Planet Nottinghack

13 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford


"Angels Sir, thousands of them". These angle shapes were cut for Sarah Clarke of FluidbyDesign, they're very similar to her other angel shapes, I can't wait to see what she does with them.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 13 February 2016 04:16 PM

12 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Final Vale Box

This is it, I've done all the tweaks and changes and created my final version of the vale box. It has a lock on the front to protect the goods inside, hand holes for carrying (which are a little large). A tray with 6 slots, one column for each coin type and 1 for each mana type. The lid is a nice rounded shape with angle limiting hinges, the only minor tweak left is that Ruth is going to put an image onto the lid for me, but that's not laser cut, that's good old fashioned pyrography.


by (Martin Raynsford) at 12 February 2016 08:35 PM

11 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Wooden Heart Box

Just in time for Valentines I have made this wooden heart shaped box. It uses the living hinge flexi sheets to create fancy curved sides and the rest is all lids and bottoms. This technique could be used for a wide range of shaped boxes, I'd love to try some other shapes if anyone has a desire. I even wrote an instructable about it, feel free to upvote me in the various competitions over there. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 11 February 2016 11:22 AM

10 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Chain Guide

Another piece of anodised aluminium from Rideworks, this time the circles were cut rather than engraved, it's just as effective but it is significantly faster to cut.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 10 February 2016 11:17 PM

09 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Anodised Chain Ring

I've been doing a bit of cutting for Rideworks Mountain Bikes Components while he's waiting for his new laser cutter to arrive. It's hard anodises 7075 Aluminium where the laser engraves away the black parts to leave silver markings on the part.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 February 2016 10:45 PM

08 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Cake Topper

It's a cake topper for a thirtieth birthday cake. Cut from 3mm yellow acrylic, it was made gold and sparkly using glitter and glue to make it stick.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 08 February 2016 11:15 PM

07 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Wargaming Tokens

Evidently there are a million different things that could be laser cut for any given war game and that's not even including the scenery. These are cut in 3mm acid green acrylic and do look better on a darker background than the usual wood surface. You could start a business selling these things if you were so inclined and we happen to know some people who sell quality laser cutters.  

by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 February 2016 10:42 PM

06 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Rune Tags 380

Citizens of the Empire rejoice, you shall have rune tags again this year, and correctly date too. This is the fourth year in a row I've cut a batch of these, the year changes but otherwise it's remarkably similar. I had intended to do them in Obeche instead of Spruce this year but I didn't have enough. True story!

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 February 2016 11:16 PM

05 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Tape Deck?

Not the 80s kind either. I had a massive pile of masking tapes and sticky tapes mostly just getting in the way and cluttering up benches. Two of these stuck to the wall gives me lots of places to store rolls and allows me to take whichever kind I need without disturbing the other (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 February 2016 01:59 PM

03 February 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Majestic Oak Resource Box

I'm getting a bit out of sync but the resource box for Majestic Oak is now finished. I put a chunky rounded lid on the top of the box because it's a bit more impressive than the flat lid it had before. The logo was engraved on the underside of the lid so that it can be seen when the box is opened. This box is going to be on display at the 'What's Your Game' LARP kit faire this coming weekend. Now I can get on with making my box (with a lock on it)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 February 2016 10:40 PM

01 February 2016

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin




01 February 2016 04:00 PM

31 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Lock and Key

This new storage box wouldn't be very good without a way of securing my treasures inside it. I made this lock and key prototype to sit in the front wall of the box. A simple 3 pronged key makes it a bit more interesting to turn. A hook drops down and clips into a latch on the lower half. Definitely file this one under 'should have taken more internal photos' I'll remember to add them when I make the real box up. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 31 January 2016 11:00 PM

30 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Vale Box Hinge

The upgraded vale box needed some hinges for the lid so I revamped these laser cut hinges to be the appropriate shape for the new lid. The lid will still be limited as to how far it opens which is far enough to stay up on it's own but not so far that the lid snaps off backwards.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 30 January 2016 11:32 PM

