I originally heard about this website through Vinay Gupta and Darren. Vinay, through hexayurt building, and Darren through an Open-Source Hardware mailing list.
Darren needed someone who could do arc-welding for version 0.2 of the biochar-rocket stove, and i put him in touch with the most effective welder i knew.
Vinay, i met through building a hexayurt for Hackney City Farm, and we’ve been gossiping about technology since.
I’ll update my biog, when i’ve got time. Trying to condense over 30 years worth of professional activity into a couple of paragraphs isn’t exactly easy, if you want it to be accurate.It’s even more tricky when you’ve been working in the variety and range of the fields of endeavour that i’ve been exploring… :))
Over the last five years, i’ve been working on tool-making. As i said earlier, making the tools to make the tools that we need to thrive.
Note, i used to say “to survive”, then someone pointed out to me, that if you’re just covering the bills, you’re eventually going to lose, as you won’t have the energy surplus to deal with the inevitable entropy that’ll be affecting whatever infrastructure you are using. That’s why i say “to thrive” rather than “to survive”. Build in the future-proofing, and the capability for future upgrades, from the start, and it’ll make the upgrades along the tech-tree you’re following, simpler to realise.
Practical example: I’ve been a member of the London Hackspace http://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk for nearly five years, and i spent a large amount of time working on the workshop infrastructure. This was purely an example of enlightened group self-interest. I needed a workshop that could do specific things, so i helped build it, and because it was me that was building it, we ended up with a workshop that was mostly ideal for my purposes.
I’ve been working on a wind-turbine design on-and-off for a few years. I needed to build an alternator that would work for the low-wind conditions that were the optimum for this design of turbine. (NB, i’ve been doing this entirely self-funded and self-boot-strapped, hence the making it, rather than buying components in. It also means i learn more when doing this.)
I needed to use the mini-lathe at the hackspace, in order to make the frames for the alternator coils. The lathe was a mess, as it hadn’t been used for 3 months, and hadn’t been cleaned for 6. My reaction was “Cool! Here’s the opportunity to learn how to maintain a lathe.” So i downloaded a maintenance manual for this lathe from the manufacturer’s website, stripped it down, cleaned it, put it back together, then when testing it, found that there were a couple of parts that needed replacing.
Lathes are interesting devices, in that you can use a lathe to make another lathe, so in theory, i should have been able to make the spare parts.
In practise, i could have ordered the parts from China but they would have taken 6-8 weeks to be delivered, and they would have cost real money. Instead i used the kiln that was in the hackspace workshop, spent two days learning how to use that, bought some jeweller’s crucibles from a local suppler, then spent the next 7 days, experimenting with melting aluminium, using scrap from broken bike wheels, and the cases from broken hard disk drives. We also had to take another side-track to make some of the moulding equipment for performing sand-casting, and the moulding bench, so we could pour it safely.
We then, 3d-printed the parts from a lathe design i’d found on Thingiverse, http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:12472 and used them as forms for sand-moulding, and cast the new parts out of aluminium.
So two weeks after starting, we ended up with a working lathe, a set of metal-casting equipment, and the practical experience in how to use this stuff.
And then i finally made the coil-frames i’d originally set out to make… :))
I also, ended up teaching four members of the hackspace, how to do basic metal-casting, and started building a furnace to be able to cast larger things. Version 0.1 ended up looking like this, https://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk/view/Project:GingeryFurnace
It was made completely out of recycled materials, http://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk/view/File:ItsMadeOutOfRubbish.jpg The body of the furnace was a broken bucket, lined with fireclay, that was made from skip-found builders sand, vermiculite that we were given by a grower i knew, and spare clay from a local pottery. The air intake was a piece of rusty scaffolding tube that i’d rescued from a skip. The air blower was a spare computer fan that was roaming around the workshop, and using an air-focuser, similar to a Venturi nozzle, that was knocked together out of a PVC pipe that i’d found in a skip. The power system was made from the entrails of a broken vacuum cleaner, and the entire thing was fueled using FSC charcoal from Lidl’s which cost £2 a bag!
Because the furnace was made from recycled materials, and the charcoal was FSC certified, it meant that the entire thing was carbon-neutral, and cost nothing but a little time and effort. Add in a battery-powered 12V fan, and a solar-panel to charge it, and you have a system to make machine-tools that can work off-grid.
With version 0.1 of the furnace, we were able to get mild steel up to 950C, which is mid-orange-with-a-touch-of-white, which is a effective temperature for hammer-shaping steel. Once we repaired the vacuum-cleaner motor, we were able to use that for version 0.2. We were able to get a flame that was nearly 5 feet high, and reached temperature of over 1250C, which is the sparkly stage where the carbon in your steel catches fire. “I’ve just destroyed the last hour’s work, but we’ve built an excellent furnace”
And we were getting those temperatures with just an open bucket! :))
I’ve been working on version 0.3 using a skip-found beer barrel, and with better air-flow, we’ll be able to cast bronze. It’s a material i not played with before. More to learn…
After meeting Darren, and helping him with the biochar-rocket-stove, it’s going to be possible to improve the charcoal supplies, so it can be completely carbon neutral, and self-sustaining, for as long as you’re able to maintain the land you’re running the forest on.
And this was just one of the bright idea’s we’ve been working on…
There’s a whole 'nother range of wyrdness there… :))