Planet Nottinghack

05 March 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Puzzling Order

I had a nice big order for my laser cut tray puzzles last week, feels like ages since I completed the kickstarter so this batch of 70 took longer than I expected it to. They're destined for the Puzzle Master Website if you're in Canada or the US and would prefer to buy from there.

by (MSRaynsford) at 05 March 2020 08:25 PM

01 March 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Spool Holder

The He3D printer doesn't have anywhere convenient to store a roll of filament so it needed a separate spool holder, there are lots of designs online but I settled for a simple clone of a free standing type designed to fit the threaded rods and bearings I have lying around (M8 rods and skate bearings). (svg here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 01 March 2020 06:25 PM

Goodbye Ender 2, welcome back HE3D I3

I bought the Ender 2 because it was only £100 which was about the same price as spending hours fixing the He3D, it spent 6 months sat on the bench waiting for me to fix it and as soon as I did it's been printing non stop. I ran the outer case for my currently unspecified turbine prop, the ender 2 fared valiantly but there was some separation and severe stringing at the higher levels. This combined with the constant slicing and juggling has made me realise I could do with something bigger.

I rescued the He3D I3 from the loft where it has lived for the last five years. Knowing more about printing this time around I was able to resurrect it fairly quickly. The software to drive things has come on a long way in that time which really helped me get up to speed quickly. The original failure was that the hot end died after a dozen prints. I recently bought a new hot end to replace it for a staggeringly low price of £3 and with a bit of fiddling and juggling I was able to mount it in place. Levelling the bed was easier after all my Ender 2 practice and I was able to print a new benchy straight off.

Now this all probably seems like a backwards step, returning to a 5 year old 3d printer and you would be right; the main purpose of this was not to use daily but to sell onwards. There was so much interest when I resold my £100 Ender 2, I figured an £80 slightly dated He3D would also sell quickly and it did. Now I have £180 to put towards a new 3D printer without feeling too guilty about spending more money on it.

by (MSRaynsford) at 01 March 2020 06:11 PM

29 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Filament Guide

At the back of the Ender 2, the filament feels uncomfortably close to the Z axis lead screw so I went looking on Thingiverse for a filament guide. I found this version which also incorporates a cable holder for the gantry wires. I felt they had been drooping a bit and were in danger of rubbing against the hot bed cables so this is perfect. (stl here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 29 February 2020 11:06 PM

28 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

More knobs

3D printers seem to be excellent for making knobs, these ones in particular are for the bed levelling screws on the ender 2. They need to be super skinny to avoid the rails and wheels under the bed. They've been very useful to help dial in the Z height perfectly. (stl here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 28 February 2020 10:59 PM

27 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Oled Numpad and Display

This project is never going to see the light of day so I guess it doesn't hurt to show it here now. I was tasked with creating this code entry system for an escape room. You enter the code, the numbers appear on the screen and with the correct value an electromagnet box unlocks. I used the ESP8266 because its cheap, has easy mounting points, and can be remotely connected to for future expansion. The whole thing was driven from a small DC-DC so it had 12V and 5V at the same time. The keypad is a scanning matrix and the OLED is driven from the I2C, there is just enough IO on the Wemos D1 to meet all the requirements, but there had to be some juggling to use the TX/RX pins etc.

It looks like the only image I have of the screen illuminated is from the prototype system, the oled had the perfect combination of brightness and readability.

by (MSRaynsford) at 27 February 2020 10:43 PM

26 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Engine Cowling

The turbine blades look out of place without a nice rounded cowl to guide the fluid into them. I extracted the cowl from the same jet engine (so I know it is scaled appropriately), and split it into 120 degree sections so that all 3 parts would fit on the bed together. This print was left to run overnight and I learned a lot about support materials. Nearly 5 hours into the print the machine had only printed a little lip from under the cowl and 75% support material to print the cowl on. I totally should have reduced that lip to a few mm (just the bare minimum to fit into the next piece) and it would have spent far less time printing bits to be thrown away. (stl here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 26 February 2020 09:08 PM

25 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

AR15 Grip

I wanted a handle for my prop, as a complex shape I'm not ready to 3D model it myself yet but on thingiverse there are lots of handle grips available for gun models. These are already sized and sculpted appropriately for peoples hands so it made sense just to grab one of these. The author implies that it should be printed upside down from the flat top upwards, I was a little sceptical about height and balance on my printer so I decided to split it along the middle and do it as two halves with very flat and sturdy insides. (stl here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 25 February 2020 09:01 PM

24 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Stone Tablet Prop

Way back last year I was asked to make a broken stone tablet for an Empire player event. The event happened this weekend so now I'm free to show the prop here. It's made from chunky 6mm mdf, the tablet was painted base grey and masked off with paper tape to reduce the burn marks from engraving. The letters are engraved and outlined to make them stand out against the grey. Finally the slab was marbled using different shades of white and grey colour.