29 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Vale Logo Engraving

A custom boxed needs a custom logo and before I accepted the job I ran this trial piece to make sure that the vale logo would come out OK. The Leetro controller doesn't really do greyscale engraving so I used with a Halftone plugin to convert the image into black dots of differing sizes which I could engrave. The lettering merged into the background so before I removed it from the machine I isolated the text in and traced it in inkscape using trace bitmap to get me some vector artwork which I could use to draw a line around the text. It really made it pop. I think in the final version I'll turn the power up on the engrave but thunderbirds are go and I'm happy to accept the job knowing I can make it work.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 January 2016 07:17 PM

28 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Vale Storage Boxed

I reboxed my Vale Storage, I wanted to make the mana/coin storage more accessible so that's now in a tray that can pull out from underneath. The other racks sit neatly inside but they've all been moved up to the same height, this allows me to have a bit more storage underneath them. I can stash all my really important things in there. Expect more of this shortly because when the Vale organisers saw it they decided that they wanted their own box and there is a remake already under way.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 28 January 2016 10:28 PM

27 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Kitronik Veneered MDF

While cutting Sams new oak leaf design I decided it would be worth trying on Kitronik's Oak veneered MDF material. Real wood veneers are really nice to cut and these designs look great in real wood.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 27 January 2016 11:07 PM

26 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Shiny Shiny

My Friend Sam was lamenting the loss of laser cutter access so I invited her round to use my laser for a day. She makes really lovely acrylic jewellery available under the brand of shinyshinythingsandstuff. It's probably the closest I'll get to having a guest post on my blog, I was busy tidying up the garage around her while she made a whole pile of things for future sale.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 January 2016 10:30 PM

25 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Dragon Heads

The second part of the Basket Hilt that I sadly missed from the todo list. Cut as a mirrored pair so they can be layered up and have engraved side out on both sides.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 January 2016 10:13 PM

24 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Stop Sign Shield

Pretty much the same arrangement as yesterday but with a classic American stop sign.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 January 2016 09:08 PM

23 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Speed Limit Shield

It took such a long time to engrave away the middle of the other shield it was decided to build these letters up from 2mm foam instead. I used a very low power cut to mark where the letters should go which will hopefully make construction a bit faster.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 January 2016 09:07 PM

22 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Route 44 Shield

This big block of 22mm foam is destined to become a post apocalyptic shield. It's 500mm tall so it's a massive engrave, even at 0.2mm spacing and it took nearly 45 minutes to cut. The letters look great though and the contrast in texture between the smooth letters and the rough background will all add to the final effect I'm sure.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 22 January 2016 09:09 PM

21 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Basket Hilt

This sheet of 8mm foam will wrap around the bottom of a LRP sword to form a basket hilt as shown below.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 21 January 2016 09:36 PM

20 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Windows in Shields

Eldritch has been experimenting with windows in riot shields. There are a lot of modern LARP and airsoft systems that this would be good for. It's really interesting to see what is possible with a little creativity.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 January 2016 08:47 PM

19 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Mini Crossed Hammers

It's not all just big lumps of foam or highly detailed parts, the laser can also make the small and fiddly parts too, these two are cut in 6mm foam and are just 60mm tall, I know I wouldn't have the patience to cut those with a scalpel any more.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 January 2016 07:35 PM

18 January 2016

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

archiemcphee: Wearing this awesome Giant Thermometer Scarf...


Wearing this awesome Giant Thermometer Scarf means never wondering just how cold it is outside ever again. Instructables contributor caitlinsdad (previously featured here) created this functional electronic thermometer scarf using an Adafruit Flora Arduino board, an Adafruit NeoPixel RGB LED strip, humidity and temperature sensor modules, and microfleece fabric.

Caitlinsdad also created a step-by-step tutorial so that other people can make their own “wearable high tech, low tech scarf with a built-in thermometer.”

