Treating the woodworm

15th Oct 2023

A while back we discovered we had a problem with our roof leaking and this, in turn, made the roof space more welcoming to the Common Furniture Beetle, or rather it’s larval stage, known as woodworm.

We have had the roof repaired and it is leak free. Now we have to get the woodworm treated. In order for the contractor to spray the whole of the inside of the loft space to clear the infestation we have had to do quite a lot of preparatory work. This involved clearing the loft of all the stored equipment and materials and then lifting and stacking all of the wooden flooring we had put down to allow us access to that loft space.

You can see some pictures of the state of the loft before we started on our wiki page “What’s In The Loft?” page.

Here are some photos of what the Hackspace looks like now everything is out of the loft and what the loft looks like with everything removed and all the boards lifted.

The Office side of the space piled high with equipment and material from the loft.
The Office side of the space piled high with equipment and material from the loft.
The Workshop side of the space piled high with equipment and material from the loft.
The Workshop side of the space piled high with equipment and material from the loft.
Office Side Loft Space - Cleared and Boards Lifted
Office Side Loft Space – Cleared and Boards Lifted
Workshop Side Loft Space - Cleared and Boards Lifted
Workshop Side Loft Space – Cleared and Boards Lifted

Making a Hackspace, part 9: Hacky New Year

9th Jan 2019

Progress continues apace at our new building on Bancroft. Previously, we were painting, and had made door frames and bought kitchen bits and toilet bits.


Firstly, we finished the painting, which was preventing us doing a lot of other things. The office/kitchen/toilet walls and ceiling are now fully painted a fetching shade of “goodness, it’s bright in here”. This meant we could move on to several other things which were waiting for the painting to finish.


As the Apollo 8 astronauts said just over 50 years ago, “Let there be light! And there was light.”

A lot of light. There are 14 LED panels, each putting out 3800 lumens. Or, to put it another way, if we used old-style bulbs, it would be over 3 kilowatts of power just in lighting. Since we’re using LEDs, the retina-scorching can be had for about half a kilowatt.

In case of power failure, there are also four emergency lights. Two in the office, one in the toilet and one to signpost the exit.

Very bright lights


With great power comes great responsibility, and we decided that part of that responsibility was to have a lot of sockets. There are 54 general purpose sockets, including ones for things like the kettle, and 6 which are on their own switch, dedicated to the laser cutter. The first person who daisy-chains a multiway extension lead will be made to stand barefoot on the plug until they’re sorry.

Lots of sockets.


The windows were fitted a few months back. They’ve now been finished off with windowsills and sealed on the inside. One of the front windows is currently displaying a fetching “Hitchin Hackspace” LED sign.


Matters are afoot underfoot, with the original vintage tiles (or concrete, depending on which bit of the floor you’re standing on) having been covered by carpet tiles in the office. Meanwhile, in the kitchen and toilet, we have vinyl flooring, in case of spillage. In the kitchen, obviously. Eww.

Flooring. Lovely.

Tea making

Things are progressing rapidly in the fluid-intake department, with kitchen units built and in place, water pipes and water heater fitted and the fusebox all neatly boxed in. The worktop and sink are in place, but not quite screwed down and connected up. After that comes the all-important kettle and fridge, and the vital business of producing tea can commence.

Mostly completed tea area, with space for a fridge.


Meanwhile, at the other end of the tea-drinking business, we have started the process of fitting a toilet. It being 20182019, it’s not sufficient to throw any old bog into the room, and rightly so; we’ve got a “Doc M” disabled toilet with suitable toilet, sink, anti-scald tap, grab rails, emergency alarm and so on. The toilet now sports a wheelchair-friendly wide door with the right sort of lock.

At the moment, we’ve got the rails, sink and alarm fitted. Toilet and pipework is next. And we need to put some privacy film over the toilet window, for obvious reasons.

Toilet in position (still to be fixed and plumbed) along with some, but not all, of the grab handles. And some stuff which is in the way.

The handles should be able to support the weight of a person. And they do.