As a prop to be passed around at an event the reverse was also coloured and marbled to the same effect.

by (MSRaynsford) at 24 February 2020 09:41 PM

Printed Turbine

I put my little Ender 2 printer to some heavy usage recently slicing up lots of smaller parts to make a large prop. I practised my 3D modelling skills on the largest part but I've been able to extract some of the smaller parts from existing models. This turbine fan was small enough to fit inside the 150mm x 150mm bedsize as a single piece, it's entirely flat on the bottom too so it seemed like a good place to start. (stl here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 24 February 2020 08:59 PM

11 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Curtain Rail Shim

A very exciting shim for one of our curtain rails now. It's functional and also good practice in 3D modelling. I printed the cone point down so that I didn't need any support material for the overhang. It's a fine tip so ensuring good adhesion to the bed was very important, I used a skirt instead of a brim for this one.

by (MSRaynsford) at 11 February 2020 09:47 PM

10 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Mass Customisation

Something that always stuck with me during my various business studies classes was this idea of 'mass customisation'. The juxtaposition of the two terms definitely stuck in my mind and I was reminded of it today while making the next batch of these spell slot trays. I don't mind which colour the wood gets stained, which font goes on the top or even what scale the trays are (because normal dice only come in a small range of sizes). I can make a quick adjustment to the design in under a minute, cut a tray out in similar time and each person gets something that is custom to them but still 'mass' produced by me.

In general I have a bunch of escape room work completed which I'm keen to post up here (with obscure photos) I just need to get clearance first. Then I've got some ranges of boxes with artwork to share while I'm working on the next projects.

by (MSRaynsford) at 10 February 2020 02:57 PM

07 February 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Double sided edge lit sign

I haven't seen any other double sided edge lit signs before and it's probably with good reason but I think this one came out well enough considering. 'Eldritch' wanted an edge lit sign for an exhibition, arrows on both sides so that it can be pointed towards the stall from either side. Sounds simple enough, their logo is white lettering on black background so the idea was at least workable. I sprayed some clear acrylic sheet black and etched the logo through the paint to make it stand out. The colour contrast is good but you can kind of see the opposite logo on the other side and the arrows didn't quite line up which is always a disappointment.

I used a paint can on the sheet for ease and after reading the instructions I used some fine sand paper to key the smooth surfaces of the sheet. The trouble is that this 'frosting' of the sheet absorbs light from the strip and prevents it from reaching the lettering. There is far less internal reflection so the lettering isn't as bright as it could be. I'm sure the black paint also absorbs some of that light too. The base is simple enough, although I made the screw holes too large for the threads and ended up just gluing the base down instead. 

The whole unit is powered from USB, making it simple enough to plug into the wall or to run from a power bank.

by (MSRaynsford) at 07 February 2020 02:03 PM

24 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

One Way Out Escape Rooms

Today we visited One Way Out Escape Rooms, it was a very impromptu thing due to a request they made last night for someone to play test their new game. The room is called 'Coming home' and it's so new it isn't even listed in their rooms yet. The game itself is great, in fact it's so complete that I felt guilty about play testing, we could only offer minimal advice to improve upon it. One tiny piece was made of card and I felt it would be better/sturdier if made of wood so I knocked this up quickly when I got home.

We've done several of the rooms at one way out now and it's rapidly become my favourite escape rooms. The rooms are actually challenging and full of puzzles and things to do for the whole team. If you like escape rooms I would definitely recommend a visit. If your nervous about doing your first room they've got you covered too with 'the puzzle room', it's an open lounge room where you can solve the clues at your own pace. With no jump scares and horror themes, I like the family vibe they give out and you often see families on their daily photos.

by (MSRaynsford) at 24 January 2020 03:45 PM

23 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

3D printer cooling fan

My largest print to date, a whopping 9 hour print. By various accounts the Ender 2 is missing a cooling fan so there are lots of mods available out there. I chose this one that incorporates a 5015 fan that I already had and moves the existing fan to one side to make the print head a bit more visible. The whole thing printed well but I was surprised how long it took to remove the support material from the middle of the piece. A bit of time to install it and I'm eager to do the next print now.

by (MSRaynsford) at 23 January 2020 11:05 PM

22 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Mandatory Benchy

I nearly got away without printing a benchy but I've had a few bad prints recently and I figured this was a good way to calibrate my printer against known issues and ultimately find some support for the problems I'm encountering. I still don't feel like I'm getting great bed adhesion and the first layer seems to be a little bit thin, the different lines don't really seem to be sticking to each other. I tweaked a few settings for the bottom speeds and it seems to be better now. There are some funny blobs around the edges but I think this advice might fix that. Finally there is a little bit of over extrusion when it's doing overhangs, I haven't quite figured out how to reduce that but while the printing is running on the next project I certainly have enough time to look it up.

by (MSRaynsford) at 22 January 2020 10:01 PM

19 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Caverna Food Tokens

Another custom request for Caverna. The original game comes with lots of wooden tokens for carrots, wheat, wood and stone etc, but the food tokens are punched from cardboard. I was asked if it was possible to make a set of wooden food tokens to go along with all the other wooden tokens. I used a mixture of line artwork and engraving to produce this effect. This is definitely a nice project, because at just 16mm diameter I can make lots of these from my scrap materials.

by (MSRaynsford) at 19 January 2020 10:46 AM

18 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Caverna Mini Expansion Trays

That didn't take long, once I had listed the Water Expansion trays I was asked to also do the Mini Expansion trays. These expansion look like fun for the original game of Caverna, I may have to acquire a set even if it's just so that I can take photos of populated trays.

by (MSRaynsford) at 18 January 2020 10:10 AM

17 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Caverna Water Expansion Tray

I've had the basic Caverna building trays up on my etsy store for a long time now and they sell relatively well. I had a custom request to make a matching tray for the water expansion. I drew the files 6 months ago and showed them to the customer who never responded so, having done all the work, I received no money for it and never actually cut a tray. I figured I should finally get this one listed on my etsy store too because if it's not up there then nobody will know to buy it.

by (MSRaynsford) at 17 January 2020 09:54 AM

13 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Custom Perspex Coins

Some friends wanted some custom made perspex coins featuring Dave's face on them. I generally don't do a lot of engraving so it was a good opportunity to try and get some detail into the face. Lightburn has lots of options for engraving images so after a bit of fiddling I was able to sort something out where you could even see the smile and teeth. 

