Long Time No See

Well this is the first post in over a year just to let you know that I haven’t gone away. Life has conspired to prevent any modelling activity since the autumn of 2017. I have not been to a show or exhibition since Spalding in April 2017 and it seems unlikely that I will be able to get to any of the shows this year. I was looking forward to Bristol and the Midlands show but maybe I will get to go next year!

I have not even been able to get into the workshop very often and then only to power up the lathe and mill for a short run to keep the oil and bearings in working order. Apparently lathe bearings can distort if not used for long periods of time going slightly oval with the weight of the spindle. The only useful thing I have managed is to make some shelf space by recycling a load of old magazines, mainly MEW which if I need I can see on-line.

I did manage to do a bit of work on my 3D printer in between my “carer” duties though. I have been trying to improve the print head mounting and to install a cable chain. Neither project went very well and I now have a printer that is back in kit form having not been able to finish the work! Oh well, another project for next year. I have also been trying to write another couple of pages for the site but it is very slow going as I can’t spend too long in one session and I lose the thread, some might say I have lost the plot but I lost that years ago…

Workshop Security HTTPS

Not so much about the physical security of the workshop, which is of course important, but about the protocol change I have made to the website. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. Google have for some time been promoting the use of HTTPS and give securely connected sites higher ranking.

The first thing you need is an SSL certificate, this has the encryption keys for the Secure Socket Layer communication setup. Fortunately even the cheapest 1&1 hosting package includes a basic SSL certificate and all I had to do to implement it was to activate it from the 1&1 control panel. The basic certificate is fine for a simple website but if you are implementing a world wide trading empire you will need to pay for something a bit more advanced.

That was the easy bit, getting the website in order is a little more tricky. To start with any internal links need either to be relative or non protocol specific that is they should look like //journeymans-workshop.uk/etc and not http//journeymans-workshop.uk/etc. Once this is done the website .htaccess file needs to redirect any calls to HTTPS this is so that all the old links scattered about the interweb end up in the right place. There are several different ways to do this and I just copied the code from the Apache site, the script conventions for these files is way outside my comfort zone! If you need to do this the code that needs to be added looks like this:-
<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine on
# Begin Force HTTPS
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule .* https://%{SERVER_NAME}%{REQUEST_URI} [R,L]
# End Force HTTPS

What you should see in your browser
Browser View

With that done the next major job is to update the WordPress database so that the media links are right. WordPress stores all the links to photos as complete hyperlinks including the HTTP bit so these need changing. The easiest way to do this is with a plugin. I used Better Search Replace which is fairly simple to use and does a dry run before it alters the database. The image to the right shows the browser result when everything works but I put it in to test that the new images are stored with the correct protocol – it seems to work!

Next job is to sort out Google, as you can see I use their ads on the site and it just about pays for the hosting and domain fees. I had to re-write the XML sitemap with the new HTTPS addresses but also had to add the HTTPS version as a new site? I only have one set of files but for reasons best known to themselves Google want each version of the site shown separately. So you end up with:-
Which strikes me as a little odd but it seems to be what they want. Once this is done sit back and wait for Google to crawl everything. It is fairly difficult to check if all is working correctly and you need to keep clearing the browser cache to make sure you are looking at the latest version. Touch wood everything seems to be working. It is interesting to note the number of old links stored on the web, I was going to remove my old cign.org and cign.net sites but there are still loads of places that have these recorded.

Did I really need to do this – probably not but I learned a bit on the way and in theory my Google ranking should go up for what it′s worth.

Just a quick update, a few months after doing this I checked Google and there was absolutely nothing happening on any of the “sites” other than the https://journeymans-workshop.uk/ so I deleted the other three. Whether this was the right thing to do remains to be seen but I thought it was neater.

DTI Magnetic Base Stand

Bought one of these from Amazon for £14.99. Not really expecting too much as the real thing from Noga is usually in excess of £100.00. First thing I did was to stand it on a surface plate to check if the base was flat – it wasn’t! Quite a noticable wobble so I unbolted the arm, removed the magnet and trued up the base. The base seem to be made from two steel parts which sandwich a thick central section made from some soft alloy which I suspect is a lead / zinc or similar mix. Looks like the soft alloy is poured in hot to fix the two outer bits together. A large round magnet sits in the central hole and is rotated by the front lever so that sides are magnetised or not. It has quite a reasonable hold when switched on.

DTI Stand With Magnetic Base
DTI Stand With Magnetic Base

Put the base in the mill and machined it flat, it now sits nicely on the surface plate without rocking. Quite how you can surface grind something with a wobble I don’t know but looking at the original finish it may well have been done by hand on a belt sander. The general finish is pretty well down to the same standard. Looking at the photo you may well think the arms are anodised aluminium. Wrong, they are aluminium but are varnished with a semi-transparent lacquer. The finish on the arms is very soft and easily scratched. The black paint on the base is also fairly soft and covers a deal of filler. The clamping action isn’t very smooth so I took the whole thing to pieces and cleaned it up a bit. The arms are assembled with circlips, well bits of bent wire, there are four of them each one a different diameter and different length.

