery, shortening the lifespan of the cell.

I’ve got dozens of rechargeable AA’s of various stripes here in Casa de Zheng, from my pricier Sanyo Eneloops to the afterthoughtish Amazon NiMH’s. They’ve seen service in myriad devices, droids, cameras, and controllers and every now and then we find one in pretty sorry shape. They can’t seem to hold a charge for very long.

The lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 put at least one of these duds into her pager before hitting the sack. You can’t tell just by looking at it that a battery’s going to suck.

So upon waking for the eighth time in eight hours, the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 looked deeply and lovingly into my eyes, held my hands, and, in that sultry and slightly haggard way she has after a restless night, like a naiad who bleary-eyed sipped too many mimosas with the sylphs and dryads in Elysium the night before, if that naiad was forced to carry a pager for work by her out-of-touch IT department, with pursed and waiting lips, gently, ever so gently, told me to buy a new f***ing battery charger.

Amazon Prime saves marriages. You read it here first.

How much of a charge any given AA has in this house is always an age-dependent crapshoot. Here’s hoping the PowerEx MH-C801D can bring some of them back to reliability. It’s got a conditioning mode that might do just that.

PowerEx MH-C801D: Die Unböxenung

The back of the box for the PowerEx proudly advertises that the battery status updates are “in English.” This feels like a sop to crochety dudes who are upset that the buttons on their phones are too small and that the Monkees are three times the band One Direction will ever be because at least the Monkees played instruments and didn’t prance around like strippers for crissakes. The rest of us learned to accept Engrish as the lingua franca of technical manuals in the 80’s. For great justice.

Here’s what comes in the box:


A charger, a power brick, two cables, and (pictured below) a plastic case that looks like it’ll hold 8 AA’s. Ten points to Ravenclaw for including non-polystyrene fill in the packaging. Also not pictured are a double-sided single page instruction sheet and a glossy promotion for PowerEx’s other products.

The product feels sturdy enough, and the power brick’s LED glows green like wyrmwood when it’s plugged in. It’s a nice variation from the blinking blue LED constellation up in this humpty-bump.

PowerEx MH-C801D: Das Batterieladenungenschlaft

(My German’s pretty rusty, but I think it’s safe to just make words up by stringing loosely-related concepts together. German’s the Human Centipede of languages.)

The instructions (in English!) for the MH-C801D indicate that conditioning can take up to fourteen hours. I have this thing with new electronics. I don’t like to leave them plugged in for too long without supervision. At least, not at first. So I set the battery charger up in my bedroom with the idea that the smell of burning plastic should rouse me from my melatonin-fueled catatonia before the house burns to the ground.

The UI for battery conditioning is an artifact of the consumer electronics design process. Keeping costs down requires engineers to use hardware without adding fancy gewgaws, so it’s insert a battery, press and hold the (cryptically labeled) conditioning button within 5 seconds, wait until the LCD screen displays a very tiny “condition” indicator, and then put in the remaining batteries.

My coffee maker’s like this, but worse. I can program a homebrew robot that turns photos into Etch-a-Sketch drawings, but I can’t program my coffee maker to brew coffee before I wake up. I’m really looking forward to the day when Siri-like assistants are cheap enough to be included in Happy Meal toys. I guarantee that I’m going to forget how to do this the next time I condition a battery, likely six months from now.

The LCD tells me that I’ve got a range of battery charges from the handful I popped into the charger, and the conditioning process begins with an initial charge. The display’s a little faint, so I have to get all up in its grill and squint at the indicator.

After an hour or so battery slot 1 has fully charged, and slot 6 has already begin to discharge.


And just before bedtime the recharge process has begun in slot 6 while the other slots continue to discharge. The aforementioned conditioning button is on the left side of the unit.


Sometime overnight everyone got topped up, and the charge is done. Also, I didn’t wake to a raging inferno, so the unit passes the new electronic-gizmo-kill-you-in-your-sleep anxiety test and is now a welcome member of the household.

Every AA I can find in the house gets a conditioned replacement, which means I have a new passel of batteries in need of love. No problems, and a day later I have another eight conditioned AA’s to put in my new plastic case.


Take a look at the right side of the box and you’ll see that it can hold AAA’s as well, if they’re inserted crosswise. The MH-C801D can recharge and condition AAA’s too, I just didn’t have any around that I could use to test this feature.

PowerEx MH-C801D: Die Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

I still have a few AA’s left over that have been neither conditioned nor recharged, so I shall attempt a rapid charge. This is the default mode for the PowerEx, just drop your batteries into slots and wait. It should take about an hour.

The instructions warn that the batteries may become hot to the touch during a rapid charge. How hot? Not hot enough to be uncomfortable to the touch. Not snuggly, but not uncomfortable, and you shouldn’t be snuggling with batteries anyway, you pervert.

Note to self: buy and review one of those thermometer guns Gale used on his teapot in Season 3 of Breaking Bad.

Thankfully the designers resisted the urge to make the charger chirp or blink when it’s done, unlike some products I could name. Sometimes the features that don’t make it into a product are as important as the ones that do.

The lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3’s pager hasn’t chirped once since the battery swap, so I think we can call this one a success. Go out, grab one of these, and ensure domestic tranquility and equitable charge distribution in your home. In English, or whatever language flöatzens your böatzens.

ComposiMold: First Impressions

The friendly team at ComposiMold recently sent me a sample of their product for review. Like many experimenters I’m mostly unacquainted with mold-making and casting but I’m willing to get messy and give it a go. Let’s dive right in and see how this stuff works.

