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New Build: Upright steamer trunk bass

New Build: Upright steamer trunk bass

Over the last several weeks I made this upright bass out of an old steamer trunk I found at a thrift shop for $10 (no Macklemore jokes please).

Here is the finished product, but keep reading for more finished pictures and a description of my process.

The finished trunk bass.

The finished trunk bass.

Several years ago I tried building an upright bass for the first time, using a metal washtub that can be bought at any hardware store for a few dollars.  It was quite the learning experience, I ended up having quite a few things that just didn’t satisfy me about it.  Here are a couple of pictures from that build:

Obviously I made a lot of mistakes since it was my first attempt at something like this.  I was never quite satisfied with how it turned out, but it did see a lot of stage use!  Here are a couple of action shots:

 

Action shot of the washtub at the Flagstaff bluegrass festival

Action shot of the washtub at the Flagstaff bluegrass festival

Washtub bass on stage

Ryan got a lot of good use out of it!

 

Here is the trunk before I did anything to it.  The handles were already gone when I got it.

Here is the trunk before I did anything to it. The handles were already gone when I got it.

I finally decided it was time to make a new and improved version when I found this old steamer trunk at a thrift shop for $10, and I really liked the look of it for a bass.  You can see it here before anything was done to it, although I have some wood set out to make the first few cuts.  You can also see the old bass in the background, I had it there to take measurements as I worked (mainly to fix all the mistakes I made the first time).  I didn’t work off any plans, just used my previous work and some quick calculations to figure it all out.  One of my favorite things about this project, I already had most of the stuff needed to make this bass.  The tuners and pickup were the most expensive part of the last build, and this time I could just use the ones I had from before.  That made this bass much cheaper than the last, although better in the end.

 

It might be easier to show the rest of the process in captions:

 

Hole cut in the trunk to mount the main structural support.  It has a wedge glued to it to give the neck the proper angle in relation to the trunk.

Hole cut in the trunk to mount the main structural support. It has a wedge glued to it to give the neck the proper angle in relation to the trunk.

Grooves cut into the back neck layer to add carbon fiber stiffening supports.  This will solve some of the flex issues I saw with my previous build, as well as giving it an increased sustain and larger tone.

Grooves cut into the back neck layer to add carbon fiber stiffening supports. This will solve some of the flex issues I saw with my previous build, as well as giving it an increased sustain and larger tone.

 

A few images of test fitting everything together, prior to glueing.

A few images of test fitting everything together, prior to glueing.

Angle view of test fitting, you can see the neck angle from the wedge.  It's almost looking like an instrument.

Angle view of test fitting, you can see the neck angle from the wedge. It’s almost looking like an instrument.

Front angle of test fit

Front angle of test fit

Laying out the headstock was the biggest challenge.  On my previous attempt the headstock had to be rigged numerous times to get it to tune up properly.  I wanted this one to work the first time.   You can see the tuners held in by tape to check the fit.

Laying out the headstock was the biggest challenge. On my previous attempt the headstock had to be rigged numerous times to get it to tune up properly. I wanted this one to work the first time. You can see the tuners held in by tape to check the fit.

Another view, you can see the carbon fiber stringers in this view as well.

Another view, you can see the carbon fiber stringers in this view as well.

Time to glue it all up.  String was strung tight to allow me to clamp the neck straight to the body.  This glue joint took somewhere around 2 hours of prep, but only 1 minute of actual gluing before it was done.

Time to glue it all up. String was strung tight to allow me to clamp the neck straight to the body. This glue joint took somewhere around 2 hours of prep, but only 1 minute of actual gluing before it was done.

Clamp it down tight.  This  joint has to hold against over 400 lbs of string tension, which translates to a much higher stress at the joint.

Clamp it down tight. This joint has to hold against over 400 lbs of string tension, which translates to a much higher stress at the joint.

After the glue has set for a bit, it's time to get back to work.  Clamps get left on though.  You can see the headstock is getting closer to completion.

After the glue has set for a bit, it’s time to get back to work. Clamps get left on though. You can see the headstock is getting closer to completion.

