First “proper” thing made with a hammer and anvil

On this past weekend the family and I went camping with a few friends, and a lovely time was had by all (despite a couple bee stings and a bad face-plant by someone into a pavement). While taking down the tent we realised that our tent peg puller was a little weak and we even struggled with it to pull a couple of the tougher pegs.

This seemed like an opportunity for improvement and an excuse to make something in the forge!

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First blacksmithing session

I had my first blacksmithing session last week, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had with a hammer and metal in… well, I’m too old now to remember how long ago things were. But a long time, let me tell you.

At first I learned how to draw down to a square point, and then built on that to make a rounded point. After I did those, I created a square-pointed scroll and then fish-tailed scroll.

OK, so artistically I’m never really going to do wonders (I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly talented in the artistic department!) But I could really get to like doing the occasional bit of smithing and can’t wait to get my anvil and forge set up and buy some hammers and metal stock to practise.

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Cleaning up my vice

Along with the anvil I was also given a leg vice. This is a heavy-duty vice with a long pole that goes down into the ground a little way to transfer energy away from the hammer blows or moving the metal making it less likely that the vice will break under use. It was thrown in with the anvil because, well, the guy who sold the equipment to my wife is a super nice guy but also because he could never use it… the thing was rusted all the Hell! Seriously; the pivot arm wouldn’t pivot, the screw arm was locked in place and wouldn’t move, it had a big helping of rust all over… well, I didn’t think I’d even be able to get this:

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Cleaning up my anvil

The anvil I was given for my birthday is wonderful, but was really rusty. Not knowing the best way to clean it up I hit a very popular smithing forum called I Forge Iron. The people on there were nothing but friendly and helpful and gave really good advice about my ol’ girl and how to clean her up.

All it took was an angle grinder and a twisted wire cup. Unfortunately when doing this was the exact time my 4″ grinder decided it no longer wanted to live in this world and span its last disc. Thankfully I also got a 9″ grinder for my birthday (thanks, dad!) and so set about cleaning up the anvil.

I think you’ll see that the results speak for themselves…

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And now for something completely different… blacksmithing!

For quite some time now I’ve loved the idea of blacksmithing. There just seems to be something about heating up metal over a hot forge, the ring of the anvil, that harks back to times gone by. I’ve always joked with my wife that if I didn’t do web development I’d do blacksmithing. Two problems with that, though; I’m not artistic at all and felt that was a real stopper for me, thinking that you really needed to be an artist to be a blacksmith. And I was always put off by cost; anvils, forges, metal, hammers, grinders… oh my, that all seems expensive! (There’s the third problem as well of me being set in my ways, not really putting myself out there and doing things outside of my comfort zone, but we just don’t talk about that, ‘k?)

However, I have an amazing wife and a wonderful family. And for my birthday earlier this month my wife and kids managed to get me one hell of an anvil (it must weight well over 300lbs!) and a leg vice. They came from a family friend who I found out used to be a farrier and was looking to sell his (not used for a very long time) equipment. The rest of my family got me some hours tutorial at a local workshop that has a couple forges and teaches the basics of the craft (amongst many other things).

So what excuse was there left for me? None! All I need do is clean up the anvil, fix the leg vice, build a forge, take some lessons, buy some material, and practise, practise, practise. Oh my, that actually seems like a lot. But you know what? It’s time for me to break out and do something else, push myself a bit in a different direction. I really can’t wait!

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Rotary volume control for the Raspberry Pi

If you have checked out my previous post, you know I want to create a clock radio powered by the Raspberry Pi with the audio coming out of a JustBoom AMP Zero pHAT.  One of the things that I thought would be quite handy (probably necessary) would be volume control.  Ideally that would be some kind of hardware rotation controller, but looking around online on how one might control the JustBoom amp with a rotary encoder really only brought back results regarding full OS solutions such as Moode Audio.

As it turns out, controlling the volume for the JustBoom when using just Raspbian is actually pretty simple.
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PiZero Clock Radio – Part 1

Long story short; I have a clock radio and it can just about play something from the radio and wake me up in the morning. But if the power goes out it never remembers the time or what any of the radio stations were, and it completely lacks the ability to auto-seek for stations (and I can never remember what the stations numbers are either which is why only one is ever reprogrammed in). As a result, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to build a replacement using my Pi Zero and now that I have a couple extra bits of hardware I thought I’d make a stab at starting the build.

So this is part one of the build process. Or, as I like to title it; Part “I’ve just got some neat hardware so let’s muck about and see if I can get it to do anything”.

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Calculate aspect ratio

This is a handy little function I’ve used a few times to calculate the aspect ratio of an image or video.  Simply give it the width and height and it’ll give you the aspect ratio.

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Trail camera – first outdoors test

Last night I packaged everything up in the trail camera lunch box and gave it the first outdoors test. The first thing it captured was this little guy!

I think there may still be a few things to sort out. The PIR sensor may not be very sensitive or the code may not be 100% functioning correctly (though it seemed to be in all other tests I ran indoors), as the videoing stopped before I would have thought it should. However, as the very first thing it captured was the hedgehog I am very pleased with the result!

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Dynamically control PiCamera record length: motion sensor fun with the Raspberry Pi

One thing I’ve always wanted to do with my Raspberry Pi was to build a trail camera, and when the Pi Zero was released with a camera port I thought that it was about time I stopped wanting to do it and actually just do it.

It took a while to get parts delivered from various places, but eventually in the last week or so I have finally built a trail camera. I’ll probably post more about that at a later date, but the most intriguing part for me was the programming…

Most of the trail cameras I had seen on the internet that people had built would either take a photo when a PIR sensor was triggered or would take just time lapse photos all night. Neither of these solutions really appealed to me. What I wanted was a video, and more than that I didn’t just want a video to record for a few seconds and stop. I wanted it to keep recording as long as there was movement triggered by a PIR.

In the end I came up with quite a nice small solution using Python and I’ve put it up on GitHub so feel free to fork and use or improve.

What I like about my solution is that when the PIR is triggered it will start recording for a definable number of seconds. If the PIR is triggered within that time it’ll just extend the record time by that many seconds again, and so on and so on until the PIR hasn’t been triggered for at least that many seconds at which point the recording will end.

Easy to use and exactly what I wanted. So feel free to grab my trailcam phython script on GitHub.

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