Archive for the ‘diy’ Category

Lots more casework

The mandolin has is really getting close to finished. There’s still foam, the bottom half’s copper edging, and I imagine something or other will come up to surprise me, but it’s really coming along now.

I know the outside looked mostly finished last time, but that’s because I was finishing up that part first, for reasons… eh, it made sense at the time. XD Also, I was afraid of bumping corner edges off treated wood, so I wanted to get that dealt with. But there was still a lot of work left on the inside. Three main tasks!

First, I wanted to put in a divider to make a little storage box inside the case. My zouk case has one of these and it’s really handy. The divider wall also serves as another level of reinforcement inside the case.

Divider Wall

Note the added superfloor (quarter-inch ply cut and sanded to fit around the braces) inside the storage compartment, and the front and back panels added to help support the wall. If the back and front main panels had been thicker, and had the front latch not been in the way, I could’ve routed out channels directly in to them. That would probably have been more elegant.

The opposite side of the wall got the same treatment. It’s less important here since there’ll be foam to support the wall as well, but that struck me as inadequate, so:

Divider Wall

Second, routing out the front panels for the latches left the wood there rather thin. While the latches themselves provide some structural support, I decided to address that internally as well. Here’s a piece of ply cut to back the lower latch points, clamped into place. It has holes drilled in it for the latch securement bolts, which stick out through the back. It also serves as support for the storage compartment divider wall, which you can see at the bottom of the photo:

Front Panel Reenforcement (click here for detail)

Note also that it rises above the front panel. That’s on purpose – the handle will be on the front panel, and will tend to pull the front panel forward. If that happens, this glued reenforcement will transfer some of that weight to the lid’s front panel.

The lid’s front panel has a similar board, but it doesn’t go all the way down to the lip, since there has to be room for the lower reenforcement panel when the lid is closed. (detail photo)

Third, I wanted to add either lips or pegs (I ended up going with lips) to help keep the top and bottom of the case lined up when the lid is closed. The hinge does this, of course, but that can be a lot of stress to place on one component. Also, as above, I need to transfer some of the stress from the front handle across the entire front of the case, including the lid panel, for maximum strength. But I already showed pictures of that.

The other three lips are in the lid. They’re small pieces of wood; one on each side, and one on the back, all interior. The back one also serves as hinge reenforcement.

(edge clamp detail)

The large arcing thing made out of two strips of ply and held together with a floating C-clamp together make up a spring clamp. This provides outward pressure against the bottoms of both the left and right lips. The tops of the left and right lips are held down with edge clamps. You can also see, not clamped, the reenforcement strip glued down a previous day and shown above. Note the holes for bolts!

Also here’s the back lip, in clamps. If you’re wondering about all those extra bits of wood, that’s just to protect the finish:

Take off all the clamps and hit everything on the inside with an ocean of wood hardner (heh heh “wood hardener”) and you get this:

Lower case

The divider, all the divider supports, and the lip are all visible here of course. The storage compartment on the right is wide enough, barely, for CD jewel cases! Except where the metal parts are. I’ll line the compartment with fabric later, to prevent them from scratching anything up.

Oh, I guess I left the spring clamp in for this photo. Anyway, here’s the lid. In the lower centre of the picture, you can get a pretty good look at one of the two side lips.

And that’s that! Right now I’m letting the wood hardener dry and giving the glue some extra time. Next Monday hopefully I can do final assembly of the hinge and stuff, and then maybe it’ll be time to talk foam.

copper and steel

Strangely enough, now that I’m not working with epoxies and glues and materials time, this somehow feels less like “making something” and more like “assembling something,” despite the fact that I am shaping metal with hammers and anvil.

My brain is weird.

Today was copper and steel. Copper trim, to protect edges and corners, and steel, as an internal bracing last-ditch protector, to keep the foam wrapped around the instrument, like a net, in the event that the case gets well and truly smashed. Honestly, I’m a little concerned about the copper; it’s a soft metal, and I kind of suspect that I’ll end up replacing it with aluminium. But having finally found spools of copper in usable widths – not easy and not cheap – I had to try. Enjoy some pictures:


Corner Detail

I’m so pleased that I found actual copper tacks. I was so not expecting to find copper tacks. I was expecting brass would be the best I could do. But no! Copper! Damn, I hope this lasts long enough to age a proper green, I really do.

