Archive for the 'Projects' Category

Hen’s teeth

Posted by on April 25th 2017 in Projects, Shiny new kit
Tags: ,

These are as rare as rocking-horse shit and could well be the world's last decent pair in my current size*:

Dutch Army DPM trousers. Renowned for their durable thicker temperate-rated fabric and for their superb no-drawcord no-belt-required waist-adjustment system which allows the waist-band for be resized +/- 2 inches, or the complete top-end to be opened, with minimal hassle.

I was lucky to find these, they were on Fleabay, described as "used, like new" or something like that. When they arrived I was pleased to see that they were unissued, unmarked and still in their original unopened military packaging. Result!

But this could be the last pair I ever find. I might have to make the move to temperate-weight MTP jobs which don't have the same durability and versatility. That said, I do already have some ongoing projects involving MTP 🙂

Air Arms S200 Mk II with HuMa external regulator, quick-fill & gauge, Mobius ActionCam (25mm lens) & USB power-bank, a GBFO scope and some MTP tape.

It's a work-in-progress 🙂

* 80-96-112 or 7585/9000 - another work-in-progress 🙁

Observatory progress – warm-room nearly finished

Posted by on November 13th 2011 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

Done on the cheap...

  • Second-hand slabs from eBay for the base
  • Free old second-hand shed for most of the walls (thanks to Brian)
  • Free reclaimed chipboard for the roof, inside and out (thanks to Paul)
  • Free reclaimed MDF for lining the walls (thanks to Marc)
  • Free reclaimed 8" x 1" T&G planks for the floor (thanks to Geoff)
  • Free second-hand carpets (thanks to Mum and Dad)
  • Free cadged off-cut of kitchen worktop for the work-desk (thanks to Graham)
  • Even the creosote was bartered from my neighbour, in exchange for some unwanted roofing-felt (thanks again to Paul)
  • Oh, and free quality-control, tea-making and labour (thanks to Graham, Geoff and Ella)

Had to shell out for felt/primer/adhesive, some four-by-twos for the floor frame, a few bits of ship-lap cladding from the timber-merchant, dirt-cheap loft-insulation for inside the walls and ceiling, some cheap lighting from Ikea and some other sundry electrical bits.



It's usable now but there are a few things still on the to-do list:

  • Fit the cadged-for-free reclaimed guttering/downpipes to direct the run-off into water-butts
  • Paint the inside, using up old paint that I have in the attic
  • Get the old kettle from the attic and install it
  • Get shot of the set of encyclopaedias that we didn't have the heart to burn on bonfire night

Maybe soon the weather will be suitable for using the place for sky-watching rather than book-storage.

Observatory progress – Phase 7 – The last few bits

Posted by on June 18th 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

I've received a few emails from folk asking how much more needs doing to the astroshed, and indeed wondering why it doesn't fall to bits, go off the rails or just refuse to close due to misalignment. Hopefully the following pics and text will be sufficient to answer such probing questions:


In order to allow the scope to fit inside in the "parked" position, the roof sits a good three inches
above the shed walls to give sufficient clearance.The resulting gap has been covered with a couple of
rows of feather-edge timber, fixed to the roof. Regarding the other stuff in view, a neighbour kindly
donated some carpet and I dug around in the attic to find the 1960s coffee-table.
The plastic chair is just one of many that Chris wants me to take to the tip.

Another row of feather-edge timber creates an overlap twixt shed-walls and roof-frame on one of the long sides.
This setup is weatherproof but still allows good airflow to minimise condensation.

The wheels are cheap 40mm fixed castors, the channel is a strip of plastic conduit braced with some spare stripwood with chamfered ends.
The castor-wheels have sufficient sideplay to allow for a reasonable amount of flex/warp of the runner.

The leccy's all sorted out, with IP55 or better fittings throughout for anything mains-related,
and with power being supplied via an RCD-protected steel-armoured cable circuit...

... which means that the cheap Ikea low-voltage halogen lamps above the doors are now up and running.
Also visible above is the guide-wheel arrangement that ensures that the guide-rail fixed beneath the ridge of the roof
is always central when the roof is closed or in motion. The barrel-bolt serves an obvious purpose.

Here's a view of the guide-wheel arrangement at the other end of the shed.
The guide-rail is chamfered at the end to ensure that it always ends up between the wheels.

At the moment there isn't much wiring around the pier, but I'm sure that after a few weeks the thing will be festooned with all sorts of gadgetry.
I'm aiming to have just the one "in" cable (for power) and one "out" cable (for data (USB)).

The planned change to the window-wall has been completed - the windows have gone, to allow a better view to the south.
A "mock" panel has been fixed to the moving frame, the results are shown below:

This means that there's now no need to conform to the standard idea of having the upper section of the southern wall on a hinged flap.

As you can see, there's plenty of "gap" to look through.
I knocked up a small removable roof-panel (visible just behind the scope) which serves several purposes -
it's a draught-reducer, it provides shade from the night-lights at the old folks' home just up the way,
and it prevents the neighbours from peering over the fence to see what's going on.

So, it's about finished. The kettle and the beer-fridge will go in when I've put up shelves for them.
The only thing still needed is a small fire-extinguisher.
That, and some clear nights so that I can get on with some observing.

