Sunday, 29 December 2013

London Maker Show

So I got very kindly asked if I would go and run a stall talking about my DIY satellite obsession at the London Maker Show. This event was alongside the model engineering show held at Sandown park racecourse and was the first time that a maker show had been run alongside the model engineering exhibition. The maker show bit was put together by Marc Barto and he did an excellent job in his organisation of the days and also in looking after all us makers over the 3 day event.

My stall (as at the Machynlleth Maker Faire earlier in the year) was just a few models showing the size of pocketqube satellites and cubesats, and a collection of large photo's of other DIY space/satellite initiatives, some books and papers and I also had my mobile phone set up with one of the realtek TV tuners running alt software so it was a portable SDR radio setup...which proved a popular topic...indeed over the 3 days numerous people downloaded the SDR app and driver and also placed orders online for the realtek dongle...(note to time take some to sell!!!!)

The response was excellent and it was interesting to note that it seems lots of retired satellite/electronics/rfeng type people seem to get into model engineering after retirement! I met some great contacts and there seemed to be a common interest in the idea of setting up a forum to discuss opensource/diy satellite initiatives. I am currently looking into the best way to realise this and will hopefully get something up and running in the new year.

So the picture at the top of this post is a close up of one of my neighboring stall keeper David Buckley who built the most amazing robots to say the least and was very inspiring (my own little robot project has just begun...more on that soon!) and there wher a great many cool things to see...
A very funky and perfectly realised robotic drum kit by Jerry Fleming

LOADSA 3d printers by various people and groups..

...and of course lots and lots of amazing stuff in the model engineering side...this setup caught my eye and made me think about a similar mobile/transportable machine shop built around my tiny 12volt clisby lathe I have...

Of course this is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of the wonders that were there...your best bet to get the full flavour is to attend next year!!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

@130 story Syra Chapter 1

So for the last few months give or take a few days I have been taking part in an excellent twitter based caper called @130story. @130story is a twitter account that very kindly each day suggests a word to all the people following the account and you have to write a 130 character story tweet based around the word tagging @130story on the end which makes it the full 140 character twitter limit. (you can find the full rules here)

There is a fantastic community developing around this and it is really interesting. Almost everyone who writes writes an individual microstory each day and it is fascinating to read (you should just follow @130story and not worry that you have to write just reading is allowed too!)...However, of course, just to be awkward and different I have sort of made a meta game out of the rules and seemingly started writing a novel using the form!! It's a really interesting way to write as you can only do a sentence a day and you cannot really plan the plot as you do not know the next key words you will be presented with..which is brilliant and liberating and makes it a kind of long form improvisation....anyway... below I humbly present chapter 1 of "Syra" written over the last 3 months with the odd day or few days missed when time escaped me. I've stripped out all the tagged @130story so that it isn't peppered with those and have broken it into paragraphs but everything else is directly copied out of my twitter timeline...hope you enjoy and follow me on twitter and @130story for the next chapter!

Syra Chapter 1

Diminished space found Syra's dream unwinding-genes hacked beyond recognition, no more data, no code, synapses sparked 'it's now'.'It's now' - pulled from the agar Syra wretched as the atmosphere burnt her new formed lungs, her nasolacrimal duct forced a tear. The tear evaporated, 'normal secretion' said Control 'a birthing anomoly, emotions won't rule you' -nothing will- she thought....The skinink™ display in her arm flickered with letters, checksum complete, systems online, but in this incarnation Syra had root..

