The House Arrest Band 10/8/2016

October 13th, 2016 Permalink

Pretty good little gig at the Avocado Festival in Carpinteria, CA.

Pretty good little gig at the Avocado Festival in Carpinteria, CA.

Pickup Winding Obsession – My New Machine – Pt. 2

October 8th, 2016 Permalink

More terrible low-light images… Here’s my rough traverse idea. Right now, I’m just setting the number of steps that it travels then reverses over and over again. I’ll polish it up step by step as I keep moving along with it. There’s a lot of kinks to work out, but the concept is there. The […]

More terrible low-light images…

Here’s my rough traverse idea. Right now, I’m just setting the number of steps that it travels then reverses over and over again. I’ll polish it up step by step as I keep moving along with it. There’s a lot of kinks to work out, but the concept is there.

The next step is to build a chassis for the machine and start building the winder. Once I put that together, I have to figure out how to control the stepper speed based on the winding speed. The optical tach I built last week is going to play a crucial role in that process.

On a side note, here’s a picture of me rockin’ the burro at rehearsal last night. Our singer snapped the photo. A few weeks ago, I wound a couple of coils using an A8 magnet instead of the ceramics I’ve been using. I have to say that I’m pleased so far and I’ve scrapped my original plan of working with C8 magnets. Like the ceramics, the A8’s have a lot of output, but without the aggressive brightness. If anything, they sort of emphasize a more aggressive mid-range while having a nicely rounded top end. They have plenty of well-defined low-end, but they’re not as “tight” sounding as the ceramics. From what I’ve read, the A8 can make a really strong, middy and bassy pickup that losing definition. Sounds perfect for my bridge pickup! We’ll see – on my first tester, I definitely did a pretty mellow wind count. Once I finish my new winder, I’ll start messing around with upping the winds considerably.

Pickup Winding Obsession – My New Machine Pt. 1

October 8th, 2016 Permalink

To get this blog up to speed, I’ve been obsessed with pickup winding since about December of 2015. I build a winder from Jason Lollar’s plans and I’ve been winding furiously since. I’ve been taking a little break from winding the last few weeks, largely because I realized that I’m going to need to upgrade […]

To get this blog up to speed, I’ve been obsessed with pickup winding since about December of 2015. I build a winder from Jason Lollar’s plans and I’ve been winding furiously since.

I’ve been taking a little break from winding the last few weeks, largely because I realized that I’m going to need to upgrade my winder. The one I build from Jason Lollar’s plans is great for winding by hand, but the cam-driven auto-traverse mechanism is kind of problematic for my purposes. For one, the nature of the cam’s motion causes the wire to pile up on the sides. I’ve been able to make it work by feathering the speed control, but the sides inevitably have a few loose winds here and there. Secondly and thirdly, it doesn’t give any real control over the thread spacing nor am I able to accurately repeat any results I get from my builds.

After some investigation, I decided to take it upon myself to design and build an Arduino-driven winder with an stepper-controlled auto-traverse. Despite never having worked with Arduino, I found that this route should work well for me, mainly because I’m pretty good with learning computer languages such as JavaScript, PHP and ActionScript, etc. The Arduino code is supposedly based on C+, which I know nothing about, but really most computer languages I’ve come across work from the same basic concepts – objects, functions, variables, loops, etc. After reading up on it a bit, I’m seeing that I’ll be able to work with it no prob.

I stopped Bruce Johnson’s place a few weeks ago and he gave me some advice about making the traverse really work – specifically, I’ll need to make a device that will advance the traverse a given distance per revolution of the winder. Running from one motor, Bruce’s machine does this mechanically and it basically makes getting a nice, even wind pretty much 100% foolproof. He was really recommending and pretty willing to help me go the mechanical route. I think that the mechanical route has a lot of advantages, such as simplicity, longevity and reliability. However I’m much better with writing scripts and working with computers than I am building mechanical devices. I’ll give this a shot and see how it pans out. If this works, the machine will have a smaller footprint which will be better in my really limited space.

The first step was getting the winding motor. I got an 18v DC motor for $15 on Amazon, along with a nice pre-made speed control. It works great.

Next, I made an optical tachometer and counter with the Arduino board and IR LED and photoresistor. The picture is lousy, but you can see the two components if you look closely. The code and instructions I found on YouTube. There’s a gazillion optical tach tutorials out there – I just picked one that used the same parts I have on hand. The interesting part about Arduino is that you have to get both the code and the electronics right. It’s kind of fun. I’ve done tons of coding and built quite a few stompboxes, so it was really no prob. The mess of wires below is the assembled tach.

