Blog 2020

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What we have been doing at Little House

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

2020-04-28 Tuesday

  • Topics discussed:
    • Aircraft, and the lack of them
    • Google Nest, how user-unfriendly
    • Locomotive modelling
    • N-gauge people, how inconveniently small
    • Sodastream, economics of
    • Lego enclosures for Pi
  • And some other stuff too. Garret wants advice on how to drive a mini digger.
  • Ryan briefly looked in from Portland, OR, USofA and said Hi
  • Attendance tonight = 7

2020-04-21 Tuesday

Today's meeting
  • PeterH has completed the railway shed. It has a roof, there are lamp-posts with illumination to the right scale, gravel on the ground, lighting within buildings. We saw it.
  • Some discussion of the Starlink satellite stream (visible tonight and last night in the evening). Verdict: too cold to be trying to watch them in real life. Better to catch it on the video. Discussion drifted on to the Cubesat and then to spacejunk.
  • Leo gave previews of video segments he'd prepared, showing Thunderbird 2 on the move. Needs to be edited together as a Pi Wars entry.
  • Carl has assembled his 3D printer and will try a test print soon
  • PaulG had radio contact with a Ham in Brazil during the meeting. This occurred automatically, exchange of call signs and signal strength reports, without manual intervention.
  • Paul's 3D printer has an worrying squeak or grind on the z-axis. Leo advised where to lubricate.
  • Attendance tonight = 8

2020-04-14 Tuesday

  • Conversations covered railway modelling, c-virus (of course), star wars, light sabers, face shields for medical use and the prospect of building a ride-on railway in the garden.
  • Some of the usual suspects turned up: PeterH, PeterS, Garret, Barry, IanB and Carl.
  • A great time was had by all. Some will be trying it again next week.
  • Attendance tonight = 6

2020-04-07 Tuesday

  • Keeping up with current events, RML held its first online meeting
  • PaulG made several shortwave contacts across Europe.
  • IanB showed a 3D printed glasses case he had designed.
  • ChrisR asked for opinions on selecting a new mobile phone.
  • Attendance tonight = 3

2020-03-17 Tuesday

  • Jon sorted out his woodpile and packed a few things
  • IanB worked out a schematic diagram for the Totalizer counter cabinet
  • Wolfgang used the laser cutter and did some soldering
  • Hello to Ben who came to meet us for the first time.
  • PeterS returned a nail gun that had been on loan
  • We will not be open on Tuesdays or Thursdays while there's a virus hazard
  • Attendance tonight = 5

2020-03-12 Thursday

  • Leo wrote a different blog post
  • Jane worked on the harp
  • Chris laser cut miniature bases
  • PeterH working on the model railway
  • Attendance tonight = 4

2020-03-10 Tuesday

  • Gavin and Isabel came in to do a spot of laser cutting. Also collected the rocket motor parts donated by Lee.
  • PeterH did some laser cutting, producing a miniscule palisade fence so small you wouldn't believe it.
  • Jane is continuing to scrape wood from the frame of the harp. She has a gas-powered pyrographic tool which we tried out. There was talk of finding wire strings suitable for this instrument, to be continued.
  • Jamie has completed the electrical control panel. He punched a hole in the stainless steel vat/tank/boiler (what's the right name for it?) and started on the design of a wooden floor-stand for the control panel. He's using Fusion360 and seems to have got well into it within a week.
  • Alex came along from Biscuiteers Ltd, to gather information on using a 3D printer for making cookie cutters. He has an automatic water-cutter for cutting dough, but it's prone to breakdowns and he needs a backup. IanB showed the 3D printer and what it could do. Discussing the icing process, Jon suggested that a syringe pump could be used as an alternative to the present manual method. Alex gave us three boxes of Biscuiteer products, which were admired then eaten.
  • Steampunk Peter brought parts from a megaphone he's making, and soldered the electrical parts together. Lee showed him the key which he had made, to fit one cabinet of the Totalizer. Lee will have a go at picking the lock of the second cabinet next week. IanB handed over the Nixie display gadget with revised Arduino software.
  • Attendance tonight = 12

2020-03-05 Thursday

  • Lee popped in, dropping off model rocket supplies.
  • Gavin and Isabel did a bit more 3d design, picked up rocket nose cone and the the rocket supplies.
  • MartinL returned the variable power supply and used the windows PC
  • PeterH managed to use the colour printer to make a backscene for the model railway.
  • Attendance tonight = 5