The next issue was making the engraving round. Lightburn imports and engraves square images so I had to do some image manipulation before importing it. A white circle background with a ring provided the additional details. The reverse was a simple vector artwork for engraving. I had an annoying issue where I moved the sheet when I flipped it over so the reverse wasn't particularly well aligned with the front and I ended up cutting some additional pink tokens to go with the purple ones.

by (MSRaynsford) at 13 January 2020 09:27 PM

12 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

4x6 Useless Machine

The 'big' project I took to maker central was this 4x6 useless machine. I had originally intended to make a 5x5 machine and have a wall of switches to flip but the dimensions of a single sheet of poplar (800x600) made it far more practical to have this arrangement. Twenty four mechanisms were soldered and wired together using a shared battery pack (2xAA) for the whole thing. Each switch has it's own arm so they can all operate at once. There were so many switches I had to draft some helpers in to demonstrate it.

The mechanism is fairly well established now with a simple PCB to solder and hold all the parts in the right places but I'm still pleased with how easily and well it came together. Towards the end of the day when the batteries were wearing out slightly it was possible to flip two switches at the same time and only one of the motors would have the momentum to turn itself off again, but apart from that there were no significant issues with it all day. 

I don't think I've ever talked about the hinge mechanism on this box which makes the whole unit possible. The sides of the box protrude up through the top surface of the box and form the hinges for the flap. Two 3mm pins on either side of the flap hold the flap in place and allow it to rotate freely. The sides of the box overlap into the hole slightly which prevents the flap from falling back through the hole and allows it to rest in a closed position.

I did manage to snag the living hinge section packing up from the exhibition and it cracked slightly, I glued it as soon as I got home and it was barely noticeable, I'm just pleased it happened after.

by (MSRaynsford) at 12 January 2020 04:49 PM

11 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

2x2 Useless Machine

Another very overdue Maker Central project, I wanted something for people to fiddle with on display at the exhibition and I've always wanted to jam a load of useless machines together into the same housing so it was a perfect opportunity. I took my standard useless machine and stretched the skin in both directions to accommodate four mechanisms.  

This box was intended as a quick prototype for a larger 5x5 useless machine, the principles were proven but the box wasn't entirely functional. The upper row of mechanisms had nowhere to brace across in the bottom of the box and I forgot to make any wiring holes between the internal panels. It sat unloved on my bench until a tidy up this week when I realised I should dismantle the 5x5 machine and sell the individual mechanism. I resurrected this 2x2 as a much more compact memory of the project. The additional panel across the bottom is simply glued in place (rather than the hook system of the usual skin) but at least it has all the bracing points in the correct places. I make so much stuff that I try not to get sentimental about things when they have to go but it is nice to keep a few smaller things like this around.

by (MSRaynsford) at 11 January 2020 05:48 PM

10 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Hairdryers and Blowers

The race track for maker central was built to race wind powered strandbeest against wifi controlled strandbeest, the trouble with the wind powered version is finding the wind indoors. This means letting people blow spittle all over everything, providing some kind of wafting device which usually ends up as a whacking device or an electric fan. I bought a few cheap hair dryers but they barely shifted any volume and couldn't make the blades spin. I've used these squirrel cage blowers before for other projects and know they can really shift some air.

The fan runs off a simple 12V power supply which is passed through a microswitch in the handle. The lever for the switch bent into a button shape to form a trigger, that way the fan is only on when it is required and pointing in the right direction.

by (MSRaynsford) at 10 January 2020 04:40 PM

09 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Tripod Repairs

I've been using a cheap and nasty tripod for a very long time, it's a bit broken and rickety but it's functional so I haven't felt the need to replace it. Now that I have a functioning 3D printer though it was a good exercise to create the parts needed to fix it.

First up were the rubber feet, one of these disappeared early on, the new one is made from PLA and isn't as grippy but at least it's not a bare metal end with a chance of scratching the worktops. I was lucky enough to model the odd shaped hole in a way that just about gripped the metalwork, not too tight or too lose. I applied a few spots of superglue to them all to ensure that none of them get lost again.

Next up, one of the knobs was cracked. It was still holding together but it spirals apart when you turn it in one direction. Getting the curves on this part was a good exercise, I simply left the hole in the middle at 4.5mm wide and used an M5 tap to thread it. I removed the M5 threaded rod from the old part, inserted it into the new one (again with a spot of glue) and fitted it to the tripod.

Finally I fixed the handle, I used a slightly different approach with this one. I took the existing part and drilled a new hole in the back of it. This was tapped with an M5 thread as well as the new handle part and a small section of threaded rod used to join the two. This allowed me to make the handle longer without having to wait for the print and the old part is undoubtedly strong than the layered construction of the new handle shaft. All in all a good exercise in printing and modelling and waiting for the 3D printer to finish while laser cutting.

by (MSRaynsford) at 09 January 2020 09:55 PM

08 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Maker Central Race Track

Maker Central happened in May last year, I used to enjoy travelling to all the maker faires and creating new and interesting projects for each of them. I did the same for Maker Central but for some reason never blogged about it. I'm clearing out my photo backlog so here's a few things from May.