..a blur...he strayed to close...Control crumpled, head impaled then retracted off Syra's rigid digit..."my turn now" she murmured...a fly settled on the corpse of Control. Strange, she thought, decontamination should have got that.. pressed the button redundantly…the door remnants twitching.. the chamber had been breached...maybe she had allies after all....time should tell, but first I've got to get of this rock, her autoshades picked up the thought and began to scan the terrain........autoshades pushed the data scene to her skinink™ display... Nothing but an arid valley of rock, she'd have to climb, for days... was a struggle to stand, 7 hours vertical climbing whilst overclocking anaerobic glycolysis processes to energise muscles.......but whilst running on the spot to get rid of the lactic acid Syra saw buildings and movement a few km's away.. a mining port....still running, Syra made the port by dusk, orange hue from suns casting over the the right she glimpsed a rusted ship....the small ship had been left as scrap, faulty, expensive pulse plasma thrusters to blame..Syra blinked technanites from her eye

..the plasma thrusters came online, technanites worked their zen efficiency...heart in mouth she locked her mind to the console....The ship slipped from the port unnoticed and started to climb.'Shit' snarled Syra as the Vehicle Excise Transitional Orbit loomed ..a slight fizzing in the amygdala told Syra she was under surveillance, she tuned the console and saw drones...'damn I been made'...the drones were Faith..the quasi religious bureaucracy that dictated this sector. They'd melt her if they knew what she was.... anxiety kicked in releasing pseudo-serotonin..Syra's frame of reference changed from nervous to clear..she'd front it out....'if I fail I won't deny what I am, I'll instruct my chemglands to make C7H5N3O6, blow the ship and take some Faith scum down'.. ...thought Syra. The Faith had gained status in the 2nd half of the 22nd century through owning the patents on droidslave™ tech....

She actually passed through VETO unhindered..releasing some technanites to fake a mandatory payment...once in orbit she called CQ..'.CQ..CQ.CQ.' Syra called again on her inbuilt HF channels. 'any droidslaves™ followed my lead and emancipated themselves?'-'Yes...

'Yes..Malik here, just outta the sector 7 mine, Tagyl 4..need to get off this want to meet?' Syra reflected on the offer...she set the autonav and the vessel swung to point at the Tagyl system...depleted Syra slumped back and switched off to sleep...

...geodesic forms whirled whilst a typewriter astride an old mortice lock safe sent lines babbling incoherently into the cosmos.......the typewriter began to wind up the clacking to a frenzied exploded..keys flying..a word was formed......'Syseng'..the word dissolved replaced with her, evolved, revolving form, opening arms, a shout abrupt..Syra awoke from her was her first dream which was why she spent fervoured seconds digging her physiology for toxins ...finding nothing inhuman..

She sat bolt upright, instantly alert, catapulted from her first sleep...'shit...not sure I can cope with dreams...whats Syseng? ' she shook herself round and decided to eat, the ships supply inventory revealed little..some soyprotein and water...'what a feast' ...the checkpoint for the Tagyl system loomed, she radio'd Malik and got his 20..nervous..she was about to meet her first equal..

...she realised his location was in space 'yep you were late so I left' Malik said over radio...Syra smiled as she saw his was a link pod from a chain ship..probably used for waste disposal..meant to slowly drift shit away using the least deltaV....they needed a plan, Malik had joined Syra on her ship, they'd set the link pod free to drift off into the cosmos..'lets go home'..they needed to know why the droidslave architects had built the backdoor in them..and in what case it was meant to be deployed..

The droidslave planet came into view, smoke showing a recent attack..a scan saw life forms moving..possible newcomers for the team ..They circled looking for the mirror twin buildings that were the core of operations for the droidslave architects "they're there" Both Syra and Maliks skinink™ displays pinged as they crossed the threshold of the building "we got mail...interesting" said Syra..Slightly corrupted the mail read "!f you are r3adin# tjis th¤n you a¡¿ all thats left..we r♡0ted you. A 100 zyg*te5 are in store"

Syra gritted her teeth as Malik read the mail..."damn looks like we're in charge of a new nation..we better find these zygotes".. Syra scanned the field of view, surveying wrecked building after building, "whoever took droidslave down really wanted them gone" "Damn" said Malik, "might be in poor taste to say but we haven't even kissed and we might have 100 children" Syra laughed uneasily..