Meanwhile, in the workshop

So far, we’ve concentrating on getting the office side up, as it gives us the ability to start using the building for things we already do. However, there’s a whole half (or seven sixteenths, to be needlessly more accurate) of the building to be built as a workshop. At the moment, it’s also acting as a handy dumping ground storage area while we work in the office side.

To help speed things along a bit, we used some of the grant money we’ve received previously to engage a local builder to carry out some work in the space. He fitted the windowsills and toilet door, as well as doing some much-needed repair on the roof structure caused by some damaged tiles. In the workshop side, he built up the dirty workshop wall to ceiling height (as with the toilet on the office side, this was originally a disabled cubicle), and fitted a door to it. There are also doors between the office and workshop to keep noise, dust and so on where it’s supposed to be.

The new central doors, seen from the office side.

Dirty workshop walls built and plastered, and some new doors.

What’s next…?

We’ll very soon be at the point where we can start using the building, so it’s likely that we will. There is still much to do, though, including fitting the air conditioning to keep the place nice and warm/cool as appropriate, and adding ventilation for the laser cutter, while the workshop side needs a good clear out, a lick of paint, a new ceiling, some lighting, power, etc.

We’ve also just a very exciting offer of some furniture to fill the place, so in about a month’s time, the place should really look the part.

Next month will hopefully see us using the new building full-time. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, pop down to Ransom’s Rec on a Monday evening and say hello.


Making a Hackspace, part 8: insert excuse here

9th Oct 2018

Hello again. Long time no update.

Boarded and ready to paint

In some senses, there hasn’t been much to report. For the last few months, the inside of the building didn’t look much different to how it looked before. We’ve been plasterboarding and jointing and building partition walls, but it’s been a lot of incremental improvements, which paled in comparison to the last update where we literally changed the way the whole building looks.

But then we painted the place, and it looks glorious! We’re currently between coats, so the first coat is mostly up, and it looks brilliant. But it needs a second coat before we move on to fitting out.


More painting

Painted walls and ceiling

Mostly painted walls and ceiling

The toilet is now properly enclosed, with a doorframe into the loo room, and a wall above it. There is wiring in place for the disabled emergency alarm. After it’s painted, we’ll be putting down some floor and fitting it out.

The gap between the office side and workshop side has been shrunk down to double-door size by the addition of a central doorway between the two halves of the building, which has a doorframe and wall above it.

We’ve been on a bit of a shopping spree, and once the painting is done, we have a load of stuff to fit, including a full complement of lighting, the tea-making area (cupboards, worktop, sink, etc), electrics (sockets, trunking), the toilet (sink, toilet, door, accessible handrails…), and air conditioning to keep the place warm in winter and cold in summer.

In other news, we have an official address which can recieve post. We had the address assigned some time ago, but we couldn’t make it “live” without a working letterbox and a number on the building. We now have both of those things. Feel free to pop a few quid in an envelope and send it to us; we can make good use of it.

We have a working postal address. So, naturally, this happened.

In the meantime, as soon as the paint is dry there are a dozen things we can be getting on with all at once, so expect further updates soon. And if you’d like to help out, pop down to Ransoms Rec Pavillion on a Monday evening and say hello.

Making a Hackspace, part 7: coming out of our shell

15th Jun 2018

It’s been a busy couple of months. At the moment, our main focus is on getting the “office” side of the building up and running. This includes the toilet and tea-making area, as well as a general area for sitting down and doing the sort of stuff we do once a week at Ransom’s Rec. Once that’s out of the way, we’ll be moving on to the workshop.


Having previously completed the ceiling in the office side, we’ve turned our attention to the walls. Because of the enormous difficulty we encountered in trying to remove the old tiles, we’ve just overboarded the lot. This is now about 95% complete, with just a few bits left. We’ve also started on jointing the boards (wall and ceiling) to make a nice smooth surface. Or so the theory goes. Maybe in practice we’ll have to hang some strategically-placed artwork over the joins.


Plasterboard on walls

More plasterboard

More plasterboard on the walls


For the last year or so, the only way in and out of the building has been to unlock one of the half-height doors in the hoarding and duck under. But now, we’ve fitted both the main door, and the fire escape door. Finally, we can walk into the building like people, not an early-human/monkey hybrid. The main door has a window so we can see who’s knocking, and opens inwards. The fire door opens outwards for emergency egress purposes, so we’ll need to be very careful about pedestrians when opening it, especially on occasions when the building is not on fire.


