Friday, 26 June 2020

Printing Pinion Gears for the mini lathe.

I managed to strip one of the pinion gears on the mini lathe a while ago and I was surprised that I couldn't find a 3D model of them to print, particularly as I'd seen a lot of gear wheel sets for the mini lathe on thingiverse and elsewhere (I think this is an indicator that perhaps other people aren't as idiotic as me and don't strip their pinion gears)!

 Today I set about sorting it with some 3d printed replacements. I used the involute gear tools in the "Part Design" workbench of FreeCAD which I am using more and more as my go to CAD environment. It's a pretty easy tool to use so long as you know the "module" of your gear which can be worked out as it is the pitch circle diameter divided by the number of teeth. Counting up the teeth on the old stripped gears showed they were a 25 tooth and a 20 tooth and the overall diameter was close enough to make me feel that the pitch diameter was going to be the number of teeth in mm giving a module of 1. I'd read online that the mini lathe gears all ran at 20 degree pressure angle. A quick bit of calliper work on the hole diameter and we were ready to CAD!

The results are great, printed in PLA at 35% infill I've been running the gearbox for a couple of hours and all seems well. I've printed up a few spares and chucked them in the box of gears. As I couldn't find this set of gears online anywhere I've put it up on thingiverse as a project so hopefully it's of use to others. You can find the files and the print settings here. 

Thursday, 25 June 2020

10 minute make, Filament reel stand!

So whenever I swap to use a big reel of filament (2.3kg ones) I always end up concocting an elaborate balancing of stuff to hold it on! I've been known to have 2 piles of books with a piece of threaded bar balanced across them before now. The other day I was about to scrap some small stands I'd made that could hold a 25mm dowel between them I'd originally made as a jig to help fibreglass onto a tube. I quickly realised with a larger base and a shorter piece of dowel it would fulfill my filament holding needs. I just use a slightly undersize "o" ring on the dowel to stop the reel from drifting along and off the stand. Perfect!

Monday, 22 June 2020

Hackspace Magazine Issue 32, Opensource MTV robot!

Normally when each months Hackspace Magazine comes out I update this "keeping track of my articles" post, do a few tweets and move on. This months magazine has a project I put together that feels worthy of a little blog post all of its own though! I was asked to write a tutorial using a cheap tracked robot chassis kit (just the wheels, chassis, motors and tracks around £20-25 online) on how to build a budget robot. I decided to go a bit further than just cutting a couple of boards to mount stuff to and came up with an entire modular system built up on the cheap chassis from 3d printed parts. Whilst this particular robot is referred to in our house as "red one" the whole modular robot project is called "MTV" short for Modular Tracked Vehicle. All the modules feature M4 holes on 10mm centres so that modules can be mounted in lots of places and it can all be reconfigurable perfect for adding experiments and other doohickies too! I did all the 3d work in FreeCAD so that it is made with opensource and free tools and also all the files are published in a project repo on gitlab. I'm not going to give you the link though, you have to go download the (excellent imho) magazine, read the articles and find the link there! Check out hackspace issue 32 here.  I'd love to see others tinkering on this so do feel free to join in, merge requests are open on the repository and do get in touch if you build one!

Friday, 19 June 2020

Follow Up - Thermal Insert Tool Rig MKII

A few weeks ago I posted about converting a Dremel workstation and adding a 3d printed part and a hacked soldering iron to make a thermal insert tool. It was great and through a combination of some spacers and some copper tape as insulation it would resist the heat for a short session of inserting. However, I wasn't satisfied with it for longer sessoins of use and so I decided to remake the mount out of a block of EN1A steel I had in the scrap pile. Rather nicely Hackaday picked up on that original post here.

