Subvert of the day: Protest Icon in Bath


The fist icon has been widely used to symbolise struggle particularly on behalf of new left groups since the late sixties. Most likely it was first used as a graphic image in a poster by San Francisco Bay Area graphic artist Frank’s Cieciorka for Stop The Draft Week, for actions January 14, 1968 protesting the arrest of the “Oakland Seven” but certainly the fist goes much earlier than that being illustrated on political struggle posters since the early 20th century.

Source -

Source –

It was used during the The 1968 Olympics as an act of protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos and seen as a black panther salute and since adopted by Northern Soul fans around the world as a show of solidarity to its black panther origins.


More recently it has symbolised the Occupy movement and has become a popular symbol for social activist campaigns.

I even have it with a wrench using font-awesome icons to reflect more of a design activist approach to the undesign blog.
Although the source of struggle is constantly shifting the meaning remains the same and has come to mean resistance against oppression and solidarity with the oppressed.

Posted in Subvert of the day

Documenting your projects

This approach to documenting your projects comes from a Steve Nordhauser and Kathy Ceceri talk at the World Maker Faire New York 2013 (Source – Making Simple Robots: Exploring cutting edge robotics with everyday stuff – Kathy Ceceri Maker Media USA) I am considering using or adapting it for student project documentation and also for future projects on this site.

What is a ? (Name your project here i.e What is a Steampunk Google Cardboard Prototype?)

What it does

Where it came from (Was it an idea that you originated or did it come from someone elses idea for a project)

How it works

Making the project

– Project Parameters

– Time needed

– Cost

– Difficulty

– Safety Issues

– What you need to know

-Skills you already have

-Skills you need to learn

-Gather your materials




Ideas Generation

Ideas Development

Production of outcome


Posted in Adventures in learning

Subvert of the day – Temple Gate 2

This statement needs no introduction, but I imagine it was what was on the mind of most commuters that passed this little gem of graffiti on the morning of September 9th 2012

Im quitting work

Posted in Subvert of the day

DIY wonder bag

In my pursuit to solve my own energy bill issues, I have been looking at ways of saving money. I can’t afford solar panels yet, but I have made a number of improvements and I wanted to address the issue of cooking methods. Cooking fuel isn’t the biggest spend in our house but we do a lot of it. We have one gas cooker but we also have an electric slow cooker which is very economical. I decided to see if we could go even more low budget and low tech.

Turns out there is a very good low tech product known as the Wonder Bag

Wonder Bag

Although it has been traditionally used by communities in Africa and elsewhere in the world as a system of heat retention cooking,

African cooking bag

Sarah Collins marketed the idea to create the Wonder Bag. It consists of a simply designed quilted back with a drawstring that you put a cooking pot inside and cook a stew without a hob, oven or external heat source, relying just on the heat of the sealed pot to cook the stew. In theory it can stay warm and cook a stew for up to 12 hours.

You can buy these online at a number of outlets but I thought it would be more fun to make one as I didn’t relish spending 30 quid on one of these to find it didn’t work and by making one, I could learn some new skills in the process.

This isn’t a tutorial, but there is a good guide to making one here
Once I had cut out the shape, I hand stitched the seam of the main piece and the other two cushions that sit inside (with a little help from a friend who used a machine to finish off the process for me – thanks for that). I was stuck for a while regarding the filling. The tutorial asked for polystyrene beads which would have cost about £4.00 to purchase, but luckily a delivery came which had some sheep wool insulation packets in it and I was able to use that instead.


First I thought I would try a beef stew and I decided to get up with the larks to prepare the stew.


Here you can see the pot has been placed inside my diy wonderback and the drawstring tightened. I added a tea towel inside to add a bit of extra insulation

This was my first try and I don’t think I allowed the stew to cook on the hob for long enough. It needs about 20 to 30 mins I reckon. I checked the pot a couple of times and had to reheat for a few minutes through the 12 hours I let it stand in the cupboard.

Here is the result of the stew 12 hours later. Next time I will try a vegetarian stew and crank it up a bit to begin with to cook the veg a little more before storing it in the Wonder Bag. The total cost for making this was around 50 p for the cloth from a jumble sale. I am still trying to work out how much it actually cost to cook the stew, but I am expecting it to also be just a few pence. I will get back with some figures shortly.

Posted in Low Tech, Makery and Hackery

USB Soldering challenge

I found an old soldering iron which is probably from the 1950s in my great uncle’s collection of modelling tools that he passed on to me many years ago now.
It was clearly used as a battery or transformer powered soldering iron which he presumably used to solder circuits on model trains. It got me thinking, could it be USB powered.


To try it out I found an old USB lead and cut off the end. A quick look at an instructable just to check I wasn’t going to fry my computer or cause a fire or something

IMG_20150511_104945578 (1)
Then I connected the red USB wire to the red wire of the soldering iron and the black USB wire to the black wire of the soldering iron


Then plugged in the USB and waited


I made a little temporary stand and waited for it to warm up. Its quite hot but not enough.

I am still waiting . . .

Posted in Makery and Hackery

Google Cardboard Prototype

What is a Steampunk Google Cardboard Prototype

What it does

It allows you to get a cheapish VR experience in an entertaining way whilst allowing for focal length adjustment.

