New equipment — Wadkin Pattern Makers Lathe


Wadkin lathe 3

We’re getting our newest toy set up here at SHHM. We’re being gifted the long-term loan of a Wadkin woodworking lathe, that accepts workpieces up to 7 feet long and, in principle, over a yard in diameter. It’s up and running in our new cellar space, we just need to get hold of some PPE to use it safely. There should be some workshops coming up, covering things like safe useage, basic shapes, bowl turning, etc. We can’t wait!

As ever, if you’re not a member yet but are interested in using our workshops for your projects, or want to learn to make stuff with a friendly crowd, get in touch or just turn up to one of our scheduled meetings and say hi.

Wadkin lathe 1Wadkin lathe 2

We won Sheffield Soup Funding for our expansion!

Sheff Soup Case of Money

Earlier this week I (Bugs) went along to talk at Sheffield Soup, a local crowdfunding event. A sell-out crowd of 150 Sheffield locals, plus representatives of local media, got together to hear four people pitch their ideas for a project to benefit the city. After each group gave a four minute talk and answered four questions for the crowd, there was time to eat, drink, listen to some great live music, and wander around chatting before the final vote.

Bugs speaking at Sheffield Soup

The attendees made for a very welcoming and insightful audience, with some great questions asked of all four projects, and a lot of interest in what we do and how to join. We’re looking forward to welcoming a lot of new people to the hackspace over the next few weeks! (If you’re one of them, look at our Calendar and just call into any of the Open Sessions. Or if you prefer, contact us to say hi and ask any questions.)

In the end, the audience voted to give us the £800 prize money, to fund our upcoming Hackspace expansion project! Expanding into the cellar beneath our current space with roughly double the amount of room we have to work in, and give us a dediated “dirty workshop” for stuff like woodworking, metalwork, glasswork, screen printing… anything our members want to try that needs a lot of space and makes a mess! Just as well: our weekly sessions are starting to feel decidedly crowded, which is a great problem to have and a sign that the hackspace project is going well.

So, look out for an upcoming post with more about our expansion plans. If you want to have a say in what those are, join the group and start chatting! And, of course, as we’re completely volunteer-run, we’d appreciate all hands on deck when it comes time to scrub the cellar walls and start building some workbenches…


DigiStump DigiSpark Arduino and Debian 8 64bit

UPDATE 2016-02-02: There is an updated version of the script below which also works with the DigiSpark Pro. See below.

In the space recently we’ve been playing with the super low cost Digistump Digispark 16.5MHz boards and the Arduino 1.6.5 environment.

Unfortunately there are some issues with these working out of the box with 64-bit versions of Linux (we use Debian 8 64-bit) as one of the attached binaries is compiled for 32bit only. However, after some major head scratching, I have managed to get them to work reliably.

To get them to work. You need to install the Digispark hardware library as normal and then follow the steps below.

Installing the DigiSpark library

Add the following line to the Additional Boards Manager URLs in File –> Preferences. If you have previously added boards to this list, you will have to separate them with a ; or use the button to edit it in list form. If you need an in-depth guide, there’s one in the links at the bottom from everyone’s favourite Adafruit.

Fixing the missing bits

Once you’ve done that, you will need to download the following script (I’d of included it as a downloadable file, but someone disabled it on our server)…


# Adds necessary libraries and UDEV rule for using the Digistump DigiSpark boards in Arduino 1.6.5 on Debian 8 64-bit
# Written by James Muirhead. 2015-10-12

# This works on the 16.5MHz original Digispark. Has not been tested on other varients.

# Checks if you are root, as this is required.
if [ $(whoami) == "root" ]
# Updates apt then installs 2 necessary libraries and their dependencies
apt-get update
apt-get -y install libusb-dev lib32stdc++6

# Adds UDEV rule which adds the DigiSpark device to the dialout group, same as required by Arduino IDE.
echo 'SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTR{idVendor}=="16d0", ATTR{idProduct}=="0753", MODE="0660", GROUP="dialout"' > /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules

# Restarts UDEV to enable the above.
service udev restart

echo "DONE!!!"31
echo "You need to be root to run this script, use su / root to try again."

