tim   .


newpad.gif (50 bytes)

.   hunkin






Modern logistics and distribution systems are wonderful. I can get almost anything delivered the next day, even living in the depths of the country. I now buy mostly Chinese parts from Ebay. They usually arrive in less than 10 days, postage and duty free. If I can't find what I need, Ali Express has an even greater range. I hardly ever buy anything from the US because shipping costs are extortionate - usually over £50.

Sometimes, particularly when a bit out of my depth, I need to browse and there's nothing better than an old fashioned paper catalogue. So much of my knowledge of what's available comes from the wonderful old RS (Radiospares) catalogues, sadly discontinued in 2011. (Their online catalogue is very patchy, I don't recommend it unless you know exactly the part you're looking for - I still often use their 2011 paper catalogue). Sadly paper catalogues are generally getting rarer.

These are some other suppliers I use:

A bit c
heaper than Radiospares and good for school educational parts and kits and for LEDs. 

They sell basic components for conveyor systems, and are good value for chain, sprockets etc

Good range of basic electricals and computer parts at competitive prices, I buy a lot from them. 

metalworking catalogue. Huge range but usually pricey

  good value tools, pumps, compressors etc - with people who really know about the stuff if you ring for spares etc

newpad.gif (50 bytes)

stores1.jpg (9431 bytes)


stores2.jpg (16405 bytes)
newpad.gif (50 bytes)

Having stores of ‘stuff’ is still vital, even though I can get almost anything delivered the next day.  I'm often puzzled that stores like this tend to be regarded as old fashioned and eccentric - because to me they are so efficient.  The stores make it possible to try out ideas extraordinarily quickly. They are also almost an extension of my brain because they act as a physical version of a memory map, reminding me of ways to solve problems or make things.

Everytime I go to a scrapyard I come back with a bit more ‘stuff’ for the stores. The important thing is to go through the stores every few years, throwing things out and remembering what is still there.

 The materials I use for making things have changed a lot since I started 40 years ago. Through my teens and twenties there were wonderful industrial surplus shops in London. After going into the Observer to deliver and edit my cartoon strip, I would often fill my cycle panniers with beautifully made motors, cam timers and other bargains from Lisle street or Edgware Rd.

One by one the surplus shops closed, but for me their place was taken in the mid 80s by the local scrapyards, particularly Sackers of Ipswich, which received all the scrap from British Telecom research labs. Complete machine tools, elaborate industrial automation machines, endless entertaining boxes of mysterious electronics. My friend Rex used to go to the scrapyard every day.

In their turn, the scrapyards closed down. Scrapyards are now so efficient and full of ingenious recycling machinery that no one is allowed in when they're running.

But I'm now making a living by building contraptions instead of by drawing, so I often buy new stuff.  The cost of new industrial stuff soon mounts up, and doesn’t have the appeal of using ‘free’ stuff. Although I to look back on the industrial surplus shops and scrapyards with fondness we have entered a new, different age of technological bargains –  consumer electronics and E-bay. I increasingly buy stuff direct from Hong Kong and China.

These are some of the consumer parts I use in my clocks and arcade machines. Before I start I have to apollogise for not giving details of product models – they seem to change every 6 months, so the ones I’ve used will already be unavailable by the time I finish writing this. Don’t worry though, the changes are usually just cosmetic – the underlying technology changes much more slowly.

About £10. In place of the light, connect it to any other mains operated device – disorientate burglars by switching on your lawnmower or starting up a CD player (see below). Its also easy to change motion sensors into beam sensors by sticking a tube on the front to make them ‘blinkered’.

At about £5, these are at least ten times cheaper than any other valve of a similar flow rate. They work just as well with air as with liquid. There are two slight drawbacks – first they need a bit of space (the input and output connections are different and both quite clumsy and bulky) – second, they won’t switch low pressures, which I often find frustrating – but hard to grumble at the price. 

£5-£25 from a car scrapyard, £70-£150 new. Fantastically powerful, long-lasting and quiet. I have one on my clock on Southwold pier which has been switching on and off every one and a half seconds for over four years – despite being in the salt air and nor waterproofed. DC motors have an enormous starting torque, a huge speed range, simply adjusted by the input voltage – 12 volt car wiper motors work slowly at three volts but still have useful power and are completely silent. Use diodes to reduce the speed (.7 volts per diode) - not resistors (Under load, the motor has little resistance so the resistor just gets hot and the motor doesn’t move).

In my arcade, I now use compact flash card 'kiosk' media players. No moving parts, so they are generally more reliable, though it took a while to find a good solution. I've been through several and I'm currently using the Brightsign HD120 (which does HD video).  

 I have tried using PCs in my machines, but they are always hassle. They are far to complicated for the simple stuff I'm trying to do do. When they go wrong it can be really hard to get to the bottom of the problem. My Expressive photobooth still runs with a PC, but I've probably spent more time keeping it running than all the other machines in the arcade put together. 

About £20 for a main board and another £5 for a shield board. I've been using Arduinos to send serial data to displays, media players and ticket printers. The great thing about them is that they are open source. There are sample programs of almost anything you might want to do online, and if you get into trouble you can post a question on a forum and it gets an answer very quickly (within two minutes in my most recent case). I'm still very slow at the programming language C++, but I am getting better. I went on a weekend beginners course which was brilliant. It really gave me the confidence and motivation to start experimenting by myself. The other breakthough was finding a shield board. An Arduino nearly always needs some input and output circuitry for any real application. This was possible with veroboard, but wires kept falling out. Everything is just much quicker and more reliable with a shield board.




about the site


links to
other sites

where to see stuff

contact me