Janine at Halifax

Aaron (of Oomlout fame), interviewed SHH&M member and trustee Janine about our hackspace and what we do here. It’s a nice writeup, with Janine giving a great introduction to our group and a few of the projects that we took along to the Halifax Mini Maker Faire. You can read the interview, and see some nice photos of the projects we took to Halifax, here.

As ever: if you’re interested in what we do, get in touch, or look at the calendar and just turn up to a meeting to meet us.

I have to apologise to the guys at the London Hackspace (LHS) in advance for this write up. I visited around a month or so ago and have only just got to writing it up. Whilst kicking around in London with a day to spare, at short notice, I contacted the London Hackspace and asked if I could come visit. Jasper replied pretty quickly and despite the horribly short notice was a very willing and helpful host. Many thanks then to Jasper.

The Front of London Hackspace
The Front of London Hackspace

The nearest tube station is Bethnel Green but the walk to the space through Tower Hamlets and past the Museum of Childhood is not very far and it was a pleasant day. LHS can only be described as huge. We were impressed at the size of Nottingham Hackspace but London is actually bigger. Not that size matters…. It leaves our hackspace feeling positively bijou, in true 80’s estate agent speak. The space itself occupies the entire ground floor of the A2E building as pictured, the equally large basement and the whole of the rear yard. Turning up as I did mid-week it was surprising to see how busy the space was with a number of folk working away on their projects.

Chillout Space
Chillout Space

Straight in through the door you walk into the communal chill out area. With a display of things made in the space, comfy seating and the kitchen area featuring a re-purposed fridge/beer cooler and beer on tap. More about the beer later. On the wall dividing this room and the next on this side is a sizeable makers library. Straight ahead through a pair of double doors is a substantial classroom area, with the biggest TV I have ever seen for presentations, apparently gifted by a very generous donor. This classroom area doubles as communal workspace for folk more software oriented when not being used as a classroom. Just out of shot on the left of the classroom is a passage way to the basement stairs and yard door.

Laser and handcraft area
Laser and handcraft area

Just off this passage way on the left hand side is the kitchen proper and toilets. Turning immediately left there is the laser and handicraft area, plus the full size roller shutter door to the large rear yard. The yard is just visible through the windows. The area is set up for a bunch of textile oriented projects with a good range of textile oriented machinery and facilities. As I already mentioned, considering it was a midday, and mid-week visit I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were in the space working on their projects. To the left down the rear wall, again just out of shot is a small quite room/meeting room. Despite there being so much in this open ground floor area the feeling is very light and spacious. So far we have only walked in through the door and turned to our left.

Electronics Lab
Electronics Lab

If we turn left again so we are looking behind where we came in we can see the electronics lab. Just out of shot to the right is the 3D printing area, behind which is the quiet room we mentioned earlier. The electronics lab is well appointed with a range of test equipment, soldering stations and a whole bunch of components in drawers. There was a large 16 segment display made up from sticks of LED’s on the rear wall. What was starting to become apparent was that for a busy hackspace with a lot of equipment and ongoing projects it was surprisingly tidy. Before heading down to the basement to see what was in there, Jasper and I took a little time out to have a talk. London Hackspace seem to use IRC quite a bit for extended discussion out side of the space. Questions I had that Jasper was not sure about someone on IRC could help with. Access to the space is via RfID and 24×7. Interestingly enough being London most folk have Oyster cards or some other RfID tag. So the entry system works with these rather than sourcing tags for members to use. Re-purposing starting early. I was curious as to how they managed to have such a large space, especially n London giving the high property and rental costs. Jasper explained that although difficult and a bit of a struggle they do have well in excess of a thousand members. This does sound a lot until you consider just how many folk actually live in London.

Biohacking Lab
Biohacking Lab

Having talked a while we headed for the basement. To the right as you enter the basement area, and extending under the stairs we had just come down, is the biohacking lab, with the appropriate certification. I took this photo through the door glass not wanting to risk contaminating the workspace. Immediately behind me or to the left as you enter the basement is a large storage area with lines of shelving full of storage boxes for donated things to hack upon and personal projects. The basement area appeared to stretch on forever. Maybe it is a tardis like thing, bigger on the inside. Apart form the biohacking lab, this is where the dirtier and dust making work gets done. This lab is the first of a chain of enclosed areas leading from the main work area that make up the right hand side.

Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment

Moving along the right hand side passed a space that is currently a work in progress, we came to the essential stash of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As can be seen from the photograph a quantity of this was in use at the time. It was good seeing this in place and the shadow board shows how much is in use. Storing this equipment out of the main mess making rooms helps keep it clean and ready for use. There is a temptation to place it next to the place of use, with the resulting consequences. As appears to be the norm with hackspaces, PPE is provided and it is the members responsibility to select that which is appropriate for the task and use it. This point marks the end of the storage section of the basement and the beginning of the workshop proper.

Woodworking and Metal Bashing
Woodworking and Metal Bashing

Next in line are the two messier work areas for metal bashing and for woodworking. The metal bashing area has a sub-area set aside for welding and cutting operations. This area can be curtained off with a heavy shade curtain to protect the other workspace users from the effects of welding arc flash and showers of hot metal particles. The usual machine shop equipment is also available together with a power hacksaw. Always useful. The wood working area further along is similarly well provisioned with things like planer/thickeneser, lathe band-saw and workbenches along with dust extraction equipment. Keeping dust and mess levels down in a basement is a challenging pastime. Wood working is a particularly difficult, case in point.  The dust extraction was a standard blower and bag type set-up, that could perhaps benefit from a vortex separator.

End Right
End Right

Arrayed just outside the messy workspaces was a goodly selection of hand and power tools for use in either the cleaner workshop area or the messier one. Finally at the end of the right hand side there was a remaining open area with the spaces server racks and a collection of interesting robots.  To the right of the picture covered in plastic is one of the bench robots that were used as in the early stages of the Human Genome Mapping Project (HGMP). There were many of these used to brute force the sequencing of a single human genome using the wet bench technology of the day, these were principally used to save on the huge number of man hours that the repetitive tasks would otherwise of consumed.

Main Workshop Area
Main Workshop Area

Finally we take a step back and look down the basement taking in the main workshop area that lays down the length of the left hand side. Note the keep clear walkways taped out on the floor. A goodly supply of tooling and workbenches to suit most tasks. The dark door way just visible at farthest end of the room leads to the brewing area. In the brewing area there were stored various iterations of Brewbot and brewing paraphernalia. It was about this point in the tour that something that Jasper had mentioned several times sunk in. In talking about the biohacking, brewing, 3D printing or whatever maker thing etc. Jasper had refereed to them as groups. I guess with that many members and that much space a degree of grouping must take place. Being a small, compact hackspace Sheffield is still pretty homogeneous. We tend to refer new folk to members as individuals that have the skills or interests in common, as opposed to referring them to a group with skills. It was interesting to see how the social structure had evolved and coagulated around specifics. It is almost like a mini town or ecosystem with groups making not just for themselves but for the hackspace at large. The brewing group was a particular case in point, considering their produce was made available to the hackspace in the chill out area upstairs. This left me thinking, this is what community’s and society used to be like before the disruptive model of mass manufacture and mass consumption came to prevail. It was not enough to just sell something, it had to be made as well.

All in all then, wow, what a hackspace. I could do with a visitors pass to drop in the half a dozen times a year I am in London, with time to spare. It would sure beat hanging around the usual touristy parts of town and save me the money spent on impulse buys in Foyle’s Bookshop. A “must go see” for makers visiting London then, and a “must be a member” for makers working, living or spending extended time in London. The number of pictures do not do it justice.

Busy times here at SHH&M! A few snapshots of things our members have been working on recently in the hackspace:

Project Snapshots



Some of the stuff we’ve been up to lately includes:

  • Upgrading one of our 3D printers
  • Building comfy deckchairs for slow afternoons in the coutyard
  • Ultra-lightweight aircraft for indoor flying
  • Building and upgrading our network and servers
  • Running workshops, including amazing ice-cream!
  • Arduino and ESP8266 programming
  • Prototyping a pocket-sized (taking-to-the-pub-sized!) boardgame
  • Learning woodworking and joinery
  • …plus our high altitude balloon project, catching up with friends and being inspired by cool projects at the Halifax Mini Maker Faire, further work on our RFID entry system, and a hundred other things that I don’t have photos of.

