1. Sharing the Fun
Here's a few of the projects we've had a lot of fun with recently!
They didn't always work well first time and some required a bit of work.
We abandoned one or two as low cost mistakes. The secret is to start with a simple kit and as your soldering and component knowledge improves, move onto something more complex. If you're not having fun, stop!...
Beginners often start with an FM radio project. This one uses four integrated circuits and has some unusual features for the price. Firstly it can store four stations that are recalled by pressing a button. You can scan across the band and the sound is better than most. This is helped by inserting the front panel into a wooden box as above. Most components are mounted on the front panel and provide a quite unusual 21st century high technology look! DAB radios are still far too complex for assembly by hobbyists.
Download: FM Radio Construction Guide
Project Test Bed
Saves Case Costs
If you are building a number of projects quickly and want to test them before installing some in cases/boxes, you may wish to first build a test bed. It is wired up with speaker, power, amplifier, input and other connections to suit most of your projects. Then as project modules are finished, you wire each into the test bed to check operation. Using this approach recently, I discarded several projects and hence didn't waste time, money and effort casing them up. The idea could also be implemented using a breadboard.
Projects with Love for G-Kids
Some of our project building has been for kids. Our grandchildren and the neighbours. As long as it flashes or makes a loud siren type noise the kids will love it. We've also noticed that household funds are always available for electronic bits if the project is for kids. We have grand kids 12,000 miles apart. I made the mistake of showing this flashing LED Christmas tree working during a Skype session and then received demands to make three more from the wee darlings. But it's worth it to see the delight on their faces. It's perhaps a reminder to see things through children's eyes too. It might be a simple Xmas tree to you and me, but to them "my Grandad built it!"
Amateur Radio as a Pastime
With some 50,000 licensesd radio amateurs in the UK it is a popular and growing technical hobby. It's a great way to make global friends over the airwaves and to build your own equipment and antennas to do so. Today there is no requirement to learn Morse Code and the Foundation License exam is straightforward with multiple choice questions. You still have to study but there are fellow amateurs at clubs around the UK happy to make sure you pass. Email us for more information and details of training near you, by using the Let's Talk! form below.
1.1 MB pdf
Do you remember listening to far off foreign stations on shortwave 20-30 years ago. Well many stations are still there and many listeners still tune in daily. This receiver uses a combination of a 1950's tuning dial made by the famous Birmingham company Eddystone Radio and a Japanese SATO bandspread. Very modern printed circuit board mounted components and integrated circuits gather the wavering signals and a 10 watt audio amplifier fills the room with exotic sounds. "I wonder what the wild waves are saying tonight" was frequently quoted by shortwave listeners many years ago!
Variable Power Supply 3-15 volts
Batteries are expensive so a mains powered variable voltage power supply is essential, especially for larger projects. In this project, a 17V laptop power supply is re-purposed to feed an LM317T IC module. A variable pot. was added so the voltage could be varied from around 1.5 to 15V at up to 1 amp. When cased, a red LED digital voltage display was added so you always knew what was being delivered. You can replace the pot. with a multi-way switch that brings in fixed value resistors thus setting specific output voltages of say: 1.5, 3.0, 5.0, 9.0V
TIP: if a heat sink is fitted to the LM317T IC the heat sink must not touch the metal case or a short will be created!
ZN416 Integrated Circuit Radio 70's
In the 70's UK company Ferranti launched a series of chips (ZN414, ZN415, ZN416) that contained a complete 10 transistor AM radio. It was not used in commercially built products for reasons unknown, but hobbyists embraced it, with a huge variety of circuits published in the electronic press of the day. Running off one 1.5 volt battery, you needed an earphone and a few more bits to receive quality AM transmissions. Some designs have appeared for Long Wave and Shortwave signals up to 5Mhz or so, and in some designs used as an intermediate frequency
stage. A fascinating historical chip from the early days of the UK semiconductor industry.
