Monday, February 4, 2013

Allen Wrenches

I got a new pedal steel guitar recently, and it needed some adjustments, some of which require an allen wrench. My dad had an extra set I could use, the only problem was that it was missing one. No problem, I can just find a replacement one. My first stop was Googling what seemed to be the brand (Bondhus), so I quickly found the website. After looking around, I found what I needed, but I also came across this:
(Image courtesy Northern Tool)
Nope. You're not insane (well, maybe). That's exactly what it looks like. 14K gold plated allen wrenches. The thing I find fascinating about these is that they are not cheap aftermarket diamond encrusted bling tools because why the heck not. These are sold as professional tools, and as having a real use in the real world! Not only that, but they have a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon!
I'm not making any derogatory comment about them, I just felt the need to post something, didn't have anything else to post, and discovered these tonight.
On that note, is there anything in particular that y'all would like me to do? I'd really like to post some more, but I'm pretty limited in what I can do at UNT. I'd post the occasional school assignment, but I'm afraid of getting into some weird "academic dishonesty" trouble for copying the work that I posted. There is a Cessna 185 kit I have thought about doing, but that might be a bit too much. It could definitely be fun though.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Project Euler

Well, I haven't really done much of anything in the last six or so months. I've been working on a road case for my steel guitar, I might try to post that soon. The main thing I've been working on besides school is a really cool website called Project Euler. It's basically a site that has a bunch of different interesting math problems to solve in any way you see fit. Since I took a class last semester that focused on MATLAB, I've been doing them in that. I'm not sure is there's a completely mathematical way to solve all of them, but if you enjoy programming, or want to get into it, I highly recommend the site. If you're afraid of math, I still recommend trying it out, because the problems are really kind of more "number" based than "math" based.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick Update

Well as I'm sure you have noticed by now, my backlog of posts has been used up. At this point I have a backlog of post titles, but I have yet to write the actual posts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bottleneck Slides

At the beginning of the summer, I decided to take up yet another hobby; luckily this time though, it is related to others I have, not too time consuming, and best of all, cheap: making guitar slides out of wine bottle necks. All it takes is a bottle scorer and wine bottles. I got my scorer at Hobby Lobby, but it is also available on Amazon.
It's simple to use as long as you actually follow the directions. I actually did it a bit differently than the directions specified, but I still employed the same principles.
First, a little bit of science and clarification: whenever somebody talks about "cutting" glass, it is almost guaranteed that they are not actually cutting it. More often than not, it is actually controlled breaking: the way "cutting" glass works is by making a very fine score; the finer the score, the cleaner the "cut" or separation. When cutting a pane of glass for something like a window, a line is usually scribed along a straightedge, and the excess piece is carefully tapped until it cleanly breaks off. Bottlenecks are a little different though: since they are round, you obviously can't use a straightedge, and tapping the glass (though sometimes used) will almost always end with an at least somewhat jagged edge. What is needed then, is a way to score the glass, and make it want to crack, but in a more controlled manner.
Solving the problem of how to score the glass is fairly simple; all you need is a way to make a straight score on a pivot, which is the purpose of the bottle scorer.
Actually getting the glass to break cleanly is a little trickier. Enter thermal shock: a way to break the glass without hitting it.
Basically, thermal shock will often cause stuff to crack due to uneven heating, and glass is especially susceptible to it. All that is needed is a source of high temperature, and a source of low temperature. These can range from candles to burning string soaked with lighter fluid to blowtorches to hot water from tap, likewise sticking stuff in a freezer to ice to cold water from the tap. I used the combination of a hot water kettle and cold water from the tap.
Now that I've explained the basic science behind it, here's the process:
The first step is to line the scorer up perpendicular to the glass. Next I went around once with the scorer, going as lightly as possible while still making a score. The next step is to run it under boiling water and cold water over the score until it finally breaks. At this point, all it needs is some sanding of the edges to break the very sharp corners.

I think the rest of the bottle looks really cool, and I always feel like it has to be good for "something," but I haven't quite figured out what that something is yet.

Here is the finished product:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bottleneck Slide Rack

