MIDI Controller In A Concertina Looks Sea Shanty-Ready

Did you know that the English concertina, that hand-pumped bellows instrument favored by sailors both legitimate and piratical in the Age of Sail, was invented by none other than [Sir Charles Wheatstone]? We didn’t, but [Dave Ehnebuske] knew that the venerable English gentleman was tickling the keys of his instrument nearly two decades before experimenting with the bridge circuit that would bear his name.

This, however, is not the reason [Dave] built a MIDI controller in the form of an English concertina. That has more to do with the fact that he already knows how to play one, they’re relatively easy to build, and it’s a great form factor for a MIDI controller. A real concertina has a series of reeds that vibrate as air from the hand bellows is directed over them by valves controlled by a forest of keys. [Dave]’s controller apes that form, with two wind boxes made from laser-cut plywood connected by a bellows made from cardboard, Tyvek, and nylon fabric. The keys are non-clicky Cherry MX-types that are scanned by a Bluefeather microcontroller. To provide some control over expression, [Dave] included a pressure sensor, which alters the volume of the notes played depending on how hard he pushes the bellows. The controller talks MIDI over Bluetooth, and you can hear it in action below.

We’ve seen MIDI controllers in just about everything, from a pair of skate shoes to a fidget spinner. But this is the first time we’ve seen one done up like this. Great job, [Dave]!

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Latex Bellows From Scratch

You would be forgiven for thinking that the semi-spherical bulb [Len], from the Bellowphone channel, is holding is a toilet bowl float. It is a bellows of his design that is similar to the squeezable part of a bike horn but is more substantial and less irritating at six in the morning. These rubber squeeze balls are old-school in the best way, and craftsmanship rolls out from every second of his videos. The backdrops to [Len’s] videos are alive with tools, materials, examples, and instruments the same way our offices and maker spaces erupt with soldering irons, LEDs, and passives.

His video walks through all the steps to make latex bellows starting with a rigid stemmed bulb and painting it with latex. This takes a bunch of coats with the associated drying time, so if you need a lot of bellows, you will want multiple bulbs. After coating of latex, we move to the contraption known as the Snout Master 5000. The SM5K looks like a wooden jig held in a table vise, but it is a purpose-built over-engineered chuck with four ball bearings held in a vise. When the latex is thick enough, the form is removed, and the bulb is repaired, then, more coats. Each ball has roughly twenty layers, and with three hours between coats, this is a weekend job at a minimum. Good things come to those who coat. The final steps are boiling the bulbs and adding a silicone preservative. They can last up to a decade with proper maintenance.

We see lots of electronic and automated instruments here, and spherical balls are definitely on the human interface spectrum, but the techniques we see from [Len] would allow anyone to design their own bellows more conducive to mechanization. [Len] says one of his inspiration is [Harry Partch] and his Blo-Boy, an organ powered by fireplace bellows. We think these squeeze balls are even better.

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New Cameras Learning Old Lens Tricks

[Michael H] tipped us off about this guide to using view camera lens parts with DSLR cameras and lenses. We weren’t familiar with the term ‘view camera’ but we certainly recognize the accordion-like bellows that define that type of camera. The idea is that modern cameras with their fixed lenses miss out on some types of shots. Why not work out a way to get the best from both old and new?

The concept behind the view camera is that there are two plates connected by the bellows. One plate holds the film and shutter, the other holds the lens. The two can be adjusted for focal length but can also be set at an angle to each other. This modern adaptation uses an adjustable frame to hold the two plates in position. Custom connectors were made by attaching lens rings to the plates. It’s pretty much the same connection technique as we’ve seen when trying to mate cameras with lenses from a different maker.

Behold, The Oomphalapompatronium!

Oomphalapompatronium

For over 25 years, [Len Solomon] has been performing a one-man variety show that features crazy-looking, hand-made musical instruments that operate on air. Some of his more famous instruments include a callioforte he constructed, as well as his Majestic Bellowphone, both powered by some form of bellows, of course.

His most recent musical creation is something [Len] likes to call the “Oomphalopompatronium” (try saying that five times fast). The bellows-driven Willy Wonka-esque organ looks to be built from just about anything and everything he could get his hands on. We spied a few plastic and glass bottles, plenty of PVC pipe, and a few tin cans before we stopped looking and just listened.

At first glance you might think that the Oomphalopompatronium will produce some cacophonous excuse for music, but once [Len] stepped up to the keyboard we were pleasantly surprised. The sound is that of a small scale Oompah band, much like the name implies.

We think it’s a fantastic creation – we’re just bummed that it we can’t check it out in person.

Stick around to see a video of the Oomphalopompatronium in action.

[Thanks, BoKu]

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Macro Lens And Image Stacking

[Samuel Sargent] built his own lens for making stacked macro images.This project, which was completed as part of his senior thesis, utilizes a Zeiss enlarger lens. The aperture ring was broken, making it difficult to tell how much light was being let into the camera. Instead of scrapping the whole thing he turned it around, making it a macro lens when combined with a few other parts. He’s used a Nikon PB-5 belows, a PK-13 extension tube, and a body cap to provide a way to mount the lens to his camera. A hole was added to the body cap using his Dremel, and a liberal dose of epoxy putty seals all of the gaps.

After the break you can see a couple of photos that [Samuel] made of bismuth. He estimates the sharpest focal length by taking a few test shots. Next he captures a series of images, moving the bellows slightly between each shot. Finally, this set is combined using Helicon Focus image stacking software. Maybe for his graduate thesis he can build a mechanized platform to move the subject automatically.

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DSLR Bellows-mounted Lens Retrofit

dslr_lens_retrofit

While digging through a pile of old camera equipment, [Jake] stumbled upon a camera that belonged to his grandfather and was curious to see what sorts of images the old lens would produce. He wasn’t interested in messing around with a film-based camera for his experiments, so he needed to find a way to mount the vintage lens on his newer Canon DSLR.

After considering several options including custom machined adapters and mounting rings built from old Canon lenses, he found a much cheaper solution. He purchased a lens adapter made to mount a particular type of lens to a modern DSLR, and then modified it to fit his lens. It worked perfectly, though he admits the resulting images are not that different than those taken with his regular lens.

Underwhelmed with the images, he decided to mount the lens on a set of bellows he picked up at the local dump. It looks pretty neat, but he has yet to get a chance to take any pictures with his new setup. Hopefully we’ll see some test shots soon.

If anyone has experience with using bellows lenses on a modern DSLR, we’re always up for seeing some sample pictures. In the meantime, check out this other DSLR/bellows hybrid project we featured a short while back.

[via BoingBoing]