Because I was selling my remote controlled strandbeest kits I thought it would be a good idea to have a racetrack where people could try to blow the sail powered kits faster than the motor powered kits. Hacky Racers were also exhibiting at the event so I thought it would be fun to but a 'slacky racers' theme on it for people who didn't go to the effort of making a full sized vehicle. I expect this may make another appearance at future events, it's easy enough to rebrand due to the sticky labels and sellotape used around the edge.

by (MSRaynsford) at 08 January 2020 06:22 PM

06 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Large Countdown Timer Improvements

I made a large countdown clock for a LRP event last year, once the event was over however there aren't a lot of uses for a 99 minute countdown. I offered to put in some additional functionality and turn it into a real clock using an RTC chip. These DS3231 are super cheap anyway and I probably should have included it first time around. The second issue was that the tape I used to diffuse the lights had absorbed some moisture and gone horribly wrinkled. Once the RTC was installed I ended up replacing the front cover with some Mylar stencil material which is damp proof but clearly doesn't do as well at diffusing the light.

Internal to the clock I laser cut some packing foam in the shape of the 7 segments and inserted those into the gaps for the digits. This did a much better job at diffusing the light and made the whole thing functional again. The RTC is battery backed and should hold it's time for a while, it's currently reset by programming on the Arduino IDE but as the main controller is a wemos D1 I suppose I should set it up to access an NTP server from the wifi instead.

by (MSRaynsford) at 06 January 2020 09:57 PM

05 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Custom Decision Spinner 2

The previous spinner didn't spin as well as I wanted so I went off to think about how I would do it differently if I had to do it again. Taking inspiration from the various fidget spinners out there I came up with this alternate design. Instead of spinning a super light arrow, this one spins the whole wheel (again using a bearing). It's a standard 3mm poplar arrangement for the wheel and the arrows but the secret sauce is a 4mm thick, 4mm diameter, insert between the arrows, going through the bearing. It spins a lot more freely and this is definitely a better way of doing it. The attachment to the arrows is a bit weak though and it would probably be better with a 4mm diameter dowel going through all three layers (svg here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 05 January 2020 08:19 PM

04 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Custom Decision Spinner

A friend was asking about the best way to make a custom decision spinner, it seemed a simple job so I offered to do it on the laser instead. The details are all simple linework so it was quick to cut, I used a 3mm bolt in the middle and put a bearing in to make it spin more freely. The arrow hand was coloured black with sharpie. I don't think the arrow really had enough weight so it didn't spin for as long as I was hoping but at least it was functional. (svg here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 04 January 2020 07:02 PM

03 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Light Spacers

The Christmas lights are just neopixel strips hanging from the guttering. In previous years I've tried to make various hangups to secure the strips in position relative to each other and the gutter but over time with the wind and rain they all start to droop and slide between the fixtures. This time around I had some appropriate lengths of 6mm exterior ply so it made sense to create a whole backboard fixture and cable tie the lights at regular intervals. 
The boards were cut by hand and the holes drilled through all 4 boards at once so there wasn't much to laser cut but with that many holes to drill it made sense to create a jig to line up the hole drilling. The four boards were bolted together to avoid slippage and the jig had two of it's own bolts to align it easily with the previous row of holes. The hundreds of holes in the boards were drilled far faster than the strips attached to them.

by (MSRaynsford) at 03 January 2020 09:26 PM

3D Printed Replacement Ladder Lock

The ladder lock broke on my loft ladder, maybe even a year ago. It's a minor irritation but now that I have a 3D printer that functions it's the kind of thing that I can look at fixing. The piece looked simple enough to replicate by measuring so I set about drawing up a replacement. The whole thing took about an hour with my children helping, the 3d print had a 50% infill to ensure it was string enough and took an hour to print (stl here)


The part was 3D modelled using Cinema4D, it's an old demo version from many moons ago. I need to spend some time learning Blender but it's good enough for now.

The piece came out well and 3D printed at a sensible scale. I wish I had included a little bit more room for the yellow sliding latch. I simply included some washers as spacers before pop riveting it back onto the ladder. It works well and seems sturdy enough to last.

by (MSRaynsford) at 03 January 2020 06:03 PM

02 January 2020

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Panto Cake Number 2

There was a second Panto cake I worked on with Dawn this year, she wanted a clock mechanism with hour and second hand. The hands were to rotate quickly to show that the hour had gone past midnight and a rotating cake, on one of my rotating platforms, would show a pumpkin turning into a carriage and back again. It would have been nice if the hands were in sync with the platform but time got the better of me and I settled for hands that worked. There was quite a bit of fettling to get one tube running smoothly inside the other, the gear mechanism was actually the easy part (svg here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 02 January 2020 02:04 PM

365 Things Again

Way way back in 2011 I started this blog with 365 things I made. They weren't good or even interesting and I was mostly learning how to draw but it was an interesting year and fairly productive. I feel like I've lost my way a little bit so I'm going to return to those roots again and do another 365 things this year. It shouldn't be as stressful as last time because I've already got around 100 things I didn't blog from last year due to one reason or another. I intend to share files where possible too which is another thing I've been lacking recently although they may come as bundles at the end of segments.

