Friday, 31 May 2013

Mouse surgery ... ...

I've been using the same mouse for the best part of 6 years now, and as you would expect it has started to show signs of wear and tear, especially in the button clicking department, and one button in particular (it has four) has become really annoying.

Here's the patient -

Reminds me of Moya from Farscape.

The button in question is the one I use when scrolling through documents, web pages and any other type of scrolling, you can see it in the picture above, it's the small button above the large silver one, the way it works is I hold the button down and move the ball and what ever I'm looking at will scroll, and I can scroll vertically (up and down) and horizontally (left and right) which is handy, at least when the button works.

Now I could just go out and buy a new one, but that's the best part of £20 (or more) depending on where you buy it from, and to be honest to fix it costs no more than about £2 or if you have an old mouse lying about then it costs nothing to fix, you just need a soldering iron and some solder.

Here's the offending button, it's a simple micro switch -

Easy to remove, and replace.

So with my trusty soldering iron I set about removing the dying switch, which is just a case of desoldering it, and in this case it's just three little pins that hold the switch to the circuit board.

The three contacts -

Takes just a minute or two to desolder it.

Switch removed - 

That wasn't so hard.

Choices, choices, which switch do I pick ? - 

I removed these from an old mouse.

If you ever need a micro switch or two, then if you have an old mouse you'll be in luck as most mice use micro switches for the left and right click buttons, and any other buttons it might have, but if you do have to buy a micro switch you can get them for under £2 from places like Maplins, and I dare say you could find them cheaper with a quick search online.

All you need to do is remove the screws from the bottom of the mouse and then desolder the micro switches from the circuit board, and you can see in the example below just how long these little switches have been used in mice, the one in the picture is an old ball type mouse, none of this new-fangled laser nonsense.

The willing donor - 

A dinosaur in mouse terms.

Flip it over and go at it with a screw driver - 

There are usually screws hiding under the little plastic pads.

Remove the little pads to show the screws hiding underneath - 

Found you !

And your in, and you should see something very similar to this - 

Three switches, this will be the same with most mice.

And that's as hard as it gets, new switch installed in my mouse - 

I picked the best of the switches I salvaged.

And so far I'm pleased to report the patient is doing well, good as new in fact and I've saved money as well.

Soldering isn't difficult, you do have to be careful as soldering irons get hot, trust me I've burned myself a few times, you can buy soldering irons very cheaply and usually you can buy kits that have everything you need to get you started, iron,solder etc and if you've never tried soldering before I'm sure you can find a 'how to' style video or two on youtube or some other corner of the interweb.

So why not have a go at fixing things that break ? what have you got to lose ? if you can't fix it you've still got to buy a new one, and if you can fix it you'll have saved some cash, can't be bad ... can it ?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Garden Dominoes ...

Just when you thought there wasn't anything left to make with bits of pallet...

Technically I meant to do this last summer, but have only just got round to finishing it (seems there's a lot of that here) using the various off cuts from various pallet related builds (chicken coops and such like) I made a game for the kids to play in the garden, that game being dominoes.

A simple but fun game, that my daughter already seems to have a lot of luck at (she wins most games)

Here's the finished set -

A bit rustic, but still just as much fun.

As I said these are just off cuts, that I've made roughly the same length (6 inches or 15cm if you prefer) and each is roughly 3 inches wide (7.5cm) and there are 28 tiles in all, I gave them a sand first as they were a little rough.

Using a list I printed out from wikipedia - here (opens in new window) so I could remember what numbers each tile needed I set about marking them out ready for drilling.

It didn't take long to mark the tiles out - 

Much marking to be done.

Basically I divided the tiles in half then in each square I marked a cross, then on the cross I made a point for the drill bit to locate in, on all the tiles the holes are roughly an inch (2.5cm) apart, except the tiles with six holes, these holes are half an inch apart (1.25cm) and for the hole I used a 10mm drill bit in my post drill, using a hand drill would be just as easy, just don't go all the way through, although that would work too.

Tiles marked, you can see where each hole will go - 

A simple set of marks.

Once each tile was marked out I then took the lot to my shed and set about drilling holes, using the post drill is handy as it has a depth guide on it, which means I didn't end up drilling all the way through the tiles, I also used a saw, again with a depth guide to mark the halfway line that divides each tile.

Holes drilled, lines sawn - 

Ready for painting.

Next I figured I'd paint the holes (of which there are many) with a bit of black paint, just so they are more obvious, and as these are meant for use outside I will probably give them a coat of linseed oil, just to make them last a bit longer.

All done - 

Much easier to see what the numbers are.

Time for a game - 

Table is just as good as outside apparently.

