Planet Nottinghack

22 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

Olive the Owl, from the most recent Let’s Knit extra. I...

Olive the Owl, from the most recent Let’s Knit extra.

I like how the fan and feather pattern works so well to make the horns and the body, and I’ve never actually tried it with striping colours, and it works really well.

Although I used the free yarn to do the body, arms, and wings, I did need to change the colour of the wings due to running out of yarn, and I got out some yellow for the beak and slightly-thicker black for the eyes.

22 December 2014 06:20 PM

19 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Snow White Panto Cake

This cake was made for the Snow White Pantomime after show party. The mirror and book you've already seen, the dwarves we repurposed doozers so they shook their heads and sneezy sneezes. The photos are stolen from the cake frame fb page and I can't wait to see some uploaded video from the event.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 December 2014 07:37 PM

18 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Fairytale book

Part of the snow white cake is a large fairy tale style book. These pages are to be covered in colour printed icing and will stand up in the middle of the cake.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 December 2014 07:29 PM

17 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Snow Whites mirror

After Fraggle Rock we moved on to the next cake. This was another moving cake for the after show party of a Snow White Pantomime. A lot of the mechanism were re purposed but there were a few new parts as well.

The mirror was made from 6mm ply and has a row of LED pixels hidden around the edge of the mirror to provide some colour changing illumination. An Arduino Nano drives the LED's using the fastLED libraries. The front panel is detachable so it can be decorated with cake while flat and then put into position.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 17 December 2014 07:26 PM

Matt Little

Arduino and LED Matrix Display

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I was asked to build a BIG LED display for a pedal powered cinema for a film group in Brussels (more about that in another post).

I found these huge displays from Embedded Adventures and had wanted an excuse to have a play with one of them for a while.

This is a post about getting the display working with an Arduino Uno.


by (Matthew Little) at 17 December 2014 11:38 AM

16 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Foam Sword Finished

Eldritch has just finished up another laser cut sword and it looks fantastic. Sure it took a recut and way too long to get done but it was worth it. Hope it's new owner really enjoys it.

In other news it appears he's also found someone else to do laser cutting for him, I guess this is one of the perils from selling mutual friends their own laser cutters

by (Martin Raynsford) at 16 December 2014 12:58 PM

13 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

nowonlyghosts: sixpenceee: Margaret Hamilton is a computer...



Margaret Hamilton is a computer scientist and mathematician. She was the lead software engineer for Project Apollo.  Her work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing. She’s also credited for coining the term “software engineer.” 

Those stacks are the code she wrote for Apollo 11. Incredible.

13 December 2014 11:08 AM

12 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Laser Cut Knob

At last years model engineer exhibition we had a knob 3D printed for the Blacknose Laser cutter. I thought I'd made a bit more of it at the time and at least included a photo but apparently I didn't. Anyway... We had a whole bunch of them 3D printer and started shipping them out with the lasers but if you get poor adhesion on a layer and a slightly stiff Z axis you can snap the 3D printed ones in half.

So just in time for this years expo I took on the challenge of laser cutting a better knob (literally just in time, I should have been in bed 2 hours ago). The knob needs to fit onto a 5.5mm square shaft. Wood is nice to hold but it shears off pretty quickly so I used a mix of wood and acrylic. The acrylic core runs vertically and absorbs a lot of rotational torque, the square and shaft also mates with the Z shaft well. The knurled top of the knob makes it easy to grip.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 12 December 2014 12:18 AM

06 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Large Ring Lift

After seeing my massive marble machine ring lift I was asked to replicate the lift only to make a lifting mechanism for golf balls. This one needed to be motorised, slightly larger but didn't need the spiral so I basically ended up redrawing the whole thing. There was a minor issue with the drive gear shaft shearing off so I replaced the gear with an acrylic version and it seems to be running fine. It works well though and I can't wait to see the rube goldberg it's going to be used in.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 December 2014 09:59 PM

04 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Badge Round up

I made 6 badges in total but these are the four I am now listing in my web stores, it's not too late to get them for Christmas.  The amusing thing about working on tiny scale items in a massive laser is that the honeycomb bed just becomes additional work surface and you can keep multiple sheets of wood/veneer ready for cutting on the bed.


by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 December 2014 11:48 PM

Christmas Badge 6

I saved the best for last. I'm really pleased with the stripey candy effect and the blue ribbon.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 December 2014 11:47 PM