[via Fashionably Geek]

18 January 2016 04:00 PM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Large bundle of foam

A few weeks back Simon from Eldritch came and dropped a massive stack of foam in my garage with a big request list. I spent a whole day on it at the weekend and ended up cutting a lot of stuff for him. This big pile is just the things that you've seen before, there are many new things lined up for the coming days.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 January 2016 03:44 PM

17 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Moar Linbins

I made some more linbins from my linbin system. The last batch have found homes on various projects and should probably be used in places where I'm using tatty old boxes for project components. I actually made this batch to go over at the Just Add Sharks unit but they fit so nicely at the back of the workbench I think I'll have to make another batch for myself. 

Of course the real joy of these linbins is that you can stack them however you want to. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 17 January 2016 04:54 PM

15 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Flexible Sheet 3

This pattern comes off the square layout and into a hexagonal layout, there are 3 branches to each spiral which gives is natural flex in different planes. (svg here)

All of this is interesting but I mentioned before that most of the flex comes from the base material. I've attached a picture of it here, because it is just 0.8mm thick it can already perform incredible bends that you wouldn't expect from plywood. I'm fairly sure that 90% of the stuff done with living hinges could just be done with this ply, no need for additional cutting.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 January 2016 12:48 PM

14 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Flexible Sheet 2

I decided to draw some of my own flexible sheet patterns because it's always nice to give things back. This is the same layout but with spirals instead of straight lines. The spirals are long and I hoped this would make it more flexible, which I think it is. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 14 January 2016 12:41 PM

13 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Flexible Plywood sheet

0.8mm ply

I saw this instructable a while back on how to cut a flexible ply sheet, the idea is that it can flex in multiple planes at once. I was a bit sceptical and when it came up in conversation again this week I took the opportunity to cut some samples for someone else. The result is a relatively flexible sheet, I wouldn't really call it a super flexible sheet. 

I tested it by pressing it down over an object and seeing how well it deformed. I started using 2.7mm poplar plywood, my favourite material that is already lightweight and flexible. It took about 12 minutes to cut a 200x200mm section. It flexes quite well in one plane and with encouragement in the second. I still wanted more so I cut it again in 1.5mm ply and 0.8mm ply. The thinner the ply, the more flexible the sheet. It helps that the 0.8mm stuff is already called flexible ply and can be wrapped around without any cutting. 

Given the amount of time it takes to do this kind of cutting it would help to have a very specific purpose in mind. The 0.8mm ply can be encouraged to flex around interesting surfaces so it may just be more beneficial to use that instead.

2.7mm Poplar
1.5mm ply 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 13 January 2016 09:36 PM

11 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Skulls and Hourglass

The final image of the bunch, again this one didn't shine up quite so well being white on black but they were nice to try. I can't wait to see what Ruth comes up with for me.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 11 January 2016 10:41 PM

10 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Two Hammers

White on black doesn't work quite as well as black on white but the base artwork is good enough to cover it. The leetro controller doesn't really do greyscale, it's only capable of on/off engraving so this was done using a halftone image. The artwork was prepared in before engraving. I'm working on a greyscale engraving system for my Whitetooth but it's slow going with all my other distractions. You can see how the darker border in the background does actually show up a little. This image would probably benefit from some outlining on the hammers. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 10 January 2016 10:31 PM

09 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Wood burned Art

Friend of a friend, and amazing artist, Ruth got a pyrography kit for Christmas and she's done some lovely artwork on the top of some wooden boxes. These slowly filtered through to my facebook fee and I have commissioned her to draw me something fancy on the tops of one of my boxes. In the meantime I figure I could do some copies of her existing artwork, like a wood burnt print of her original. Of course it will never be as good as the originals but it is a good way to make copies quickly.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 January 2016 10:21 PM

08 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

The best of the rest

I've made a lot of cakes for Dinkydoodle Designs, the BB8 cake was a particular high light, but there was also the flying carpet, the theatre royal and the washing line. It all kept me very busy and usually with very short turn around times.

Maker Faires:
We attended most of the maker faires/Makefests in 2015 as Just Add Sharks and usually built something new and interesting for each one. Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and Derby. Each one also required a stock of kits that took several days to prepare for.

