CNC machines- Where to find in the UK


Me trying to get to grips with the CNC router in Berlin

My latest project requires me to cut on a CNC machine, yet finding a CNC router in the UK was not as easy as I thought it would be. It was in Berlin that I first came across a CNC router  at Berlin Fab Lab.  who have a  CNC-Mill: BZT PFE 1000 PX   3 axis milling machine with a half size bed. It is cheap to hire, relatively easy to use but it is in Berlin and I am in the UK now.

I would have loved to have stayed with the machine I knew most about, the laser cutter – but for this particular project I needed to cut into the wood and you cannot do that with a lasercutter. You can cut things out on a laser cutter by going along the x and y axis you can even engrave  but you cannot cut into the z axis. So, if you needed to cut a groove, or cut a hole (pocket) to a particular depth you can only do this on a CNC  machine. So I signed up to do a day’s training on the machine that would at least teach me the basics and allow me to use the machine unsupervised.   I would like to add at this point that no way was one days training enough for me to learn and be confident to use the machine unsupervised and not just because all the onscreen instructions were in German which of course did not help. From a starting position of knowing nothing, learning all I needed to learn spanned into many more hours, many more mistakes (everyone of which I learned from so not actually mistakes, just an opportunity to learn) I finally mastered the controls to a point where I did indeed produce the work I wanted to make. It did not help that when I asked for help all I got back was “you have done the training” So! I guess I am a slow learner then and comments like that are not helpful. Fablabs are often come with a helpful community and before long I had enlisted the help of others at FabLab who came to my rescue and I did complete the job.

Weeks later, and a return to the UK meant I needed to find another CNC router to use.  After a long and frustrated search I found that  Hackspace London   has one (though I never did go see it). I am a member of London Hackspace and rarely go,  but then I found you you needed to trained on it first and it was at a  time when no one was available to train me up. Fablab London do not have one and so just as I was about to give up I was told that the Machine Rooms in London one, and a full sized bed at that.Mark Dale runs it, a great guy who has endless patience and runs the training session on a ShopBot’s which is the  toughest, most sophisticated, gantry-based CNC router.

For me at least, Machine Rooms offer a better system whereby after the initial training session you then have to do an hour, one-on-one,  with Mark so he is sure you know what you are doing and you can demonstrate you are competent and confident enough to operate the machine on your own. The machine was far more complicated than the one in Berlin and so again I went on another learning curve but it was so worth it.

I am very surprised that the University I am currently studying at University For the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey does not offer an CNC machine,  but they have other great facilities I am currently getting to grips with like silkscreen printing and a great metalwork shop. As long as I can find what I need somewhere and I am willing to learn I will get to produce the work I want to produce eventually.

Parts cut on CNC machine

CNC router results




N.O.T.H.I.N.G MA Assignment


My response to NOTHING was anger.

“What the fuck is this?”

“Why should I?”

“What’s the point? ”  like some petulant teenager.

“I never asked to be born”.

I then I became intrigued with the idea of challenging myself to think in different ways. Like a workout at the gym for my creative mind, using ‘muscles’ in a way I have not used before or at least maybe not for a long time…my brain ached and often hurt.  Moments of thinking I understood what I was doing and then flipping into wishing I had a gym instructor around, or at the very least a few peers to bounce ideas off. I also felt challenged, as if my way of approaching my work,  which does involve a lot of research and a lot of thought and effort was under attack. Maybe it is…..

I am in my first term of the first year of an MA in Fine Art at UCA, but I am doing an install of a sculpture in Reno, Nevada, USA so I am not actually at University or even in the UK at the moment and I am trying to do my assigned task, remotely. My efforts feel remote and I wish I were in class. I hate looking at the emails that fall into my inbox as I feel I am missing out, truth is, I am. I’m also working 10-12 hour days on my sculpture, many hours to think (the tasks are repetitive and samey) with few hours in which to produce work illustrating my ideas.  I wish I had more to show for  Tuesday the 11th Oct at UCA but I don’t, and so I submit this.

“ Nothing“ is usually understood as the negation of being and figuration, but strictly seen, it is not possible to define nothing. The fact that every attempt to describe, represent or materialize it is doomed to fail,…….” About Nothing –
No Show Museum

Well that is a relief – it is impossible to articulate nothing!

