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!