Saturday, July 28, 2018

Leckerton UHA-4

I was wondering about my storage rack today and came across this bit of kit I bought when I was still working in Australia, a Leckerton Audio UHA-4 portable DAC. I bought this waaay back in 2015 when I was still messing about with gear, in particular, the Focusrite VRM Box.

The VRM box allowed you to simulate speakers using your headphones, and while I have no idea how accurate or usable the simulations were, they did one thing really well - I really thought the audio was coming from in front of me, like I was listening to speakers. Too many times I panicked when I'd looked at the clock and realized I was mixing after midnight - only to realize.... whew... I was on my headphones. On my vrm box.

With regular headphones, the music usually appears inside of you, somewhere between your ears, with stereo material coming from the left or right. I won't go into the details why this is so, but consider this: When you listen to speakers, both speakers contribute to both ears. Some of the sound enters your ears directly, but lots of it enters later - after bouncing off your table, ceiling, walls.

You get none of that with headphones - the audio goes directly to your ears, one earcup covering each of your squishy input receptacle.

The UHA-4 was bought after much reading to get the same effect of the vrm box with my mp3 player. It has a crossfeed function that bleeds some of the source from one side into the other, simulating what we'd hear with speakers.

Unfortunately, the reason why I haven't touched this piece of kit for years is that the crossfeed doesn't really do much for me. I tested it with logic by panning a mono source to just one ear, and with crossfeed on, there is definitely bleed being sent to the other ear, but I had no change in spatial difference, nothing like the vrm box. It was still inside of me, if a bit warmer. I decided it was time to sell it, so I packaged it up good... and never got around to selling it.

So today I picked it out again to try the crossfeed for shit and giggles, because hey, maybe my hearing has improved with age!!! Yeah riiight. But still I plugged it in and listen to some tunes with my pair of Grados SR80 and I realized something.

This baby makes the bass much "tighter". The bass in the SR80 is normally sufficient but this amp seems to balance out the music really really well. On top of that, the really detailed high frequencies which always make me take off my grados after an hour or so appear to have been tamed and smoothed out. I'm really impressed. All my music is new and fresh again!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Vintage watches

Recently got back on the watchmaking bandwagon, and instead of just fiddling around with antique pocket watch movements, I decided to get some "mostly working" vintage watches that I could use as dailies. I'm hoping to learn how movements fit into cases,so I can fit my other movements into cases. That would be something to actually do with the hobby, since I can't really have a lathe or mill in my tiny apartment. Not unless I want to endure the ire of my neighbours.

This Girard Perregaux above is my current daily. There's something about the vintage dial that gives me strong bauhaus vibes. According to the seller, it's equipped with a Girad Perregaux cal 03 movement. This handsome piece has been running nigh-perfectly on time in the last few days, so I'm reluctant to pull it apart. Pretty amazing for something build decades before I was born.

My issue with this watch is how small it is. The crown is miniscule, and the act of winding it up is quite harsh on the fingertips.

The straps it came with are terrible though. Supposed to be new, but the buckle broke apart the very first time I wore it >.> Time to go searching for a nice comfortable band.

Now this Gruen is another one I hope to put to use on occasions I wear a waistcoat. Unfortunately the movement - a Veri Thin Precision - appears to be a bit sticky - it works for a few hours then stops. Then goes, then stops. I hope the balance staff didn't get damaged in transit. Will be pulling this baby apart to give it a good cleaning/inspection to see if that would help. More than likely I'll break it into a few million pieces.

I'll be visiting Germany later this month, one of the things I hope to buy there are vintage watches made in the GDR. For example, GUB, Ruhla, Glashutte. Need to read up more on how Lange saved the german watchmaking industry. For that reason, I'm heading down to Dresden, then Glashutte to soak in the history of german watchmaking.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Getting Redshift3D to run on a macbook pro

Getting back into more houdini out of work, and thought I'd try out the Redshift gpu renderer.

It took me several hours, but I finally got it workingon my 2014 macbook pro.
- Purchase Houdini Indie (Apprentice does not allow 3rd party renderers)
- Install CUDA Drivers
- Install matching Nvidia Web Drivers
- Setup houdini.env file
- Install specific version of houdini to match the compiled dso.