Commission Work:
The commission type projects just seem to get bigger and more involved. Whether it was designing new kits like the pendulum wave (which went through 3 iterations and still didn't work), pint glasses or faffing with other peoples artwork (which has ultimately turned into 50 sets so very worthwhile) it was all rather time consuming. There are a dozen projects here I'm still not allowed to talk about, some hefty commissions for ideas still in development and websites yet to be launched. I'll be sure to update as and when I can.

LARP played it's usual role throughout the year, who knew that 3 weekends away would take so long to get ready for. I'm particularly pleased with the large mechanical iris and the knife switches. It's nice to have a job that can pay for the hobby and I really like the idea that my laser cutting is changing the way LARP weapons can be made. My Vale storage tray had multiple iterations and has only just been finished this week (yet to be posted)

The big success:
One of the best successes this year was the continuous autofocus laser hack. It's a hack and barely functional but it just came together so nicely, figuring out that it could be done and then actually getting it to work was very satisfying. There are plans afoot for more of the same this year, parts have been bought and a second iteration is already under way, this one stands more chance of being viable and reproducible though.

The unmentionables:
Finally there were a bunch of projects that just didn't quite reach completion. Great ideas and concepts that need a little push to get finished and then ultimately were never published. I invented a new type of laser cut hinge, I invented a component storage system to go alongside the linbin storage system. I spent a lot of time fiddling with Laos to no avail yet, there's a flat packing dice tower, a GM screen and a whole bunch of other gaming trays. Man, what have I done with my year I'm so far behind.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 08 January 2016 11:33 PM

07 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Project 9 and a bit

My 12 months are over. I failed to complete 12 very large projects which was entirely predictable from September onwards. It turns out having over 100 customers relying on you for laser installs and support really eats into your time. It's great that Just Add Sharks is so busy I just have to reconsider what I can actually achieve in my spare time now.

Here is a round up of the 9 big projects from last year. Tomorrow I'll do the honourable mentions because I have at least a dozen large projects that didn't quite qualify for a monthly place (I'm still not sure what metric I was using to gauge that)

Project #1: A 3D printer: assembled from a kit it wasn't the most complex build in the world but it did take a lot of time to get running correctly. Shortly afterwards the hot end died and no more was heard from it. It's still waiting to be fixed and it's gathering dust in the garage.

Project #2: Open Source Laser Cutter: I made one of our Blacknose laser cutters run on open source software (namely GRBL). There was a plan to try other controllers and I even bought a LAOS board for it but they're still on the drawing board.

Project #3: Real Space Invaders: One of my geekiest projects of the year, this was great fun to do and play and gained a lot of attention in all the right places. I'd like to redo this so others can play it.

Project #4: Cut and Shut Laser: I cut my Blacknose laser cutter in half, I moved all the electronics from the bottom to the top and managed to fit it all inside the existing spaces. The laser cutter remained functional but it has since been robbed for spares in the unit.

Project #5: Useless Machine 2.0: A complete rebuild of my useless machine, creating a new box that doesn't need any glue to hold it together and electronics on a PCB for super easy assembly. This was a 3 part project because I also made a double box and a smart box at the same time, those 2 didn't really sell and are no longer available.

Project #6: Minecraft Coffee Table: A cute Minecraft esque landscape built into the top of a coffee table. It made use of electric blue perspex to create a water effect in all the valleys. It has gone off to find a home at Kitronik somewhere.

Project #7: Lego Storage Coffee Table: Totally unplanned and probably on the back of the previous project, I just decided we needed a storage system for our Lego bricks. Eli and I built these shelves up in an afternoon, cross posted to Ikea hackers and it's been the most popular thing on my blog ever since, bringing in 50 page views a day.

Project #8: Catapult Range: I wanted something to show how awesome these mini catapults actually are so I made this range to allow kids to shoot at targets. It was a success and I remade the prototype into a better range straight after it's first outing. This scaled it up to a monthly sized project, I even invented a new hinge for it which hasn't made it to the blog yet.

