Starting the steam powered record player and other projects.

October 7th, 2010

Apparently I don’t update this enough so instead of putting things up when they are complete I will try to show a bit more of my works in progress. Generally I am working on quite a number of things at once. I swap from one project to another as the mood strikes me. Some get finished, some I lose interest in. I’ll try to share a little more of the actual process that goes into them all. So here are a few updates on things I am doing now.

I am working on the next phase of my weather satellite receiver which I described here:

I have been working on an addition to the basic receiver that makes it scan more than one channel and stop when it detects a transmission. This allows me to leave the receiver running all the time and get images from all the satellites. The circuit uses additional tuning resistors and some circuitry to switch them in in turn. A tone detector listens out for the satellite transmission and I have an Arduino controlling it all. The system works fully automatically now and I have been uploading the images here:

It is all still on the breadboard so next I need to build a proper board and house it all. Once I do that I shall publish the circuit and the Arduino code running it. I am using the Arduio as a bare bones chip freeing up my full Arduino board for other projects.


Arduino weather satellite controller and another project.

In the mess above you can see the weather satellite receiver on the right and on the large breadboard. The birds-nest of wires s one reason why I haven’t yet made a proper board for this. I am scared to move anything! The actual Arduino is being used for another project which is trying to interface to that old Casio PB100 personal computer on the left. I am trying to talk to it via the tape interface.  So far I can save data from the Casio but not yet read it back. More work required there!

Next I have my railway. I must admit to being a bit of a train spotter I guess. I like trains. Well, locomotives to be exact. When i was a kid I had model trains. After deciding I never used my Scalextric set after I  finished the camera car I sold that and have invested in railways instead. I bought a n scale locomotive, a LNER class V2, and have started to build a layout. The original idea was a coffee table but given the tiny size of my house a large coffee table wasn’t practical. So I am building it into a dining table instead!

IMG_8421_1 N Scale LNER V2 Coldstreamer.

The plan is to build a small layout, set in 1939 Britain, into an old fashioned style table with a glass top. So far I have laid down the track and painted the rails and sleepers ready for ballasting. Then I shall do the landscape. Given the tight radius turns a small layout required this will be a good train hauling a number of small wagons rather than long carriages that look a bit silly on tight curves.

IMG_8539_1 IMG_8553_2 Laying track and the basic layout.

For that project I have been researching the railways of the period and started reading everything I can get my hands on about the LNER (London and North Eastern Railroad) which naturally leads you onto Sir Nigel Gresley.

Now Sir Nigel and all my reading about steam locomotives has inspired me. I decided to build a steam engine myself! Now I have done this before by soldering up small bits of brass and metal and running them on air but I wanted to make something useful. I have several Mamod toy steam engines so I borrowed the basic design, went through my junk box and started building. The engine is made from whatever I can find in my shed. The flywheel is a piece of steel pipe, the shaft from an old printer, the bearings are skateboard bearings running in a housing machined from a brass pipe fitting. The piston and con rod are machined from a stainless steel bolt and the cylinder is some scrap brass tube. The copper inlet and outlet pipes are from an old thermostat.

So far I have the actual engine part done and working on compressed air. It’s called Nigel in honour of the Nigel. Next is making the boiler. Then, I have plans for Nigel. Big plans.

IMG_8716_1 IMG_8729_1_1 The piston, machined from a stainless steel bolt, and the brass cylinder.

IMG_8740_1 IMG_8741_2 The flywheel machined from some steel pipe with a shaft from an old printer.

A small film of Nigel in action is available here on YouTube.

And finally, a long term project I have been working on for over a year now I think. My John Steed RSS news feed reading Thunderbird puppet. He is a marionette with moving eyes and a mouth that opens and closes in time to speech. I wrote some C# code to take an RSS feed and read it out in a British accent using text to speech. An Arduino will control a solenoid to open and close Steed’s mouth as well as move his eyes left and right. I have Steed’s body done and now I need to dress him.  I have made everything fro scratch and I need to upload the pictures of how I did it all soon. The head and torso are fibreglass and the limbs are wooden. The hands are made from Fimo like modelling clay baked in the oven. The eyes are moved by a servo in the head and the mouth by a solenoid in the torso. He is scaled along the lines of the classic Thunderbirds with an oversized head and hands.

IMG_8578_1_1 And no, he’s not naked. He’s wearing his furry merkin!

I hope Patrick McNee doesn’t see this…

Updates to come!

One Response to “Starting the steam powered record player and other projects.”

  1. Asciimation » Blog Archives » A steam punk record player. Says:

    […] came about when I decided to build my own small steam engine from bits of junk around my garage. I built the engine first (named Nigel after Sir Nigel Gresley) then I made a boiler from some copper water pipe. After […]