Ever since I was a child I have associated “manliness” with the glorious ordered chaos of a well appointed SHED, with shelves full of arcane and oily secrets in dinted metal biscuit tins and scuffed plastic milk-crates; toolchests, toolboxes and toolwalls glittering under actinic strip-lighting; and tiny drawers full of tiny wonders, sorted in a way that could only make sense to the owner. In short, my dad’s shed1.

So for the longest time, I have tried to establish my own shed, but it’s not something that has ever worked out for me so far, as we’ve never really had the appropriate space: it’s either cramped with vehicles, not waterproof, insecure or just too far away from the house to actually be practical. Even in our current place (which I love) the garage isn’t exactly spacious, and although I have managed to squeeze a toolchest and shelves in there, I rarely go and do stuff

… but luckily there’s a solution. This house is definitely larger than we need, but includes a “secret room” which I’ve been able to turn into my makerspace. There’s a large desk (courtesy of the owners) and I’ve added a chair, soldering station, component drawers, shelves and plenty of project boxes. There’s also a beanbag, thanks Jules, and a camp stretcher if I really want to get into something. It may be my favourite space in the house!

But the point of this post was to think about the projects I’d like to complete in here over the next couple of years. There’s already a category of repairs that need to be done – headphones, laptops, light fixtures – but some of the other projects I’ve started or have planned include:

  • A spaceship control panel. For Christmas last year I got Jules a “30 days in space” Arduino-powered story-driven build kit from inventr.io, and recently I found a cool console/case from element14. The plan is to work through the story with Jules, and as he wires things up and gets them working we can decide how to mount it in the case and actually drill component holes and the like. By the end of the whole thing, he’ll know some microcontrollers, some programming, and will have made a working control panel that he can continue to play with and (maybe) improve.
  • The Bottlehead Crack-OTL valve amp – more years ago than I remember. I’ve just reached out to Bottlehead to ask if I can buy replacements for the components I’m missing. Scary (240V point to point wiring) but damn.
  • An Internet clock-radio - an Etsy purchase of an old 70s GE clock-radio similar to the one I inherited from my dad as a teenager. I’ve gutted it, since it’s US voltage (and indeed uses the AC power cycle as a timing control) and want to replace the display with one controlled by a Raspberry Pi and Arduino. There are plans, but I don’t seem to progress very much very often …

There are also some more π-in-the-sky projects that I’d like to get started on:

  • An 8-bit computer from scratch – stay tuned, but something I really want to do.
  • A “Dreamcast” replica from spare/replacement parts? Doable?

  1. Chuck in a 1925 Buick in partial (dis)repair, tins of paint that haven’t been opened in 30 years, several valve-radios (working) and a few key pieces of “big and dangerous” equipment salvaged from one friend or another – a metal lathe, drill-press, bandsaw. ↩︎