Planet Nottinghack

05 May 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Wooden Spoon

With most tournaments the last place person gets the wooden spoon prize, 'Insert Funny Name Here 3' is no exception so I duly engraved the inside of a spoon again. I was impressed by how well the laser coped with the curved surface.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 May 2016 09:04 PM

04 May 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

More Trophies

Last week I ran some more trophies up for a guild ball tournament. The 'Who Cares Who Wins' podcast guys ran their 'Insert Funny Name Here 3' tournament and wanted trophies for all the various prize places. I squeezed them in shortly after I fixed my laser and have held them off until now partly because I forgot about them.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 May 2016 09:03 PM

03 May 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Limit Switches

I had a few projects based around this sea bass test rig and the keen eyed amongst you may have noticed that this is actually sea bass 2. This time I needed some limit switches, this is to test the homing functions and software limits available in GRBL 0.9j. I set it up so that both switches are fixed on the framework (rather than x moving on the axis), this means I have to Home the Y axis before the X axis but it works pretty reliably.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 May 2016 10:21 PM

29 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Flux Capacitor

I needed a quick and dirty flux capacitor prop so I threw one together from laser cut parts. There are 4 LED's under each arm of the Y shape and they're connected to a Digispark board to make them flash. The whole thing runs on battery power. If I had more time and inclination I'd weather the paint effects slightly, round some of the corners off on the wires and recut the top panel but for now I'm pleased with the effect. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 April 2016 08:40 PM

Extractor Fail

After doing all those funny materials for the sample wall last week I guess my extractor fan must be clogged, smoke started creeping out the front of the machine and I realised how full the cutter was. I decided to plough on because I needed to get the jobs finished so I opened the lid, bypassed the switch and opened the garage door. This was the vast plume of smoke that came off one of my useless machine kits. So yeah, these things make a lot of smoke and some of it ultimately creeps out when you open the lid. More pics to follow when I get to the route of the problem.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 April 2016 01:59 PM

26 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Team Rembrandts Case Modding

Inspired by their foray into laser cutting Team Rembandts came back later in the afternoon to get some more cutting done. This time they decided to cut their logo into the lid of the PC case and insert orange plastic into the gaps. The panel was made from ABS plastic and we only had one shot at it, I overcooked it slightly but the final panel still came out really well. This may also be the last shot of my wooden bowl as I forgot to collect it back from them at the end of the day, no big deal I'm sure it would have been firewood in a few months time.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 April 2016 05:49 PM

Case Modding

The guys from Cooler Master UK were exhibiting at the Maker Faire, they were making some amazing case modifications and had cut one of these spars out completely by hand. When they realised we had a laser cutter they bought their files down to us and we cut the rest of the spars for them. There are 2 slightly different designs, I overpowered the cuts and the whole thing took about 20 minutes but it sure beats doing it all by hand.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 April 2016 08:40 AM

25 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Sample Wall

There have been a lot of hexes produced over the last week and you're probably wondering where they are all going. We wanted to demonstrate all the materials that could be cut on a laser like the Vanilla box so we gathered them all together and put them onto a sample wall. Each Hex tile is placed loosely into the framework and held in with a wide border. The bottom border section contains a label for the material and where applicable who sells the material. One final hex contains text describing what the wall is about what we're demonstrating on each tile.

Gluing this all together took a whole day, last week was a long week and I haven't even mentioned the 'big' project yet :)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 April 2016 03:25 PM

Polypropylene Samples

I did cut all 8 of the polypropylene colours available from Kitronik but I was running up against the deadline and I glued some of them down before I took the photos. Polypropylene is a weird material, it is laser safe and it does cut but the edge is never very nice, it also doesn't really engrave and it tends to warp while cutting. It is a good material when you need something thin and flexible.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 April 2016 11:12 AM

Plastazote Samples

These samples were cut from coloured plastazote foam, Techsoft sells a multipack containing all eight different colours. I've cut a fair amount of this foam before with all the LRP weapons and it's my favourite foam material to laser. It actually feels like it cuts correctly rather than melting away from the beam.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 April 2016 09:07 AM

24 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Microbit at the Maker Faire

I just got back from the UK maker faire, having a laser cutter on display means we can cut things for people while we're there. This morning Kitronik asked us to make an adapter for their micro:bits. The Maker faire badges had holes for attachments already and this adapter allowed the micro:bit to be hung from the maker badge.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 April 2016 09:46 PM

21 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Generic Wood Samples

I've called this batch generic wood because it's available from most places, left to right it's MDF, Poplar and Birch. Be wary of the Birch though, a good batch has the occasional knot in the middle layer a bad batch can be nearly impossible to cut. The additional tile is Illomba veneered poplar, it's a nice material and the poplar core means it cuts really well. I don't know who sells it at the moment but I have a stock pile left over from when Kitronik were accidentally sent a batch.

