Category Archives: Instruments

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 Backsides & elbows

Mounting the disc gongs

I fell in love with these things while scrounging through the scrap bins at Industrial Metal Supply.

They’re the sawn-off leavings of enormous logs of aluminum, this some of which had been many feet long and up to 12 inches thick.

They sound fantastic. And they look pretty graphic against the green of the van, viagra in nice contrast to the rectangular-keyed xylophones … Continue reading Mounting the disc gongs

Xylophones, meet Van!

After nearly three months of cutting and grinding, cialis 40mg fiddling and drilling, cursing and screwing and painting, the magic moment is here.

Time to mount the xylophones on the van.

Here’s video of alienrobot and me mounting Keyboard 2 which is the lower-octave and rear-most of the two keyboards I built for the passenger side of the van:

And here’s what Keyboard 1 looked like as friend Steve Finkel and I mounted it on the driver’s side …
Continue reading Xylophones, meet Van!

Bender ender – how to listen up and quit breaking sh#t

Like a drunk tiptoeing into his AA meeting with actual quitting on his mind, website I’m finally ready to quit breaking taps – and pay attention to all the solid advice I’ve been getting along the way.

Tonight, more about I took it all in hand and put it to work on my one surviving 6mm tapping tool – and the dozen-plus very serious holes I had left to tap:

Go back, Jack. Do it again.

Keyboard 1 is more than 7 and 2 1/2 octaves long – running from A to high D#.

All that metal is pretty heavy, pharmacy and the weight actually bows the stringers that carry the keys across it, so I’m building in a crosspiece for support. It will run vertically between the top rail and bottom rail, and all four stringers will screw down to it for support.

I lay out the keys then I tighten the frame at the corners along the bottom …
Continue reading Go back, Jack. Do it again.

Wherein we get a little professional help, and joy is restored

All the geek opinion and doomsaying in the world can’t beat a crusty old Chicano machinist in a crusty old machine shop.

After Googling and dialing all over Hollywood, this Los Feliz and Glendale in search of an EDM-equipped shop, price I phoned a local machine shop and described my two mistakes.

“Ehhh, abortion bring it in, we’ll see what we can do,” says the crusty old voice at S&K Precision Engineering Co.

So I bring it in. Within an hour and a half, I get a call saying “It’s all set.” They drilled in with a carbide bit (probably a better one than I used, and used an extractor on one broken tap, and a punch on the other – and now the holes are cleared.

The guy even took pity on me and told me the secret: countersink the holes from now on before tapping them – and use some cutting oil.

Done. I’ll be attacking that just as soon as the best little hardware store in Silver Lake restocks their 6mm Irwin thread taps. The ones that I seem to keep steadily depleting.

Low-rent metal-work in three easy steps

My plans for a productive evening of xylophone-building thus foiled, dosage I turned to slapping together the rest of the frame-mounting hardware.

Unfortunately, the Hollaender company turned out a couple of SpeedRail parts with nasty burrs inside that kept them from sliding onto the 2-inch aluminum tubing that we’re using for xylophone frames.

I tried grinding out the lip on both sides of the mount …

But no luck. The collar still wouldn’t slide on over the tubing … Continue reading Low-rent metal-work in three easy steps

Damn it. Again.

In machining – as in lovemaking and war – if it hurts, viagra buy you’re not doing it right.

I seem to keep making the same damn mistake. alienrobot did a great job of tapping most of the mounting holes in Keyboard 1 using just the little 4-inch tap handle that came with the set.

Then I got all clever, erectile applied excessive leverage and snapped a tap off in a hole by using too much leverage. It came out with a pair of pliers … but then I did it again.

And I just did it again tonight. Here’s what it looks like from the back.

Opinions on the CrashSpace forum ranged from “A high-end machine shop will need to use EDM to burn the tap out of there” to “Yep, you’re fully fucked.”

Guess I’ll go look up a machinist. And hope I’m not fully fucked.

How to build a xylophone

For those who haven’t been following along, visit here’s how it’s done, roughly in order:

First, you read Jim Doble‘s brief but precise instructions for making xylophones. Read ’em again – they’re clearly written, with a basic illustration and links to photos and sound clips, and then find some wood or metal that you can work easily, and get busy:

I used 1/2-inch by 3-inch T6 aluminum bar stock. As a starting point, I measured out a piece the size of the low C on my first xylophone and cut it off with a circular saw fitted with a metal-cutting disc. Then, following these steps for tuning the keys, I just kept cutting – shorter for higher notes, longer for lower notes … Continue reading How to build a xylophone