This year though I also have a 3D printer and other tools so I'm sure the total output will be more than 365 but 365 laser cut things will be my target, I best get started. The new tag will be 365 Again

by (MSRaynsford) at 02 January 2020 01:43 PM

18 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

12 Months of Ninja Warrior Training

Last year I ran, a whole lot and at the end of the year I was looking for a new challenge. Several of us agreed to run a tough mudder in March which seemed like a good idea but I felt like my upper body strength was severely lacking. I'd heard the tough mudder was quite a challenge and I didn't want to fall straight off each obstacle so I thought I should get some training done in advance. I found this place called Ape Index in the middle of Leicester, they do bouldering, obstacle racing and ninja warrior training. As a geek who's seen many episodes of ninja warrior it totally had to be worth a try.

I rocked up the last day before they closed Christmas 2018, the place was heaving with children because I'd arrived in the middle of the home ed session. The guys there showed me round the facilities, demonstrated many obstacles in ways that I could only dream of. The whole thing was very friendly and welcoming, it quietened down quickly in the afternoon, not that it mattered, I was quickly knackered but I knew I wanted more. I was totally surprised by how little strength I seemed to have, I remember hanging off things as a kid but I guess we just don't do that as adults. My shoulders and arms ached for days after and I was barely hanging for any time at all.

I've been going back, pretty much weekly ever since. Sometimes I go to their race nights and join in the challenges, sometimes I challenge myself to complete a new obstacle. I have the place largely to myself during work/school hours so I don't feel too stupid taking videos. I've been posting them for my friends but I just realised I should at least be telling you about this place (clearly now that I'm better at it I don't feel so stupid either). This whole video was taken from a single 2 hour session today, largely over the year I've been posting my progress on a single obstacles so it's nice to reflect on how far I've come since then. 

Nearly every week there is a new obstacle or some crazy activity to copy and attempt to complete. Probably one of my worst and ultimately most satisfying would be this ring climb, 6 staggered rings to lift yourself up between and at the top you're rewarded with a much larger leap to the final hoop. I tried for 3 weeks in a row to get there and I didn't even get a good video of my success, so here are the attempts on the way there.

If you're within reach of Leicester, why not go and give it a try. 

by (MSRaynsford) at 18 December 2019 09:33 PM

17 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Plate Stand

We recently inherited this nice plate and it needed a stand for display. I drew one up quickly with the laser and voila. It's a little bit loose on the joint for the plywood but it's perfectly functional as you can see. (svg here)

by (MSRaynsford) at 17 December 2019 11:56 AM

11 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Lights 2019

My large scrolling display has been re purposed into the Christmas lights for this year (as was always the plan). I spent a little bit of time programming some new light patterns and finally implementing the code that lets me import bitmaps into the display. The images are converted to byte array using one of the many conversion programs, I'd quite like to be able to read images directly off an SD card next.

by (MSRaynsford) at 11 December 2019 10:04 PM

08 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Ender 2 Light Upgrade

I may be getting old or it might just be the combination of black PLA in a dark area but I found it really hard to see the prints as they were coming off the machine. As the printer is new and I haven't done a lot of prints before it's still a novelty that I want to see so I fixed up some LED lighting under the printer head to illuminate the print. I used two sections from a 12V warm white LED strip, I could have patched it directly into the 12V for the head fan but one of the future improvements would be an additional cooling fan to go onto the head, so I took the opportunity to run another 12V line through the conduit. This power supply is tapped straight from the PSU but I'll be looking to add an inline switch once I get the extra fans.

by (MSRaynsford) at 08 December 2019 11:00 PM

07 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Ender 2 Screen Upgrade

The screen on the Ender 2 is flat in the electronics box, it's a bit hard to see what's on it when you're not close to it. The next upgrade I chose to implement is this replacement screen mount, again though it was an 11 hour print so another 30 mins drawing and 2 mins laser cutting and I had a nice wooden replacement instead. The unit is fixed to the existing box using the screen mounting holes, the whole screen has to be brought quite a bit further forwards to ensure that it doesn't clash with the X axis when it homes. (svg here

by (MSRaynsford) at 07 December 2019 02:04 PM

06 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Ender 2 Tool Tray

One of the early upgrades I found for the Ender 2 was this little tool tray that sits in a gap between the controller and the y axis. I downloaded it and plugged it into Cura and after slicing it told me it was going to take 8 hours to 3D print. As with most of these things I redrew it in 2D, lasercut the parts from sheet materials and assembled it. The whole thing took 30 mins from start to finish, the laser cutting part was less than 1 minute. 8 hours vs 1 minute is a massive difference. (svg here

by (MSRaynsford) at 06 December 2019 01:59 PM

03 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Creality Ender 2 3D Printer

Way back in March when my 2nd kickstarter was fully funded and I had a bank account full of money I was directed towards a 3D printer deal that was just too good to pass up. For £100 you could purchase the all metal Creality Ender 2 printer (still available for <£100 from aliexpress). Instead of being a kit this machine only needed minor assembly to make it all functional, I figured I would get it up and running once I had completed fulfilment. 

The Ender 2 has a few known issues, the cantilever style arm is prone to droop and the threaded rod for the Z axis is off vertical. The later leads to some issues with printing larger items and one of the first recommended prints is to create a bracket shim for the stepper motor to bring it all back to vertical. With my machine this angle was so pronounced that the thread jammed and the stepper wasn't able to move the Z axis. This left me unable to 3D print a new shim and the whole printer basically spent 6 months on the bench waiting for me to look at it.

