Sunday, 22 February 2015

Newcastle Makerspace

So had a little trip to Newcastle for some work last week (Normally don't do work on here but I was delivering my new business resilience innovation program 'innoblocks' if interested follow @innoblocks on twitter)

Whilst there I managed to sneek a trip into Newcastle Makerspace and check out the wonderful space and community they have there.
I was lucky to end up visiting on a wednesday evening when they have a public opening evening. It was really nice and busy and extremely friendly and welcoming. They were totally happy for me to have a good look round etc.

So they have a city centre building with 2 main rooms, one which is project tables and 3dprinters and appears to be a bit of a cleaner working space and another room which has the lasercutter, and subtractive messier stuff, a nice lathe, bandsaw, pillar drill sanders and grinders etc. There's a third room with a library and computer desks and a lot of electronics test kit and then finally a kitchen and some storage areas. Here's some pics.. If you're ever in Newcastle, drop in and check em out, as I say, like (most makerspaces/hackspaces I've visited) they're darn friendly!

3dprinters making more 3d printers, mainly repraps but some makerbots too... over 20 in their network now!

Nice lab with library and computers and test equipment.

Some nice vintage space stuff on the walls :)

Hack stickers for material/stuff management!

Nice lathe retrofitted with interlocks etc.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

More Shed antics

More of a catchup post this one following on from the last post where I started this clamp setup.(Note you can click the images to view them a bit larger) I've done a bit more and made a couple more bits for it and it can now function as a dti stand for both my finger an plunger type dti's. It's still a work in progress though as I plan to make a few more pieces for it.. I quite fancy making a pair of jewellers vice to go with it and a couple of other bits. The big block it's using as a base is a bit rough and ready mainly as it is a aluminium block I opencast and then cleaned up a bit on the lathe and mill. Its cleaned up enough to have a flat base and top and 2 parallel sides meaning it can be held in a vice etc. The smaller base threads onto the larger base with an m6 thread which is compatible to all my clamping and tee nuts etc on the milling machine.

I also did another quick project out of the harold hall book today, I made a pair of parallels. Up until now whenever I've needed parallels I've always just used a couple of pieces cut from the same bar stock but I have some projects coming up which will require a bit more accuracy.

To buy parallels is quite expensive but, if bought, parallels tend to be precision ground from hardened steel so they are tougher and have astonishing tolerances. The Harold Hall book though suggests that parallels out of softer material (in this case en1a mild steel) are just as useful if treated with a bit more care. The process below is a method to reduce inaccuracies in the tramming of my case with a fixed column on my mill, it's not too bad. The first phase is you turn 2 similar(ish) diameters and centre hole them and bolts them roughly level on an angleplate set up on the mill. When turning these pieces you turn a thinner diameter on one end of each piece to be placed against the angle plate which means you can do the next stage without milling into the angleplate.

You then machine across the 2 diameters attached to the angle plate just enough that you have a flat section across the face of them. This face should be exactly at 90 degrees to the cutting face.

So the above picture shows the next phase, you clamp the 2 pieces you are going to make the parallels from to the angle plate making sure they are pressed firmly onto the flats you created. You then mill across the pair in one pass then you reclamp the pieces to mill the other side surfaces.. tis means that the first milled faces will be placed onto the flats and then the subsequent cuts should be parallel to the first side. I need to take them somewhere with a decent height gauge but Harold Hall reckons you can get them to within 0.02mm using this method. Which will do for me. Final note.. I stamped these 2 pieces as a pair 1A and 1B (mainly so I don't mistake them for just a bit of metal!) but I guess it's a good idea incase make another pair that are similar sized (but not the same). I also stamped the pieces before milling them as stamping into them might make some small deformations in size if you do it after.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Toolmaking.. A Harold Hall project

So I've had a grand day in the shed!.. I've made this which is going to be a dial test indicator stand.. and more! It's a project from one of the great Harold Hall's workshop series book "Model Engineers Workshop Projects"

So it's a type of clamp joint that can set the 2 bars tight by just screwing down on the "nut" handle...

You can see it here in it's component form.. In the book Harold suggests making a large collection of these along with end clamps for different dial gauges in your collection as well as a plethora of other things.. small jewellers vice, clamp bases, universal rotating clamps etc.. He has suggestions to clamp the rig to tee slotted tables on milling machines, bases to be held in bench vices etc.. there is no end to the uses of a collection of these! You can see the range and view the project on Harold's website HERE (Note Harold and many others have made this stuff much better than me.. I tend to use the books/sites to get the idea but make up my own dimensions for things based on the scrap I have in stock!)

I am particularly proud (spot the newbie machinist/model engineer!) with the handle I've made that acts as a nut to close the clamp.. so it's a couple of bits of mild steel turned to shape but I made the handle part a good accurate interference fit by reaming the hole in the nut to exactly 4mm and turning the handle shaft to 4.05.. then a quick squeeze in the vice and hey presto!