Lastly, here’s me holding the motor up to the tach. It’s another bad photo. I just put a flag made from electrical tape on the end of the shaft. I had to hold it between the LED and the photoresistor. As the flag breaks the IR light, the photoresistor sees it and sends a pulse to the Arduino. I got it up to 5000rpm before the tape flew off.

BTW, turning this into a wind counter is super easy. At one point I created another variable that didn’t reset every second and displayed the result on the LCD. It worked no prob.

From here I’m going to build the stepper motor control. The script is a little more complicated and I’m going to have to do considerably more than just cut and paste like I did today. I also have another LCD screen that’s a little more sophisticated and uses fewer pins, so I’ll have to wire that up at some point as well. Once I do all that, I’ll mount the wires more permanently on a piece of stripboard. I think that this will be the hardest part only because I’ll have to design a functioning parts layout. The carriage will just be a base that holds a couple of pulleys and the stepper.

Lastly, I have some more parts on order. They should be coming within the next few days.

BTW, the cost is going to run about $125-$150. I could have done this much more cheaply – for one, I ordered the Arduino Basic Kit, which was not really necessary. I was really expecting that there’d be a good manual included, but most of the info was based around the super basic projects that came in the box. That being said, I don’t regret the purchase only because it comes in a really beautifully designed package. Secondly, I could have scoured my local thrift stores for an old cordless drill and an inkjet printer for my motors, steppers and some of the pulleys. I just decided that for me, it would take more time to scavenge than it would just buying the parts on ebay and stuff. I just wanted to focus more on the design than searching for used parts.

Site Notes

October 8th, 2016 Permalink

I’ve been doing a really terrible job of updating my blog. It’s been more than a year and a half. I’ll be adding some updates on a few of my projects in the near future as. I will be also re-designing the blog itself sometime in the coming months.

I’ve been doing a really terrible job of updating my blog. It’s been more than a year and a half. I’ll be adding some updates on a few of my projects in the near future as. I will be also re-designing the blog itself sometime in the coming months.

My Top Secret Project: Pt. 4 – Getting Started

February 10th, 2015 Permalink

Made a little progress today. Basically, I rough cut my shapes. I going to hit them with the edge trimmer later this week. This is going to be my neck pocket template and will probably serve as the template to make my pickup routes. I need to make one more body template to hollow out […]

Made a little progress today. Basically, I rough cut my shapes. I going to hit them with the edge trimmer later this week.

This is going to be my neck pocket template and will probably serve as the template to make my pickup routes. I need to make one more body template to hollow out the body, but I’m out of MDF. I’m going to have to buy another sheet tomorrow. Fortunately, MDF is cheap and easy to cut.

More Photos

My Top Secret Project: Pt. 3 – Planning

February 4th, 2015 Permalink

I printed out a full scale drawing on a bunch of 8.5″x11″ paper. Everything looked pretty good to me, except, I had to make a few minor adjustments around the neck pocket area. Also, because of the extended fretboard, I had to move the neck pickup back about a 3/16″. I’m hoping that the placement […]

I printed out a full scale drawing on a bunch of 8.5″x11″ paper. Everything looked pretty good to me, except, I had to make a few minor adjustments around the neck pocket area. Also, because of the extended fretboard, I had to move the neck pickup back about a 3/16″. I’m hoping that the placement of the neck pickup won’t be super crucial.

I have a few things on my desk to finish up today, but hopefully I’ll have some time to print out another round and glue the paper to a sheet of MDF.

Here’s a picture of my printouts. Please excuse the horrible cell-phone-in-low-light image.

More Photos

My Top Secret Project: Pt 2 – The Compromise

February 2nd, 2015 Permalink

In every project, there are compromises made to in order to make the original vision more feasible, more practical, more economical or in some cases, better. In this case, I had three designs to work from, my favorite being the first, closely followed by the second. The first concept had a pair of Rickebacker pickups, […]

In every project, there are compromises made to in order to make the original vision more feasible, more practical, more economical or in some cases, better. In this case, I had three designs to work from, my favorite being the first, closely followed by the second. The first concept had a pair of Rickebacker pickups, but there were two problems with these that would have made things a little difficult. #1 was that the string spacing on the Rick was considerably narrower than that of the Fender Bass and the neck and bridge were going to be spec’d for a Precision bass. #2 was that the Rick Pickups were priced at over $100 apiece, and for a first time project, I felt that spending more than $200 on electronics was going to be a bit much.

