Category: Metalworking

The Jan Recap… (by )

It's the end of January so what has gone on in the household snell-pym in the first month of 2017?

For a start there was the end of Christmas, I am still making the last few Advent vids ready for Christmas next year. We delivered presents though sadly not all the presents so we still have a back log!

Also mine and Mary's birthdays - mine involved a coffee, meal and shopping with Al before hospital stuff but we have only just done the proper celebration with kids and friends this weekend just gone which was also Mary's birthday. There was also posh vegan/Gluten Free brunch. Mary has so far played in the Waterstones cafe with her friend Lilly as her party is going to be in two weeks time. We've planned the party and got stuff ready for it.

This includes me working out how to make upcycled unicorn head bands and tail belts and little roll and pop up horses for the kids to make.

My mother was hospitalised so there was a trip to Essex and the adventures of getting home on the train which were unexpected.

DIY wise we have fixed several toys, remounted a coat rack which had pulled off the wall, dealt with networking and upgrading Jean's computer.

We got a telescope - an amazing thing which was a pool of Christmas money instead of presents for Al and Jean and part of mine and Mary's birthdays. We've seen binary stars so far. It was an undertaking to assemble and we now need to build a storage/transport box but it is assembled and being looked through though we've only had like three clear nights!

I've had three lots of testing at the hospital which took it's toll and norovirus hit the household. I missed a theatre meeting about performing a monologue and a poetry recording evening but I am being given second chances at those so that's all good.

I also missed my Krav self defence one off class and a poetry book launch which made me sad but on the other hand I was live streamed reading poetry at Food For Thought.

Talking of poetry I have also been typing up and editing poems from the BOOKCASE (Not shelf) of notebooks I have. The shear number is insane obv. not all of it is usable but a lot is so I have been organising Turquoise Monster and have even started submitting work again (as in 2 poems so far). I've written three poems this month predictable all about Trump. Of course I am doing my poetry writing challenges so I've drafted a good few more mostly not about Trump.

Jan has also been me gearing up for the poetry writing challenge that I host over at Wopo.

I have also designed, refined and created mini poetry scrolls, story scrolls, made bookwallets etc... for blank scrolls for others to write poetry on, personalised pencils and made write your own poem kits, made and put together 100 mini zine surprise pouches, story boarded two more zines, drafted half a short story, edited a couple of flash fictions, tried to write daily on this blog and started on the mammoth task of trying to sort out the Salaric Craft blog.

Also Storystorm - what used to be Picture Book Idea Month has rebranded and moved to Jan. so I have been idea generating and expanding on those ideas for kids books.

Alaric has been making a cufflink holder for the cufflinks I made him for Advent, the girls have been making invites and decorations for Mary's party and we have all been working on the cosplay outfits for True Believers Comic Festival which is this weekend coming. This has involved sewing, sticking, painting, metal twisting, papier mache and buying new wellys.

I had to get a third print run of my colouring book Love: A Stranger Dream made and in general have been trying to sort out The WigglyPets Press.

I have been teaching myself origami and have folded lit. hundreds of things from geometric modules to make bigger things from to little stand up foxes to pretty little boxes.

We've organised things for getting back down the allotment, so just sorting out containers for soil etc...

I've knitted four hats, made an Ironman craft kit, taken the kids to two (not us) birthday parties. Three projects are still currently being designed and refined including mending a rocking horse that is older than me. I accidently made a pair of slippers from an old coat whilst trying to make a portal gun (please tell me this happens to other people!).

Alaric made my laptop usable again (for now) and we had a chicken fatality 🙁 and we had to fix the chicken run and stuff and general animal stuff to sort out. We've got our new electric car and there was pie making!

NB pie was not chicken Al is veggi!

Jean is still at Scouts, Jujitsu, and Drama and Mary is doing her Ballet, both girls are missing climbing but for one of the parties we did get to go "caving". Alaric is still doing Krav and Hackspace each week. Oh and of course we had to do my tax (sobs!).

There were also visits from and too various family.

So that was January - it snowed and it rained and there was scary fog.