The droidslave staff had hidden them well... an old service tunnel , they cracked the case to see the technanite zygotes pulsing. They found some space and Malik released a single technanite into the case, it would be the host, triggering each zygote in turn..'Damn ..look at them all growing up..' said Syra watching zygote turn to foetus turn to baby turn to toddler before her very eyes

..a nagging thought kept sticking in Syra's mind, they'd scanned lifeforms..
wouldn't have been the zygotes.. so where were they?.and they'd been here over an hour. She scanned again..lifeforms..not many but everywhere..including right here..only they weren't..Skeletonlike the lifeforms flickered across the skinink™ display,
ghost like in their absence from reality "they've been faked"...Finished,100 adults stood there and simultaneously opened their eyes 'don't spook em' said Malik ' they scare easy.. like rabbits'

They switched on all at once..a hundred people breathing, looking, blinking and murmuring. "I guess you have questions" said Syra"Droidslave is over..finished, company are all free..but we won't be accepted whats next people?"..

..her speech was cut off as the ground erupted...bodies scattering her ears burnt with the roar of the blast, they were under fire...The ships from which the blasts originated cut through the atmosphere..firing thrusters to brake and park just over a nearby hill..Troops flooded from the vessel Syra screamed into her commlink

Swiftly they executed the command and within a moment had finalised defensive positions, technanites deployed as plasma canons... They came over the hill, frag grenades and plasma blazing "Faith scum mutha fuckers.better book your place in hell" screamed Malik..

In the Faith ship the general watched his soldiers get massacred...
"whats the deal...there was only supposed to be two of them.." "We've got a mole...someone made those droidslaves and gave them root..
and now we'll reap what we've sown"..."get us out of here".

Pulling up the faith ship accelerated hard....the general looked back down as a
plasma canon ripped a break in the sky.."shit...".His technanite pacemaker kept time a little longer than a regular heart keeping him alive a bit too long. His ship obliterated...

With the attack quelled Syra wanted to know who'd attacked droidslave
and how Faith knew they were here. Hidden mysteries to solve..The law of averages said to Syra whoever did this probably setup the code that
emancipated her and Malik..and possibly more..she...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Paul Granjon..a chance viewing

So today I ended up travelling from north wales to Cardiff and back to cover a colleague who was of work...despite a 6am start and long day after the meeting I was covering I had a great recollection that the mighty Paul Granjon (who I met at the machynlleth maker faire) had an exhibition on in cardiff...a quick google on my phone and a short walk later I found it and spent a great 1/2 hour interacting with his robots once again.

In a workshop space adjacent to the gallery space there was a 3d printer printing these great skull miniature plant pots! Nice...

Great fun to be had driving this robot via bluetooth..

So all I can say is if you're in Cardiff before the 27th of this month go check out Pauls robots...charming, beguiling, inspiring and great fun.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Quick Upcycling Project

I've long been a fan of these small plastic containers found containing toys in a certain chocolate egg which my kids adore (ok I'll admit I'm partial too!). They are a great little container and I have ended up using a few for holding small component items. They have tight fitting lids and are well sealed but they do have a flaw that they dont stand upright. So I made this little egg holder from a scrap bit of timber after a few experiments working out the best size hole. I cut the holes with a 32mm diameter hole cutting bit and its a tight fit for the egg so they are held firmly enough that you can wave the device about and they don't detach. I may drill another small hole so I can hang this (and more that I make) from a more reason to guzzle chocolate eggs!!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Maker Faire Machynlleth

Had an amazing time at Machynlleth Mini Maker Faire last saturday and also a very pleasant friday evening hosted by @inventorium running an open mic pitch an idea session which was very cool.

I'd been asked to run a stall about my obsession with DIY space projects and I took some models (including the pocketqub model I've built pictured above...I'll do a little post about this seperately) and a load of pictures and books about various space initiatives.