Project #9: Bartop Arcade Cabinet: A fun project based on a desire to play some retro games, this bartop cabinet is one of my most 'complete' projects to date. Once the vinyl skin went on it looked all polished and professional, not like the usual 'prototype' stuff I make.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 January 2016 03:49 PM

06 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Dragon Curve Puzzle

The final pattern from my space filling fractal puzzles. This time I used the dragon curve, the same as the original pattern. You have to get creative at the corners to prevent any overlapping, this is definitely the hardest of the three. I ended up redrawing this puzzle 3-4 times to get the scale right for the board and drawing it all from scratch created hundreds of 90 degree arcs that crashed inkscape on multiple occasions but it's done for now and all that's left is a little bit of tweaking. 
On the backside I've been using Hershey text (single line letters) to label the puzzles, it's super fast to cut and it looks great.

I'll be releasing the files for these 3 puzzles and putting them up in the shop at the same time, so stay tuned.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 January 2016 03:59 PM

05 January 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Gosper Curve Puzzle

The second of my space filling fractal puzzles is based upon the Peano-Gosper curver. It's the same size as the last puzzle but it is harder to do because the shapes form more angles.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 January 2016 02:35 PM

Hilbert Curve Puzzle

Boing Boing recently featured a puzzle made from a space filling curve, it looked pretty good so I took the opportunity to convert my space filling Hilbert curve into a similar puzzle. I'm thinking about listing this in the web store, it's a challenging puzzle because all the pieces look the same.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 January 2016 12:46 AM

25 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from me and Just Add Sharks. It's been a busy year and I'm well behind on Project 12 but maybe I'll be able to squeeze a 10th project out before the year end.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 December 2015 08:45 PM

24 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Gingerbread Deer

The last of my gingerbread experiments for now, there are bigger plans for the new year and more food stuffs to cut but we'll see what happens.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 December 2015 08:46 PM

23 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Gingerbread Tree

I had a whole sheet of gingerbread to cut so I measured the thickness and calculated an appropriate slot in the material to make a 2 piece Christmas tree. Nothing too fancy, below see it decorated by a child (who also drew and laser cut the gingerbread, by which I mean me)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 December 2015 08:20 PM

Plywood Production

This article from Kitronik about the plywood production process is actually really informative and useful. I use plywood in my machine almost daily and it's something I never thought about before. The log peeling is particularly clever.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 December 2015 02:25 PM

22 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Cake Update - Washing Line

The washing line cake also got iced and was presented to Christopher Biggins live on stage apparently. I chuckled when I saw this video clip of it in operation the day before the show.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 22 December 2015 09:31 PM

Laser cut gingerbread

It's Christmas and I know it is possible to laser cut gingerbread so I thought I might as well give it a try. Eli and I made a batch from the BBC recipe and he rolled it all flat using some 6mm ply as guides for the rolling pin. The bread expanded to 10mm thick and I drew some shapes for the laser. We went really slowly 2 passes at 10mm/s @ 80W and on the second pass could see smoke coming out the honeycomb so knew it had cut through. We were left with this intricate snowflake 10cm across and a rather nice negative of it too. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 22 December 2015 07:06 PM

21 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Cake Update - Flying Carpet and Smoking Lamp

Aladdin's Magic Carpet got covered in icing and presented to the actors at the Panto. I don't have any video of it moving while iced but it does look pretty good. The lamp had a steam train smoker in the end of it so it was puffing smoke throughout as well.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 21 December 2015 09:26 PM

20 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

BB8 Cake with all the Icing

Dawn has now finished icing the BB8 cake and the results are incredible. Check out the video over on her facebook page

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 December 2015 12:57 AM

19 December 2015

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

archiemcphee: There’s a lotta things about this tree you don’t...


There’s a lotta things about this tree you don’t know anything about. Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand. This Pee-wee Herman Christmas tree is a loner, a rebel, and also completely awesome.

This amazing tree was created by Pee-wee Herman fan Angela Walsh:

“Thought I’d go a little untraditional this year..Behold, Oh Christmas Pee!! Pretty sure I will never be able to top this masterpiece…complete with homemade bowties and Mr. Herman himself sitting proudly at the top! And my Super Awesome Pee-wee Cut out my uncle made was the perfect finishing touch!”