A Mix of Things (by )

Today has been lovely and annoying, destructive and creative in turn.

Mary Elf and the Tinsel Dragon Cat have been up to shinanigans - I wonder which of them decided to poo on the table cloth this morning - the nice white one with shiny white flowers on it that snags easily that my aunt bought us? I assume it was the cat, it smelt like cat - I was not happy but here they are being cute - the sequence will be storyfied never you fear.

The tinsel dragon cat beckons

The Tinsel Dragon Cat was lonely and felt quiet rightly that it did not have enough tinsel so it called to the Mary Elf, a little rainbow of a thing that hopes here and there and everywhere and never EVER stops talking.

Mary Elf attends the Tinsel Dragon Cat

The Mary Elf attended the great Tinsel Dragon who was once again in it's most comfitable of guises as the young cat Lithium. Mary Elf listened with care to the instructions of the Tinsel Dragon Cat.

Mary Elf and Tinsel Dragon Cat plan their mischeif

The instructions where simple... go forth and fetch all the tinsel that abounds across this fair and mighty land and bring it back for a snuggly bed was to be crafted.

So the Mary Elf went and had many adventures over great lakes that others called puddles and scoured vast deserts of "the super market", onward the little rainbow bounce trekked until the was a montain to scale of stairs scattered with toys which she had to tidy.

Until she bought home much tinsel for the Tinsel Dragon Cat to sleep upon. So pleased was the dragon in it's guise as little Lithium the pusskin that with paw and claw Mary Elf was Knighted most valiant in all the land of Front Room. There was much rejoicing.

Tinsel Dragon Cat anoints Sir Elf Mary

The End

But not of our day. Unwanted turd cleaned up Al's cousins turned up and we did presents and things and had tea and headed out for a lovely greek meal in Gloucester Docks.

The Snell Cousins Visit for Christmas Cheer

Except our car wouldn't start - this has increasingly been an issue we need to take the battery out and top it up (or that was our first thought anyway). So we headed out in the van after we'd moved all the tents and greenpeace signs I picked up at the wood recylcing project to turn into something for the garden - if we ever get stopped by the police (happens a lot when you drive a van) then we might have trouble convincing them that we are not militant activists or something!!!

The meal was lovely though Mary did not like the octipus tentical that was served up to one of our number - she loves octipi and talks to them when she sees them. She almost tried a prawn.

I felt guilty that all the presents we handed over where home made and embarassed that the scarf and hat that glow in light where knitted using the looms and not just on needles - I kind of feel it's cheating but I am getting neat results with the looms and still struggling about with needle knitting.

I got a lovely wooden bowl.

I hear there is a computer game and things too and Mary is excited about knitting the little mouse that is her present 🙂

The resturant we were aiming for was actually closed so we ended up the opposite side of town to where we had parks, there was a cunning plan of Al and Maurice getting the car and van and picking us up. It went abit haywire as plans often but all was well with a bit of twoing and throwing.

We said goodbye and headed back home, it was getting dark, the sun set was a beautiful striation across of the city and sea scape of the dock, I failed to take a photo I'm not sure why.

There were swans.

Our car was clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking when we got home, it had been locking and unlocking itself continously whilst we had been out. Roll on car madness involving origami, welding and drinking straws.

The moon was a finger nail sliver and venus (I think) was bright and garish.

The cresant and venus

I used Jean's head as a camera stand. I also had to help her with her homework by taking photos of her in posses from some famous artist. His drawings look like Mary's, no honestly they do!

Back to fixing the car... we needed to take the battery out but a terminal cover was needed and there wasn't one on the battery so origami came to the rescue!!!!

origami terminal cover

I am so proud of this that you are going to see it in action from three different angles!

terminal cover origami

It was to stop accidental contact and sparkage!

Folded paper rescue for battery removal

It is folded from half a page from a very old and battered copy of an Enid Blighton book. It was beyond salvage and has been used in three different craft projects and now fixing a car.