And... then I found out I the mbp's 2GB GT 750m had insufficient vram left over to run anything heavy. Just a few toruses and I was out of vram >.>


I guess I'll have to research egpus tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Kurious : 1 minute

I had the privilege of attending a session of Circ du Soleil's Kurious this fine evening, and my words are simply inadequate to describe the spectacle I saw.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I was somewhat put off as I could not find any narrative to the amazing performance. Hey, one of my hobbies is writing, ok?

But when the show ended, it came to me there... perhaps there was a narrative. What we experienced over the two-hour long performance, was really an expansion of possibilities for every minute in our lives.

If you watch the show, watch the clock.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent Children Complete

Holy Crap. Netflix - Canada - recently included Advent Children in its lineup, and I was like... eh, I've watched it nearly every day for years, might be good to catch it again later.

Finally watched it tonight and I was like... wait a second. I don't remember many of the scenes in this film... has old age finally caught up with me?!

This is because: It's Advent Children Complete. Ah.

Complete solves ties up several loose ends the original film, such as, how did Denzel suddenly become part of Tiffa/Cloud's family? Why would he suddenly go off with a random stranger to be cured? (He still does it but at least there's improved context). The final battle got revamped halfway through it, there's proper blood now, and Sephiroth really gives Cloud a good beating. And Cloud's new omnislash takes it to a new level.

Lots of detail has been added as well, more dirt during fights, and scratches on the 'cycles.

Still, I wished when the did complete, they would just friggin' fix the "people running in circles around a monster for ten minutes and not running away" scene. That's so beyond lame. And let's not get started with the water hydrant scene. Laaaaaame. There is absolutely ZERO chance of that amount of water forcing back a summon that probably weighs a ton or two.

Music wise, they've changed the edit a fair bit, and I personally prefer the pieces chosen in the original. I also question some of the edits, it just doesn't cut as well at times. Originally, Cid's entrance was him saving Tiffa. That scene is totally gone, and it's very jarring to watch him suddenly appear to just introduce the High Serra.

Overall, super pleased to have watched it. Always nice to catch up with kid memories.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Serious Sam 3: BFE and Borderlands 2

These two are _seriously_ old games, and I'm just gonna write some thoughts on them because I'm on holiday, and I got them last week. Us OSX players don't really get much choice, eh?

So first, Serious Sam. This game was a very different experience from the first game, and overall I probably won't want to play it again. The first Serious Sam is frikkin a bag of laughs and a simple, endless gorefest. I don't think it's _that_ fun playing solo, but in multiplayer it's amazing, especially with friends.

I didn't feel the same way in BFE. First the maps are a pain in the ass to navigate. I found them overly large, and I'm supposed to hunt down keys to open gates. That just threw off my pacing. Sure, we need some things to break up the endless waves of enemies, but I felt the "fetch quests" were just slowing down the game and I didn't feel any need for them. There were also some underground maps that were dark, and I could barely see anything at all. I'm wondering if there's a calibration problem on my screen as my friends were able to take down those chittering space monkeys in the dark with seemingly no problem. Gah.

And oh, those gates that stop you from progressing until you found a key? Seriously? As unfit as I am, I am certain I can climb over them. That totally breaks whatever little immersion I had of the game. I also didn't like that you had to press E to climb ladders. Like... what?

In any case, this is a game from 2011, and gaming has progressed tremendously since then. I'd hope Since I rarely spend time actually playing games these days. On the plus side, the frame rate is amazeballs even when entire regions are clustered with smoke/dust sprites. The SBC cannon brings back so many memories, and having them split apart a werebull down the middle is lol-tastic.


Borderlands 2 released a year later, is a serious eye opener. Now these days, while I don't actively play games, I do watch playthroughs on youtube. I'm personally more interested in how the story works, rather than wanting to actually play a game.

Now borderlands blew me away with how well developed and thought out the UI, controls and levels were. From my no-longer-a-gamer perspective, it is a game that's really well polished. I am still amazed when I can walk up to a tiny little object on the floor, and am able to read the text on it. Like... is this the mega-texturing thing I've read up from before? Totally, mind blown.

Story wise, I found it quite passe. Fetch quests all over the places, and there were some plotholes (how could Roland die?! He was a vault hunter too!!! And one shot KO? It wasn't even a headshot!!!) My first run through I tried to blaze through it without any side quests and found it nigh impossible for certain missions - my level was just too low, and was taking forever to do damage to enemies. After reading up some hints, I finally got around to doing quests, which both boosted my levels and gave me some equipment that was super useful against specific enemies/bosses.