While the machine is turning these out I've started looking at the framework to hold them all together. Just one day left till the maker faire I have the feeling today is going to be a busy day.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 21 April 2016 08:50 AM

20 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Real Curves

I'm a big fan of curves and real curves are definitely better. I've been making some round sections for a new box and I just knew that living hinge curves weren't going to cut it this time. The living hinge is a straight line approximation of a curve, lots of little flat sections that only look like a curve from a distance. This time I wanted something smooth and continuous so I took some flexible 0.8mm ply, gave it a little bend to see if it could do the radius I wanted and then set about holding it in place.

The sheet is glued onto 7 spars of 12mm thick ply (2x6mm ply), many clamps were used to keep it all in the right place while drying. The result is is one continuous piece of ply with the perfect curve at the top. It was all a bit of a learning experience and mostly I learnt that the framework I was gluing too should have had cross ways spars to hold these spars apart in the right position but it's good enough for now. What the curve is actually for will probably follow at some point this weekend.

There is another way to make a similar curve. You could cut hundreds of those spars and glue them all together to make one long continuous curved section. This is actually much strong than the 0.8mm ply but it really doesn't look as good. This type of curved panel reminds me a lot of FDM 3D printing, it takes hours to make sure all the layers are stuck together properly and what you end up with is slightly ribbed piece of rubbish. This is now destined for my burning pile, it was good of me to go to all that effort, just to show you what not to do. :)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 April 2016 10:30 PM

Real Plywood Samples

Stepping away from Kitronik materials for a moment, these materials are 2mm thick plywood made from real wood. It's Beech, Oak, Mahogany and Walnut. I've used them for a few projects on the blog and mentioned them before. They're available from Inspirations but you have to email and ask nicely.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 April 2016 08:52 AM

19 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Transparent Plastic Samples

The range of transparent materials from Perspex is a lot darker than the Flourescent ones and the line detailing doesn't pick up quite so much. Kitronik also has a bulk pack for these which is handy for me. The neutral colour is kind of grey and I've also included boring old clear plastic in these photos because that is totally transparent after all.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 April 2016 10:43 PM

Greyscale Engraving

I've been writing some of my own greyscale engraving code recently. I have written both ends before (in a project that didn't make it to the blog) but this one is a PC sender program connected to a GRBL controller in my Whitetooth laser. The fun part is that the image was captured from a drawing my wife did for me via my webcam.

Yes, I know it's only on/off and not real greyscale.
Yes, I know the image is mirrored.
Yes, I know it is titchy compared to the original.
It's a really cute picture of a kitty though, now move along.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 April 2016 03:23 PM

Fluorescent Plastic Samples

Moving on the Flourescent perspex bulk pack, these five colours really pick up the light, the low power engraving lines stand our from the surface. The pattern on each tile demonstrates high and low power cutting, five different powers of engraving and five different scan gaps for engraving.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 April 2016 07:15 AM

18 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Opaque Plastic Samplers

At the coming maker faire we're going to be showing the wide range of materials and colours that can be laser cut, So inevitably we need to get a whole load of material to actually cut. Kitronik being just down the road it seems very sensible to start with their materials. This first batch are the 9 basic opaque colours from the Bulk Pack, the mystery 10th colour is Light Purple, that I previously bought from their clearance stock.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 April 2016 08:48 PM

Electronics Panel

I've spent the weekend working on the Vanilla Box laser cutter. It's been a long slow time drilling holes and cutting up pieces of metal so it was really nice to produce this at the end of the day. Once I had figured out where all the holes should go I was able to get back on my computer, draw it out and send it down to my laser for cutting. 20 minutes of drawing and 4 minutes of cutting sure beats a whole day doing it manually. This file could now be sent off to a manufacturer to get this part cut in metal (or maybe we'll buy our own metal cutting laser)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 April 2016 06:57 AM

15 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Piano Hinge in Action

The catapult range had some very large panels that fold over into the closed position. The puny hinges on these panels broken pretty quickly and I was in need of something more substantial which was why I invented the piano hinge. I made a really long length of hinge and ran it all the way down the sides of the range, it was a very effective solution.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 April 2016 10:20 PM