ZN414 Radio Chip Datasheet 303kb pdf
LM386 Audio Amplifier & Tester
Many projects need an audio amplifier. Running off a 9 volt battery, this easy to build amplifier 1 watt mono amplifier uses the LM386 integrated circuit. It easily fills the room with good sound when a 3 or 4 inch speaker is fitted. Some report that it is a little hissy but for most non hi-fi applications that wont be a problem.
This new cardboard radio cost under £5 but after deconstructing I had a very useful 3.5 inch loudspeaker, knobs, standoffs, powerful audio MP3 and test amplifier, battery holder and 4 new batteries. When at a car boot sale or charity store keep your eyes open for low cost electronic items that could be deconstructed or repurposed. I can't stop myself looking for suitable project cabinets when in the supermarket or one pound stores. I now love shopping with Mary!
Arduino Uno Micro
Join the Kids Fun
There's computers, the iPad, smart phones, Raspberry Pi, and then there's the Arduino. Put simply, the Arduino is a low cost microcontroller that you program to sense the environment and then act on what it measures. So you can join in the fun, download this short introduction to the Arduino and decide on which project to begin with! You'll soon be hooked on this 21st century gadget all the kids rave about.
12.7 MB pdf - 20 pages
For a very comprehensive
guide with great projects, read this manual for the Arduino Starter Kit.
19 MB pdf - 175 pages
5V to 3V with just 4 Parts
What practical project can you build with just four components? Not many I'm guessing! Few weeks back I bought a £8 DSP shortwave radio from Lidl. It's small and works surprisingly well for holiday listening. But for prolonged listening it needs a 3 volt DC supply. I had plenty of cellphone/USB supplies giving 5V, but that was too much and the radio quietly shut down. Then I remembered DC could be dropped 0.6v at a time using diodes in series. My good friend John W designed the circuit above using 3 diodes and now I have a steady 2.9 volts and the radio and me are happy!
By Tony Fishpool G4WIF and Nick G8INE - PCB and Veroboard Layouts
2. Sharing Ideas - Getting Started
Setting up your electronics group work area can be quite a challenge depending on the room and worktops or benches available to you, and the interest of your fellow Shedder's. We've assumed that you simply have a table, mains socket, enthusiasm and determination. Also funds are tight. What next? Read on...
Table Top Workstation
To protect your table top or other surface build a simple workstation to place on it. It also captures those pesky parts that have a habit of creeping away from you to the floor. Basically it is a light wooden base on rubber feet with three sides with holes big enough to hold small tools. Your soldering iron stand could also be bolted to it. The example above was built with help from Norrie and was recently painted white so small parts were easier to see.
Practical Wireless magazine published designs which they have kindly made available.
Download: PW Table Top Work Benches 4.2 Mb pdf
For those who want to set up a workbench in the spare room at home Click Here...
Cheap Component Storage & Mobile
Walls adorned with metal storage bins look great but are expensive and take up a lot of space. To start, why not use cardboard boxes and window envelopes carefully labelled with contents in the top right corner. One for resistors, capacitors, semiconductors and other bits and pieces. Larger items like speakers, pcb materials, screws, nuts, spacers, wire etc can be stored in stacking plastic boxes. They can then be taken to your workstation and items carefully selected. Keep a block of polystyrene or similar, on your workstation to stick project parts into until needed. Saves them wandering again!
Assembling electronics involves soldering parts. A good soldering iron with the right tip can make or break your project and the amount of fun you have along the way. Quality variable heat irons are expensive as are replacement tips. However an 18W or 25W iron from the UK made Antex range are very cost effective. For a little more money choose an iron with a burn resistant silicon mains cord. Each comes with a standard 2.3mm tip but 1mm or 0.5mm conical tips make a tremendous difference for fine work. This is the tool you'll use the most, so it pays big dividends to buy wisely. TIP: Assemble a kit of parts and circuit boards so beginners can practise their skills before tackling their very first project.
