About Me

I've been taking things to bits, and making things ever since I can remember, starting with dismantling knackered alarm clocks and watches and helping my dad fix the car. Now I have a well-equipped workshop and have aquired lots of new skills, so I can make better stuff. When they first appeared, I became involved with personal computers, and these and developments in electronics have increased the scope of the things that I can do. Just recently retired, so O yes, now I can make all sorts of stuff.....

Friday, 8 November 2013

Airbrushing and some other stuff

Its been a bit of a slow month with construction projects.  I started radiotherapy on the 30th September, and the daily visits to the hospital kinda take up a few hours of every day, and not leaving much time to do stuff.  The radio is going well, the only side effects so far are a bit of tiredness (probably due to getting up early every morning, something I've got out of the habit of since retiring) and the need to pee a bit more frequently than usual. The staff at the cancer unit are fantastic, and us patients have a good old laugh while waiting our turn on the machine, so I will almost be sorry when the fun comes to an end on the 19th.

In spite of this malarkey I've still managed to get some stuff done this month, so here goes:

Cherry blossom airbrushed on wall
First up, the airbrush.  I've been prowling around looking for things to paint ever since I got this magic gadget, and have finally found a couple of targets.  The first is a bit of cherry blossom on the wall of our bedroom - much agonising before starting spraying, and its turned out a bit darker than I wanted, but for a first attempt its not ended up too bad.  The worst part was lugging the compressor up and down the stairs, it must weigh around 50 kilos so its not exactly portable and the corners start to dig into your hands after 10 seconds or so.

Cherry blossom detail
Making the masks from adhesive masking film is easy enough, but this stuff is a bugger to stick to the surface - the static in the film makes it jump out and stick to everything it sees, and getting the stuff to lay flat on the surface is a nightmare.  I decided after this little episode to try sticking on the plain sheet first and then cutting the masks in situ.

Top frame of bed with leaves
Having done the wall, it seemed a good idea to add a few leaves to the top bed rail as well.  It needed a new coat of white paint anyway, so I gave it the airbrush treatment while it was in the workshop.  It came out pretty well, although the same problems with positioning a pre-cut stencil meant that a couple of bits got missed.

Racing tortoise on spare side pod
Pumped up with these successes I decided to have a go at the kart side pods.  These are black and boring, so I have been looking for ways to brighten them up for a long time.  Of  course, they take a bit of a bashing on the track, so I'm not expecting the paint to stay on for long, but I thought I would try the process on the spare pod that we have and see how it turns out.  This time, I stuck the mask on in a single sheet, and then cut it in position - its certainly easier doing it this way and if I don't lean too hard on the scalpel there's no visible cut marks on the plastic pod.

I've learned a few things from this last item.  First, the background really needs to be a good solid white to give the colours some brightness, but the acrylic white that I have is just not man enough for the job so I will try some white car primer next time, it should key well to the plastic and will give a good matt surface for the acrylic.  Second, the paint is all water based, which makes cleaning up easy but it takes a long time to dry in between colours, so I found that a quick blast with the hair drier dries each coat nicely. Third, spraying through a bit of old mesh material gives a neat spotted effect which suggests reptile scales.  And last, don't shake the airbrush when its full of paint and the cap isn't on the paint cup  :-)

I'm encouraged enough by this test pod that am planning to do the real ones as soon as I can  pluck up the courage, though I'm not sure whether to go with the tortoise or something else.  Are we going to look good next season, or what?

The other major project this month has been to turn my Raspberry Pi into a dedicated music player which can be controlled by a phone or tablet. 

I've had this little widget for some time, and had always intended that it would eventually end up being built in to a spare monitor to run a home information screen, showing things like the state of all the door locks; temperature; calendar events coming up; to-do lists; weather, and so on. It runs a slow but adequate version of linux and all I would need to do would be to build a 'home control' web site:  however, this proved to be a bit of a problem because all of the web browsers are either a) slow; b) won't display all of the content, or c) both of the above. This has put a bit of a stopper on the project and while I puzzle out a solution the Pi has been relegated to a test bed for the stepper motor in the Magic Clock.

I have decided to buy an Android tablet, and this prompted me to think that the home control information would be easy to display on this kind of device.  While thinking this through I wondered how to play music through a tablet without downloading 5000 tracks to the device, and this led me to start looking at ways to do this in various places in the house without having to turn a PC on.

It turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be.  Basically the Pi needs to download a free app called MPD, then another free app called MPDroid on the tablet/phone, a bit of configuration and we're off!  I also bought a neat little case for the Pi for a fiver from a nice man on ebay to give the whole thing a professional appearance.

The Pi runs on the house network (this one is wired at the moment, but will use wireless in the kitchen where there is no handy network point) and is mapped to the server where all the music files live.  The tablet/phone shows a list of all the files and allows you to select the music you want to play and change the volume - I'm still playing with it, but I think you can also set up playlists.  It works a treat - surprisingly, its quite quick, and its pretty neat to have music playing in one room and be able to turn it up or change the track from another room. The plan is probably to buy a couple more Pis? Pies? Pees? to run in the kitchen, lounge and in the landing/study area.

And last this month is a picture of me and OB being pirates.  Shortly after the picture was taken he said something so funny that I was absolutely helpless with laughter for about five minutes, and sitting in the hospital waiting room the next day I remembered what he had said and started giggling again.  Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Next month:  radiotherapy finishes on the 19th, so more time to start butchering wood and such, and a new car on its way for The Boss, plus the build up to Xmas and we may have the new tablet by then. I'm also looking a designs for a 3D printer and/or a 3D milling machine (same guts, different foo-foo on the top), thinking of building one of they sometime soon.