Times have changed

8 years ago I was making my first CNC cutter on the dining room table and I was just thinking to myself how much times have changed since then. OK, well maybe not that much I'm still making a CNC cutter on the dinning room table (the same table, different room) but I do have a little helper nowadays.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 April 2016 10:47 AM

14 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Overdue Hinge

I designed this piano hinge a long time ago but I was holding it back for a special occassion. Since then I've been distracted and the occasion never came so I'm releasing it today. The hinge is made from 2 sheets of material a groove is engraved along the middle and a piece of piano wire inserted along the groove. It's a strong sturdy hinge that can be created to any length you require, the only minor issue is that it leaves the burnt side out, but that can be cleaned. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 14 April 2016 09:34 AM

12 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Webcam Holder

I'm working on another project for the UK maker faire but it's tricky given that my laser cutter is still down. While I was at the unit this morning I quickly drew this frame work up and cut it on one of our demo machines. The idea is that you can take a snapshot of a drawing and quickly digitise it for laser cutting. The base plate has a notch to make it easy to put the drawings in the right place, the vertical has a slide adjustment for height, the webcam itself has a ball joint for easy angling and the whole vertical arm slots into the base to make it easy for travel.


by (Martin Raynsford) at 12 April 2016 09:11 PM

Matt Little hackergotchi for Matt Little

LM2574 Voltage Regulator Kit

No image

This is a simple voltage regulator kit based upon the LM2574 step-down regulator IC.

If you have every needed to efficiently step-down a voltage from anything up to 60V DC to 5V regulated then this kit is for you. It can supply up to 500mA of current and is a DC-DC switching circuit which efficiently steps-down the voltage.

It is available from just £7 (including delivery within the UK).


by (Matthew Little) at 12 April 2016 12:17 PM

09 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

New Vanilla Box Laser Cutter

With my Whitetooth currently down, it's a good time to fetch out some projects I've not written up and what better place to start.

I would like to introduce you to the Vanilla Box laser cutter, it's a pretty big project I've been working on and it has been eluded to several times on this blog with new tube mounts and box designs. A whole team of people came together over Easter weekend to build the first working concept of a new laser cutter that Just Add Sharks would like to manufacture. The intention is to build a no compromise laser cutter with all the essential parts but none of the costly frills and we would love to hit the £1000 sweet spot. So if this is something that would interest you, why not sign up to our low volume mailing list to be kept ahead of the developments, or come and see it in person at the. Maker Faire UK on the 23rd & 24th April at the Centre for Life in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

This case is obviously laser cut from 3mm acrylic and is somewhat unsuitable for a final product but the laser cutter allowed us to rapidly develop a case to enclose the dangerous laser beams in a very short timescale.

The design of the box varied on the day, once we had an actual designer in the mix instead of me throwing together prototypes, the rear curves make it look quite fancy. This is exactly the kind of plastic case that you need the Arachnid Labs angled brackets for.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 April 2016 04:49 PM

08 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Laser Cutter Down

In case you don't know about these things, a laser tube half filled with water is not a good sign. My laser tube cracked and all the water fell out of the water jacket and into the tube itself. I have to admit I'm not entirely sure how this happened. The tube had 18 months of heavy use so it had a good life.
This obviously explains why it's been a slow news week round here.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 08 April 2016 07:12 PM

03 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Another day, another bowl

This bowl was made with 8 overlapping fingers that spiral around each other. 4 fingers were attached to one spar to hold the basic shape together, the other 4 fingers were inserted into the gaps to create the overlaps and make the bowl shape. It needs a bit of work around the middle and I'm having camera issues so I can't show you what I mean, but needless to say I'll be back on top of it soon enough.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 April 2016 11:08 PM

Overlapping bowl

The previous bowl had to be made up from two sets of concentric rings, this was to provide an overlap between odd and even layers. I was wondering if it was possible to make a bowl using one set of rings and came up with this design. By having a wobbly outer edge and rotating the next layer a little bit there were overlapping segments that could be glued together. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 April 2016 07:58 AM

02 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Egg shaped bowl

There's a lot of egg related stuff at the moment, I meant to make these layered bowls ages ago. You simply start with the base shape and then add rings around the outside until it reaches the desired height. I chose 15mm per ring, and the material is 2.7mm thick so 15 concentric rings provided a decent sized bowl. The bowl is made up from 2 layers with even layers all being concentric and odd layers all being concentric. I drew the maker lines into the middle so I knew how to line the layers up.