Angela also made an incredible combination of Pee-wee and Bumble, it’s The Abominable Pee-wee!:


Visit Angela Walsh’s Instagram feed for more photos of her delightful Pee-wee Herman-themed Christmas tree.


[via Pee-wee Herman]

Life decorating goal.

19 December 2015 04:00 PM

18 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

BB8 Cake

I wasn't really spending time creating an droid from a nearly 40 year old movie. I was tasked to make a moving head for BB8, I just realised I could make the same model applicable to both droids. The second servo controls the nod motion for the head. It is programmed to have several different movement pattern. Again the sphere body is just for representation and will ultimately be replaced by cake.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 December 2015 11:23 PM

17 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

R2D2 Cake

Rushing to be in time with the release of the star wars film I'm been drafted in to make some moving frames for droids. The cage for the body is a bit of a place holder as it's ultimately going to be made in cake. The head simply sits on top of the cake and is entirely self contained. An arduino nano drives a 9g servo to provide pan motion of the head. A 12cm plastic dome finishes of the top and is ready to be iced.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 17 December 2015 11:19 PM

15 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Ill Tempered Mutated Sea Bass

At the start of the summer I bought one of the uber cheap laser engravers from China. We wondered if it was worth stocking them on Sharks (it isn't). The acrylic plastic feet on the ends of the machine were cracked upon receipt, the screws were done up too tight. Now I started fiddling with it 2 of these feet just fell off, it was a simple matter to cut myself some new ones and I made them out of 6mm Birch so they're tough as old boots.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 December 2015 10:47 PM

13 December 2015

Spencer Owen hackergotchi for Spencer Owen

Retro Challenge January 2016 – Preamble

So, you may well remember that I entered Retro Challenge 18 months ago, and what a fun crazy busy time that was!  Well, the January Retro Challenge competition is about to kick off in just over 2 weeks.

If you’re not familiar with Retro Challenge, shame on you!  But you can de-shame yourself by heading over to and seeing what it’s all about.  Essentially, it’s a month long bi-annual competition where the entrants set themselves a goal based around old school computing and blog, tweet and share their experiences.  The goals are pretty loose, as long as they are based on something from last centuary (modern emulators of old kit is fine).

The challenge I set myself was to take a breadboard based Z80 computer and bring it to life in modular PCB form in such a way that I could spell out my name on.  Have a look back through my blog to see how I did.  Spoiler —->


A lot has has happened in the last 18 months, and the RC2014, as my Z80 modular computer has come to be known, now has it’s own blog, some tweaks and is on sale in kit form on Tindie.  This is all very well and exciting, but I can’t rest on my laurels.  I have to come up with something to top it for 2016.  I don’t think simply renaming my RC2014 computer as RC2016 will quite cut it!


According to the entrants list, I have defined my challenge as

Following the success of the simple Z80 I made for Retro Challenge 2014 (which I creatively named RC2014), I have decided to build on this and make it the basis of a classic 80’s computer clone. It already shares some similarities with the likes of the ZX80, ZX81, Jupiter Ace, Spectrum and a bunch of other machines, so adding in some modules with the circuitry bespoke to these machines and the appropriate ROM should give me a working replica.

Of course, this could all go badly wrong and I spend a fortune designing PCBs that don’t work, but, hey, that’s the fun of Retro Challenge, right!

So, what will this involve?  Well, essentially this is a reverse engineering challenge.  And a PCB design challenge.  And putting-it-all-together-and-hoping-it-will-work challenge.