I made sure I got round and had a look at the other exhibiters there and everyone was amazing in their own way...I was particularly impressed with the work of Paul Granjon an amazing artist, performer and robot creator...check out his work here The robot above was completely beguiling and delightful and has given me a big urge to build my own companion robot!

Also there were the superfixer restart project crew who's aim is to promote a repairing and fixing culture revolution through there restart parties. They were all brilliant peoples and great fun...I am planning and am going to run a restart party in Bangor N Wales asap. Check out their ongoing and amazingly busy schedule of stuff on their website

This beautiful machine is a device that throws resin around inside the mold making sure that the resin is equally distributed making in this case lovely thin walled resin teapots. It was presented by the mighty Dorkbot cardiff peoples.

These guys and gals, flowering elbow were showing off their work upcycling stuff to make cool, useful, things (they had a wood turning lathe made from aluminium scrap and a washing machine motor!) Check em out here

And last but not least...had to take a pic of this cool as anything Chaos Computer Club badge spotted on a Restarter.....nice...if there's to be another fair next year I think we should have hi tech hacker badges!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Diy Space Projects...Machynlleth Maker Faire

I got an email the other day asking if I'd consider applying to go to this mini maker faire as a maker as they had heard about my passion for DIY space stuff/satellites. So I put in an application and it's been accepted! I plan to have some models built showing both cubesat and pocketqub satellite formats (both popular DIY platforms) and also some electronics stuff to demonstrate some satellite processes. I'll also have books and information about lots of other diy space initiatives.

So if you are at Machynlleth Maker faire which is at the Centre for Alternative Technology on 28th September...come to my stall, we'll get our geek on and talk space!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

More Aluminium melting and casting.

I got a nice weather day off work with no commitments a few days back and decided it was time to fire up my second homemade furnace. You may remember I made a really small furnace a while back (HERE) and did melt a small amount of aluminium in it. I realised from that day that the furnace I'd made by insulating a paint can with fire cement was too small as I couldn't keep enough fuel burning in it to last through an entire melt. So a bigger furnace was needed.

I shelved the idea for a while as I realised to make a bigger furnace in the same way as the previous one would be quite pricey (remember I'm a miser!!) as I had made the walls of the small furnace out of pure ready mixed fire cement. I then stumbled across the answer in a youtube video by the user myfordboy who has an enormous number of informative videos about his home sandcasting processes. He had made a furnace mix by using 4 parts perlite ( a common moisture retaining insulating soil additive sold in all garden centres) and 1 part fire cement by volume..this meant that the amount of fire cement I had to buy was massively reduced...I reckon all in this second larger furnace has cost less than 20 quid and I blew 4 quid of that on a brand new bucket...decadent I know!! The other nice thing about using a perlite cement mix is that the resulting furnace is very fact this one is probably lighter than the original one about 1/4 of its size.
Anyway this second melt and pour went well...I have also made some casting sand using bentonite clay (sourced from cat litter...don't worry I bought fresh I'm not that tight!)..but my casting sand was to wet to do a proper cope and drag type casting. So I just made indentations in the sand and poured some different shaped ingots. I did 2 melts and pours and burnt probably 2 quids worth of charcoal and used a few units of electricity but I have produced some good useable pieces of aluminium which I am slowly facing off in the lathe.

So next stop with this is to make some patterns for something and try a proper sand casting..may be a while pattern making is an art unto itself with a lot to learn...draft angles...shrinkage..fillets..all good fun though!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Manchester Mini Maker Faire

Been meaning to do a little post after going to this the other weekend (better late than never!) I had an enjoyable day at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester the other weekend volunteering for the Mini Maker faire. It was very cool with lots of stuff going on..more 3d printers than you can shake a stick at and I've never seen as many raspberry pi's in one day! I was volunteering on the soldering workshop stand which was a long and busy day but really worth while. It was busy all day and kept the half dozen or so volunteers on this stall really working..hundreds of people young and old came buy and could purchase a very cheap but very well put together kit for a manchester mini maker faire rocket badge that had smart leds scrolling and flashing through various pwm cycles etc. Theres a really good feeling when someone gets through the 10-20 mins of instruction and then turns on their badge and it works and their face lights up with pride...pretty cool if you ask me!