2020-03-03 Tuesday

  • Jamie has almost finished the electrical control panel. He has tested the functions and everything is working as planned. IanB helped iron out a minor bug. Next stage will be to design and build a floor-stand for the control box.
  • Welcome to Lee who dropped in to meet us and see what we do. Lee is a practical all-rounder with an engineering background. He applied himself to picking the lock on one of the Totalizer cabinets, opened it and is going to make a key to fit the lock. Top man!
  • Gavin and Isabel came in to use the 3D printer, to make a thinner, lightweight nose cone for a rocket project. They had a video of the previous rocket's first and only flight. Everything went well on the way up. The return to earth was another story.
  • Hello to new visitor Laurie. He's active in IoT and remote sensing, particularly air quality sensing. He would like to meet any RML people who could be interested in the process of making gadgets for dispersed data collection, probably using STEM Ambassadors and schools to do final assembly and operation of the sensors. (Contact details available from IanB.)
  • Andy and IanB looked at a poorly Dyson rechargeable vacuum cleaner. It came apart into smaller and smaller pieces, then stepped through the portal into the realm of 'beyond all repair'. Interesting to see how much electronics is packed into a small space. It can't need all that technology just to suck dust, surely?
  • Another new face this evening was Charles. He's a mechanical engineer with a range of interests, including a historical appreciation of Forth and a current distaste for Python. Hope to see you here again soon, Charles.
  • Kevin looked in to sort out our Hitachi cordless drill. It's back on the shelf now, albeit in a different black carry-case.
  • Attendance tonight = 11

2020-02-27 Thursday

  • Belle and Carla laser cut fabric
  • Jane carried on with the wooden harp
  • PeterH worked on the model railway
  • Ian and Kevin popped in
  • Attendance tonight = 6

2020-02-25 Tuesday

  • PeterH continues with that model
  • Adam continues with the gun
  • MartinC continues with software development
  • MartinL described his latest idea to IanB
  • Aki came in looking for a blowtorch. Finding the gas bottle was empty he agreed to get a new one by next week.
  • Andy continued improving the Little House network, and turned his hand to a few other issues too
  • Steampunk Peter brought the nixie tube display for IanB to do a bit more software.
  • S.Peter also located the fault on a felt cutter which had been out of order.
  • Jamie continues wiring the control panel. Now it has 240v on it, more care must be taken. Jamie got the green light to come on, and it correctly goes off when the emergency stop is pressed. Good progress.
  • ChrisR applied his skills to the curious case of the belt sander. It has a leakage path to earth, which Should Not happen. PaulE's megger showed the leakage resistance to be less than a quarter megohm, at the lowest end of its range. Mr Fluke the meter said more like 60 kilohms. One thing after another was disconnected, then the motor was removed, then the casing was taken off the motor and still the leakage was there. Finally, the belt sander, motor and casing was consigned to scrap. We tried.
  • Steampunk Peter brought a very old electrical counting machine, from the 1920/30s, in two glass-fronted mahogany cases. These were very heavy and were carried in by the wise knights of the round table. Thanks, guys. It used to count newspapers as they were printed in Fleet Street. Now, we are challenged to find some alternatives(s) for it to count so that it may be returned to a working condition. What will become of it after that we don't know. But if it's eventually sold, part of the profit will be returned to Richmond MakerLabs. Meantime, might it be make to work in time to show it off at Ham Fair on 13th June this year?
  • Attendance tonight = 15

2020-20-20 Thursday

  • Leo worked on the aiming mechanism of the robot nerf gun.
  • Adam finished the aircraft wing project.
  • PeterH carried on with the model railway.
  • Garrett has very small drills and may well buy a very old company.
  • Attendance tonight = 5

2020-02-18 Tuesday

  • Carla and Belle were fabric cutting on the laser cutter
  • PeterH created a tiny replica of the BBC B (Acorn) computer, in cardboard. Inside was a Raspberry Pi Zero.
  • James made a start on wiring up the electrical control panel but we don't have the right tool for the crimp terminations.
  • Colin brought in a duff Dell computer and asked if anyone knows what's wrong with it. IanB found it was suffering a power supply fault, and there's no easily-sourced replacement. Colin agreed to scrap it, and Barry showed how various bits could be salvaged from it.
  • Adam and Andrew each continued their respective projects.
  • IanB made a case for a PCB using the 3D printer
  • Attendance tonight = 10

