I intended this blog to be a live chronicle of current projects, but it can never seem to catch up to where I am in the present moment! To that end, here’s a quick snap of some of the most recent things I’ve made.
Here we have a mug and bowl with lid I threw and fired, but haven’t yet glazed. The mug is actually the first thing I’ve ever thrown! I’m sort of surprised it didn’t just come out a big lump. On the right is one of the beer, a maple red ale. There’s also a milk stout, sassafras stout, IPA, and apple wine kicking around (not pictured). The big colorful bottles are filled with strawberry mead (left two) and spiced mead (right). The little guy in the middle is a bishop I turned out of walnut for a friend’s incomplete chess set (still gotta get that to him). The sparkly thing is a pure silver ring with inset sapphire, and they’re all standing on a marble end table inset with curly maple that I built for a certain someone’s christmas present.
I was about to say that that’s everything in the picture that I made, but there’s actually a mini christmas ornament terrarium photobombing in the back! Sneaky lil rascal.
I haven’t given up hope that I’ll catch up to the present moment with this blog, and neither should you, dear hypothetical reader. There’s more jewelry, more pots, more mead (blueberry?!) and a scratch-built boat still to arrive in these pages!
Well, a lot of rejiggering and I have a new prototype for the action. Still further simplified from the original Hickman blueprint–now there are only five or six moving parts, and it damps! That’s right, the first xylophone that can be played staccato! Some experimentation has yielded a damper that cuts the note right off effectively. It has such a nice mellow tone with just a bit of percussive attack–I can’t wait to have enough of these to actually play stuff.
And just for kicks, while I’m posting stuff, maybe I’ll show the world my cello. It’s nothing special, but it has given me enough enjoyment and frustration that it deserves its place alongside the rest here. Here’s a candid shot of it reposing in its boudoir.
A year and a half ago I produced a keyboard steel tube xylophone which, for want of a better idea, I called a “Mariano,” for “marimba-piano.” It was so crude. The ‘action’, such as it was, consisted of a wooden lever which swung into the bars when pressed on one end. This is of course much less functionally awesome than an actual piano action, which takes care of pulling the hammer back to avoid damping the tone, and stopping the tone when the key is released.
So! The logical next step is to produce a version which does these things. But how? I carefully studied the action in my upright piano, and found that it might not be a good place to start. A high moving part count intimidated me. After some googling, I came across a much simpler, but (in theory) functionally equivalent action devised by a guy named Hickman in the 30’s.
The animated gifs didn’t quite put across the movement of this thing, so I dashed into the Makery to put together a prototype with the CNC mini-mill I’ve recently acquired (a lucky break) and converted. Here it is with one of the bars from the original Mariano:
I’ve ordered a set of laser-cut experimental action parts for further experimentation. Yay for Ponoko making life easy. There’s a bit of a “click” partway through pressing the key, and of course the finish is far below what it could be. More iterations are in order.
My first attempt at something that could be called a king. Perhaps more of a water fountain to some? A brushed bronze crown improvised from the wares at Home Depot.
These are blocks that each hold 96 individual biological samples, and due to the high thermal conductivity of aluminum, rapidly bring those samples to the temperature of water being run through the system. It’s part of a robotic system I’m going to be working with at my job, which will ultimately be able to “print out” synthetic microorganisms overnight, all on its own. These blocks will be in charge of incubating several reactions, and growing up the cells at the end of that process.
The trickiest part of this process was drilling 96 conical holes in each block. I had to make a custom drill bit for that by shaping and hardening some tool steel, then use a CNC mill to locate the holes all accurately. This is a job that absolutely could not have been done entirely manually, no way.
I recently discovered that the plywood store down the road also deals in hardwood. Awesome! I hadn’t played with a nice chunk of walnut since I took a wood course at RISD during college. It also so happens that my small lathe can, with some time on a local milling machine, be made to take a block of wood quite nicely. Commence experimentation. I started off with some cheap oak dowel from the home depot before I got into the good stuff, and found that oak actually has rather loose grain, producing a rough surface. Not so good. Another discovery: simply rubbing a candle onto the smooth, sanded piece as it is spinning there on the lathe, then melting that wax in by holding a sanding sponge to the piece (still while it’s spinning) will produce a beautiful and near-effortless finish. Yay for easy pretty things!
Well, after a somewhat ill-fated cello refit, I ended up with a tilted endpin and a poorly fitted endpin…housing…plug..thing. I’m not rightly sure what those are called. I had recently started making round things on my little lathe, so it made sense that I could make a new one. It took a fair bit of measuring and tiny adjustments, but eventually I ended up with something quite serviceable, if not quite as nicely matched to the rest of the cello’s finish. The endpin itself, and the metal bit that you see on the end of the endpin plug are simply lifted from the old, poorly fitting endpin. Yay for radial symmetry!