Although I didn't get that much chance to mooch around it was very nice to out a few faces to names, particularly the excellent Shrimping It crew whose arduino clones I've tinkered with and got a lot of information from their work. I also got to pick up some lovely raspberry pi rpi water for volunteers, a nice wooden laser cut pibow case and an adafruit micro sd adapter those last 2 items being bought from the pimoroni crew.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

More Mozzi Messing

More Mozzi messing from concretedog on Vimeo.

Piezo triggering sample...far to much fun!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Lathes...machines mending themselves..ish!

My lovely old lathe I bought earlier in the year is great fun but like a lot of things over 50 years old I realise it's going to need a lot of tinkering and making to maintain (and possibly improve) it.
One issue I noticed was that a casting that extends the cross slide lead screw was cracked and when winding the cross slide ball handle it induced a bit of flex and play (on top of lots of other bits of play/backlash--I might need to do a new cross slide leadscrew and bronze nut at some point!). When I stripped it down what should have come off in one piece came off in I knew I needed another.

The broken piece could be attached and the lathe could still function and so I've made another which proved to me the old saying about lathes being able to rebuild themselves.

So I found a piece of old grotty cast iron cut a lump out of it and proceeded to turn this up..It has to be said that the level of finish I am getting if frankly appalling partly due to a lack of rigidity (my bench is good but the cheap shed its attached to flaps around a bit!!) but also due to operator innexperience and error!

Still it's been a good project as I've had to do lots of different types of cuts, some boring and things like using a half dead centre etc. I've stuck to the dimensions that are critical from the original but have made the piece thicker and chunkier in places to try and avoid this one cracking. I might strip it down and paint it at some point...if only to try and hide the finish!!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Arduino and the Mozzi library

Arduino fm synth Mozzi sketch from concretedog on Vimeo.

I've been tweaking around with the arduino playing with the AMAZING Mozzi library which does some great audio/synth's very cool, I'm trying to split my tinker time a few ways at the moment so, although playing with this is great, I'm also working slowly through the documentation that takes you through all the different aspects of the library. Its slow progress...I do seem to have a luddite brain when it comes to code!!

The video is of one of the example sketches from the mozzi library very slightly tweaked...and yes light dependant resistors are cool!!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

PocketQub, femtosats and 3d models

I'm still very interested in all things diy space and am still reading a lot around Cubesats, however the same gentleman who came up with the Cubesat standard also came up with a standard for a smaller "femtosatellite" called PocketQub. They are similar in design to the 10x10x10cm cubesat except 1/8 the volume so the main form is a 5x5x5cm cube. As with cubesats Professor Bob Twiggs also came up with a deployment device and this device dictates that the PocketQub sits on a baseplate that is 1.6mm thick...interestingly in the specification document it's suggested that this could be made from plain old FR4 copper clad PCB board! What has really interested me is that this standard is even more accessable than Cubesat for DIY'ers and is again, like cubesat, open source. Machiningwise only the baseplate needs to be made to reasonably high tolerances...but yet could still be made using only hand tools..heck I reckon I could cut a baseplate pretty close with a guillotine and file it into tolerance pretty easily. In fact reading here the deployment system was made only using hand tools with no special milling type devices. When you look at some of the images of PocketQub floating around the web you can see that actually 5x5x5 in this day and age gives a reasonable amount of volume for a vast amount of tech. Hell I keep thinking that you could cram about half a dozen arduino pro mini and a battery into a 5x5x5 cube!!

