Another Owner-Builder Network Resource

The digital world mapped!

We’ve all seen how Mercator maps distort the real size of land masses as they approach the poles. For example, Mercator shows Greenland as being larger than Australia whereas, in reality, Australia is more than 3.5 times larger than Greenland! And we’ve seen political maps that try to divide the goodies from the baddies while simultaneously distorting borders. But this is the first time I’ve seen the world mapped according to the number of online residents.

Digital cartography by the Oxford Internet Institute

Digital cartography by the Oxford Internet Institute

Suddenly, Australia is dwarfed by Japan and even the UK! The USA has all but swallowed Canada! China’s taken all of Russia east of the Urals and Russia itself is now no larger than Germany!

To see a larger and clearer version of the map, click here

Sure China has 1.5 billion people, but that’s not why it now dwarfs Russia, or for that matter, India with it’s 1.3 billion population. It’s because it has vastly more online users than Russia (or India) does. The map scales with each hexagon representing 470,000 online users.

If you subscribe to the theory that internet usage leads to innovation and economic growth – and I do, it’s easy to see where the emerging economies lie. China has plenty of steam left as do South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. But my money is on the future growth of Vietnam, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico and even Nigeria which, if you look, has subsumed half of the African continent!

What do you think? I’d love to read your comments!


Maximise the life of your Li-ion battery with these four easy tips

Gone are the days when your mobile/cell phone was just that… a phone. We use them as our camera, GPS, weather station, chat tool, browser and, it seems, a zillion other things. The problem, of course, is that all this extraneous use means that when it comes to actually making a call, we may not have any battery power left! Obviously, the first step in conserving battery life is to close all the apps you’re not using right now. Surprise yourself… hold down the home key and see how many apps show up as active!

Lithium Iron Battery Smart Phone

A powerbank is now a must-have in people’s bags to keep their smart phones alive until the end of the day.

Those are measures for surviving the day when you can’t access a power outlet. But with batteries only designed to sustain a certain number of cycles before total failure, how can you ensure maximum performance over the life of the battery?

Here are four tips to keep in mind to maximise your lithium-ion battery’s life span, whether it be for your smart phone, tablet, laptop or your electric car…



Think of them as dairy products!

Lithium Iron Battery

All batteries deteriorate, whether they are being used or not. This is why manufacturers indicate not just cycle life but also the expected calendar life of a battery. This is similar to the expiration date of dairy products. So when buying a new lithium-ion battery, choose one that has the most recent manufactured date.

Keep batteries at room temperature.

Heat is the biggest factor that reduces the lifespan of a lithium-ion battery. As much as possible, choose an operating environment that is consistently between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius or 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer environments from the range mentioned cause the protective layer inside the battery to break down. The battery then goes in to self-repair mode as it reconstitutes which, in itself, consumes battery power. When put in colder environments, the chemical reactions inside slow down and this causes a problem on the battery when in use. Just imagine cars during rush hour in a town with many roadblocks.

Partial discharging is better.

Lithium Iron Battery

Most of us would think that partial charging and discharging is bad for batteries. While this is true for nickel cadmium and other older battery types, partial discharging is actually better for lithium-ion batteries. In fact these batteries degrade most when they are kept fully charged. Surprising isn’t it? We’ve been charging our lithium-ion batteries the wrong way!

So if you are going to leave your battery for a long time without use, for example, a business only mobile stored over a weekend, it’s best to keep the charged state low, at around 20 to 40 percent. It also helps to store them in a cool, dry place.

On the other hand, if you’re a heavy user and tend to spend a lot of time tethered to a power point, charging and discharging it a bit at a time, try to keep it close to 50 percent as much as possible. This is better than maintaining batteries at 90 to 100 percent.

BUT, as experts advise, it is best to allow batteries to discharge almost completely AFTER about 30 charges. This is because continuous partial discharging causes “digital memory” which decreases the accuracy of your device’s power gauge. By letting it discharge to the cutoff point before recharging it, you allow its power gauge to be reset.

Lastly for this tip, do NOT completely discharge a battery. If you let your lithium-ion battery discharge below 2.5V per cell, a safety circuit installed inside will be activated and your battery will be “dead”. You won’t be able to charge your battery — only battery analyzers with boost function can recharge batteries that have reached this stage.

No stress.

