General silliness

ScrapHappy November 2022: Dalexa – the model

As my reader will remember, last month’s ScrapHappy turned your humble blogger into a vicious fictional killing machine (well, my voice at any rate) whilst proving, if proof were needed, that he is one hinge short of a working door. In case you missed this, the blog is here and the accompanying nonsense on YouTube is here. This lunacy involved not one piece of ScrapHappiness (a recycled thermionic valve no less) but also some sheer ridiculousness to create the Dalexa model (and I use model in a very loose sense of the word). Here is how it was done, so that future generations don’t make the same mistake:

You will primarily require an old lightbulb, but not so old that it has a filament as they are tricky to prise apart. You will also need some glue, some dalekanium (or bits of paper with it printed on) and an old covid test strip. Oh, and a couple of old white LEDs, some wire, a resistor and a battery.

Opening the lightbulb without damaging it or yourself requires delicacy and skill. Oh well, the lightbulb casing wasn’t too badly mangled…

The inner non-workings of a lightbulb

The inner non-workings of a lightbulb

Then, the casings from three covid tests (all thoroughly cleaned, as a Dalek with Covid would be weird) need cutting in half (there’s a top and a bottom), and some dalekanium glued on.


Nearly everything you need for a Dalexa

How to make dalekanium when you're not on Skaro

How to make dalekanium when you’re not on Skaro

Finally, attach the dalekanium to the inverted lightbulb casing, add LEDs and a battery and *EXTERMINATE!* One Dalexa.

They are scowling at it in barely disguised fury right now on Skaro.


Categories: General silliness, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

ScrapHappy October 2022: Someone else’s Scrap…

A relic from a bygone age - not so bygone now!

A relic from a bygone age – not so bygone now!

Now I may be wrong (I usually am, it is my default state) but I think that one can rejoice in someone else’s ScrapHappiness and, indeed, claim a little of it for one’s own. So, before anyone puts their hand up to raise an objection, here is this month’s offering which comes in the form of a kit from the National Museum of Computing (NMOC), here in the UK at the legendary Bletchley Park.

First, the scrappy bit of this – this is a kit of electronic bits and bobs that when correctly assembled, makes a thing. Technical, I know, but I’ll explain later what the thing does as that isn’t important right now. The nifty bit about this kit is that it uses a type of electronic component that is pretty much the first type of active electronic component ever devised by humans. It is a (thermionic) valve, and not the “ooh, there’s water leaking out of it” kind but the “look, it’s glowing” kind. The real scrappygoodness (that is a word, I know, I just made it up) is the valve. It’s a piece of scrap, lying around unloved and, more importantly, unbroken. Where did it come from originally? Well…

Way back in 1955, the UK decided that one television channel (BBC1, then known as the BBC Television Service) was insufficient and that another one was needed. Cue ITV, which would be transmitted on a whole new band of frequencies so high that, well, your average TV set couldn’t receive them. Genius, I know, but you have to remember that there weren’t that many TV sets in the UK at that point. I’m going to guess around 12, but there may have been more. Anyway, in order to use existing TV sets to show the new-fangled ITV, a set-top box (“Band III convertor”) was built that would let that happen. And it did.

And you won’t be surprised that most of those set-top boxes were scrapped a few years later. It would appear though, that many ended up taken apart – they had two useful valves in them and I am guessing there were lots of people who would use them to build their own electronics.

Many decades later, and NMOC have a large stock of these valves, salvaged from defunct set-top boxes (and other places too). They designed this kit to give these old valves a new lease of life, and raise much-needed funds to run the museum.

An OK Valve

An OK Valve

There is something almost alien-looking about valve tech

There is something almost alien-looking about valve tech

Finished and Working!

Finished and Working!

I built the kit – it was pretty easy and the instructions were, on the whole, very clear. I had two issues, one of which resulted in another piece of scraphappiness and the other resulted in a bit of DIY-like swearing. There seemed to be a capacitor missing in the kit so I found an old one (probably out of a light bulb) which fitted the bill. The swearing was caused by the thing not working but, on closer inspection, I had put two of the boards too close to one another and they were touching, and not in a good way.

So, does it work and what does it do? Well…

Video link to where I sound like a sci-fi villain


Many other people contribute to Kate and Gun’s wonderful ScrapHappy every month – check out what they have been up to too!


KateGun, EvaSue, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera, Edith
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Carol, Preeti,
Amo and Alissa


Categories: General silliness, recycling, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

Too Good to Go

1991 was a fine year for, er, me going to Dublin and buying sweat shirts

1991 was a fine year for, er, me going to Dublin and buying sweat shirts

In this weird world we live in, I am one of those people who likes to keep things as long as possible. Not for me the replacement of the perfectly functional gizmo with the newest sort that is probably slightly faster, or smaller, or a different colour. Nope, use things until they break is my motto. Well, one of them anyway.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went to put my gardening sweatshirt on – I bought it, along with another, in Dublin in 1991 so these garments are 30 years old. The one proclaiming the year is quite battered now, although its sibling is in much better shape as it hasn’t been worn as much (not sure why I favoured the one over the other). And they are still going.

In the middle of a VERY important upside-down calculation

In the middle of a VERY important upside-down calculation

So, then I thought, do I have anything older than the sweatshirt, that I bought new and still use? Of course! In fact, this is so old, there is an example in the Science Museum in London (read here of my discovery of it there). It is my trusty calculator, with the original Casio battery in it, new in 1980. A dodgy on/off button but still works, and I use it for VERY important things, as you can see above.


Convent Mice – Strawberry Mouse, Orange Mouse, Pink Mouse and Red Mouse

These mice have to be the oldest things that I have had since new. They were made by the nuns at the Clewer Convent near Windsor, Berkshire, UK. I visited there as my Dad used to take part in their annual celebration of being founded. I was six when I first went and was presented with Strawberry Mouse. I remember an amazing woman who I think was about 80 then, and who told me tales (while the grown-ups were doing churchy things) of when she lived in India. I am unsure what has happened to Strawbs’ tail in the intervening years. Naming was clearly not an issue for me back then – I used the “say what you see” method.

I see from the Wikipedia article about the Community of St John the Baptist, who were founded at Clewer, the order no longer occupies the church buildings. I also see that the order used to be known as the Sisters of Mercy, which is one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs.

Do you have old things that were new when you first had them, but are still in use today?


Categories: General silliness, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: | 18 Comments

Cores and Effect

ds RIMG6210

Wire or wool?

A while ago, I took this picture of cables at the Science museum (I know a photogenic subject when I see one*) and remarked how like hanks of wool they were. Well, have a look at this**:

DS xsections

What’s all this then?

It reminds me of crocheted coasters as made by the Snail, and heaps of balls of wool:

In fact these are…drum roll… cross-sections of various types of electric cable.

Cool, huh?

Sometimes I wonder if I should be knitting or soldering!***


* Oh yeah?

** Picture from here. I first saw this on Twitter – the image is on Imgur but I can’t see who to credit. If it’s yours, let me know!

*** The answer is soldering.

Categories: General silliness | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Lockdown Dinners 2: The Pub Crawl


First stop – The Slug and Lattice

We checked out the wide range of drinks available and plumped for the beer made with local wild yeast – delicious!


Next, it was on to the Snail and Courgette for another beer…


… and then onto the Dog and Bone, where there was more beer and kebabs were on offer too! Well, it would be rude not to…

… and finally, a little worse for wear maybe, it was time for a pub quiz at the Sam and Sofa…


Ah, the perfect end to the perfect pub crawl. Now, where on earth did this traffic cone come from?



Categories: General silliness | Tags: , | 8 Comments

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