The final boss I was a bit non-plussed - for a warrior supposedly able to destroy everything on the planet it's... actually quite small in stature. And the amusing part was taking it down with just a plain old pistol lol.  That said, if we ignore the story, in terms of gameplay the pacing was superb, and the bosses, I really enjoyed lots of the boss fights. Many pushed me in the corner, but I was still able to break out of it.

I've played 4 of the 6 classes in the game, and a few days ago I decided to just uninstall the game because I could not help myself wanting to play it. Definitely a game to play for sure.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Neato D3

I bought my original Neato XV11 late 2013, and it sadly gave up the ghost around mid 2015. I got it repaired (took close to five months to get it fixed), and it continued to run till a few months ago when it suddenly shut down, and only had a half-glowing led around its "run" button. It'd come alive again for no particular reason at times, and was perplexing to come home to a robo vacuum just lying in the middle of the room.

According to the interwebs, this is likely a sign of a failed capacitor, aka the C10 fault. A capacitor should be an easy thing to replace, or so I thought, but taking apart the XV11 was far more of a chore than expected. In the end, there were some screws that were inaccessible as I didn't have screwdrivers long enough, so I decided, it's time for a new vacuum.

My choices were simple, Neato is basically still top of the pack for robo vacuums. And I definitely wanted a vacuum that had Li-ion batteries. That boiled me down to a few vacuums, and thought I'd just pick from the latest crop.

The D3 is the cheapest of the pack, and I choose it as it did not have a side brush attachment. Less things to fail, or maintain. It also has a smaller bin capacity as well as battery size. Given how "large" my "apartment" is though, those are non issues.

I've been running it for a few days and it more or less functions the same as the XV11. There are a things to note:
  • Not as loud as the XV11, which is nice.
  • "Gentle Navigation" mode keep a bit more distance from objects, and the Neato moves at a slower pace. I've noted that this mode bumps into stuff much less, but it seems that it causes the Neato to occasionally avoid small, tighter areas. 
  • Have to use a phone app + wifi (2.4ghz, specifically!) to setup the Neato. Seriously? It even requires you to create an account with the Neato website. wtf. The XV11's firmware was more than enough to setup a schedule to run 3 times a week. That's all I need. If I want to run the robot, I can just.. you know, walk over and press the run button. I can't see me needing to, oh, I'm in Europe right now, but I _really_ want to vacuum my room. They could have done it like with some security cameras; each camera has a unique QR code that the app uses, and doesn't need to create an account for.  I personally think this "connected" business is just marketing stirring RND's pot of stew.
    If, I could say, have a visualization of the slam algorithm as the robot does its chores, sure, maybe, it'd be a cute thing to have for show and tell. But not required for a domestic robot. Bleh bleh bleh.
  • li-ion batteries. These are the good stuff, and while I would have preferred to get a cheaper, last generation robot, I spent the extra moola for them.
Overall though, I'm still rating it pretty high. These robots save me untold amount of hours just cleaning up the dust and detritus, and they have pretty low maintenance The XV11's probably going to craigslist to be sold for parts. It works... when it wants to, so hopefully it's next owner can sort it out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Defold Game Engine

I haven't fooled around with game engines in a long while, and I recently learned about Defold. It's an engine bought over by King (of Candy Crush fame), and it's primarily for 2D development, though it's a 3D engine at heart.

I've been playing with it for over a week, mainly learning Lua and going through the various tutorials. For what it's designed for, it's superb.

However, when I started to deviate from its roots, I found it quite challenging to work with.

For a start, the camera. In Unity for example, it's quite straightforward to setup/position the camera, ortho or 3D, and do stuff like space transforms from screen space to world. It's all worked out in the api.

In Defold, things get a little more tricky.

The camera is pre-defined to work in a certain way, with the camera centered at the bottom left of the screen, which is perfect for what the engine is designed for. Given the genre of games that King develops, as well as a fair amount of games I've seen in the forums, this is perfect. It works out of the box, not much tweaking required.

For me, I wanted to try something different, a camera centered at 0,0 and that's when things got tricky.

To do so, you'll need to figure out a projection matrix for it. It's challenging, as I'm not a strong maths person. Embarrassing, considering what my job is. Hours were spent on Scratchapixel trying to understand exactly how it all works. I've definitely walked away with an improved understanding of the rendering pipeline, as well as a refresher course on matrices :)

On the flip side, the html 5 export is an interesting thing, it would be cool to dev mini games for my chromebook and stuff like that. I'm also quite fond of the way they handle input, some of my basic tests for mouse/keyboard input went flawlessly. Haven't yet tried touch, but given as I'm not as fascinated with mobile game dev as before, I don't think I'll bother.