I used the 3d printed part as a quick drill guide as it didn't need masses of accuracy and it sped up the conversion a lot. I also decided to do away with the soldering iron handle as it didn't really need it.  The last job I did was to modify one of the soldering iron tips by cutting a few mm off the end of the point. This meant that when fitting smaller thermal inserts the tip would fit inside the insert and self centre and could apply pressure without either poking through the underside of the insert or marking the plastic outside of the insert. It works very well and I may well may some different tips for different sizes.
Whilst the Dremel workstation inherently are a bit wonky and flexible (I'm thinking of a new experiment to try and make it a little better and some other mods, I'll post at some point) it's been great to use and the height adjustments it offers are great and it can accommodate a good range of work pieces such as this "MTV" robot... which I need to do a blogpost relating to in its own right!

Finally, below is a picture of an insert, It's great to be able to get these in well without marking the surrounding plastic and they work incredibly well and if put into the correct size/tolerance hole they are much much tougher than tapping into a 3d print.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

£12 HDMI-USB Video capture card on Ubuntu (cheap portable Rpi Monitor!)

A while back I was ardently reading @biglesp post on a HDMI-USB capture card that he had been tinkering with and using as a way to have a super minimal setup for a raspberry pi without needing a monitor for it. At the time I think the Mirabox cpature cards he was looking at were over £100 and it was to rich for my tastes!

Then last week my fellow flame trench buddy @Ascii211 posted about a $10 usb capture card he had been playing with. Having tracked one down on Ebay in the UK for £12 I thought it was worth the punt to see if it would play nice with Ubuntu.

I rigged it up today with a raspberry pi4 (4gb) as an input and plugged it into the trusty (badly in need of a reinstall) Thinkpad x220 running Ubuntu 18.04. A quick check of dmesg seemed to indicate that it had been recognised etc.

I noticed in the terrible instructions with it it mentioned VLC as a potential bit of software for capturing, after tinkering around in VLC for a few minutes I couldn't get it to work at all. However... I'd used "gucview" as a camera capture application before so opened that to see if it played nice. Short answer... yep it does. Video preview and capture at 1080p at 30fps was pretty happy, theres a slight lag in the video feed but nothing that isn't workable. I'm keen to checkout how it does with camera input and I keep meaning to play with OBS (open broadcaster software) so I'll update after tinkering a bit more.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Baffle designs and their use in High Power Rocketry

Just uploaded this video looking at the baffle designs and their usage in a couple of rocket designs including the type that's used in the opensource ODR rocket. I also discuss why and when baffles make sense to use for either recovery fire protection or for strong recovery system mount points.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

New Video for the Ffiws Makerspace project now live! Getting started with FreeCAD

Really missing my in real life work in the Ffiws makerspace, and certainly missing all the brilliant users who used to put me through my paces asking for help and guidance. It's a pleasure then to get asked to make the odd bit of content for the Ffiws team to share during lockdown. Here is the latest, a getting started with the brilliant, cross platform, free and opensource FreeCAD software. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

TS 100 Soldering iron review

I've procrastinated over buying one of these for probably a year as I have read lots of good things about both this one, the TS100 and it's sibling the TS80 but I could never quite decide which one I wanted. I knew that either where reported to be excellent soldering irons but I couldn't decide if I wanted one that I could use with some kind of USB C power pack for mobile use or one that I could use with a LiPo battery. The LiPo option clouded further by the fact that with the TS100 most people used  a 4 cell or larger LiPo and the largest ones I have is are my collection of 3 cell 2200 mah ones I use in the quadcopters. I somewhere had the idea that these wouldn't supply enough voltage. My mind was only made up when I read that the TS100 will work with a 3 cell absolutely fine, albeit with the caveat it will take a little longer to heat up. As it happens it will heat up to 300 degrees on a 3s LiPo in around 15 seconds... So for the odd quick repair in the field it's certainly useable. 

I bought my TS100 with the 'I' tip which is a fine point suitable for SMD work. I tend to use a fine tip for most work with other irons but I may well pick up a larger chisel tip at some point for this iron. The 'I' tip supplied is great, tinned easily and is super precise. Indoors at the workbench I use  a 19 volt Toshiba laptop power supply and it will heat to 300-400 degrees in seconds. It's astonishingly quick. I haven't upgraded the firmware as yet (all manner of custom firmwares are available) but already I can operate and change the temperature using the 2 buttons with one hand whilst usually holding whatever I am trying to solder with the other!