Tools to Start
Keep It Simple
It is possible to initially spend a lot of money on tools that you may never use. To start for example, you don't need a professional oscilloscope or RF signal generator or function generator. Later if Shedder's projects require use of this equipment, then it may be time to consider purchase. To start a few long nose pliers, wire snips, wire strippers, slot and Philips screwdrivers will take you a long way. Try out tools for size before finalising purchase. Low cost tools are often OK to get you started. They will get lost and perhaps misused by beginners!
Multimeter, Continuity Tester Yes!
A multimeter is an essential tool, if only to do two things. Test whether there is continuity along a wire or whether you've created a solder bridge across pcb tracks. Naturally it will also measure voltage, current and resistance. For older eyes it may be difficult to read the colour code bands on resistors in poor light. Therefore check values with your meter. Suitable multimeters may be obtained from Lidl Online and Ebay for £10 or less. Later you might purchase a second unit that can measure capacitance, frequency or other criteria of interest.
First check whether you can improve the general lighting in your work room. It will probably need to be supplemented by a more intense light over your work bench. Often small halogen 20W desk lamps can work well. They can be adjusted and moved to exactly meet individual needs. You may be lucky to find one at a charity store for around £3. Low power eco-bulb units should be checked to ensure the type of light provided is suitable. Occasional breaks should be taken to rest eyes and refresh yourself generally. When tired, I've found more mistakes happen!
Safety: Yours & Your Mate's!
Your safety, and that of your fellow Shedder's is paramount.
Disclaimer: What follows is general guidance. You should refer to your Shed Safety Officer or other Safety Professional for qualified and complete advice to meet your local needs.
The risks you face include skin burns, flying wire off-cuts, solder splashes and electric shock. For burns keep cold water, a first aid kit and burn creams nearby. Wear eye
protection against flying off- cuts and solder splashes. For mains shock protection, ensure all mains leads have RCD units fitted (Residual Current Devices). Some sheds avoid projects involving mains voltages all together.
All major incidents should be referred to medical professionals immediately. Don't under estimate the impact of accident shock.
A log should record all incidents to reveal frequency and type of events and the Shedder's involved; so that lessons may be learnt over time and corrective steps taken.
and Blood Pressure!
We all make mistakes. How we first react, and then what we do, can make all the difference. Always have a roll of desoldering braid and a solder pump close to hand. Coated copper braid removes smaller areas of solder. The pump quickly sucks away larger amounts of solder. Both leave the area clean for a rerun. I use a desolder pump daily, and it certainly helps to keep high blood pressure in check!
Wire Is Costly So
Recover and Save
The most expensive consumable item is often reels of wire. Most projects require short lengths to wire in speakers, battery holders, switches and the like. This can often be snipped out and recycled from redundant consumer items. A visit to a council recycling centre may prove very worthwhile too. Let them know what you are always on the look out for. Often they are only too happy to help! Computer networking companies use 4 pairs single core cabling which can be stripped out, as can thinner mains cabling. Saving money and the environment are bywords today!
Inspiration, Ideas and Your Next Project
Gather together some
old component catalogues and some new ones (yes, they are still available!) computer magazines and relevant electronic and circuit books.
From time to time thumb through them with others nearby, and see if you can spot an idea or two for your next project. You might encourage one or two to work together on something completely new and spark ideas off each so each learn much quicker and have double the fun. Start an ideas book perhaps.
For inspiring books, new and used, try www.BookFinder.com - they have 150 million to choose from!
Record Progress :
It can be very worthwhile to record your progress so you can see where you have come from, and what has been achieved. Consider photographing key projects and obtaining a display book with clear pockets from WH Smith, The Works or Rymans. Insert photos and brief notes that you can share with visitors or those considering joining. It's a great conversation starter too. Opening a Visitors Book to record feedback may prove useful when completing funding applications and for review by stakeholders.
