Sunday, November 13, 2011

DIY drum case

My latest drum purchase. This is a westernized version of a Thai drum called a "klong yao", made by Toca out of fiberglass. It is quite light, and has a fabulous bass tone, as one can imagine by the length of the body. At local drum circles I am usually one of the more experienced players, so having a drum that can both drive the groove and help steady it is important, and this one is much better for that than my old Remo djembe. Remo makes a similar klong yao, and I tried one out many years ago but balked at the $400 price tag (it also weighs more). The Toca one is around $200 and Dave's Drum Shop here in Ottawa can bring in any Toca product (it was fun browsing the catalogue...).

But of course a drum needs a case! Many folks carry their hand drums in bags, and I'd thought of buying a gym bag and lining it with foam, but since I'm often hauling more than one instrument at a time something that could better protect the drum as I squeeze gear through doorways was needed. For my small jazz kit I had extended a 12" case to fit three small drums, and I used that same idea for this one. So, start with one retro 70's drum case (again from Dave's Drum Shop) and add some foam. Note leather strap with buckle instead of modern plastic buckle.

To accommodate the lengthy drum an extension was needed. My material of choice for this is sheets of (used) corrugated plastic and duct tape (yay for our petrochemical industry). In this case, a stash of abandoned signs from the Reform oops Conservative Party had been found a while back and now were being put to much better use.

Test fitting.

The trick to getting coroplast to bend is to use a utility knife to score one side. Then add duct tape...

Tabs of duct tape hold things in place, and a few full wraps of tape will be added when all sheets are in place.

Perfect fit.

Looking good! For now the strap is lengthened with a bungee cord. If I find an old belt that is long enough I could use that instead.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The cargo trike is now in its eighth year of operation. One thing I had to decide upon over the winter was the battery pack for its electric assist, as the most recent one had started to die late last year and I barely squeaked through November with it (though through proper charging and management I did get two years out of that pack, which was darn good).

I'd been using sealed lead acid batteries (SLA) since the assist was installed, but that is not the best technology for the high power drain of such a set-up. Over the years I was advised to look into a lithium pack, but they were darned pricey (SLA was $200, lithium $800 at the time). But the prices have come down, and my friend BlackBurnPete told me of Ping Battery in China. This Ping fellow was getting excellent reviews of his products on e-assist forums, as he apparently has done his homework to make sure the batteries and their technology are reliable.

My previous pack was 12AH (amp hours) but being an SLA pack something called the Peukert Effect comes into play so the it only delivered perhaps 8AH. The above lithium pack is 15AH and does not suffer the same effect, so I'd be getting almost twice the range! 

One can feel a sense of trepidation sending money to an overseas seller and hoping everything will be OK. And this transaction was problem free. He notified me as soon as the payment was received and that he would let me know when it was being shipped and provide a tracking number. It arrived as advertised, and as the leads are supplied bare I asked my friend Charles R., who had done electrical work on the trike in the past, to add Anderson connectors.

Since this pack is smaller I simply cut down the battery box (easy to do when made out of coroplast and duct tape) and added some foam padding underneath, since instead of four solid SLA batteries I now had an assembled bunch of smaller lithium ones, and vibration might cause connections to fail. Perhaps this thing is rugged enough as it is, but it is little effort to add this protection. One addition is the piece of recycled plexiglass added to the top so I can see the LEDs for the battery management system.

This uses the same Anderson connectors as before going to the controller, but the charger uses 3-pin XLR (yes, same as a microphone, which could be confusing for a drummer like me).

The battery management system, the proper design of which is the key to having a healthy battery pack, It makes sure all the cells are properly balanced when charging.

The biggest advantage to this new pack is that one does not have to constantly recharge a lithium pack. SLAs can get damaged due to sulfation if left in any state of discharge, so if the trike is going to be parked for more than an hour or so the pack has to come out and get recharged. So for almost any gig I did I had to take the charger with me, unplug the pack, and take it all into the gig and make sure it was hooked up. And then reverse at the end. It was not the end of the world, but just one more thing to deal with when getting to the job. But just like your laptop, a lithium battery can be drained will not suffer any damage. So unless I have a rather lengthy ride (more than 20km return) I can wait to recharge when I get back home.