Once apart the action becomes evident, as you tighten the centre screw two wedges engage with the tapered ends of the rods that run up the middle of the arms. The rods push against the steel balls that make up the pivots. I could tell they were steel because they were rusty! The ball joints were also very rough with a good selection of dents. Polished them up on the lathe to improve the action somewhat. The ends of the push rods were also fairly rough so I polished up the wedge end using a fine diamond lap. I also polished up the wedge faces in the same way. All the originals looked as though they had been done either on a belt sander or an off-hand grinder. Also cleaned up the dimple end of the rods on the lathe using the ball to push a bit of wet and dry paper into the depression in the rod end.

Reassembled everything with some lubrication where needed and it seems a little smoother. I still have to turn the clamp knob quite hard to lock all three joints really solid but it is plenty stiff enough to support a DTI. Was it worth the money? Only just, if I hadn’t had the means to adjust it it would have been no use at all.

Spalding Model Show 2017

Sunday being St.George’s Day I set out on a quest to visit the Spalding Model Engineering and Hobby Show. Despite the best efforts of the dragon, in the form of the Highways England re-surfacing crew, I survived the considerable delay on the A16 and arrived at about 10:30. A quick cup of coffee in the restaurant and I was ready to take in the show.

Burrell Traction Engine
“Albert” Burrell Road Locomotive

Outside there was a very good turnout from the traction engine fraternity. I counted 18 engines in steam and a couple of static steam models being demonstrated. The Burrell road locomotive “Albert” pictured above was very nicely turned out, I am guessing 3″ scale, I didn’t see the owner/driver to talk to.

Click On Images For Larger View

This rather strange engine named “Aenigma” caught my eye. It certainly lives up to it’s name, looks like a cross between a portable engine and a traction engine. The cylinder block is at the wrong end with a chain drive to the rear wheels. It is vaguely reminiscent of the American Case engines but the wheels are English. The boiler seems very long and the wood cladding acentuates this. I cannot find any information on this engine as I was taking photos at lunch time and no one was about.

The display of boilers and stationary engines was interesting with plenty of signage to deter small boys, and the not so small, fingering hot bits. One of the engines was driving a selection of Mamod machine tools invoking boyhood memories of playing with a Mamod steam engine, though I never had that many workshop machines to drive. Plenty of info on the stand explaining the setup and how the boilers were made.

Continue reading “Spalding Model Show 2017”

Arduino Starter Kit

I recently added a stepper motor to my rotary table based on an article I had seen in Model Engineers Workshop. Everything worked OK but I realised I that I knew very little about the Arduino micro-controller used to power the project. As I can see other uses for stepper motors in the workshop I thought I had better find out a bit about programming the Arduino. To that end I bought a kit from Amazon to play with.

The kit I found was by Elegoo who seem to specialise in this sort of kit and parts for the Arduino and Raspberry Pi. They have some interesting looking car kits for another day. The kit is made in China and manages to get a lot into a a small box. Once you have taken a few bits out it is difficult to get it all back in! I borrowed some images from Elegoo’s website as their pictures are better than mine, I am sure they won’t mind. Click On Image For Larger View

The kit contains an Arduino Uno R3 together with a host of things to plug into it. My particular interest was to find out a bit more about stepper motor control and the kit includes a small stepper motor and driver. It also has a DC motor and a servo to experiment with. There is a CD in the kit that contains the manual, 122 pages in pdf format, which has the lesson notes for 24 lessons. The CD also has the sketches (programs) that go with the lessons. The lessons and sketches are available in a number of languages. I have only just started but the lessons seem to be quite well written and the translation is good so no struggling with “Sino-English”. It may be worth printing out the pdf file as you may need to read that at the same time as inputting program data.

The first part of the manual gives an inventory of the kit contents with pictures so that you can check everything is there. The first lesson explains how to set up the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment) there is a copy of this on the CD but it is not up to date so safer to download from the Arduino site for the latest version. The pdf manual also contains information about driver installation with help if you run into trouble. The lessons start nice and simply with flashing the on-board LED and each lesson introduces a new bit of hardware to experiment with. The manual has plenty of diagrams and clear explanations. The programming examples are clear which is good because I know nothing about C++ which is the Arduino programming language. There is a bit of a glitch at lesson 8 where it refers to an earlier lesson that isn’t there. Also the breadboard power supply is introduced without explanation. Having flipped through the manual, code examples become less as things progress, relying instead on the code supplied with the sketches. The code in the sketches supplied is commented but not overly so.