Firstly, the reverse engineering part.  As far as computers go, there’s nothing too complicated about the Jupiter Ace or ZX80.  The ZX81 is actually much simpler than the ZX80 due to a whole load of circuitry being condensed in to a single chip (ULA – Uncommitted Logic Array).  The Spectrum has it’s own ULA and a whole load of extra circuitry too.  At the moment, I am resisting the urge to look at the circuit diagrams for these machines (that’ll be cheating if I started now!), but from memory the keyboard stuff is the same or very similar across all these machines, and the video side is pretty similar.  CPU and ROM are pretty much the same, and although RAM size will vary, that is kind of the same too.  I’ve just got to take various RC2014 parts (CPU, ROM, RAM) out of the other machines and work out what’s left and how it goes together.  I am expecting to have a module for keyboard interface, a module for video output, a module for cassette interface (although I might not bother with this), and something else to stick it all together.

The PCB design side of things shouldn’t be too bad – although due to how long it takes to get a board made in China and shipped over, I have got to get things worked out pretty quickly if I stand a chance of completing things within 4 weeks.  The RC2014 was designed with Veroboard in mind, so if I’m really up against it, that could work in my favour.  The other thing I might be limited by is that the RC2014 header only has 4 spare bus pins (6 really, if I’m not using the serial IO board), so I need all the modules to be as self-contained as possible.

Putting it all together should be ok, although if there’s any design problems I won’t have time to spin up some new PCBs – so there might be a lot of bodge wires involved.  Maybe even some board to board interconnects – although I’d like to avoid that.

Can I do it?  Well, we’ll see.  But due to the simplicity of the ZX81 with it’s ULA, I’d say that has the highest chance of success – although of course, it’ll mean sacrificing a working ZX81 to get the ULA out.  A working ZX80 replica is my real target, as this uses all standard logic chips.  I think this should be quite possible, although there might be some big unweildly boards.  The Jupiter Ace isn’t too dissimilar, although it does have some weird memory stuff going on (it has 6k of memory although it’s doubled up so only 3k is available), that might pose some issues.  A ZX Spectrum based on the RC2014 is actually a bit of a pipe dream.  Even using a ULA out of a Speccy, there’s still a lot of support circuitry that makes a Speccy a Speccy.

Hopefully, as a by-product of doing this, though, I will have working modules for things like keyboards, tape or video interfaces that will add to RC2014s general usability.

If you use Twitter, follow @ZXSpectROM for updates, or check back here throughout January for my tales of woe and exctiement!

by Spencer at 13 December 2015 05:08 PM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

First place trophy

Here is the first place trophy for the war gaming competition. The trophies were all handed out yesterday which means I can show this today. I outsold myself, stretched the budget and spent a lot of time making a trophy as good as I could. The wings are made from wood veneers and are a remake of a previous item. The laurel wreath was redone with each leaf as a separate piece of 0.8mm ply. The wooden spoon was bought from the shop. The rounded base is a variation on my useless machine and the plaque made from silver/black engraving laminate. The ribbon across the middle is two layers and engraved onto 1.5mm walnut.  

by (Martin Raynsford) at 13 December 2015 01:39 PM

11 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Carcassonne in the Wild

I finally released my Carcassonne tile set. It's gone out onto Thingiverse so I can see just how many people download it. Currently the images don't appear to be loading over there but I can't tell if that's just me.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 11 December 2015 10:44 PM

04 December 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Nothing in Particular

This is a post about nothing. I meant to write it a while ago but I got distracted making lots of awesome things and posting about those. I used to write about my laser cutter all the time because there was always some way in which it was failing or needing improvement and I don't do that any more. The simple fact is that I don't have anything to write about.

I've had my Whitetooth laser cutter for about 18 months now. We started our own laser cutter company, so using our own machines day in day out and posting all the awesome things seems like a no brainer. In those 18 months I haven't had a single problem with my machine, 

The extractor fan draws all the dust and particles out of the laser so the machine stays pretty clean, the smoke actually goes out the back which was a shock having seen other lasers. 
The fine pitched mirror screws and locking nuts make alignment very simple (no more allen keys for adjustments) and the machine actually stays aligned during use. In 18 months I've aligned it once and only 1 mirror had slipped.
The laser is the fastest machine I've ever owned and the beam is super narrow allowing me to do more intricate work than ever before.

