Monday, December 20, 2010

yet ANOTHER trailer!

Ok, so here we go once again with another trailer build!  Well, like the last one, I did not build the frame, but simply added a box to a decommissioned kids trailer. The reason for this one? With the cargo trike in winter hibernation I still like to move my drums by pedal power as much as possible. In past winters I've borrowed the big trailer I built for my friend Bridget a while back, but it is bigger than I need, a bit too flimsy for the weight of drums (side rails bend more than they should), and a real pain to store in my basement due to its size.

I decided for this year that since I'm don't really want to tow my bigger kits across town (there's VrtuCar for moving those babies), and that most of my downtown gigs are with the small jazz kit, a trailer to just fit that would be ideal. Yes, it looks quite similar in size to the other trailer, but here's why it's different:

The other one, being made with an aluminum frame, a bit of plywood, and lots of coroplast (corrugated plastic) is nice and lightweight for hauling and keeping dry the various amplifiers and electronics and small drums I use in my dance class gigs. It is fine for towing this sort of stuff for quite a few kilometres, but between it's a bit flimsy for the weight of a drum kit, and the fact that its dimensions make it just a bit too small for the kit sealed the issue. So now I have one trailer for lightweight and long haul, the other for sturdy and short haul.

This newest trailer is built from 100% recycled or leftover materials. The only new items were the bolts, and even they were surplus from previous trailer / cargo builds.

A simple plywood box bolted to an old trailer frame. It's previous incarnation was as a kids trailer, complete with webbing and buckles and straps, but all were in questionable shape. A friend's friend gave this to me just before moving out of town, saying "hey, you like trailer projects...".

Since this trailer takes the place of the big cargo trike during the winter some flexibility is needed with what it can move. I was thinking of a hinged tailgate, then remembered I had this metal grid stuff from years ago. And I thought if the grid layout even roughly fits the width of the trike I'll use it, and it did, quite nicely! It's held on with easily removable zip-ties for now, and allows long things to be carried as they can poke through the grid.

The wood was bolted together using 1/4" bolts with nylock nuts and surplus aluminum channel I had found years ago at Cohen and Cohen. This channel stuff has also been used for both the cargo trike and the big trailer.
Since I was using scrap or leftover items I found two pieces of plywood for the bottom. One sheet would've been ideal, but these needed to get used up. Of course a brace below the seam might be good, so I added a piece of 1x3 for this, which also doubled as a support for the rear end since the box overhung the trailer frame (I then notched the wood so it would rest on the crossbar).

The brown bolts were from some old melamine cabinets.

The hitch is a bit primitive compared to the Chariot ball and socket on my other trailer, but seems to work just fine.

Box is held to frame at three points. Two out back, and this one in front. This allowed me to use existing holes and not add more than necessary, as any holes can provide entry points for moisture (all other existing holes from when it was a kids trailer were tightly covered over with electrical tape).

Despite a long coroplast "crap flap" hanging from the winter bike's rear fender, some salty spray still hit the underside. So a coroplast spray guard was added to the trailer's front.

A few days later, and some additions. Fenders installed, and eye-bolts replaced a few of the reg bolts so a tarp could be added over top if need be. In the past I've used coroplast for fenders, but these lovely orange things, while a bit short, could not be passed up.

I think the only remaining improvement to be made is to change out the old hitch for a modern Chariot one as on the other trailer, because right now I have to undo the winter bike's axle bolt and change the fitting for each trailer. UPDATE: done! It's nice to be able to use this trailer with either of my two winter bikes (which in 2011 replaced the single blue one pictured above).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More HPVOoO parade fun

Last Saturday the HPVOoO gang took part in our local Help Santa Toy Parade. We've been doing this annually since 2003, and our thing is to dress up Richard's Greenspeed tandem recumbent trike towing the big organ trailer as our main float. Then the rest of us cycle around it on our mostly dressed-up bikes and trikes.