The contacts were all pretty corroded - enough that I am wondering if that is part of the problems we've been having. We have like a spare jump start battery - the car reset itself with that and stopped the damn clicking which must have been driving our poor neighbours made as it was outside their window 🙁

The fault also left the car basically unlocked, there was only really some loom knitting and survival tools and some cuddlies and colouring in books of the girls in the car but still I'm sure we would be grumpy if they got stolen!

Turns out there's a battery bracket/brace with a slightly inaccessible bolt.

I held the torch and after accidently getting Imperial and Metric round the wrong way Al got his long bolt undoing tool firmly in place and turned, all locked home and good seeming there was a crunch and then the thing went round and around.... because the force had broken it :/

The bolt had not moved.

Other tools where got but would not fit or reach etc...

Queue the welding and adapting of a screw driver to make an undoing of the bolt tool. The new belt sander I got Al for Christmas was also used, the go pro failed to record sadly so there will be no funky video 🙁

battery getting out tool

He tried it... it needed further adapting.

A sad a resigned Alaric holding the improvised tool he's just had to make

And again. He was resigned and cold.

battery getting out tool mk2

Back out in the ice he went and... the damn thing broke and the bolt was still firmly in place.

Kids fed and in bed, we ate our Christmas pudding - it's a gluten free one so it fell to pieces but we had some special brandy butter and it was nice and warm and filling.

We decided to add penetrating oil but the reason we had not already done this is that the little tube for getting into narrow spaces was not long enough so a drinking straw had to be used to extend it so that we could actually get the oil down to the bolt. A special tool will have to be got to get the battery out. We used the jumpstart battery to lock the doors and packed up for the night. School run in the van which will be interesting as car share kid has a broken leg so will need help getting in and out 🙁

But it should be possible, other down side is that Al will have to pay for parking as the free carpark for his new job has a height restriction (£8 a day and it obv. ates fuel).

He is now PC minecrafting it to calm down.

I've been doing more origami...

folding paper

This is what I mostly made 🙂

Muse Monster Book Corners or origami bookmarks

Muse Monster Book Corners or origami bookmarks, they are a variant on the hats I used to fold out of newspaper 🙂

I am making them to go with The Monster Blog Zines and Wiggly Pet publications that I make. They will be making a debut at the Ok True Believers Comic Book Festival in Cheltenham this Feb.

And then I wrote this post.

The Hackspace Grand Opening (by )

Those of you who follow me on various social media will have seen the photos of Cheltenham Hackspace new premises being spruced up and that is because tomorrow (well today now!) is the grand opening 😀

Sunday 4th of December - if you are local then please pop along - hackspaces or createspaces are made by and for the community and we'd love to meet you 🙂

I'll be taking along steam punk and textile stuff to be working on and have plenty of spare so others can have a go! There is plenty to see and people to talk to and skill share with 🙂

Also I have been making craft videos for Advent as it turns out it is the tenth Christmas of Salaric Crafts How To Blog!!!

Of course I only have 2 vids up and it is now technically day 4 - annoyingly obsolete laptop is obsolete and is being a pain in the backside but I shall continue limping along with it and hopefully get the other two vids to you some time tomorrow!

I also have a craft fayre Monday at the Costa Coffee on Metz Way in Gloucester 🙂 Mainly taking Wiggly Pet Press stuff with a bit of Steam Punk etc...

Steel Pan Drum Making (by )

Dear Alaric and Jean you asked for ideas for welding projects for presents for me - you know already that I would like a tank drum but I would also like what I call a Calypso Drum - these used to be used at the carnivals when I was a kid and also during the candle light parades and things. I prefer the ones without drilled holes but if they are easier to make then that is fine 🙂

This one looks like a lot of work - from having spent time round industrial workshops as a kid I kind of had it in my head you just bashed empty oil cans - the sort my bro/uncle David makes into BBQ's. And I'm sure there was a drum made from the bonnet of a car or maybe they just let me play with non-sharpe metal and stuff to keep me entertained as a kid!

Also there is this little beaut which is painted and stuff - I didn't know they came painted - it is lovely but about £80 and isn't as many notes I don't think.

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p.s. you might need to enlist the help of musicians in Cheltenham Hackspace for tuning though Jean you are always moaning at my wrong notes so you should be able to do it yourself! Remember Alaric you do have oscillerscopes!