The tips are fitted using a pair of small allen bolts to retain them and the TS100 was supplied with the correct size allen key. The supplied cardboard box with fitted foam meant the TS100 arrived very well protected but the tip isn't inserted when in the box so the box isn't a long term storage or transportation solution. I'll have to make something at some point, or indeed, download one of the myriad of cases the community have designed for this iron to 3d print. 

I probably have around 5 hours of time in soldering a wide variety of stuff with this in the last 2 weeks and I have to say can't find much at all to be critical of with this iron!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Living Hinge Hipster PDA

For more years than I care to remember I've been a fan of carrying a stack of index cards. As a freelancer trainer I used to pride myself in being able to whip up an interactive training experience if needed short notice with nothing more than index cards and a marker. I first came across the fact that there were others like me when I saw the Hipster PDA discussion over at 43folders  probably around 2007. I then had a brief peak of use with fans of the GTD productivity methods. Many people got into printing custom cards, calendar cards and more, but for me a plain old stack of cards and a binder clip was the classic. With one fault, after a few weeks of a deck of cards being in pocket they would look decidedly scruffy and dog eared. As such over the years a plethora of ideas to stop that have been deployed. The current one is this living hinge cover I drew up in inkscape and laser cut a few months back at the Ffiws Makerspace in Porthmadog. Cut from 3.125mm ply the hinge won't survive being sat on but is surprisingly robust, the clips work as well as they ever did and I use 4 clips so that some can be used as bookmarks for a current card over multiple projects. Finished with a small bit of elastic its easily pocketable and a good conversation piece when people notice the hinge section. :)

If you have access to a laser during these times (lucky you!) then I've posted the file on thingiverse for anyone to use. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Thermal Insert Rig, modification of Dremel 220

Years ago I bought a Dremel 220 drill stand to help quicken the process of drilling PCB's, there is a lot online about the Dremel 220 already, and most of it is true.. whilst it can be a useful bit of kit if its all you have its wobbly and annoying and although you can get good results, you would be much better off with a small cheap drill press! That said mine has seen some use, often rigged as an extra hand holding the Dremel to use it as a small offhand grinder etc. Anyway, I've wanted to have a better option for pushing thermal insert nuts into 3d prints rather than just a soldering iron in hand and a pair or pliers. I have a plethora of the super budget Makerslife soldering irons (I reviewed them here!) and decided to have an attempt at converting one to fit onto the Dremel stand. 

At first I considered making some kind of adaptor that bolted into the existing mount for the Dremel and even got as fair as modelling the 18mm diameter 2mm pitch Dremel collar thread, but then realised that one bolt removed all the Dremel assembly from the main shaft and that it would be easier to have a soldering iron adaptor that just fitted straight onto the 16mm steel bar that acts as the sliding quill. 

I designed and 3d printed an adapter plate and realised I could unscrew the hot end from the handle of the soldering iron and I aimed to place the 3d printed adaptor in between the end of the element holder and the soldering iron's original handle. Having disassembled I realised I could pass the element and the wires through the adaptor and only needed to cut the ground wire and re solder it together and heat shrink it back together once assembled. 

The first attempted adaptor was too thin and flexed and also showed that, despite the plastic 3d printed adaptor being in the same position as the original handle, it was going to get to hot and begin to soften. I thickened the adaptor design and reprinted it with more infill. I then also reassembled the MKII version with some copper tape acting as a heat sink and also mounting the hot end using some over-size nuts and washers as standoffs to try and promote some cooling. It's worked and I whilst i can use it for a session to fit a few thermal inserts I think continuous use would probably cause the adaptor to soften eventually. I think the next iteration will be to use the adaptor as a drilling template to make a steel or aluminium one!

In testing it's been great, I could do with making some custom tips to mount on the end of the iron for different size inserts and as mentioned earlier probably remake the whole thing out of metal, however the inserts are going in well, and seem extremely strong!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Record 74 Vice

Ages ago on twitter I noticed a friend of mine Tim asking about vice options and I was very pleased to be able to tell him of my love for Record vice's and the Record No 0 I've had for a long while and the Record Imp tiny vice I restored a while ago. We discussed various models and I sent him down the rabbit hole of the Record 74 swivel vice which is an excellent bit of kit that I didn't own, but shared my admiration of. 