Right, once you’ve got the above copied into a file called e.g. you will need to make it executable. To do this, you will need to log in as root (type su at the command line and type your root password). Then type the following to make the file executable.

chmod a+x

Ok, once the file is executable, stay root and run the following…
This may (or more likely will) take some time, so leave it till it’s done what needs to be done.

Once finished, close and re-open the Arduino IDE.


Once this is all done, you should be able to upload a sketch to your DigiSpark without problems.


Update 2016-02-02

I’ve written a new version of the script above which also works for the Digispark Pro. Follow the same instructions as above, but use the script below instead. It is longer, but does a few more things.

And, just because I’m feeling nice, I’ve put it on GitHub to make life easier.


# Digispark installer.
# Written by James Muirhead.
# 2015-10-12

# 2015-10-16 - Only installs 32-bit extensions if 64 bit OS detected.
# 2015-11-04 - Now creates UDEV rule for DigiSpark & DgiSpark Pro.

if [ $(whoami) == "root" ]
apt-get update

# Installs required library.
apt-get -y install libusb-dev

# Checks for 64-bit environment and installs required 64-bit extensions.
uname -a | grep x86_64
if [ $? == 0 ]
apt-get -y install lib32stdc++6

# Creates UDEV rule for DigiSpark
echo "# Rule to allow use of the basic DigiSpark (ATtiny85) board in the Arduino IDE 1.6.3+" > /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
echo "# Written by James Muirhead (@PhantomFreak), 2015-10-12." >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
echo "#" >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
echo "" >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
echo 'SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTR{idVendor}=="16d0", ATTR{idProduct}=="0753", MODE="0660", GROUP="dialout"' >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
# Creates UDEV rule for DigiSpark Pro.
echo "# Rule to allow the use of DigiSpark Pro (ATtiny167) board in the Arduino IDE 1.6.3+" > /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark-pro.rules
echo "# Written by James Muirhead (@PhantomFreak), 2015-11-04." >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark-pro.rules
echo "#" >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark-pro.rules
echo "" >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark.rules
echo 'SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTR{idVendor}=="16d0", ATTR{idProduct}=="0753", MODE="16d0", GROUP="dialout"' >> /etc/udev/rules.d/99digispark-pro.rules

# Restarts UDEV
service udev restart

echo "All done, please close all open Arduino IDE windows & reopen before attemptting to upload code."
exit 0
echo "You are not root, please use sudo or su to continue."
exit 1

Prototype Pi UPS

After advocating for a while that it is worth running up services on Pi Servers one at a time as needed. It occurred to me that we have no UPS to keep them going when the mains electricity drops out. We also have no way to prompt services to shut down in an orderly manor under the same circumstances. This gets to be more critical when we are running infrastructure services like RfID door access and a space automation MQTT broker.

An uninterruptible power supply for the Raspberry Pi

An uninterruptible power supply for the Raspberry Pi

Being as I am also running similar services at home I needed a similar solution for home. Sounds like a call to hack then, first stop was the junk and scrap bins, then a quick rummage through the spare bits left over from Chinese AliExpress shopping trips.

I found an ex UPS maintenance free lead acid battery that had sat in the scrap bin for too many years and a couple of these tiny 3A SMPSU DC-DC switcher modules that are incredibly cheap. The SMPSU modules can cope with up to 28V input and the output voltage is set by a small potentiometer. I also found a scrap laptop PSU that had a decent current delivery at under 24V. All in all the most expensive bits were the screw terminals that you can see from the picture I used to make conections to the board.

Lead Acid batteries have the useful property of being low maintenance and they will take a float charge providing you supply them with a constant voltage at the maunfacturers reccomended value. They will sit there on this float charge for as long as the battery will live. So after a quick rummage on the internet the first switch module was adjusted to provide a constant voltage at the manufacturers reccomended float value of 6.85V for the battery shown. The battery and input to the second switch module were conencted in parralel across the output of the first switcher. The ouput votlage of the second switcher was set to the 5.1V that is best to feed Pi’s with.