2020-02-13 Thursday

  • Adam carried on with the model gun and airplane wing project
  • ChrisR worked on the wheelchair steps
  • PeterH managed to use the laser printer to print a new model building
  • Kevin borrowed the drill
  • Attendance tonight = 4

2020-02-11 Tuesday

  • Jon arrived with a heavy case of drills, milling bits, taps and dies, all quite old and fairly rusty. Something he found on ebay. After the application of WD-40 and a deal of burnishing they all looked much the same. Nevertheless, some parts will be very useful.
  • PeterH fitted a tiny remote control model car inside a small Thunderbird-style casing. This will be a self-propelled pod vehicle for Leo's Thunderbird 2
  • Andrew continued with experiments in Android programming
  • Adam did some laser cutting. Looks as if he's building winds for quite a large plane
  • Jane removed the bark from her rustic harp, using a Norse carving tool, and removed a mouse from its legs.
  • Gavin and Isabel returned to 3D print another rocket nose cone. Last week's one was too heavy.
  • ChrisR chopped up a polypropylene kitchen cutting board, to make a footrest for a wheelchair. The cutting process was incredibly noisy and created a mass of polyproylene chippings, but we didn't mind (much).
  • Jamie continued with his control panel. It's looking very good now. He discussed the wiring diagram and got advice on suitable wire for making the internal connections.
  • Yaroslav replaced the MOSFET in his audio amplifier, which last week he had identified. Now it switches on without blowing fuses and is probably fully working again. Yaroslav also removed the wheels from a pair of roller-blades, which was quite a tricky task to begin with, but got easier as he proceeded.
  • ' Attendance tonight = 13

2020-02-06 Tuesday

  • Gavin popped in to pick up his 3d printing
  • Leo worked on his robot, testing the rocket launcher
  • PeterH failed to make the laser printer any better
  • Aki experimented with using a torch to burn the outside of hardwoods and oiling it, to create a black wood finish
  • Andy use the laser cutter
  • Garrett had finished his electronic kits, so instead experimented with a storm kettle
  • Attendance tonight = 6

2020-02-04 Tuesday

  • PeterH continues his modelling task
  • Adam continues the gun transformation
  • PaulE tested a batch of his AVR programmers
  • Briony dropped in and brought a tub of chocs. Thanks!
  • Barry contributed some biscuits to keep us going. Thanks!
  • Hi to Mehl, who was with us last week for the first time
  • Hi to PaulW making his first visit
  • Hi to Wolfgang also seeing us for the first time
  • Chris came to do some laser cutting, and showed how to use the laser cutter to Mehl, PaulW, Wolfgang and Gavin.
  • Isabel asked how to use the 3D printer. She had brought an STL file of a rocket nose cone and started printing it.
  • Yaroslav came along with an audio amplifier that spectacularly blew two fuses every time it was switched on. With a little time and careful analysis, he located a blown MOSFET, which he can easily replace.
  • Attendance tonight = 15

2020-01-30 Thursday

  • Leo traced the source of the uneven drive on his robot and repaired it
  • ChrisR and PeterH played with graphic tablets and printers, cursing drivers.
  • Attendance tonight = 3

2020-01-28 Tuesday

  • Hello and welcome to Mehl who came in to see what we do. He will be back.
  • Barry was working on an Arduino and graphic screen
  • Adam continues adapting the appearance of a gun
  • IanB brought an HP colour laser printer that doesn't print very well. PeterH might be able to fix it and keep it.
  • Jane took apart a hand-held kitchen blender to discover the treasures within
  • Sara and Linda looked in. Sara wants to know what to do about a laptop with a dodgy keyboard and Linda had an early Samsung Galaxy phone in need of an upgrade to the operating system.
  • PeterH assisted Linda with the phone and advised that the first step would be to back up all the data.
  • Jamie continues to make good progress on the electrical control panel
  • PaulE used the oscilloscope to help track down an intriguing fault with his AVR programmer design.
  • Garret brought in an empty tin of SPAM which led to a number of weak jokes from the knights of the round table. Garret announced that he plans to make it into a pinhole camera, using 120 roll film. It will be the Ham Spam Can Cam.
  • Andy took apart a scanner/printer in search of usable hackable spare parts. It yielded up a ton of broken plastic, some junk and a few things. The best parts were a couple of hardened steel rods and a small DC motor with a pinion gear.
  • There's now a working scanner in the 3D printer room as well as the network printer, available for anyone to use.
  • Attendance tonight = 13

