The Vibrating Reed Inverter: Possibly The Simplest Inverter You Can Make

Those of us who work on the road have a constant dread of being stuck somewhere without power, facing a race between a publication deadline and a fast-failing laptop battery. We’re extremely fortunate then to live in an age in which a cheap, lightweight, and efficient solid-state switch-mode inverter can give us mains power from a car cigarette lighter socket and save the day. Before these inverters came much heavier devices whose transistors switched at the 50Hz line speed, and before them came electromechanical devices such as the rotary converter or the vibrating reed inverter. It’s this last type that [Robert Murray-Smith] has taken a look at, making what he positions as the simplest inverter that it’s possible.

If you’ve ever played with relays, you’ll probably be aware that a relay can be wired as a buzzer, and it’s this property that a vibrating reed inverter harnesses. He takes an octal relay and wires it up with a small mains transformer for an immediate and very cheap inverter. It’s not perfect, as he points out the frequency isn’t right. The relay will eventually wear out unless the arcing problem is improved with the addition of a capacitor. But it does make a rough and ready inverter if you find yourself in a MacGyver-style tight spot with only your junk box for salvation.

If inverters pique your interest, it might benefit you to know how they work.

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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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