The actual shim only took 20 minutes to measure and draw and less than 1 minute to cut, like many things I can't believe it actually took 6 months to get to this point. Once the shim was in the printer booted fine and produced a rather nice looking sample print. The whole unit is now ready to be put to work.

by (MSRaynsford) at 03 December 2019 02:42 PM

01 December 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Cinderella Carriage Cake

It's Panto season and like previous panto seasons it wouldn't feel right without at least one crazy rushed cake contraption. This year the Theatre Royal are putting on Cinderella so Dawn decided to make a fancy carriage cake for them. Once I have designed a frame strong enough to hold a massive chunk of cake it only felt right to fit bearings into the wheels and have the cake able to roll along the table.

It looks like the cake might have been trying to roll away in this shot.
Cake and Public

by (MSRaynsford) at 01 December 2019 08:26 PM

22 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Headphone hangers

We're a family of runners (which will always feel a bit weird to say). I've run 3 marathons, 50+ half marathons, 2 triathlons and a half iron man so far, 1000 miles last year but I still feel like a desk based geek. Recently the kids, Hazel 6 and Eli 9, stormed through the NHS couch to 5km program and are technically runners too. So now we have 4 sets of headphones dumped in a bowl in the hallway, whenever I want to get my headphones out I end up spending ages untangling them from the mess. I own a laser cutter so this should not be the case.

Four simple hooks, made from 6mm Poplar ply, it took 2 minutes to draw and a minute to cut. The whole thing is glued to the cabinet that was already above the pot. These items are some of my absolute favourites from all of my laser cuttings. Simple designs that make daily life so much nicer, I honestly don't know why it took me 3 months to think of this.

by (MSRaynsford) at 22 November 2019 01:45 PM

12 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Large Scrolling Display

I've been slowly upgrading my Christmas lights over the last few years (and apparently not really blogging it). What started as one 300 pixel string has crept up to four pixel strings last year and I was going to add a fifth this year. The 'From Shadows' event approached with a strong venue that has power throughout and suddenly I was able to take along my light strip and put it to use displaying messages in the gaol. I purchased two more strings (because it's easier to make fonts with 7 lines) and I bought an Teensy Opto adaptor to make connecting them all up easier.

I tried previously to hang up the strips at various intervals across the distance but there was always a lot of droop in the middle and it was tricky to get all the strips lined up horizontally. This time I attached the whole length to four back boards and cable tied them every 15 pixels. This ended up with a very sturdy system where all the strips stay in alignment despite being moved around.

The software ended up being very basic, simply able to take a few programmed strings and output them on the strips in a range of predefined colours. It's quite cool being able to take a colour palette and use that for your colours.

Future plans involve being able to display bitmaps on the display but these strips are now a bit too big and unwieldy so I have purchased some small 8x32 panels to develop on before setting this big one up again for Christmas.

Another cool action shot from Tony Berzins

by (MSRaynsford) at 12 November 2019 06:48 PM

11 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

ARC Prison Facility Door Locks

The 'From Shadows' event was held at the Gaol in Oakham and as you would expect from an urban air soft site held in an old prison there are still actual cells available for playing in. Looking for a futuristic way to indicate if a cell is open/closed and being unable to actually lock people in cells I was asked to make these 'door locks' for the event.

Each door lock is a simple arrangement of batteries and LED's, keeping them cheap allowed me to make ten locks within the budget. The state change from locked to unlocked is done with a micro switch that becomes activated once a key card is inserted into the slot at the top of the unit. Once I started pushing cards into the slot though I realised I would be able to do something much more clever for minimal effort. By taking a number of notches out of the bottom of the card and having a similar notch arrangement inside the slot I could set it up so that each card would only open the appropriate door lock.

The notches use a binary type system with ten possible positions that the notches could be removed from. The two central positions were always coded 01 so that if the cards were inserted the wrong way round they would not activate. The first eight cards were made by moving a single notch across the other eight positions. Cards 9 and 10 used 1100 0000 and 1010 0000 and looking back card 9 could probably open locks 1,2 and 9. Either way they played well at the event and functional props at LRP events are still big and clever.

If you look really closely you'll notice that the door code is encoded on both the lock and the key anyway just in case I got them shuffled up.

Another cool action shot from Tony Berzins

by (MSRaynsford) at 11 November 2019 06:13 PM

10 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Ley Line Crystal

Not everything can or should be laser cut, but the laser can usually help you make the right tools for the things that can't. This ley line crystal is a perfect example. From Shadows asked if I could make a large crystal prop that represented the crossing point of several ley lines. I had a serious think about my options and almost completely forgot that I actually own a vacuum former which is nearly perfect for this job. I could simply vacuum form two half shells of a large gem, paint them and stick them together to form a suitable prop.

The vacuum former is a great tool for turning plastic sheets into fancy shapes but you need something to form over, if I could go down the shop and buy the right thing to form over I wouldn't need to be doing any of this at all, this is where the laser cutter comes into it's own. I found a suitable looking 3D model of a gem online, from there I used Pepakura to unwrap the model into 2D flats with tabs in the appropriate places. I exported the 2D vectors from pepakura and assembled a base cardboard model. I used 3mm mdf to reinforce each of the flat sides of the gem and I glued into the seems to fill the gaps; several applications of glue later it was mostly flush but the seams add texture to the final form anyway.

