Blog 2019

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What we have been doing at Little House

You can read about previous activity at What we did last year

2019-03-05 Tuesday

  • The main event this evening was a demonstration by Jules, showing how he makes a mould for casting, and how the mould is filled with molten pewter to make a detailed cast metal object. It's also possible to carve a mould in cuttlefish bone, and Jane cast a small fish image in a cuttlefish mould which she had brought along. See a video of the demonstration here: Pewter-casting
  • MartinC has a design ready for experimental resist cutting using the laser cutter
  • Carla made some more rubber stamps
  • Jane continued preparing her wooden structure
  • Aki and Fred made a large number of small items using the laser cutter
  • Jon used the CNC mill for drilling a piece of pressed metal
  • Jules showed a candle-holder turned on the lathe
  • Carl brought a bicycle pump which he had repaired after it had been discarded. The pump becomes one of the RML tools available for members use.
  • Carl demonstrated a 'mains power failure alarm' which he had put together from an obselete mobile phone. It sends a text message when power fails, and another when power is restored. The alarm will be installed at Meadlands school for monitoring the school's heating system.
  • Kevin used the microscope searching for evidence of ear mites in a cat. He didn't bring the cat.
  • Hi to Dan who we haven't seen for many weeks,
  • Attendance tonight = 16

2019-02-26 Tuesday

  • Jon did some laser cutting
  • Garret had a new game of Nim, a clever mechanical computer, with ideas of scaling it up to work with marbles. He also took apart a popcorn maker out of interest to see how it works. As a result, we now have a plinth to place the donations dish in plain sight.
  • Jules spent some time on the lathe, turning a piece of brass, and afterwards using taps and dies.
  • Jane modified a couple of right-angle brackets into 22-degree brackets, then added M4 bolts.
  • Peter activated his 4-motor tracked vehicle and we watched it manoeuvring over chunks of wood and other obstacles.
  • Danny's got plans for infra-red robotic sensors
  • Martin brought half-choc mini-donuts. Not at all bad.
  • Carla had purchased laserable rubber sheet. The laser cutter can produce rubber stamps from this rubber sheet. Carla made a couple of stamps and generously donated the sheet to RML. Now we can forge our own visas and travel to Europe whenever we want.
  • ChrisR and Ann brought in a poorly Win7 laptop. AndyH took on the challenge and improved it greatly. Thanks, Andy.
  • We met Ian, a retired person who was interested to see what we do, and who might look in again.
  • MartinL discovered why his MOSFET wasn't switching and will see what to do next.
  • Kevin and Sufiyo discussed plans for adding a shed to the yard at Little House, for Friends of Ham Lands to keep their tools and equipment.
  • Attendance tonight = 16

2019-02-19 Tuesday

  • Quietly continuing work on laptop were PeterHo, Andrew, Jon, Carla and MartinC
  • Mark came in to look at the thread-cutting drive on the lathe, and found out why it wasn't working as it should.
  • ChrisR is planning to cut internal and external threads for optical work, and co-ordinated with Mark
  • Jules used the lathe, working in brass
  • PeterHa brought wood for the CNC mill, and used the laser cutter to create leg joints for an alien invader
  • Imi called in to say Hi, and gave some help with moving heavy items
  • William donated a UPS, which was left in the 3D printer office beside the server
  • PaulB was around for a time.
  • MartinL chatted to IanB about alternative techniques for additive manufacturing.
  • MarkW had brought some thermoplastic beads to show to ChrisR. He poured boiling water on them and they turned into a malleable sticky mess which cooled down into something very solid.
  • Attendance tonight = 14

2019-02-12 Tuesday

  • Garret looked into modification to solar-powered led lights. He also had about 10 mousetraps and found more than 10 ways to trip them off
  • Peter fitted batteries to a mechanical crab brought along by Jane. Crab walked towards mousetrap.
  • MartinC continued software design.
  • Jane's making good progress with her wooden construction. Notches were cut into the top bar to accommodate a curvy piece of wood.
  • Hi to new member Jules who came along to see what we do. Jules is a retired person, has plans to turn brass rod and work in brass generally. He has offered a demonstration, showing how to cast pewter, and how to make hot metal moulds.
  • Hello also to Analyn and Mark. Jon showed them round the makerspace. They'll be back.
  • MarkW came in to set up the thread cutting drive on the lathe. This involved changing a gear train, which in turn involved making a puller to separate a keyed hub from a small gear. Good job Mark knows what he's doing. By the end of the evening, he'd cut a 1 mm thread in a piece of brass rod.
    Cut thread
  • PaulB kept busy in assisting Jane with notch-cutting and later on helping MarkW with the lathe.
  • PaulE repaired his laptop again and discussed the CNC cutter room with IanB
  • ChrisS cut lots on the laser cutter, which was working OK
  • Jon had something to do on the laser cutter.
  • Aki make good use of the laser cutter, too
  • Carla has some more bookbinding under way
  • John brought in a 3D design he had produced and set it to print on the Zombie printer. Made a promising start, but is going to start again next time.
  • Hi to Carl, I hope we see you more often in the coming weeks.