Towards the Family Mainframe (by )

Last September, I posted progress on the construction of our domestic mainframe. To recap, the intent is to build a dedicated home server that's as awesome as possible - meaning it's reliable, safe, and easy to maintain. That rules out "desktop tower PC in a cupboard" (accumulates dust bunnies, gets too hot, easily stolen, prone to children poking it); "put a 19" rack somewhere in your house" is better, but consumes a lot of floor footprint and doesn't fix the dust bunny problem. So I've made my own custom steel chassis; fed cold air at pressure via a filter, incorporating a dedicated battery backup system, locked and anchored to the wall, and with lots of room inside for expansion and maintenance.

Since that blog post, I've finished the metalwork, painted it with automotive paint using a spray gun (which was a massive job in itself!), fixed it to the wall, and fitted nearly all of the electronics into it.

A significant delay was caused by the motherboard not working. I sent it back to the shop, and they said it was fine; so I sent the CPU back, and they said THAT was fine; so I sent both back together and it turned out that the two of them weren't compatible in some way that was solved by the motherboard manufacturer re-flashing my BIOS. That's now up and running; I was able to use the HDMI and USB ports on the outside of the chassis to connect up and install NetBSD from a USB stick, then connected it to the network and installed Xen so I can run all my services in virtual machines. It's now running fine and everything else can be done via SSH, but the HDMI and USB ports are there so I can do console administration in future without having to open the case (unless I need to press the reset button, which is inside).

The one thing it's lacking is the management microprocessor. I've prototype this thing on a breadboard and written the software, but need to finish off the PCB and cabling: but it will have an AVR controlling three 10mm RGB LEDs on the front panel, and three temperature/humidity sensors in the inlet and outlet air (and one spare for more advanced air management in future). But the idea is that the three LEDs on the front panel will display useful system status, and the environment sensor data will be logged.

Here's what it looks like from the outside; note the air inlet hose at the top left:

Family mainframe

The socket panel on the left hand side worked out pretty well - 240v inlet at the bottom, then on the aluminium panel, three Ethernets, HDMI, and USB (my console cable is still plugged into the HDMI and USB in the photo, which won't usually be the case):

I/O sockets panel and the power inlet

And here's the inside, with lots of space for more disks or other extra hardware; the big black box at the bottom is the battery backup system:

Innards of the family mainframe

Now I have Xen installed, I'm working on a means of building VMs from scripts, so any VM's disk image can be rebuilt on demand. This will make it easy for me to upgrade; any data that needs keeping will be mounted from a separate disk partition, so the boot disk images of the VMs themselves are "disposable" and entirely created by the script (the one slightly tricky thing being the password file in /etc/). This will make upgrades safe and easy - I can tinker with a build script for a new version of a VM, testing it out and destroying the VMs when I'm done, and then when it's good, remount the live data partition onto it and then point the relevant IP address at it. If the upgrade goes bad, I can roll it back by resurrecting the old VM, which I'll only delete when I'm happy with its replacement. This is the kind of thing NixOS does; but that's for Linux rather than NetBSD, so I'm rolling my own that's a little more basic (in that it builds entire VM filesystems from a script, rather than individual packages, with all the complexities of coupling them together nicely).

I'm using NetBSD's excellent logical volume manager to make it easy to manage those partitions across the four disks. There are two volume groups, each containing two physical disks, so I can arrange for important data to be mirrored across different physical disks (not in the RAID sense, which the LVM can do for me, but in the sense of having a live nightly snapshot of things on separate disks, ready to be hot-swapped in if required). I still have SATA ports and physical bays free for more disks, and the LVM will allow me to add them to the volume groups as required, so I can expand the disk space without major downtime.

So for now it's just a matter of making VMs and migrating existing services onto them, then I can take down the noisy, struggling, cranky old servers in the lounge! This project has been a lot of work - but when I ssh into it from inside the house (over the cabling I put in between the house and the workshop) and see all that disk space free in the LVM and all the RAM waiting to be assigned to domU VMs that I can migrate my current services to, it's all worth it!

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