It’s been another good month, and it’s only going to get better! If you’re interested in joining in, at any skill level (NB: “any” definitely includes “complete beginner”), get in touch or look at our calendar and just turn up to a session!


This Saturday we made dry ice icecreams and sorbets, had a chocolate truffle making masterclass, and experimented with molecular gastronomy to make burst-in-the-mouth fruit puree spheres. Plus a BBQ and our normal hacking session alongside. An exhausting, brilliant day!

For the dry ice icecream, we made a couple of batches of simple custard, cooled to around room temperature using a dry ice bath (because why not?):

…then everyone started adding their own mix of flavours, before quickly beating in dry ice converted to a powder in a finely calibrated process of Janine frenetically bashing it with a hammer.


Verdict: Amazing icecream! My personal favourite was the Glenlivet whisky icecream, but they were all (vanilla, cherry and chocolate, chocolate mint, Rum, Kahlúa) fantastic.

Andy’s Kiwi, Apple and Lime sorbet was similarly great. The fizzy taste from the dry ice gave it a really delicious edge.

Sarah ran our truffle making masterclass — deliciously messy, with fantastic results! Another great mix of flavours tried out — my personal favourite was chocolate and Henderson’s Relish. Because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to cook anything in this city without at least a splash of Hendo’s.

Finally, a bit of molecular gastronomy. We got hold of some calcium lactate gluconate and sodium alginate to try out “reverse spherification”. A simple berry puree was mixed with the calcium salt, and dropped into a bath of sodium algniate, for about 2 minutes. This grows a thin layer of flavourless gel around the droplet of fruit, making a burst-in-the-mouth fruit sphere! Well, sort of sphere:

Never mind that they look like monkey kidneys, they were delicious, a really fun texture, and surprisingly simple and enjoyable to make. Lots of finesse needed for perfect spheres, but definitely worth trying yourself!

Finally, our incipient tradition of a BBQ and a few beers in the sunny courtyard before cleaning up and heading home to our respective food comas.

Thanks to everyone for helping out! If you missed it (maybe you haven’t come along to a meet yet?), you should’ve been there!

PS: There may have been some further gratuitous playing careful and sensible use of the dry ice:


…but our lips are sealed.

[This post by SHHM member Janine]

One of the items that caught the imagination of several visitors to the Portland Works Open Day, was the “Marble Machine 1” (see photos). The machine is designed by Martin Raysford and is one of several versions that are available directly from his website (MSRaynsord.co.uk), or at many of the Maker Faires across the UK.

The kit comes as several flat pieces of wood, with the pieces laser cut out, bar small holding pieces that need to be cut with a scalpel. These are great fun to make, instructions are clear, with only wood glue required from the builder to make the item.

The spiral section of the machine is pulled out and extended from a flat piece of wood and is kept in place under grooves in the mounting stand.

The machine is either operated by the handle or a battery operated motor can be added.

Marble machine 4 is also available (see below).

This machine uses pillars rising and falling to move the marbles up to the top of the track. Again, this can be battery operated.

I’m currently building the Marble Machine 2 – will take some in progress photos for the next blog!

Numerous other laser cut ply toys are also available…


Whilst in Edinburgh for a conference we took some time out to drop in on the local hacking community and compare notes. Edinburgh Hacklab have been on the go for a while now and are on the second iteration of their own space, having moved from the other side of the city centre to Summerhall. Initially like SHH&M they started out meeting once a month in space shared with other community groups.

The Summerhall Complex

This is a creative hub for the arts that has taken over what used to be the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. It even has its own pub called the Royal Dick in the central courtyard. We caught up with the guys just as they were preparing an installation for the last part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This was to be a laser maze based in a surreal part of the buildings that still had the animal cages etc all in place. Just as if it was vacated yesterday. Together with the smoke to make the lasers visible it looked like it would be a memorable weekend for anyone that attended. Much of the buildings that are not as yet let are similar. Some parts have been used to great effect in the setting for horror film projects. All in all then a great setting for a Hacklab with lots of visual things going off.  Exciting, creepy and surreal by turns as the venue was it wasn’t why were there.

