I've always enjoyed making things.
Perhaps the only thing I enjoy more is fixing something that was designed
for obsolesence, so that it lasts as long as the engineer wanted it to,
before being forced to nobble it for commercial reasons. I honestly don't
know how such folk live with themselves, but then, you've got to eat...
My electronic projects are on an
Electronics page. I really should update this, these
projects are really old now.
Wood Working and machines
I built my first electric
guitar when I was 16. I also designed and build a
variety of electronic effects units (12-stage phaser,
state variable filter pedal, etc, but don't use any of them
much, preferring to play my Epiphone acoustic steel-string.
More recently I've been building bass guitars and pickups,
but I haven't posted pictures of them publically yet.
Some other guitar stuff is here
Other musical projects
Recently I made a new instrument, the Cyclonophone. This is something
between a vibraphone and tubular bells, and is made from the
galvanised iron pipe used in Cyclone® wire fences. It has a
unique and wonderful sound - I'll try to get some audio samples
Home renovations stalled me making an electronic controller
for chromatic percussion (vibraphone, marimba, etc) using a
68HC11 microprocessor. This project is described on one of
my electronics pages.
Perhaps this project will get started again, but not with
I drive a 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV Coupe, which I restored
in 1986. Car restoration of any sort is a big project, and I
wanted to stay married so I piked out by getting most stuff done
professionally, just doing the screwdriver work myself.
For six years it had a race-tuned 2 litre Alfa motor in it, but
after that rotted internally I replaced it with an Alfa 75 Twin-Spark
motor. This runs a Bosch Motronics EFI, two coils, two distributors
and two plugs per cylinder, with variable valve timing. Awesome or
what? This has almost the same top-end grunt as the old 2 litre
(160BHP), but starts and runs smoothly and has oodles of torque
across the range. With a weight of 1000kgs, almost 120 BHP at the
rear wheels and a power band that just doesn't let up from 2000 to
7000 RPM, it flies. I still drive it enthusiastically to work daily.
I built this little LEGO® model of the Mars lander robot,
Sojourner because I was fascinated by
Model sailing boat
I have a fiberglass model sailing
boat, the hull of which my father and I made when I was
small (using a wax mold). I brought it out of a deep cupboard
and completely refitted it. It was repainted in auto gloss,
and I sewed a new shaped sail out of modern spinakker cloth.
The sail has a pocket to slip over the mast (an aluminium
arrow), cast a winged keel out of lead, and finally, the coup de
grace, manufactured a self-steering apparatus that keeps it on
course. Interesting techniques I learnt here were:
- To cast lead into any convex shape, make the shape in wood
and finish smooth with auto undercoat/filler. You can
push the shape into wet plaster, cover with plastic food
wrap and expel bubbles, then pour more plaster on top to
get a perfect two-part mold. When the plaster sets you
can cut a fill funnel. After drying, clamp the parts
firmly together between two thick pieces of wood and
you're ready to cast!
- Wait for the plaster mold to completely dry out before
pouring the hot lead in. I had a miniature
volcano in the kitchen, spewing hot lead onto
the floor which splashed up to 2 metres away. Luckily
no-one was around, the mold was on a stainless-steel
bench and the mess spilled on a tiled floor, so there
was no permanent damage. The second time I tried I left
the mold in a warm oven overnight and had no problems.
- To sew a shaped sail out of slippery sailcloth, simply use
a bit of glue stick (non-permanent type) to set the
pieces together before running it through the sewing
machine. You can get the shape perfect, even though
the tolerances on the seams are around a tenth of a
millimeter in this scale.
I made a copy of a 6 foot (1.8 metre) Flexifoil ®
kite. This is a rectangular flying wing which has ten
box sections that inflate through a vent in the front. Five
hours on the sewing machine, whew! Because it's orange and
yellow we named in the "flying fish finger". A single spar
across the front is whippy at the ends, where two strings
attach. It's great fun to fly and very controllable, although
not as fast as the high performance deltas. It does need a
fair wind however because I don't have an ultra-light spar.
When the wind gets light, the nose dips and it flys quickly
towards me. It's kind of hard to retain steering control
when the strings go slack :-).
Sort-of in the "making things" category was an interest in
grafting fruit trees, which I can't indulge any more
since we moved to where there are too many possums. Amongst
other trees I had an apple tree with a different apple ripening
every two weeks from February to July - sigh, I hope the new
owners enjoy it. One year we actually had 17 species (and many
more varieties) of fruit growing on a normal suburban block, and
still had room to play back-yard cricket. Melbourne's got a
fantastic climate for fruit!
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