So I also had to cut the slots in the clamps as well and I used the Milling machine for this with a slitting saw. The only slitting saws I have are very small and cheap and came with a thin dremel style mandrel so another job today was to make a 10mm mandrel for the slitting saw so I could use it in the mill.

Also I used this drill clamp I made a while back on the milling machine.. I chucked it in the woodburner and heated to cherry red and then quenched it in some engine oil with soot mixed in to tool black it!

My first attempt at slitting saw use! Went ok!

Friday, 2 January 2015


So the above video is me having a Jam on a great new midi looper device called MidiThing... I'm lucky to be part of the team involved in trying to get this device out of prototype and into production and this video is me jamming with it controlling an MU5 sound module. Later in the video there's a clip of me playing with it with some very lovely hardware in Palmsounds top secret test lab :)

It's an excellent device that allows four bar midi loops to be captured and looped realtime with many features such as channel muting, channel delete, pattern A/B switching, various quantise modes etc etc.. The device itself is pretty simple and uses the input midi device to control.. so with, for example the MU5 in the video above the MU5 is acting as both midi controller and sound module and command module for the MidiThing.. More details will appear soon and we really hope we can work out a way to bring this amazing device to all the die hard Midi nauts looking to breathe new life and inspiration into their midi rigs.. Here's Ash from Palmsounds using it with some IOS apps

Feel free to comment and feedback and .. most importantly... spread the word!

MidiThing on Palm Sounds

Matrixsynth picking up on MidiThing

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

PocketQube PQ60 Breakout and Prototyping board

It's been a while since I blogged about Satellites and stuff but wanted to do a post about this board I received as a gift from my antipodean buddy Stuart. Stuart is the man behind OzQube-1 Australia's first PocketQube satellite and very kindly sent me this board as a Xmas present!

So it's the first of hopefully more boards that Stuart plans to sell that adhere to the new PQ60 standard. It is a breakout from the Hirose FX8C-60 and also has a nice breadboard/proto/kludge area!

It's great that Stuart is getting boards out of the door and (we talk a lot on PM!) he is so dedicated to his project and is working really hard to get his PocketQube built. There's more detail about these boards HERE

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lasercutting and Longworth Chucks

Little lasercut Longworth Chuck from concretedog on Vimeo.

Rather decently the emerging innovation quarter of Pontio at bangor university allowed me to sit in on their Co Lab laser cutting training this week. Rather than turn up with nothing I thought I'd better take/draw something to laser cut. I had been playing with making laser cut plywood scalextric car chassis as a learning project using Ellesmere Port Fablab's laser but thought I'd do something else. So Tony at Fablab had been making these "Longworth chucks" which I had never heard of! They are essentially two similar discs of material with arced guides which hold bolts/threaded bar which move in a self centring fashion to hold work, creating a motion similar to a camera iris. They seem to be a useful bit of kit (in a larger form) for wood turners who need to turn the underside of bowls etc, but could be useful in many work holding situations. (I plan to make one and turn up an adapter to have as a chuck on my DIY rotary table/dividing head project).

I didn't have a file to cut though, so a search revealed this excellent tutorial from Nerd Club which I followed through and made a design for a 4 jaw 60mm chuck. Its a well written tutorial but, even so, you go through some complex stages to get to the finished design!

The thing about laser cutting is it is so quick.. maybe an hour to draw the thing using free opensource package Inkscape and then 2 minutes to cut the discs.. in fact I snapped one whilst assembling it and had another cut within 2 minutes.. thats amazing!

Friday, 3 October 2014

olympus trip 35

I have got interested in shooting some film again and recently picked up this lovely olympus trip 35 for not very much off ebay. They are glorious little machines, beautifully built and are notable in that they are almost totally mechanical and battery less. The only concession to electricity is they have a selenium element on the end of the lens.. (early photovoltaic/solar panel) which sends current to a little coil which sets a pin that mechanically connects to the aperture to correctly adjust the aperture diameter for the exposure...if there's not enough light it pushes a red bar up in the viewfinder and refuses to fire the shutter.. such an elegant system.

Mine however had the common stuck aperture syndrome that lots of these have so I had to completely strip down the lens and rebuild which was entertaining (my best tip is to mark a line on the body and then mark every piece you remove lined up with the body mark so you can rebuild the lens with everything in the right place!!) There's some good instructions/advice about stripping down the trip 35 here.

So here are some shots from the first reel of film I chucked through it with no post tweaking at all..(poundland agfa vista iso200 film if your interested!) I am pretty pleased with them...(double click to view larger)

A small tag in bangor

One of my most favourite walls..


This last shot is of a collaborative piece of artwork I did with Morgan Griffith... a blog post about this will occur soon!