The guys at the Hacklab were very friendly and approachable; Peter had responded quickly to my initial email and as well as inviting us down to see their space and was on hand as we arrived, making us feel very welcome. They have weekly regular meet-ups that are open to the public and are keen to see new faces. Many thanks to Peter, Al, Gandalf and all the guys there who put time aside to talk to us about their projects, constitution, history and the journey to their current state.

The Workshop

As we arrived, Peter was just starting an informal tour so we tagged along. Having come into Summerhall through the main entrance and into the yard you are facing the Royal Dick pub. The Hacklab itself is the ground floor to the right of the pub. The first room on the right as you come in through the door is the workshop for the sort of making that creates mess. In the picture you can see the laser cutter back left, a mini lathe immediately left and the new workbench the guys were just completing down the right hand side of the room. A lot of treasure was piled up to the left to make way for the construction work on the bench. the workbench looked great and like it is intended for some serious making.

The Storeroom

Down the corridor and taking the last door on the left was the store room and also where the Ultimaker 3D printer lived. The Hacklab had recently upgraded to the Ultimaker, finding the space frame style printers need of constant adjustment frustrating. Peter explained that members stored their projects etc in Really Useful boxes stacked on shelves along the back wall and on the right of the door. This works reasonably well for them but leaves managing the space and keeping it turning over a challenge. There were more making tools behind the dismantled desks and other things temporarily stored here whilst the workbench construction mentioned above was ongoing.

The Communal and Electronics workspaces

Moving back out of the store room and across the corridor to the larger room next door to the workshop we entered into the Hacklabs commons and electronics/clean work area. This room appears to have originally been a molecular biology lab and still retains recognisable benches and fittings along with reagent shelves that separate the room into the two distinct workspaces. Al explained that they had been letting this space for a couple of years now, the room certainly showed an evolutionary accumulation of awesome projects.Visible in the picture there is a monorail around the edge of the ceiling with a lego mindstorms based robot/train parked over the electronics work area. There were also a number of cameras placed around the periphery of the ceiling. Gandalf explained that these were a spacial positioning project for a mini quad copter. On the right of the picture is a monitor and raspberry Pi combo showing activity in their freenode IRC room and on the rear wall over the electronics work-area is a large LED dot matrix sign displaying useful info about the space. On the wall to the right just out of shot on the picture was a pin board with the Hacklab shop featuring emergency Pi’s and Arduino’s as well as Hacklab souvenirs. There was a lot to see and ask about, too much to get into one visit. We can definitely recommend dropping in on the Edinburgh Hacklab if you are in the local.

For now though our time was up, we had a quick tour of some of the buildings more interesting features from it’s previous life, taking in the art and installations as we passed. Then left the guys to get on with the essential work for the upcoming weekends event. We will certainly drop in again next time we are in Edinburgh.



Circoflex kite flying

Another experiment in kitemaking…

This is a slightly modified Circoflex kite based on these comprehensive plans, on a page that has stood online and unedited since 1998, back when they really built webpages to last; just HTML and grit.

Basically a short, flying windsock, this kite looks very unusual and turned out to be pretty simple to make. The material is (or at least, claims to be) barely-rejected parachute material originally manufactured for the RAF. It’s remarkably like silk to work with: very light, smooth, and slippery, and consequently a complete pain in the fundament to sew. Excellent for its purpose though, and it’s the same stuff we’ve used to make the parachute for our high altitude balloon system. Continue reading

Main room pano

Our meetup (and first public event in the new space!) for Arduino Day 2015 went brilliantly, thanks to all who came. Lots of new faces and old friends called in through the day, for a series of talks about getting started with Arduino, and to check out each others’ projects. A good time — and some really great discussions — were had.

RCCar Continue reading

Author: James Muirhead

ATTiny Programmer photo

This is a modified version of the programmer described on the High Low Tech Group’s page. I have however added a few customisations…

  • Reset buttons for both the ATtiny and the host Arduino,
  • Headers in paralel with the IC,
  • Rails for 5V, 3.3V & ground,
  • A mini breadboard.

This shield simplifies the development of ATtiny (13/25/45/85) projects giving you direct access to the ATtiny as if it were an Arduino Uno with the added convenience of an attached Breadboad with rails.

Continue reading