For this year we came up with the idea of dressing the rig up as an old steam locomotive, with lights being used to delineate the form.  A blog was put together for sharing design ideas, then a bunch of us gathered at the re-Cycles shop on a Saturday afternoon (only doable because re-Cycles had switched to being open on Sunday for the winter) and got things underway. More work was done throughout the week, and on parade day it was fabulous!

Details on the build here:

Lots of photos:

The main feature was a real diesel train horn, which Richard went looking for and was actually able to acquire! It sounded awesome (and very loud) when we tested it (hooked up to a compressor), and so it was incorporated into the design. It was a great hoot (literally) during the parade.

More links to the parade at:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Even more whistle / flute creation

I decided to revise the bend in the copper Bass whistle, and added a neck strap. The strap consist of the three pieces: a sleeve of bicycle innertube around the instrument, with a key-ring slipped in, and a clip-on strap.

 The playing position with the lower bend was OK, but this more conventional bend feels even better. Now to spend more time playing this thing and getting used to the finger hole spread...

 Time to give this beauty a final polish and then a spray coat of lacquer.
Next up: The low D pvc whistle sounds quite nice, and since it has a detachable head joint I decided to make two more bodies for it, one being in D minor (same scale as D but just a flatted 3rd), and then a weirder one in what I finally figured out is called "Phrygian Dominant".  This mode has lowered second, sixth and seventh notes that result in a scale used in lot of Arabic and Middle Eastern music. 

The only challenge with this last one is the large reach to the last hole! Since the third note (F#) is in the usual place and the next note is a minor third down to the flatted second I have one heck of stretch. This is being dealt with by using my pinky finger instead of the the third finger, and I also use this technique on the Bass whistle, and does not feel odd since I'm so used to playing recorder when the pinky is used for the bottom note. As a matter of fact, since my third finger sits idle with this technique I could be silly and add a hole under it, resulting in a major / minor scale!

D major on top, then D minor, then the Phryg.-Dom. scale.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More flute / whistle creation

OK, so in the previous post I showed off some tin / cro-moly / pvc whistles I've been making.

This next one is a Low Bass in "A", made from 1" copper pipe. This pipe (about ten feet long) was salvaged from the previous location of the re-Cycles shop, as the old heating system was being torn out with lots of pipe up for grabs. I'd saved the longest pieces for future projects at the shop, though I was thinking more for railings or similar than for instruments.

Here I've attached the external windway and am filing out the fipple hole:
Yes, it be a long beastie. Roughly 31 inches! Note the amount of tarnish, and how nicely that polishes away with some fine steel wool and lots of elbow grease:
First hold drilled - it's in tune! More or less, of course. Always need to do some filing and fine tuning:
Et Voila! It will take a while to get it really polished up. There's some discolouration along the back that I may or may not fuss over, as I think it'd need some sort of power buffer to get rid of it:
The 2nd and 3rd whistles along with the new guy:
I knew that the holes would have to be fairly far apart. And while I have big hands it would still be almost impossible to play if the holes were kept inline. So some judicious angling was needed. As it is, I cannot easily reach the last hole with my third finger, though can do so with the pinky and it's just large enough to cover.

An alternative would be to learn the "piper's grip" used on bagpipes, where some holes are covered by the joints of the fingers. Otherwise I've hit the limit of how long I can make one of these things and still play it without adding keys:
The beak and windway:

I was already planning to put a tuning barrel on the thing, which would help reduce its size when being transported. Then I thought perhaps a bend would help with the reach, because part of my energy was going into just holding the thing out at an angle so I could play it properly. So the one thing purchased for this whistle was the 45 deg. coupling:
Yes, it might look a bit odd, sort of like those old oboes or clarinets from the 1700s. Aesthetically it would've looked nice with the bend nearer the beak, but then it would not have packed down as nicely. I guess I could add a barrel in the middle AND have the angle near the beak, but then I'd just be adding more weight to what is already a pretty hefty instrument (probably weighs twice as much as a normal flute, and those things even have keys and related mechanisms on them).
The big thing is how does it sound? Actually, really good! :)
I can so far play a full two octaves and they are all in tune. I'm actually rather amazed it came out as well as it did, but that's mainly because I'm not much of a diligent craftsman and tend to rush my projects.