Lid interior corner bracing detail

Protection of last resort; hopefully completely irrelevant. All the wood corners are biscuit joined and glued and glued to the panels which are routed in. If all that fails, I must be flying United. But it can’t hurt to have it there.

Also rehearsed for the show on the 25th at Inner Chapters Bookstore and Cafe, on Fairview, in Seattle. I’m kind of going back and rediscovering new approaches to old trad that I’ll be dropping in with my original material. It’s cool. Yar, revolution, riot, and piracy! o/

the slow way to luggage town

I’ve been making a mandolin travel case out of reclaimed lumber and metal. It’s been a very slow process; the two panels I made last autumn. Then, because my workshop is unheated and everything involved lots of materials, I didn’t work on it again until this summer.

The bottom panel is oak, made of boards unsuitable for a hallway floor, glued against some quarter-inch ply. The top panel is ply plank, salvaged from an abandoned bed, also glued against quarter-inch ply. Both are fit into grooves routed into the side-boards, all around the case, about a quarter-inch deep. The side boards are from several sources, including some disassembled Mr. Fixit work (circa 1958), a bit of what was once part of a rough-cut framing 2×4 from the house’s back addition (circa 1924), and leftovers from projects of mine. The corners are biscuit-joined, as you can see here:

top and bottom halves

This second picture is after more sanding than I want to talk about, two coats of wood hardener, two coats of stain (pro tip: wood hardener says you can stain or paint after hardener application; one of those actually works; hint: not staining) and two coats of polyurethane. Each coat has multiple hours of materials time (drying time, soaking time, etc) before you can do the next layer; so did each round of gluing, before. The polyurethane has three days of drying time after final coat.

as though hinged together

You can start to see why this takes a while.

I have a sense of accomplishment with it, as well as some learning; I’ve had to re-do a couple of parts of it here and there, like the top section’s entire set of sideboards, and part of the oak panel. But I’m to the point now where I want the damn thing, f’srs. I’d lake to take it with me to VCon.

Monday, I can finally start attaching hardware – latches, hinges, metal trim to protect edges (all new), metal braces for the interior, like the one below, which was reclaimed earthquake strapping:

hammered to L and back ar ar ar ar ar

This case will get beat up, cosmetically, out on the road. I’m fine with that. But I want it to be no fucking around strong, to protect my mandolin.

At the same time as the hardware, I should be able to fit the divider panel on the inside, for a little storage section, like my zouk travel case has. That’ll involve Materials Time again (dammit) but not very much.

I’m really looking forward to putting in the foam. That’s the last part. This project has gone on long enough.

videos and hackery

Thanks to Zorp, who was in the audience at the Gypsy last month, I have a couple of live videos on my YouTube channel! If you’re reading this on the band site, you might notice a new videos tab, to match. Guess what it does! XD Here, have a video:

Live at the Gypsy Cafe; Video courtesy Zorp

That’s “Something’s Coming.” I’ve also posted the first recording – from the same performance – of “World Trapped in Amber,” which will appear on Din of Thieves.

I celebrated Seafair Weekend by rebuilding a 1978-era Pioneer power amp. I’ve had this thing kicking around for a while, and have used it as a monitor amp in the studio, but it’s always been noisy and kind of cruddy, and I was going to replace it until I found out that audio fidelity in my price range has actually been going downhill for the last 10-15 years as more and more money gets put into remote-control/iPod and iPhone interfacing/digital output/etc and less into basic sound quality.

I’ve never thought much of this amp, really; I picked it up used, for no money to speak of. Turns out replacing a whole fleet of really old capacitors makes it A GOD AMONGST AMPLIFIERS. Well, okay, not really. But – re-capped – it has one of the cleanest transistor preamps I’ve ever heard. Cranked all the way up to maximum output on all drivers, the preamp noise level in studio reference headphones is ZERO. You hear nothing. It’s fucking inaudible. And silence on speakers, too. It’s kind of shocking.

