Wooden You Like To Hear A CNC-Cut Phonograph Record?

Say what you will about [Thomas Edison], but it’s hard to deny the genius of his self-proclaimed personal favorite invention: the phonograph. Capturing sound as physical patterns on a malleable medium was truly revolutionary, and the basic technology that served as the primary medium of recorded sound for more than a century and built several major industries is still alive and kicking today.

With so much technological history behind it, what’s the aspiring inventor to do when the urge to spin your own phonograph records strikes? Easy — cut them from wood with a CNC router. At least that’s how [alnwlsn] rolled after the “one-percent inspiration” hit him while cutting a PCB with his router. Reasoning that the tracks on the copper were probably about as fine as the groove on a record, he came up with some math to describe a fine-pitch spiral groove and overlay data from a sound file, and turn the whole thing into G-code.

For a suitable medium, he turned to the MDF spoil board used to ship PCB stencils, which after about three hours of milling resulted in a rather hairy-looking 78-RPM record. Surprisingly, the record worked fairly well on a wind-up Victrola. The spring-powered motor was a little weak for the heavy wooden record and needed a manual assist, but you can more or less clearly hear the 40-second recording. Even more surprising was how much better the recording sounded when the steel needle was replaced with a chunk of toothpick. You can check out the whole thing in the video below, and you’ll find the G-code generation scripts over on GitHub.

Is all this talk about reproducing music using wiggly lines confusing you? Woah, there, whippersnapper — check out [Jenny]’s primer for the MP3 generation for the background you need.

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Falling Down The Labyrinth With Wooden Microphone Design

It used to be that when we featured one of [Frank Olson]’s DIY ribbon microphone builds, it was natural to focus on the fact that he was building them almost exclusively from wood. But despite how counterintuitive it may seem, and for as many comments as we get that his microphones shouldn’t work without metal in the ribbon motors, microphones like this wooden RCA Model 77 reproduction both look and sound great.

But ironically, this homage features a critical piece that’s actually not made of wood. The 77’s pickup pattern was cardioid, making for a directional mic that picked up sound best from the front, thanks to an acoustic labyrinth that increased the path length for incoming sound waves. [Frank]’s labyrinth was made from epoxy resin poured into a mold made from heavy paper, creating a cylinder with multiple parallel tunnels. The tops and bottoms of adjacent tunnels were connected together, creating an acoustic path over a meter long. The ribbon motor, as close to a duplicate of the original as possible using wood, sits atop the labyrinth block’s output underneath a wood veneer shell that does its best to imitate the classic pill-shaped windscreen of the original. The video below, which of course was narrated using the mic, shows its construction in detail.

If you want to check out [Frank]’s other wooden microphones, and you should, check out the beautiful Model 44 replica that looks ready for [Sinatra], or the Bk-5-like mics he whipped up for drum kit recording.

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Number Like It’s 1234 AD With This Cistercian Keypad

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what Cistercian numbers are. Unless you’re a monk of the Order of Cistercia, there’s really no reason for you to learn the cipher that stretches back to the 13th-century. But then again, there’s no reason not to use the number system to make this medieval-cool computer number pad.

If you haven’t been introduced to the Cistercian number system, it’s actually pretty clever. There are several forms of it, but the vertical form used here by [Tauno Erik] is based on a vertical stave with nine glyphs that can be attached to or adjacent to it. Each glyph stands for one of the nine numerals — one through nine only; there’s no need for a zero glyph. There are four quadrants around the stave — upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left — and where the glyph lies determines the multiplier for the glyph. So, if you wanted to write the number “1234”, you’d overlay the following glyphs into a single symbol as shown.

[Tauno]’s Cistercian keypad, admittedly more of an art and history piece than a useful peripheral, somehow manages to look like it might have been on the desk of [Theodoric of York, Medieval Accountant]. Its case is laser-cut birch plywood, containing a custom PCB for the 20 keyboard switches and the Xiao RP2040 MCU that runs the show. Keycaps are custom made from what looks like oak combined with a 3D-printed part, similar to his previous wooden keycap macro pad. Each of the nine Cistercian glyphs is hand-carved into the keycaps, plus an imaginary glyph for zero, which wasn’t part of the system, as well as operators and symbols that might have baffled the medieval monks.

The native Cistercian system is limited to numbers between 1 and 9,999, so we’ll guess that the keypad just outputs the Arabic numeral corresponding to the Cistercian key pressed and doesn’t actually compose full Cistercian numbers. But the code to do that would be pretty easy, and the results pretty cool, if a bit confusing for users. Even if it’s just for looks, it’s still a cool project, and we doff the hood of our monkish robe to [Tauno] for this one.

Tree Forks As Natural Composite Joints In Architecture

A problem facing architects when designing complex three-dimensional structures lies in their joints, which must be strong enough to take the loads and vector forces applied by the structure, yet light enough not to dominate it. Many efforts have been made to use generative design techniques or clever composites to fabricate them, but as Dezeen reports, a team at MIT are exploring an unexpected alternative in the form of naturally occurring tree forks.