But one thing I'd been pondering... would the sound change much if I used the traditional windway and fipple? With the above whistle being made in two pieces I could simply make another top piece and try it out. So I carved a windway into another piece of dowel, and hammered out a fipple...

I didn't have a dowel of sufficient diameter for the tube, so some masking tape was employed (and yes, of course I need to do some finishing work, like sanding!):

Everything I've read advises that this is the most critical area of the sound. Just a millimeter or two in terms of the fipple's width, length, or depth can make a noticeable change. So lots of room to fuss, and I'm not the most patient person with such things...

And how does it sound in comparison to the exofipple design? Well, so far it actually sounds more pure, more flute-like. But it's a whistle, not a flute, and so I actually prefer the tone of the exofipple head sounds, which sounds so nice right now. So I'm not in a hurry to experiment with this newest head, but will keep it around and play with it at a later date.

So Yay for a fabulous Bass Whistle in A, made for about $5 (not counting wear and tear in drill bits, etc.)!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DIY tin whistles

For the dance group my wind instruments have been my recorders, both alto and my recently-acquired tenor. I've been wanting to get a "Low D" tin whistle for a while now, which is one octave below the usual penny whistle. As with pretty well all of my non-drumset instruments, I'm not all that interested in playing the folk / ethnic music these were made for, though I do make sure I know what that music is about and its history. Because with the dance group I'm usually working in situations of improvised music I'm always looking for new ways to express myself, and the low whistles can have a rather haunting, beautiful sound.

So I was going to buy one, and but for some weird reason the Susato I'd ordered from a Canadian distributor never arrived, and they were baffled as to why, so my order was canceled and money refunded. While this was getting sorted out I'd been reading up on do-it-yourself whistles, and now presumed this order foul-up was the universe telling to get on with making my own.

There are some excellent resources on the Net for this, both websites and YouTube videos. I was rather intrigued by the ideas offered at and also . So I decided to try it out, and so what kind of tubing should I use? Well, why not start with bicycle tubing? It's not, given my pedal-powered proclivities, like I don't know where to find any. ;)

So I cut up an old dead Peugeot road frame. This first one was just to try the external windway concept, and so I initially only drilled the fipple hole, put a plug in. Now, with a conventional whistle the windway is carved out of the top of the plug. But with the "exofipple" design it rests on top of the tube. So I taped on a windway made from of a slice of handlebar! It sounded suprisingly fabulous, so I drilled the other holes rather quickly in roughly the right places just for fun. The whole thing is a bit sharp, as I had not bothered to set a specific pitch by cutting it to length (since it was supposed to be a one-note test).

The handlebar windway. I made this using the end of an aluminum handlebar, which worked nicely because the outer edge is beveled.
Fipple view:

So while it 's a bit wonky it does work. So the next step was to use a prize piece of tubing, this one being from my old bike that was damaged when I was hit by a taxi a few years back (i never really thought about why I did not just scrap the bike right away, but I'm now very glad I didn't!). This tubing, unlike the old Peugeot, is made from triple-butted cro-moly steel, and much lighter. Unfortunately it's also black and scuffed up, so not much of a looker...

Fipple hole drilled:

Wooden plug made from an old broom handle (yes, this will need some sanding):
Cutting the windway from the handlebar:

It's kind of hard to put visible drill markings over black paint, so I used masking tape.
I left the tube's cable housing guides on. The middle one makes for a fine thumbrest.
Yes, the holes do not line up as well as they could have. I'd like both a decent hammer punch, and a drill press!
Note how much taller this windway is than on the green whistle. The small hole in the wood is for a hook so I can hang the plug while its gets varnished. The hole will disappear when the the end is cut to make the beak.

