Feb 28 2010

Amplification tests – how do we mike this thing?

factoid

This weekend’s work has been mostly about sound (with a little van tinkering here and there).

How do we amplify two full keyboards of two and a half octaves of keys each, order plus numerous gongs and chimes?

Full-court press – set up a testing environment, salve bring in some mikes and amps, this web and sort it out, right?

We picked up a little mixing board at Guitar Center on Saturday night and spent some time bullshitting with the staff about microphones.

The challenge of the project is getting a full, clean mix out of the instrument in the face of these facts:

  • the high keys are very faint compared with the low ones
  • ambient noise will be a challenge, particularly on the playa
  • We want to get enough sound out of the system to reach across the playa without causing feedback through the pickups
  • The instruments will be bolted to the van full-time, so the miking solution must be removable to avoid the worst of the weather …

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Feb 25 2010

Busy night at the xylophone factory

factoid

I got into a real rhythm last night and blew through a good 27 linear feet of aluminum bar stock, no rx cutting keys for the xylophones.

To the right here is what my shop floor looks like – thick with aluminum dust. I must have swept up 5 pounds of the stuff. (The logo on the floor reminds me not to crack my head on the face-height 6×10″ beam hovering just 5 feet off the floor –  I’m always standing up under it suddenly. Not for nothing is the beam called The Widowmaker.) … Continue reading


Feb 23 2010

Sound check

factoid

We’ve knocked out two octaves worth of keys so far, mind only a sample of which will fit on the bench for a demo. Obviously they’ll sound much fuller after we figure out how to set up resonators and amplification, view but at least they’re correctly tuned.

(more videos)

As for finish, the first three are polished, the rest are still raw, and none have been drilled yet for mounting)

I picked up a new, slimmer metal-cutting disc for the circular saw the other day, and cutting is dramatically easier than it was. Now it takes barely four minutes to slice through the half-inch by 3-inch aluminum bar stock we’re using for keys.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been tinkering with disk gongs – I want people to have a broad array of stuff to bang on beyond the tuned keyboards on either side of the van. Otherwise, they may take to hammering on the mirrors or the coachwork.

These quarter-inch-thick steel disks have a tinny, bell-like quality …
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Feb 22 2010

The G-sharp aluminum disk gong sounds like this

factoid


Feb 20 2010

Junkyard Crawl – Episode 2: ghostwatching and getting seated

factoid

To paraphrase Ratty (or was it Mole?) there is nothing half so fine as an afternoon spent messing about in junkyards.

Rob was kind enough to join me in a trip to PickYourPart in Sun Valley, ampoule where the gutted wrecks hunker beneath the sun in neat rows. Parts lie in exploded clouds around them, and you can find pretty much anything you want.

We went looking for a Ford van – mid-80s – and stumbled almost immediately upon the carcass of XyloVan’s dead twin … Continue reading


Feb 15 2010

The junkyard crawl

factoid

XyloVan needs new seats.

Lord, visit this site how we need new seats.

Legions of nameless alcoholics, seek slouching through this former taxi-bus’ years of service for a sober-living facility, site have shredded the fabric.

Looks like someone force-fed meth to a sackful of starving cats, gave it a good shake, slung it inside and slammed the door in 100-degree heat. The ensuing tooth-and-nail brawl for survival left a fine webwork of tattered polyester (and a few questionable stains) draped over age-browned fabric, itself shot through with rusty springs.

It’s bad.

So off we go (after an already-exhausting morning sledding atMt. Pinos to the junkyard. I had called around, and the one place that told me they had seats that should fit (everything from ’78 to ’92 in Ford/GM interiors is interchangeable, apparently) that has an ’86 Ford van is down in CarsonContinue reading


Feb 15 2010

Changing valve-cover gaskets on a 7.5-liter Ford V-8

factoid

This is a hardy old bucket. The motor’s in good shape (76, this 000 local miles), medical the transmission whines and leaks but still has plenty of life in it. It has new brakes and tires, and feels rock-solid.

But the motor leaks like a sieve, so I thought I would tackle the only leak-plugging task I’m capable of without an engine hoist and a ton of spare time – replacing the leaky valve cover gaskets.

I learned how to do this on an old four-banger Volvo B-18 engine 25 years ago, from a mechanic who had trained with shade-tree tough-guys in South Africa.

Here’s how it goes:

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Feb 8 2010

drill buffer

alienrobot

Okay. Long story short, ed I spent half of the day Saturday(2/6/10)working on a single key with the bench grinder buffer until factoid finally realized that I had been using the wrong buffing compound. It was a laugh for him, treatment but it only made me mad. so we walked down to Baller Hardware and got another type of compound(this one was brown), and it worked a little better, but it was messy, and soon we had brown splatters all over one of the walls. I spent the rest of my day working with this. At the end of the day, I was still working on the same piece when factoid came over and said that it wasn’t the compound, it was the machine I was using. Another laugh for him. So Sunday(2/7/10)I started using another tool that maybe is not as easy as the bench grinder, but definetely faster. Here are a few pictures of me using it.

picture #1-This is a picture of me using the new tool.

picture #2This is a good shot of the tool itself. As you may have noticed, we have built our own custom jig to hold the metal piece in place.

picture #3-This is a picture of a half-finished key.


Feb 7 2010

More key cutting

factoid

We cut more keys this weekend. We’re up to F#. Almost one out of the four planned octaves of keys is cut (but only half of the keys are tuned so far.

Since the metal heats up during cutting, visit this site and heated keys resonate a good half-tone lower than room-temperature keys, you’re forced to put them aside until they cool down before trying to tune them. It’s time-consuming work – each key can take up to an hour to cut and tune properly.

We also spent a lot of time figuring out the polishing/buffing routine and tools, but I’ll let alienrobot tell you about that.


Feb 7 2010

Step 4 – Seat hunting

factoid

It’s a big, order old van and it needs new seats. Or at least new upholstery.

Spent a good hour calling around to junk yards yesterday, including TruckWrecking.com and had no luck digging up a set of seats for a 1985 Ford Club Wagon XLT. The seats any Ford van built in the surrounding 10 years would probably do it, but no one seemed of a mind to help. I have a couple more numbers to call in the morning.