Because I'm not spending my time having to fix this laser I've had far more time to mess around with it while still getting my work done. My autofocus hack proved to be rather popular and has definitely got me thinking about how I could implement something more practical and I even got to play space invaders on it. 

I shall continue to say nothing more about it, singing the praises of a machine I actually sell is incredibly self serving but I just wanted you all to know that in this case no news is most definitely good news. (and I promise to blog the interesting modes of failure when I do finally experience them)

In the meantime PEW PEW onwards

by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 December 2015 09:48 PM

Matt Little hackergotchi for Matt Little

The Curious Electric Company...?

No image

We have recently opened The Curious Electric Company to sell our range of electronic kits.

We wanted to supply a range of kits which link us, via technology, to our environment. This inlcudes monitoring nature, measuring weather, interacting with the surrounding environment via sensors and displaying data for people to intereact with.



by (Matthew Little) at 04 December 2015 10:54 AM

29 November 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Moving Washing Line

In the latest of weird cake things I've been making this one is a washing line. The washing line moves left and right carrying the clothes that are hung from it. It's mostly hand built rather than laser but but there is a very basic box over the electronics. The big challenge is that the 2 outfits hanging from the line could weigh up to 2Kg each. It's a massive strain across that span so I'm really hoping it holds out. The rope winds up on one drum as it winds out of the other one leaving the total amount of string on the line roughly the same.

As usual more images of these things when they get covered in cake.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 November 2015 11:28 PM

26 November 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Aladdins Magic Carpet

The newest cake project is Aladdins Magic Carpet. Aladdin will be made of cake and we wanted him to be sat on a flying carpet. The prospect of making 10Kg of cake wobble around was a bit too much for me so I came up with this contraption instead. The whole device is based upon a Gimbal. The inner ring is fixed to some cake frame pillars which will make it easy for Dawn to attach her cake Aladdin onto. The outer ring of the gimbal is driven by 2 servo motors to get movement in X and Y axis. The 'carpet' itself is made from some vacuum forming plastic, it will eventually be covered in icing. Because this plastic can be easily heat formed I took a hot air gun to it to give it some shape but also strategic bends on the corners also give it a lot of strength (you can see how much it was drooping in the video)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 November 2015 11:35 PM

24 November 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford


A new project that I'm working on requires a two axis gimbal that holds the item in the stationary while the rings around it move. It's made from 3 layers of Birch ply with the middle layer placed at right angles to the outer layer to keep as much strength in it as possible. The whole thing can only be 9mm thick when flat so I had to embed the bolts into the middle of the wood (bit hard to see now) and the rotating side of the gimbal uses an acrylic insert to minimise the friction while rotating. It's definitely functional but needed a few more tweaks for my intended purpose.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 November 2015 11:09 PM

23 November 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Mini Bin with Lid

In a further development from the Agricola bins I did a quick test piece to see if I could make a lid for each bin. Games don't always stay the right way up and tokens can be flipped out of the bins, The lid sits in grooves that have been engraved into the sides. I was worried about weakening the sheet but it seems fine. Now I'm just wondering if it's worth doing for the whole box. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 November 2015 11:06 PM

21 November 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

New Agricola Storage bins

Project #43 was Agricola storage bins, they were sold to someone who wanted them and I vowed to make myself another set. Of course if I'm remaking the set I might as well add some design revisions and then if I'm doing revisions I'm sure I can improve the layout and then I can make the boxes better and OMG that was over 2 years ago. So yes I have finally remade myself some bins, but I won't be getting too attached to these either because I know some people that want them already.

The bins were redesigned from the ground up copying the Linbin system I designed. The living hinge base panel makes it easy to scoop tokens out of each bin. I had to glue the boxes together to maximise the volume because space is tight in the box and I can't afford any dead space. I shrunk the middle row of bins and added an extra row to hold the square tokens. The playing boards go over the bins and stop the tokens from moving between bins and the Occupation and Improvement cards. The whole thing packs into the original box and the lid sits flat (very important design feature)

These bins are available for sale although it might be a few days till I get round to putting them in the store.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 21 November 2015 09:35 PM