A few weeks later Tim had found one near to him and had gone over and collected it and as it happened the seller had another. Tim was astonishingly kind and picked it up for me and sent it up to me as a thank you for helping him identify the vice he wanted. 

It's so very swish, a lovely bit of kit! I've been waiting to affix it to a workbench as I wanted to save it until a shed reshuffle had taken place, which is slowly happening with a new shed having been erected in the last month or so. The vice looks great and its a real advantage to be able to swing it around and also to be able to swing it out of the way if needed. It's been well restored and cleaned up with a new set of jaws made for it (as well as the originals) and looks fab. I might get rid of the red on the screw guard at some point as I don't think it originally would have been painted, but for now it can be admired and put to use!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The Rkub2 Microbit edge connector board

I've been tinkering with the micro:bit a lot more recently having used them for a couple of product reviews and tutorials for hackspace magazine. I was shopping around for an edge connector that I could use as part of a robot build that would break out the pins but also was able to handle voltage from a 3 cell 11.4v lipo battery. This RKub2 board was available on eBay for £4.99 delivered as a solder-able kit so it was worth a go.

It's relatively straightforward to put together with all the components being larger through hole types apart from two power regulators which are SMD but massive enough to be able to handle without tweezers! Once assembled it has all the pins broken out to a header socket row (or you could make this a row of header pins if you wanted to insert it into a breadboard more often). For power input it has a few interesting options. The first thing of note is that it has a connector for 3.3v which can receive the standard micro:bit battery box connector and therefore you can power the bit and have all the extra pins broken out using the standard 2 AAA batteries. On the other side of the board is a barrel jack connector which can receive a 12v input and also next to it are two pads for a 12v input. this is very handy as we can solder some wires with an XT60 connector to it and directly attach out 3 cell lipo battery. When powering the board from either 12v input a connected micro:bit is powered from the on board 3.3v regulator automatically and the whole unit can be switched on and off with the small switch. When powered by 12v (or 11.4v in our case) the board has a section on the lower right with power rails for 3.3v, 5v, and 12v (or the 11.4v input in our case).

For the project we had in mind for this board its been excellent as we were driving some motors with 12v driver boards and this board meant we had all the different power voltages and the micro:bit supply on the one board.

Monday, 27 April 2020

A live stream on Open Research Rocketry and Opensource!

I was really pleased last week to be invited to do a live stream talk facilitated by the amazing A Industriosa makerspace and lab in Vigo Spain. Above is the 1.5hr talk which featured lots of me waffling, a few minutes at the beginning with a few technical issues and a heap of great questions from the viewers of the live stream. Hopefully we have made some new friends who will get involved in emergent Open Research Rocketry opensource projects and perhaps inspired a few people to get involved in rocketry once Covid lockdowns eventually start to be relaxed.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Open Research Rocketry, First Opensource project released!

I've been developing Open Research Rocketry for a while and it has many lofty aims for rocketry in the UK. From non profit flights for people to fly small payloads on high power rockets, developing more launch sites and rocketry activity,  policy research and, of course, developing rocketry themed technology. All, of course, opensource. The plan was (and still is) to wrap this up in a not for profit company which has some commercial activities, but all surplus is used to offset and reduce STEM/STEAM activity around rocketry. Hopefully helping develop new rocketry communities, industry and inspiring people into involvement. Many aspect of this road map are currently on hold, including the company set up, until it becomes clearer when activity can resume on rocketry ranges and in education and other sites when counter Covid measures are responsibly eased.

However, some progress continues, I'm really pleased this week that we have released our first opensource hardware project which is a simple small PCB for igniting e-matches that are used in deployment systems in high power and research rocketry. It's a useful little module that may form part of people test set ups or indeed part of a modular flight computer system. It's brilliant that we have begun to have community contributions and merge requests also. Do check out the project here.