This last tip is all about power draw. Forcing your battery to provide high power and charge quickly is like heating and cooling simultaneously. You are breaking and rebuilding its protective layer at the same time and this destroys your battery. This habit is one of the fastest ways to decrease you battery’s capacity, so try not to stress your battery out at any one time.

These tips should be taken as general pointers only as, although they apply to the most common types of lithium-ion batteries, there are a few other types which have slightly different characteristics. If in doubt, it is always best to ask the manufacturer for guidance.

Hope that helps 🙂 If you have any other suggestions or tips, why not add them below?


The Transatron Project by Patrick Buckle

The Transatron project began with a search for compact and transportable building options.

The Transatron project began with a search for compact and transportable building options.

Having purchased a small vacant block of land I was keen to find an affordable and comfortable solution to make use of the beautiful mountain location and escape the city for weekends and holidays. After a career of building things to be delivered quickly and efficiently in theatre, I began a search for compact and transportable building options. The moment of inspiration came when I saw a container conversion by a New Zealand couple. It was a high end architectural project that made the most of the limited space in a 20ft container, yet opened up to create living space with a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Enter the Transatron Project. A personal, once off project to build a compact, transportable and pleasant space for my wife and I to enjoy. With a limited budget and a want to use as much recycled, reclaimed and renewable products we scoured eBay, construction recycling centres and end of run products from shop floors. Some items were sourced new as we wanted to ensure the end product was a comfortable and warm living space that would shelter us from the extremes of the mountain weather.

Starting with a second hand, 20ft, high cube, double pallet wide container we did a thorough clean of the inside to remove any previous contaminates and patched up the paint work. Being one to overdo everything I tackle, this became an ongoing approach to the whole project. It should be noted at this point that I am not a builder or tradesman, so any of the build techniques, tips or images linked to this article are to be taken as a reflection on my experience, not instruction or advice on building or converting a container. But back to the container conversion now…

Cutting the deck opening was a big job.

Cutting out the front panel was a big job. The first thing that occurred was a spring release of the panelling as it was cut from the structure. With the dents and irregularities of the panel along with the gussets it sprang out and became difficult to handle. Once re-cut, shaped and welded to fit into the deck frame it became a lot easier to work with. To reinforce the long opening on the side of the container we fitted a “C” Channel to the roof flat bar. The “C” Channel was also used to mount and support the deck winch, which would need to lift the full weight of the steel frame and timber deck.

The C Channel adds to structural integrity and is used as a mount for the deck winch.

The winch proved a complex fitting and unfortunately ended up being mounted on the roof of the container. The original plan for the winch was to have it mounted in the “C” Channel and internal frame work. On the first test we found that it was creating a large amount of torsional forces on the “C” Channel, to the point that it flexed the front wall. In hindsight I should have mounted the winch to a plate welded to the internal roof of the container and set beside the “C” Channel. But as this was late in the construction process I could not undertake this change and had to make the box on the top to house and secure the 12v winch.

The seal of the door frame in the closed position could have taken many different configurations. I decided to go with an angle bar around the outside edges of the deck to close the gap when closed against the container. As we would be leaving the container on the block of land in a high fire zone I wanted to minimise gaps and spaces for debris, animals and weather. This worked well once the door was under tension from the winch and would be made a tighter seal if a rubber strip was added along the top face above the opening.

Nine deck hinges were used to distribute load, but this may have been overkill.

To attach and hinge the deck we used Goliath Ball Hinges. Avaialble at Bunnings or online these are strong and reliable hinges. We alternated the nine hinges (left and right settings) to locate the door in position. We used nine hinges to distribute the load, but may have gotten away with fewer.

Once the door panel was in place we worked on the internal walls and cladding. Finding suitable, level and consistent fixing points on the walls and frame of the container was problematic. This was due to the dents and discrepancies within the container panels. With some packing material and creative placement we set the wall and ceiling frames. It should be noted that my frame work was dimensioned for the fixing points of the kitchen shelf unit, hence the irregular spacing and, again, over engineering and construction. The walls were clad with Gyprock to maximise the finish of the walls and improve the feel of the space. However, and this is a reoccurring problem with mobile products, the plaster joins were susceptible to cracking whilst in transit.

Polystyrene boards serve as excellent insulation during the heat of summer and retain heat during the winter.