I think the key draw for me is the engine's dev team. Defold was original developed years ago before it was bought over, and the development team, including the original developers, are active in the forums. That's houdini-like levels of awesome!

I've read many arguments why not to use an engine by King, (Banner Saga trademark thingy). That's really icky, but you know what, the engine itself was created way before King, and the folks developing Defold are responsive on the forums. For that reason - plus I'm not a game developer - I've decided to stick with Defold as my fun engine for choice for the time being.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Visualizing airflow!

This is beyond cool, Schlieren Photography. My first thoughts were, "Hey! Would be awesome to visualize the airflow over diy rc wings."

Upon closer scrutiny, it's setup requires a fair bit of space, and needs a few pieces of equipment that are probably not so easy to obtain.

Still bloody cool though!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

BV141 Inspired Flying Wing

First up, I want to be clear that this little side project has been stopped as it's far too complex for what I'd like to achieve. Without further ado, here're a few snapshots of my BV141 inspired flying wing.

The BV141 is highly unique in that the pilot sits on a separate pod that's not obstructed by the prop, allowing great visibility in its proposed role as a recon aircraft. I thought this would be a fun to tackle, as such a wing design would provide many advantages:
  • Plank-style wing would be very easy to construct from dollar tree foam/readi-board
  • Tractor prop would be quieter than pusher
  • Pod could be used for a camera with no obstruction from prop
This is where I decided not to continue it further:
  • To connect the pod securely to the main fuselage (or wing), would require additional weight a traditional pusher prop wing won't require. Such additional complexity would mean more work in the event of the crash.
  • Spinning blades of doom in the front. Nuff' said.
  • Wetted area of the addition pod, would pose much more drag than a single in-line fuselage on a pusher wing.
  • The flight characteristics of my kfm4 wing were superb, and I thought that it would be better to start from an already good design.
Even so, based on my estimates, it should be possible to get the design completed under 250g, and it'd be legal to fly here in Canada.

250g is truly a challenging limit to build to. Not only do we need to use lightweight components, we have to decide between spending the weight on batteries for longer flight times, or for payloads.

Lightweight aircraft also have difficulty flying in the wind. 

I'll be reverting to a pusher chevron wing design. It's long been my wish to have a wood fuselage alongside foam wings, and with my canard project stalled, this will be my new target.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Can't fly my designs anymore.

I've been extremely busy this year. I've been spending lots of time trying to making a life outside of work, and it's not easy. For some reason, I found it easier in Adelaide/Montreal/London, but here I'm finding it difficult to meet people who share similar interests. That, and I'm working loads of overtime, with only Sunday off. Blargh.

Anyways, with summer approaching, I thought it'd be good to complete and maiden my canard design, but I came across some new laws regarding drones that were just announced over a month ago:

First, I'm nonplussed to have my fixed wing designs lumped under the blanket term "drones". I'd like to think that drones are self-guided autonomous vehicles, and none of my aircraft can fly on their own!

But never mind that. First, there are restrictions for aircraft between 250g to 35kg. Aircraft that fall within this limit can't fly close than 75m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals(?!) and people/crowds.

Last I checked, dust mites and waterbears are considered animals. So basically, the entirety of Canada is off limits unless you are a commercial operator, or fly sub 250g aircraft?

The distance, 9km from an airport, heliport etc or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land, also basically says, you can't fly anywhere. I mean, where can't a helicopter land? And for places helis can't land, they _have_ got to be animals around. What are we supposed to do? Use a space-based microwave beam to remove all trace of life before we fly our models?

The final one, name/address/phone number on your drone is just asking for malicious people to cause issues. Violate any of these, and there's a 3k fine waiting in the wings.

There's more I can write, but I finished work just an hour ago, and I need to be in bed shortly before I have another long day tomorrow.

I'm not a hardcore rc hobbyist. I am simply someone who is innately passionate about learning about new interesting things, and I also love creating things. I'm very proud when I can create something of my own design that flies and works.

This law limits my ability to design, create and fly larger models. And this means, I won't be buying parts and components from my local hobby shop - or any hobby shop at all. It does not help the hobby businesses here in Canada.

 Hopefully, saner minds will come up with a better set of rules.

