Archive for January 27, 2022

Brass Lamp

I haven’t properly built anything with my hands in a while, so it’s time.


I mocked up a few lamp ideas, and this one seemed fun. Really, really rough mock-ups.


That was neat looking, so I fleshed out the hinge section, which I expected would be the hardest part to figure out and build.





First, I 3D printed the hinge, just to get a feel for if my sizes felt right – I am bad at judging size in CAD, things often turn out way larger or way smaller than I expect, and therefore really difficult to build.


These looked fine, though.


I picked up a ton of brass from a hobby shop. Can you guess what the main focus of the hobby shop is?



For the hinge pieces, I didn’t have the right shapes or size of brass stock available, so I needed to cut a bunch of smaller pieces and then braze them together with silver solder. And then took them to the belt grinder.


Pretty close!


And then tried to add one more piece, dropped it while the solder was molten, and had them splatter apart on the ground.



Okay one more time.



It’s always better the second time, anyway. I used an M1.5 brass screw as the hinge pin.


For the stand, I 3D printed some saw guides so that I could get the tube angles perfect. The stand wouldn’t end up with the right geometry unless the cut angles were just right.


Then, after brazing:



It matches up with my CAD perfectly, I’m stoked.


Some blu-tak was used to hold the hinge pieces and light backing together to get a sense of how it was all going to go together.



The light panel itself was a circle of aluminum that I spraypainted black. Then I riveted the hinge on and laid out my LED tape.




This could have been done much neater. Next time.

Encircling the LED panel, I bent some flat bar aluminum, riveted it, glued it, and painted it. Then glued on a plastic diffusion circle. This was all done quickly, so I didn’t take many pictures.


For the base, Some nice dark wood would be ideal, but that would have required a fair amount of material acquisition and hunting down tools I wasn’t up for, for this project. So I took my base, and split it up into easily printable chunks.

I was going to attach them together, sand, patch, sand, and paint them to turn them back into one object, but I kinda liked the jigsaw effect, so I left it. PETG sands really well, and I treated it with a light oil coating to keep it from taking on fingerprints.

The pieces are just bolted together, and mostly hollow to allow mounting of the electronics.

For the controller, I have a surplus prototype lighting controller of dubious origin, and wrote some some firmware to handle fading and mixing the two LED channels. The 24V power supply comes from AliExpress.

Similarly, for the knobs, I went for an easy and quick solution using 3D printing for the ends to retain a little bit of the brass tube onto the potentiometers. The left knob controls the light intensity, and the right knob controls the light’s colour temperature. This lamp can fade in between a really cool white and a really warm light.

Running the wires through the brass tube was a fun adventure. What I ended up doing was fill the tube up with oil, run a single wire up through the bottom, then solder it onto the other three wires. After that, I could use the first wire to pull the whole mess back through the tube. Then I flushed the tube with alcohol to clean it all out.

And, final wiring, and it works! It looks great. I can see all the small defects, but that’s okay. I’ll do better on the next one.

Dumping Firmware With a 555

Voltage glitching, also called fault injection, is the process of dumping the energy on a microcontroller’s power rail very briefly – Just enough to cause a glitch, where it skips an instruction, rather than causing a brown-out-induced reset.

I first learned about the technique in connection with the Chip Whisperer, which is an FPGA-based board with all the bells and whistles. It’s quite expensive, and like any other situation where you add an FPGA, very complicated. Naturally, that has elevated it to a level above what mere mortals can perform in the limited free time we have.

After knowing about this, and having it in the back of my mind for several years, I finally have a good use-case that can justify spending some time on this. I have a pile of generic STM8-based devices, and while I have written some of my own alternative firmware, I’d love to be able to dump the original flash to revert them back to factory code.

The function of the device doesn’t matter, that’s not the point of this exercise.

Some quick searching for options leads to this recent write-up, which is sparse on details, but serves as excellent inspiration that this task is very doable.

A few architecture notes:

The STM8 has a Read Out Protection bit in the configuration area of its flash memory. When the programmer attempts to read out the flash memory, the bootloader first checks this bit, and if it’s cleared, it starts reading out the flash to the programmer. If it’s set, it just reads out zeroes. Write capability is never blocked – That is, you can still write a zero to that ROP, and then the microcontroller will be “unlocked”, but it does clear the program memory, too.

One of the pins on STM8s is called VCAP, and it’s attached to the internal voltage regulator. The CPU runs on this voltage rail, not the actual voltage that is provided to the IC’s power pins. The pin is intended to be connected to a decoupling capacitor, and that provides an perfect spot to inject my glitches. Most microcontrollers also have something called Brown-Out Resets: When the input voltage rails sags too low, the peripheral triggers, and resets the microcontroller. Obviously, this is something we want to avoid, and using the VCAP pin should help with that.

In terms of glitching, there are two important considerations:

The glitch must start at the same time or during the cycle in which the CPU is trying to read the ROP bit, and the glitch must not last long enough to trigger the BOR or to make any other important instructions fail. It’s not easy to know these exact timings, so any reasonable values must be tried, essentially brute forcing the process.

Now, the logical way to do this would be to use an external microcontroller to wait for the programmer to reset the system, wait a set period of time, and then trigger the output transistor to glitch the voltage rail. That’s boring! You know what else can do that? That’s right, a pair of 555s.

Here are two 555s set up as monostable pulse generators. The input is the RST line on the STM8 programmer. The first 555 then sets the delay. The second 555 sets the length of the output pulse. Both of these timings are controller by a different potentiometer. These then go to a MOSFET that dumps the energy stored in the internal voltage regulator cap.

After building it with larger-than-designed time values and testing it to prove that the waveform looks as expected, we solve the next hurdle:

To figure out decent ranges for the potentiometers, my STM8 board runs at 8MHz, which means that each clock cycle takes 125ns. The STM8 requires at least 2 clock cycles for each instructions (one for retrieval and one for execution), and more for instructions with multiple bytes or arguments. So, ballparking, we need a pulse that’s anywhere from 0.2us to 1.2us or so.

One problem with a typical 555 is that it can only generate pulses as small as 10us. Fortunately, I have a pair of high speed versions up my sleeve, the LMC555. It has a 10ns minimum pulse instead, which is very zippy. They’re SMD only, so they get popped onto a breakout board to fit the breadboard, and replaced. Some other components got tweaked too, as I played around more.


Now on to the programmer. I’m using a standard STLink V2, which speaks the SWIM protocol that allows programming and reading of the STM8’s flash.

With a little bit of bit of Python and stm8flash, we get this:


import subprocess
# .\stm8flash.exe -c stlinkv2 -p stm8s105?4 -r out.bin -b 1
out = b'\x00'
while out == b'\x00':['stm8flash.exe', '-c', 'stlinkv2', '-p', 'stm8s105?4', '-r', 'out.bin', '-b', '1'])
out =
print(out)['stm8flash.exe', '-c', 'stlinkv2', '-p', 'stm8s105?4', '-r', 'out.bin'])


In PC applications, writing text to console is a surprisingly slow process, so a low-effort tweak I made to make the loop run faster is to remove the flash utility’s console logging, just by removing some lines here.

So, all set up, potentiometer on the left controls the delay, pot on the right controls pulse length.

And, bam.

Firmware dumping with a 555.


Well, not that fast. It took about 45 minutes of fiddling with the knobs until all its secrets were unlocked. I’d sweep the right knob the whole way, then tweak the left knob very slightly, then sweep the right knob again. It only really worked because the knobs only had to be within the right range for a very brief period of time. It only had to work once.

Would this have been easier with a microcontroller? Oh yes, of course. But that’s not nearly as interesting.