Stencil-tagging my phone case (by )

My favourite thing to do with the laser cutter at Cheltenham Hackspace is to cut stencils in thin card.

It's dead easy to knock them together in Inkscape, once you've found a suitable stencil font, and the laser can cut thin card in no time at all.

With that done, it's then trivial to spray-paint my Kitten Technologies logo onto things I own or make, Diresta Style!

My first aluminium welding project: A projector protector (by )

The Scout group I help out with meets in a hall with a projector suspended from the ceiling, and because of that, we're not allowed to play ball games; the projector's pretty exposed, and one whack from a ball would probably finish it.

So, I offered to make a metal "cage" to go around it, and decided that this would be a good project to learn aluminium welding on. Aluminium doesn't corrode, and is light for its strength; light is important for a thing that will be suspended in the air above children.

Welding aluminium is a bit different to welding steel. It's much more conductive of heat, and has a lower melting point; so when you have the bit you're welding hot enough to melt, that molten puddle spreads quickly. You need a lot of heat as it's being rapidly conducted away from the actual weld, but if you linger, the entire thing you're working on will melt... So, the result is that aluminium welds tend to look rather larger and chunkier than welds in steel, and you need to work quickly!

My plan was to make a wireframe cuboid, out of 10mm aluminium square tubing. I made the top and bottom rectangles, then joined them with verticals. So my first welds were the outer corners of the box, and I quickly found that it was all too easy to melt the entire corner into a puddle - but thankfully, I could then just build the weld metal up again and use my belt sander to flatten the result back into a decent corner. So you can't really tell, but the corners are pretty much solid aluminium now...

I finished it, but then spent quite some time worrying how to actually fix it up there. In the end, I made some L-shaped brackets (with a diagonal brace inside the corner). We fixed these to the pillar supporting the projector with hose clamps, and the bottom of the vertical arms rested nicely on the plate at the bottom of the pillar so it can't possibly slide down. The long arms were then drilled, and holes drilled in the corners of the top rectangle of the cage, so they could be joined by M5 bolts. This arrangement gave us some scope to adjust it as we installed it, which was essential as I didn't have exact measurements for the pillar...

Here's the end result:

Projecter cage side Projecter cage front

Projecter cage back Projecter cage wide

The yellowy string stuff is some paracord we added at the last minute, just in case a smaller ball manages to sneak in from the sides.

I grabbed a bit of video of myself and another leader (I was way too nervous to stand up on the wobbly scaffold platform!) figuring out how to attach the thing, but I need a more powerful computer to run Kdenlive so I can properly edit videos into a decent enough state to publish!

Physics has become boring (by )

A common trope in contemporary science fiction is a small team in a lab somewhere (be it academia, industry, or just a hobbyist in a basement) fiddling around and discovering some new science - usually, some way of travelling to other universes or something (and then a whole load of plot unfolds as they accidentally unleash some terrible evil or whatever).

But... that kind of thing just doesn't happen any more. Sure, back in the 1600s, you might sit in a lab and discover electricity; back then, many of the fundamental forces that bind the Universe together were ripe for the discovering. As the centuries passed, the easy stuff was cleaned up bit by bit; in the early twentieth century, relativity and quantum theory cleared up the last mysteries that were easily recreated on a hobbyist budget. There was some fun to be had in nuclear physics, which could be experimented with if you had institutional-level funds to build particle accelerators and atomic piles; but since then, all the really cool peeling-back-the-mysteries physics requires vast financial resources.

What, then, for the nerd in a basement? Not only is exciting physics beyond their grasp, but the escapism of science fiction is dulled by the difficulty of suspending disbelief when our plucky heroes rewire a microwave oven to generate a disruption field that prevents the formation of a super-wormhole to R'lyeh. There's no shortage of fun things that can be built to demonstrate known physics, such as a desktop fusion reactor; but that's just an engineering challenge. There's no new science. Wikipedia's excellent List of unsolved problems in physics is sadly short of things that can be explored from one's bedroom; they're mostly highly theoretical problems, for a start. Perhaps a better-funded amateur could tinker with high-temperature superconductors, but the others on that list seem to either require vast machinery, or just pondering mathematical solutions to problems...

Sudden Snow (by )

When we went to bed last night, it was raining hard. So I was pretty surprised when I got up in the morning to find the world covered in about ten centimetres of snow.

And even more surprised to find that the awning over the back door had fallen down, blocking it so I had to get out via another door to investigate:

Fallen awning

The weight of the snow had been too much, causing the bracket on the left to shear off:

Left-hand bracket

This, in turn, pulled the bracket on the right out of the wall:

Right-hand bracket

And the falling awning crushed our little table:

Ruined table

Jean and I managed to undo the surviving bolts and get it off the wall without further destruction. The wall is undamaged at the left bracket:

Left-hand bracket holes

But the bricks are cracked where the bracket pulled out at the right, and the mortar has plenty of cracking too, so this will need some work:

Right-hand bracket holes

Also, our outside light is mangled and just hanging on by the cables, and will need replacing:

Damaged outside light

International Mens Day (by )

Alaric and sick kitten snuggles

It is International Mens Day today - this popped up in my memories on Facebook - Alaric curled up with kitten Lithium after her op. Alaric as he says is not shy about his emotions like most male people but he does still have extreme self reliance which causes him much misery and is part of the bundle that makes men more likely to commit suicide - my friends that have killed themselves to escape the dark places have so far all been men - here is the tribute song/poem that I made for them:

And also Al's write up of the miscarriage from the father point of view. Something which often gets over looked.

And guys - if you are in that dark place please please seek help - I know it's the hardest thing to do.

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