Door, with the awful hoarding still in place behind it


Probably the second biggest or most obvious change we’ve made to the building is to replace the windows. The old windows, apart from being mostly broken, were a mixture of single-glazed wired glass, plastic and fibreglass. They let very little light in, and were not at all transparent. The new windows are double-glazed and the difference they’ve made is incredible.

For security, all the windows are made of laminated glass.

The old windows

The old windows

Old windows being removed

Old windows being removed

New side windows

New side windows

Office side, with new windows

Office side, with new windows

Workshop side, with new windows

Workshop side, with new windows

Leaving Stealth Mode

Up until now, we’ve mostly been operating in secret behind the hoarding that covers the front building. We’ve not exactly been hiding; we’re often approached by people who are interested in what we’re doing as we enter or leave the building, or work on the outside of it, but we have maintained the mural over the front.

We have now removed the mural elements (they are stored safely while we try and find a new home for them), and taken the boards down which covered the doors and the windows. It’s now very obvious that something is afoot in the old toilet block, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive comments we’ve received from passers-by about what we’re doing.

In fact, as far as I know, the only negative reaction is from someone who was disappointed to learn we weren’t opening a coffee shop.


The front of the building with the hoarding removed from the doors and windows

What’s next?

  • The last few bits of plasterboard need to go up, including a bit of stud wall to divide the toilet from the rest of the office
  • Joint and paint the walls and ceiling
  • Put the lights up
  • Put power sockets in
  • Fit the tea area
  • Buy and fit the toilet
  • Buy and fit air conditioning
  • Lay some floor
  • Build a door between the office and the workshop
  • Move in and start using the building

So, there’s still enough to keep us busy for some time, but there’s a definite sense that we have at least reached the end of the beginning of the build.

Making a Hackspace, part 6: Work in Progress

10th Apr 2018

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This isn’t because we’ve not been doing anything, but because we’re in the middle of lots of things and nothing is quite done yet.


Last time, we were knocking down walls and getting rid of waste. Since then, we’ve also knocked down half of the ceiling. But, we have also done quite a bit of building and fixing up, on one side of the building at least.

Using the divide between “office” and “workshop”, we’re currently focussing on getting the office side up and running. Once we do this, we can move into the building permanently, using it for the same sort of things that we currently do over at Ransom’s Rec (light crafts, laser cutting, electronics, drinking tea). We’ll then switch attention towards completing the workshop side, which should be a lot faster.


Starting at ground level, the floor has received some much needed attention. Where the walls were removed, this left gaps in the floor that we needed to fill, some of which were quite deep. There are also the sewer connections for toilets which had been removed, and drains for toilets and sinks that we’d taken out. And, as the urinals were below floor level, removing them left two deep, long gaps in the floor.

While taking out the unused toilet connectors, a brief moment of excitement occured when we realised the original connections to the drains had lead seals. But a quick scrap price check soon dashed our dreams of riches, as it turns out lead is only valuable if you have the sort of quantities you can pinch from an old roof.

As we started clearing out the holes where the walls and urinals had been before filling them, we noticed that some of them seemed a little damp. As a precaution, we laid a liquid damp-proof course down before screeding over the top.

With all the holes filled in (on the office side, at least), the floor is now reasonably level, albeit not terribly attractive: it’s a mish-mash of concrete, cement, tile and self-levelling floor compound, so we’ll eventually put a nice floor covering over it.

Urinal trough filled in and brought up to floor level

Because one of the walls we removed was between the office and workshop sides, which are at different heights, we had to build a step where the wall used to be. A ramp will eventually be placed here for access.

Step step step step steppy steppy step step

Step between floors where a wall was removed


The main thing we need to do to the walls, other than make them look nicer than they do at the moment, is to build up the disabled toilet cubicles on both sides so they meet the ceiling. In the workshop side, the cubicle is a “dirty workshop” where anti-socially noisy, smelly or noxious activities can be carried out, so some way of containing the sounds and smells is needed. The office side cubicle will be used as a toilet, so the requirements are broadly the same.

