Planet Nottinghack

26 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Catan Age of Enlightenment Disks

I had a custom request to make these wooden disks from the Age of Enlightenment expansion for Settlers of Catan. They had seen my previous Catan Disks and felt that the expansion needed the same wooden token treatment.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 26 January 2015 09:28 PM

21 January 2015

Matt Little

Wind Empowerment Webinar

No image

In October 2014 I recorded a webinar on the open-source wind data-logger project for Wind Empowerment. This was the last in a series of four, which were aimed at practicioners of small wind turbines.

The webinar is available online here and will hopefully be translated into Spanish and French.

They are hoping to run one webinar a month relating to small wind turbines and development.


by (Matthew Little) at 21 January 2015 12:53 PM

20 January 2015

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

Why did the only woman stop showing up?


It’s a mystery.

20 January 2015 04:00 PM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Useless Machine Kit Sale

I've got a large pile of useless machines sat in the garage taking up space and I'd like to move them along so I've dropped the price and they're now on sale for £15 each (maker faire prices).

by (Martin Raynsford) at 20 January 2015 11:19 AM

18 January 2015

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

lookatthislittlething: A-Frame Doll House, 1961 by Miehana on...


A-Frame Doll House, 1961 by Miehana on Flickr.

from Sunset Magazine, December 1961.

You can build one of these yourself… Instructions here:

18 January 2015 04:00 PM

17 January 2015

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

I just got my version of this T-shirt, which is one of the...

I just got my version of this T-shirt, which is one of the patent images of the Omnimover design for some of the rides at Disneyland and other Disney parks.

I wish Disney would actually produce t-shirts and the like based on things like this instead of me going to Redbubble, but they would rather sell lavender and glitter shirts.(Not that I mind that shirt that much, just, compared to this one…No.)

I love this shirt because it is so freaking nerdy. I mean, look at it. It’s a patent design for a car in an amusement park ride.  That is then used in a haunted house dark ride that I’m in love with.

17 January 2015 03:05 PM

16 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Follow the Sharks

Hopefully many of you will be aware that Dominic and I run a UK laser importing business in the guise of JustAddSharks. We're making some massive improvements to the web store and the whole web site over the next few months and I'm trying to get some life back into that blog.

We intend to be making a few announcements and featuring the work of our customers (and some of it is absolutely amazing) but we'd also like to feature work of other people. So if you have a hot tip for us on any laser cut item then we'd love to know about it. Let us know what you're working on and who else inspires you. Just send your emails to

by (Martin Raynsford) at 16 January 2015 08:27 PM

Can you tell what it is yet?

So the parts for the first of 12 projects just arrived. This is probably the one that's furthest from my normal stuff, but it will bear relevance as we go through the year. I'm planning a serious build day next week where there will be unboxing and assembly photos and probably even some stop motion of the day. Fun times.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 16 January 2015 01:46 PM

15 January 2015

Dominic Morrow hackergotchi for Dominic Morrow

whatever happened to london maker faire?

So you might remember a blog post I wrote last year about a proposed “Flagship” Maker Faire for London in Continue reading

by chickengrylls at 15 January 2015 01:54 PM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Even More Rune Tags

Now with annual postings. Christmas has happened so people are looking LARPward and gearing up for the new season, I've had 3 LRP related orders this week. The first are these dated rune tags, this is the first batch on my new laser and I was able to outline the etching to make it really stand out.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 15 January 2015 08:32 AM

13 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Moire Puma

I saw this wonderful Moire Pattern appear of several blogs last week and I just knew I had to put this technique into laser cutting. The original artist is Andrea Minini and she has lots of amazing drawings all done in a similar style. For my version I manually traced the original image to create the vector artwork, each line is just a single low power cut and they are around 100 concentric rings. It was 8 hours of drawing but once the first one was cut it was all worth it.