I think the kit will provide a good introduction to the Arduino particularly the link between computer and machine. I wasn’t aware before I got the kit just how many things can be computer controlled. All I have to do now is set to and work my way through the lessons. Whether I remember anything is another matter but I am quite looking forward to playing. I think I will still need a book on c++ though. Oh I did notice that the name is a bit of a play on words eLEGOo but I am sure that was unintentional (possibly). I note that since I purchased my kit (a week ago) the price has gone up quite a bit.

Samsung C430W Printer

I don’t print all that much but it would be nice to have a printer that worked when you need it. Due to lack of use the ink cartridges always seemed to be clogged up when I needed to print something. This resulting in a lengthy cartridge cleaning cycle that never worked properly and wasted ink. A new set of cartridges cost almost as much as the printer so I thought it was time for a change. I reasoned that a laser printer wouldn’t ‘dry up’ if not used, as the toner is already a dry powder. Laser printers tend to be a bit bigger than inkjets but a bit of research came up with the Samsung C430W Xpress, a small footprint colour laser printer.

Samsung C430W Xpress
Samsung C430W Xpress

The printer was ordered on ‘Black Friday’, more by luck than planning, but was priced at £85.00 rather than the usual £129.00. It was also at the same time subject to a Samsung promotion of an extra set of toner cartridges to be claimed later. Also had an extra years warranty courtesy of John Lewis. Despite the best efforts of the courier the printer turned up eventually, the outer packaging was a bit battered but the box seemed to have staved off most of the results of being ‘in transit’ for 10 days!

Unpacking was straightforward and there was plenty of styrafoam to protect the printer in it’s box. The printer was basically ready to go once all tape holding covers and trays in place had been removed. Even the toner cartridges were in place and ready to run without any preparation. First thoughts are that the plastic case seems a bit flimsy, everything bends and creaks when pressed. The paper tray seems very light duty, time will tell whether it is up to the job. The printer is quite heavy though so there must be a reasonable amount of metalwork holding it together somewhere under the flexi-covers.

Big disappointment was that the paper tray sticks out the front when loaded with paper. This is not made clear in any of the sales blurb or even the specification. There are no pictures anywhere with the tray sticking out at the front, I think this is a bit remiss of Samsung not to mention this as it adds 90mm to the depth. The footprint with the tray in shipping mode is 380mm wide, 310mm deep, 210mm high. The depth in normal use mode is 400mm. The paper tray expands the first time you pull it out and clips into it’s new larger footprint. If you remove the paper, the tray does not shrink back to it’s original size without a bit of effort to find the clicky somwhat flimsy locking tab. If you only want to use A5 paper, it will work with the tray concertina’d in, which restores the advertised footprint.

Once over that annoyance (I decided I could live with the ‘new’ footprint) I installed the drivers and set the printer up. There is a CD with the drivers but my PC doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive, fortunately the drivers are also downloadable from the Samsung support site. Not quite sure what happened with the driver installation but I seemed to end up with three printers. That was probably a combination of me not reading the instructions carefully, Windows 10 and the downloaded drivers. However I gave it a quick test on the usb cable which seemed to work OK and then deleted the printers in device manager and used the usb cable to set up for a wireless network setup. Everything now works fine with just the wireless network connection and just one printer showing in ‘Devices and Printers’. I can even print from my phone and tablet though I am not quite sure why I would want to.

The text print quality is good and the printer makes a nice job of my Geomagic Design drawings. The photo quality is OK but not up to my old inkjet standard, I didn’t really expect anything different. It might perform better with a better quality paper, I believe you can get special photo paper for laser printers. The printer is quite quick once it is printing although there is a delay before it gets going. I haven’t timed it but I am happy with it. The network connection seems solid (at the moment) and there appears little difference in timing whether connected with a usb cable or over the wifi. The controls on the printer panel are just the on/off button, a WPS button, a stop button and an ECO button. I haven’t explored the so called eco mode but it’s main claim at savings seems to be the ability to print two or more pages on one sheet. The graphic in the properties display proudly claims that you can save 50% toner by printing two pages on one sheet! Probably, but it will be half the size, I have enough trouble reading full size print, thankyou…

The printer seems to be reasonable value for money, especially if you can find it on offer somewhere. Print quality is good but don’t get it for your photos. Casing and paper tray seem a bit flimsy but there is plenty of weight inside. My only other criticism was the labels stuck all over the front, I really don’t need all the store display advertising permanently stuck to the front! At least make the labels easy peel, I had to spent 15 minutes with a bottle of foul smelling label remover to get everything off. A full set of toner cartridges will cost more than I paid for the printer. The colour cartridges are rated for 1000 pages and the black for 1500. I am hoping that with the spare set of cartridges from Samsung’s offer I shouldn’t need to buy any more before the printer wears out.