Thursday, May 30, 2013

Electric Wurlitzharmonica

This week I attended Music Hack Day at the Drexel Excite Center.  There were many incredible projects there to investigate, as well as some seriously funky live music and some cool folks, all coming together for a 24-hour musical hackathon. The creative atmosphere was pretty inspiring, and out of this was born a weird new hybrid musical instrument -- the Electric Wurlitzharmonica, or the Wur-monica, for short.

With the Wur-monica, I have found a novel way to amplify a harmonica.  The Wur-monica does not have a microphone or pickup of any kind inside. Instead, the Wur-monica relies on the electromagnetic properties of the instrument itself as a signal source. In fact, the Wur-monica is based on the same elegant principle as my beloved Wurlitzer 200A electric piano (hence the name). 

How it works:
The original Wurlitzer Electric Pianos of the 1960s were gorgeous machines with a really interesting way of generating sound: instead of strings, the piano had large reeds struck by hammers (see picture). The reeds produced a signal using an ingenious electrostatic principle: the reeds were charged up to hundreds of volts, so that they formed a capacitor with the adjacent ground plate.  When the reeds vibrated, this capacitance changed, pushing electrons back and forth to magically produce ethereal honks, buzzes, crunches, and chimes. If you think about it, a condenser microphone also works in much the same way (except with parallel plates instead of vibrating reeds).  In a sense, each Wurlitzer piano reed is its own condenser microphone.

The Wur-monica works using the same principle as the Wurlitzer piano. Each brass reed inside the Wur-monica is mounted on a brass plate, but does not touch it.  This creates a very small capacitance between the reeds and the plate.  When a reed vibrates, this capacitance changes, creating a signal that can be amplified.  Again, no mics, pickups, or piezos are needed -- wires are connected directly to the reeds, so that the reeds themselves produce their own electrical signal.

The main advantage of this technique is that it should be immune to acoustic feedback, like a microphone would get.  But I'm also hoping to maybe capture a little of that crunchy, magical, soulful Wurlitzer sound in a pocket-sized instrument.

This project is only a proof of concept, so I didn't spend much time refining the circuitry, the method for mounting the reeds, or the intonation, for that matter. In fact, I only bothered to mount seven of the reeds, and one of them is still kind of wonky and shorts out the circuit if I blow too hard (you can hear it shorting in the video). Still, after only a few hours of hacking, I was pretty pleased with how the prototype looks and sounds. 

Please check it out and leave me some feedback!  And if you like classic devices updated with new electronics, check out my USB Typewriter instructable, too. And please vote for this project in the Pocket Sized Contest!  Thanks!

First Test:

Final Test (just before getting dizzy and passing out):

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Book Light

Here is all you will need.

Book (make sure it is quite thick to handle depth of the socket)
6' extension cord
light switch
light socket
electrical tape
light bulb
glue (I actually never used it)

The Forstner bit set was $20 at Lowes.  It is very important to use this type of drill bit as traditional bits, paddle bits, and routers will make a very rough edge and will not look good.  The two bits I used were the 1 3/8" and 1/2".

I have seen some people use a watered down Elmer's Glue solution on the page edges to keep them in place but I didnt want to take the chance it would ruin the gold look that is on my specific book.  
Also, some people have used dry wall screws to hold the pages together.  I have personally not tried this but I would consider it as long as you dont place them close to the page edges.

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WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Storage Drive Review

Legit Storage Reviews

When it comes to external portable hard drives one of the most recognized product lines is most certainly the My Passport series that was first introduced by WD in 2004. These little portable hard drive enclosures and the included WD SmartWare software that automatically and continuously backs up your critical data has saved God only knows how much digital data over the years. For example in 2008 the flagship My Passport featured a 320GB hard drive, used the USB 2.0 interface, measured 126.2 x 79.5 x 15 mm (LxWxH) and cost a cool $199.99. WD has kept the My Passport brand alive over the years by continually refreshing it and offering new models like Essential, Elite, Edge, Enterprise, Studio and so on. Today, WD announced the My Passport Ultra, which is the latest refresh for this popular brand line and it includes 500GB ($99.99) and 1TB ($129.99) models now and a 2TB model that comes out in Q3 2013. So, the flagship My Passport Ultra is a 1TB hard drive costs $129.99, uses the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 interface and measures just 110.5 x 82 x 15.4 mm (LxWxH). Not bad considering where the My Passport line started from!

WD My Passport Ultra 1TB

Besides the rather impressive hardware specifications, most of the magic happens with the software. When it comes to software you get WD Drive Utilities and WDSmartWare Pro backup software. These programs allow you to choose when and where you backup your files, but it also allows you to password protect and hardware encrypt the files on the drive, run diagnostics and more. You can also now use your Dropbox account, if you have one, to back up your files to the cloud.  The WD My Passport allows you to back everything up locally on traditional media and then to the cloud if you want it, which is a nice touch. The WD My Passport Ultra comes backed by a 3-year warranty that covers both parts and labor. It is nice to see WD increase the warranty period on the My Passport series as it was previously just 2-years.

WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Bundle

Inside the retail box you'll find the portable hard drive, 1.5-foot USB 3.0 cable, soft pouch, warranty card and the Quick Install Guide. WD lists that the WD SmartWare software, WD Security and WD Drive Utilities are included in the box, but you won't be getting a disc or flash drive with the bundle as the software is already on the portable hard drive. This is the first My Passport drive to come with a carrying pouch to protect the drive from scratches on the go.

WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Hard Drive

Western Digital went with a grey plastic casing on the My Passport Ultra series that is adorned with a circular pattern and the WD logo and product name. This is the same exact pattern that was used on the My Passport Edge (soon to be phased out), so if it looks familiar that is why. The finish on the My Passport appears to be semi-gloss and it does not show finger prints and smudges. The size of the WD My Passport depends on which capacity that you get. 

The WD My Passport Ultra 1TB drive that we are looking at today measures in at 110.5mm x 82mm x 15.4mm with a weight of 5.44 ounces. Western Digital is using a 5400 RPM hard drive with two platters and a 7mm Z-height on this particular drive.

WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Hard Drive Back

Flipping the My Passport Ultra over we see that WD placed four rubber pads on the bottom to keep the portable hard drive from sliding around the surface that you place it on. The designers of this enclosure obviously know that, and made indentations in the housing for the feet to sit down into. The back also lists the part number, serial number, where it was produced (Malaysia) and a whole bunch of logos that don't mean much to the general public.

WD My Passport Ultra USB 3.0 Port

Looking down the end of the WD My Passport Ultra we can see the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port and off to the right of that there is a very small white LED activity indicator light. Even if you don't have USB 3.0 today you can use this drive and then down the road when you invest in a PC that has USB 3.0 it will work and actually be faster. Pretty much every new Desktop PC or laptop feature at least two USB 3.0 ports. Since the WD My Passport Ultra uses a derivative of a notebook hard drive it gets it power from the USB 3.0 port, so no power adapter needs to be plugged into the wall. This means the only cable that you need to bring with you when traveling is the USB 3.0 data cable that comes with the drive.

Let's fire this drive up and take a look at the backup software as that is the main reason you are likely looking into buying this drive.

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How to build a 3D-printed robot reindeer toy

3D Printing! Mold-making! Digital Rendering! Apoxie Sculpt!!! Woodshoppery! For this project Tina and I decided to try to learn about 3D printing and I'll show you what we learned and how we ended up making the toy. We were asked to make two robot reindeer toys as props for a Christmas film; one is a retro, 1970s robot and the other is the updated sleek modern version. The legs and head have slight articulation and the nose has a red blinking LED.

Also; I'm entering this build in the 3D Printing Contest. If you like it please vote (up there in the top right corner) I would LOVE to win a 3D printer - holy smokes, how awesome would that be????!

Here are the materials that I remember using:

SLS 3D printing
Foam block
Wood (3/4 ply, 2x4)
5/8 threaded rod
Epoxy glue
Spray paints and primers
Smooth-on Mold Star 30
Red tint
Solid Works

The first step in the build was figuring out what it would look like. I scratched out some possible shapes and designs in my sketchbook and ran them by the production designer. As it turned out he was taken with one of the doodles and we went ahead with that design without changing it too much (mostly the antlers and the addition of a rocket jet pack on it's back). I hired a 3D renderer (Brad Rothwell, who has submitted some great stuff here on Instructables) to make a Solid Works rendering that I could submit to the printers.

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Folding Book Art - Wedding Table Numbers

I am getting married soon and my fiance was looking at how to mark the table numbers.

The wedding is a village fete / vintage sort of theme. My wife to be is an english teacher, and we both like books...

As she was looking for inspiration she came across one of the folded books with words in. I'm sure you have seen them before, but if not check out this link:

At this point I thought "I can do that!". So I set about folding numbers in to the books instead of words...

After I had done my first number, I tried to search the Internet for instructions to see if there is a better way of doing it. I couldn't find instructions (without paying $15), just a couple of free templates (for a crown), but no instructions on how to use them.

So I stuck with my method, and this is what I will go through here.

In theory you should be able to use the same method for words or picture.

Date Made: May 2013
Approx Cost: £0.50 per book
Approx Time: 1.5 hours per book
Difficulty: Medium

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VHS Tape Bracelet

I recently have started to crochet again, but I am just a beginner so I am trying to make easy patterns.
The great thing about crochet is that easy doesn't necessarily mean can make very nice things using basic crochet stitches!

I first made this bracelet using simple cotton but after I read about the Vintage Contest, I decided to "destroy" an old VHS cassette and see what I could do with it! :D

So, here is my crocheted bracelet made with VHS tape! :)

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