Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Quilted Coffee Pot Cosy

It's sad really but every now and then I get an inexplicable urge to make a quilted coffee pot cosy. Perhaps it's just that I like watching my ancient Singer doing its stuff (how does it grab that loop from the bobbin below?) or perhaps it's just that the simplicity of the cosy allows even talentless idiots such as myself to create something of profound beauty. Many there are that have knitted a scarf but few go on to "turn the heel" of a sock. The coffee pot cosy is the scarf of the quilting world.

I made this one for Angi Webb's coffee pot. Her pot is 8" x 4.5" rather than the industry standard 8" x 4" and so this cosy is truly a custom item.

There you go Angi - a present for your new house, from the Secret Laboratory...

Saturday, 4 June 2011


How to cook prawns on a barbecue (little ones, not king prawns). You know the problem. If you pop them on the barbie individually then some inevitably fall through the bars and into the coals. Those that escape that fate must be turned individually - a tortuous exercise involving the loss of even more prawns and the burning of fingers. You could thread them on a skewer but small prawns are liable to be split asunder, leading to further prawn loss.

No more prawn loss with the Prawnvelope! To make your Prawnvelope you need a fresh mesh from a disposable barbecue (this might involve re-using an old mesh from a previous barbie so you can liberate a fresh mesh for this purpose).

Carefully fold the mesh in half. Don't crease the fold flat - use a former of some kind to get a prawn-sized radius on the fold.

Insert the prawns into the Prawnvelope. The mesh itself should hold them in place but, if you're nervous, use some food-bag "ties" to secure the edges of the assembly.

Now spray your prawns with oil, lemon juice, black pepper, whatever, and commit them to the barbie. You see how easy it is to flip them all in one easy action?

Another work of genius from The Secret Laboratory...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


This is really a re-visited project. Some time ago I built a little pre-amp to boost the signal from my passive mando pickup (it's in the archives somewhere - check if you wish). Misdirected ambition caused me to create a compact "belt-mounted" device. It was nothing but trouble. Never again will I take on the East in the race towards miniaturisation. I will stick to what the Brits do best: Big fuckoff industrial-looking boxes with hardly anything inside but good in the long run.

Above you can see the business end of the unit. The socket marked "In" goes in and the socket marked "Out" goes out, sort of. This means you can plug things in at any level and they come out at line-level.

I'm really pleased to have discovered the secret of switching the power via the input socket so you don't need a separate power switch. Install a stereo (three-pole) jack socket for the input and connect the neg of the battery to the ring (in the tip/ring/sleeve architecture). When you plug a mono jack into the stereo socket, the sleeve and ring are shorted, the neg ends up where it's supposed to be, and, hey presto, you've got power to the circuit (this is a trick used in most effects pedals). Don't forget to unplug your cable after use else you'll drain your battery.

At the other end of the unit we have the "Smugness" knob. Although one minor side-effect is to make things louder, the primary purpose of this control is to enable geeks of electronic persuasion to treat anyone within earshot to a two-hour explanation of the difference between "gain" and "volume".

For me, the benefit is that I don't have to carry my heavy back line amp to simple sessions. I can plug my mando or bass into anything. Need more signal? You've got it...