And check out the main Open Research Rocketry page and if you have any suggestions for opensource resources relating to rocketry do send them over for our resources page.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Fibreglass Rocket Nosecones using 3d printed molds

So the last week or so I have been experimenting with designing and printing small PLA molds into which I can lay up fibreglass to create nosecones for rockets. In this post I plan to share the progress so far. Before we star though I wanted to explain a bit about why I want to create fibreglass nosecones. I have very successfully used 3d printed nosecones in all scales from the tiny ultra lightweight single wall nosecone I printed for my A impulse UK altitude holding record "Imp" rocket, through to larger nosecone for high power rocketry. Fibreglass/composite however is attractive as it is lightweight but also strong, and also only requires a thin shell whereas many 3d printed designs need thicker walls or indeed to be a solid infilled part. I'm also interested in building a minimum diameter 29mm rocket airframe to try and break Mach 1 and so I need a nosecone that maximises strength whilst remaining as hollow as possible to hold avionics inside when space in the airframe is so tight.

So I first created the models for the nosecone I wanted to experiment with first, a 29mm ellipsiod design in OpenSCAD and then created a mold by cutting half the nosecone out of a solid cuboid to create a mold half. Working in this way and casting inside the mold means I made the nosecone void the actual required size of the outside of the nosecone.

I printed a pair of mold halves using 0.2mm layer height and was reasonably pleased with the quality and surface finish of them. For the first and second attempt I did nothing to the 3d printed mold halves and left them in exactly the finish that they came off the printer. Although epoxy doesn't adhere *that* well to PLA I still wanted to use a release agent, but due to current lockdown, I had to try and use items I already had. I'd read online about someone using Glycerin as a release agent. The first attempt therefore I painted a thin coat of Glycerin onto the mold halfs before wetting them with laminating epoxy and adding some very very thin fibreglass cloth I have that is 40g/m weight. Its super thin and as such the next morning the mold halves had cured but the material was to fragile to pull from the mold without breaking it. Also I feel that the glycerin had failed as a releasing agent. I reprinted the mold halves again for a second attempt again with no post production/finishing and the same layer height.

This time I used some neutral shoe polish as a release agent applied by a finger very thinly. I was careful not to allow it to fill the corners where the nosecone shoulder sat and managed to get a neat uniform layer over it all. This time I went with some 110g/m cloth and laid up the mold halves seperately.  Working at this small scale I had decided to try and make a single layer in both halves seperately with a margin of unglassed cloth left over and then I would do a second process to stick the two halves together with more epoxy and tape after trimming (hopefully) the first skin after it had cured.

Success, the next day the second attempt halves demolded pretty cleanly and although still flimsy showed that this could work (see top picture).

I trimmed the mold halves down as accurately as possible and then replaced them in the mold. I added a tiny smear of shoe polish to the mold half faces and then stuck the halves together with tape. At this scale it is pretty easy to get the mold halves to align, if I was working at a larger scale I would probably create keyed mold halves that interlock.

Having clamped the halves I then mixed another tiny amount of epoxy and added a strip of fibreglass cloth around the joint to stick the two halves together. It's difficult to work with such small amounts of such lightweight cloth through such a small aperture, but you don't have to be too precious as this will be on the inside of the nosecone so doesn't matter to much about the finish.

After this cured we could remove the nosecone and check it's fit in a piece of 29mm body tube, it fits perfectly! Once the nosecone is joined you can, of course add more layers internally to stiffen it etc. I added an extra layer inside and still this nosecone weighs less than 2.5g.

As  a next stage I wanted to create a Von Karman Haack nosecone as that is probably the preferred geometry for my mach busting rocket idea. The original ellipsoid nosecone had picked up the details of the inside of the mold and the 3d printing layers were visible. Whilst I am happy these could be removed/smoothed out with sanding, filling, priming and painting it makes sense to minimise this work. As such I printed the Haack nosecone mold at 0.1mm layer height which increased the resolution of the finish and I spent some time sanding the inside of the mold to further enhance the finish.