Where it came from

The project is being adapted from the standard Google Cardboard template

How it works

The prototype consists of 3 wooden panels. You slip a suitable smart phone with the Google Cardboard app installed between two of them and adjust focal length with wing nuts at the front of the device.

Making the project
  • Project Parameters
  • Time needed – 10 hours
  • Cost – £10 for materials + Android Smart Phone
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Safety Issues – Care must be taken when cutting wood pieces and creating threads on brass rods
  • What you need to know
    • Skills you already have: Cutting templates from wood or other materials, using a tap and die set on brass or other metal rods
    • Skills you need to learn
  • Gather your materials
    • Single ply or thin wood sheeting
    • Brass or steel rods 10cm x 4
    • Wood stain
    • Copper wire – to create springs
    • waxy paper to make bellows
  • Directions

I have been playing around with google cardboard for a little while and started off just grabbing some cardboard from a box, cutting it to size using Google’s own instructions.

Then I assembled the prototype after a little difficulty, due mainly to the thickness of the cardboard, added the lenses and the magnet, downloaded the software to my smart phone and bob’s your uncle, it worked.

As you can see from the image below I am in VR heaven, but feeling a little queasy at this point due perhaps to the distance of the lenses or maybe the angle being a little off.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 16.09.21

My mate bought the official package and noticed the same sickness inducing viewing experience. I think we can do something about this. Time for prototype mkII . .

So far I have cut out the viewer in plywood from a paper template and the plan this time is to produce a steampunk style adjustable google cardboard viewer.



I started by cutting the wood pieces based on the basic cardboard template. The side housing parts of the cardboard template are not needed as I am going to build my own custom housing but I needed to get the right viewer size so have cut out 2 viewers and another to allow for the camera on the smart phone to be able to view the outside world. (Will be useful when I eventually build an augmented reality app for google cardboard . . Ha Ha!)

I have just realised at this point that I have cut out 2 viewers. A quick look at prototype mk1 shows me that the smart phone camera needs to have a hole in a different position to the view above. Oh well, it can be a spare. I will need to cut out the correct template to go with the viewer but hey ho.



As you can see, I still have to cut out one of the viewers to show the whole screen but I have started to assemble the device to check sizes and I have now started to thread the brass rods with an M4 die. I have cut the thread quite far down the rod because it might be needed to get the correct adjustment on the focal length. Google Cardboard works at a 45mm focal length and I am hoping that I have cut the thread correctly. If not, I can simply recut it.



Brass rods with thread attached

Here I have started to cut the threads using a die. Its a bit time consuming but will be worth the effort I hope




I have now (again with the help of a friend added a thread to all 4 rods, ordered and received brass wing nuts and I am ready to move on to the next stage.

First I acquired some copper tensile wire to make springs for each rod so that the correct focal length can be achieved. I also glued leather to the inside of two of the panels so that I could then mount the android phone in the device without it slipping out.



Then I joined the whole thing together to check that everything assembled correctly

Amazingly it worked quite well first time.

It needed quite a bit of adjustment to get the right focal length. The holes needed to be made a little larger so that you can move the plates easily.

Here is an early working prototype of the google cardboard viewer.


Photo on 05-11-2015 at 16.38 Photo on 05-11-2015 at 16.39

Next steps

  • Stain the wood, to give it a nice antique feel
  • Add some brass elements
  • Add some photographer’s bellows
  • Add a section to comfortably wear the device and attach a strap so that you can walk around with it

Update 17/12/15

Its taken a while to find time to continue with the prototype but I have now had a chance to move on with the prototype a bit.

First, staining the wood. I first considered, after looking around online, to use coffee grounds to stain the wood and then thought Soy sauce might work. I asked my mate who has helped me so far with the prototype, and he suggested using wood stain made from crushed walnut husks. I tried it with a brush and it was very easy (and more importantly, non-toxic) to stain the wood and get a more antique feel. It didn’t come out mahogany but a rather nice, well walnutty shade.


Then I decided to tackle the photographer’s bellows. I was a bit daunted by this task, not sure why. I used the general technique from the following instructable, Bellows for a large format camera. I have made two lots of bellows now but I think I need to repeat the process to get smoother bellows. I think because I put the tape on the inside of the bellows, the edges look too rough. If you put the tape on the outside and the folds on the inside you get a smoother more professional finish.


Next I added some brass adornments. I used a hole punch to create brass lens holders for the lenses and although I haven’t done this yet I am going to add the same brass housing to the camera viewer hole on the far side of the device.


As you can see now the prototype is starting to take shape. The last part of the plan is to add something to strap the device to my head, goggles or some other such thing. This needs some thought so hopefully soon, I will have an update and we can finally take it out for a spin.

Posted in Adventures in learning

Subvert of the day – Temple Gate

One of my board likes is the disused building at Temple Gate. Not sure of its name, I would like to know a bit about the history of this building if anyone knows. It has been disused for years, were some fantastic weeds growing out of it. Now it is just one great big corporate advertising board and as such has become a target for subvertising.


Here is one such example, I have a few more, must dig them out

Posted in Subvert of the day