 

The second concept had three Danelectro pickups. I liked the Dano pickups mainly because they look really cool and they fit within the general vibe of the instrument. But, I really wanted a set of humbuckers on this bass. After a few online discussions with some members of a bass building forum, I found that it would be possible to buy 4 single coil lipstick pickups and wire them as two pairs of humbuckers. Guitar Fetish sells a set of 3 single coils, bridge, middle and neck with the bridge wired in reverse polarity, conveniently designed to make a humbucker when two adjacent single coils are selected on the guitar. I bought one neck pickup, one bridge, and two middle pickups to make up my two pairs of humbuckers. And, at about $25 apiece, these pickups were half the cost of the Ricks.

 

So in the end, my compromise made the bass more affordable, gave me the humbuckers I wanted and gave me the coolness of the Danelectro. Plus, with help of a six-position rotary switch, I would have the added bonus of having access to the individual coils, giving me that twangy Danelectro tone as well as the fat humbucker vibe!

 

And Voila! I dubbed this bass El Cometa (The Comet).

 

My Top Secret Project: Part 1 – Conceptualization

January 30th, 2015 Permalink

I’ve been contemplating building a bass for a while now. I have sought advice from some local luthiers and friends. I’ve bought a couple books on the subject and have been lurking around reading lots of build threads. Now, the time is drawing near. Among the many different builds I have been thinking about, I’ve […]

I’ve been contemplating building a bass for a while now. I have sought advice from some local luthiers and friends. I’ve bought a couple books on the subject and have been lurking around reading lots of build threads. Now, the time is drawing near.

Among the many different builds I have been thinking about, I’ve dreamt about a Danelectro style semi-hollow body. Plywood and masonite are super-cheap, so to me, this seems like a good, economical start. I’ve found a few Dano-style tele build threads on a couple other forums, so I have some reference. A luthier friend of mine sold me a Warmoth P-spec neck the other day for $50. He pulled it off of his first build and wanted to get rid of it. I can’t remember if he said it was wenge or bubinga. I need to emphasize here that exotic tone woods never have been and never will be my style, but this is a pretty awesome neck for $50. I know for some here on TB, the idea of joining an exotic neck to a plywood/masonite body could be considered an unholy union, but keep in mind that I’m hoping that none of my friends notice that my groovy new retro bass will have this super-fancy neck!

In any case, I produced a sketch based around the shape of Gibson/Epiphone bass and added some different cutaways. I have a Jack Casady, so it makes for easy reference and theoretically, the new bass will fit in a JC case! The treble side cutaway was tough – with the extended fretboard, I kept getting a pointy horn, but I managed to keep it under control.

I’ve laid out three pickup configurations, and although the 3 Dano lipstick vibe (fig. 2) would be the most economical and the most “correct” for a masonite-top bass, I’m leaning towards the Rick humbucker vibe (fig. 1). We’ll see; the string spacing might be a little weird. The fat single-coil vibe of fig. 3 also appeals to me.

Because the steel-reenforced neck is pretty much a boat anchor, I’m thinking a BadAss bridge may be in order, hence the enormous bridge in the sketch. It’s a 34″ scale neck, so I am a little concerned about excessive neck dive. Ultralight tuners may be in order as well.

Any questions or comments are welcome. Hopefully, I will be going out this weekend to buy me a cheap router and some MDF to cut out some templates. Pictures of the neck are below.

Reeds at the Sespe – Santa Clara River Confluence • Fillmore, CA 2013

November 19th, 2013 Permalink

Reeds at the Sespe – Santa Clara River Confluence • Fillmore, CA 2013   The Sespe and the Santa Clara Rivers meet just outside of Fillmore, CA. The sandy bottom is home to a lot of tall reeds and other plant life. Shot just before sunset.

Reeds at the Sespe - Santa Clara River Confluence • Fillmore, CA 2013
Reeds at the Sespe - Santa Clara River Confluence • Fillmore, CA 2013

 

The Sespe and the Santa Clara Rivers meet just outside of Fillmore, CA. The sandy bottom is home to a lot of tall reeds and other plant life. Shot just before sunset.

Fall Treeline • Fillmore, CA 2013

November 11th, 2013 Permalink

Fall • Fillmore, CA 2013 Reeds and bare trees by the Sespe River in Fillmore, CA. Fall skies and Fall colors right before sunset.

Fall • Fillmore, CA 2013
Fall • Fillmore, CA 2013

Reeds and bare trees by the Sespe River in Fillmore, CA. Fall skies and Fall colors right before sunset.