I also wanted to comment that the molds are definitely reusable, any errant epoxy that sticks to the PLA can be scraped off whilst maintaining the mold surface, I remade another ellipsoid to the same finish using the same mold.

The Haack nosecone having been remolded has shown that printing at 0.1mm and trying to maximise the quality of finish on the mold is definitely worth doing. Whilst some sanding and smoothing will be needed the surface finish is generally very good on this one.

Finally, once I have a slightly larger collection of molds sorted I will release a repo with them all in over on

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

10 minute make; 'To Do' Peg!

Quick 10 minute make today, made magnet mount laser etched "To Do" peg! Pretty straightforward in that I found a wooden peg , chucked it in the tiny Neje laser etcher and etched it! 

Then after etching it, just a blob of superglue and a 3mm neodymium magnet and we are done! I'm considering a whole Kanban washing line system next :) 

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Wearable experiments! 3d Printing onto fabric, and conductive thread.

 I took a very short break from printing visors as PPE this afternoon to have a quick go at 3d printing into material. I'd seen this done a fair bit by others but had never had a go myself. The idea being you pause a print after a few levels, jog the head out of the way and tape down some cloth over the print before resuming the rest of the print.
 After printing and removing the cloth and print from the bed it's very pleasing both how well embedded the prints seem in the cloth and also how flexible the created object is. Whilst it's highly decorative it makes me wonder what mechanical uses this technique has.

 I'd designed each of the hexagonal islands in the fantastic free and opensource FreeCAD, to have a 3mm hole in the back which could receive a 3mm led.

I removed the cloth from inside the holes after printing using a dremel and then tested to see if/how the LED diffused through the print. It's not great tbh as I didn't think about which geometry infill or the I thermal design of the hexagons so I could certainly make this work better. I did however want to have a go at fitting at least one using some conductive thread I bought an age ago.

 The circuit was just an LED and a corresponding resistor and a power source (a 7.4v lipo). I first fashioned some circles in the leads of he components and this gave me something to tie the conductive thread too.
 As can be seen in the first image in the post the effect is OK, the stitching is poor, not helped by the thickness of the conductive thread meaning it requires a very fat needle, which was a bit to much for this fine meshed fabric. However, it was a good experiment and I am already thinking of projects that can be realised with both of these approaches.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Trying to be useful! An Introduction to Inkscape

Just recorded this quick rough introductory video for the brilliant free and opensource Inkscape, It's a fabulously useful bit of software and is hugely used in the maker community to create files for printing, laser cutting, vinyl cutting, paper craft and more. As it's a community developed piece of software it has some amazing plugins and use cases (briefly looked at towards the end of the video). I also mention in passing in the video an amazing extension called SVG2shenzhen which allows people to design artistic printed circuit boards (PCB's). If people are interested in it I wrote a tutorial on SVG2Shenzhen in Hackspace magazine issue 23 which you can buy or download for free here. Perfect time to learn software whilst we are isolating and perhaps a great thing for those home schooling? If you found this useful do feel free to  buy me a coffee on my kofi! 

Monday, 23 March 2020

Hackspace Magazine issue 29! New Lasercut Rocketry tool on thingiverse.

So another month and another wonderful issue of Hackspace magazine is out and as ever I update this post to keep a track of all my articles. However this month I am breaking the norm and doing this post as I wanted to mention a tool I made as part of an article in this months on Dividing and Indexing. The tool is still a little work in progress, but it is a laser cut assembly that can scroll or self centre the 4 jaws or pillars and can hold a tube concentric to its central point of rotation. The centring assembly is using the same idea as a longworth chuck which I posted about years ago on here!

It can therefore hold tubes and other items and using the numbered gear wheel you can rotate and lock the held item in various positions. You can then use the vee grooved slot to lay a pen or pencil along and mark positions accurately in any division of 60 points around a circle. As such it's useful for rocketry it you wanted to mark a tube for 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12 fins etc. Do check out the article for more detail and the item itself is on thingiverse. 

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Makers Life 25 Watt Soldering Iron.