Now that part is fabulous. And the more I use this new set-up the more I like this aspect. But in the previous incarnation the pack just sat in a bracket in the cargo box of the trike, since it was almost always being removed. Now it can stay with the trike, but just lying out in the open is not a good idea. Time for a sort-of hiding place...

Cut through the floor, bolt in a cradle made from aluminum strapping recycled from my first trailer (that got damaged in an accident), then line that with coroplast and add the ubiquitous duct tape.

Drop the pack in (notice even more foam, since the trike has no suspension beyond its fat tires), hook it up and off we go!

So far everything has worked out very well. Charles updated the wiring, and later cleaned out a troublesome Anderson connector that had temporarily rendered the assist inoperable. I've very much enjoyed NOT having to always take the battery pack with me into gigs (try taking a duct tape-covered black box with wires sticking out of it into a Federal Government building), and while I've not yet had to test the full range of this new pack I've been happy not to worry about how far it can go for the trips done so far. So it looks like a big thumbs-up for this new set-up!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More water fun

Well, my camera died a second time! Three weeks after getting it back and only my third time using it. Same lens issue as the first, so I waited again (only five weeks this time) for it to come back from warranty. But upon reloading the memory card I was reminded that I did take some photos in May of the still-high Ottawa River overflowing its banks a bit.

Monday, May 16, 2011


One of my favourite things to do as a drummer is to play swing music. The grooves are fun, and you set the tempos, keep everyone on track, and interact with the sections and soloists. It's even more fun when there are dancers, especially if they happen to be semi-pro / professionals! Back on May 1st the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Impressions in Jazz Orchestra) teamed up with Ottawa's Swing Dynamite for a fabulous evening.

The OJO doesn't tend to play the usual "In the Mood" type of stuff - we like to get into plenty of Ellington, some early Twenties, and more esoteric but still swinging tunes. And the Swing Dynamite gang loves us for it. Below is an edited iPhone clip taken as the end of the evening drew near. But while most folks might wish to start slowing down, this crowd likes to get faster! So these last tunes are pretty up there tempo-wise, but your correspondent was able to keep up.  Exhilarating stuff...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring water fun

I'm a bit behind on posting, mainly because my year-old camera got cranky and is in for warranty repair. Among other things, the cargo trike got a new hi-tech lithium battery pack, and I'll post about that as soon as I can take photos.

In the mean time, I have a nice photo spread of the the annual Spring waters here in Ottawa, featuring shots of both Rideau and Hogs Back Falls.

Where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River there are a pair of falls due to Green Island (site of our former City Hall) sitting right on the escarpment's edge. The western falls aren't that interesting, so it's the eastern one that gets all the attention. And since this river controls the level of the the northern half of the Rideau Waterway, a LOT of water passes through when the Spring melt begins.

For some background on the Rideau waterway and the falls, I recommend this site.

Also, a few years ago I took some video footage of the falls and the blasting that occurs to break up the ice:

The falls in full roar.

This beast is used to lift the square timbers that close the dam.
Not sure where they can even find wood this large anymore.

Some interesting ice formations can occur.

Now up to Hogs Back Falls. This where the canal splits off from the river at Mooney's Bay.
To get there by bike I took the pathway alongside the canal, and it loops over the Falls and back under the roadway. Except that the subway was still filled with ice!

Ah, here we go, the dam is wide open and in full flood.

At this point the camera started to go wonky and the lens would not extend, so that was the end of photos for a while.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A foggy soggy day

Saturday March 5th was quite the weather day. Overnight snow had turned to rain, and the humidity was something like 200%. In my walking travels that day (glad I was able to avoid cycling) the roads were a mess, the sidewalks were an icy mess; it was just, well, a mess everywhere! 

Walking on Metcalfe St. I saw the Peace Tower through the gloom and decided to get a bit closer for some mood shots.

The along Sparks St. to Confederation Square, with the War Memorial in front and the Chateau Laurier through the fog. 

On the way home, and the intersections in places could be a bit of a challenge. My waterproof boots passed their test.

James St. was completely under water in some sections.

'Twas bad enough that City crews (ok, one lonely front-end loader) were out unblocking the drains.

The sidewalks were fun too. The  well-traveled ones were just wet in places, while others had ice under the water.