We had hoped to find an appropriate insulation material for the container, but ended up using polystyrene panels cut to fit into the frame work. This provided great insulation during direct sun in summer and retention of heat in the cooler months. To double up on the insulation we used a perforated sarking to assist the reflection of heat from the steel panels.

Before cladding, much of the floor was insulated as well. The floating bamboo flooring adds to the feel of the area, making it seem much less like a metal box.

The internal floor was fixed to the steel deck of the container. This allowed us to insulate and level off the floor as well as line it up with the external deck once in the down position. The internal floor was then clad with a floating bamboo floor with a 15mm panel to ensure the density added to the feel of the room. Once down and the room lined we found we had a very “solid” space, far from the tinnie nature of the container we were converting.

Laying the floating bamboo floor wasn’t a quick job.

Our primary focus was to ensure we maximised the view from one side of the container across the deck and down the block of land. We found some excess window stock from a building site, including the glass sliding door and a pair of windows. We then lucked upon some smaller windows on eBay that worked well for the opposite side. These smaller windows wound out, improving ventilation and adding a little extra light.

The sliding glass door and large windows maximise the view.

To finish off the internal living space I built a plywood shelving unit to fit specific items required for a weekend away. This included space for a sink, commercial esky, gas cooker, water filter, crockery and all those other items that accrue over time. Taking into consideration the requirements for gas storage/use, we anticipated cooking outside, but it would be possible to create an external storage unit for a gas bottle (similar to a caravan) if you wanted to have a more permanent set-up.

The internals feature some basic weekender amenities, such as a sink and space for an Esky.

Another view of the internals.

To heat the space we installed a second hand pot belly stove. This was flued through the roof and fitted into a corner of the room and beneath one of the smaller windows. Beside the pot belly stove is an additional door leading out the original end doors of the container. Our concept was to create a wet area within the footprint of the doors and close it in with a canvas or plastic curtain, making space for a portable toilet and shower. Additional furniture was selected to make the most of the space and double up on functionality where possible. By the end it became an extremely comfortable, solid and inviting space to be in.

Heating is provided by a small pot bellied stove, flued through the roof.

The side door can be used to enclose a “wet area” for an external toilet and shower.

The container was transformed into a solid and inviting place to spend the weekend.

Easily transportable on the back of a truck.

At this point I should let you know about our experience in getting this container onto our land and into use. Prior to construction we investigated the rulings on temporary structures for our local council. Everything we found allowed us to use this container on our block of land, unfortunately, after 12 months of weekend work and shipping the container to our site, we found ourselves with a council that had changed their rulings for structures and use of temporary dwellings on land without a primary dwelling. After going through the process of working with the council as they deciphered their own new rules, we were presented with two options, to submit a DA for a primary dwelling or remove the container. With our limited funds we were forced to remove the container and have since sold it on for other use. A devastating result after investing so much time, energy and money into a low impact solution, but one that only opened up other opportunities and highlighted the good people that helped out in delivering and supporting our project.

You can see a short video on the Transatron project on youtube


Are you, or do you know, a hoarder?

There are some of us who like to travel lightly. There are others who have difficulty leaving anything behind. The more you carry, the harder the journey!

I recall a conversation with a woman who’s husband had recently retired after 25 years of service in the army. She lamented that the worst thing about retirement was that they seemed to be accumulating a heap of things they really didn’t need. She went on to explain that army life is so mobile, with frequent new postings, that you don’t get a chance to hoard. I had never thought about it but it made enormous sense.

What defines 'clutter'?

What defines ‘clutter’?

Interestingly, you and I will have very different definitions of what constitutes clutter. When presented with the above choices, individual responses vary markedly suggesting that clutter and hoarding are very much in “the eyes of beholder”. True hoarders fall under a strict medical definition and make up between 2% and 5% of the population.

Hoarding is a psychological disorder distinguished by the compulsive accumulation of possessions through compulsive shopping and collecting, and an inability to discard or organize the growing piles of objects.

What cannot be disputed is that clutter creates stress and can lead directly to household accidents and family illness. For example, clutter is going to mean that things like car keys ‘get lost’ frequently. Trying to find keys when you have to get to work, pick up the kids or get to an appointment isn’t likely to put you in a meditative state! Another example is that clutter gives vermin like cockroaches, fleas, rats and mice and even snakes plenty of scope to hide and breed. Yes, snakes love clutter because rats and mice – a ready food source, are there!