2020-01-23 Thursday

  • Leo worked on his Pi Wars robot
  • PeterH wrote HTML
  • Attendance tonight = 2

2020-01-21 Tuesday

  • Carla and Bella used the lasercutter, while Dan looked on.
  • Adam is still changing the appearance of a Nerf gun.
  • PeterH did some painting of the model he's been working on, and he donated a 12v battery to us.
  • Stevie called in and talked to IanB and Jon about the difficulties of icing biscuits.
  • Steampunk Peter brought a device made from at least three Victorian/Georgian parts. He fabricated a screw that is M7 at one end and M10 at the other. Is there no end to our ingenuity!
  • MartinL was puzzling over the best way to make a one-off prototype pressed-aluminium panel.
  • Jamie continues making an electrical control panel. Having already made some large circular holes, this week he cut and filed a rectangular hole in the steel front.
  • PaulE took a laptop apart and changed the fan. It was more difficult than it looked, and it started off looking pretty difficult.
  • ChrisR was able to offer some electrical wiring advice to Jamie.
  • Attendance tonight = 15

2020-01-16 Thursday

"There's no such thing as a hyper-lion"

  • Andy made the laser cutting be good
  • Garrett was playing with the LED light
  • PeterH laser cut a railway building
  • Attendance tonight = 4

2020-01-14 Tuesday

  • PeterH continued modelling
  • Adam is modifying a Nerf gun
  • Jon and Andy spent all evening working on the laser cutter, removing the mirrors and taking more measurements.
  • Jamie experimented with an electronic timer, which will be part of his brewing controller
  • Garret brought a trap suitable for catching small haggis. It was interesting to analyse exactly how, or why, it works.
  • Garret also dissected a LED domestic light for his, and our, knowledge.
  • Hi to PaulB who benefitted from the sunshine in S.Africa over Christmas.
  • PaulE is developing short-range radio, and was looking at alternative types of track for another project
  • Attendance tonight = 10

2020-01-9 Thursday

  • Vish and new vistors Carmella and Yasmin were investigating plastic recycling via shredding and cooking
  • PeterH played with trains
  • Attendance tonight = 5

2020-01-7 Tuesday

  • PeterH glued a railway track
  • Andy and Jon worked on the laser cutter. After last week's cleanup, they were measuring laser power and investigating the state of the optics. ChrisR helped with temperature measurement.
  • PaulB looked in for a short while
  • Welcome to some new faces:
    • Neil came to meet us. He will be back
    • Adam would like to gain new skills. Arduino, maybe?
    • Jamie is planning a controller for brewing and is looking for advice on the electrical side of things
  • Gavin and Isabel came to use the laser cutter. As it was under maintenance they will come back another week.
  • Hi to MartinB as well.
  • Attendance tonight = 12

2020-01-01 Wednesday

  • Jon and Andy came in to do some tinkering with the laser cutter
    • modify a plastic crate so we could soak the honeycomb bed of the cutter in Zep.
    • removed the honeycomb bed of the cutter to soak
    • broke the 'quick release fitting that attaches the hose to the tap
    • made a shopping list of what else we needed in screwfix
    • realised that it was a Bank Holiday and screwfix was probably closed :(
    • texted IanB in the hope he might have one - he did - and he brought it round for us (along with a donated PC).
    • repeatedly pressure washed the honeycomb - not perfect, but much better.
    • cleaned, washed and vacuumed all the insides of the laser cutter case.
    • spent some time making measurements of the laser power using our'dohicky'.
    • spent some time aligning the laser tube to see if power could be improved - there is probably room for some improvement still, we seem to lose a lot of power at each 'bounce' in the optical path.
    • have concluded that a spare lens and some spare mirrors are worth having.
    • need to investigate cleaning techniques for the mirrors and lens.
  • Attendance today = 2