I still have some more work to do – I’ve got distortion on channel two on speakers only (headphones are pristine) caused by me trying to hack together the correct replacement cap value when I didn’t have it, and the tone control board is still a noise fountain and still needs the other half of its caps swapped. (Right now I’ve got it bypassed, and you shouldn’t be using that shit in a studio anyway, but I like having all the functionality of a piece of equipment available.) If finishing the rebuild doesn’t solve the tone board noise issues, I’ll leave it bypassed. Or maybe add a switch, to cut it in and out. ‘Cause this amp sounds great now. Seriously, I had no idea.

It’s no Dynaco ST70, don’t get me wrong. But I never knew it was capable of really sounding good. Turns out, in fact: fuck yeah! And that’s the kind of surprise I could use a lot more often. If you have some hackery in you, and see an old Pioneer (or similar) amp hanging out in a garage sale or thrift store or something, and it powers up at all – buy it and recap it, it’s probably worth the rebuild. This one was.

That’s what I did with my Seafair weekend. What about you?

more diy: case lid

The only problem with DIY instrument cases is that if you don’t have a zillion clamps, when you get to the gluing part, you get to do one thing a day and then wait for the glue to dry overnight before you move the clamps. Here’s the top of the mandolin travel case I’m building out of reclaimed wood; I’ve put on the primary clamps here, but taken a photo before putting on the others.

In band news, I’m prepping for the big Mars Bars show on the 8th with Natalie Quist and Gimmie a Pigfoot. (That’s 609 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle, WA; $6 cover, shows start 9pm.) I have some new hardware that I’ll be trying out, which means I’ll be doing songs I don’t normally do live! Pencil it in to your calendars, it’ll be fun. ^_^

we can make more gear

More DIY gear! A bodhran is a kind of Irish drum, you see them around a bit more than you probably realise. They’re played with a kind of drumstick called a tipper. I saw Alec playing a bodhran with a tipper made out of bamboo skewers last year, at a fair. I liked the sound, took a couple of pics, and figured out how to make one myself! And I’ve posted a video on how.

Mine looks fairly different to his, but it has the sound. Mine looks like this:

Bamboo Tipper

Nub detail

Other detail shots here and here. And enjoy a how-to video! It’s a single-day project and very easy. The video did not take longer to make, however – it’s not that easy. XD

I have a plan for the Trad O’ th’ Month. Going to try to record it next week. It’ll be fun. ^_^

we can make gear too

Let’s talk about gear! Gear is important! Gear that protects your instruments is extremely important.

So I’m working on a mandolin travel case. It’s a companion case to the zouk case I made out of an old keyboard travel case, but built from scratch out of reclaimed wood. Here’s the top frame, made from trimmed down bits of wood from a bunch of different old sources, including some roof joist elements:

And here’s the panel that’ll slide in to this frame:

The panel is made of biscuit-joined slats salvaged from… I don’t even remember at this point, actually. XD Some sort of furniture, maybe they were bedslats? I don’t think so, tho’. They’re finish-grade seven-layer plywood. The bottom panel (not photographed) is made of leftover oak planks from a flooring project, and boards recovered from another set of sources. Both are backed by quarter-inch ply, to which they’re glued.

The network move is going pretty well. But there’s still more to go, so CD shipping from the official band site remains free, worldwide. Clickie!

Other than that, I’m mostly getting ready for the show at Seattle’s Mars Bar on July 8th. It’s a triple bill with us, Natalie Quist, and Gimmie a Pigfoot. That’s a Friday, so c’mon out!

better than new

I found something!


After some work (including a new coil for the horn tweeter, $26), it’s better than new! Howcome?

Now with extra fusing!
The left fuse is for the entire speaker, the right fuse is just for the horn tweeter.

The loudspeaker is designed to be used as either a monitor (for large environments) or mains speaker (for smaller environments, and my use) and has a tripod mount point and everything. It’s also fuzzy! But not very, about which I have mixed feelings. One of the internal components had a manufacturing date of April 1990, which makes it almost exactly 20 years old. I love what the large main does for vocals. I mean damn. And the low end is super crisp.

I got really lucky stumbling across this in a pawn – it was really cheap because it looked ‘way worse off than it actually was, but they let me poke at it and it came up fixable! Yay!

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