So I've been perusing cheap soldering irons for running soldering workshops and it's led to myself and Big Les P discussing and buying the various, super cheap, ones that CPC farnell sell.

Les looked at the 20 watt and 40 watt versions of the Duratool iron and found the 20 watt ones ok but the 40 watt ones not to good and likely to burn through tips. Check out his post for more detail.

I'd bought some of the 40 watt ones (at £2.50 each it's not too much of a risk!) and I agree with Les's appraisal. So, I decided I'd try the 25 watt "makers life" iron which was on CPC for £4.49.

They are similar to the other Duratool branded irons apart from they have a different type of tip and a different threaded collar that clamps the tip down. It's a nicer system than the screws on the 40 watt iron but it might be tricky to get replacement tips... But at £4.49 it's not too much of a concern.

In use the makers life 25w is pretty good. It has a slightly thinner tip than the 40w iron but it's still quite chunky and takes a little bit of getting used to after using finer tipped irons. The cable is about a meter long and reasonably flexible, it's definitely no high end silicon lead but is a little more flexible than regular mains cable.

The tip takes solder well and it heats up reasonably quickly for a cheap iron. It's good for through hole certainly, but it's fair to say  I wouldn't want to try SMD hand work with it.

So, it meets my needs, a working iron which is good enough for workshop users and cheap enough for me to buy a stack and not be too precious if they get abused or broken. As they are cheap (and I have the 40w ones too) they are useful for more hacky jobs... One may well become a thermal insert rig on my arbour press for fitting metal threaded inserts into 3d printed stuff! :)

Monday, 2 March 2020

Review, Faithful tools 38mm diestock holder

So most my thread cutting dies are small and around 25-30mm diameter ones and I have a range of die holders that have accumulated over the years of varying quality. I recently needed to cut some M12 fine threads (1.0 mm pitch) and bought a reasonable quality die online without much thought. When it arrived I realised it was a 38mm diameter die and I needed a holder to use it.

I found this die holder online for £8.99 and bought one, not really expecting much than a cheaply finished "do the job" tool. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived that Faithful Tools have done a very nice job on these. The holder section is nicely turned and has 4 different screws to hold the die securely and adjust. The handles are nicely made and reminded me of some apprentice pieces I made a while ago as the have tool blacked the handles after knurling the grip but then have turned down the shaft to reveal the raw steel colour underneath. It's a nice decorative effect but also the tool blacking stops the knurled sections and the die holding section from oxidising as easily.

In use they are very positive to use and hold the die well and allow the user to cut threads nicely. A very nice cheap tool that's finished to a higher standard than you would think!

Thursday, 6 February 2020

New Lathe Restoration project: Super Adept

I've been keeping my eye out for a Super Adept lathe (at a none inflated price!) as I have always wanted to have a play with one particularly after reading this thread about a major renovation and modification of one  over on the Model Engineering forum. These adept lathes seemingly are quite sought after now, despite them having a reputation for not being very good! They were indeed manufactured to keep to a budget, castings can be quite rough and they aren't particularly set up to be precision machines. It's definitely the case that you shouldn't buy one expecting it to be a quality watchmakers lathe without being prepared to do a lot of work on it. 

This one has arrived in reasonable condition with the spindle and spindle plain bearings in fair condition and not worn out. I can adjust the split bearing to get rid of any play on this the original spindle. Many people have modified theirs with new spindles and bronze bushes but until that's necessary on this one I'll stick with the original spindle. After some slight tinkering and adjusting of the jib strips (one of which on the compound slide is in a poor state) the lathe seems to move quite freely and the ways are in good order. 

At some point some disassembly must have occured because the lead screw nut appears to have been assembled onto the wrong side of the carriage. Every picture I can find shows the nut being mounted to the back of the carriage and this makes sense in terms of forces when performing cuts.