03 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Badge 5

Another 1 from the trio, I learnt my lesson and simplified this a little. The nose is still 1.5mm wide so it is in danger of being lost. The blue wood veneer is great.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 December 2014 11:40 PM

02 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Badge 4

This is the same tree from the Christmas Trio but obviously much smaller. Too small in fact, the dots are 2mm wide and the strips are 1.5mm wide. It's a nice badge but I don't want to make more than one.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 02 December 2014 11:39 PM

01 December 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Badge 3

There is a small etch all round the edge of these holly leaves. It make a big difference to the final piece but it did increase the cutting time from seconds to 2 minutes, worth it though.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 01 December 2014 11:29 PM

30 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas badge 2

Not entirely happy with the alignment of these veneers, they slipped while gluing but also not very happy with the overal design so will abandon this one here. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 30 November 2014 11:25 PM

Spencer Owen hackergotchi for Spencer Owen

Printing Xmas Tags Like It Was 1983

Yesterday this tweet appeared on my Twitter timeline

Now, being the geeky retro Sinclair fanboy I am, I read it, understood it, and retweeted it.  Obviously.

(In case the attachment doesn’t show, click here it is in its full technimonocolour glory)

It’s a page from the November edition of Sinclair User, and has a simple program for a ZX81 to print out Xmas gift tags.  It made me wonder just how many people back in the early 80’s would have gone through all that trouble ( and expensive thermal paper!) just to make tags.  And, 31 years later, surely nobody would go to all that trouble either.  It seemed so simple it got me wondering if I could (or even should) give it a go myself.

On the face of it, the hardware requirements were very simple (and all in my possession).  The program itself was very very simple.  So, how hard could it be?  So, this afternoon, I set about recreating all the pre-Christmas excitement of 1983

Two and a half hours later this happened;

Admittedly that two and a half hours included a bit of time checking which of my two ZX81 worked (neither fully – combined; 1) and digging around for a transistor to do the ‘composite mod‘ for a decent TV picture.  Most of the rest of that time was spent drawing grid lines on a print out of that listing to see which 2×2 graphic characters were used where in the image or searching around the keyboard for the right combination of keys to get the appropriate keywords or graphics to show up.  Believe me, navigating the ZX81 keyboard is no trivial thing!  But suffice to say, using a ZX81 to mass produce your Xmas tags probably wasn’t the best use of your time in 1983, and certainly isn’t now!




I don’t know if Jonathan Court of Poole, Dorset is still developing ZX81 software, but, if he is, and he finds this blog post, I would like to thank both him and Your Sinclair for saving me the cost of actually buying Christmas gift tags this year :-)

And thanks also to Your Sinclair RnRY for tweeting the article and AnnaBeep for bringing it to my attention.

Also… if you’re looking to buy some snazzy Xmas gift tags this year, well, you know where to come!

by Spencer at 30 November 2014 08:48 PM

29 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Christmas Badge 1

I've been working on some Christmas brooches for a craft faire I'm going to this week. Feels a bit like working on project 365 again. This robin, and these items, are made from a poplar ply backing and covered in layered wood veneers to give it some depth.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 November 2014 11:21 PM

27 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Square Pumpkin

After the great boxplosion of twenty fourteen my cubic pumpkin got rather neglected. Halloween came and went and I was busy working on Fraggle rock so this week I decided to carve the pumpkin rather than let it go to rot with all the others. It's a lot squarer than the first one and it made carving the flat faces easier but I'll give it another shot next year and see if I can get the things I really want cut into one. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 27 November 2014 10:22 PM

Chuck Type Burr Puzzle

This is a 24 Piece, Chuck Type, Burr Puzzle, made from 12mm Poplar plywood. The chuck type burrs have U shaped sticks of varying lengths and 1-2 locking sticks to keep the whole puzzle together. The locking pieces were made by creating a U shaped stick and then rotating it 90 degrees and removing the locking section. It's also possible to make a 6 piece burr but the larger puzzle is much more interesting to assemble, plus you can make the 6 piece with parts from the big one (svg here)


by (Martin Raynsford) at 27 November 2014 08:34 PM

New Page

I get a lot of questions about what machines I'm using so I've added a new page to the top bar so readers can see what my current set up is at any given moment.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 27 November 2014 01:06 AM

26 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Micro Crossbow

Inspired by the King of Randoms Micro crossbow on Instructables I decided to up the ante a little and laser cut a matching crossbow but this one has a trigger to launch the projectile. I'll be writing an instructable for it shortly but for now here is the file (svg here).

