Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A running chassis


Crunch time. After three chassis builds, will the wheels turn over then power is on? 

The omens were good. Those rods slipped straight on, but then as the bearing spacings were set by the rods, you'd expect that. Add in the massive amount of slop those oversized holes in the rods allow, and if there was a problem, it would be a BIG one. 

For testing, the rods are retained with a bit of insulation stripped from a wire. This trick saves a lot of soldering action if there is a problem and they need to come off again for fettling. 


A bit of electricity from my 60-year-old H&M controller and the model works! 

To be fair, it worked a lot better once a drop of oil was applied to each bearing. I know all that rod slop is bad engineering, and that the worm gear really should sit over the middle of the axle gear, but I'll take this right now. The model moves up and down the track, and it's long while since I built something that did that.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Parkside battery powered soldering iron

Picked up for a quid at the Lifeboat day, my first thought when seeing this soldering iron was, "How rubbish will this thing be?"

Parkside tools are available from the infamous middle of Lidl, and in my experience, are usually pretty good quality. I have a small cordless screwdriver which is nearly as good as the Bosch version but half the price. 

Powered by 3 AA batteries, this could be a useful addition to the toolkit when emergency cord-free soldering is required. 

Anyway, the first problem with this was that it didn't appear to work. The light on the front came on, but the bit warmed a little, but then cooled. Not great, so with nothing to lose, I poked around inside. 

To be fair, there's not much going on inside. The batteries are held in the handle, and a pretty simple switch does the work. Fro this, I work out that to warm the iron u, you have to slide the switch forward AND press the button on the front. That's why it appeared not to work. The iron is hot when the LED is on.

The connection between switch and element wasn't good. A bit of plastic that holds the two parts together was broken, so I blobbed some solder on the joint. 

Screwed back together, I managed to make the device melt solder, but at 6W, it's a bit gutless. I tinned a couple of wires and eve soldered them together, but it's a slow process. Having said that, for a pound, it can live in my toolbox as being much better than nothing in some situations.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Knowing when you are beaten


This is my photo booth for small models. It sits in the chaos of the corner of my office.

A portable booth with a couple of photo lights above it, it's been used many hundreds of times for some pictures of models I've generally been very happy with. Over the years, I've become expert at long exposures and bouncing light around, then processing the image to have just the right amount of shadow under the model. A flat base is assured thanks to a bit of melamine faced chipboard, and the background is a mix of plastic sheet with paper on top.

All that junk in front is a collection of things I support my Splat on while shooting. That or a beanbag. There's even a monopod that can be jammed in position if required. Basically, I'm creative enough to get the results I want. 

However, last week I started on a project to replace the booth with something bigger and better. 

The key would be a pair of LED panels. The subject would sit on one, another would be over the top. The photo lights would still be available too. 

A white wall would surround the photo area. Simple huh? 

Well, the booth is still there. Admittedly, I've tidied up a bit, but it's not been replaced. 

The new booth turned out to be one of those project that was a disaster from start to throwing the materials in the bin. Every single step went wrong: 

  • Ordered two panels. One arrived broken. 
  • The replacement was also broken.It took three days to get a pair of working ones. 
  • My measurements for the MDF to make the box were wrong and had to be altered at the wood shop. 
  • Painting the white walls turned into a nightmare. MDF is smooth, but not once you inflict trade silk emulsion on it. 
  • I had planned to use the emulsion as a primer and spray the MDF white The (admitedly old) can was faulty, paint dribbled out. 
  • More sanding and rollering gave me a surface that could in no way be described as smooth, but eventually I decided I could live with it. At worst, the booth could have another lining of foamboard. 
  • Screwing the panels together, I managed to get the first corner wrong twice. Then realised I was screwing the sides together and not the back. 
  • When I eventually fixed all three sides together, not easy as this thing is 60cm wide and floppy until complete, the corners weren't as perfect as I'd hoped machine cut MDF would be. 
  • Sliding the panel in the bottom, it left a gap in one corner, the thing wasn't flat. Not a problem in a ceiling, but hopeless here. I did try screwing it to the nice, flat MDF, but the gap, while better was still rubbish. 

At this point I gave up, put the panels and their transformers in the box, put the boxes into store and threw the MDF bits away. 

Lesson learned. When a project fights you at every stage, give up. I didn't have the skills to make this thing work. What I do have, is the skills to make the existing setup produce results. OK, it takes a little longer on the processing, but it works. 

Still, a day and best part of £100 wasted. I need to know when I'm beaten.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Saturday Film Club: New uses for a hole punch

You are going to have to trust me this week that this is an interesting video. 

Combining Lego and paper might not seem an obvious move, but the good people at Lego Central once thought it was a good idea. Then got bored, and a hobbyist took it up instead. 

It's all very clever, even if the colours are a bit garish.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Pick your paper


Do you remember art classes at school? There would frequently be a need to put newspaper down to protect surfaces against some mess, and every so often, the paper would turn out to be The Sun - with it's Page 3 model. Back in the 1980s, this would cause a little excitement among the boys, and a huff from the teacher who didn't think we were ready for life drawing classes yet. 

I'm reminded of this every time I have to mask a bit of layout with newspaper and then take a photo for a magazine. You need to be so careful, as readers will work out what you've used and judge you for it. 

No point in sticking a copy of Socialist Worker in front of them, even if it's nothing more than a peripheral part of the photo. You'll be able to hear the sound of subscriptions being cancelled...

My solution is either a local paper, or in this case, some old pages from Private Eye, Once without any swearing, or contentious stories on, just to be sure. Ideally, no photos either - someone will get offended. 

I suppose I ought to buy some rolls of brown paper, the stuff used for masking up cars for painting, but it's just another thing to store, and I don't need this that often.