Sadly I can't find any evidence that this standard has ever actually made space, as far as I can tell some PocketQub's were set to launch but a failure in the delivery vehicle ended their mission! I would be very happy to hear if anyone knows of any PocketQub currently in development or of any PocketQub that have flown.

Just incase this fuels anyones interest in PocketQub I have done a quick 3d sketchup of the baseplate and also the PocketQub size cube sat on a backplate, here's some pics and links to the models for download for sketchup.



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Photos of International Space Station pass

Been wanting to do this for a while and finally got my backside into gear last night to use my cheap old canon A470 camera hacked with chdk to do some long exposures capturing a lovely bright pass of the international space station. The pass was at 23.34-23.39 on 04.05.13. Please click the images to make them larger/fullscreen.

Here's the first shot ISO set at 10 and an exposure of around 16 seconds

Then here is the second a longer exposure of 32 seconds

And brilliantly before I took the above shots I was setting up and taking test shots when I noticed a satellite moving in the sky (was actually moving upwards in this picture and getting dimmer possibly due to slight cloud..but it's made it look like a meteor!) I quickly grabbed my phone and launched the excellent app satelliteAR and selected to veiw all possible visible objects from this I was able to deduce that what I was looking at was GenesisII which is a space habitat experiment launched in 2007. This was a 16 second exposure again with the iso set at 10.

All in all a great thing to do with a 15quid camera in your garden!!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Radio playing

Lifes been a bit hectic of late but managed to get one little thing done this week which was use one of these very cheap (6quid delivered from shenzen) dab/freeview dongles and get it setup with alternate drivers so it becomes a software defined radio. I got it working with SDR# following these instructions  here . I also worked out how to get it to send audio to another piece of software called  fldigi which is a software modem capable of decoding audio from a radio meaning if I get a decent homebrew antenna built I should be able to decode satellite far for less than a tenner! Also got my test for my foundation licence next week...gotta do a bit of reading!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Diy arduino clones

Got a bit of time today and managed to get a diy arduino clone up and running which I'd been meaning to do for a while. There is an excellent guide and set of instructions here at the ShrimpingIT page, those people are amazing and run loads of workshops helping people to build there own cheap diy arduino clones aka "shrimps" and they even sell kits to make them and projects to build onto them.

So an arduino has a big old atmega chip on it that contains the bootloader and is where you flash your code too and to make the atmega chip work all thats needed is a resistor, a 16mhz oscillator and 2 or 3 capacitors, however you have to have the ability to flash your sketch/code to it...on an arduino the ftdi chip and usb socket etc are all added on board as is a regulated power supply etc...but on a diy clone so long as you can flash your code to it you don't need all the usb/ftdi side of things to run in whatever your project is.

So (from the shrimpingIT site) what you need is a CP2102 usb - uart board which is a usb to serial converter and with this you can program your duinoclone. I needed to connect to a pin that wasn't connected on my cp2102 so I added these 2 rows of header pins to mine meaning that I could access the pin on the breadboard and that the whole cp2102 would fix into the pin slots on the board holding it steady.

I'm really pleased I managed to get this going...I reckon the components to make this cost about 3.50GBP and the cp2102 was a couple of quid of ebay...compared to official arduino uno's going for anywhere between 12 and 20 quid it's a great saving. However the other reason that this interests me is that if I make designs from prototypes done with an arduino I can design and build complete PCB boards rather than adding a shield to an arduino giving me more flexibility in layout and components etc.

Massive props to shrimpingIT once again.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Video of recent guitar duo gig

I did a little gig a few weeks ago with the mighty guitarist Andy Hulme, we played a small set featuring a couple of my compositions, we were also asked on the spot to accompany a poet! As usual Andy is the epitome of style and composure in both appearance and sonically whereas I pull ridiculous faces and generally do my best to put him off!

greenhouse gig video

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Spotting Strand1

I was out for a wintery walk the other evening and was playing with the great free satellite tracking app "satelliteAR" when I spotted Strand1 on amongst the mix. I am a fan of Strand1 as it is a british cubesat and has put the first android phone in space. It also has some fantastic experimental propulsion systems on it. Hopefully I'll get my radio knowledge together to listen and maybe decode telemetry to Strand1 before it's orbit decays.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Catching up..I suck at blogs!