That then was the prototype UPS finished. When the supply to the UPS fails the battery takes over and supplys the Pi. When the mains supply comes back on the battery goes straight onto float charge and the Pi is running from the mains. Providing that the battery float voltage is less than the supply voltage and the Pi voltage is less than the battery voltage it all works. At 6V these thresholds are all a little close together and the UPS could do with a 12V battery and then adjusting to charge at that voltage instead. But this does work and the concept is proved.

The next task is to scale this up to run a whole shelf of Pi’s, with a mains high current SMPSU to drive the float voltage and supply the Pi’s, a salvaged car battery for the uninteruptible bit and one of these cheap tiny DC-DC SMPSU’s per Pi. But that is another article for another day.

Indoor environment sensor with ESP8266

Burnell Bot Breadboard

As part of our hacking the space project, we’re building a network of sensors and effectors in our space. Communicating over WiFi using the MQTT protocol, the idea is to make lots of data about the hackspace easily available for members to use in their projects, and to make it easy for members to add their own data streams to the space’s network of things.

One of these is the Burnell Bot, responsible for monitoring motion and light intensity, plus temperature and humidity. These data will end up being used to automate the hackspace’s lights and heating, as well as forming part of our security system. In the meantime, they’re flying over the WiFi in our hackspace ready for members to monitor and use however they want.

At its heart is an ESP8266-12E, sitting on a handy breakout board; you can see its silver enclosure covering most of the board, plus the etched WiFi antenna. This takes input from a BH1750 light sensor over I2C, a passive infra-red motion sensor that sends a digital HIGH signal in response to movement, and the DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor. Thanks to the support for ESP8266 in the latest Arduino IDE, the BH1750 and DHT22 are used via their existing Arduino libraries. A couple of warning messages pop up when compiling, but the code runs without issue. The motion sensor, of course, is monitored by simply checking the status of a GPIO pin set to input. Data from each sensor are transmitted over MQTT in their appropriate topics, subject to dampening (e.g. change in light level must exceed a certain threshold before being reported) and throttling of message rates.

Now that our planning permission has gone through (the downside of being hosted in such a great, historic building is dealing with its listed status) and we’ve refurbished our ceilings ready for the wiring grids to be installed, expect to see a few of these appearing in the space and start thinking of things to do with the data!

Personally, I want to add sensors for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and particulates, to keep an eye on our air quality and to try to get a sense of whether the reported effects of high CO2 / low O2 in classrooms (impaired concentration, amongst other things) affects our hacking. If you want to get involved in this or other projects, get in touch or just look at our calendar and turn up to a session!

Arduino Day 2015 was great fun!

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

RFID access system using ESP8266-01 (part 1)

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

A roof over our heads

Ceiling boards in workshop

Our dirty workshop is now almost ready to use! We’ve had a big job getting this far, stripping the walls and ceiling of nailed up carpets, chipboard, disused conduits and wiring, flaking paint, and a century of grime. After a bit of gymnastics and a lot of dust our ceiling boards are in, and the walls are re-pointed and missing bricks replaced. A bit of painting and sweeping to do, then our first room is usable as a hackspace!

Insight to the 1890’s

Tea, concert and ball newspaper

At the SHH&M new premises, where we are currently “Hacking the space”, as well as having found the knives, we have also found multiple sections of newspapers, ranging from the later part of the early 19th century to early 20th century (see photo). Many of these were actually fashioned into a wrapping, held together with a single length of tied string, which look to have been used to cover the knife blades. The advantage of these is that the newspaper clippings are relatively well preserved. Other pieces of newspaper have been rolled up into balls and are less easy to read.

Among the items that could be read was a flyer for the Sheffield Table Blade Grinders’ Association “Tea, Concert and Ball” on Thursday 31st December, in Lower Cutlers’ Hall. Unfortunately, a section on the left hand side has been removed, but what remains tells of “Tea at 5 o’clock, including Ham, Tongue and Beef Sandwiches, Pork Pie, &C., of the finest quality”. This will be followed by the concert at 7 o’clock, with performances from Mr F Barraclough (a Comic) and Mr H Ashmore (a Tenor), as well some acrobats.

newspapers crumpled

Prices for the event were 1/6 for Gentlemen and 1/3 for Ladies as perhaps they didn’t eat as much, given that tickets for just the Concert and Ball were 1/- each.