Another major risk that even moderate hoarders face is a house fire. Fires can start in any home but clutter adds to the risk in two ways. Firstly, there is simply a greater risk of combustible material coming in contact with a heat source. Then there is the simple reality that clutter provides ready and plentiful fuel if that fire does start. House fire fatalities are often associated with household clutter.

How to tell if you are a hoarder:


I’ve already said that we all see the world differently, but according to Smith College psychology professor, Randy Frost, “People who hoard save everything, and it’s the good stuff as well as the crummy stuff. Hoarders are very interested in the physical world and see it in a different and more complex way than the rest of us do. Most of us look at a bottle cap and see just that. Hoarders look at it and see the shape, the colour, the unusual details that the rest of us overlook. By noticing this, it gets valued and offers a whole host of potential uses. But it’s potential that they never follow up on. It’s creativity run amok.”

Young children often exhibit these same characteristics. The world is full of fascinating objects that they want to keep – stones and feathers and insect skeletons that simply ‘must’ find a place amongst their treasures. But most of those children grow out of their collection – possibly replacing it again and again as they grow. That’s healthy development. It’s when they refuse to part with the old and simply bring in the new, that a problem may be present. That problem, if it persists will probably manifest as an OCD disorder.

Hoarding verses clutter:

You probably fall within the 95% of the population that do not fit the medical definition. But that does not clear you of the charge of “clutter”. Look around you. Do you have stuff sitting on chairs or sofas where bottoms are supposed to be? Maybe you have stuff on the floor ‘waiting to get put away’. If it’s got dust on it, it ain’t goin’ nowhere in a hurry unless you change your perception! Which brings us to the crux of the matter:

How to declutter:

The first step is to detach your emotions from your physical possessions. Love your family, pets and friends but, seriously now, can you really ‘love’ a physical possession? Get a trusted friend to help you. You may ‘love’ that dress you looked great in 10 years ago, but let’s face it honey, those two kids and 10 pounds aren’t going to get you back into that dress in a hurry. No John, wide lapel suits aren’t about to come into fashion again next season. And if they do, camel brown corduroy will not be the colour or fabric of choice!  The vase that Aunt Maud gave you as a wedding gift? You didn’t like it then… what makes you think you’re going to like it in the future? That bed linen you bought at that sale? Sure it was cheap. That’s why it’s been in the cupboard for 10 years!

Next, create piles. The first is the ‘I’d rather die than surrender this‘ pile. Don’t cheat with this pile or nothing will change. Get your friend to wipe your tears but console yourself with the thought that, if you really, really make a mistake, there’s another sale just around the corner.

The second pile is the ‘yard sale‘ pile. Look at your clutter as cash. You know the deal, one person’s trash etcetera. Don’t bother holding out for top dollar. That’s just another excuse. People who come to yard sales want bargains… just like you do!  At the end of the day, you’ll be surprised just how much cash you’ve reclaimed. What doesn’t sell either goes to charity or in the third pile…

The rubbish pile. If you have a lot of clutter, consider getting a skip bin for a week (and resist the temptation to pull anything back out of it). Sure it might hurt for a while but trust your friend. If he or she says it’s rubbish, it’s rubbish!

Here’s a neat infographic I found that might help you get started:


What say you, dear friend? Can you look around and see a clutter free home? Hold on now! Go back to that top chart. The first and only the first image (#1) is a truly clutter free bedroom.

Some of us own possessions. For some, it’s the opposite… their possessions own them. Could your life benefit from a declutter? As always, your comments and opinions are highly appreciated.


Pallets – where do you get them?

Pallets are everywhere. Millions are made every year. They come in all shapes and sizes but there are standard sizes. Some are made to be used many times but most are single use and end up being burned or in landfill. Before getting into the where and why, let’s just get some facts sorted out:

“Taking pallets is stealing!”
We often see comments that taking pallets is stealing. That’s certainly true for multi-use pallets. But most business will happily allow you to take their single use pallets. Of course, common courtesy says you should always seek permission before taking anything.

Somebody's trash, somebody's inspiration!

Somebody’s trash, somebody’s inspiration!


The scene above is happening in hundreds of locations every day. Thankfully, these pallets will at least end up as mulch. But for every pallet that gets turned to mulch, another ten end up in landfill. The bottom line is that these are waste. When you convert a pallet into a useful item, you are benefiting the environment and your pocket while rewarding your own creativity.