The point at which a tree branch forks from its trunk is a natural composite material formed of an interlocking mesh of wood grain fibres. Timber processors discard these parts of the tree as they interfere with the production of smooth timber, but the same properties that make them support the weight of a branch are it seems perfect for the architects’ needs.

The clever part of the MIT team’s work lies in scanning and cataloguing a library of forks, allowing them to be matched from the database to vertices in an architectural design. The forks are subject to minimal machining before being incorporated into the structure, and to prove it the MIT folks have made a test structure. It’s not uncommon to see medieval barns or half-timbered houses using curved pieces of wood in their natural shapes, so it’s not surprising to see that this 21st century innovation isn’t an entirely new technique.

Custom Piano Tickles The Ivories

The core ethos of “hacking” is usually interpreted as modifying something for a use that it wasn’t originally built for. Plenty of builds are modifications or improvements on existing technology, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to go all the way down and build something completely from scratch, and [Balthasar]’s recent piano-like musical instrument fits squarely into this category.

This electronic keyboard is completely designed and built from scratch, including the structure of the instrument and the keys themselves. [Balthasar] made each one by hand out of wood and then built an action mechanism for them to register presses. While they don’t detect velocity or pressure, the instrument is capable of defining the waveform and envelope for any note, is able to play multiple notes per key, and is able to change individual octaves. This is thanks to a custom 6×12 matrix connected to a STM32 microcontroller. Part of the reason [Balthasar] chose this microcontroller is that it can do some of the calculations needed to produce music in a single clock cycle, which is an impressive and under-reported feature for the platform.

With everything built and wired together, the keyboard is shockingly versatile. With the custom matrix it is easy to switch individual octaves on the piano to any range programmable, making the 61-key piano capable of sounding like a full 88-key piano. Any sound can be programmed in as well, further increasing its versatility, which is all the more impressive for being built from the ground up. While this build focuses more on the electronics of a keyboard, we have seen other builds which replicate the physical action of a traditional acoustic piano as well.

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Swiss Army Knife Of Power Tool Carts

When you’re into woodworking in a serious way, you’re going to eventually want some power tools. With such efficiency of operation, things can go pear-shaped quickly, with wood dust getting absolutely everywhere. It’s not always practical (or desirable) to work outdoors, and many of us only have small workshops to do our making in. But woodworking tools eat space quickly. Centralized extraction is one solution, but all that fixed rigid ducting forces one to fix the tool locations, which isn’t always a good thing. Moveable tool carts are nothing new, we’ve seen many solutions over the years, but this build by [Peter Waldraff] is rather slick (video embedded below,) includes some really nice features in a very compact — and critically — moveable format.

By repurposing older cabinets, [Peter] demonstrates some real upcycling, with little going to waste and the end result looks great too! There is a centralized M-Class (we guess) dust extractor with a removable vacuum pipe which is easily removed to hook up to the smaller hand-held tools. These are hidden in a section near the flip-up planer, ready for action. An auto-start switch for the small dust extractor is wired-in to the smaller tools to add a little ease of use while reducing the likelihood of forgetting to switch it on. We’ve all done that.

For the semi-fixed larger tools, such as the miter and table saws, a separate, higher flow rate moveable dust extractor can be wheeled over and hooked up to the integrated plenum chamber, which grabs the higher volume of dust and chips produced.

A nice touch was to mount the miter saw section on sliding rails.  This allows the whole assembly to slide sideways a little, giving more available width at the table saw for ripping wider sheets. With another little tweak of some latches, the whole miter section can flip over, providing even more access to the table saw, or just a small workbench! Cracking stuff!

Need some help getting good with wood, [Eric Strebel] has some great tips for you! And if you’re needs are simpler and smaller, much much smaller, here’s a finger-sized plane for you.

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Play Runescape IRL

Runescape is pushing nearly 21 years old, and while that’s quite a long time for a game to stay active with an engaged userbase, it’s also a long time for people to modify the game in all kinds of colorful ways. For some older games like Team Fortress 2 this means spinning up a bot to ruin servers, but for Runescape the hacks are a little more lighthearted and fun. Like this axe which allows [BigFancyBen] to play Runescape in real life.

This is more of an augmented reality hack which upgrades his normal human interface device from a simple keyboard and mouse to also include this axe. When the axe is manipulated in real life, the in-game axe can be used at the same time. There are a lot of layers to this one but essentially a Switch joycon is connected to the axe to sense motion, which relays the information on axe swings to an API via a Python script. A bot in the game then chops the virtual tree, which is reported back to the API which then reports it back to [BigFancyBen]’s viewscreen which is additionally streamed on Twitch.

While this started off as frustration with the game’s insistence on grinding in order to reach certain objectives, it seems that there are some fun ways of manipulating that game mechanic for the greater good. [BigFancyBen] originally said he would rather go to the gym than “click anymore rooftops”  this is quite the start on the full IRLScape world. Don’t forget that it’s equally possible to take this type of build in the opposite direction and control real-world things from inside a video game.

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