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 November 2014 02:43 PM

25 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Winter Trio

Clearly I'm in a festive mood this evening because I've made 2 more characters to go with the snowman.(svg here)

They're now available in my shops too 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 November 2014 10:10 PM

12mm Snowman

12mm thick that is, using the 12mm ply allows the snowman to stand up without need for additional support. I'm off to work on the next stand up design.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 November 2014 07:54 PM

EMF Camp Light beacon

I made this light beacon for EMF camp (you can just about see it in this post). It sat on top of the laser and span round slowly shifting between 2 colours all weekend. People like Blinkenlights and I got a few compliments on it, especially as we left it running in the dark all night. Not bad for something slung together in a field. I never got round to posting it. I had a lot of fun with yesterdays alarm clock though so I thought I'd resurrect it and put a whole bunch of new patterns into it.

I didn't quite get as many done today as I hoped but I did have fun coding and I also got electrocuted by it (entirely my own fault). I have at least set up a framework for adding animations, so next EMF camp/Maker faire I can just add patterns as I think of them. Here is a short video of the 4 patterns it now cycles through. It's no LED cube but it's a start.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 November 2014 01:46 AM

24 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Stellated Dodecahedron II

This item is nearly 12 months overdue but I'm really pleased I actually got round to finishing it. It's another small stellated dodecahedron but it is much better known as Gravitation by M.C. Escher. 12 Turtles sit amongst the shape, the turtles are not fixed down instead relying on the framework to hold them in place. When rotated the turtles rattle around which makes a pleasing noise. Each turtle outline was cut from ply and painted before it was returned to the laser cutter to have the details added to it. 


by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 November 2014 03:56 PM

Childs Sunshine Alarm Clock

Eli sleeps with a little Gro Clock in his bedroom, for those that don't know it's an alarm clock the switches between a day and a night image so children who can't tell the time know when it's acceptable to get up in the morning. I would recommend them. Sadly I left ours at Grannies after the weekend and Eli wasn't keen to sleep without it. So I rummaged round the garage, found some parts I knew were out there and knocked together this arduino based version of the same clock. Being Arduino relied on the existing libraries to write the code quickly.

  • Power for the whole arrangement comes through the USB connection
    5V, GND from both the RTC and the Neopixel Ring are connected to the Arduino.
  • Data in from the Neopixel Ring connects to Digital input 2 on the Arduino
  • SCL of the RTC goes to Analogue input 5 on the Arduino
  • SDA of the RTC goes to Analogue input 4 on the Arduino
Full source is available for download from here 
  • The first lines of the setup function define the time that the alarm will go off
  • The RTC and Neopixel ring are initialised
  • Two alarms are created, one at the time previously specified another an hour later
  • The main loop of the program does nothing except create a delay that keeps the timer ticking
  • LightsOn function, creates the short sunshine animation when the alarm goes off
  • LightsOff function, switches the LED's back to night time colour

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 November 2014 12:44 AM

23 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Koch snowflakes

I'm heading to a local craft faire at the start of December and I wanted to make something Christmassy and pocket money priced. Given that the previous tessellations have gone down well I thought these Koch Snowflakes tick all the boxes will still being geeky and Mathemagical. I'll let you know if they sell well :) 

After several requests these snowflakes are now up for sale in my webstores

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 November 2014 12:00 PM

22 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Laser Install

I've had my Whitetooth laser cutter for about 6 weeks now, it was pretty much dumped in the middle of the garage, wired up and left to run. The extraction used 150mm pipe and the hole in the wall was 100mm so I've been opening the garage door whenever I wanted to laser cut.  This week I finally got round to connecting it in properly and sorted out the tangled mess of wires. I still need to connect in the Blacknose to the extraction system and I'm waiting on a T piece to do that but it's starting to look pretty good out there. Oh and I do need to find a better way to keep the laptops on their precarious perches.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 22 November 2014 11:21 PM

Small Stellated Dodecahedron

As the title says, it's a small stellated dodecahedron. 12 identical panels interweave to form this dodecahedron shape. The ends clip together and hold in place although my stuff gets handled quite a bit so I put some glue in there too. It's very much an assembly puzzle but not as complicated as the Frabjous. (svg here)

This was made from 1.5mm external ply which is nasty to cut and is proper black all the way round the edge. Thankfully I think I've worn most of the charcoal off with the assembly. I keep meaning to rant about how poor quality the 1.5mm ply is because everyone passes off external ply as laserable, but I think there may be a new supplier in town shortly with some better quality stuff so I'll wait for that to happen and then shout their praise from the rooftops (again)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 22 November 2014 07:33 PM