There has been some discussion since about making further patterns like this automagically, if anything comes from that I'll be sure to post the workflow up here.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 13 January 2015 02:56 PM

09 January 2015

Matt Little

Arduino and Mobile Data

No image

I've been wanting to play around with sending data via a mobile SIM card and, after needing to do it for another 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 09 January 2015 06:08 PM

07 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Advent Christmas Lights

I went to put our regular Christmas lights out and found that only half the LED's were lighting up so for a quick win I put up my 5m long strip of 300 neopixels instead. It instantly added colour and excitement but it rapidly turned into it's own project when I added a real time clock to turn the lights off at night.  I realised that by adding a different flash pattern each day I would have Advent Christmas lights. The system counts down to midnight and shows special animations for the occassion and it also turns the lights off permanently on the twelfth night

The setup up is very simple, an Arduino nano is connected to a Real Time clock and a string of neopixels and driven from a 5V 4A power supply. The code is included below but in brief, each animation follows a series of rules
  • Animations that are based on a single 'brightness' value so the patterns can be dimmed. 
  • Animations are intended to be 'non blocking' so the arduino can be used for other things at the same time (partial success with that). 
  • Animations are based on the number of LED's so by changing the constant a shorter or longer string can be used easily.

The software is all based upon the FastLED animation library, you will need to download this before the code will compile. (Code here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 07 January 2015 10:39 AM

06 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Dot Matrix Display

I acquired 4 of these Sure 0832 dot matrix electronics boards recently. They were going spare from a project I worked on a long time ago (pre blog). Instead of leaving them in a box and forgetting about them I thought I should turn them straight back round into a new display that we can take along to Maker Faires. A simple laser cut frame holds all 4 displays in place, an arduino nano drives the boards and controls the animation. I'm using Miles Burtons arduino library to control the basic functions but I had to update it for the most recent version of the arduino IDE (1.5.8) so I've included that modified library in with the source files (source here)

by (Martin Raynsford) at 06 January 2015 10:32 PM

Matt Little

Modular Lampshade Project

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I was wanting to make an interesting lampshade as a specal Christmas present this year. I set about searching Instructables for inspiration.

I found a really interesting modular lampshade concept, which was originally designed by Holger Strøm in 1972 and called the IQlight.

This used a repeated unit which was cut out of polypropylene using a laser cutter.




by (Matthew Little) at 06 January 2015 08:02 PM

05 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Extractor Vent

With my second laser still coming and going at a moments notice (soon to be permanently dismantled in my garage though) I often end up with a spare exhaust port that's just sucking air in and not pulling air from my main machine. I made up this close able vent which sites between 2 blue pipes and allows me to turn the tube off when not in use. It's made from a few stacks of 12mm ply and it works ok. I think it might be better to develop a shutter type version for both sides (and when I box in the extractor) but it's not bad for a first attempt.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 05 January 2015 09:09 PM

04 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

Never E-Knuff

I know that people have download the files for these knuff magazine racks but those people were clearly all polite to tell me that the files didn't actually work. The only reason I know is that I came to make a few more of them tonight and the tabs just didn't line up. So here is the updated version of the file which does now work (svg here)

The file contains parts for 2 knuff, The 2 left sides fit neatly together and are mirrored to form the right hand side, that way you can keep all the 'burnt' sides pointed in.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 04 January 2015 08:53 PM

Matt Little

Wind Empowerment Conference 2014

No image

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 04 January 2015 04:34 PM

01 January 2015

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

12 in 12, projects ahoy

Following on from the rather successful 365 projects in 365 days and 52 projects in 52 weeks it does look like I'm going for 12 big projects in 12 months this year. These won't all be purely laser cut and potentially some of them may not include laser cutting but I'll photograph, document and share as usual. I made a list this morning of the big projects I want to complete this year and I'm already up to 8, I'm pretty sure the other 4 will just appear before the end of the year.
(edit: I already remembered another 2 I promised to do)

I promise I'll also find time to squeeze the usual amount of laser cutting around everything else too.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 01 January 2015 01:50 PM

29 December 2014

Spencer Owen hackergotchi for Spencer Owen

Happy New Year. Again. And Again. And Again…

A recent discussion started with the simple question “When is it New Year?”.  Well, 1st January, right?  The stroke of midnight on 31st December?  Depends where you are on the planet?  [depends what planet [if any] you are on].  It depends on which timezone you are in.

So, we settled on it being at the stroke of midnight for each of the timezones around the world.  Which, surprisingly, is 30.  Less surprisingly, they cover a full 24 hours.


