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 (, 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

ESP8266 closeup
[This post by SHH&M member Steve]

During the early discussions about our new space at Portland Works we decided it would be good to have an RfID access system, and that this would communicate with a server over the network. This immediately sparked my interest as I had recently taken delivery of some new modules that I had been dying to have a play with, the ESP8266-01.

The ESP8266 is a chip that enables wifi access, with communication over a simple UART (serial) connection. The main selling point of this chip is that it is very low cost compared to other Wifi solutions, typically £2-3 per module. Another huge advantage is its ability to act as a standalone microcontroller – more on that later…. Continue reading


SHH&M are proud to announce that we’re officially incorporated as a company! We’re a member-run, non-profit Community Interest Company, with the mission of “helping people in Sheffield to make creative use of technology and tools for hobby-scale projects in fields such as computers, machining, technology, science, and digital or electronic art”.

More simply, we’re a Hackspace for Sheffield.

These are very early days for us, but if you’re interested get in touch!

At the moment, we’re busy renovating our new home in the Portland Works in central Sheffield. Our first proper public events will be very soon!


Most of our members’ hacking time is going into the new space at the moment: getting the fabric of the building repaired, and setting up our infrastructure (some posts on our adventures with the ESP8266 WiFi modules should be up soon!). But as a Sunday project, I tried picking up a new technique — sewing a waistcoat from a pattern. Continue reading