Old Fluorescent Fixtures Turned Into Fill Lights

The Tymkrs are hard at work setting up their home studio, and since they’ll be shooting a few videos, they need some lights. The lights themselves aren’t very special; for YouTube videos, anything bright enough will work. The real challenge is making a mount and putting them in the right place, With a shop full of tools, making some video lights isn’t that hard and easily translates into a neat video project.

The lights began their lives as large fluorescent fixtures, the kind that would normally house long fluorescent tubes. The Tymkrs cut the metal reflector of this fixture in half, capped the ends with wood, and installed normal incandescent sockets in one end.

The inside of this reflector was coated with a reflective material, and a beautiful rice paper diffuser was glued on. The Tymkrs attached a metal bracket to these lights and screwed the bracket to the ceiling. There’s enough friction to keep the lights in one spot, but there’s also enough play in the joints to position them at just the right angle.

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Modular 555 Synth is Controlled by MIDI

[Atdiy and Whisker] aka [The Tymkrs] have created a  MIDI controlled 8 note modular synthesizer. (YouTube link). The project was designed to highlight some of the modules they have available at their Tindie Store. Essentially, the synthesizer is 8 classic Atari Punk Console (APC) tone generators. Each APC is made up of two 555 chips, rather than the 556 used in the original design. The APCs are tuned to a Pentatonic scale, with the 8 notes covering 1.5 octaves. [Whisker] added a single potentiometer which controls all 8 of the monostable oscillators at once. Tweaking this knob gives the synth that classic Atari Punk Console sound we’ve all come to know and love.

The 8 APC outputs are routed to once side of an AND gate. The other side of the AND gate is connected to a 74hc595 shift register. A Parallax Propeller processor converts MIDI note data into a serial stream that can be daisy chained across several ‘595 shift registers. The outputs of the 8 and gates are mixed to a single combined output, which goes out to [The Tymkrs] studio amplifier.

Like many [Tymkrs] videos, this one ends with a MIDI driven jam session, outlining how the circuit would sound in a song. Click past the break to see it all in action!

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Follow up of Hacker meet up at Heatsync Labs

The hacker meet up at Heatsync Labs in Mesa, AZ  on May 15th was an amazing success. I got to meet lots of new people at the gathering but more importantly I was able to interview several hackers who shared a lot of details on their current projects. I put together the short overview video above that has clips of each hacker presenting their project. If you like what you see in the teaser please watch the full 30 minute video with all the presentation footage after the break along with project page links. Also, if you’re not yet up to speed on The Hackaday Prize, the full length video starts with a short overview.

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Hackaday Meetup with HeatSync Labs and The Tymkrs



We know a lot of hackers will be heading to Maker Faire next weekend. If you find yourself passing through Mesa, AZ on your way or you’re a local hacker enthusiast then please feel compelled to drop by HeatSync Labs on May 15th between the hours of 5pm and 9pm for an informal gathering. You will get to meet HeatSync Labs hackerspace members and The Tymkrs (Whiskers and Addie) who are founders of The Rabbit Hole hackerspace in Rochester, Minnesota. Sorry for the late notice, I thought it would be a great opportunity to organize an impromptu hacker meetup in order to include The Tymkrs as they pass through town on their epic summer road trip.

If people have a project or photos of a project they’re working on I would enjoy hearing all about it and I’m sure others would as well. I’m looking forward to visiting everyone that can attend!

For those who show up early there should be plenty of pizza, soda and Hackaday swag to go around. I’d like to thank the members of HeatSync Labs for kindly letting me schedule a Hackaday style meetup at their hackerspace on such short notice. There will be some food and drink so don’t be too late or you might go hungry.

Meetup address: HeatSync Labs 140 West Main St. Downtown Mesa, AZ


A Guitar From an Old Tin Box


[Atdiy and Whisker], collectively known as  [The Tymkrs] have been busy honing their luthier skills. They’ve created a 10 part YouTube series about the construction of their new cigar box guitar. Instead of a cigar box though, they’ve substituted a 1920’s tin cigarette box. The Omar Cigarette company gave “Project Omar” it’s name. Like [Tymkrs] previous guitar, Omar is a three string affair. The neck was cut from Black Palm, which really shined when polished with a mixture of orange oil and beeswax. They also threw in a couple of new tricks on this build. Omar is an electric guitar, with a pickup custom wound  by [Bob Harrison]. Omar also has frets, which creates a whole new set of complications. Frets are generally installed by cutting slits in the guitar neck with a fret saw. Rather than buy a new tool, [Tymkrs] created a simple jig for their mini table saw. The jig held the guitar neck perpendicular with the saw blade. This made quick work of the many fret slits to be cut. Installed frets must also be dressed and leveled, which is a time-consuming process. 

The tin cigarette box also created a new set of problems. The thin tin proved to be a bit on the weak side when the strings were tightened down. A bit too much pressure on the box while playing would cause notes to bend, much like the tremolo or whammy bar on a standard electric guitar. [Tymkrs] were able to counteract this by adding bracing inside, and a couple of black palm braces to the back of the box.

Hum was also a problem. When [Tymkrs] first plugged in, they found they had more 60Hz mains hum than signal from their strings. Omar uses a classic single coil guitar pickup. Single coils will pick up noise from any magnetic field, including the field created by the studio electrical system. A humbucking pickup uses two coils to counteract this effect. Humbuckers also have a slightly different tone than single coils. [Tymkrs] wanted to stick with their single coil tone, so they counteracted the hum by raising the pickup closer to the strings. Higher pickups receive more signal from the strings, so this is basically a free signal to noise ratio improvement. They also grounded the entire tin box, along with Omar’s metal tail stock. The final build sounds great, as evidenced by the jam session toward the end of Video 10.

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Circuit Bent Toy Keyboard is MIDI Controlled

The [Tymkrs] crew has come up with a pretty neat circuit bent toy keyboard hack. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good circuit bending hack. This project started as a way to demo the [Tymkrs] “MIDI In Me” kit. A cheap toy keyboard was sacrificed for its sound generator board. Like many cheap mass-produced toys, this board is based upon a COB (chip on board) package. The silicon die of the main ASIC is placed directly on the PCB and bonded out to pads. A round epoxy blob keeps everything protected.

The [Tymkrs] found a number of the chip’s pads were unused in their keyboard. The inputs appeared to trigger drums, possibly for use in a different toy. These inputs, coupled with the ‘demo song’ buttons turned out to be the basis of this hack. MIDI input is sent to a Parallax Propeller. The prop runs a program that will set its I/O pins based upon MIDI Note On/Off commands. The I/O pins then drive transistors which inject signals into the button inputs of the keyboard.

The [Tymkrs] even went so far as to use a voltage divider on the main clock circuit of the keyboard. Changing the main clock causes a sort of pitch bend effect often heard with circuit bent toys. As with the buttons, a MIDI signal commands the prop to enable or disable oscillator signal injection. A potentiometer is used to tweak the oscillator frequency.

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