Multi-use pallets are always branded. They are also usually painted so there is no way you will be confused as to which is which.

“Pallets are dangerous to repurpose because they are all treated with toxins!”
Another mega-myth! Very few pallets, anywhere in the world, are treated with toxins. The facts are that most countries have banned the chemicals that were used to protect pallets against spreading vermin and unwanted ‘immigrants’. Almost all pallets made in the last decade are either heat treated or totally untreated. You will find a lot more information in our Pallets – fact and fiction post.

However, some pallets may be used to cart poisons or other toxic substances so it is common sense to know where your pallet has been. If it is stained and you are in doubt, do not use it for growing anything but flowers. It may also be best to avoid using it for furniture. Don’t worry… there are lots more replacements available 🙂

There is an abundance of pallets for those who look...

There is an abundance of pallets for those who look…


“You can’t dismantle pallets!”
Not true. In fact, there are a number of tried and proven methods for dismantling pallets so as to save both the timber and you from injury. Make sure you wear gloves and, preferably, safety glasses though as there is a major risk of splinters otherwise. You can download step-by-step instructions here.

“The timber is rubbish anyway. It’s not worth saving!” 
Make no mistake, single use pallets are made out of low grade timber. But that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose them. There are thousands of inspired examples showing that it’s all about how you use what you have!

I guess no-one told this person that pallet timber is rubbish...

I guess no-one told this person that pallet timber is rubbish…


Ok, so let’s get down to the where…

Sources of free pallets:

Start by thinking small. Your local hypermarket probably has a contract with a pallet recycler. Pallet recyclers think big. They’re lazy. They want to go somewhere and get a few pallets, not one or two.

But it still pays to ask as not all large stores are contracted as I discovered when I happened to spy three excellent, three metre long pallets outside the loading dock of one of Australia’s largest department stores. I found the storeman and asked if I could take the pallets. He was delighted and even helped me load them into my trailer. His comment was that if someone didn’t take them, they wait until they get a few and then pay to get them taken away!

Those pallets had come from Europe with very expensive leather sofas sitting on them. The pallets were excellent quality. So good in fact, I still have them stored waiting for that special project!

There will be many businesses within a short drive of your home who sell all kinds of bulky goods. Furniture is the obvious one but look around. What businesses do you drive past every day?  Many of these sell items that are shipped long distances. Most of them come on single use pallets. Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Garden shops and nurseries
  • Auto parts stores
  • Motorcycle shops (great source for crates as well)
  • Lawn mower shops (also a source for crates)
  • Smaller hardware stores
  • Trash and treasure shops
  • Baby shops (no, silly… where they sell prams and cots, not babies! Babies don’t come on pallets.)
  • Pet stores
  • Stationers
  • Office equipment suppliers

Just open your eyes and they are there! But once you have found your source, be reliable. If you promise to take someone’s pallets weekly, do it. And don’t cherry pick. If you deliver, they will deliver. If you only want three or four pallets, be up-front about it. It’s a win-win situation.

Not good enough for furniture? Succulents don't care!

Not good enough for furniture? Succulents don’t care!


Don’t ignore broken pallets. There will still be salvageable timber in them or simply find alternate uses for them.

Add colour to your fence :)

Add colour to your fence 🙂


There are hundreds of projects for pallets on our site. Just search for ‘pallets’ and stand well back! There are other sites that are totally dedicated to pallets. You will never run out of ideas or, as long as you look, pallets to do the projects with. Try this great idea which requires so little skill yet offers so much benefit:

A simple project by Jeffrey at

A simple project by Jeffrey at


Here are the most common types of single use pallets to look for:

The most common single use pallet types

The most common single use pallet types


Looking past pallets… scrap timber:

Pallets are wonderful but there are some projects that you just can’t do with pallets. Again, it’s just a matter of looking and asking. Do you live in an area where new homes are being built? Every one of those will have a scrap pile. Go and introduce yourself and ask if you can take the scrap timber. You will rarely, if ever, get knocked back. Most builders have to pay to have the waste removed. Some take the easy way out and burn it. You are helping them to manage their waste.