In the meantime, I'll be designing smaller sub-250g airframes when inspiration strikes.

Friday, December 02, 2016


Moana is just too friggin' awesome. I think I shed a few tears during the movie. Only comment I got is the lack of bird shit on those cliff ledges, 'cause I know birds do it there :P

Looks like my mp3 player's gonna get a new OST....

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nikon D500 first impressions

Looks like I've been rather busy and haven't blogged in a while! The last month or so was rather interesting. There were two anime cons in town barely 2 weeks apart from each other (WHY!?) and a fortnight ago, visited my first renfaire.

Panasonic LX3, booyah!

I've also been dealing with matters of the heart, but this is not the blog to blab on. In any case, my D300 has been having issues - it was saying the battery was too low, but it's definitely not, as I bought a whole new one for it! I sent it to Nikon Canada for repairs, and they said that were no longer any spares for it. I was highly bummed.

On the flip side, they offered me a D500 at a slightly reduced rate, so I decided to go with it. Honestly, if I were more of a thinking person, I would have just declined the offer and bought another D300. But I managed to convince myself to get it after calculating the "amortization" of my D300 after 7 years of faithful service.

Now to be clear, I haven't actually powered up the camera yet. All I've done are read some reviews, and plugged the battery in to charge. I like to write, ok? That's one of my hobbies.

Ok anyways, so let's go. The first impressions of the body are excellent. It feels a smidge lighter than the D300, and maybe because it's brand new, everything feels so tight (my D200/D300 were used...). There also appears to be a mottled pattern (was it on the d300? hmm) that probably help with how the camera looks when it's worn.

Then I noticed the articulated screen. Hmm. Not a fan of that. More places for dust and sand to collect. It is definitely a boon for low/high angle shots, but still... in my opinion more points of failure. I'll see how it goes.

Battery is, unsurprising, a new type of battery. I don't really care so long as it works. The charger is a lovely piece of work though.

The card slot is still the same place, and features dual XQD and SD slots. I've rarely had a need to fill the buffer on my D300, but from what I read, a top of the line XQD basically means you can't fill the buffer, even on raw. Wow. I don't actually have a XQD card yet, so can't say how good it is.

The prices of the XQD are insanely affordable though. I remember back in '07, I bought on of those newfangled Extreme IV CF cards for... oh, 160AUD thereabouts? Somewhere along the great ocean road. A 4gb card gets me about 350 shots, and I usually carry a portable HDD to dump stuff. Yes, I used to shoot lots of crap back in the day. I'm much better now. Trust me.

A 64GB Lexar XQD 2.0 card runs similar - about 160CAD. And assuming 30 megs a RAW, easily over 2000 shots.

Two thousand shots. That's like 55 rolls of bloody film. Gods. I honestly do not think I'd shoot that much these days. I was having concerns about "OH MY GOD I NEED A NEW PORTABLE STORAGE" but no. Assuming I overshoot the 2k limit, I still have a SD card slot to use as fallover storage.


What's next. Ah, the flash. That's probably my number one BLEH thing about the D500. The lack of commander mode. My SB600 is now a pure on-shoe flash :( Oh well.

Oh yes the last gripe. How many megapixels is on this camera?! 21?! That's 11 megapixels more than I'd like thanks. I really don't need the pixel count. But this is mainly a first world, pixel peeping problem on my end, so I'll just squelch it here.

And as for lens choice, I only have one lens with me,  my trusty old 16-85VR. When I was looking at the D500s, there was mention about a newer, 16-80VR. That lens shoots from a beautifully wide F2.8, and closes down to F4 at the end of its range. Silence, my fluttering heart. Can you say perfect lens? I checked the price. Nope. Nope. If I were shooting as much as I was in the UK, I'd definitely consider it for the extra stop and supposedly "better" qualities. But not now.

Mounting the lens went without a hitch until... wait, my lens is mounted, why is the viewfinder blacked out?! Glaring at my lens, I was like... why you no let me look. Upon closer inspection.... Oh my good lord. There's actually a built-in viewfinder curtain. I'm assuming it's for those long exposure fans. This camera really is the pinnacle of tech, isn't it?!

(I would like to mention it's a really nice, circular viewfinder. I've only seen those on full frame FX cameras. I feel so papered.)

Without a charged battery, the last thing I can talk about are the buttons. The AF-ON button falls perfectly under my thumb as before, and there's new joystick besides it. I wonder what's it for. If I could use it to select focus points, and the big-old OK button to reset the focus point it'd be the bee's knees.