Once it was all glued together it became surprisingly sturdy. if I was doing more of these I would definitely investigate ways to make the bowl more curvy, perhaps slicing them with slic3r, but for now these are pretty cool. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 02 April 2016 07:02 PM

01 April 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Perfectly boiled eggs!

I used up my laser engraved eggs by having scrambled eggs for breakfast, but I noticed that in the places I'd engraved upon the surfaces the eggs had actually started to cook on the inside. This got me thinking, if I engraved the whole surface of the eggs then I would have a lovely boiled egg instead. I drew up a simple spiral pattern for maximum area coverage and set the laser slow and powerful (2mm/s, maximum power), I turned the egg at the end of every cut to cook the next part. It's not enough to cut through the egg but it certainly did a good job of heating up the innards.

Like all laser cut foodstuffs it's a pretty stinky process but it did leave me with a yummy egg afterwards.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 01 April 2016 09:06 AM

30 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Beautiful Layered Wood

Colin from Liotta Design contacted me after seeing the spiral line drawings, he thought I'd be interested in some of his designs and they are truly wonderful. Obviously I couldn't help but try one out for myself but it's not a patch on his designs. Mine was made with 2mm ply, oak and mahogany, for something technically delicate it feels very chunky. I'm definitely going to be following his stuff from now on, very inspirational.


by (Martin Raynsford) at 30 March 2016 10:14 PM

28 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford


It's still Easter and I've seen a few laser cut eggs in various places online so I thought I would give ti a try too.

I put the egg on a plate under the laser and held it down with some blue tack.

Engraving is not so good, it's hard to mark it the right amount so the rest of these images were done with low power cut lines. 

Kim wanted a Good/Bad Egg and while I'm marking up tomorrows breakfast I should probably give Kim what she wanted :)

They look pretty in the egg bowl and I'm sure the kids will love them in the morning.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 28 March 2016 08:43 PM

27 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Happy Chocolate Day

Since it's Easter and there is an excess of chocolate I thought I should laser cut some for you :)
The background swirls we made by 'smoothing' the chocolate on a warm plate, it's interesting to see the swirls showing up in the engraved areas. All the items were engraved then outlined, as we proved today in the hackspace, you can't really cut chocolate you can only make a melty mess that fills itself in again.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 27 March 2016 08:53 PM

25 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Jumping on the boat wagon

A chance to join in on the latest thing and score a quick and easy blog post, I was all over it. Plus a great excuse to use my super pink and white laminate for signage. In case anyone has missed the current Boaty McBoatface amusements. (I perhaps forgot to mention this isn't my laser cutter, it's a hackspace machine)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 March 2016 08:05 PM

24 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Spiral Line Drawings

A friend of mine over on Facebook linked to this video of someone doing a fairly simple line drawing but creating a great effect. I knew it could be laser cut and the output is still pretty awesome but it's also very fun watching the laser in action during. It was drawn exactly the same way as it was cut. the square was split into several sections, a spiral was then drawn inside each section.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 March 2016 04:36 PM

23 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Hinging on Success

Big Boxes need big lids and being made out of plastic means I only want to cut this once so I prototyped the hinge fittings. I used standard metal hinge with some M6 bolts, the hinges are actually cut into the back panel so that in the closed position the two edges virtually meet, in the open position the lid of the box pushes up against the back wall, this stops the lid from opening too far and it should rest in a vertical position.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 March 2016 08:29 PM

Another Vale Game

I'm pretty busy with the upcoming UK Maker Faire and some Just Add Sharks projects but apparently that doesn't stop my mind from wandering to other projects. I saw this Dice Cup review of a game called 'Battle Sheep' and I thought of an interesting variation which was easily Vale themed. I used artwork from the previous vale game to speed things up and the whole game was made in a single lunch time (blogging always takes extra time) (svg here)

Each player starts with 16 meeple tokens and 4 map sections, including their own 'camp' tile (I made 16 tokens so that you could just play battle sheep rules). Players take it in turn to lay map sections ensuring some variety in the board between plays. Tiles have to connect but can be in any orientation and holes are permissible. Finally players lay their own camp tiles on the edge of the board, this is where players will be starting from.

Once the board is set, players take it in turn to move a single meeple tile as far as they like in a single direction, meeples are not allowed to jump over obstacles so must stop when they encounter other meeples or the edge of the board. The single meeple may be an existing meeple or a new meeple drawn from camp.
Opposing meeples are captured by positioning a meeple on either side of the enemy, captured meeples are stored in the hand and are used to score the game.

Meeples may also be captured by sandwiching them up against the base camp, or by completely surrounding them on the edge of the board.