20 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Enclosures with easy/reuseable access

Matt Brailsford asked if it was possible to make a laser cut enclosure with easy access for a battery compartment. My brain did it's annoying thing and designed 2 different mechanisms and wouldn't let me stop thinking about it until they were actually made. I made these two test pieces and I'm sharing the concept now because I'm sure other people will find them useful. Both boxes use recessed bolts so they sit completely flat on the work surface and they also use captive nuts to screw the lids down. (svg here)

Flap Access
This is my preferred design, a single screw secures the access panel in place. Two hinges stop the lid from coming out at the other end. The captive nut is rounded off because it sticks slightly out into the access area. A lip all the way round the edge stops the lid from falling into the box. The downside is that this lip uses quite a lot of material.

Base Access
Four captive nuts, one in each corner, allow the entire base to be removed. The corner blocks make the box sturdy but it can be pretty time consuming to remove all four screws.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 November 2014 12:19 AM

19 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Musical Sugru Ear Defenders

With 2 lasers now running in my garage the pumps and fans can really drone on (I'm yet to box them in to make them quieter). I've been wearing my ear defenders quite a bit recently to help keep me sane (and to keep my ears warm) but I also like listening to music while I work and the two are not very compatible. I headed off to the interwebs to see if headphone ear defenders were a thing and it turns out they are. £33 will get you a set of defenders with an audio jack input, being a bit of a cheapskate I suddenly realised that I could add headphones to my £3 ear defenders, have them ready asap and have spent significantly less amounts of money on them.

The process was pretty simple. Drill some holes in the side of the defenders large enough to pass in some ear buds and then hold them in place with some sugru. Job done, everyone has a pair of ear buds kicking around and I picked up the sugru at one of the many maker faires I've been to, so not only did I have a set by the end of the evening I also didn't have to pay anything extra for them.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 November 2014 11:02 PM

17 November 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

Me when sewing.

Me when sewing.

17 November 2014 04:00 PM

11 November 2014

Matt Little

Enginnering in Development 'Energy' Book

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Over the past two years a number of people have been working on a series of books for Engineers Without Borders placement volunteers.

These books are designed to cover the basics of the theoretical, practical and social aspects of doing engineering projects for devlopment. They are meant as a basic guide, a collection of case studies and links to further information.

I have helped co-athour the Energy book and it has been published and released as a free .pdf.

I'm very proud of the final result which, I think, is an amazing resource.


by (Matthew Little) at 11 November 2014 02:53 PM

Wind Empowerment Conference 2014

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For the past week I have been at the 2nd Wind Empowerment conference in Athens.

Wind Empowerment is a network of groups working on Small Wind Turbines, with a particular focus on the Hugh Piggott designed wind turbine.

The conference was an inspiring mix of interesting presentations, hands-on workshops and social fun. Around 45 people from at least 10 countries attended.

Here are some notes and photos from the event.


by (Matthew Little) at 11 November 2014 10:11 AM

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

notanicedragon: The double knitting technique is great. It has...


The double knitting technique is great. It has a light side, and a dark side, it binds the scarf together… you can see where I’m going with this can’t you. I only found out about double knitting this past summer and got monumentally carried away. This Star Wars Scarf is just one of the results.

Click on the knitting charts for full sized images. They are worked in order bottom to top.

11 November 2014 09:16 AM

09 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

12mm ply wood

I now have a whitetooth laser cutter stashed in my garage, with it's 80W laser tube I know it was capable of cutting 12mm laser ply at a decent speed (18mm/s) but I hadn't actually got round to making anything out of it. I decided to break into my pile of 12mm ply by making a very very large version of my marble machine. 40mm wooden balls now roll around a quadruple sized version of MM1. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 November 2014 10:39 PM

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

Life at the Hackspace.

Life at the Hackspace.

09 November 2014 11:07 AM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Carcassonne game release

I tried to run a kickstarter style campaign to build up to the release of my Carcassonne files. For numerous reasons we never actually reached the £500 I was hoping to get, but I have decided to release the files anyway to the people that participated.

I will continue on with my running total and once I reach the required amount I will release the files into the wild, but for the mean time you can still purchase them for a small £10 payment.