A convenient switch for photography/video is at the bottom, and there is a very convenient live view button. There is also a nice italized "i" button which I assume is for info. Somehow it doesn't fit the more serious text around it. But wait, there's a button labeled... "info" besides it. In a serious font. Maybe the i button is for uploading to instagram?

The strip of button on the left appears to be very similar to the D300's, though there's an additional Fn2 button on the bottom.

Given I have no battery, I can't comment on the top LCD, which I guarantee is awesome, and backlit. Please be backlit. On the left, the dial is very similar, with single shot/continuous low etc shooting choice on the locked ring. The top of the dial has 4 buttons. The ISO button has moved to the shutter area, and the mode button and what I assume is exposure metering added to it. There now appears to be a dedicated bracketing button... I used to use that for my flash EV compensation. Wondering where that's gone too.

Stay tuned, but there's no guarantee I'll post more. XD

Thursday, July 28, 2016


A very amusing movie! I can't believe all the internet hate from the trailers. I thought the first two trailers were quite meh, but the international trailer was pretty solid. And the film was pretty damned enjoyable and funny, and given by how the crowd with me were laughing!

I especially enjoyed how the show doesn't take itself too seriously, and the 2D ghost near the end just clinches it. Very proud to have worked on the ghost fight sequence, that looked even better after the final grade.

Who you gonna call?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Electro Etching - Complete

It's quite difficult to find Copper Sulfate, but somehow I managed to find a small 100g bottle from Lacy West.
As this was a quick test, I just glued up a pile of waste plywood pieces into something able to support the piece being etched. They are kept more or less about 6 centimeters apart.

The first test plate was slightly damaged due to some over-enthusiastic filing to get a clean area for the wire to be soldered on. I also used a small bottle of TSPe to remove all the oil and fingerprints.
A used pasta sauce container is to be used to hold the electrolyte.
For a power supply, I got a pretty nice unit off Banggood, the cps-3205 capable of up to 5A current supply, and variable from 0 to 32 volts.
I went with 1v, for my etching voltage. The current draw during my tests were hardly taxing on the power supply, topping out at 150mAh.
The cathode appears to have worked as described by various websites, the copper plating onto the cathode.
This is the result after one hour in the electrolyte, checked at 15 minute intervals.
This is side-on through the usb microscope. Seems like a fair good bit of etching was done. 

The toner came off easily with a piece of tape. Some of it could not be removed, and I used a fingernail to scratch it off.

Didn't have any proper oxidization agents, so I just used a black sharpie to colour in the etched areas as a test :)
I thought this looked really nice!
This is the inverse of the previously etched image.
The edges are definitely more deeply etched than the center. Several sources have indicated that this would be the case, and a way to help with this is to use a cathode in the shape of a grid, not a solid plate like I have done.
Here's the reverse give the sharpie treatment :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Electro Etching - Toner transfer II

Success! I got the toner to transfer cleanly! I tried again with the same temperature in my oven (about 190-200 degrees C), but only leaving it in the oven for five minutes. The first attempt here transferred the center portion very nicely, but the edges totally fell apart.
Two things came to my mind. First, I did not apply as much pressure as the previous attempt. Next, I also forgot to degrease it. I then tried again, this time having a much tighter grip on the clamp in addition to degreasing the brass.
 It came out pretty good this time!
The thickness of the lines however did expand. It comes as no surprise given that we are pressing down on them, and that they'd spread.
The transfer's lines are very crisp though, and all of the toner was transferred across.

Two other things need to be done though, and that the resist should actually be printed in reverse... I want the areas in black to be etched in, so I bungled that. And I would also like the maple leaf to be on the right. I'll keep that in mind for the next attempt, this test should be good enough to begin some actual etching!

Edit: Aaaaand I've got a version with the reversed and flipped image. It's all good! The tears at the edge are simply caused by the metal not being flat. I used a pair of shears to cut the metal, and this was what caused the warping. Gotta see how I can cut metal without the warpage - maybe a jewellery saw?