Meeples may also push other meeples to get out of a tight situation. In the image above the lower sword meeple may be pushed back one tile by the dagger meeple (both meeples move 1 space). The upper 2 meeples may not be pushed. The pushing of a meeple must be a whole action and may not be done at the end of a straight line move.

The winner is the person with the most meeples captured, the game typically ends with both sides forming an impenetrable defence line. In the case of a draw the winner is the person who has the most tiles on their side of the line.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 23 March 2016 12:00 AM

20 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Prototype Box 3

Ok, apparently I couldn't let it lie without trying the box with 2 curved edges. Now I have all 3 shapes prototyped in physical boxes and I can't decide which one I like most. Good job I have other people to decide for me.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 March 2016 08:43 PM

19 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Prototype box 2

If I'm testing boxes then I might as well try a few designs out, this one is a lot curvier than the last, it would be harder to build but looks better, decisions decisions (although given the timescale the simpler box is better really)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 19 March 2016 08:51 PM

18 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Prototype Box

I have a project soon that requires a fairly large box, the best way to make sure the box is correct is to make some prototypes. The box is fairly standard, poplar box with a living hinge curves. The lid was made from clear acrylic and the curve put in using a hot air gun. The bend radius is way too tight but it's proof of concept and I learn how not to bend curves into acrylic.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 18 March 2016 10:30 PM

17 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Getting Hammered

After a dozen or so maker faires last year my demo useless machines were looking a little bit worse for wear. The hammers had a tendency to slip on the axle, meaning they didn't have enough oomph to flip the switch. After a bit of thought I replaced the wooden hammers with perspex ones. I still engrave the keyed shaft shape into the hammer but because it's made of plastic it is a lot more resistant to the torsional forces going through it. I've yet to have one of these fail yet.

If you have a useless machine with a yellow motor and a wooden hammer and you would like a replacement, just drop me a line.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 17 March 2016 10:28 PM

16 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Caverna Storage Trays

Caverna is often called Agricola 2.0, it's Uwe Rosenburgs second farming game and it makes some great improvements over Agricola. Consider this a positive review, if you're into games it's a great game and with up to 7 players it comes with an awful lot of parts, ideal for a storage tray solution. This one was a bit tricky, getting everything into the box and closing the lid while still making all the trays large enough to hold the parts. All the tiles are separated into their own sections and I had to put in 0.8mm ply dividers to squeeze it all in there.


by (Martin Raynsford) at 16 March 2016 11:18 AM

15 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Catan Storage Trays

Another blast from the past, I previously made a tray for the resource cards in Settlers of Catan, the main problem was that it was too big to fit inside the box. In this iteration I split the card trays into two sections and used some of my standard tubs for all the tokens, a little bit of storage for the numbers, dice and ports and I have a new storage solution that fits inside the box and can hold the 5-6 player expansion as well as all my magnetic tiles

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 March 2016 11:13 AM

14 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Keyflower Storage Trays

Another months old project, my friends bought me Keyflower for Christmas and given the 2 year delay between making storage for Agricola and making myself storage for Agricola I felt I should make the bins for this game quickly. The game is played in 4 seasons and new Hex tiles are drawn for the season so it made sense to separate them into 4 stacks. The other 3 stacks are for starting tiles (upto 6 players), restocking boats and player order. Finally some bins hold all the resources for the game, Iron, Wood, Stone, Gold and Green Meeples. Bins like these really make setting up a game so much faster.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 14 March 2016 10:33 PM

13 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Arachnid Labs Angled Brackets

I'm going to start by saying this is a bad product review, which is very different to a review of a bad product. I was sent some of these angled brackets by Arachnid Labs, it's an L-Shaped bracket with 2 pre-tapped M3 holes and it's intended to hold 2 panels together at right angles to each other. This review will probably come across as overly negative, I had some brackets and no immediate use for them so I had to figure out how to use them and where they will be useful.

These brackets are absolutely perfect for much larger designs and cases, particularly in perspex. I have since gone on to make such a box while prototyping designs for our new laser cutter.

The first thing I made was a simple test brace. This allowed me to check that the holes and slots were all in the right places. One side of the bracket has an extra tab, cutting a slot into the material allows the tab to key into the material and it prevents it rotating. I decided to make finger joints on the material join to prevent the second panel from rotating, this was not entirely necessary as long as the slotted side is longer than the non slotted side. The joint is a lot stronger than I expected, it's very sturdy and has a lot of potential.