Think small and you'll find abundance

Think small and you’ll find abundance


You are unlikely to find six metre lengths of timber on a builder’s scrap heap, but I’ve found many 1200mm lengths and countless smaller pieces. The same applies to MDF and ply. Think small.

Waste from a renovation often yields treasure

Waste from a renovation often yields treasure


Having said that, there are often large, usable pieces of timber discarded during renovations and additions. Since ‘time is money’ (and the client is paying anyway), it’s faster to work with new materials than de-nail old. But if you look in the pile above, it’s an absolute treasure trove including a full set of door jams! It’s a fact that a lot of the timber pulled out of renovations is better quality than the new timber being carted in to the job. Sure it requires effort, but the rewards are wonderful.

Renovations are also a great source for windows and bricks, baths that you can turn into raised gardens or fish ponds, tiles for mosaics and even some amazing doors that are simply hidden under 15 layers of paint!

Scrap timber is only scrap because no-one has thought of a way to use it. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time in any third world country, you would have seen how timber, of any size, is never wasted. There is always a place where it can be used. Thankfully, there are a few first world businesses who are also seeing those same opportunities.

This TV unit from Reinspired Designs is 100% 'waste'

This TV unit from is 100% ‘waste’


Hidden treasure
How often have you seen an old bed base or sofa on the curb? Chances are that every one of them had a timber frame. And not just any timber. Most furniture items are built for heavy duty use. The frames are solid. Take a look and be surprised. Your local Op Shop probably sends a lot of old furniture to landfill every week. The condition is too poor to even gift. But the frame is still good for us to use in our projects!

Craigslist, Gumtree and Facebook Community Groups
Run a search on ‘free’ and stand back. You will be amazed at what is available either for free, or at very little cost. You might also try advertising for the things you want – or simply posting a request in Community Groups. Many people have items and building materials that were too good to throw out but that they have never found a use for. They are often happy just to see that someone can finally put them to good use.

Well, I hope that helps you to find all the pallets and ‘scrap’ timber you want. I’ve really only scratched the surface. Do you have a favourite source? Do you have any suggestions you can share? Just head to the comments box below 🙂



Getting the plan right – design software review

Computer Assisted Design

Computer Assisted Design

It’s in your head… you know what you want… you just need to be able to get it ‘visual’ so others can see it too.  Been there?  Tried the pencil and paper and discovered you still don’t have the da Vinci gene? Never fear!  Help is at hand:

Since the time computers shrank from the size of a house to compact desktop machines and became readily available, they have become invaluable to the field of design. Everything you can think of was probably designed by computers – your domicile, car, watch, TV, kettle – you name it. Computer Assisted Design (or CAD for short) has revolutionised and streamlined the design process. It allows users to model in 3D, transform 2D sketches to 3D models, change colours, tweak dimensions and myriad other things that were previously impossible.

Unfortunately for most people, the vast majority of CAD programs are overly complex and expensive, putting their usefulness out of reach. Notice we said “the vast majority” and not “all”? That’s because we’ve scoured the Internet to find some excellent free or inexpensive design tools that can really help you with renovations, building, interior design or simply planning out your dream home.


Google Sketchup

SketchUp is an intuitive free 3D modelling suite, enabling users to sketch out models and plans for any size of project from a tiny piece of jewellery all the way through to an entire city. The tools are simple to use, but if you couldn’t be bothered designing everything in your project you can search the Sketchup Warehouse for models that other users have uploaded.


Ikea Kitchen Planner

IKEA may not know exactly what animal goes into their meatballs, but they definitely have a handle on flat pack furniture and helping their customers plan and design their homes. The IKEA planners allow users to lay out a room and fill it with room appropriate IKEA furniture so you can check to see how they will fit and how they might look in different positions.

Even if you’re not in the market for build-it-yourself furniture that almost always has a few screws left over when you’re done, the IKEA planners can still be useful – you can use furniture models of the same dimensions as other brands you may be interested in to check for fit, style and look.


Sweet Home 3D

Put simply, Sweet Home 3D is a free interior design program that allows users to plan out the design of a house, arrange furniture within and then take a look at the plan in full 3D. The application has a vast library of furniture models to choose from, making it one of the most user friendly interior design applications around.