For the office side, we have started extending the long wall to the ceiling with bricks left over from demolishing the main walls. Once this is completed, a stud wall will be built over the doorway, and a door fitted.


We knocked down the old ceiling, which was made of metal mesh and plaster. This is mostly because it was starting to fall down by itself. The original plan was to overboard it, covering up the damages/missing areas (such as where walls had been removed) but it quickly became clear that given the state of it, ripping it down and putting up a new one was going to be much easier.

As well as taking down the ceiling, we also had to build one, with a nice big loft hatch, in the void where the cistern room used to be. This has been done with new joists.

The old ceiling joists are quite uneven in places, particularly around the old loft hatch. In order to make putting up the ceiling easier, we have fitted battens to the joists, packing them (or trimming them, in a couple of places) to give a more level end result.

The plasterboarding is almost finished (except for a couple of bits near the loft hatch).

Old ceiling taken down

Plaster dust all over the floor

Battening in place ready for new plasterboard

The (nearly) finished new ceiling


Continuing our upward journey, just above the new ceiling is the new wiring for the new lights which will be fitted. The original plan was to use some donated light fittings, along with possible re-using some of the old lights. However, we found some lovely, bright and very inexpensive LED panel lights from CPC. Fitting the new wiring from below while the ceiling was down was considerably simpler than fitting it from the loft.

The original lighting circuits have been removed from the office side and loft, and now only supply lighting to the workshop side (until they are also replaced).

In order to keep everyone safe in the event of a power cut, we’ve also installed emergency lighting.


Unfortunately, since we took over the building, we have discovered there are several leaks in the roof. One of these was especially serious and caused considerable damage to some roof timber above the workshop.

On the office side, a leak was noticed when it started dripping on the floor after we’d removed the ceiling. All over the outside of the building, we could see missing and damaged tiles, though fortunately they hadn’t been serious enough to cause more leaks.

Using some salvaged roof tiles, we have replaced most of the missing and broken tiles, though a few more remain to be done. Following the advice of a roof repair company, we have been able to remove the rotten timber, and stabilise the remainder. When the workshop ceiling is removed, we’ll be able to complete the repair of the roof.

Roof repairs in progress

Repairing the roof

What’s next?

The next steps in completing the office side of the building are

  • Ceiling – fitting the last couple of bits of the ceiling, jointing and painting it, and putting the lights up
  • External doors – we have external doors (a main door and a fire escape); they need to be fitted
  • Walls – the walls are generally sound but unattractive, being about three-quarters tile and the remainder painted and quite grimy. In order to get rid of the “public toilet” vibe, we’re going to overboard the walls
  • Tea area – sink, worktop, cupboard for the tea and biscuits, and a kettle. We also need to box in the electricity meter/fusebox.
  • Toilet – the logical counterpoint to having somewhere to make and drink tea
  • Internal doors – at the very least, we need a door on the toilet. Additionally, doors to separate the office and workshop, and the workshop and dirty workshop are much desired.
  • Windows – the current windows are in a poor state, so we’ve started exploring the cost of getting them replaced
  • Electricity – the lights are already wired in, but the next thing we’ll need is sockets. Lots of sockets.

Join us

If you’re interested in helping, or even just like the sound of what we do generally and want to get involved, pop down to Ransoms Rec Pavillion on a Monday evening and say hello. We have tea, and probably biscuits.

Funding update

16th Jan 2018

Aviva Community Fund

Previously, we had been announced in the top 8 of our category/funding level thanks to the kind votes of hundreds of people. The results have been announced, and… (if this was a TV show, there’d be a very long pause here) sadly, we didn’t make the winning two.

Congratulations to Northumbria Coalition Against Crime and Cantley and Horning Primary Schools Federation. Two extremely worthy winners, amongst the many others from all categories and funding levels within the competition.

Thank you again to everyone who voted for us, and to Aviva for considering our application.

But it’s not all bad…

As a runner-up in the top eight, we have been awarded £500.

