Archive for the ‘ Life ’ Category

My Workbench

For the past few months, I’ve been doing more and more electronics and making. Here’s some photos of my electronics workbench in the basement and tips I’ve learned along the way…


  • Tip: Amazon 2x4s basics – a great way to build a workbench. Just add wood.
  • Tip: For electronics work, I find it more comfortable to stand. The black mat on the floor is one of those soft mats that make it easier to stand without getting tired.
  • Tip: If you take the standing option, it’s handy to have a stool – just in case.


A a large craft mat where I do my soldering. Protects the desk, makes it easy to clean and find little components.


  • Tip: If you’re left handed, put the soldering iron the left of your main work area. Makes it so much easier – before I did this, I kept getting tangled up.
  • Tip: I have two solder spools – a chunky one for through-hole components, and fine for surface mount.
  • Tip: Keep a bottle of water handy for wetting the sponge without having to leave the room.
  • Tip: Even better, use a brass sponge – no water required.


I organize all my through-hole components and board into these drawers.

  • Tip: Get a labeler.
  • Tip: Keep everything in reach.
  • Tip: I have an ‘unsorted’ drawer that I sweep components into when I’m done. Every once in a while, I’ll sort through this drawer and put everything back where it came from.
  • Tip: For components like resistors and capacitors, split them into multiple drawers of ranges.


  • Tip: You can never have too many power outlets.
  • Tip: Lots and lots and lots of light!


  • Tip: Get cheap stackable storage containers. I use these for things like cables and tools.
  • Tip: Keep all the cardboard boxes you get sent components in. They’re really handy for grouping projects together.


  • Tip: Easy to access hook up wire box. Held in place with tape.
  • Tip: Yes, that’s a fire extinguisher at the back. I’ve never needed it, but I feel a lot better having it nearby.


  • Tip: Phat choons to work to.
  • Tip: The little grey box on the top shelf, just right of the middle: that’s where I keep all my surface mount components. They’re a lot easier to manage than through-hole.
  • Tip: Every time you store a component, cut out the label with the part number, so you can easily Google the datasheet or order more when you come back to it later.


  • Tip: Keep tools, cables and soldering supplies in these little containers, and get the entire container down when you need it.

Boring photo, but important point…
  • Tip: Leave space behind your desk, so you can easily get behind it to plug things in, re-wire, etc.
Got any tips or photos. Leave a comment…

I’ve joined Google

Woooo….. this looks fun.

How my backflip went…

Well, I’m still alive :)

This is a brief entry as I’m currently enjoying a two week vacation in Thailand. I’ll give you the full details when I get back (assuming my inbox hasn’t burst by then).

I achieved a single back handspring, and eventually three back handsprings. I failed to do a complete back somersault after four attempts. Two out of three ain’t bad.

I’m happy though. Thanks to an amazing number of sponsors, I’ve raised 1400 GBP (approx 2500 USD) that is to be donated to Autistic Research.

I’ve got some photos and videos to upload when I get back. Jez has also uploaded some.

Backflippin’ in 4 hours.

Gulp. Six weeks went quickly.

The story so far.

If anyone has a video camera (or one of those digital cameras that can record video snippets), please bring it along… I’m having a bit of a camera shortage.

Joe’s Backflipping for Autistic Research – time is nearly up…

A reminder of my challenge:

I’ve had six weeks (I’m now on week five) to learn to do backflips to raise money for the International Autistic Research Organization.

This includes:

1. A single back handspring
2. Three back handsprings in a row
3. A single back somersault

Full details, including descriptions of the moves, can be found in my previous blog entry.

h2. When/Where?

I’m going to attempt this on Friday 8th October at 3pm. If you’re in London, and want to come and watch it’ll be at Finsbury Pavement – nearest tube Moorgate or Liverpool Street.

If you can’t make it, there will also be a video available on the net, not long afterwards.

h2. To those who have sponsored me

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the generousity of the sponsors. I genuinely never expected to raise this amount of money. I’ll reveal the total amount on the day. Of course, it’s now down to me to actually do the stuff so you pay up :).

So, once again, THANK YOU!

After the challenge, I’ll send out details of how to get the money to me.

h2. To those who haven’t sponsored me yet

There’s still time! Just email me saying how much you’ll sponsor for
1) A single back handspring
2) Three back handsprings in a row
3) A single back somersault

For example: “Joe, I will sponsor you 10, 20, 50” (or currency of your choosing).

Note that if I achieve more than one of these, you only pay the maximum amount.

h2. My progress

My shoulder is slightly injured and I’m still feeling dizzy from the time I landed on the ground head-first. Other than that it’s been going well. I learned the technique from some tutorials I found round the net, and have been practising every weekend on my bouncy castle.

The biggest problem I have at the moment is fear. No matter how many times I do it, I always get really nervous before launching and usually bottle out. I hope this doesn’t happen on the day.

For safety reasons, I’ve decided that I will attempt the complete back somersault (i.e. with no hands) with an inflatable matress behind me to break my fall, rather than my neck. The back handsprings shall be on grass. I will also be wearing wrist supports.

Joe tries to do backflips

I’m doing a sponsored backflip to raise money for the International Autistic Research Organization.

How did this happen? I’m not totally sure, but if I recall it started in a conversation with Martin Gill, my manager, that went something like this:

J> Did you see the gymnastics and the olympics? It looked awesome!
M> Yeah. Bet you can’t do that.
J> How hard can it be? They make it look so easy. Bet I can learn to do a backflip.
M> Ok. When and where?
J> Uhmmm, four, no, six weeks. On the grass outside work.

Next thing I know, I’ve blabbed this to lots of people and the suggestion comes up that I get sponsorship to do it for charity.

So here I am, now 2 weeks into my 6 week task to learn to do a backflip. This backflip will take place unassisted on some flat grass. However, there was ambiguity in this challenge as there was disagreement about what a backflip actually is and it seems to vary from country to country.

In the UK, a backflip is where you jump backwards, spring on your hands and back onto your feet. The technical term for this is a back handspring. This is what *I* thought I’d agreed to. You know, like ninjas do down the street. QuickTime animation

In the US, a backflip is where you jump upwards, rotating a complete 360 in the air and land on your feet, without anything but your feet ever touching the ground. The technical term for this is a back somersault. QuickTime animation

So, to compromise the I’ve decided to give both a go. I will attempt three things:

1. A single back handspring.
2. Three back handsprings in a row.
3. A back somersault!

I’m asking for sponsorship for different amounts, depending on which of these I achieve. For example, Dan Bodart says he’ll sponsored me 10GBP if I achieve one handspring, 20GBP if I do three handsprings and 50GBP if I manage the somersault.

I’m learning this at home, with the help of Google (which has helped me find lots of online tutorials), a bouncy castle (a safe place to practice without breaking my neck), and Jaimie (my fiance who watches from afar and tells me what mistakes I’m making).

If you want to sponsor me, drop me an email ( my first name at truemesh dot com ) or leave a comment.