£200/£500 raised

Purchase the Carcassonne files from here.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 November 2014 09:20 AM

07 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Fraggle Rock in Cake

A fairly hefty picture post from me tonight. I've been involved in a very large project for the last 6 weeks. I've had a few teaser posts about it already but yesterday was the big set up day. Dinkydoodle Designs wanted to build a massive exhibition cake to show at Cake International 2014 but always wanting to wow the visitors Dawn decided to make the cakes move which is where I got drafted in. I designed, built, wired and programmed all the internals and these wonderful cake creations were built upon my bases. The show will run for 3 days and will finish on Sunday if you want to head over and see these things for yourself.

I'm going to run a short series of blog posts showing all the mechanisms as they got up to this point and explaining how each one was put together but at its heart most of these system boil down down to an arduino and a 15kg torque servo.



by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 November 2014 11:39 PM

03 November 2014

Dominic Morrow hackergotchi for Dominic Morrow

so you want to run a maker faire?

In the last weekend of October I co-produced the 3rd Derby Mini Maker Faire at the SIlk Mill museum in Continue reading

by chickengrylls at 03 November 2014 12:55 PM

02 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Church window

I was inspired by this instructable by pohhoushun to have a go at making my own church window. You can really get into it once you start adding all the little details over everything. I've ended up with an amazing little window and I'm inspired to make more, what a super idea.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 02 November 2014 04:42 PM

Matt Little

Renewable Energy Resource Monitor

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Following on from the work done for the Wind Datalogger and the Latrine Logger, we are bringing these ideas together to create a Renewable Energy Resource Monitor.

This is a Arduino-based data-logger which has a range of sensors which can measure different weather resources which relate to renewable energy generators. The end result is low-cost and open-source for accessibility for all.

This post explains the problem and will contain information on the prototype as it develops.

This project will be open-source and PCB design, software and hardware designs are available on GITHUB.


by (Matthew Little) at 02 November 2014 03:50 PM

01 November 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

T Rex Cake toppers

A custom request that I managed to squeeze in this afternoon (sorry it's slow round here but there is a massive project under way). The request was that the cake topper has spikes that would hold it up in the cake but could be removed to make it a nice item after the birthday. I've managed to get both at once by using a spikey font :)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 01 November 2014 02:35 PM

31 October 2014

Matt Little

Arduino and Mobile Data

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I've been wanting to play around with sending data via a mobile SIM card and, after needing to do it for anothe project, here is a short post on my attempts at getting it all going.

I used an off the shelf GSM/GPRS module (the SIM900).

I tried this using both the Arduino Uno and the Arduino Leonardo.

Here are the results from my tests.


by (Matthew Little) at 31 October 2014 08:30 PM

30 October 2014

Iain Sharp

Sholto builds a cool LushOne case

Sholto's LushOne Case

Sholto’s LushOne case

Another excellent case for the LushOne described by Sholto on Instructables. The project work that people do on top of the basic LushOne kits continues to be a delight!

by Iain at 30 October 2014 01:29 PM

28 October 2014

Matt Little

DataDuino - Arduino data acquisition unit

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The DataDuino data acquisition (DAQ) kit is designed to be robust and configurable but relatively simple. It is based upon the Arduino platform (using the Uno bootloader). It stores data to an SD card and uses a real time clock for accurate timestamping. The fastest resolution is 1 second sampling, up to 99999 second sampling.

Data acquisition is always useful to monitor a wide range of projects. Knowledge is power. With data, you can monitor your system, make changes and record how well they do and generally improve the things you are working on. Also having real data and real facts is vital if we are trying to prove an effect.

Data is stored onto an SD card. A real time clock is used to time-stamp the data and the output is a .csv file.

Sample Arduino code for a datalogger unit is provided here and can be built upon.

This kit is available as a kit for £25 (including UK p&p).


by (Matthew Little) at 28 October 2014 05:18 PM

Bat Detector


Welcome to fascinating world of bats! This bat detector device converts ultrasonic sounds created by bats and convert them down to a lower frequency so that we humans can hear them.

Bats use ultra-sonic pulses to navigate and to detect prey. These pulses are very high pitch (around 5 times the maximum frequency humans can hear). This electronic circuit converts the high pitched sounds produced by bats to a human-audible level. It can also be used to listen to other high frequencies such as peeling sticky tape, compact fluorescent lights and power supplies. 

 This kit costs £20 for professional circuit board and all electronic components. This includes free P&P within the UK.


by (Matthew Little) at 28 October 2014 05:17 PM

23 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Board Gamingible

I wrote an instructable last night which rounds up a lot of my board gaming type posts.