While we’ve been waiting for Aviva to announce the winners, we’ve not been idle on the fundraising front. A successful application to London Luton Airport’s Community Trust Fund for a grant to assist with the renovation of the building has meant an award of £3750 has been made by Bedfordshire and Luton Community Fund on behalf of the airport’s fund.

North Hertfordshire District Council’s Hitchin Area Committee awarded us £5000 on the strength of our application to them for funding, and Mark’s successful presentation of our case to the committee in person.

Councillor Judi Billing, who has supported us for many years, has given us £1000 from her locality budget to fund the purchasing of new doors for the building.

This brings our fundraising total up to £10,250 in the last few months. Considering that we entered the Aviva competition because an extra 200 quid (awarded to any entry submitted by an Aviva customer) would be nice, to have over ten thousand pounds to build and fit out the Hackspace is a real privilege, and will make an enormous difference to the sort of space we can build and operate.

In the meantime, in between games of Fantasy “What Could We Spend £25,000 On?”, we’ve been beavering away in the Bancroft building, mostly knocking down the old ceiling and preparing to put a new one up. Look for some big progress updates coming soon.

Aviva Community Fund. We (all) did it!

28th Nov 2017

Previously, we had done a bit of internal number crunching and reckoned we’d made 6th place in our grouping. Now, the official results are in. Announced at 2pm on 28th November, we’re in the top eight in the Skills for Life category at the £10,000-£25,000 funding level; the results page doesn’t list a position.

The results are here

We didn’t do it on our own, though: Thank you again for all your support. Now we have lots of forms to fill in for the judges, and the final result will be announced on 16th January 2017.

Aviva Community Fund: The dust settles

21st Nov 2017

The vote has closed

Back in early October, we spotted the Aviva Community Fund competition, and that if you were entered by an Aviva customer, you would automatically be awarded £200. On our tiny shoestring budget, £200 is a nice little pot of cash, so we submitted an entry.

From looking at the previous year we knew that winning entries had to have several thousand votes, which seemed like an impossibly large amount. But we went for it anyway, and now, just over a month later, the voting has finished.

And our final total is an amazing 4791.

A huge thank you to…

Everybody! It’s impossible to know exactly how many people took the time to vote for us, but based on the final total, we’d estimate something like six hundred people made the effort, sometimes in the face of difficulties with the voting site, to give us their vote. That’s an astonishing amount of support for our tiny Hackspace, and we’re extremely thankful for it.

We know that not everyone was able to give us 10 votes; there are a lot of very worthwhile projects out there and some people would have wanted to share their ten between two or more, but we really are grateful for every vote.

As well as friends, family and colleagues who suffered our increasingly frequent requests for support with good grace, and a good crop of clicks, we also reached out across the internet to ask for help.

We had help from (I hope they’ll forgive the term) geek royalty with Robot Wars’ Dr Lucy Rogers and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton retweeting our request to their thousands of followers on more than one occasion. The official Raspberry Pi twitter account also did the same. As big Raspberry Pi fans, we were very excited by this.

Hackaday covered the Aviva vote in an article, with Hitchin top of the list of contenders (a couple of other hacker/maker spaces also had entered). Many other spaces across the country were only too willing to allow us to promote our cause to their members via membership mailing lists or web forums.

Mike Horne, organiser of CamJam and the annual PiWars competition, took the time to write a whole blog post explaining in his own words how we should win.

Read all about it

The local newspaper, The Hitchin Comet, gave us some very welcome coverage. We’d been told that the article would feature “prominently” in the print edition, but no-one expected it to be the main headline on the front page.

We’ve had lots of support from local businesses, both online and good old fashioned posters in shop windows.

Far more people and organisations than we could possibly mention individually helped promote our entry, and we’re incredible grateful to every one of them.

So thank you again, everyone who tweeted, retweeted, Facebooked, wrote about us, commented on us, replied to say they’d voted for us, and most especially to everyone who voted for us.

And the winner is…?

The Aviva competition is partly public vote, and partly judged (insert your own comparison to Saturday night entertainment shows here). There are four categories, and four funding levels. We’re in the Skills for life category and the £10,000-£25,000 level.

