1000 hackers in an electromagnetic field

Way back in August 2014, me and Martin Raynsford setup a laser cutting village at the excellent second outing of EMF Camp 2014. Rather grandly (and wrongly) described as the UK’s Burningman by the Guardian. Setting up a Whitetooth A1 sized 80w laser cutter (and it’s Blacknose A3 40w baby brother) in a field is as difficult as it sounds! It was a good experiment for Martin and me as we’d not really found the best way to move these monsters about. Our solution, car-trailer! The sort you’d go fetch a car with, they are huge by the way and not always treated well, though we found it worked well for moving a lot of gear and a very heavy laser cutter.

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EMF Camp 2014

I think the thing people don’t realise about laser cutters is just how heavy they are at that size. The Blacknose A3 is a hard two man lift in it’s self, anything larger you won’t lift right off the floor with four and the ground in a field is soft. Our main problem was keeping this huge laser on top of the road mats and getting it into the tent. Needless to say we managed in the end with quite a bit of welcome help!

Ben Heck visits the laser village
Ben Heck visits the laser village

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We were joined in our laser village by Ian Crowther, a fine gentleman from London or there about, who brought his own Lasercut5.3 powered A3 which had the oddest 4 mirror setup I’ve seen on a cutter. Ian though was an excellent and patient expert helper taking many of the “how too” queries in his stride and was a great advocate for us. Also of great help was Dan Nixon (late of Newcastle Makespace and now of OxHack) who got stuck in making on the laser and helping others to cut their designs too. We also had good help from Nottinghack’s Michelle Strickland and Andrew Armstrong with additional village setup help from Rob Hunt and Matt Little. Thank you to all those who helped make the laser cutting village a success, especially Martin Raynsford who I don’t think left the village all weekend!

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Gillian and me were official t-shirt vendor for EMF, stepping up at the last minute to provide around 250 t-shirts for the campers, most of which were made on site with my tiny hobby vinyl cutter and pro heatpress. I managed to drop 5kg of laser ply on my laptop at the start of the weekend, so seeing Katie Dumont at EMF (who introduced me to the world of hobby vinyl cutting) was a relief, especially when she lent me her laptop the whole weekend, a very kindly act. I was very ably assisted by the wonderful Hannah Howe (the partner of Jake GMJ Howe t-shirt designer) and together we churned our hundreds of variations of the EMF official t-shirt. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of it being made “live” on site, though really that’s not a good way to produce hundreds of festival t-shirts. My one regret was not getting to take part more in the camp as I was mostly busy from early till late doing t-shirts!

I was pleased however to see talks by Tom Scott and Matt Gray about EMOJLI and a talk from my Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire buddy Tom Lynch (also of South London Makerspace fame) on Split Flap displays which is of especial interest to me. In addition to talks and laser cutters there was a large amount of activity all over the site including blacksmithing, silversmithing, retro-arcade, on-site radio station, various workshops activities and lots more.

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This second outing was considerably larger than the last. In 2012 the Nottingham Hackspace organised an excellent and really the only village on site. This time around there was at least ten villages of different and varied sizes. Nottinghack’s offering again served two purposes. Firstly as a living space for the large number of Nottingham Hackspace members who attended and secondly as our embassy at the camp offering our own activities and entertainment to the other campers. Our secret weapon was Nottingham Hackspace’s most successful collaborative project to date, the BarBot. Mathew “Mouse” Gates, Ian Dickinson, Ed Raisin and Micheal Erskine primarily slaved over BarBot for well planned months prior to EMF Camp. BarBot was complimented by the addition of Toby Jackson’s BoozeFogger. The parties run in the Nottinghack village were popular, well attended, fun and lucrative (in the form of voluntary donations) too. BarBot allows party-goers to choose a cocktail from an interactive webpage, the punter is issued a number and the robot makes the cocktail.

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Yet again the EMF camp weekend was a triumph. I’m beginning to think it’s not luck but skill which makes these excellent events work. It’s a lot of (possibly thankless) work for the organisers and volunteers. The organisers themselves don’t take a cut or a wage from these very expensive to run events. Some of the materials hired for the camp are incredibly expensive, not forgetting that every tent has power and a full, fast WiFi and ethernet network across the whole site, which only hours prior to the start of the weekend was little more than a field by an irrigation lake. Good work all, can’t wait for 2016’s awesomeness.

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Jonty of London Hackspace and Electro Magnetic Field

You can find some good tails from the Laser Cutter Village on Martin’s blog.

A super album of pictures from Nottingham Hackspace FLICKR