It was also supposed to inspire people to support my jumpstart campaign for Carcassonne files so consider this a gentle nudge for my blog readers too

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 October 2014 08:22 AM

20 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Laser Cutter Comparisons

I'm often asked to offer comparison between laser cutters 'X' and 'Y'. I feel it's important to try and offer impartial advice, we do have our own laser importing business after all so it would be very easy to be biased. The trouble is that I'm not sure what people are really asking when they want two machines compared so I thought I'd write a little blog post to talk about the basic comparison and discuss the most important thing that people always overlook.

Laser cutters are often presented alongside a pretty dull technical spec sheet. This is straight forward list of details about laser power, cutting area and cutting speeds, sometimes it also includes price. I would hope that most people are able to do these comparisons for themselves. Bigger cutting area is better, more laser power is better and often comes at an increased price. 

This is where the question confuses me. The only information I have about the other laser cutter is this dull spreadsheet which is easy to compare and laser cutters are all very similar mechanically. Big metal box to avoid blinding, check. Laser beams to cut through material, check. Extractor fan to keep air breathable, check. In fact it's the most significant item and the most important detail that is often glossed over on the list or ignored completely. I'm unable to comment/compare the Laser cutter controller if the listing doesn't even tell me what controller it is.

The control software is such a significant part of the whole laser cutter experience I'm completely amazed that some listings don't even mention what the controller is. 90% of the time the laser cutter is a black box on the end of a usb cable, you deal with the software interface to prepare the files you are working on. You need software that is functional and straight forward at the very least. I've seen a laser cutter that had Chinese software called 'Printer Driver', that was all we knew about it and it's impossible to Google that for any more information.

If I were buying another laser cutter I would insist upon knowing what controller it came with in advance. If I can't find any useful resources about that software online I would not purchase the laser, it's a simple as that. Life is too short to faff with badly written software, some of these laser cutter controllers are even described as completely unusable by reviewers. I would even go one step further, if a supplier is unable to provide me with a demo version of the control software it would worry me. Are they trying to hide their bad software or do they just not know how to set up the demo? Either case is pretty bad, and this applies to all manufacturers, cheap eBay lasers and UK importers.

These are standards that I hold our own company to. All of our laser cutters use Lasercut 5.3.
I won't lie and tell you it is the greatest software ever written; it is the perfectly acceptable face of cheap laser cutter controllers. We offer a download and demo version of the software so you can check it out before you even get near one of our machines. The community is also pulling together to create some really useful resources for it and are slowly dissecting some of the more complex parts of the system.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 October 2014 11:33 PM

17 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford


Image tolen from the interwebz because I forgot this blog post was scheduled but not completed
3 years ago today I posted my very first Laser Cut Item, a simple card for Kim. I had bought the laser cutter a few weeks earlier and I had decided to embark upon a crazy project to laser cut 365 things in 365 days. Now 3 years on, I've complete the 365 things, the 52 things, made a job from my hobby and started a laser import company that is really taking off.

Who knows what I'll be doing this time next year but I can tell you, I'm working on some big projects at the moment. I should be displaying more of the parts for you and I can't wait for this first one to be finished because there will be some awesome pictures. I'm also working on open source controllers for laser cutters and some other nifty little tricks you can do with our lasers so it looks like it's going to be another fun year.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 17 October 2014 04:00 PM

16 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Animitronic Mannequin

Another quick turn around part for this upcoming cake project. You'll have to trust me that there are laser cut parts in there. I used an arduino to drive the 3 servos; head, tail and foot. Power comes from a small 5V brick and it's connected directly to the mains. Believe it or not this will get covered in icing and become a 'cake', for now it's been sent off to the wizards so they can work their magic.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 16 October 2014 10:18 PM

15 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Massive Cake Stand

This massive cake stand (1200 long) is a small part of the new project I'm working on. I can't give too many details yet but I just built 20 of these sections all of which will be stacked with cake in the near future. Stay tuned because this project is awesome and huge.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 October 2014 09:53 PM

14 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Getting Jiggy with it

It's not just about the things you can make with a laser cutter, the laser can also help you make things to make other things. I've been making these internet boxes for quite some time now, each one has a hole in the top and two holes in the side. I've been drilling them by eye for far too long so I finally got round to building a jig to hold the boxes in the right place for me. The vertical slot lines it up to drill a hole in the top. The horizontal slot is larger than the side of the box, pushing it to the top lines up one hole, pulling it down to the bottom allows the second hole to be placed just above it.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 14 October 2014 09:51 PM