The molds were nearly too big for the former at this point so I had to heat the sheet without the mold; the additional flex of a warm sheet allowed me to stretch it up and over enough to get the form inside it. Careful appliance of heat, pressure in and vacuum out allowed me to stretch the sheet over the rest of the mold and get a solid pull out of it. This first pull gripped the form tightly, the glue had all heated up and stuck to the sheet along the seams so removing the form was a fairly destructive process. The mold was repaired (thankfully the back of the crystal is less visible than the front) and a second pull was completed. This second pull destroyed the form but the job was done and I had two halves of sheet.

A heat gun was used to gently persuade the two halves of the shape together and make the plastic easier for cutting. The halves were made from 1.5mm HIPS plastic so it was pretty tough to cut while cold and at funny angles. The inside of the sheet was sanded to provide light diffusion, some led strings and tissue paper add some interest inside the crystal too. The seems were highlighted with acrylic wash and wiped as clean as possible. I coped out and used clear tape to secure the two halves together, when pressed securely against the plastic and bubbles smoothed out you actually had to be quite close to notice. The batteries were initially stored in the base box to provide needed weight and once the players started moving it around the batteries were tucked inside the crystal itself.

Another cool action shot from Tony Berzins

by (MSRaynsford) at 10 November 2019 05:42 PM

09 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Mini Teleport Units

From Shadows LRP had it's fourth event on the 25th-27th of Oct. The previous teleport return unit was quite successful so those asked for some more units to be made, only this time they should be a bit smaller so they are more manageable and store-able. Because I didn't have the original unit to hand I opted to make them half the size, in hindsight this feels a little bit small but they are super cute versions of the full blown unit. 

When you push the button the software comes out of sleep mode and counts down from 10 to zero. At zero the whole thing flashes to indicate that the team has 'teleported' in or out of the situation. The unit uses a USB battery bank for rechargeable power but one charge was sufficient to last the whole weekend. As the unit is smaller is was swung around a bit more and there were a few minor issues with cables coming lose internally so I had to strain relief the battery in the middle of Saturday and, players being players, someone jammed a bird feed cage (prop) inside one of the units which caused some damage as it was extricated. The generally held up well though and minimal changes will need to be made before the next event.

This time around I used a 60mm button and a smaller dot matrix screen but I used the same WS2812 chain to add the led's inside the device.

One of the best things about the props being used at 'From Shadows' is that the awesome photographer, Tony Berzins, gets some great pictures of these things in action.

by (MSRaynsford) at 09 November 2019 05:05 PM

07 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Foam Saw Blades

I had a little run on parts for Eldritch, I've done these foam saw blades before but this time I was just squeezing as many parts into the sheet as possible. Where I was unable to cut full disks I cut some half disk instead to really optimise the foam usage. Simon turns them into great, futuristic/post apocalyptic LRP weapons.

by (MSRaynsford) at 07 November 2019 06:20 PM

06 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Flecktarn Stencils

You wait for ages and then three come along at once. I feel like I did a lot of stencils in the last month, these flecktarn stencils were cut for Simon from Eldritch to decorate some of his shields. Two different patterns are repeated at several different sizes over the four sheets two allow them to be used on more items in the future. There were even plans to use the biggest size to decorate an old disused ambulance (Cambulance)

by (MSRaynsford) at 06 November 2019 10:47 PM

04 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Chalk Outlines

Ruth, who drew the awesome goblin on the top of my treasure chest, wanted some chalk outline silhouettes for Christmas decorations over on her 'For Real Serial' website. This 3mm perspex outline was surprisingly sturdy and as always people take much better photos than I do. They look great and would be fun on any tree.

by (MSRaynsford) at 04 November 2019 08:46 PM

03 November 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Pumpkin 2019

It wouldn't be Halloween without a few carved pumpkins, this definitely wasn't done on the laser, it was carved by hand and a bit last minute. I definitely shouldn't have left it so late, especially considering I bought a set of carving tools immediately after Halloween last year. This 8pc chisel set was bought for only £2.25 and it makes the carving process so much easier, it was definitely a worthwhile investment. 

by (MSRaynsford) at 03 November 2019 09:35 PM

29 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

More Stencils

This was a very quick job that came in while I was cutting batches of Stencils. No prizes for guessing who this one was for.

by (MSRaynsford) at 29 October 2019 07:57 PM

28 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Maple Leaf Stencils

I've been cutting a whole batch of stencils recently, keeping my stocks of mylar up for the whole time. Dawn uses these maple leaf stencils to airbrush this wonderful autumnal design onto cakes. They're available to buy from her shop

by (MSRaynsford) at 28 October 2019 07:45 PM

17 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Vale Machine

It's a bit hard to get a sense of scale for this whole machine so I finally remembered to take my camera along and get some pictures of the whole thing set up in the hut. Over the years I've now replaced all of the original panels with new ones, it's quite cool to have this whole machine evolve over the years. It reminds me a bit like hex from the Diskworld books. There are some very minor adjustments left to make in the new year but for now it has gone away for the winter.

by (MSRaynsford) at 17 October 2019 10:10 PM

16 October 2019

Gareth Howell hackergotchi for Gareth Howell

From Imagination to Reality!

In July, we opened our newest exhibition at the National Space Centre, Britain’s Space Race. The exhibition tells the story of early British rocket design, through to British rocket development in Australia, satellite development and the stories of the British engineers who worked on the Apollo programme. It was unusual for us in many ways […]

Continue reading...

by Gareth Howell at 16 October 2019 07:28 PM

It’s all about you (us)!

