Category Archives: projects

A new project idea

I have recently been enamored with electroluminescent materials. The way they glow and the diversity of their application is really interesting to me. Recently, I read about electroluminescent paint. That’s right, electroluminescent paint, as in you paint it, hook it up to a power source of some sort, flick a switch and your paint turns “on”. This blew my mind a little bit when I first heard about it, but then it got me thinking; I have a photograph of a record player I want to posterise and then convert into a vector. I could then get a large print made, and then I would paint a trace of the elements of the image in electroluminescent paint. When the lights go out I can turn it on and have a unique piece that lights up un the dark! Tron meets photography meets print. Brilliant. Pun intended.

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Tube Amp Update #1

So, why build a tube amplifier? Tube amps look really cool and produce a unique warm sound. There are some other considerations as well. We live in a digital age, with most of our devices digitally controlled and connected. Tube amplifiers are from an analogue era. Another reason is price; tube amps, such as the one I mention below, cost several thousand dollars.

So, by making a tube amp, I can enjoy all the pleasure of the warm sounds made by the amplifier and all the convenience of being able to control it with digital devices. In effect, by building it at home I can make a custom amplifier to meet my needs.

Every project begins with research. I’ve never built an amplifier before, but I have worked with them. I am going to start this off by looking at kits, and other amps that have been made. This will give me and idea for what kind of design I would like to make and what sort of enclosure I need to build.

I do have some preliminary ideas.
I recently put in a countertop made out of some reclaimed wood from some cabinets that were in my parent’s house from when they remodeled one of their bathrooms. This countertop is stained a dep brown/red. I think that Aesthetically I will want to use the same kind of wood stain and contrast it with chromed elements, to make a high contrast, industrial-looking piece.

A sample of what a tube amp looks like, in a style that I personally enjoy, would be the lauded and very beautiful McIntosh 275, which has been around since 1961.

The McIntosh is pretty amazing except for one really critical flaw. At approximately $4500, it’s pricetag is waaaaaaaaay beyond what a graduate student can afford for something like an amplifier.

So, when I google for a stereo tube amp kit, the first website that comes up is tubedepot.com. This website offers kits to make hi-fi stereo amplifiers, but the options are a little but overwhelming. What’s the difference between a monobloc tube amp and an integrated tube amp anyway? These are important distinctions because they impact the price of the parts.

Speaking of price, how much can I expect to spend on an amplifier kit, and how much am I going to budget for this build? These are questions I haven’t answered yet, but will explore.


Upcoming projects

Since this is a blog about projects I am working on, I thought I would start out with a  update on what some of my upcoming projects I will be working on are. I’ve been on an analogue electronics kick for a little while, and I figure it would be good to implement my interest in them into building some things. The beauty I find in analogue “stuff” is that it very openly displays it’s function, which is to say that if you open an analogue device, you can usually trace what happens by following the wiring from component to component. I find that there is a simplicity in this and that such a method of construction opens the door to many creative and artistic designs. Also, home-built analogue things tend to look really “cool” and make for great conversation pieces. With all that said, here are some projects I am planning on working on

Re-habilitating my AR-4 speakers with new drivers

A few years ago, my father gave me some old speakers. They were his old AR-4’s from when he was in college. I wired them in not too long ago and the tweeters no longer work, and the mids sounded muddy, so I’m convinced the drivers are shot.  My plan for this project is to replace the speaker drivers, change the connectors on the back and install a crossover so that I can tune the speakers. I saw an article on building speakers in Popular Mechanics, and I think I am up to the task.

Building a tube amplifier

I’ve been wanting a tube amplifier for my stereo for a very long time. To me, there is some appeal in attempting to build one. I’ve always found tube amps to be interesting, because as a child I could never figure out how they work. Now, I think they just look cool, and this project would make for a perfect partner to the speaker re-habilitation.

Building a nixie clock

I discovered nixie tubes on the internet a few months ago, and ever since that point, I’ve developed a bit of an obsessed with them. Nixie tubes, in case you are unfamiliar, are sort of like lightbulbs filled with neon gas and containing multiple filaments inside of them shaped like the numbers 0-9. When a filament is turned on, it glows a warm orangey-red. Nixie tubes were used as components of numerical displays in high end electronics from the 60’s and 70’s. Check out the Wikipeida article on them. I think they look really neat in this sort of retro-futurist way, and I think it would be really cool to make a clock with a display featuring them. There are some really impressive ones posted on instructables, two of my favorites can be seen here and here. Since I am a amateur at this, I will be seeking out kits and try to build my own custom housing.

Frosted backlit coffee table top

As mentioned in a previous post, I saw a really cool glass coffee table with a frosted top and a overlay pattern shaped like tree branches. I’d like to build something like this for my current coffee table and back light it to give some neat contrast and additional light at night.

Homebrew beer

Winter is fast approaching, and in Wisconsin, that means finding things to do indoors. We all know that projects get done better when you have tasty beer to drink while working. I thought it would be fun to go one step further and create an all-out mock brand for my beer. I figure making labels and possibly a website for it would be a neat experience, and if I really like what I come up with, it could be something I add to my portfolio.

That’s about it for now, with school right now, my plate is rather full, so I will hopefully be giving updates on these project soon


Coffee Table

Today after work, I got coffee with my best friend, Turner, a we came up with an idea for creating a custom top for my otherwise boring coffee table. The previous weekend while bumming around Brady St, we saw this really interestingly designed coffee table in a shop. The table had a frosted glass top that had some black lines in it which looked like tree branches. It looked really neat, but it was large, low and square. Also, it was about $400. My coffee table, in contrast, was free, and is tall and narrow. I came up with the idea that I could probably make a glass top for my table and have it be in a similar pattern. Turner mentioned he had been looking at buying some electroluminescent wire to make a “Tron” styled costume. I had read recently that one could get electroluminescent “tape”. In case you don’t know what electroluminescent wire/tape is, it is a wire that when connected to electricity will glow like a light, but is not a filament. If you’ve ever seen the movie tron, it’s the stuff they use to make the outfits light up. I think it would be cool to cover the table top in the stuff and have the pattern be backlit.


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