A year of change

This year started out quite similar to most, I made a medal for the PSTOIC dinner, was experimenting with stepper motors and wiring an extractor fan for the Workshopshed. Popular science had also published my article about making your own dancemat, which is particularly relevant as I’ve just learnt that a group of 5th and 4th grade girls from New York have successfully produced their own take on the project.


The first change for the year came in February during a trip to Edinburgh. I was having a pizza with the family when I got a phone call offering me a job as a lead developer.

In February I also looked at hard drill bits thanks to sponsor TTP Hard Drills and was planning for a showcase of maker projects at the Creative Computing Day.

I suspect you all remember what happened in March. LOCKDOWN! That triggered my second change of the year as I’d just finished working my notice and was due to start at the new place at the end of the month. But my new employer was panicked by the lockdown and suspended all recruitment putting me back on the job market. And the showcase got cancelled.

The next couple of months was frantic job seeking and trying to keep myself busy. So I made a desk for my daughter and started on an article for Diyode magazine about wiring up keypads to microcontrollers and computers. I also welded up the front fence, a job I’d been wanting to do for months but not had the time to do it. There was a bit of learning in this period as I got the hang of KiCAD and experimented with a couple of 3D Design tools.

Whilst contemplating live in London under lockdown we decided on another change which was self inflicted. We were going to move out of the city. Prime candidates were somewhere near to Cambridge as we knew people that way and also there were tech jobs. But also we looking further afield in West Scotland.

So the summer was spent packing up the house, sending stuff to charity, recycling and of course packing up the Workshopshed. This was not entirely a non-creative task as can be seen from the crate I built for my lathe. Despite the arrows the movers still managed to carry it at a funny angle but it is well strapped down inside.

Whilst looking for work, I signed up for Element14 Presents and my debut video was a sentiment detecting keyboard with a servo driven visual display.


Eventually I got a call from my new employer, they had replanned their year and could now hire again. So I started a new online role in June, working from the kitchen table surrounded by boxes. With the Workshopshed all packed up there was not much making and repairing happening. But there was lots to learn about the new systems so I didn’t have much time anyway. Working entirely from home means I don’t have that massive commute any more so that’s meant very little time has been spent on the latest book write. Perhaps something to look at for next year?

After lots of virtual house hunting and discussion on the different towns and areas we found a new home and put ours on the market. It sold quicky but the lawyers seemed to take an age. But we managed to move up to Scotland in September.

There was plenty of jobs to be done on the house and garden such as hooking up the TV aerial, shifting large rocks around the garden and removing plants from the gutter. We got the professionals in to sort the big trees and fit an up-to-date fusebox.

And the workshop also needed time to unpack and fit benches. It is slowly getting there but at least I have space to work whilst I unpack.

So I have managed a little bit of making in the new workshop. The first project has been a router circle cutting jig. That will allow me to cut some big holes in the front door to fit some porthole windows.

So what is next for Workshopshed?

The workshop is mostly unpacked, there’s a few boxes of electronics and fewer tools to sort. There’s also a big set of shelves in the corner to paint and then move into the house, I do have an interesting idea for those so hopefully that will turn out as well as I envisage it. Now that the workshop is in a good state, I can start thinking about projects.

Probably the first job of the year is to screw the bench tops down and then mount the vice onto the bench. I think I’ve left the old clamping bars behind so I’ll need to drill and tap a new set.

When the weather gets a bit warmer then I’ll take off the front doors and get the holes cut in them. Another job that will require a hole making is fitting the extractor fan. I’ve got myself a really long SDS drill bit so the plan is to drill holes in a circle then chisel out the middle. I’ll also need to do a cable run for the fan so I’ll take a look in the loft to see what my options are.

I’m expecting the house and garden to spring a few more jobs on me. We’ve been removing an old fence to open up the garden and the last part is a large metal structure which will need to be dug out and unbolted before we can move it.

I also hope to work on some projects for magazines and video. Perhaps 2021 will be my year to delve into SMD or FPGAs? There are some unfinished projects to work on too such as the Dodo Automata and some metal working tools. My welding cart idea also needs to be realised. I’ve also seen some interesting roadtests over at Element14 so I’d like to sign up for those too.

I’ve been looking at how I can better film projects so have been thinking about lighting, camera positions (perhaps an over the bench camera) and automation.

Even with the current restrictions on travel there are several interesting places locally. So I intend to explore the industrial architecture and engineering in the local area. If you look over on Instagram you’ll see a train I spotted up at Kilmarnock. So expect to see some posts on interesting places I’ve visited.

So a new start for Workshopshed, watch this space.

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