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Maker Faire 2014

Image I’m involved in a big not-hackspace project at the moment, meaning I’ve not been up to much recently. However, I was foresighted enough (many weeks ago) to sign up to go to Maker Faire UK  2014 in Newcastle as part of the Nottinghack collective. Maker Faire UK was hosted by the Centre for Life in Newcastle, Saturday and Sunday 26th/27th April. It’s now the Tuesday afterwards and the memories are still almost as exiting as the real thing! I’ve had a quick look in the media for reports and stories and whilst the outside attractions got plenty of coverage (although admittedly GIANT CAR-CRUSHING ROBOHAND!) I’ve not seen much of the inside stuff – which although smaller in size, was equally amazing. So here are a few of the things I thought were awesome: Image I used to spend every Friday night between the ages of 8 and 12 watching Robot Wars and wishing I could have a go. Well, more than a decade later, I had the chance! Four mini-bots in a 10-foot square arena with no fire, spinning blades or house robots is a little tamer, but there were a couple of full-size robots on display (and I got to carry one!) Image Image Venom, not unlike Razor – probably my favourite house robot! Image An incredibly detailed Lego model of St Pancras station took centre stage… Image … complete with a bovine passenger! Image Nottinghack made a good show, featuring Mouse’s Dial-a-Thing (incredibly popular!)… Image…Ein the duck is ready to welcome the hoards of curious visitors… Image There were some incredibly colourful and intricate 3D-printed items on display upstairs with Shapeways… Image …and intricate laser-cut marquetry pieces on Just add Shark’s table. Image ImageReturning for another year were Rusty the horse and Elsie Dragon… Image …and the largest puppet I’ve ever seen (Binbot) went for a walk outside! There was so much stuff I’ve barely scratched the surface. I had a fantastic time, met some great people and came away with some memories I’ll not forget in a long time!


Upcycled shoes


A while ago I purchased a lovely pair of Clarks shoes in a very pale blue. I used them a lot whilst working one summer and they were great, until, one day, I got caught in a downpour. The pourous leather soaked the water up like a sponge and it took the dye with it. I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately, but the leather had become discoloured and a slightly less charming grey. 



I hate throwing things away and I knew that no charity shop would accept my shoes in their current state, so I decided I would do something about it – there was nothing wrong with them that wasn’t cosmetic. Like a number of my “projects”, this was put to one side and left for a while. I was having a clear-out one afternoon and found the shoes. Searching the internet identified a range of leather dyes and a couple of hours later I had decided I was going to purchase a bottle of Fiebings dye and attempt to turn the leather into a mid-blue. 


I had slightly underestimated the vividness of the dye and the leather turned out very blue! Being of the (initially) shy sort, I didn’t feel brave enough to wear these outright, but most importantly, the dye didn’t conceal the worst of the watermarks as I’d hoped – it made them worse in some places!

I dug some old denim scraps out of a box at Nottinghack – I had previously donated a small amount of old denim in the form of a couple of pairs of jeans. I have no idea where, or from whom, this idea arose (something on the internet a long  time ago I suspect) but I decided the way to go was to cover the more stained sections with denim. The shoes weren’t ever going to be water-resistant, so it didn’t matter too much which glue I used, so I grabbed a bottle of PVA and some small scissors from the workshop. 




I applied a good layer of PVA to each section and cut a piece of denim larger than what I needed. I had played about with cutting templates from paper, but soon discovered it was easier to shape the denim once it was attached to the shoe. 


It was just a case of applying scraps of denim in turn and carefully cutting around any “features” – the design of the shoe included some attractive stitches.


I also tried to carefully align the weave of the fabric so that the grain was placed as attractively (and consistently) as possible. It was also tricky to find the right colour of denim – one of the pairs of trousers had been stonewashed and keeping the colour consistent was tricky. I also tried to dab glue along the edges of the fabric to reduce any fraying that might occur with use.


And that’s it! An asymmetric design, accomplished in one evening. I can also report that the shoes wear no differently to before and are as comfortable as ever!

Another update

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on the physical form of my Alethiometer table, although I’ve thought about it a lot. So far I’ve started to learn to program an arduino and have a working piece of code for selecting and illuminating the LEDs. I’m starting to appreciate the size and complexity of the challengwe ahead, an inevitable web of files and strings all working to generate a simple visual output. The next step was to get hold of a sheet of ply and start wiring up the LEDs and motors, whilst planning to laser cut some veneer for the central compass design.

After the mirrors and tube were replaced the laser was still being problematic. Lots of heads were scratched on the Nottinghack google group and in the studio at the ‘space and eventually it was agreed that the most likely fault lay with the power supply. This had to be ordered from the manufacurer in Hong Kong (correct me if I’m wrong!). This arrived a couple of weeks ago. Anyways, I happened to be at the space playing with EL wire when the laser was reinstalled and tested. It lives! I therefore hope to be doing lots of cutting and engraving in the near future, starting with some more marquetry and wax-inlaying…

In other news, I passed my degree with a 2:1 and no retakes! Not sure I’ll be rushing to add MSci after my name (it’s long enough already!)  but if anyone knows someone who’s looking for a recent graduate with lab experience of genetic cloning techniques and development of blood stem cells, please do drop me a message…