Archive for the ‘diy’ Category

who do you trust

Last Friday I mentioned that I was building a database of publications that review and talk about music, starting with a list of majors. Well, that’s sorted now: 263 magazines, newspapers, and similar, all categorised.

Sadly, few of these are actually interesting! Some are! A few are great! But most are old-school print dailies or the usual alternative-to-what-exactly weekly. And while those are good to have in the database, I’m looking for things a little more atypical.

I mean honestly, if you think the major dailies are out of touch on news, try music. The front page at the Kansas City Star this weekend? Roger Daltry, Paul McCartney, Kenny G., Boz Scaggs, Laurie Anderson, and a Pink Floyd cover band. HI GUYS, 1986 WAS 25 YEARS AGO I KNOW YOU HAVE A HARD TIME COPING WITH THAT BUT PLEASE TRY.

And sure, they aren’t all that bad, but it makes the point. The “alternative” weeklies are better, pretty consistently. But I need different. Those guys aren’t going to care about me, or people like me. I’m not Baby Boomer nostalgia and I’m not going to be selling Jagerbombs to Bros and the party crowd any time soon, if ever. I need something a little more niche, who isn’t trying to follow the usual Bar/Club/Club/Bar Circuit and is not interested in the Major Label Sucker System.

Do you have any pointers here? Any youtube channels, active blogs, websites, tumblrs, podcasts, whatever – someone that someone like me could send a download code or a CD and say, “j0, whadda think?” Because I want to find those people. I need to find people who aren’t sucking the last drips of marrow from the bones of a Rock Industry Culture that isn’t even aware that it’s dead.

Ask your friends. Comment if you or they have anything. I really want to know who you trust.

In other news:

The Sunday market show at Redmond went pretty well, particularly given the rain and muck. I earned professionalism points just for showing up – the main band cancelled! But the wind stayed down and while crowds weren’t heavy, the kids got into it, I had some nice conversations, I handed out a lot of cards, and told a lot of people about the history of the Irish Bouzouki! (Trinity College really needs to be paying me, f’srs. XD )

If you’re stopping by from there, hi! Next show is my very first house concert on November 11th, at Sidhehaven. There’s an evite here, and a Facebook event here. They’ve hosted a bunch of people of more note than me, and I’m really excited to have been picked up by them for my first announced house concert! These are small and cozy shows – I’m hoping for 6-12 people. If you’re in the south Olympia or Yelm area, come, and bring a friend!

Polls are still open on the horror film favourites – last week and the week before. We’ll pit those winners against the Universal classics of the 30s on Wednesday, so get your final votes in!

repackaged and resold

Still trolling through music publications, building out that database. I talk about that in the previous entry, “alternative to what exactly.”

But I just found something else, too. One of the things lefties have absolutely correct is that capitalism will package and sell back to you your own culture. But first, they’ll be really bad at trying to hook into it, like so:

So annoying.

alternative to what exactly

I’ve been building out a big publications database. This is important to have and I’ve spent a lot of time not having one, and really, not even trying to have one – I sent review copies of Dick Tracy Must Die a couple of places I knew directly, and talked about it here, but I wasn’t trying to reach larger media on the whole.

But I do need this database, and more importantly, I need to survey all these publications. So when K said he could give me a list of publication titles I could research and fill out, I said sure! And got to work.

So many of these weekly “alternative” publications are so very much the same. It’s really dreary – it’s the same bar/club/club/bar/bar scene/club scene/party scene/bar/club/club/local-music-festival-that-adversises-with-us/club/bar/bar/club over and over and over again. (Thanks for that, Village Voice Media Group and your dozens of cloned “alternative weeklies.”)

Seriously, at this point, if I see this menu on a paper’s website?

…I can tell you with 98% confidence exactly what’s in it.

And every time I see that menu I wonder whether this is another actual indie they took over – several have been – or whether they moved in and drove an indie out of business. But I also suspect they’re some places an indie wouldn’t’ve been, and it’s better than nothing. Even the worst of them cover some local musicians, and that’s good. I just don’t know.

But every so often – once in a while – you still find something unique, and it’s just a joy. Like Cincinnati City Beat, which last weekend was headlining with J-Rock coverage. (To wit: なんだ?) Or the existence of a Montreal anglophone music and arts weekly, Hour Community. Or my favourite one-off so far, Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Xpress, which has coverage of buskers as a continuing feature.

Yeah, buskers. They go out, find a good busker, video them doing some song or other, and put it up on their website with name and location so you can find them yourself.

That’s awesome. And a hell of a lot more “alternative” than anything Voice Media Group might be handing their readers today. We ♥ you, little Mountain Xpress. Stay strong. You are doing it right.

Anyway. I have house concerts coming up! Two I’ve announced! Maybe more I can’t talk about yet ’cause they aren’t confirmed and may not even happen. But I hope they do!

Also, you can still participate in the movie polls if you want. And this weekend, I’ll be doing some instrumental market music Saturday morning in Redmond, at my last market gig of the year. I’ve been warming up the flute again and my embouchure is kinda sad but that may not stop me! I may use it. ph33r me. ph33r my phl4ppy l1p5. XD

So if you’re out there, c’mon by and say hi! And if not, have a good weekend. Got any plans? Share!

the final giant casemaking post

Welcome to the final case-making post! This post is very large, because it’s mostly photos.

I went and bought musical instrument foam… a week and a half ago, I think? as planned, but then didn’t get to work on it until this weekend. You specifically want instrument case foam, for its shock-absorption characteristics; it has very little resistance at first, but then much more as additional pressure is applied. There are many kinds of foam, so don’t just grab whatever’s handy! At least, not if you have options.

I also needed but already had foam glue and an electric carving knife, both bought for the zouk case project. Oh, and that’s what you want for foam cutting, by the way: any 60s/70s electric kitchen carving knife. Don’t buy a new one. They’re $3, lightly used, at Any Thrift Store in North America. This rule has never failed me.

Anyway, at this point, you’re pretty much sculpting. You need to cut out the foam around the various protrusions in the case, while also cutting out the shape of your instrument into the applicable layers. To get that correct shape, I put the instrument on the foam and drew an outline of it in sewing chalk. Once that layer was cut, I used that layer as my template guide. This insures your cut-outs line up correctly!

And don’t forget a solid bottom layer, of course. I didn’t really take enough pictures here, really:

The aforementioned bottom layer – 1″ thick
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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. ^_^

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