Electro Etching - Toner transfer

 Small piece of brass that would fit into the aluminum heat spreaders was cut out and sanded down with 400, then 600 grit sandpaper.
The test image was printed on Pulsar FX Toner Transfer Paper. I choose this image for the fine lines and small details as well as the larger solid section.
 The brass plate is then degreased with a dab of TSPe, and carefully handled after.
 Here's the sandwich!
 Clamped down.
 Top shelf of the oven!
Water removes the transfer paper from the toner resist. The paper floats away easily, and feels exactly like the paper found on the underside of water slide decals. A quick google search indicates that these papers are probably Dextrin Coated Paper.
Success! The toner transferred well, and seems to be very sturdy. It even resists my attempts of scratching with a fingernail. However...
The fine details are all squished. Was it too much heat? Or was the clamp applying too much pressure? Gotta sand it off then and try again! I'll report back when I get a better result!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Electro Etching - Figuring out printer settings

After much web browsing and forum lurking, I decided on getting the HP Laserjet P1102W to print the toner resists. To keep things cheap, I bought a refurb printer that, unfortunately, arrived with the output tray, as well as the upper cover broken. Blargh. Thankfully, Amazon has a pretty damned good return policy, so that went back.

The P1102W is a curious machine. It supposedly prints at 600DPI, but it has FastRes 1200 mode that somehow gives the sharpness of a 1200dpi printer. The "true" 1200dpi printers supposedly use the so-called ProRes 1200 print modes - or what I could understand from their PR blurbs.

While browsing the HP website, I came across the HP M201dw that was slightly larger than the 1102, able to print duplex, and... could print in ProRes 1200! And here's the best part - there was a special offer going on at Staples... 99.93 - from a usual price at 229. Got a unit of it :)

My first time setting up a printer using wifi, and that went surprisingly smoothly. Just had to press the wps button on the router a few times, install the driver and that was it!

Now I wanted to find a setting that gave the thickest toner and proceeded to print a sample vector image though Affinity Designer. However, all the changes I made on the printer or the print dialog settings gave me, as best I can tell though the usb microscope, identical prints. The print quality _appeared_ to be pretty good, though solid black areas had some kind of mottled pattern, mildly visible even through the naked eye.

Curiously, printing the test images as a raster image through Pixelmator revealed a rather different story. The edges weren't as crisp when compared side by side with the vector prints through Affinity Designer.

The two images here show a ~2cm crop of the prints. The upper print was a 300dpi raster image through pixelmator, versus the print though Affinity Designer below. The vector print is super crisp in comparison. You can also see the mottling in the solid areas.

I think this is a superb start, will report next when I attempt to do the toner transfer!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Electro Etching - Heat Spreaders

I am trying my hand at electro etching, and the two common ways to heat and transfer the toner resist onto the workpiece (I'm using brass for a start) is either with a regular clothes iron or a modified laminator. Both of these methods appear to work very well for circuit boards, but I want to try my hand at something with fine detail, and I thought I'd try a different method I saw on youtube.

With the iron and laminator, I believe that there would be some level of shearing between the toner and the copper when heat is applied by an iron or laminator. Using two plates to hold together the transfer sheet/copper and then heating it up would remove the shear from the equation, possibly giving a higher quality result? Well that's what I think anyways.

Originally, I bought some 316 stainless steel round bars, similar to the video. THAT was a stupid idea. I only have hand tools, and the stainless steel basically chewed up anything I threw at it. After learning more about metals, I decided on aluminum for two reasons, a) It's got a good heat transfer co-efficient and b) workable with hand tools.

Copper has a much better heat transfer co-efficient, but I don't want to deal with oxidized copper (eww) and as I read, it's a harder metal.

The "heat spreaders" are basically aluminum bars I got cut from metalsupermarkets. 2inx2in an eighth of an inch thick. A small hand file was used to remove burrs and smooth the edges, then a series of wet/dry sandpaper, 400/600/1000 were used to smooth their contact faces. Sandwiched between these two prepared surfaces would be the brass plate as well as the toner-impregnated transfer paper. A c-clamp will be used to hold the pieces together while they are heated and the toner transferred from the paper onto the brass.

With this done, I am waiting for the last big piece of the puzzle - the laser printer to arrive. I've already got a bunch of copper sulphate for the mordant. As for the paper to receive the toner, I've got a bunch of  Pulsar's Toner Transfer Paper.

The container for holding the mordant is still being decided on... some articles I've read float the piece to be etched horizontally with styrofoam, and some have it held vertically. Each of them have their own pros and cons, and I'm deciding on what would be best for quality and usability indoors.

Should be fun :)

Decided to take a peek under the el-cheapo usb microscope to see what's the surface like between the original and polished surfaces: