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This is a question The best thing I've built

Wehttamman asks: My dad and I once built a go-kart from chipboard, pram wheels and an engine from a lawn mower. It didn't work... so tell us about your favourite things you've made, and whether they were a triumph or complete failure.

(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 12:00)
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This question is now closed.

meccano and a broken radio controlled car
I made a radio controlled bedroom door opener at the age of 12, as I was too lazy to open and close my bedroom door.

I also was interested in radio about that time and realised using my Chinese walky talkies and a copper wire attached to the telephone poll at the end of the garden, which was wrapped around the aerial of the walky talky, would extend the range..I lived on top of a big hill.. my friends and I could run a pirate radio station from my bedroom and destroy what everyone was listening to around the classic fm range..within a certain distance of my house..hahaha until a neighbour complained...

I worked as a technician for the NEC in B'ham for a while and everything we had to make there was held together with gaffer tape or ratchet straps.. most things generally only survived a few hours. Best thing i made there in down time over the summer when we were meant to be doing repairs was A cross bow, also a hover craft.
(, Sat 13 Oct 2012, 0:59, 6 replies)

A few years ago I was on the Wacom site oggling cintiqs and swearing at teh ridiculous prices and thinking "surely that's just a monitor mounted over a tablet", and "I wonder what the read height on my tablet is?". I suddenly found myself buying for-spares monitors, getting a larger Wacom for free, and buying a dremel.
The old girl got an upgrade last year. The screen was suffering from age and long term UV damage, and the Wacom part was serial so not supported in windows 7. A mate had written a programme to use on a teensy (a programmable chip) that converts serial to USB. The teensy also gets rid of the Wacom power supply and passes on USB power. and I found a new screen that ups the resolution to 1600 x 1200.

Edit- there's a rather rambling build log here www.bongofish.co.uk/wacom/wacom_pt1.html
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 20:21, 8 replies)
My daughter had a bike.
We got donated another, identical bike.

She was too big for them both, and her wee sister already had a bike that was big enough for her.

So, I made a Siamese Bike.


There's a whole set of pics of the build process there: was a marvellous way to spend a weekend.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 19:00, 4 replies)
tree house.

I did kinda kill the tree though...
Just waiting for it to fall over now
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 16:34, 2 replies)
Stuart Pearce Dildo
At a very drunken birthday party, the birthday girl said that the thing she'd like most in the whole world would be a dildo with the head of Stuart Pearce as the knob.

Now I know that sounds like a set-up for a pun, but it really isn't. Nor is it a tortuous way to get to a "Stuart Pearce is a bell-end" line. It's really genuine: she fancied him, and thought it would be the ideal sex toy, to fill those long half-time delays.

Being drunk, I told her I'd make one (after asking who the fuck Stuart Pearce was - I know nothing about football). Bizarrely, when I sobered up it still seemed like a fun challenge, so I did. I carved a large cock in clay, then modelled his face on the glans - I used the famous pic of him crushing Gazza's bollocks as a reference. It turned out really well, easily recognisable even though it was the first time I'd tried to model a real, living person's face.

Then I cast a fibreglass mould, and from that produced a silicone wang. She was, as you'd imagine, extremely startled when I presented it to her, the next weekend - it was, after all, her heart's desire. Well, perhaps a little lower than the heart.

Unfortunately no pictures exist, but I do still have the mould somewhere. Strangely no-one has ever asked me to make another...
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 16:21, 5 replies)
Dungeon furniture
For a friend's dungeon.

On her front lawn while the neighbours made excuses to walk by slowly and pretend not to look.

Then helped her install said furniture at a local knocking shop. Lovely girls there even if I didn't get anything other than a cuppa for my efforts.

Much better than a spice rack, but certainly worth doing woodwork in high school.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 14:19, 1 reply)
slow week in work
I was once attacked by a pollinating insect whilst taking a popular dance music associated drug through a drip and reading a german tabloid newspaper.

It was a bee-sting IV E Bild
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 13:25, Reply)
I bodged a Corsa radiator into an Astra.
Via the use of stilts.

(Click for bigger)
Sadly, she's away to the big scrapyard in the sky this weekend.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 12:46, 4 replies)
Papier-mache willies
to frighten Sarah Wallis.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 12:22, Reply)
Cat-activated cat squirter
After suffering with a cat who insists on climbing on every kitchen surface and realising that a squirt of water was the best defense against paw prints everywhere, I decided to build an electronic squirter.

The device consists of an infra-red beam and sensor which, when interrupted by a cat*, activates a pump that takes water from a box and fires it in the direction of the cat*. For added scariness I've also wired in a device that creates a hissing sound when triggered**.

*or forgetful human
**I don't personally find it particularly scary.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 12:22, 3 replies)
School metalwork
Made contact with one of my best mates from school recently.

He reminded me of the small hammers we made for a project in metalwork lessons, took about 8 weeks to make,looked terrible.

His wife is a geography teacher and uses the hammer to split stones when she does field trips with her pupils looking for fossils.

The hammer in question is at least 35 years old now.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 12:12, Reply)
Apart from Whoopie - I made
I made an ashtray at school. Pointless exercise in pottery as at that point in time I did not know a single soul who smoked. I later started to smoke but unfortunatley the ashtray at that point was a shattered shard of poor glazing and fiery temperatures.

By starting to smoke was my life imitating my art.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 12:00, Reply)
I built a great reputation for myself
by doing loads for charity and helping people and whatnot. but then i had to go and spoil it all by fingering a load of under-age girls.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 10:17, Reply)
I built an online persona.
It seemed to upset a lot of other online personae.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 10:06, 1 reply)
I once constructed an inferiority complex.
Then I realised other people have much better inferiority complexes.
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 7:54, Reply)
I built a touring bike
The first job was to choose each tube and a friend and I chose a mix of Columbus Max and Max OR tubes, I wanted to use 26" wheels for strength and a 50mm travel fork on the front for those really bad roads. Finally it was put together into a frame jig and braised together by my friend who was a craftsman with a gas torch. Once it was done, I painted with a couple of rattle cans and built it up with a mix of Suntour XC Pro, Shimano XT and a set of old Deore thumbshifters. However the flat bar made it too slow, so I replaced that with a set of touring drops and some Tiagra STIs and that bike became a super fast beast of burden. In the end and after a particularly nasty crash that dented the top tube, I retired the bike and that frame now hangs on my bedroom wall, covered in soft toys.

My bike
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 2:12, 7 replies)
i built an 18x12 shed from junk
installed double glazed windows and skinned it entirely using old victorian skirting boards from a reclaimed timber yard.

it doesn't sound that impressive, but it was a fun build and i thought it was great

oh, i helped someone restore a vw beetle that'd been sat in a garden for about 20 years too
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 1:59, Reply)
I was about 15 when I decided I was going to build a remote control boat
My dad had an old hull made from wood that was originally designed for a small water cooled engine but as electric motors are much cheaper and easier to use I went with one of those. I didn't do very much detail as I'm an impatient bugger and wanted to go drive it round the local lake ASAP.

At a distance it pretty much looked like this
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Well, if you were about 30 meters away (this isn't mine, it's just an image off Google that looks a bit like mine)

However as batteries are expensive for a 15 year old with only a paper round for income my dad came up with the great idea of using one of the rechargeable burglar alarm batteries he had. This meant the motor was receiving about double the power it should causing the boat to, if you went full throttle, rear up so high that the back end was actually lower than the water line so when you came to slow down, unless you were very careful, you could potentially sink it by sending a tidal waver over the entire thing. The battery only lasted about 3 minutes as well.
Now I'm old enough to have a job that provides enough income to afford batteries I really must go and get it out of the garage and give it another shot
(, Fri 12 Oct 2012, 1:44, 6 replies)
I made a spice rack at school
I was really proud of it, it'd taken months at woodwork. Then Barry Kent smashed it up and went off laughing. Just my luck!
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 22:58, 2 replies)
The Spazzbot.
Sadly I no longer seem to have a picture of it, so a description will have to suffice.

When I was in engineering school, I was in a class where they paired up engineering students with sculpture students, gave us loose guidelines and sat back to see what we would create. My partner was a guy named Morgan, a typical art student in old stained tee shirts and jeans with hair that stuck up in all directions. Obviously we hit it off instantly.

I had made a silly gizmo out of a vibrating motor from a pager and a couple of paperclips. I named it the Spazzbot as it jittered all over the table when I switched it on, causing all who saw it to involuntarily giggle. I showed it to Morgan and his eyes lit up. "Let's make a six foot tall one!"

The idea made me grin, so it had to be done.

I went diving in the dump and found an old clothes washer and took out its motor. At home I tested it and found that it worked just fine. I estimated its speed to be about 10 revolutions per second. I guessed that I'd want about 10 lbs of lateral thrust, so based on that I did some quick calculations and determined that I would want about a pound of weight at six inches from the axis. I searched through the scrap iron pile and found a couple of chunks of bar and got someone to weld it on (I wasn't allowed, as I wasn't a sculpture student), then found a small chunk of iron for the end to be the weight. It didn't look like enough, so I got a much larger chunk and got that welded on.

Meanwhile we constructed a big thing that looked like a bastard hybrid of a lawn chair and a daddy longlegs. We put a plate at the top to bolt down the motor, so I did so and attached the weight. I then put on a power cord. It was ready for a test.

Only thing was, Morgan wasn't there. But being an impatient bastard I carried it outdoors and dragged out a cord with me to try it on my own anyway.

I stood with the plugs in my hands, and had a moment of caution. I hunkered down on the pavement, well below the level of the motor, took a deep breath and plugged it in.

With a shuddering roar the thing leaped from the pavement, gaining about a foot of air before landing. I yanked out the plug before it could get me, then stared at it like Frankenstein watching his monster rampage. Holy shit, I should have stuck with my calculations. Half of the welds on the frame had popped loose from less than a second of power.

Right about them Morgan showed up. "What happened to it?" I described my experience and his eyes lit up. "Do it again!"

Oh FUCK no.

I cut back on the weight and we displayed it for the class. The art students crowded close as it shuddered menacingly across the floor at them while the engineering students and teachers cowered against the wall.

We got an A.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 22:11, Reply)

There were even little LED lights in the tunnels...
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 21:57, 9 replies)
I built a fence
Okay, the kid/engineering student from next door did most of it, but I did the last panel my self. Even cut it to size and re-pinned the battening.

I am a man!!!!
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 21:53, Reply)
My shed.
No, seriously.

I needed a place for my tools and to work in. The back yard had a forsythia bush that I hated anyway, so in that corner it went. I cut down the forsythia, leveled out the ground to the best of my abilities, then got some of those blocks with a cross shape cut in the top for building decks and used those for my foundation. I then used pressure treated 2x6 for the floor joists, put down OSB for the floor, and framed in the walls.

And then it rained for two days.

The following Friday was clear, so I planned on spending the weekend putting on the walls and roof.

And then it rained for two days.

Right, now things are starting to warp. Five days of sunshine so at least now it's dry. Friday rolls around, so I planned to finish it that weekend.

And then it rained for two days.

On Tuesday I finally asked my boss if I could take the next day off and explained why. He tried to stifle a chuckle unsuccessfully, but let me have the time. I got out there and put up the roof (corrugated galvanized steel) and the lower parts of the walls, and started on the upper parts before it got dark. I planned on finishing off that weekend, especially as Friday was again clear.

And then it rained for two days. But I didn't give a fuck as I now had a roof over me and could cut the remaining wood and put it up in the rain.

The end result was a 12x12 building with a second floor, a picture window, a regular window and a 4x8 door with work benches built along the walls. I ran power to it with an extension cord (because of zoning laws) and that has been my workshop for the past four years. I have made many things in it.

And when it rains on me and I hear it drumming on the metal roof, I smile and extend my middle finger at the sky.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 21:09, Reply)
An arc welder

As a child I was forever dismantling anything I could get my hands on and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to make build new, better things. As I've grown up, my access to tools and knowledge of physics has improved; this has however had the result of increasing the frequency of both successful creations and disasters.

Earlier in the year, I decided that an arc welder would be a useful thing to own and would increase that number of other unwise things I could build. Now any sensible person would at this point would have checked out ebay or screwfix; in case it was not already obvious, I'm not that sensible. I logged into freecycle and posted, offering to save people a trip to the tip by taking their old broken microwaves off their hands.

There are lots of fun bits & bobs inside an old microwave, but for this particular project I was after the transformers; I salvaged 2 transformers and with the aid of an angle grinder, an oven, a variety of odd bits of wood and a mallet removed the original secondary windings then replaced them with some nice thick copper that I bought online.

Now that I had two transformers, I bought some car battery cable, a huge crocodile clip and a welding rod holder and wired it all up. I plugged both the transformers into a multi-gang extension lead and I turned the mains on. There was a nice satisfying buzzing sound, but as soon as I touched the welding rod to the scrap of steel I was using for the test the fuse blew. This was obviously drawing more than the 13A that the sockets in the garage can supply. Now clearly at this point the correct course of action would be to consult an electrician in order to install a dedicated 30A circuit for the welder; I didn't have an electrician handy, but I did have two 13A sockets in front of me. A little test proved that while 13A wasn't enough, 26A was plenty.

Once I had a working welder I set about welding every piece of scrap steel I had to hand together; this kept me occupied for a few hours, but suddenly the welder stopped working properly - it would not strike an arc and was making a much louder buzzing noise. I casually lifted my mask to see what was going on, and instantly knew what the problem was: the 3" flames coming from the top of each transformer.

After much swearing and fumbling with the power switch with welding glove clad hands, I disconnected the electricity and put the fires out. While the primaries were ruined, luckily enough the secondaries I'd wound survived. I went back to freecycle and managed to find a couple of replacement transformers, with which I rebuilt the welder. This time I left the thermal safety cutouts in place.

It has proved useful for building a variety of other things, the most useful is probably my wood stove thingie:

and the least useful is probably the swiss army teapot:

the welder was too powerful and made lots of holes; it's useless as a teapot and most of the other tools are impossible to use without having a teapot in the way.

Shameless link to my blog with more details
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 18:21, 7 replies)
Also, my 3-speed
I bought this as a wreck - its a Triumph Gents' Cruiser, not enormously old but it was really cheap on eBay had despite rust, no lights, knackered yellow-wall tyres, crappy black cables and seat, I saw it had some potential

Hardly anything's original.. now has a modern bottom bracket and chain and amended gearing ratios so that top gear is the normal cruising gear and the others are steps down for hill climbing. Since this pic the seat and pedals have changed again - and I love it. My mountain bike hardly gets used at all nowadays.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 18:21, Reply)
Wire up 2 Amstrads, win a Taxan
As a kid (I'm 34 now) I had a CPC464, which other Brits will recognise as Alan Sugar's answer to the Commodore 64. Like a lot of 80s kids I learned the BASIC programming language and did a bit of coding... all well and good.

Then I inherited a 2nd CPC464 from a family friend whose kids had grown out of it.. Clearly 2 computers must be networked for maximum efficiency. The CPC464 had no networking hardware apart from a modem that I couldnt afford to buy, I knew nothing about network protocols, but I did know about radio, and electronics

After much cursing, soldering and coding it was done: Home made network adapters connecting the Sound Out port on each CPC464 to the Joystick port of the other via a home-designed and built frequency to voltage converter driving a switching transistor, built out of components bought from Tandy (Radio Shack)

They could act as teletype terminals. The networking protocol wasnt based on data per se. The messages were passed from one PC to the other via Morse Code, and all the coding was to design a program that would time the pulses, when it met a long delay it knew it was at the end of a letter, could compare the saved pulses to a database of letters and write the nearest match to a buffer

With care it was possible to type on-screen using just a remote morse key although better reliability was had with 2 computers as the timing was more predictable

Stage 2 involved going wireless. This was quickly forbidden as the best frequency I could find / achieve for data morse code caused harmonics that overrode Radio Four (turned out multiples of the frequency are a problem)- and morse data networking over home made transmitters wasnt a great success


10 years later a major UK PC magazine had a write in contest for 'whacky tech achievements'. I sent my circuit diagrams and a printout of my code.

The 19-inch Taxan monitor I won as a result was huge, and very welcome. At the time (Celeron 500mhz era, for context) that was unusually large. It still works.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 18:07, Reply)
Some stuff I've made
I made a simple UHF Yagi, for picking up radio signals from cubesats:
4-element UHF Yagi
The stack of Zip disks in the picture is roughly a 10cm cube, the size of these tiny little satellites which are zipping past a couple of hundred miles above us. I'd love to make a cubesat, but 15000 quid to launch one is a little out of my budget.

I also made this last Christmas, and left it running in the workshop:
An animated Christmas tree on an oscilloscope
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 17:25, Reply)
wrinkly old pea: Improvised flamethrower
I’m quite sure any rational bloke would insist when it comes to desirable gadgets an improvised flamethrower is right up there with a Jessica Alba Android and TeleportationTrousers, therefore not technically a pointless experiment. However, whilst pyrotechnical experimentation should always be nurtured in the young and reckless, the choice of firing range in this instance may be at best filed as ill advised.

Many moons ago I worked for a fairly rubbish ‘New Media’ company with a lot of bored, disillusioned staff. Jinks were always high. We had a set of steak knives in the kitchen, not sure why but they were perfectly balanced for my burgeoning knife-throwing act – until that is the semi-psychotic boss (same bloated buffoon as in my ‘Only 14 Hours to Bristol’ post) raged into the studio during an all staff meeting demanding to know who had been using his office door for 'bloody knife throwing practice'. Cue blank looks all round. I did find it indicative of our work ethic that he immediately (and rightly) assumed knife throwing had occurred. Other experiments included creeping up behind people on the phone and liberally wrapping parcel tape round their head – securing the phone to their noggin (this works best when they are also resting their chin on their free hand so you can cocoon that too) thus ensuring they must continue an (albeit muffled) conversation with Mr Self Important Client Tosser. Other japes involved cutting the corners off large boxes then arranging the boxes as crumple zones for stunt man ‘death’ leaps from filing cabinets. Using the wet & dry vac to hoover up peoples coffee from their mugs in one greedy slurrrrp always got a response too - usually ‘for fucks sake Spimf, fuck off will you, you fucking idiot’. Shooting out the bulbs on the desk lamps across the room with an air pistol tended to unsettle/enrage the occupant of the workstation a fair bit as well. So you get the picture – a committed and focused bunch of highly trained imbeciles.

One particularly slow day I spotted some large heavy-duty cardboard tubes lying there temptingly in a quiet corner. Like any right minded person my immediate thought was: Hmmm… Big Arnie-style RPG launcher i think! So I chose a fine sturdy tube about 4 foot long with a plastic end cap, then selected a slightly thinner tube that would fit nicely inside. A great big wodge of bog roll was taped around one end to make a snug and effective plunger for my makeshift munitions. Initially, this was simply ‘plunged’ to make the plastic end cap fly off with a satisfyingly low frequency ‘THHHONK’. Put simply i had fashioned the worlds biggest pop gun.

Soon my bodged bazooka sprouted a shoulder strap, side handle, plunger grip and nicely weighted cardboard ‘RPG’. Menacingly, I strutted around the studio attempting to shoot large things off high shelves and generally breaking stuff. With it's Kappa board fins and conical nose my ‘RPG’ flew surprisingly well. Boredom however, is a relentless staggering zombie that never lags far behind dear Spimfy. It was then I spotted the lighter fluid we used to clean Spraymount off stuff. I think I may have heard a small internal ‘ping’ as a little light bulb fluoresced in my head. A fist sized ball of bog roll was given a liberal soaking, lit to a near invisible Sambuca style blue flame by a willing assistant then rammed down the barrel with a broom handle, the plastic end cap was then popped on to provide a bit of back pressure. Clearly the restricted amount of air inside would only last so long, so launch had to be hasty. This however meant aim was a secondary consideration. I plunged the fucker with aplomb.

Fuck. Me.

It would be no exaggeration to say ‘a fucking great big fireball’ streaked from the end of my cardboard contraption with quite spectacular results. The pressure combined with a sudden rush of nice oxygen rich air produced angry red and yellow flames. It made a fantastic roaring noise as it soared across the studio trailing acrid black smoke and a deep thud as it slammed into the window recess resulting in an even bigger ball of flames. HOORAY! Everyone whooped and cheered - the few sensible ones (developers mainly) standing well back, shaking their heads and muttering about inadequate fire exits. The flames rapidly subsided to a little smouldering clump of blackened bog roll - the hilarity waned in harmony. Then, quite unexpectedly... Whoosh! The fabric window blinds went up in flames – big style, eagerly assisted by the dust and cobwebs around the ancient window frame (did I mention our office was a converted mill in a World Heritage site? Probably best not to). Dust and cobwebs and dead spiders burn like a motherfucker by the way, which I discovered while trying to ‘clean’ my garage with a blowtorch once.

In a blind panic I belted across the room and (with some difficulty) yanked the burning blinds down and proceeded to stamp on them with some considerable urgency. This had an immediate effect; being that it set fire to my shoes. I can honestly say the spectacle of me rain dancing with flaming feet did seem to lift the mood for a while.

A couple of days later the (increasingly psychotic) boss was eyeing the scorched, melted patch of fuzzy office flooring and looking for answers. Blank faces again. Good job he didn’t turn round to see the hastily installed non-matching window blinds stolen from another department.

length? fully extended about 5 foot mate.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 16:12, 1 reply)
I'm rather proud of this:
and this:
both of which I made with my long-suffering collaborator and buddy, and which are part of this:
which has its world première at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square on Saturday. See you on the red carpet.
(, Thu 11 Oct 2012, 15:37, 86 replies)

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