I even made a wooden box to keep them in, it needs a bit of a sand though - 

And there you have it, easy to make, great to play on a sunny day in the garden, what could be more civilised ? any wood would do for this, I just had a load of bits lying around, but you could pick up a cheap piece of wood from your local diy shop, I've also been instructed to make a Jenga set as well, and if you do have pallets for a project remember to keep the blocks, they make great building blocks for the garden, in fact I wrote a short post about that very thing - heavy duty wooden building blocks (opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.

Allotment update ... ...

In case anyone was wondering we still have our allotment plot, the main reason I haven't posted about it's progress is because there hasn't really been that much, I could have written quite a few posts about weeding, and how cold the weather is, but unless you've been under a rock you know what the weather's been like and if you garden you know what buggers weeds can be.

To that end I've decided to combine all the recent plot progress into one post.

Here's what the plot looked like as of March this year -

Plenty of weeding to do.

Most of the stuff we planted over winter (cabbages and such like) fell victim to slugs, and the weather, it wasn't just our plot either, other plots had trouble as well.

It wasn't until the end of March that I managed to get enough free time to start trying to get things into shape for growing stuff. I decided early on to use the top section of the plot to grow stuff, rather than build the polytunnel, which I will eventually do, so I started digging over the top section and the bottom section.

And by the time I'd finished the top section looked like this - 

There was loads of Ground Elder.

The whole plot looked like this when I left it -

Looks a bit tidier.

And that was it for March, onwards into April.

I managed to get much more done in April, mainly as the weather improved a bit, and as it was only about a week later there's no before picture as it looked pretty much like it did when I left it at the end of March.

Over the course of about eight or nine hours (spread over three weeks) I managed to get most of the plot cleared, and got some stuff in the ground, like spuds and some broad beans, peas and onions (reds and whites) I also managed to get all the Raspberry plants relocated into their own bed, away from the main growing areas.

Raspberry plant bed - 

Not expecting much from them this year.

Found this little chap (or chap-ess) whilst digging - 

Organic slug control at it's best.

That was it for the first session in April, mainly clearing and getting ready for planting stuff.

For the second session I managed to remove a good three barrow fulls of weeds and managed to get seven rows of spuds in the top section, and I also pruned what can only be described as a massive Hop plant right back to the ground, there are a few Hop plants dotted around the plot, mainly at the edges, they are handy plants (Hops have a variety of uses) but they grow like weeds.

First lot of spuds in - 

Yes this is the same top section of the plot.

Then it was just a case of continuing to clear weeds and dig the ground over, I also moved the pea growing frames from last years location to this years location, I've been trying to rotate the crops about a bit so I'm not growing things in the same place two years in a row, I'm also using the beans and peas to lock nutrients into the soil, the whole moving things about seems to be working quite well, and if the weather is okay this year will be our best year for crops (famous last words)

I also had to re-do the plot sign as the wooden one had faded a bit, once I've fixed it up a bit I'll put it back down the allotment, but for the time being I made a stencil and using some black spray paint I sprayed the plot number onto the front panel that makes up part of the boundry.

Not the most aesthetically pleasing sign, but it does the job - 

It'll do as a temporary measure.

Once I was done it looked like this, starting to look like it's going to be productive, which is good as the council are clamping down on people not making the most of the plots, and by this point I'd managed to sow carrots,parsnips,peas,broad beans and the onions and the first lot of spuds, all of which are growing, despite the weather.

All done for now - 

In the battle of weeds I'm winning, or am I ?

The most recent session was only about a week ago, and was a great day for gardening, at least until the rain came, and there was a lot of it.

This is what greeted me - 

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

A few weeks had past since the last visit, so a few weeds was to be expected, but after an hour with the hoe most of the sections that had been planted up were clear.

You can see in the picture above that I'd already sorted out a frame for growing beans up, and this time I'd bought a load of runner bean plants with me, that we'd started off in the greenhouse at home.

Top section all weeded - 

I had thought the frame might fall over in the high winds we'd had.

It's quite a large bean frame, which I made out of strips of wood from pallets, and my wife had pointed out that there was space in between the frame, so I figured I'd put it to good use, so I planted two rows of Turnips and a row of Swedes, which should do fine where they are, even once the beans are fully grown they will still get the sun as the plot is south facing.

I also planted the last of our Beetroot seeds the other side of the bean frame (I'll have to remind the kids not to stomp on them)

Seeds sown - 

That's that done, onto more spud planting.

More wildlife, this time a caterpillar that will turn into a Drinker moth - 

This is a new one for us, never seen one before.