In our category and funding level, the top 8 entries by number of votes go through to the final judging round, from which two are awarded the funding. The other six receive £500.

The official results aren’t emailed to us until November 28th, but by our own unofficial reckoning, checking against the other entries, we came in 6th place.

We’re eagerly awaiting official confirmation, but as we seem to be in the top 8, it appears that we will be awarded at least £500. And, of course, there’s the possibility of winning an award of between £10,000 and £25,000. The difference that would make to the Hackspace is incredible.

Thank you again, and hopefully we’ll be able to announce early next year that we’ve won the full funding. But more than anything else, we’re amazed and delighted by the support and goodwill our little project has, and we look forward to bringing you our refurbished toilet block Hackspace, whatever the final result.



Aviva Community Fund: Vote for us!

24th Oct 2017

We’ve applied for a grant from the Aviva Community Fund. Organisations are invited to submit a request for funding. There is then a public vote, and the projects which get the most votes are put forward to a judging panel for approval.

The applications have closed and the voting is under way.

We need your help

Please vote for our application here: Hitchin Hackspace Community Workshop

Voting is open to anyone who registers with the Aviva Community Fund website. Each registered voter gets 10 votes, and you can use all ten to vote for Hitchin Hackspace. Obviously we’d like it if you did that, but of course there may be other projects you’d like to support too. Please give us as many votes as you can. The more votes we get, the better our chance of securing funding to carry on developing Hitchin Hackspace’s new permanent home.

Making a Hackspace, part 5: 16 cubic yards of waste

16th Oct 2017


After the walls started coming down, it was very quickly apparent that we’d soon be drowning in brick unless we had somewhere to dispose of it. In other words, we needed a skip.

Like milk, beer and newborn babies, it seems that skips have avoided the general trend towards measuring things in metric. Investigations soon showed that skips came by the cubic yard, and that the biggest one we could get and fill to the brim with bricks and rubble was 8 cubic yards (bigger skips are available, but have to be mostly filled with lightweight items or the skip lorry can’t lift them).

So we got one.

Empty skip

Empty skip number 1

And filled it up

Full skip

Full skip number 1

And another one

Empty skip

Skip number 2. Tesselating the bricks apparently means more can fit in

Block-paving a skip

And filled that up too.

Full skip

Full skip number 2

Between the skips, the Hippobag, and odd bits that people have helpfully taken away, roughly 21 cubic yards of rubbish have left the building since we took over. That’s 16,000 litres.

Or, less usefully, one-seventh of a double-decker bus.

The inside of the building has been transformed into a large open space which can be divided into two areas.

Ladies side (workshop area) where the janitor’s room used to be

Gents side (office area) looking through the doorway to the workshop side

Ladies side (workshop area) looking through the doorway to the office side

The difference in floor height between the ladies and gents/cistern room that we weren’t aware of before we started

Other activities

Two urinals, various sinks, a pair of girders, many bits of pipe and a load of wire were taken to a scrap merchant and exchanged, to the surprise of everybody, for nearly enough money to cover the cost of the second skip.

The gutters under the tree were cleaned of leaf litter, as was the roof. Despite us cleaning it 6 months ago, it had already accumulated enough bits of discarded tree to start to cause problems again. This is clearly going to be a regular maintenance activity.

The Freecycle/Freegle scouting continues. We now have a nice porcelain toilet instead of the steel horror we were previously forced to contemplate using.


The unused drains need to be stopped up and capped off.

The walls and floor need to be made good where walls were removed. The ceiling also needs to be fixed or, more likely, replaced.

The walls around the old disabled toilets (which will now be a toilet on one side and a small workshop on the other) need to be built up to the ceiling

We need secure external doors. And internal doors. The windows need to be repaired or replaced.

The lighting needs to be rearranged to meet the need of the new space. We need to put power sockets in place on both sides. Toilet, sinks and kitchen need fitting and plumbing in.

The roof still needs to be fixed.

If you can help with any of this, please get in touch or pop along to see us in Ransom’s Rec Pavillion on a Monday evening.