Earlier this summer, I decided to start yet another hobby that I will get into in a later post, but for now I'll just leave this picture here:
I already have, and will make, quite a few of these, so I need a good place to store them. Seeing the holes in the middle made me think of racks that you might find in a music store, so I decided to build my own. My first step was completely designing and planning it out in Google Sketchup. I didn't really have a specific idea of what I wanted, I just started trying things. I started by thinking a step might add some aesthetic appeal, and would also allow me to see the slides in the back. Once I had that dialed in, I decided to have the number of shafts one less in front. Once again, not only did it add some aesthetic interest, it also made it easier to see all the slides.
The first step was getting the wood to the proper dimensions: I started with some pine that came from an old bed frame, and cut it to the dimensions, followed by planing it down to the proper thickness. After that, I needed to put the step in the block. I had originally planned on using a dado stack, but since we got our new SawStop, our old (but perfectly good) 6" dado stack won't work with it; instead, we need an 8" stack. Since spending around $200 on a new stack is not my top priority right now, I decided to use the router table outfitted with a straight bit. This worked perfectly fine, and was at least as easy. The next thing I needed to do was drill the holes for the shafts, and of course cut the shafts themselves.
To drill the holes, I chucked a forstner bit into my drill press and clamped a piece of MDF. To the table to act as a makeshift fence. I then marked out the center point of all of the holes, and started drilling. The fence was set so the drill press would drill with the center 3/4" in from the edge. And the depth stop to drill 1/4" deep. This was nice because all I had to do to drill the front and back was flip it around and adjust the depth stop. I ran into a little trouble after resetting for the lower level: since I didn't tighten the depth stop properly, I almost drilled straight through the board. Luckily, I realized what was happening in time to stop plunging. To fix it, I plugged the hole, and once the glue was dry, I re-drilled the hole.
To make the shafts, I bought a piece of 5/8" dowel rod, and cut 15 pieces to 2 1/4". Obviously, cutting 15 pieces to exactly 2 1/4" freehand would be pretty much impossible, so I I made a jig. All I did was drill a 5/8" hole 2 1/4" deep, then I cut out a chunk so I could push it out. I then just used my Japanese handsaw to cut right along the edge, and then I just popped it out and slid in the dowel again.
The next step is extremely straightforward, all I had to do now was glue the shafts in place. All I did was put some glue in each hole, spread it around a little bit, and tap the shafts in. I didn't bother clamping it off two reasons: first off, it would be nearly impossible, and second, I just don't think it really needs it, since it isn't exactly going to be load bearing.

I plan to put a finish on it at some point, so you might see this rack return at some point, but it is ready for use.

What I Would Do Differently

The only thing I might have done differently was make an extra base to ease the clamping. I ran into some trouble with getting all the shafts straight, so a way to align them would have been helpful.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back at College!

Just a heads-up, I am indeed back at UNT. I moved in Move-in day was last Saturday, and though I think most if not all of my stuff is up here, I'm not exactly settled in and unpacked yet. Also, like last year, because I am back at UNT, the posts will certainly be slowing down. Luckily though, I have a backlog (albeit small) of posts that I need to format and add pictures to, but will be able to put those out on a somewhat regular basis. Who knows, maybe I will post a picture of my room once I'm done.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fixing the Marantz

As I'm sure you are well aware of, I am going to college at UNT, and am staying in the dorms on campus. Now as great as my headphones are, I still like to listen to music through speakers every once in a while, and the speakers on my laptop don't cut it by a long shot. Because of this, I decided to bring my stereo up from home: the wonderful, magical, beautiful Marantz 2230.
The legendary Marantz 2230.
Look at those big, beautiful preamps attached to the heatsinks!
It may be from the 70's, and it may weigh over 30 lbs, but it sounds fantastic! Anyways, it worked great for the first semester and about half of the second, but then I noticed that something weird was happening: the left channel was getting quieter and quieter. I could compensate by adjusting the balance for a while, but the white noise due to turning it up so loud to compensate for the imbalance finally got so unbearable that I had to use headphones plugged directly into the computer for the rest of the semester. Finally, a few weeks ago, my dad and I decided that it was time to fix it. The first step was isolating the problem: we began by narrowing it down to the preamps, which made sense, as there was one for each channel.
 Luckily, we had not only the user manual (which actually came with a schematic), but also the service manual, which had schematics for each section as well as different values the components should read. We narrowed down the problem even more, figuring out which transistor made the left channel so much quieter than the right one. We started by replacing that transistor. No dice. We replaced a couple of capacitors, still nothing. Luckily, I remembered that we had another Marantz above the office more or less for parts, so I went up and brought it back down. We decided to just go ahead and replace the entire preamp, since by this time we were tired of troubleshooting. We cut the preamp loose, and proceeded to replace the preamp. My dad had been lamenting the length (or lack thereof) of the wire when trying to probe the preamp, so we decided to make sure there would be the perfect amount of wire to lay flat while working. After spending quite some time on that, we plugged the stereo back in and checked the signals. Same thing: the left channel was way quieter. We did find it fairly odd that both preamps had the same problem, but the parts unit had been above the office for so long that we had no idea what kind of condition it was in. We decided to cut the other preamp free from the parts unit to test, and this time use clip leads to connect them instead of soldering before testing. We hooked all the wires up, and it had the same problem! By this time, we began to suspect that maybe the left channel preamp wasn't the problem. We then decided to do what we should have done at the beginning: bring out the other Marantz 2230 we had (and knew worked), and compare the levels. As I'm sure you have figured out by now, the left channel was the correct volume, and the right channel was too loud! Once we finally figured that out, it was a relatively quick fix of replacing the right channel preamp. We got it put back together, and I now have a beautiful and fantastic sounding stereo to bring to college in a few weeks.

What I Would Do Differently

CLIP LEADS CLIP LEADS CLIP LEADS!!! Never again will I solder something like that again without first testing it with clip leads. I also would probably compare it with a known source if possible. Because it was important to compare known amplitudes, we used a function generator with the leads precariously clipped onto a headphone jack-to-stereo RCA cable. If I ever have to do something like this again, I definitely plan on making a BNC-to-stereo RCA cable; it would make the entire process much easier.

Edit: When I said we replaced the preamp, I was actually mistaken. What we actually replaced was the entire preamp and power module.