2019-02-05 Tuesday

  • Peter seems to have completed his ex-aircraft control panel. It's a complete computer and screen in a box, powered by a Raspberry Pi. (pictured) Awesome!
  • Jane spent her time with geometry and a wood-saw, making two massive triangles. Not a single degree was lost. Thanks to Jon for help and support. Jane also crafted some aluminium pieces.
  • Hi to Phil, joining us today. He has some experience in making things and we hope he'll become a regular.
  • Carla took her designs to the laser cutter.
  • Peter H came along with a rifle stock which he would like to duplicate using the CNC router. Ed had offered his knowledge of modelling in Adobe software and spent several hours converting a photo into a workable 3D file with work-holding fixings, dimensions and everything. (pictured) Without Ed's input it would have taken several weeks or months.
  • Ed is looking for some assistance in crimping plugs on to Cat6 cables. IanB had a try with very little success. He recommends an alternative type of plug and will send Ed a sample.
  • ChrisR came along with a lens that was fixed by a nut inside a long tube. Chris wanted to loosen the nut but it needed a very unusual tool. As we didn't have one, Chris made his own from a piece of scrap, using the bench grinder. It worked and the nut was undone.
  • MartinL got a short tutorial on using N-channel MOSFETs from IanB, and Martin checked out a small elctrically operated hydraulic valve he had brought along.
  • Kevin was re-wiring a 5v portable record player. Didn't get to see it working, hope it was all ok.
  • Aki used the laser cutter.
  • Attendance tonight = 12

2019-01-29 Tuesday

  • MartinC continues with that rotary encoder circuit. It has to be a single-sided PCB, to suit Martin's plan for etching.
  • Carla is designing wooden coasters which will be laser-cut
  • PeterH cut an aluminium die-cast equipment case in half, at home, with an angle grinder. He brought it to Little House to finish the job with a hacksaw and some filing.
  • Garret is making a better mousetrap. Honestly, mice will be queuing up to use it.
  • AndyH tested the limits of the laser cutter and found there is no low limit on the Z axis. It took a couple of hours to get back to the top. But well done for sorting it, Andy.
  • ChrisS showed us a model church and houses which he had 3D printed and painted. Some very fine quality printwork.
  • Hi to Gavin, second visit to us. He waited patiently for the laser cutter to be reinstated then gave a hand in levelling the bed. PaulB gave a swift tutorial in how to (safely) use the laser cutter and Gavin successfully cut out a box design which he had brought.
  • Yas and Leem returned to change the power connector on a Thinkpad. They allowed plenty of time, because it's a tricky operation. With a little help and advice from PaulE, Yas got the connector changed and the Thinkpad has a new lease of life. Plus Yas now has a new skill, knowing how to take apart laptops and more importantly how to put them together again.
  • PaulE worked on a tester, to test a batch of his RS485 voltage level translators. Initially the tests were indicating all devices faulty. After getting the tester right, it became a 100% pass rate.
  • MartinL has taken the small model ekranoplan as far as it can go. Now it may have to be scaled up to develop enough power to lift off the ground.
  • Bogdan was tucked away all evening in the 3D print room. He cleared a blocked hot end with a blowtorch and printed some threaded parts for PLA filament feeds.
  • John came along with an extraordinary red glossy plastic radio from another era. It had a loudspeaker with a broken voice-coil wire. After some attempts to repair it with precision soldering, John found we had a spare loudspeaker of about the right size, so he fitted that instead. Fixed!
  • Good to see PaulB again. He's a busy man domestically these days and has less time for tinkering. Paul helped with sorting out the laser cutter and re-levelling the cut bed.
  • ChrisR used the lathe to make a rod with an M3 thread at one end. No, not thread cutting, but tapping and using a piece of studding. Chris ended up making two of these so if he loses one he'll still be OK.
  • PeterS looked in to catch up, and shared some ideas with IanB and with Bogdan.
  • Attendance tonight = 15