To Shed and Home
You may want to take a project home to work on, or to a friend who has test equipment. You may also want to cart tools or fragile parts to the Shed. So you need a suitable protective case and some small parts boxes. A trawl through supermarkets, charity stores, craft shops, tackle stores, pound shops will reveal low cost containers and carry all's. Think outside the box and save!
Download List Below
Let's imagine that you were given £2000.00 to stock up your E-Shed with brand new electronic components, where would you start? In 2016 UK author Simon Monk, wrote an excellent book "Practical Electronics for Inventors" now in it's Fourth Edition. In Chapter 7 he presents a very comprehensive and practical list of components to create a stock that any hobbyist (and professional for that matter) would be proud to have access to.
You wont need everything listed, but we hope this gets you off to a flying start! Has he forgotten anything? Let us know using the "Lets Talk" form below.
Ditch Your Computer ;-)
Your computer, tablet or smart phone does not always hold the answer to your electronics information needs. Sometimes the quantity of information on the internet can be overwhelming and the quality variable.
A well written, well edited book, may have more reliable information, be better presented and hence easier to absorb and learn from. If you're holding the Third Edition (or later) it's been well accepted by readers, regularly updated and reviewed/edited, three times!
Download this list of books and consider buying a few for your Shed.
Download Reading List
CQ Scotland Shed Visits Around Scotland
Balmaclennan Event 26/09
September 26th, 2018
CQ Scotland.com visited what must surely be one of Scotland's remotest sheds with huge potential. After a two hour bus journey and a further hour by car, we arrived in a remote village with one of the biggest and most active sheds serving several villages in the district. After warm introductions we set up the tearoom for six shedder's keen to try soldering an electronic project for the first time.
Montrose Event 26/08
CQ Scotland.com at Montrose Air Station and Heritage Centre
Stonehouse Event 07/08
August 7th, 2018
CQ Scotland.com set up at the South Lanarkshire Council's Lifestyle Centre at Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire on August 7th. A group of local men considering establishing a men's shed nearby, tried their hand at a new skill. Soldering up an electronic project kit with help from Frank, David, John, from the Hamilton and District Men's Shed. Read how they got on:
Frank (L) from Hamilton Men's Shed is discussing with Andy (R) the finer points of printed circuit board assembly and correct use of an Antex soldering iron.
Frank is trouble shooting completed project. Shortly after this snap a capacitor exploded having been inserted incorrectly.
Paul - left (SLC's Men's Shed Development Officer) connects his smartphone to Andy's just completed audio amplifier. His first musical selection was... wait for it... THE BEATLES... Great sounding amplifier Andy - great musical choice!
Jim (L) is intently assembling his project whilst Harry provides encouragement.
Dick tried his hand at building a project on a breadboard for the first time. It provided unexpected challenges but it worked out just fine in the end. Well done Dick!
Dick, Harry, John (what no Tom?) share a story which brought wry smiles to all. Sharing past experiences and tall tales, can uplift us all today!
The ultra modern and well equipped South Lanarkshire Council Lifestyle Centre in Stonehouse is a great venue for most community events. The friendly staff made our stay a real pleasure! Thanks SLC!
Mobile Men's Shed Event
July 2nd, 2018
CQ Scotland.com set up at the South Lanarkshire Council's Mobile Men's Shed parked at the Stonehouse Lifestyle Centre, ML9 3JL. Kits, tools and help was provided so local men considering establishing a Men's Shed, could try their hand at a new skill. The bus awning was extended so we could work outside as temperatures soared. A most enjoyable experience. Thank you SLC!
Harry (L) Dick (R)
Harry and Dick regularly visit the Shed Bus. Dick was the first to finish his audio amplifier and he was best pleased it worked first time!
Although a member of a well established shed nearby, Louden is keen to get involved with a shed in Stonehouse where he has lived and worked for a number of years.
The modern SLC Lifestyle Centre in Stonehouse is just one South Lanarkshire venue that the Mobile Men's Shed bus regularly stops at. More details follow.
