Feb 17 2017

Tonepod 2 – A new, more-portable hank drum design

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So, I make these musical drums out of up-cycled propane tanks. Click through for a demo video (and the build log) for Tonepod 2, the new model. Making this one, as with the others – gave me tremendous joy – which is good because the process takes about 40-60 hours and fills our basement shop with dust and noise. And yes, I might be able make one for you. Inquire here.


At this point, I have already safely emptied the tank of propane and washed out the residue of methyl mercaptan (the nasty stink agent that lets you know when odorless propane is leaking). (Seriously, don’t use any tool on metal until the propane is safely gone). I’ve cut off the handle from the top and the base ring from the bottom, and ground off the welds, and now I’m grinding off the rest of the paint before cutting … Continue reading


Aug 9 2016

#7 – the Rat Rod

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I’m not much of a player, but here’s a demo of a drum in C-minor – This is the seventh drum I’ve made out of a 20-pound propane tank.

The discarded tank came into the shop in a thrashed, rusted-out pale blue, which looked amazing.

So I kept much of the original paint, cleaning off only a ring of the steel at the tips of the tongues. I then added a pinstripe ring around the hexagonal key (low-C) in the center, painted on a stylized “7”, which I limned in Sharpie – and sprayed 3 or 4 coats of clear enamel over the whole thing.

I made two major design improvements for sound – I cut out a resonator hole in the tank’s bottom (around the valve, just inside the handle).

And I’m experimenting with a new deadening material – recycled bicycle tubes wrapped around all the way around the tank to keep the body from ringing and drowning out the keys.

So far, so good!


Jul 2 2016

Fireball XL-5 – the build log

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IMG_8197I made Fireball XL-5 for Mykal Burns, a video producer, roller derby enforcer and erstwhile percussionist. The build went something like this:



If you would like me to make a drum for you on commission, the price is $300 – $250 if you bring your own empty propane tank. Contact me for details.


May 15 2016

“Green Destiny” – How to build a propane tank drum

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If you would like me to make a drum for you on commission, the price is $300 – $250 if you bring your own empty propane tank. Contact me for details.


Jun 26 2014

Gongs all made!

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gongsJust a quick one – these are the gongs we made for our Indiegogo supporters, all engraved and ready for their fittings. It’s not too late to get one of your own!





A $150 donation to our big Burning Man project nets you a hand-engraved gong with your slogan Or inspirational quote of choice, a dowel chime, machined aluminum block pendant and slice pendant, crew patch and sticker. Just Paypal us at factoid@well.com and tell us your inscription in the comment field and we’ll get right to work on it for you! Thanks so much to all our gong-level Indiegogo supporters!

Check out the demo video!


Aug 25 2011

Bits and bobs – 3 days till liftoff

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Because an art car is never finished.

I disassembled all the light arrays from XyloVan 1.0, and I’m reassembling them onto the light bars I made for JANUS. This involves testing all of them, including the flasher circuits …

… and then screwing them down. I’ll wire everything up later today. (It’s stupid-o’clock in the morning right now).

I also cut a stencil so that I can spraypaint warnings (PLEASE DON’T CLIMB HERE!) that discourage people from trying to scramble up onto JANUS’ “shoulders,” which are built to withstand the playa winds and sun, but not a 238-pound Java developer full of Fuzzy Navels and good cheer – let alone a 5-year-old child in a Wolverine costume.

I then cut a frame for the stencil out of an old TV carton and put the whole thing together with Gorilla Tape (accept no substitutes!)

I’ve also been drilling out a few discarded xylophone keys that I plan to mount with the drums that will be installed on the Cloud Deck so that people riding on top will have more instruments to play.

Chugchugchug.


Sep 6 2010

Well and truly burnt

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I don’t think I ever could have imagined the response to debuting an art car. But what a rush.

We just got back a few hours ago, full of the glow of meeting hundreds of cool people who found themselves sudden, happy xylophonists in the wastes of the playa.

We’re also short on sleep, having driven all night and unpacked and cleaned all day, so time to crash. More photos and videos will follow here as I process them – If you played the van out there, we really want to hear from you.


Aug 22 2010

Sound check – Clean!

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Clean enough, anyway.

That wicked line buzz is gone. It turns out I needed to ground the mixer to the chassis, which involved tearing apart and then sewing up the 20-foot umbilical. That took a little while.

Pay no attention to my banging. I’m just banging. But it’s sounding pretty lush. And I”m excited to show it off. Thanks to everyone who pulled up and talked to us this afternoon. It’s all good.

Just a little more wiring to go.


Aug 17 2010

Key polishing? Nah.

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After sandblasting the instruments with Dave, I was dead-bang positive I would want to polish them to a gloss.

Then I spent a year grinding away with the power drill and a buff pad during lunch hour today, and changed my mind.

An AP photographer stopped by and shot a bunch of photos of me working on the van – Damian something.

Anyway, despite going at ’em hammer and tongs for a solid 30 minutes with the Tripoli, then the jeweler’s rouge, I wound up with only three half-shiny keys.

Life’s too short. I’ll buff ’em next year. Much more to do.


Aug 8 2010

Blast away your troubles

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The folks at Industrial Metal Supply turn out huge orders of 3-by-half-inch-by-12-foot aluminum bar stock cut to measure for big industrial clients – then they sell the short ends and leftovers in 3- and 6-foot lengths at just $2.89 a pound. That – along with dismantled tube-aluminum equipment racks covered with stickers – is what makes up XyloVan’s bones.

But that crap’s unattractive, so my good friend Dave and I spent a good chunk of Saturday afternoon sandblasting the paint, stickers and grime off of the keyboards – remnants of the fact that the instruments are themselves largely made from recycled metal remnants. Or not sandblasting, rather, industrial-sodablasting … Continue reading