With the holes in the right places I tried to make my first box. I used the brackets conservatively and put only 4 brackets built into the base of the box. The first problem I noticed is that the brackets don't hold the side panels at exactly 90 degrees so they started to splay at the top of the box. If you want to make a full box you're going to need brackets on every side and that makes the smallest box possible about 50x50x50mm.

I made a second box, this was intended to be a business card holder for some Archnid labs cards (when I show these brackets to people they will want to know where they can from). The box has a drop down front to access the cards, and learning from the previous box I put brackets all around the sides to stop them splaying. I used 2 brackets to hold the base on and 1 bracket for the lid (I only want to unscrew 1 screw to open the box). The lid works moderately well, I put the slot in the lid panel so when I remove the bracket it isn't in the way of the cards, the fundamental flaw is in the base. Using only 2 brackets on the base means the whole thing leans forward. Another fairly major issue is that the brackets inside the base stop the cards from sitting flat inside the box.

On the positive side of things; 
  • The brackets are well made, the screw threads were particularly smooth.
  • They are a sensible price, about 18p each.
  • They make a really sturdy joint.
I would consider using them in future projects but it has to be the right project. I have several issues which would prevent me using them in most of my projects.
  • I like wood, I make dozens of boxes with finger joints and I glue them together, it's strong, fast and cheap. This is a bracket for use with plastic boxes and materials you can't just glue together.
  • Each side of the box has a protruding bolt, this is just an aesthetic on the sides but on the base you are left with a box that rests on a series of bolt head. There is a good chance it will scratch the surface it is resting on.
  • The inside of a small box is cluttered with the brackets themselves. If you want to put things inside the box you may have to juggle it round the bracket and things can't rest flush against any of the inside surfaces.
  • I thought this might be good for box lids, but if you leave the brackets on the side walls and just take the lid off you have brackets protruding into the opening which are likely to scratch your hands as you reach into the box.
  • There is a minimal size that these brackets would be useful for, these small demo boxes were all too small really which is why this is a bad review.
I've had time to play and learnt from my mistakes and I have said I would still use these brackets so what are they good for? Large plastic enclosures, the kind where you would use real hinges for lids and rubber feet on the bottom of the box. It just so happens I have one of these larger projects coming up in the next few weeks so stay tuned for that because these brackets will definitely come into their own on that project. In the meantime why not buy some for yourself and give them a try, I'm going to make sure I have a few in my toolbox for those moments when they are right for the job.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 13 March 2016 11:40 PM

10 March 2016

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

DIY Vacuum Table

I have cut a lot of foam with varying degrees of success. 6mm foam can be held in place using magnets, but 10mm foam is too thick for the magnets to pull onto the honeycomb and 2mm foam gets squashed by the strength of the magnets. I needed a better way to hold these sheets in place so I made my own Vacuum table.

A vacuum table is exactly as it sounds, a vacuum pump is used to pull the work piece down onto the table holding it into place for the duration of the cutting. The warped pieces of foam I'm using get pulled flat across the whole area rather than just a few points where the magnets are and the whole top surface is free of obstruction while cutting. The top layer of the bed is sacrificial, the foam doesn't need a lot of power to cut through so the mdf table doesn't mark too heavily.

A standard hoover is used to provide the vacuum for the table. A small section of foam is placed across the table and any remaining holes should be blanked over, this can be done with something as simple as sheets of paper. When the hoover is turned on the vacuum pulls the foam flat against the surface ready for cutting. 

The table itself is a very simple box shape. The top layer of the table is cut with dozens of small holes through which the vacuum will be drawn. 3 braces run across the width of the table, this prevents the vacuum from deforming the box. A hoover attachment was made from multiple stacked layers of mdf, it is a tight fit on the hoover hose. The bottom end of the vacuum bed pokes out of the feed through slot. (svg here)

This vacuum table was made with a single sheet of 600x900 material. I would remake the table to fill the 600x900 cutting area of my machine. I would also make a second top layer with alignment tabs to key into place on the table, this would form a single sacrificial sheet that didn't make part of the box.
I would also run a series of smaller pipes along the front edge of the table and down to a hoover adapter to give me more flexibility over the positioning of the table and a smaller gap on the feed through slot.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 10 March 2016 12:39 PM

09 March 2016

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Strike Placard

My wife is a Junior Dr which means she was on strike today, out on the picket line in the rain. Her cardboard sign dissolved and I realised I could step in and make something more substantial. The batons along the top and bottom aren't really necessary but the board was rescued from a previous project.