Magnet bill themselves as the UKs leading kitchen experts.  If their planner is anything to go by they might be right! The Magnet Kitchen Planner allows users to create a kitchen by either starting from scratch and filling it with cabinets, cook-tops, appliances and the like, or by choosing one of a number of pre-designed rooms and making modifications. Although there may be some differences between the stock we can get in Australia and the stock available in the UK, the application is still an excellent way to get a general idea of how things will fit in a new or renovated kitchen.



You can send MyDeco a 2D floor-plan and they will convert it into a 3D model in one business day. That’s just one of the cool things about The application also boasts 120,000 real products modelled in 3D, giving users access to the largest range of realistically modelled furniture available anywhere. Although it’s not quite as powerful a design suite as something like SketchUp or Sweet Home, MyDeco is probably the most straightforward and easy to use, free interior design application around.



ColorJive is a virtual painting tool that allows you to test out how a new paint scheme might work on anything from a feature wall through to your entire house. Users upload photos to the ColorJive server and then choose the colour they want to experiment with. In a matter of minutes, the colours in the uploaded photo are adjusted to your desired parameters.  ColorJive uses the paint palettes of multiple major brands, as well as the Natural Colour System (a perceptual colour model used worldwide), so there’s a good chance you will be able to find the colours you want.

I hope that helps!  Have you used any design or modelling software?  How did it go?  Have we missed your favourite?


Print Your Own Future

The Urbee 3D printed electric car (Credit Urbee)

The Urbee II 3D printed electric car
(Credit Urbee)

Last week I wrote a post about how 3D printing was being used to make cheap and practical prosthetic limbs. Whilst that is undoubtedly the best application of the technology I’ve seen so far when it comes to a practical and inspirational use for the relatively new technology, 3D printing is really shaping up to be the next big thing when it comes to world changing ideas.

Print your own car:
Take this, for example – an automotive design firm, Kor Ecologic, is nearing the stage where they can enter into full production of their 3D printed electric car, the Urbee II. Of course, electric cars aren’t anything new – pretty much every automotive manufacturer worth their salt has an electric car either on the market or on the drawing board – but the 3D printed Urbee II brings with it some distinct advantages.

The 3D printing process allows Kor to make an extraordinarily lightweight vehicle. The completed car weighs in at only 544kg. What this means is that the electric engine doesn’t have to drag around a heavy chassis.  This leads to better performance and far greater battery life between charges. The nature of the vehicle also means that replacement panels and parts can be made to spec instead of having to be specially ordered.  This has the potential to make repair a faster and cheaper prospect.  Panels do not have to be stored or transported long distances from manufacturer to repairer.  Instead, the repair shop will print the panel insitu!

As interesting as it is, the Urbee II has a definite down side. As it stands, the car costs around $50,000 USD to make. It might still be quite a while before we can practically print our own cheap vehicles, but the Urbee II is definitely a step in the right direction.

This is actually a house. Seriously.

This is actually a house. Seriously.

Print your own home:
If cars aren’t enough for you, how about a 3D printed house. The horrifying image you see above that looks something like a dinosaur skull made out of spider webs and nightmares is the ProtoHouse, a 3D printed dwelling designed by UK design firm, Softkill.

The ProtoHouse is designed to be fabricated by a process known as Selective Laser Slintering (SLS).  It’s made from nylon and the design is based on the structure of bone, making it strong, flexible and lightweight.  As you can see from the image, the structure is porous but has been designed so that waterproofing would be added to the interior. Softkill say that an average 8m x 4m dwelling could be fabricated in the space of just a few weeks and after that the kit can be snapped together in a day.

If you’re still not convinced about 3D printing, maybe you should check out the following video by PBS.  In it, they talk to a number of scientists, journalists and entrepreneurs about the potential of the technology and how it can change the world.

You can find the video right HERE

The next reality – 4D printing:
And if that’s still not enough for you – or you’re as hooked as I am,  check out this TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the potential of 4D printing – the ability to make create 3D printed objects capable of constructing themselves once certain conditions are met. Imaging being able to send a machine down to the ocean floor that can create a lab that will make itself when exposed to enough water and pressure, or sending up a rocket with a self constructing moon base. The possibilities seem almost endless.

You can find out more about this staggering new technology HERE

Thanks for joining me.  Have you seen 3D printing in action?  Share your thoughts on what you see as the potential for this technology by commenting below.



We Can Rebuild Them

A cheap, 3D printed, open source articulated prosthetic hand

A cheap, 3D printed, open source articulated prosthetic hand

A project that started out as a special effect prosthetic has transformed into a potentially life changing technology that could help tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people live higher quality lives!

