Philips Hue garden floodlight

So, after the initial teardown, it’s time to start the Philips Hue hacking. To be honest this is fairly simple so doesn’t really qualify as a hack. I said I’d start small and work up from there, so consider this a warm-up exercise.

I’ve got a motion sensing 10W LED floodlight mounted on my workshop. It’s supposed to light my way as I head out there but it doesn’t really work as I’d like. As I’m walking straight towards it the PIR only triggers when I’ve already trudged through the dark garden and I’m about a metre away. Also, the local foxes are constantly triggering it at night. Having this under Hue control would be ideal. Let’s take a look.

img_20161231_130126My Wicked brand floodlight contains a single chip LED which actually had 9 separate LEDs on the die. It has a constant current LED driver which outputs 350mA at about 24V. Hmmm – this could be very easy. They pretty much matches the Hue bulb I tore down. Electrically this might be as easy as connecting the spotlight’s LED in place of the Hue’s board. And you know what – it was! I did a quick check that the hue bulb circuitry was happy to dive the LED in the floodlight directly and then it was just a case of putting it all together. Out came the PIR sensor. Out came the constant current LED driver (the white box) and in went the Hue circuit board.

img_20170102_130311The only tricky bit was deciding where to put the PCB. Once the LED driver had gone, there was plenty of room behind the light. However, this was a metal case and the light is a fair distance away from the house. I didn’t think the Zigbee signal would reach. It didn’t have to be in the lamp at all of course, but it seemed neater.

I decided that the best place to put it was where the PIR has been. All it needed was a new 3D printed front cover. I could have saved space and printed a new back piece. I could have missed out the hinged bit and printed a two part case. My new Year’s resolution is to get project finished so I went with the simplest option.

img_20170102_131430So, here it is side by side with an original. Fitting was pretty easy. The only gotcha I has was that as i connected it, the Hue hub decided it would be a good time to update the firmware in the bulb. Hue bulbs normally switch on when first powered but whilst updating it was off. Cue some unnecessary checking of wiring, removing and remounting it, checking fuses, etc. Oh well, it working


A new workshop (part 2)

So the company who built and installed my garden building have done their bit. Now it’s time for me to turn a lovely garden office into a proper workshop / man cave. The included options of wood flooring or carpet tiles didn’t really suit me. I decided on a single piece of grey vinyl flooring from Factory Flooring Direct. I wanted something fairly hard wearing that could stand up to the abuse of a workshop and cope with any spills. The ply that the installers put down was a rather pointless 6mm, so that was ripped up and a sturdy 18mm ply base put down. My brother gave me a hand cutting the vinyl to fit as it wasn’t an easy job – especially with my attention for detail and the fact that I didn’t want skirting board to hide any gaps. It was hard for a number of reasons. Firstly, the roll was too heavy for one person to lift. Secondly, as it was one piece it was bigger than the room and hence hard to manhandle. We did it though. I now had a nice tough grey vinyl floor.


Workbenches fitted

Next was the workbench and shelving underneath. Being spoiled for space somehow made it harder to work out what I wanted and how I would lay it out. I settled on using some solid beech Hammarp kitchen worktop from Ikea. I intended to use oak but when I actually saw it the beech looked better and was cheaper too. The walls only really have decent support at the joins between the prefabricated panels so I used some steel angle iron along the walls and 30mm stainless steel legs to support it. All the metal is from Metals4U. The desk drawers are Ikea Alex and the kitchen units Ikea Metod / Maximera. Basically – it’s mostly an Ikea kitchen! That gives me some desk height (73cm) and mostly workbench height (93cm) space. All of this was meticulously fitted to the not-quite-straight walls so there was no gap. I borrowed a kitchen worktop jig to mitre and biscuit joint the worktop. Lots of work but worth it to get a good fit in the end. The under-bench shelves are just melamine panels – some 30cm and some 45cm deep. You may notice there are lots of sockets. You can never have enough sockets. There are 11 double sockets – some above and some below the worktop. There will also be one on the outside for garden power (hedge trimmer, etc.). The ones by the desk are always powered, but I carried over an idea from my previous workshop. The ones at the workbench can be isolated using an emergency stop button. It’s not just used as an emergency stop. I mainly to make sure that if the kids wander inside all the dangerous stuff and power tools can’t be switched on. I trigger it as I leave.