For anyone who isn't aware of the situation, the government want to make the NHS run a 7 day elective service. This means you can have your non essential procedures done at the weekend. To achieve this it intends to make junior doctors work longer hours and more weekends without putting any more money into the service. This is obviously not safe for patients or fair for doctors.

The government has mislead the public by stating that the NHS does not operate at the weekend.
They have incorrectly claimed that you are more likely to die if you go to hospital at the weekend.
They have claimed that they will give the doctors a pay rise, the 11% rise to the base pay is negated by the 30% reduction to evening/weekend pay.
The doctors are keen to negotiate terms for a 7 day NHS but the government are imposing their contract anyway, despite fears of patient safety and questions over it's legality.
Amid all this Jeremy Hunt even launched an inquiry to find out the cause of low morale in junior doctors but conditions and pay were to be excluded from the investigation.

It's a special time for the NHS, please support our Junior doctors.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 09 March 2016 02:46 PM

08 March 2016

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Wave Pendulum 1.5

I've been forced back onto my old laptop for the last week and I've found a few old projects that weren't ever posted. This is yet another iteration of the wave pendulum that failed. As you can see I used sewing pins as pivots, the pendulums swung for long enough but they had a lot of waggle, so much waggle that they could even cross over each other and interfere while they were swinging.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 08 March 2016 05:44 PM

07 March 2016

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Cracking under the strain

I don't use the Sea bass a lot, just for the occasional thing but the cracks along the acrylic parts just keep getting worse. It's the wrong material for the job really and it doesn't help that they're mass produced in China and all the bolts overtightened. I redrew the sides and cut them in 6mm Birch again. I still don't like birch, there was an inner knot and I ended up finishing it by hand but it's the right material for the job. It looks much better in wood too :)


by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 March 2016 09:59 PM

06 March 2016

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Wave Pendulum 3

I have wasted so much time on these things, after discussions about pendulums I took another stab at making a wave pendulum. The idea was straight forward, use a knife edge to balance the pendulum. This solved several problems, it's a simple design with no calibration required and the supporting beam could be an angled metal bar which would take all the weight of the pendulums. The knife edge was created by sanding down a piece of 0.8mm ply and initial tests were very promising.

 I made the shortest pendulum first to see if it would swing for long enough, the system needs 1 minute for a cycle and the pendulum swang for 3 minutes. I ploughed on and made the rest of the set. When they were all pulled back though there was an element of wangle on some of them. This produced uneven swing and the cycle was broken before it even got going. Experiment 3 was a write off and there ends my efforts. If you want to make a wave pendulum system, using string and measure it out to the right lengths. 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 March 2016 11:33 PM

05 March 2016

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Adjustable Tube Mount 2

I revamped the Adjustable tube mount. The new longer bolts arrived which gave me more thread to play with and the hex heads can be locked into hex shaped holes saving a few at the head end. The main change is the way the left/right adjust works. A piece of 0.8mm ply now sits into a groove on the axis which prevents most of the twisting that could occur. The whole vertical adjust is now a lot more stable. The real knurled nuts are not as nice as the DIY plastic ones but they are easier. There is about 30mm of travel in both axis which should be more than enough adjustment, there are also 2, one for either end of the tube. (svg here)


by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 March 2016 10:44 PM

04 March 2016

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Vale Eurogame

According to the files on this project I started it 24 months ago and I haven't touched it for 9 months, I'm not sure why it never made it to the blog because it took long enough. This is a Eurogame based upon the Vale LRP game. Players assume the role of the Duke or the Kahn and take it in turns to move meeples around the board searching for resource nodes and collecting the resource bags that spawn upon them. (svg here)

The game starts by seeding the gaming area with a path between 2 camps. From the 'Dukes' camp 2 or 3 tiles are laid, then the ritual site and the same number of tiles are laid before the road is ended with the 'Kahns' camp. A number of paths lead off of the main road, these will be exploration areas for the meeples.

During a turn a player may move all of their meeples 1 space around the board. They can be moved separately or as a stack to speed up game play. As a meeple moves along a path into an empty space the player draws a tile from the bag and places it onto the play area. The tile must fit into the space exactly, aligning with the existing tiles. If a tile does not fit it is discarded and a new tile redrawn. Players should probably alternate the drawing of tiles to help/hinder the meeples doing the exploration.

Players are aiming to locate the position of resource nodes along the paths. When these nodes are discovered 3 bags of resources automagically spawn upon the node. The meeples should collect these bags and return them to base camp. Meeples may carry up to 2 bags of resources at the same time. The winner is the player who gets the most of these resource bags in their camp.