TL;DR Summary: ComposiMold is easy to use, reuse, and reuse again, even for a casting n00b. It’d make a great gift for a Maker kid. Highly recommended.

Composimold: The Unboxening

open container

Opening the 10-ounce container releases the faintest waft of lemon. It’s not unpleasant or pronounced; only bloodhounds and those accustomed to huffing day-old mimeographs will have the chemoreceptors to detect the scent.

It’s firmer than I expected. I was thinking I’d have something a little gooier, but when ComposiMold is cool it’s got the consistency of a flexed bicep. At 10 ounces the sample container feels satisfyingly dense in the hand. I feel like I could make stuff with this.

Virgin ComposiMold looks surprisingly like honey. So much so that the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3, slightly less talented than usual at 5:30am, nearly dropped a heaping spoonful of ComposiMold into her oatmeal. I probably shouldn’t have left the container on top of the microwave last night.

In theory, the mold making process is simple and straightforward: heat ComposiMold, pour it over the object you want to reproduce, allow to cool, and then extract your object.

Naturally I screwed it up.

Jumping into this project like an enthusiastic idiot I naturally made a a rookie mistake right off the bat. I forgot to coat my mold container with a release agent. So I restarted the project. What you’re seeing here is actually take two on my quest to replicate a Seej bloxen.

So! Into the microwave with you, ComposiMold.

in the microwave

Another brief installment of Zheng’s household hints: before photographing the inside of a microwave you’ll want to clean it so the Internet doesn’t think you’re a gavone. Put a cup full of vinegar in the microwave and nuke the bejeezus out of it. The steam will soften the Hot Pockets splatter off the inside of your microwave so that you can wipe it clean with a rag. The healing brush in Photoshop will take care of any pastacules you might have missed.

Thirty seconds in my microwave and I’ve got a golfball-sized nugget of ComposiMold suspended in honey-like goo. Stir with a craft stick (always, always, always have craft sticks around any maker project), give it another 20 seconds of non-ionizing radiation and we’re good to go. During the melt the lemony scent is a little more pronounced but doesn’t stink up the kitchen.

bloxen, masonry
I’ve decided to try and cast a Seej Bloxen for my first project. I’ve made sidewalk chalk bloxen using a 3d printed mold, but I’m interested to see how ComposiMold picks up the detail in the 3D modeled grout and stones of something I’ve already printed. This particular bloxen was produced during my review of Filabot’s recycled ABS filament.

Composimold: Making A Mold

I give the bloxen a rub with some vegetable oil and put it into an old laundry scoop. Here’s where I run into my first unknown unknown in the mold-making process.


unforeseen problemThe plastic object I’m trying to copy is less dense than ComposiMold, so it wants to float. I try holding it down with a craft stick, but I’m unwilling to wait half an hour for the ComposiMold to solidify at room temperature. I throw the whole thing in the freezer to cool and abort the first try at mold-making.

It’s 9AM on a Sunday morning so I take a break and have some cheese danish before the kids get up and eat it all. After twenty minutes and a cuppa joe I cut open the mold to see how well it captured the details. Click to embiggen.


The detail’s quite fine here. ComposiMold even picked up the layer artifacts left by the 3d printing process. Each of those parallel lines is about 100 microns wide. I can’t use this failed mold for casting, but it provides an excellent chance to test ComposiMold’s reusability.

Forty-five seconds in the microwave and I’m back to pouring a new mold. Easy peasy George and Weezy. So far ComposiMold is living up to its promises.

This time I’ll try suspending the bloxen from a stiff piece of hookup wire before I pour. I drill a small hole in the side of the bloxen, superglue in a wire scrap, and wrap it around a craft stick. (See previous admonition about having craft sticks around.) I’ll use a plastic cup for my mold container this time, because I can just cut it away without having to worry about pre-treating it with mold release. The vegetable oil gets everywhere and I don’t want it schmeered all over my camera and light box.


The bloxen remains submerged this time, if a little off-kilter as the unsecured bottom of the plastic tries to float upwards. The newly-poured mold goes back to the freezer for fifteen minutes or so before I cut away the plastic cup.

The mold resists my hobby knife with the strength of an overcooked ham, but splits easily and the bloxen pops right out. A little vegetable oil on the inside of the mold and it’s ready to be filled with Plaster of Paris.


Composimold: Casting

ComposiMold’s produced a perfectly usable mold. The process has been simple even for a mold-making novice, but today I’m wishing I paid more attention on casting day in sculpture class.

In all fairness, I was trying to get the lovely and talented not-yet-Mrs. Zheng3 to notice me at the time.


Notice that almost all the bubble artifacts on this plaster bloxen faces inwards; this isn’t ComposiMold’s fault, it’s mine. Either I didn’t get the plaster/water ratio correct or I didn’t agitate the mold enough after pouring, or my plaster’s old, or something else. I’d love to see what ComposiMold can do in the hands of someone with more casting experience. ComposiMold also sells a bubble buster that will assist in the casting process that wasn’t included in my review sample.

A couple hours of playing with this product has given me all kinds of great ideas for where to go next with this. Traditional casting and 3D-printing are a powerful combination, so #staytuned for another casting attempt, this time with cement. The younger Zhengspawn and I have a project in mind that’s perfect for ComposiMold. We’ll see how an 8-year old does with this stuff under lax supervision.

If you’d like me to put your Maker-related gizmo, material, tool, or software through its paces at Zheng3.com, email me and I’ll give it a shot.