11 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Chaosdorf Bottle Tops

Last night at Chaosdorf we cut a few little samples to see what would work on the laser cutter. This bottle top was a fantastic success. I'm expecting some awesome things when they start engraving their own logos on to the bottle tops for their home brew (and now I'm home again I'm relaxing and thoroughly enjoying one of the bottles we bought home with us)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 11 October 2014 08:54 PM

10 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Chaosdorf Cutting

Tonight I'm in Germany and more specifically Düsseldorf where we're visiting the Chaosdorf Hackspace. We have just installed a Greyfin laser cutter and they decided to engrave the hackspace logo onto the top of an old IBM thinkpad. They've picked up the software pretty quickly, imported their design and with a few gentle nudges have etched this logo onto the lid of the laptop. After a bit of a cleaning scrub it came out really nicely. 

It'll be a fun night here at their social evening and then back to the UK for Dominic and I tomorrow.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 10 October 2014 04:27 PM

09 October 2014

Spencer Owen hackergotchi for Spencer Owen

RC2014 SD Bootloader Update

Just a quick update to about the SD Bootloader I designed a few posts ago.  Well, the PCBs have arrived and last week I took a soldering iron to one of them and gave it a quick test

One side of the board is effectively an Arduino, so without plugging it in to the RC2014, I connected up an FTDI lead and uploaded the Arduino Blink sketch.  A quick check with a multimeter and one of the pins was altenating between 5v and 0v.  So far, all good!

Next, I uploaded a simple sketch that would count on from 0 to 255 in binary on the 8 output pin and plugged it in to the RC2014

int data_0 = 14;
int data_1 = 15;
int data_2 = 16;
int data_3 = 17;
int data_4 = 18;
int data_5 = 19;
int data_6 = 2;
int data_7 = 3;
int inbyte = 55;

void setup()
  pinMode (data_0, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_4, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_5, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_6, OUTPUT);
  pinMode (data_7, OUTPUT);  

void loop()
  for (int inbyte = 1; inbyte < 255; inbyte++){
    digitalWrite(data_0, inbyte & 0x01);
    digitalWrite(data_1, inbyte & 0x02);
    digitalWrite(data_2, inbyte & 0x04);
    digitalWrite(data_3, inbyte & 0x08);
    digitalWrite(data_4, inbyte & 0x10);
    digitalWrite(data_5, inbyte & 0x20);
    digitalWrite(data_6, inbyte & 0x40);
    digitalWrite(data_7, inbyte & 0x80);

    delay (1000);

A simple BASIC program on the RC2012 displayed the numbers it was reading.


It looked like success at first, but then I realised it was counting up in a very haphazard way.  After jotting down a few of the numbers in order and converting them to binary it became obvious that I’d wired up the analog pins A5 – A0 not A0 to A5.  A quick change of the Arduino code and all was good there!


The Bootloader board has 6 output lines from the Z80, 3 of which go to the Atmel ‘328 and 3 go to LEDs.  A BASIC test using OUT 0,1 OUT 0,2 and OUT 0,4 showed that the LED outputs worked, so I figured the other 3 would do too.  So, next to get the SD card reading.

This proved to be harder than expected! I had designed the SD header on the end of the PCB so that it could be wired up in a few different ways.  One of these was through a “poor mans SD adapter” (Simply a micro SD adapter with 0.1″ header pins soldered on!).  This didn’t work, but maybe it was my soldering – I did melt the adapter a little bit!  I had some cheapo chinese SD boards from eBay, so I gave on of those a go, but still nothing.  Tried the other one.  Nope.

I assumed that there was a problem with the new board, but to rule things out, I tried a genuine Arduino with one of the SD boards.  Still nothing.  Another Arduino… That didn’t work either.  Maybe different SD card?  No difference.


Conclusion is that all the SD adapters are dead!  In the mean time, however, I did discover that using a resistor voltage divider to get the 3v3 needed for the SD card won’t work and that a proper 3v3 regulator is needed.  The eBay boards have this so should have operated fine on 5v.

Then I remembered I had a faulty TFT screen with built in SD adapter.  As far as I know, it’s only the screen that’s faulty, but, hey, it’s worth a try, right!  And, would you believe it, it worked!  About 3 hours had been wasted on faulty hardware – which wasn’t even anything I had built or designed!