Are you visible in your museum or science/discovery centre? Do visitors to your space see you, or hear your individual voice as well as that of the organisation? Last May, I attended the Museums and Heritage Show, and one of the talks was about an after-hours event organised by and held at the National Gallery, […]

Continue reading...

by Gareth Howell at 16 October 2019 03:37 PM

15 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Iris Revamp

I made this 5 point Iris way back in 2015, it was entirely wooden and given that it has been stored in containers and moved in and out and around for each event I'm surprised how well the whole thing has held up. Now that it's time to revamp the machine I wanted to keep this piece and turn it into a much more central part.

The Iris previously led to a hole in the wall which could be (but never was) used to put things in and out. It always had the feeling that you were staring into the heart of the machine when you opened it and looked through (mostly because you could see the backstage junk through it). With my recent work on Infinity cubes it was fairly obvious what needed to go back there. This leaves a minor problem though, any large box on the back of this panel is going to be quickly destroyed as it gets moved in/out of storage.

The solution to this tricky problem was to build a cube that could unfold and lie completely flat. The final back panel of the cube could just be a simple mirror and all the led strips remain connected to the walls of the cube as it unfolds. I adopted a much looser design process on this one and cut each step immediately adapting the next as required, the whole thing actually came together quite easily and works extremely well. It was great to hear the oohs and aahs at the event when people opened the iris again and realised it now did something super shiny, even if it was hard to get a picture of it for you guys.

by (MSRaynsford) at 15 October 2019 08:30 PM

13 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Hidden drawers

For another machine panel I wanted a way of passing smaller (smaller than person sized) objects in and out of the machine. The idea was to have a few different sized drawers in the panel, so I cut a few random sized boxes and looked to install them. This was the point where I had a much better idea and had to scrap those boxes. I have a tonne of 39mm squares from my caverna storage trays, they've been accumulating in a box waiting for something to happen to them. I realised they would look great on this panel and then the drawers could be in unit sizes and they would hide amongst the squares. I set out to fill the board leaving gaps for where I wanted the drawers to be and I alternated the grain on the squares to make a very subtle checker board pattern. It was a pain sanding and shimming each drawer down to fit exactly in the gap as required but ultimately worth it because it's hard to see where the drawers actually are when they're closed.

by (MSRaynsford) at 13 October 2019 08:33 AM

12 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Another Treasure Chest

Another custom Vale treasure chest. I like to make them all slightly different because it's still not a massive game and these boxes are likely to be in similar places at similar times. If they were identical it would be really obvious. This one has internal storage trays, utilising some of the space above the smaller resources. The trays secure into place with little dimples to stop them from sliding around on the shelf. There is the usual hidden compartment under the shorter trays too. This is the smallest box so far and has the most space so I'm quite pleased with it.

The lid is cut from two sheets of 3mm poplar, the dragon pieces were removed and painted before being reinserted onto the top layer. There are fine dragon details carved into the black areas using a low power cut, it's hard to see in the pictures but they're definitely noticeable on the lid.

by (MSRaynsford) at 12 October 2019 11:49 AM

11 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Hatching a plan

As part of the revamp of the vale machine, I was asked to make several new panels. I had an idea for a very large hatch that could be used to send big things in and out of the machine. I wanted it to have a sturdy metal feel so I decorated it up in metallic paints with rust effects. The whole hatch is hinged so it lifts up and allows things (or people) access to the inside of the machine. When/if this gets used it'll be fun to see what happens, for now it's bolted shut with a few hex bolts so it's not immediately easy to open.

by (MSRaynsford) at 11 October 2019 08:21 AM

09 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Sliding Tile Pipe Puzzle

I wanted to make a puzzle for the Vale machine that could be used for various different scenarios, lots of different configurations that can be adjusted and connected as required. I decided upon this sliding puzzle with a pipework theme, the goals can be created as required to connect the points around the outside. After a good hour of faffing with routes I ended up just filling the board with at least one complete solution, all points connected and no endless pipes.

Each tile was engraved along two edges which allow it them to have enough slack to slide along each other. With large slide puzzles you can pull on all the pieces at once and generate enough slack to pull them out of the puzzle. To eliminate any possibility of that happening I glued every other tile into position, the puzzle can still be solved by moving round these islands but now the parts can't be pulled out by accident. 

The frame was made with a 6mm gap around the outside so that it can be inserted into the machine panel.

I made a mistake with the corners, tiles would need two gaps to move in and out of the space which they don't have, so when I was assembling it for the final time I made sure to leave the corner pieces in a 'solvable' arrangement

The sliding paths for the puzzle

by (MSRaynsford) at 09 October 2019 12:43 PM

06 October 2019

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Cake Poppers

I have to admit I'm still a bit bewildered by some of these crazy cake contraptions. In this instance, these cake popping stands are used to make gifts 'pop' out of the middle of cakes. For an upcoming exhibition I was asked to motorise two of them so they can be seen going up and down automagically all day long. After a few tweaks and a redesign I ended up using non captive stepper motors pushing TR8 rods up and down. The whole thing uses a simple stepper motor driver and who know the Wemos D1 would be my preferred micro simply because of it's convenient mounting holes. The only other component is a 7805 regulator to supply the 5V to the Wemos board.

by (MSRaynsford) at 06 October 2019 10:19 PM