After seeing a YouTube (this one here) video by Ivan Owen, a Washington based prop maker, a South African carpenter by the name of Richard Van As had an idea. Van As, who had lost the fingers on his right hand in an work related accident, approached Owen with the idea of collaborating to build Van As some new, working fingers. The two came up with a rather ingenious, and cost effective solution.

Thanks to the pair continually blogging the progress of the project, Ivan Owen was contracted to build a full hand prosthetic for a five-year-old boy, Liam.  Liam was born with amniotic band syndrome, a congenital condition that meant the boy was born without any fingers on his right hand.

The final hand was delivered just over a month ago and it’s quite a marvel. The hand is controlled by a series of  cables and bungees that respond to fine movements of the hand, wrist and arm, affording its recipient,some remarkably fine control. More amazingly, the vast majority of the hand is 3D printed for a tiny fraction of the cost of a regular prosthetic. Although the hand has been designed to fit a small child, Owens and Van As say,
“Using Makerware, it could be scaled to fit a wide range of individuals. The only thing that would need to be changed is the size of the bolts purchased from a hardware store. The design is open source and in the public domain. We encourage anyone who can make use of this design for any purpose to do so”.

You can find the free 3D printing pattern for the hand, HERE.

Related news…

The next generation of prosthetic limb

The next generation of prosthetic limb

In related news, later this year an amputee in Rome will be the first fitted with a new generation of prosthetic hand that has advanced sensory capabilities. Electrodes in the hand will be attached to two main nerves in the arm – the median and ulnar nerves – to give bi-directional feedback to and from the hand.

What this means in non-scientific terms is that the hand will be the first prosthetic to offer real time sensory feedback for grasping.  This has allowed users to much better modulate the strength and complexity of grip, giving users a wider range of actions and control. If the trial is a success, the developers hope to have a full working model within two years.

Ain’t technology wonderful 🙂


The Kitchen in a Fridge

The Meneghini La Cabusa

The Meneghini La Cabusa

Anyone who has lived in an apartment or rental accommodation has had to deal with an inadequate kitchen at some time in their life.  The constant need to work around a general lack of shelf or cupboard space and no space left for a refrigerator.

Kitchens also factor strongly into renovations – crafting the room that is, in many ways, the centre of the home can be a costly but worthwhile labour of love. Unless you have unlimited funds, some luxuries will, by necessity, have to be compromised on – a gas cook-top instead of induction, a cheaper oven, a smaller refrigerator – but those problems are minor and easily overcome.

Italian manufacturer, Meneghini has come up with a kitchen solution to a problem that doesn’t exist to all but a few wealthy people – that problem being an over-abundance of kitchen space and money. The La Cambusa unit is a customisable refrigerator and pantry.

After shelling out an initial $26,000 for the wooden frame, purchasers can then customise the inside with all manner of gadgets, including a Miele coffee machine, microwave and steam oven, Liebherr refrigerator, ice maker, temperature controlled pantry and even a flat screen TV.

A fully kitted out La Cambusa costs around $41,500, is 8.2ft wide (just under 2.5 metres) and weighs a kilogram shy of half a tonne. For all the size of the unit, the refrigerator inside is on the small side, making it a little impractical at best.

A solution to a problem that doesn't exist

A solution to a problem that doesn’t exist

Although obviously aimed at the super rich, the La Cambusa doesn’t really seem to have a point – if you can afford $41,500 for a glorified fridge and cupboard you can probably afford to renovate a kitchen and employ a cook. If you can’t, then it’s a pointless extravagance. Meneghini have created a solution for a problem that doesn’t really exist, and, in my opinion, it’s not even a very good one at that. What do you think?  Use the ‘Comments Box’ below to share your opinion.


BTW, to see what you can do for a lot less than $41,500, why not look at the Eichler Make-over


The Truth About Sitting Down

Last week we featured a post from guest blogger, Ana Cristina Sandrin about standing desks, ergonomics and spinal health. If you haven’t read it, you can find the post here. As a follow-up we’ve discovered this fascinating, if somewhat terrifying infographic put together by Medical Billing and, detailing the dangers of sitting for long periods of time. As someone who sits at a computer 8+ hours a day, I’m a little worried.