So, inspired by this, I worked on getting data from an SD card on to the RC2014.  There are two sides to this; The RC2014 sets an output high, waits a moment and reads an input, sets the output low and reads the next input and so on.  The ‘328 reads a byte of a file on an SD card, puts it on the output pins, waits for the input to change and reads the next byte and so on…


The result is that in BASIC at least, the RC2014 can read from an SD card!

The next stage is to write this in Z80 assembly language and burn it to ROM so that it can read the SD card directly in to memory and start executing the code.

In the mean time, however, I have designed my own Micro SD Card adapter for this which has a built in voltage regulator. This should make things a lot neater!

by Spencer at 09 October 2014 08:59 PM

08 October 2014

Matt Little

The Prediction Machine

No image

The Prediction Machine is an interactive artwork which aims to engage the public with climate change issues via a fortune telling machine.

Created by the artist Rachel Jacobs in collaboration with myself, Ian Jones (Sherwood Wood), Matthew Gates, Robin Shackford, Juliet Robson, Dr Candice Howarth and Dr Carlo Buontempo.

I designed, built and tested the human-power device and electronic and electrical systems.

Here are some photos of the unit in action and the build details.


by (Matthew Little) at 08 October 2014 10:00 AM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

More White Knight

My black on white, laser engraving laminate finally arrived so I could sit down and do some more of the White Knight Designs. As a game of thrones fan these two really caught my eye and it was good fun putting them through the laser cutter last night. Jordan has been great about sending me higher resolution artwork than I can steal from Facebook so I cut them in duplicate and will be sending the second set in his direction.

In the meantime don't forget about my attempt to jump start my Carcassonne set file release.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 08 October 2014 08:02 AM

07 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Jumpstart me Carcassonne

Nearly a year ago I completed my Laser cut set of Carcasonne, it's been up for sale in my webstore but I am continually asked to release the svg file so people can cut there own. I normally share all my files but I have a few problems with this one, it took 160 hours to draw the base tile set and a further 24 hours to draw the river. I haven't been able to justify giving the file away but with the world being the way it is I can't sell it as a file to individuals because it only takes one person to share the file elsewhere and I've lost all control over it. So I've come up with this 'Jumpstart me' idea.

I'm asking for just £500 (not a lot of 200 hours of work) and when I reach that amount I will release the files to all the people who have contributed towards the total, including the tile backs. 3 months later I will release the files publicly on my blog without tile backs. I will keep this page updated with the running total so you can see how close we are to reaching that total. I have set up a paypal link so you can purchase the files as many times as you like  (I'll try to figure out an easier way to send more money), but also because that gives you protection and the right to a refund at any point (although please just ask me because I'll happily return the money without paypal intervention). Let's see if this can work

Purchase the Carcassonne Files here

Current total £190 / £500

The small print
  • This is not a good way to recreate your own Carcassonne tiles. This is a deluxe version of the set and will cost far more than buying the basic set. 
  • If we do not reach the full amount by the 7th Novemeber, I will make the decision to cancel and refund everybody or accept the amount reached and release the files anyway.
  • The tiles are done with 3 cut operations, an etch, a low power cut and a high power cut. The low power cut can be very tricky to get right without cutting through the wood.
  • The files will come as svg, pdf and dxf. There were made in inkscape so svg is the native file type. pdf actually works as a universal file, the dxf imports into Lasercut 5.3
  • Lasercut 5.3 files can be supplied upon request.
  • This is not a full game it is a board game accessory, you should still buy an original copy to ensure you have the complete game.
  • Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, Z-Man Games or any other publisher please don't sue me for using your artwork, we just love your game and want to make our own awesome versions of it.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 October 2014 02:08 PM

06 October 2014

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Foam Sword Blanks

This is not the project it should have been. I was supposed to be engraving this design onto the side of a blank sword (A 3 layer foam sandwich with a carbon fibre rod in the middle). I was supposed to mark the outline ready for cutting. The problem is that with the rod sticking out the end of the foam there was just no way to make the sword fit inside the 1200mm wide hole to get it under the laser head. It was really the wrong combination of thickness and size.

Plan B, I cut and engrave the swords as 3 separate panels and they get turned back into a sword when they are returned back to Eldritch. This was an option, right up until the moment I left Nottingham because even just foam blanks were 1100mm long.

Plan C, I cut the each layer in 2 parts, small enough so they fit inside my laser. 

As you can see, not everything works out as planned, This has left us with an interesting sandwich arrangement but I'm sure Simon will be able to work his magic in it. I shall post an update photo when the sword is completed.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 October 2014 03:41 PM