We managed to pick up some cheap seed spuds from one of our local diy type shops, so I figured I'd get them in the ground as well, although I kind of under estimated how much space I was going to need, so I ended up having to do more digging and clearing than I had thought in order to fit in another six rows of spuds, but at least we should get two crops, if they all grow that is.

Another six rows - 

I took this just as I was leaving because of the monsoon.

I've noticed some plants growing that were left over from last year, so rather than dig them up I left them in the ground, which is why there's a part row of Parsnips between the rows of spuds in the picture above.

I made a new bird scarer for the allotment, in a vain attempt to stop the birds eating the pea shoots and everything else, it'll probably work for five minutes until they get used to it, it does spin round so maybe I'll be lucky, I cut out two vaguely falcon shaped sails for it, in the hope that they'll cast shadows on the ground and trick the birds into thinking there's  predator about, but like I said it maybe wishful thinking on my part.

Here's the bird scarer, I was testing it in the garden - 

It might work...

As we have chickens we try and put the egg shells to good use, and so I figured I'd use some to protect the beans a little, we've had good results with using egg shell rather than slug pellets, and because we don't use any chemical based things on the allotment or the garden this suits our way of thinking, apologies for the blurry picture, but by the time I took it the rain was thundering down, which in a way was good as I'd forgotten the watering can for watering in the seeds, mother nature to the rescue.

Egg shells really do repel slugs and snails (try it) -

Sorry for the blurry cam.

And this is how it all looked when I last saw it - 

A bit soggy, but coming along nicely.

I probably won't get down to the plot for a another couple of weeks now, but when I do I should be ready for planting in a load of different squashes (pumpkins etc) and corn and a load of other stuff, so by the end of June the whole plot should be full of stuff, and if the summer actually happens we should be in for a good year with what we have at the allotment and in the garden.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How to make an Onager ... ...

So carrying on from our Trebuchet project we decided to make another type of siege engine, this time an Onager (sometimes referred to as a Mangonel) which is a type of catapult, but instead of using a large weight and gravity to fling an object this uses a different kind of method, the torsion bundle.

The name 'Onager' comes from the Greek word for ass (the donkey type) the reason they gave this device that name is because it kicks when it's fired, much like a donkey (ass) these types of devices were used as far back ancient Greece, and were widely used by the Romans for siege warfare, I also found references to small devices similar to the one we've built being used in the trenches in world war one, for firing hand grenades into enemy trenches and into no mans land.

Here's our finished Onager - 

This is the Mk 2.
The picture above is as it says the Mk 2, the Mk 1 needed a bit of tweaking due to a range issue, that being it didn't actually have much, the Mk 2 on the other hand does, and as a result I've kept the torsion quite low, we can almost clear the garden with this one, any more power and we'd be in trouble, how ever I do plan on taking it out to an area where we can really see what it's capable of, and adding more to the torsion to see just how far it'll throw an object.

Building one is not that hard, it does require some basic wood work skills (like the Trebuchet) the most problematic part for us anyway was getting the torsion right, and as I mentioned we had to tweak it to increase the range.

The basic frame work (made from 3.5 inch x 1.5 inch timber, 32mm x 82mm) which you can buy from most diy type places, the bit I used cost £4, I've used 3 inch screws to fix it together, and once again I used dowel to plug the screw holes, the cross bar in the middle is to help stop the torsion bundle from pulling the two main sides inward.

The basic frame - 

Easy peasy.

I was going to use thinner wood, but I felt better making it a little more sturdy, for the holes for the rope to go through on either side, I drilled using a 22mm spade bit (you could use a forstner bit, or large drill bit) the main reason for making them that size was because I decided to reinforce the holes for the rope with 22mm copper tubing, which I made two eyelet type section with, then made two flat plates to fix to the wood.

The copper parts for reinforcement - 

You don't really need to do this.

I made the eyelet by folding over the end of a bit of tube with pliers, then tapping it with a hammer, the plate is made from tube I cut then flattened out, then I made a hole in the centre for the eyelet to go through, these parts then fix to the main frame.

Here they are fixed into the main frame - 

Just needs securing in place.

And in the next picture you can see I've fixed the plate to the frame with copper nails, I've also drilled two holes diagonal to each other, these holes will hold small bars that will stop the rope unwinding.

Plate and eyelet nice and secure - 

All done, onwards.

It has to be said that on a model of this size I could have just used some thick plywood instead of going to the trouble of making parts out of copper, but if I'm honest I was going more for the look of it, but these do help to stop the wood getting chewed up.

Here's a picture I took while I was making sure it all worked - 

You can see how the brass pegs stop it all unwinding.