Upon discovering this, the only decent thing to do seemed to have a drink to toast New Year all around the world.  So, this year, I’ll be getting together with a few friends to see in the New Year – all 30 of them!  If you want to join us, you can use the list below, or follow Brisbane Clock Tower on Twitter as it announces them live over the 24 hours.

If you do join us, please let me know where in the world you are and use the hashtag #NYEoClock in tweets!

No. Place GMT BNEClockTower Link
1 Kiritimati 10:00:00 AM 8:00:00 PM
2 Auckland 11:00:00 AM 9:00:00 PM
3 Melbourne 1:00:00 PM 11:00:00 PM
4 Brisbane 2:00:00 PM 12:00:00 AM
5 Darwin 2:30:00 PM 12:30:00 AM
6 Perth 4:00:00 PM 2:00:00 AM
7 Hanoi 5:00:00 PM 3:00:00 AM
8 Yangon 5:30:00 PM 3:30:00 AM
9 Dhaka 6:00:00 PM 4:00:00 AM
10 Kathmandu 6:15:00 PM 4:15:00 AM
11 Mumbai 6:30:00 PM 4:30:00 AM
12 Islamabad 7:00:00 PM 5:00:00 AM
13 Kabul 7:30:00 PM 5:30:00 AM
14 Dubai 8:00:00 PM 6:00:00 AM
15 Tehran 8:30:00 PM 6:30:00 AM
16 Khartoum 9:00:00 PM 7:00:00 AM
17 Helsinki 10:00:00 PM 8:00:00 AM
18 Carcassonne 11:00:00 PM 9:00:00 AM
19 Nottingham 12:00:00 AM 10:00:00 AM
20 Rio de Janeiro 2:00:00 AM 12:00:00 PM
21 Buenos Aires 3:00:00 AM 1:00:00 PM
22 St. John’s 3:30:00 AM 1:30:00 PM
23 Halifax 4:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM
24 Caracas 4:30:00 AM 2:30:00 PM
25 Toronto 5:00:00 AM 3:00:00 PM
26 Dallas 6:00:00 AM 4:00:00 PM
27 Denver 7:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM
28 Vancouver 8:00:00 AM 6:00:00 PM
29 Anchorage 9:00:00 AM 7:00:00 PM
30 Honolulu 10:00:00 AM 8:00:00 PM

Cheers and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

by Spencer at 29 December 2014 04:48 PM

Martin Raynsford hackergotchi for Martin Raynsford

The view from rubbish mountain

Yay for Christmas, I have lots of new toys and lots of new exciting things to do in the new year. I also have new products working their way through and (vast) improvements to old products, but if I'm so busy why no posting? Well Christmas happened so I had to move all my secret stashes of junk from places like the sunroom into the garage and then this morning I had a customer visit so I had to move all the crates out of the garage into the sunroom. It's not turmoil, more like organised chaos. The upshot is that I have some space in my garage to sort out this massive pile of junk. I'm going in and I may be some time.
Belated Merry Christmas and a Happy soon to be New Year.

by (Martin Raynsford) at 29 December 2014 10:30 AM

28 December 2014

Steve Barnett hackergotchi for Steve Barnett


Finished Tricopter

I’ve been neglecting this blog recently due to various distractions but have several projects I want to write up. Around April I found myself with the urge to build a multicopter. In the end I settled on a tricopter design as it’s a little unusual and because the wider angle between the arms allows plenty of clearance to mount a camera without getting the propellors in frame.

Bare frame

To keep costs down and because I enjoy designing things I ended up drawing and laser cutting my own plywood frame. This was loosely based on the folding arms of David Windestål’s design, with a lot of modifications to fit the size and shape I wanted and to fit the parts I had chosen.

The arms of my tricopter are cut from 3/8″ birch engine bearer stock, as sold in most model shops. I bought 3 12″ lengths which I cut off centre to make a set of 7″ arms and a set of 5″ arms. In the end I was happy with the 7″ arms so I’ve not yet tested the 5″ version.


The frame is designed to have two 3mm ply lower plates that the arms are sandwiched between, held together with 2mm machine screws. The screws are tightened so that the arms are held in place by friction when unfolded, but they can still be folded relatively easily without any adjustments or tools.