Yay for lots of cut-up bicycle tubing to play with. But I later realized most of it is too short, so the ideal bore to length ratio cannot be achieved. For low whistles (the kind I want to build) I need lengthy tubing from really large bikes!
Even the black whistle's bore might be a bit big for its length, but it sounds fine. Oh, and it is in the key of "G".
Now on to more fun, and time for an actual Low D whistle!

I made the first one out of pvc pipe, but messed up the hole calculations due to reading the ratios for short whistles, not long ones. Doh! So then I grabbed an old squeegee mop, and its shaft was made from aluminum. This one came out right! But boy, the reach to the lowest note is a bit of a stretch, but I'm getting used to it. This last whistle is a bit too breathy, so I'll file the windway down a bit so it's not so tall.

Note in the photo below that the black on, while shorter, has a wider bore. So it's definitely the loudest of the bunch, and when the re-Cycles shop scraps its next large road bike frame I'm grabbing its downtube to make a nice cro-mo Low D. ;)
The cro-mo whistle now sports a correct beak. The whistles are certainly playable without the beak, but having one is more comfortable.
The pvc's windway. Obviously not going to spend any time smoothing it out and cutting the beak, since there's no way to correct the intonation issue. It's all part of the learning process!
The two Low D whistles. Note that the pvc's holes are mostly too far up the pipe, making them sharp. Note that only holes 6 and 3 (from left) match the upper whistle.
Upcoming whistle projects: an in-tune pvc one (in either D or C), and also one out of copper pipe. I will want to make a pvc one using Guido's plans (no exofipple).

I'm also intrigued by the "overtone flute" concept (look up "fujara" on YouTube), and the idea of making both a Japanese shakuhachi as well as a S. American quena. But these last two have a a bit of a learning curve, so we'll see if I first make them, then ever get a sound out of them.

Oh, and I would also like to acknowledge the fabulous accumulated wisdom in the forums of Chiff and Fipple, and the fine info from junkdojo on YouTube.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Propeller Dance - "Shedding Light"

Ok, I wandered away from this blog again... Mostly because I tend to upload stuff to FaceBook first, but also because my new camera creates such large raw files that my old Mac Mini was struggling to keep up when processing them. Now I'm using a nice G5 iMac with four times the RAM and double the processing speed, so things are rockin', and continue to be about four years behind the cutting edge. ;)

Back in early June the Propeller Dance group held its annual year-end fundraiser on the 11th and 12th, and this time we did two nights at the Arts Court Theatre. It turned out to be a hot ticket event, as both shows sold out! Photos are below...

I've done a ton of work with the group so far this year, as I continued not only working with the Monday evening class but also with the main performing group. And there have been quite a few workshops as well, and for a change these have continued into the summer. Since Dominique St. Pierre has always been the perf. group's main musician we did not want to leave him out of the big show, so he was able to juggle his schedule and Propeller found the cash to pay for both of us! So we got to create the music together and it was great fun. A video of the show should be forthcoming.

More photos of this event are at David Scrimshaw's Flickr page.

Our shows were on the Friday and Saturday nights, and Thursday was for dress rehearsal, so we musicians loaded in on the Wed. night while the stage set was being constructed...
Testing out lighting patterns...More or less complete...
Fellow musicians Mike Essoudry and Dominique St. Pierre get things organized...My rig. Yes, it resembles those keyboard stacks from the 70's, but it made life easier, since sounds often have to be changed quite quickly. Just had to thrown some plywood together for a stand and voila. At left, Roland Handsonic HS-10 (digital percussion pad). The lower keyboard is my venerable Kawai K4 synth (now about 20 years old!), while upper one is an M-Audio Key-Rig 49 triggering soundfonts on the petite iBook at right (which also played a few loops). On the Kawai sits my Aulos alto recorder...The silent auction during intermission. It brings in the dough!
Members of the main performing group gear up for the show...