Closeup of the headstock, with the contour cuts for hand comfort and appearance.  I added a small block to cover the stringer grooves.

Closeup of the headstock, with the contour cuts for hand comfort and appearance. I added a small block to cover the stringer grooves.

Another view of the headstock.

Another view of the headstock.

Here is a side view of the bass, nearing completion!

Here is a side view of the bass, nearing completion!

After giving it a few hours for the glue to set, it's time to start sanding.

After giving it a few hours for the glue to set, it’s time to start sanding.

Keep sanding!

Keep sanding!

Front view after sanding.  The goal was to get every corner rounded off, and no splinters to catch my hand!

Front view after sanding. The goal was to get every corner rounded off, and no splinters to catch my hand!

After 24 hours, it's safe to apply tension to the glue joints.  I put the exact same strings on as the previous bass.  The washtub is officially in retirement.

After 24 hours, it’s safe to apply tension to the glue joints. I put the exact same strings on as the previous bass. The washtub is officially in retirement.

 

So that’s the build.  Here are some more pictures of the finished beast.  Thanks for making it this far, hope you enjoyed it!

 

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Midi Controller construction complete!

Midi Controller construction complete!

I actually finished the controllers a few weeks ago, but haven’t had time to do an update!

They ended up working well, although much more difficult to use than anticipated!  While playing guitar and singing already, adding the foot action is harder than it was with my old mechanical setup.

Midi foot controller

Final controller

Here’s what they ended up looking like:

I never explained the button layout, but basically the problem was how to fully represent a 12 note scale while keeping all the buttons within easy reach.  They also needed to be laid out so that there are no ‘accidental’ pushings.

I designed this 7 button layout as a replacement for the typical 12 note piano style that is used by many foot controllers.

Each button is a ‘white’ key, with C on the left and B on the right.  If you want a sharp or flat ‘black’ key, just hit the two buttons simultaneously on either side of where it would be.  Getting the double button press working correctly was the biggest challenge of the programming process.  I ended up using a modified debounce routine that ensured both buttons were firmly pressed prior to sending a note on command.

The other three switches are ‘octave up’, ‘portamento’, and ‘fifth chord’ parameter changes.

 

Bending the sheet metal

Bending the metal electronics enclosure using a cheap Harbor Freight sheet metal brake. The clamps are a must to ensure a good bend!

Drilling large holes.

Knockout punches are incredibly expensive, fortunately since the metal is aluminum I can avoid them. By clamping two pieces of trash wood onto the metal, I can simply use a hand drill with large wood bits to cut the holes for mounting the electrical connectors.

Drilling

Another shot of the drilling process.

Clean holes
Here you can see the result of my drilling method. Very clean holes!

Internal electrical wiring

I had to use some temporary hardware to hold everything together until I got the right screws and nuts. You can see how the USB to USB connector makes the connection very clean, rather than running wire through the metal enclosure.

You can see the connectors a bit better in this shot.  I highly recommend using the USB connector rather than dealing with wires running through metal holes or soldering USB cabling.  I'd rather have the USB pulled out of the connector than have someone rip the wire out internally!

You can see the connectors a bit better in this shot. I highly recommend using the USB connector rather than dealing with wires running through metal holes or soldering USB cabling. I’d rather have the USB pulled out of the connector than have someone rip the wire out internally!

Internals again.

Here is another look at the inside. Pretty much ready to seal it up.

So now I need to learn how to use all this stuff in a song, I’ll post a video when it happens!

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A little good news for the motion control industry

A little good news for the motion control industry

This brief forecast has an interesting statistic: “the motion control market tends to grow (or decline) about 1.36 times that of machinery production”   (The article).  I’d never really thought about it before, but it makes sense.

Every machine needs the motion control components to make it work.  It also needs repair parts, additional components to integrate the machine with the rest of the factory, and some extra parts that were ordered and then not used in the final design.  These additional components apparently make up somewhere between 0 and 0.36 of the actual components of the machine.

As far as I’m concerned, the forecast for more machine building in the next few years is a very positive sign!

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