Following David’s pattern, the landing struts and motor plates are attached with cable ties. These hold everything firmly in place but will hopefully give or break before the frame components if too large an impact is applied.

Above the two structural plates of the frame there is a third plate with a large number of cutouts. This sits above the frame on laser cut plywood standoffs and serves to protect the electronics that sit on top of the frame. The KK 2.1 flight controller I’m using has a build in LCD display and buttons for configuration in the field. All of the buttons and the display are accessible through a cutout in the top plate. Additionally the plate helps with cable management, wiring being attached to the frame with cable ties and velcro straps to keep it neat.

Swivel Mount

Because I went for a tricopter design I required a swivel mount for the rear motor. This consists of a modified motor mount plate with two tabs on the bottom through which an M3 bolt is threaded. A pair of bearing carriers are formed from two layers of ply parts that slot over the rear arm with appropriately sized holes to trap a pair of bearings through which the bolt runs. The rear landing strut was cut with an appropriate cutout for the metal gear servo that moves the rear motor mount. This turned out to be a weak point and is so far the only part I have broken. A new design has been drawn up but has yet to be tried as the replacement rear leg is still going strong after many more landings (with slightly more care).

Rear ESC modifications

Electronically the tricopter is fairly simple, though there is a small hack to power the rear servo. Each speed controller includes a voltage regulator which normally powers the other equipment that needs 5 volts. Since there are multiple ESCs in a multicopter, only one of these is required. People cut the 5v wire to prevent the regulators from fighting (probably only necessary with switching regulators). The KK 2.1 board simplifies this as the first ESC connector powers the board and radio reciever while the 5v pin from the other 7 are isolated so no wires need to be cut. This does mean, however, that no power is provided to the servo. To work around this I modified the rear ESC by desoldering the 5v wire and removing it from the connector. I then soldered a 3 pin header to the voltage regulator output to make the 5v and ground lines of an additional connector. The 5v wire from the original connector was attached to the third pin of this and at the other end plugged into the signal pin from the servo output on the KK 2.1 board. This provides a connector on the rear ESC into which the servo could be plugged, providing power and the appropriate signal to drive the servo (see diagram).

Tricopter Wiring Diagram

Top View

Very few changes were required to make the tricopter fly nicely, with the exception of increasing the proportional gain for roll and pitch without which the controls felt quite sluggish.

I have some video from an early test flight shot using a cheap 808 keychain camera. I’ve since bought a Mobius and added an appropriate mount but haven’t had chance to get any footage with the new camera due to weather. The downside of building the tricopter from wood is I don’t want to get it wet!

Mobius Cam

Reciever: Hitec Optima 7
Flight Controller: KK 2.1
ESCs: Turnigy Plush 10A
Motors: Turnigy Multistar 1704-1900kV
Rear Servo: Turnigy TSS 10-MG
Battery: Turnigy 1000Mah 3S 20C LiPo

I’ve made the drawings from which the tricopter was built are available to download and I’d enjoy hearing about it if anyone uses them in a project.

by moop at 28 December 2014 04:12 PM

27 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

uispeccoll: Just in time for the holidays: An archival...


Just in time for the holidays: An archival container for Chesterwhite, the UI Libraries’ first web server (1994-1998), now taking up permanent residence in the University Archives.




27 December 2014 04:00 PM

26 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

engineeringhistory: Annie Easley on the cover of NASA’s Science...


Annie Easley on the cover of NASA’s Science and Engineering Newsletter, circa 1960s. Easley’s career at NASA spanned 34 years, where she developed computer programs related to alternative energy solutions, including wind and solar power, energy conversion, and vehicular batteries.

26 December 2014 12:30 PM

25 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

70sscifiart: From a 1970s coloring book about Santa’s trip to...


From a 1970s coloring book about Santa’s trip to the moon. 

25 December 2014 04:00 PM

retrogasm: Santa in space


Santa in space

25 December 2014 12:30 PM

23 December 2014

Kate Bolin hackergotchi for Kate Bolin

vintascope: Reynold’s aluminum, 1960s


Reynold’s aluminum, 1960s

23 December 2014 07:30 PM

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

No image

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

No image

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