2019-01-22 Tuesday

  • MartinC has designed a circuit to connect a rotary encoder to an I2C bus, using a PIC processor. He will create a PCB layout, and then use the laser cutter to help create an etch resist. A novel technique, worth watching as it progresses.
  • AndyH has moved all the 3D printers to the room formerly known as the office, and they are gradually being commissioned. We will document how to use each printer so that everybody who wants to can use one.
  • Andy is also administering the Little House server, and this will be documented in due course.
  • Yas came in, with Leem. Yas has a laptop which we had diagnosed before Christmas as needing a new power inlet connector. IanB showed Yas how to open up the laptop, up to a point, after which we got instructions from YouTube. After a time it became clear that the degree of disassembly needed was excessive (like replacement of the starter motor in a Mercedes-Benz Smart car), so Yas put it back together again to try another day.
  • Dogan stopped by to see what's going on, but didn't stay long. Hi, good to see you again.
  • ChrisS had some laser cutting to do.
  • PeterH had prepared a DXF in Inkscape, transferred it to Adobe Illustrator, and then to the laser cutter. In the process, he had to take into account the default DPI used by inkscape and the default used by Adobe which is different (hey- these are vector files. What does that have to do with dots per inch?). Peter also found that our laser cutter control software can't read files from the latest Adobe Illustrator, you have to use an earlier Adobe. Peter will write up his experience on our wiki, for the benefit of others treading this path. Edit: here is the page: Inkscape_to_Laser_Cutter_via_Illustrator
  • Jon is expert at many things, and wall fixings are one of his specialities. Today he moved the key safe and fitted a VESA mounting plate, all firm and level, in the room formerly known as the office, now the home of 3D printers.
  • Carla kept busy, but I didn't see at what.
  • Colin came in with a broken wooden chair. ChrisS advised on the best way to apply wood glue to the comb joints. There was no clamp large enough to hold it together while the glue dried, so a rope substitute was used. The whole repair went well.
  • Martin L had diagnosed the problem with the large Mac computer he took away last week, and he brought in a Sky box that needed demolishing. It yielded up a decent size of Hard Disk. Peter helped with the disassembly, having had a few years experience at the place which designed it. Turns out that Yaroslav still works there.
  • Yaroslav had some acrylic disks to cut on the laser cutter.
  • Kevin found a 5v supply and wired it up to a specific plug. This involved soldering and using heat-shrink sleeving, which all went pretty well.
  • Bogdan was still not quite content with the extruder mechanism on the Zombie printer. He modified the mounting which gives the advantage of being able to see the filament passing through it, and giving it a little help if it seems to be following the wrong path. Bogdan left it printing a lid for a Pine single-board computer.
  • Attendance tonight = 14

2019-01-15 Tuesday

  • Andy successfully made a pegboard on the laser cutter.
  • Jane made a tin boat.
  • Chris used the laser cutter
  • Peter did some soldering, assembling some accessories for a Raspberry Pi
  • Garret replaced the battery on a small scales, tried out a device that made all sorts of noises and further refined his triple mousetrap design.
  • Carla continued with a hand-bound book. This week it reached the glue-and-press stage. Carla investigated what the laser cutter can do for her.
  • Welcome and hello to two new faces this week: PeterK is thinking of starting a tool/workshop sharing base in his own area, and Llewellyn came to see what we offer. He might be back some time soon.
  • PaulE drilled some holes in a part-assembled electronic thingy, and gave IanB advice on working the CNC mill.
  • MartinL reviewed MOSFET connection, and will try to do a factory reset on the Mac in the coming week.
  • Sufiyo dropped in to talk about tidying up the HUG garden tools in our front yard, and putting up a small shed in the corner alcove for storing them safely. Jon and IanB thought it would be a good plan, Andres had earlier given his encouragement, so it's over the the HUG garden people to see what could be done.
  • Peter S picked up a power supply and checked its calibration
  • Bogdan started a 3D print on the Zombie printer, and confirmed that the DeltaMaker 3D printer is operational. He also managed to get Slic3r functional again, as it hadn't been working since moving to its new location.
  • Attendance tonight = 15

2019-01-08 Tuesday

  • MartinC continues to look at IOT communications
  • Jane had some items that she drilled through, and discussed how to proceed with building an enormous open-frame handbag
  • AndyH has done some great work in moving the 3D printers into the office area, freeing up bench-space in the main room
  • Carla is starting on a new book
  • Peter continues to convert an ex-aircraft navigation assembly into a computer screen and keyboard
  • Jon and IanB attended to a fault on the laser cutter, where the red finder beam goes off at certain positions of the x-axis. They replaced a fractured wire and all was well on re-test.
  • MartinL made some attempts to re-animate an old Mac but it didn't want to come back to this world. The story is not yet over, more attempts will be made.
  • Briony called in to offer us some useful empty containers, and brought a large tub of Cadbury Celebrations. Thanks, B. We managed to scoff the lot by the end of the evening. Team effort.
  • Hi to Garret. I didn't see what you were up to today.
  • There's an unexplained decorative double-glazed window under the electronics bench. For recycling, or what?
  • Carl called in about 10.30pm after another long day's work. He's going to do something to Phaedra's bike when he gets time.
  • Attendance today = 11