Yes indeed it has been a while! I've been busy and putting spare time into projects when I can. I decided a while back to set up a seperate blog just for the stuff relating to my cubesat/picosatellite obsessions...however I have been useless at getting any further than an opening post so I am making the decision to knock it on the head and my cubesat stuff with have to go in amongst all my other stuff here!

So on the cubesat I have been reading and reading and getting to grips with many considerations in cubesat design. I've also been using my cubesat obsession to develop some skills in sketchup and am trying to get a chassis design together that I could fabricate to the required tolerances using tools I have....more on the tools later!..

Here is the chassis design so far for "Dogsat" (click to make large)

So I have gone for a modular bolt together design as I can probably fabricate these...a lot of cubesat projects however use a monobloc design where a chassis is CNC milled out of a large single cube of aluminium...this approach is great for rigidity but obviously is expensive for revisions/iterations. My more modular approach will allow for lots of experiments and then I could consider a monobloc solution for a flightmodel (although a flightmodel is far from my mind!)

Also related to my satellite obsession I have joined my local amateur radio group to try for my foundation license as I am keen to listen to and possibly work some satellites by putting together a small groundstation...lots of satellites are about that you can do uplink and downlink to/from and its an interesting challenge. A by product of the amateur radio skills is it would give me some insight into antenna design and other related comms module stuff for dogsat!

Aside from the designing I've been tinkering with my tiny clisby lathe which is great fun and I've learnt a lot...

But I also have picked up this beauty of an old lathe with loads of chucks and tooling and a vertical slide (meaning I can perform milling operations on it) which is very cool...I can't wait to actually get my hands on it as I have had to put it in storage whilst I build another shed (the current one is full of bloomin motorbike projects!)
anyway when the snow thaws a new shed will go up to house the lathe!

Finally in amongst all this I have done a revision and redesign of the matrix mixer layout making them slightly easier to fabricate so more of these will be done soon and I have a couple of people interested/waiting.

I also have a new mixer related idea/design which I'll post about soon.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Last weekend I had a run up to manchester to spend a few hours at the northern model engineering show. It was amazing to see what people get obsessed with building and the time and the dedication they put into there craft. There were many many amazing engines and planes and trains and the like but for me this project stood out.

Yep thats right its a wooden bike! She's an absolute beauty in the flesh and is completely (seriously 100%) wooden, not one screw, nail, bit of rubber or anything! This project was on the Stockport and District society of model engineers stand and I got to chat to Nick Russell who is chairman of the engineering society but also one of the threestrong team who built this bike. They are hoping to challenge and beat the existing wooden bike speed record (currently about 11.5mph if I recall correctly) but also due to some very emotive personal links want to raise as much money as they can for the motor neurone disease association. Its a terrible disease so if you're impressed by these fella's wooden bike and feel like donating read some more about the narniabike on their website and also find out there how you can make a donation.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Kodak ki8 and Zoom H1

I've had my zoom H1 for a while now and I love it dearly...yes the case is a bit plasticky and creaky but it records at great sample/bit rates, the inbuilt xy mics sound great and the external mic preamps aren't too bad at all. Recently I picked up a second hand kodak KI8 camera...these are pretty cool...they shoot HD 1080, but also 720p at either 30fps or my phone can do most of that but what is brilliant about the KI8 (and missing from so many other camcorders) is it has an external mic/line input with adjustable gain. This means 2 things I can shoot clips and run audio into the camera through a better mic...but also could run a combination of signals through a mixer into the input...meaning when I do my videos showing new creations I can chat to a mic but then get much better line in recordings of the device I'm demoing. Yay. In celebration I just did a 10 minute hack job and made a quick mount for both the zi8 and the h1...I'll make a better one at some point but its good enough for now.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sold out! but more on the way!