There are a couple of other issues that need addressing and I also have some plans for slight modifications. One issue is that the original tailstock spindle lock nut/handle has been replaced with a simple bolt. The original handle (and its been attempted on the replacement bolt) is supposed to have a pip on the end that registers with a thin keyway on the spindle and stops the spindle from spinning. It's not quite enough of a pip left on the replacement bolt and it means the spindle sometimes spins in place and this has created some damage (cosmetic) to the spindle itself. A replacement handle is needed. There are also no accessories with this lathe and as such I need to make or modify some to fit. I need to make some adaptor plates for some small chucks I have that are on a Unimat thread and then it will have a 3 and a 4 jaw chuck. I need to make some centres for it, which is a little tricky as they are apparently an MT0 taper, but none MT0 standard diameters so some guess work and test pieces need to be made. Other items I plan to make include a tailstock centre mandrel for a small drill chuck, a faceplate, miniature driving dog, possibly some new handwheels/handles, some small oilers for the headstock as well as of course fitting a small motor and creating a stand/box/mounting board for it. Stay tuned for updates!

Finally, there's lots of links around for Adept information but I couldn't find anywhere that listed all the thread types for various parts so my own and others reference;

Spindle nose thread 3/8" BSF
Tailstock lock handle 1/4" BSW
Tailstock clamp nut 1/4"BSW
Compound slide nut 1/4" BSW
Headstock split bearing screws 3/16 BSW

Friday, 31 January 2020

Lathe tool height gauge, and the kindness of makers.

Whilst this isn't the most earth shattering of makes I wanted to post about about it as it was nice the way that it came about. So above in the picture is a little gauge I have made using a piece of clear acrylic, a couple of 3d printed blocks and a small piece of mirror. The clear acrylic has been marked using a sharp scriber held in the lathe chuck to mark the height of the centre line of the chuck. Many lathe tools require to be set as accurately as possible to centre height or a position relative to centre height. It can be hard to see around the toolpost and this little tool means that I can quickly shim a tool to the required height and I can look directly down into the tool and see the tool tip and the centre line in the mirror helping a quick and accurate cut. It can be used facing the tool tip or sat alongside the tool if the tool is at 90 degrees to the chuck face. 

I've had this on my to try list for ages but I never seemed able to find a piece of mirror the right size and I didn't want to buy a larger glass mirror and cut it down. Here is where the kindness of makers comes in, I saw a friend of mine on twitter talking about how well this plastic mirror material was cutting on his laser cutter, shamelessly I enquired if he had any scraps that a 30mm square could be made out of, luckily he had a 35mm length of scrap and was kind enough to cut me a few squares and post them up to me. Maker community rocks!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

10 minute make; Laser-cut Polygon Box

A few of us at the Ffiws Makerspace have been talking and exploring the idea of laser-cut boxes and packaging for small products. Last night in a quiet 10 minutes I had a play with an online resource called which is an online generator that allows a user to put in some dimensions for a MASSIVE range of box types and it generates a file to download (it will create .pdf, .SVG or .dxf files). 

So I designed this little polygon box and downloaded an SVG file to open in Inkscape as I knew it would need a little editing for laser cutting. Basically, the file looks like the preview in the image above, you have a red outer line that needs cutting and some blue dashed lines that indicate the fold lines. If you wanted to print this onto cardstock and cut it out it would work well but I removed the blue dashed lines in Inkscape and changes the outer red line to a black 0.0254mm line so that it would cut on the laser. 

After cutting I used a ruler and a point to score the fold lines into the design and assembled it with some PVA glue (it would have been easier with Pritt stick probably for this thin card but it's all I had)!

The results are good, and I imagine if you cut a load and sat for an hour assembling them you would get quicker and more accurate in assembly. Of course, you could also use the lasercutter to add your logo or business details to the box design or personalise for a gift etc. Fun little 10 minute make for sure. 

Monday, 13 January 2020

10 minute make; Alpine Butterfly Knot

Knot tying is a great skill to practice and makes a superb #10MinuteMake. This knot "the Alpine Butterfly" is of interest to me as I use it to tie loops in lines to attach parachutes too for rocketry. It's a good knot mechanically as it can be loaded on the loop and on either side. It can be tied into the middle of a line and also can be used to isolate a damaged piece of line or rope by tying the damaged section into the loop. Really handy! I found this copyleft license-free image that shows how to tie them.