I recall the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy.  We cannot create energy nor destroy it. We think we observe that we can – but we cannot – dynamite when lit causes an explosion, it destroys that which it blows apart. But not only are fragments left but the chemical energy that gives dynamite its ability to blow things up converts into kinetic energy.  So there is an analogy with art here, in an attempt to remove, subtract, make ‘nothing’ you just make something else. So if you cannot make  ‘nothing’ then perhaps you can explore  the struggle in trying to explain what  ‘nothing’ is or what it feels like.  NOTHING  is not possible. NOTHING does not exist…… My argument has resulted in NOTHING. Does that mean I have illustrated the idea of nothing, by trying to explain it?  – now that is a head fuck. By proving that it is impossible to create nothing I have indeed created it.

So, here is my work I looked at the course notes and examples of work other artists had made in response to this title and created three pieces of work myself. I have not been able to make two to of the tree pieces but I have written down my ideas.

1. Everything then Nothing

Yet to be made.

Materials: VIDEO The word ‘everything’ is produced with letters made from animal flesh.
The word is then eaten by dermestid beetles, leaving NOTHING.

Dermestid beetles are the flesh eating beetles used in taxidermy – this 24 second video shows the flesh being eaten off the skull of an animal, leaving the white bone.

(thanks to Dakota Skulls for use of their video)

‘Nothing’ in this instance is explored  by showing something that then disappears with nothing left. It is by showing what is that we can show what is not.

2. Saying Nothing

Yet to be made.

Materials: VIDEO I managed to ‘storyboard’ my next idea as well as I could, but again did not have time to film it.

– the futility of producing nothing.

– lack of value to much of what we produce

– the futility of producing anything at all !

– that the context in which the work is shown/shot/made gives meaning,  and if you don’t understand the context you have nothing with respect to meaning.



Materials: GRAPHICS

Nothing needs to be explained.


– END –

Knife Nation


In the last two days there have been two stabbings in the UK. I have recently exhibited a data visualization project called Knife Nation where each stitch represents a crime committed with a knife or sharp instrument in the  UK between 2013 and 2014. It saddens me to think that next year if I decide to update the project and show data from 2016 two  of the stitches will be representative of one man, the murder of 60 year old man in a Hornchurch pub and the death of 16 year old Charles Kutyauripo who died in Woodford in east London on Saturday 9th January 2016.


Sugar Glows Blue In the Dark

Sugar Glows Blue In the Dark

The phenomenon is not fully understood, but sugar really does glow blue. It appears to be caused by the separation and reunification of electrical charges. In short, if certain chemical bonds in a material break due to the material being pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed at the point they pull back together you see a blue light. The phenomenon is called Triboluminescence.

The term comes from the Greek tribo (to rub) and the Latin lumen (light). If you want to see the sparks in action then watch the video below or buy yourself a pack of the American candy called Wintogreen Lifesavers.


Image: Steve Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could, like some sea creatures can, get our bodies to produce light!

Deep in the ocean, lies an incredible world of darkness where we can witness fantastic light shows. Through a process known as bioluminescence, some sea dwellers have developed the ability to use chemicals within their bodies to produce light. This lightshow cannot be found in freshwater but in the ocean there hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates that flash their colours, lightening up areas of water where sunlight can no longer penetrate.

Blue light travels best in water which is probably why so many the light created by marine organisms is this blue-green in colour with some exceptions Special organs called photophores produce the light. At least two chemicals are required to produce bioluminescence. The first is known as a luciferin. The luciferin creates the light. The second chemical called a luciferase is the chemical that actually catalyzes the chemical reaction. These chemicals need to be mixed together in the presence of oxygen and when they are a light is produced.

Glow-In-The-Dark Stars?

By night -

A full-body custom paint job on a car is nothing new but this paint job ? Well – it glows-in-the-dark. Love for the film Terminator was so strong from this Russian MR2 owner it was important that his passion didn’t go un-noticed at night.Who knows how much light the car needs to absorb during the day in order to get the phosphorus paint to glow at night to this degree, but it sure beats the glow-in-the-dark stars and dinosaurs I had when I was a kid.