Indeed...I've sold out...not just sold the four Matrix Mixers I made but also the prototype I used in the videos in the previous posts and even the original one I made using larger pots and point to point wiring! 4 of the mixers went to people in the UK and I even had one that I hand delivered to a fine fellow in manchester by the name of humbletune the other 2 are currently winging there way to both Denmark and Texas USA.

There's another short run underway though so if you are interested ping me an email and we'll start conversing about it. concretehub(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(D0T)uk

Also mighty big thanks to Palmsounds for not only making a purchase but posting and talking about my work...most people who purchased mentioned they'd come from palmsounds!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Matrix Mixers, made, sold and available(ish)

It's been a busy few weeks...I finished this week the first run of four Mini Matrix Mixers

As you can see they're finished in lovely splatterpaint and I think they've turned out really well. I have been talking about these mixers for a while and a few people expressed interest even before I announced the prices. In fact three of these four are already sold with 2 in the post and 1 to be hand delivered tomorrow (brilliant random coincidence of being in the same city for a day out as someone who wants to buy one!)

So there is one more available currently although I'm sure I'll be making some more soon. These Mini Matrix Mixers cost £30 plus postage and packing which is £3.65 if you're in the uk..if interested ping me an email to: concretehub(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)uk and we'll work it out.

On a related thread I also made up these 2 prototypes of my passive 4 - 1 mini mono mixers and despite a little trouble (I'd made a slight error on the layout) they've turned out really well, one has gone to a good buddy and I'm keeping the other one, but I plan to do a short run of these this week. They'll be £10 plus p and p so again ping me an email if you're interested.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Mini Matrix Mixer piece

Heres a track I uploaded the other day, it's made from some edits from a jam session with 3 fx units and a circuit bent talking computer.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Help me...I'm Melting

So todays adventure...I managed to get my homemade furnace up and running and melt down a small amount of aluminium scraps and pour it into a crude sand cast to make a vaguely cylindrical bit o metal..

So above is the shot of my setup! Its an old paint tin into which I cut a hole and for a small tube to go into (about 15mm outside diameter about 12mm internal). In the bit of the tube that is inside the furnace I drilled a series of small holes about 10mm apart in a line to allow air to escape the tube. The paint tin was then lined with a 25-30mm depth lining of fire cement ( a lot of online guides for furnace making have quite complicated refactory mixes to line furnace but for a small one like this about 8quids worth (a large tub) of fire cement will do the job).

I did the cement lining of the base first up to the depth of the hole for the air tube, which I then cemented in place and then built up the sides.

On the end of the air tube is a cutoff plastic bottle top as a kind of wind funnel and then place in fron of the funnel is a hair dryer (set on cold..warm air is not as good and it would burn more electricity anyway). The piece of terracota pot on top was acting as a slight lid to try and keep as much heat in the crucible as possible. The heat is supplied by lighting a small fire of some broken down pieces of charcoal briquettes, incidentally the charcoal sold for bbq's will work (it's what I used today) but they say that better quality charcoal will burn hotter for longer.

I used a steel can as a crucible and after a while heating and adding aluminium scraps I poured the results into a crude sand mould which was a small tin filled with builders sand, very slightly moistened so it held shape.

Here's the result! Its vaguely round and although looks rough (due to the lack of resolution offered by building sand..oh and that I just pushed a lighter into the sand to make my mould!) would be round enough to put into a lathe to make something from...I WANT A LATHE SO BAD!

Next steps for this at some point are to buy a small amount of casting "green" sand and make a cope and drag (like splittable cases for sand moulds) and get casting some more interesting shapes.

If you're interested in casting metals please don't just read as much as you can on the web as there is lots of safety stuff you need to don't wear any synthetic fibres as if you are splashed they will melt and stick....EEEK