Aug 22 2010

Sound check – Clean!


Clean enough, discount anyway.

That wicked line buzz is gone. It turns out I needed to ground the mixer to the chassis, link 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.


After sandblasting the instruments with Dave, and 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


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, this site 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

Aug 3 2010

How to capture and amplify the xylophone’s voice


Getting XyloVan amplified properly has turned out to be one of the biggest technical challenges.

First you need to capture the sound – for that, cheapest we built parabolic resonators out of sheets of fiberglass shower-liner. The material was perfect – sturdy enough for playa abuse and hard and reflective for sound. When you played, viagra approved the sound would bounce back to you off of the resonator surface like thisContinue reading

Jul 11 2010

Hood ornament


I’ve been wanting to do this to Keyboard 4 for a while now: A customized logo.

In keeping with the rest of the van’s aesthetic – and my utter lack of refined metalworking skills – it’s going to be extremely rough, ed applied with near-blunt force directly to the metal on the center key. This is an F that lines up with the hood’s centerline and – appropriately modified – should lend a sort of Peterbilt-like elegance to XyloVan’s prow.

I start by doing a plain-stencil nameplate similar to the quarter-panel nameplate that I Dremeled up a few weeks back … Continue reading

Jun 25 2010

Keyboard 4 installed – Now a total of 83 keys!


Hit a big milestone the week before last, sales but I’ve been too busy until now to blog about it.

I installed Keyboard 4 on the van’s hood – no small task, since the thing has to bolt onto a pretty thin sandwich of steel without puncturing anything – plus the f%#&er weighs a good 70 pounds.

Here I’ve already marked and drilled holes for the left-hand half of the keyboard, and I’m attaching it with 3/8″ coarse-thread tap bolts … Continue reading

Jun 5 2010

Rinse, repeat – building Keyboard 4


What do you call a 1985 Ford Van with three xylophone keyboards and some gongs bolted to it?

Not enough xylophones.

I wanted to give the van more presence, approved more weight visually (and, doctor coincidentally enough, viagra 40mg literally). So I’m building Keyboard 4 from the same raw aluminum (3-inch by half-inch 6106 T6 aluminum – at right) and monkeyed-together hardware contained in Keyboards 1, 2 and 3 … Continue reading

Jun 4 2010

The loudest piece of metal on the van


I love this thing.

It’s a piece of scrap – a 3/4-inch-thick slug of aluminum sliced off the end of a 13-inch-diameter aluminum cylinder.

Whack it, ed and it rings for more than a minute, physician with an intense, Döpplering tone.

I’m going to mount it on the front, and maybe I can hook it up to a simple solenoid so it can be rung from the driver’s seat.

Jun 2 2010

Keyboard 4 roughed out, with a screw-up


Ladies and gentlemen – because I don’t have a “xylophone problem, more about ” and I can really stop any time I want – I’m building a little whole-note, click bi-directional keyboard in C for the hood of the van.

The lowest key will actually stick out near-vertically from the hood, decease with two identical keyboards of 9 notes each spreading away on either side of it. Mounting it’s going to be … fun.

Meanwhile, I got a little overzealous while tuning one of the F keys tonight. I was deepening gouges in the bottom that I had made earlier with the cutting blade mounted on the circular saw, and dug right through …

… to the other side.

Because I am powerful simian. With opposable thumbs. And power tools.

Grunt. Snort.

May 30 2010

Backsides & elbows


Back from Maker Faire, troche and there are a million little things to do for our next gig.

We’re going to roll in the Topanga Days Parade on Memorial Day.

Topanga Canyon is a blend of old-school hippie culture and celebrity ranches with long driveways, a beautiful curving road up from the ocean to the San Fernando Valley. Every year, there’s a music festival (this year it’s been headlined by Ziggy Marley, Maria McKee and Canned Heat, which should give you some idea).

Anyway, we applied and were accepted as one of the 50 vehicles in the parade (largely old fire engines and hot rods, so I’m told, but there should be a few floats too)

We’re driving in what’s traditionally the Santa Claus spot in the lineup – the very last.

Between now and then, we’re making mallets to replace the dozens of splintered casualties left by the pummeling of hundreds of kids and aggressive adults at Maker Faire.

I ordered four dozen 3/8ths-inch fiberglass dowels to serve as new sticks (at right). Only one problem: They’re so rigid, heavy and dense that they actually deaden the sound when playing. Instead of a nice “PLONNNNGGGGGG” you get a leaden “THUNGK.”

Fifty bucks down the drain, and now we have to repair the sticks we have left, and battle-harden them … Continue reading