Moving toys in

Moving toys in

This is how the workshop looks after I’ve moved some of the equipment in. From the left you’ll see:

  • My desk for coding and microcontroller work (where I’m typing this right now)
  • Oscilloscope and solder station
  • An Up Plus 3D printer
  • The red emergency stop button on the wall
  • My small Proxxon MF70 CNC mill
  • A 40W CO2 laser cutter
  • A small metalworking lathe
  • A mitre saw
  • The kid’s workbench. They want to be like their dad!
  • The keen-eyed will have spotted 2 fire extinguishers (powder and CO2). I’ll be burning things with a laser in a primarily wooden building so a sensible precaution.
You'd never know it was a workshop from outside

You’d never know it was a workshop from outside

All this stuff only really takes up half of the workshop – the mostly hidden half. The right hand side should soon be getting a sofa bed (for the occasional brave visitor), fridge, etc. It’ll be a family space and my wife will have her input. However, I have said that if a scatter cushion appears it’ll have an accident with the mitre saw.

There’s still workshop stuff to do. There’s plenty of storage space under the bench but shelves and wall-mounted tool boards are coming soon. The laser isn’t usable yet as it has no exhaust venting. I’m also planning to put a sink in there to allow making a cup of tea and washing hands. It’ll drain onto the ground rather than have any plumbing back into the drains so it’ll be fairly limited. I’ll let the rest evolve as needed. Maybe it’ll never happen but the plumbing is there.

A new workshop (part 1)

Current workspaceMy current workspace at the back of the garage seemed like luxury at the time. Rather than just squeezing everything onto a small piece of kitchen counter next to a sink, I made a custom L-shaped workbench that was built like a tank. It had shelves below, some above and plenty of power points. Unfortunately I soon filled the space with a laser cutter that was bigger than I expected. Then the old space beside the sink became occupied with a lathe. It’s true that stuff grows to fit the space you have.

Since we moved into our house 7 years ago, there has been a bit of ground at the bottom of the garden under the shade of some old plum trees. Only brambles grew there along with builders’ rubble and a small shed. It was fenced off and more or less abandoned. The time eventually came to do something about it. The full space was 9m x 4.5m. Trees and a fence were removed. Earth was shifted and the ground was flattened – very hard work. About two thirds of this space was about to become a new workshop, with the remaining third for the kids to have a swing, slide or something.

I shopped around for a while. Dunster House looked OK, but had enough bad reviews online that they were discounted. Then I found The Garden Office. A bit more expensive but much better. They’re a really great company who I can highly recommend. I went for a building with internal dimensions of 5.5m x 3.8m – about the largest I could go and still leave a reasonable space for the kids. I was very impressed when visiting their showroom. Unfortunately they’re now so popular they had a 3-4 month lead time.

Workshop base in progress

Workshop base in progress

Eventually, one Friday the sent out a team to lay out the base – some very helpful guys who got it as close a they could to the boundary to maximise space. Rather than the more usual laying of a concrete base, they drill about 20 holes and poured concrete down to form pillars for the structure to rest on. Far less hassle than a full base and it seems to work really well. Each pillar has some adjustment to get it perfectly level

Workshop build in progress

Workshop build in progress

Then on the Monday to Wednesday of the next week the rest of the build went ahead. Once again, a really great team who seemed genuinely keen on providing what I wanted rather than just getting the job done. I knew I wanted lost of power points but I had no idea where. They were happy to run extra cabling where I thought I might want them and to leave some panels loose for me to get in there and wire it all up. They also left the flooring unfitted at my request so I could fit a thicker plywood base and a custom vinyl floor.

The only minor glitch came with the laying of the armoured power cable to my new workshop. Rather than waiting for an electrician to sign it off, the build team buried the cable themselves (along with some CAT6 and water pipe). There was a bit of hand dug trench they didn’t back fill, and the depth of the cable here didn’t look right. I dug a few test holes and found it hadn’t been bured to a safe depth – despite the trench being dug deep enough. Maybe they didn’t think anyone would be picky enough to dig and check! Anyway, it was remedied quickly and without any quibbling by the Garden Office team. I always say you can tell more about a company by how they handle the odd mistake then if they make no mistakes at all. Once again they did well. If you’re after any sort of garden building I have no hesitation recommending The Garden Office or their sister company Green Retreats.

Workshop installation finished

Workshop installation finished

Well, my lovely new garden building is up. Now it’s down to me to sort out the inside and turn it into a workshop…