Tonewheels Warble In This Organ-Inspired Musical Instrument

Younger readers may not recall the days when every mall had a music store — not the kind where tapes and LPs were sold, but the kind where you could buy instruments. These places inevitably had an employee belting out mall-music to all and sundry on an electric organ. And more often than not, the organist was playing a Hammond organ, with the distinct sound of these instruments generated by something similar to this tonewheel organ robot.

Tonewheels are toothed ferromagnetic wheels that are rotated near a pickup coil. This induces a current that can be amplified; alter the tooth profile or change the speed of rotation, and you’ve got control over the sounds produced. While a Hammond organ uses this technique to produce a wide range of sounds, [The Mixed Signal]’s effort is considerably more modest but nonetheless interesting. A stepper motor and a 1:8 ratio 3D-printed gearbox power a pair of shafts which each carry three different tonewheels. The tonewheels themselves are laser-cut from mild steel and range from what look like spur gears to wheels with but a few large lobes. This is a step up from the previous version of this instrument, which used tonewheels 3D-printed from magnetic filament.

Each tonewheel has its own pickup, wound using a coil winder that [TheMixed Signal] previously built. Each coil has a soft iron core, allowing for the addition of one or more neodymium bias magnets, which dramatically alters the tone. The video below shows the build and a demo; skip ahead to 16:10 or so if you just want to hear the instrument play. It’s — interesting. But it’s clearly a work in progress, and we’re eager to see where it goes. Continue reading “Tonewheels Warble In This Organ-Inspired Musical Instrument”

A Pair Of Steppers Are Put To Work In This Automatic Instrument Pickup Winder

For something that’s basically a coil of wire around some magnetic pole pieces, an electric guitar pickup is a complicated bit of tech. So much about the tone of the instrument is dictated by how the pickup is wound that controlling the winding process is something best accomplished with a machine. This automatic pickup winder isn’t exactly a high-end machine, but it’s enough for the job at hand, and has some interesting possibilities for refinements.

First off, as [The Mixed Signal] points out, his pickups aren’t intended for use on a guitar. As we’ve seen before, the musical projects he has tackled are somewhat offbeat, and this single-pole pickup is destined for another unusual instrument. That’s not to say a guitar pickup couldn’t be wound on this machine, of course, as could inductors, solenoids, or Tesla coils. The running gear is built around two NEMA-17 stepper motors, one for the coil spindle and one for the winding carriage. The carriage runs on a short Acme lead screw and linear bearings, moving back and forth to wind the coil more or less evenly. An Arduino topped with a CNC shield runs the show, allowing for walk-away coil winding.

We do notice that the coil wire seems to bunch up at the ends of the coil form. We wonder if that could be cured by speeding up the carriage motor as it nears the end of the spool to spread the wire spacing out a bit. The nice thing about builds like these is the ease with which changes can be made — at the end of the day, it’s just code.

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3D Printering: Selling Prints, And Solving The Pickup Problem

After getting a 3D printer up and running, it’s not uncommon for an enterprising hacker to dabble in 3D printing to make a little money on the side. Offering local pickup of orders is a common startup choice since it’s simple and avoids shipping entirely. It’s virtually tailor-made to make a great bootstrapping experiment, but anyone who tries it sooner or later bumps up against a critical but simple-seeming problem: how to get finished prints into a customer’s hands in a sustainable way that is not a hassle for either the provider, or the customer?

It’s very easy to accept a 3D file and get paid online, but the part about actually getting the print into the customer’s hands does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. This is what I call The Pickup Problem, and left unsolved, it can become unsustainable. Let’s look at why local pickup doesn’t always measure up, then examine possible solutions.

The Problems with Local Pickup

Local pickup for delivery of print jobs is great because there is no mucking about with shipping supplies or carriers. Also, many 3D prints when starting out will be relatively low-value jobs that no one is interested in stacking shipping fees onto, anyway.

“Your order is complete. Come to this address to pick up your order.” It is straightforward and hits all the bases, so what’s the problem?

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Building Your Own Guitar Pickup From Scrap

Pickups are a key part of an electric guitar’s sound. You can spend a king’s ransom on tracking down just the right Vintage American Original 1950s Whatevers (TM) to put in your Spudocaster, but it’s not the only way. [Keith Decent] decided to make a pickup from scratch, using only materials found lying around the workshop. (Youtube, embedded below).

To build a pickup, you’ll want some magnet wire. In this case, [Keith] harvests this from an old transformer. A pickup body is then constructed from an old wooden ruler and some machine screws. A drill is used to spin the pickup body while the wire is roughly wound on, and everything is then held together with lashings of hot glue.

It’s a grungy build with a very Mad Max vibe – with the perfect aesthetic to suit [Keith]’s junkbox guitar build. The sound is good, but difficult to rate accurately when used on a guitar with slightly imperfect intonation. We’d love to hear it installed on a well-tuned body to get a better comparison.

It goes to show you don’t need to spend money on new parts and tools to get a build started. Sometimes you can make something perfectly functional with stuff you have lying around at home. Video after the break.

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Fidget Spinner Shreds With Bass Guitar Pickup

Hackaday continues to embrace our implacable spinning overlords-of-the-heart.

[zazzazzero] posted a YouTube video showing him fidgeting one of those spinners that had been hooked up to a bass guitar pickup. It makes a rather awesome rumbling sound as the pickup registers the bearings rolling around, and when hooked up to a Digidelay effects pedal he moved it beyond the rumble to more of an industrial growl like a factory hum. He also got interesting sounds by tapping on the spinner with a screwdriver.

Then he switched up to using an iPad audio app called Shaper to modify the resulting sound far beyond what he had before, with more effects options available at the touch of a button. All of these sounds can be modulated into the analog synthesizer chain, making this spinner a for-reals musical instrument.

We’ve published more than a couple pieces on music hacking, including this ASDR envelope generator project and the Atom Smasher guitar pedal.

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The Automated Pickup Winding Machine

winderBack when electric guitars were a new thing, winding pickups was a very labor intensive and error-prone process. The number of windings could easily vary by a few hundred turns of wire, making the resulting pickup either anemic or much more powerful than the other pickups in the guitar. [Davide] is starting to wind his own pickups, and desiring a little more precision than simply guessing how many winds are on a coil he built an AVR coil winding machine.

The machine uses a DC gear motor running at 1200 RPM. A magnet is glued onto the motor shaft, and a hall effect sensor connected to an ATMega8 keeps track of how many windings are on the coil.

The interface is simple, using character LCD to display a wind counter, motor direction, and current motor speed. There are some useful features in this machine; slow start-up and automatic stop makes winding pickups much easier than the traditional home method of winding pickups with a sewing machine.

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Steam-powered Pickup Winder

[Valve Child] has been building a few three-string cigar box guitars. Of course he’ll need a few pickups, but three-string guitar pickups aren’t exactly easy to come by. To solve this problem, he’s built a guitar pickup winder powered by a steam engine.

The pickup winder is powered by a Wilesco D20 model steam engine, connected to the actual winding mechanism via a rubber belt. To the right of the bobbin bracket is a mechanism built out of Meccano – Erector sets for us americans – that provides a mechanical counter for the number of wire turns and a wire traverse to keep each layer of wire somewhat even across the width of the bobbin.

Previously, we’ve seen [Valve Child]’s really sweet sounding lap steel build from a log using a hand-wound pickup and a preamp tube as the bridge. It’s questionable if the guitar signal came from this lap steel via the pickup or the microphonic tube, but now [Valve Child] has a really, really good method of improving his pickup production abilities.

Video after the break.

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