Observatory progress – Phase 6 – It works!

Posted by on May 29th 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

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Observatory progress – Phase 6 continued

Posted by on May 29th 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

Yep, it fits, purlins and all:



Tomorrow I’ll get more nails for it and fix it on properly.

Pragmatism and Purism lose out to Painkillers and Purlins

Posted by on May 28th 2009 in Astrostuff, Illness and injury, Making stuff, Projects

The Coniston Fells rematch has had to be postponed due to my lack of confidence that my back will stay the course. It's a great disappointment on several levels, not least because I was hoping to take Ella with me for her first wildie. MWIS predicts that the weather's going to be really good over the weekend, so it would have been a great opportunity to introduce her to a couple of days and nights without most of the techno-trappings of life as she knows it.

Never mind, there'll be plenty of other chances.

It looks like I'll be taking it easy and finishing the observatory roof and the bathroom refurb instead.

There's no peace for the wicked, eh?

Observatory progress – Phase 6

Posted by on May 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

OK, we now have the beginnings of a roof, thanks to the help provided by Ella during the last two days:



Tomorrow we'll see if it fits.

Observatory progress – Phase 5

Posted by on May 22nd 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

Construction of the observatory continues apace, mainly due to a complete disregard for the useless instructions included with the parts. Phase 5 is now complete:
The sides were double-proofed inside and out before assembly, and the few gaps have been filled with mastic. The walls are now up, square and level, cross-braced where required and fixed with many more than the recommended number of screws. The instructions said to put the walls onto the floor panels, but that's just mad - if ever the flooring had to come up, the walls would have to be taken down first, which would mean taking the roof off (if fitted). Commonsense said to put the walls directly onto the floor-frame (see previous post) and then fit the floor inside.
The supplied 9mm OSB floor-sections were dismantled and their boards, along with the 9mm OSB roof-boards, were used to line the inside of the walls.
A proper 18mm "waterproof" T&G chipboard panel floor was fitted, complete with a lift-out section surrounding the pier to allow easy access to the fixing malarkey and the concrete foundation beneath it.





The coming week should see the completion of Phase 6 - the fitting of the roof, which should be a masterpiece of timber over-engineering.

Time will tell.

Observatory progress – Phases 2, 3 and 4

Posted by on May 1st 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff, Projects

Readers may remember that Nick and I constructed a prototype telescope pier way back in December. If you want to see what it looked like at the time, the post is here.

Well, that was Phase 1, and since then there have been developments...

Phase 2 (the move from prototype to working sample):

First up, preliminary tests indicated that the dimensions were OK but the ad-hoc angle-iron mountings were inadequate. We knew that they would have to be replaced, as they were only used as a temporary measure in order to allow flexure, resonance and vibration-damping testing. As you can see, they've been replaced with something a bit more substantial.

Second, a large hole was drilled in the side to allow sand-filling to dampen any excessive vibes. We also put a few M6 tapped holes in the side to allow for any future need for attaching brackets, gadgets, earth-tags and other such things.

Third, the whole shebang (apart from the threads) was phosphated and powdercoated which looks neat and should preserve the thing for quite a few years.

Phase 3 (the installation of the pier) was completed a week ago. After the ball-aching job of making a deep and heavy concrete base (see here) the pier was nutted onto the set-in studding, and a base of old slabs was put down around it to support the bearers.

Phase 4 is now complete - the construction of a sound raised floor-frame. To replace the somewhat inadequate floor that (eventually) came with the new shed, I made a frame of 4x2s which has been given several liberal coats of preservative. This frame sits on bearers (some old 3x3 fence-posts) which should last a few years before they rot. These bearers are not fixed, so they can be replaced one at a time if necessary - they cost nowt when "acquired" from the local tip.

Here are a few snapshots of the project so far:

The revised mounting-plate nutted to the studding in concrete base

The slabs have it surrounded!

The floor-frame supported by bearers (old fence-posts)

Phase 5 will be interesting - it's the bit where we assemble the shed walls. Now, if only I had a full set...

Time is Tight

Posted by on April 20th 2009 in Making stuff, Projects, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Apologies for the lack of regular blogging - there just aren't enough hours in the day. There's been no time for hiking or star-gazing, but to be fair we did manage to take a few hours off for a walk around Bosworth Park last Monday (which reminds me that I still have to upload the pics from that).

After two weeks of school holidays, I've a backlog of stuff to shift...

  • At least three trailer-trips to the local tip (sorry, recycling centre) for my waste, and another trip for my dad's stuff;
  • Setting up eBay and PayPal seller-accounts for a friend;
  • Fitting-out the old shed;
  • Digging out a 1m cube of soil/subsoil to take the foundation for the telescope pier;
  • Driving in several 2m steel rods to anchor into the clay subsoil;
  • Hand-mixing 850kg of concrete to refill said hole;
  • Installing footings for a 7ft x 7ft observatory-shed around said hole and pier;
  • Building said observatory;
  • Fitting a new garage door for my dad;
  • Getting the microwave oven fixed;
  • And all of the mundane everyday stuff that we all have to endure.

Never mind, we're looking forward to a carefree weekend, so it's not so bad.

A little chill-music would seem to be in order:

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