Again where I've used brass bar, you could use bolts, or wooden dowel, but although the brass is pretty sturdy, it won't snap, I was going more for the look, I could have just as easily used the steel rod I have, or indeed wooden pegs.

Here's another picture I took while testing things - 

I was using a bit of elastic to make sure things were secure.

Now a bit more wood work and it's done, all we need to add is a bar that the throwing arm will hit, this will then launch the projectile, it also makes things a little safer as you know exactly where the throwing arm will stop.

For the stop bar assembly all you need are two uprights with a bar across the top, then two angled pieces on either side to help absorb the impact and add some extra strength, after all you don't want the frame shattering when it's fired.

The stop bar assembly - 

It's just a spot of simple wood work.

Here's a picture with the parts labelled -

It's best to put the extra supports at a 45 degree angle.

Here's the frame work from another angle - 

The string on the stop bar is just for show.

You will want to have the frame work for the stop bar assembly to be roughly at the point where the throwing arm is vertical (or as close as possible) so it's a good idea to build the stop bar assembly and before you fix it in place mark where it needs to be in relation to the throwing arm.

As for the throwing arm, it's pretty simple to make, I had to glue and screw two bits of batten together, and in total the arm is 23 inches (58.5cm) long, I've gone with the three peg method (the same as the Trebuchet) although this wasn't the original idea (hence the Mk 1 and Mk 2) I also made a groove about an inch up from one end of the throwing arm for the rope to sit in, again you don't have to do this as the rope will hold it in place.

The end of the throwing arm - 

You can see we have room for a larger bundle.

Okay so we've almost finished, now we should really add a method of firing this thing, one that means we can be out of the way when we fire it, this I found was an easy problem to solve with the help of four eyes (four eyes really are better than two) I screwed two eyes into the main frame, and made a firing pin from another eye, to which I tied a length of string.

The main section of the firing system - 

I had to file the thread of one of the eyes.

I could have not bothered with a firing system, but even though this is a small device it still packs a punch, and I figured safety was a good idea, especially as the kids will be using it in the garden no doubt, and besides it's more fun this way.

The next part of the firing system is the fourth eye, which is fixed into the throwing arm, the idea being that when the device is loaded the eye on the throwing arm fits between to two eyes on the main frame, the firing pin then goes through the three eyes to secure it, the principle being that giving the string a good yank will slide the firing pin out and fire the device, you can see it in action in the video I've included at the end of this post.

Here's a picture of it loaded - 

A simple safe solution.

As an added safety feature I also drilled a hole in the end of the firing pin so that I can put something through it when the device is loaded that will prevent it being fired by accident.

More safety - 

Just in case the kids get too eager to unleash hell.

Here's some pictures of the three pegs at the other end of the throwing arm, it's basically the same design as the Trebuchet we made, with a slight difference. We added metal rings to the sling, we found this gave it a better motion and in so doing gives us a good range, I had to add extra bits to the side pegs to stop the metal rings sliding off.

The sling end of the throwing arm - 

I used bits of dowel for the pegs.

The metal rings are garden wire I bent into shape.

The little stoppers are larger dowel I drilled out to fit on the pegs.

Here's a picture of the method we used to add more torsion to the bundle -

The way this works is that when you twist the rope the throwing arm stops it from unwinding, you can then use this torsion to make the throwing arm move and fire a projectile, the rope we used was 6mm cord we got from one of our local diy shops, any man made type cord or rope should be good for this.

Here's a short video where you can see the twisting motion as the throwing arm is pulled back, you can see how the rope wants to unwind, but can't.

Once again my lovely wife made the sling out of crotched string, she also made the basket for the Mk1, however due to a slight error on my part the Mk1 didn't have any range, in fact the furthest away from the device I could get anything to travel was about four feet, not good.

The Mk1 - 

The Mk 1, or as my son would say 'Epic Fail'

We'd originally figured we'd make a basket type set up, like a catapult, so I made a wooden ring, and my wife made the basket, but it wasn't very good, and it seem that after a bit of reading the basket type catapults might actually be a spot of miss-direction as it would appear that although there are numerous drawings and accounts of catapults being made with baskets or small bowls on the ends of the throwing arm, most used slings, and some have speculated that this might be down to siege engine builders trying to keep the secrets of how they made things, well a secret, after all you can't have everyone making them, and there is a big difference in how the basket and the sling perform in terms of range and speed.

And that's how to build an Onager, all be it a rough guide, and below is a video of it being loaded and fired by my kids, I plan to make another more powerful torsion bundle for it, but I'll have to test it some where with more space, so I'll update this post with another video once I've done it.

On my command unleash hell ! - 

Thanks for reading.