Joe from Mid Lanarkshire Amateur Radio Society (callsign 2M0JHY) helped deliver mains power for soldering irons, and as always, made things happen! Thanks from us all !!
Louden (L) Paul (R)
Paul from SLC Seniors Together team, responsible for helping set up new shed's in South Lanarkshire, extends a helping hand to Louden to ensure his project progresses smoothly.
Mobile Men's Shed
The South Lanarkshire Council Mobile Men's Shed getting ready to welcome visitors.
Moffat Men's Shed Opening
June 30th, 2018
CQ Scotland.com members Frank and David from the Hamilton Men's Shed, attended the opening of the Moffat Men's Shed and donated electronic kits so member's could try a new skill. The warm welcome was matched by a very warm day! In just one year, a tremendous community resource has been established. Much to the credit of the founding members and the wider Moffat community who donated much needed tools, equipment, materials and funds. The large workshop is matched by an equally well equipped social area. Step out the back door, and you're in a community garden with huge potential. Moffat Shedder's: you have done well!
Shed, Poly Tunnel & Parking!
Pictured is the large shed, a useful poly tunnel to extend the growing seasons and plenty of room for future expansion/storage, car and bicycle parking! To the left, but hidden from view, are many raised garden beds to grow fund raising produce. It gets better! Behind the shed is a large allotment and more raised beds.
Proud Founding Members
photo courtesy Dick Monaghan MMS
Dr Cox cuts the ribbon to officially open the Moffat Men's Shed with some unique facilities.
photo courtesy MMS
Dr Cox and Shed Chairman speak about pride, progress, community and achievements in just one year!
Shed Social Area
photo courtesy MMS
Partial view of well planned and equipped kitchen and social area. So comfortable, you don't want to leave, particularly when the stories are flowing!
CQ Scotland.com Electronics Event May 20th Glasgow
Central Belt Scotland Shedder's met in Glasgow May 20th to build an electronic project as a group. The 1.2 watt audio amplifier kit connects to a cellphone, MP3 player, or practice guitar to create room filling music. Working shoulder to shoulder and helping each other overcome issues, the result was music to nearby ears! Well done all and thank you for being part of a great day!
Working Shoulder to Shoulder
Learning New Skills
Helping Each Other
Shedders from Clydebank, Strathmore, Armadale, Rutherglen, Cambuslang, Dalmuir and Hamilton Men's Sheds tried their hand at something new. Electronics is made up of so many parts and skills it can be daunting to the beginner of any age. A well designed kit of parts and building instructions can ensure first time success.
Generations Working Together
Hamilton Men's Shed
Nearby, John Wallace from Hamilton Men's Shed helped Fraser (12) build his miniature AM radio from the Steam Age Era! Frasers granddad said "Fraser had a great time and his soldering abilities were quite good..." Thanks John for helping progress Frasers interest and skills.
Guiding Keen Men to Success
Hamilton Men's Shed
Frank only discovered electronic construction recently, but is keen to help others learn new skills and complete their project successfully.
You Could Hear a Pin Drop!
Members of the Mid Lanark Amateur Radio Society
Simon, Joe and Martin from the Mid Lanark Amateur Radio Society (top right of photo) stand ready to help builders with any issues.
David and Ron, Rutherglen & Cambuslang MS
Photos May 20th Electronic Construction Event Glasgow
David and Ron (Chairman) Rutherglen & Cambuslang Men's Shed
Paul, Clydebank Men's Shed shares with one of the security staff the progress he has made and the art of using a soldering iron!
Frank of Hamilton Men's Shed guiding some of the shedder's building an audio amplifier
Helpers (top right) Simon, Joe and Martin from Mid Lanark Amateur Radio Society standing ready to help any shedder with an issue
John Wallace from Hamilton Men's Shed using his years of electronics experience to help Fraser (12) build his AM radio set
Mobile Men's Shed on Tour
A Seniors Together, South Lanarkshire Council Initiative
Mobile Men's Shed touring schedule February 19th to March 9th, 2018