Whenever a new node is discovered all the previous nodes spawn new resources. Resources remain on the node until they are collected by a meeple.

In the middle of the main road is the ritual site. One player may occupy the ritual site with any number of meeples. If a new node is discovered while either player occupies the ritual site AND has a meeple sat upon any resource node (particularly the newly discovered node), that node spawns 5 resource bags instead of 3.

When the meeples meet each other on the same path conflict between the meeples occurs, the player with the largest stack of meeples wins. The losing side is forced to drop all of their resources and the winning player allocates a new tile (on the path) to move the losing stack towards. Players may not cause conflict unless they have the larger stack of meeples. If the conflict occurs in a dead end path, the loosing meeples 'die' and return to their base camp to start again.

The game ends when all possible routes have been explored OR all 8 nodes have been discovered AND all resources have been returned to base. This is usually done with an amicable agreement to divvy up the remaining resources thus avoiding lots of tedious stack movements. Because of the tile drawing nature of the game and the random generation of the path the game may end before 8 nodes are discovered.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 March 2016 09:35 PM

03 March 2016

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X and Y Adjustable Mount 1

Turns out I need some left/right adjustment on the tube mount too. A second screw and knob adjust allows me to tweak the tube left to right and still maintains the low profile. I'm still waiting on some 40mm screws to go across the horizontal but it works as proof of concept. I think I can respin it to make it better though so watch this space. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 03 March 2016 08:32 PM

02 March 2016

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Twirl Picture

I was looking for some inspiration on the interwebs and instead I stumbled over this twirl picture instead that was just too nice not to cut. I carved it fairly deeply into a sheet of Poplar and then outlined the white to make it really stand out.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 02 March 2016 08:39 PM

01 March 2016

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Adjustable mount

This is an easily adjustable mount for holding a laser tube in position. I wanted an easy way to budge the tube up and down for one of my tests. Ideally I would have done it with a single adjustment screw but for simplicity I ended up with one on each side. They have to be raised and lowered equally but that's easily done with the adjustment screws. The nuts were packed out with an knurled acrylic disc, the acrylic has less wear when holding the but tight.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 01 March 2016 09:07 PM

29 February 2016

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Guild ball tokens

The guild ball tokens designed for "Who Cares Who Wins" have been updated to include 'Legendary Play', 'Loved Creature' tokens. They community must approve because they're getting through about a dozen sets a month and occupying more and more machine time :)
If you play guildball and fancy a set, why not contact them.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 February 2016 08:26 PM

28 February 2016

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Easter Bunny Box

I was testing out the shaped box process and I wanted to see just how complex one of these boxes could become. This bunny box was made with 6 separate curved sections to get the sharp angles. The lid has extra details on it by cutting down to the layer below and drawing low power lines onto it. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 28 February 2016 03:08 PM

26 February 2016

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Cupboard Doors and Weapons Updates

A long overdue post probably because I wanted to write something a bit more in depth for it. In the last batch of LRP items I cut for Eldritch I also cut this cupboard door blank. It's a simple square with low power lines running out to the corners, the problem was the engraved squares indicating the inner panel. If I were to engrave these normally the whole thing would take 2 hours to do. This is because the laser would move from left to right across the whole panel, spending most of it's time doing nothing in the big blank expanse. Vertical engraving is time consuming.

It made me think about what the laser actually does during the horizontal engraving. It cuts a line, moves down by the scan gap amount and then cuts another line. It would be possible to draw this pattern and get the laser to behave the same while it was cutting rather than engraving. To speed up the panel the vertical engraving was drawn in exactly the same way, so instead of engraving the whole height it would draw a series of lines from top to bottom. The final pattern took just 20 minutes to 'engrave' instead of the 2 hours a normal engrave was going to take. The other significant advantage is that it allowed me to 'engrave' the inner ring with more power than the other 2 rings.

Eldritch got these things a long time ago so I was able to find pictures of all the fancy foams now they've been latexed 

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 February 2016 09:33 PM

25 February 2016

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Rounded Box

The final shape in my trio of boxes and proof that the principles work (I followed my own instructions to make this one). The rounded box is a neat little shape, not very exciting but just as functional as the others. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 25 February 2016 06:18 PM

24 February 2016

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Egg Shaped Box

My heart shaped box was released just in time for Valentines so I thought I would get well ahead for Easter. This egg shaped box is built to a very similar principle, a process that I'm refining and I have shared in an instructable. (svg here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 24 February 2016 06:10 PM