DIY/MUSIC: PEDAL BOARD #1

Pedal Board Build
The pedal board as she is at the time of posting.

Well, here’s a post on my first ever electric guitar effects pedal board, which I’ve built over the last week or so.

There’s some irony, perhaps, in the fact that after years and years of playing guitar, often as much and sometimes more than drums, my primary instrument, I’m hardly playing at all right now. I built this in the fond and fervent hope I will resume at some future point.

I did get back into playing a bit when I bought the Ditto Looper. And this pedal board project is part of an attempt to make sure that when I do want to pick up an axe, the sounds I want will be readily available to me.

The Build

I used some scrap wood I got off Freecycle, type and origin unknown. I planed and sanded the very rough and heavily treated lumber down, to get it ship-shape. Far from perfect – rustic, I’d say – it was nevertheless a great improvement, and it revealed the wood to be, most likely, standard modern pine.

Pedal Board Build 01
Glued ‘n’ screwed.
Pedal Board Build 02
Filled in the screw-holes.

I actually went with the length, which on the pedal board has become width, the wood already was, and simply cut two lengths in twain, on the Triton table-saw, giving me the top four slats. The sides came from the same stock, but a differently dimensioned piece; this had to give two pedals worth of depth, and have sufficient height to give the board a slight rake or pitch, for a comfortable foot operation angle.

The front face is whole, whilst the back face is both raised off the floor, and has a gap ‘twixt it and the slat directly above it. Like the gaps between the slats, these two voids allow for the passage of leads. In this instance, chiefly for the power supply. The latter is a vexed subject I’ll need to return to and improve, as currently (boom-boom!) I only have a cheap-ish daisy-chain wall-wart.

Pedal Board Build 03
The underside.

Having prepped the wood and dimensioned it, I assembled the base elements using hand cut dove-tails. Laid out by eye, and cut with my Japanese pull-saw, these were to my usual poor ill-fitting standard. But with home-made sawdust and glue filler packing out any irregularities, they did the job. The slats were fixed, belt and braces style, with both glue and screws.

I used my Stanley Handyman smoothing plane to get the faces of the slats nearest the base of the board flat and true, which was very satisfying. And then, having thought about a natural wood finish, decided against it in favour of paint, on account of how rough the lumber is. So I filled in the countersink holes and bigger blemishes with wood filler.

Pedal Board Build 04
Valspar colour swatches.

On our way home from a day out with the Mrs I bought a few Valspar sample pots from B&Q, all green. I opted for Bohemian Bliss, a name and a colour I love! This is in fact much darker than the sample swatches in my photo suggest. Four coats of this, and then four coats of gloss varnish, with a little sanding. A nice old-fashioned look for me.

Pedal Board Build 05
Four coats of Boho-Bliss!
Pedal Board Build 06
Building up layers of gloss varnish.
Pedal Board Build 07
Four coats, for a nice rich finish.

Then it came time to put the Velcro on. With that on, soft-side/loops on the board, hooks on’t pedals, some of the pedals themselves needed a little attention. I had to remove a number of rubber feet, clean up with isopropyl alcohol, and make a base-plate for my wah-pedal. What a lot of work! I’ll have to plug a guitar and an amp in, and get playing!

Pedal Board Build 08
Making a base-plate for my Cry-Baby Wah.
Pedal Board Build 09
The only suitable piece of wood required much filling/sanding!

Okay, so having made and painted the base-plate for the wah, I tried connecting all the pedals. I discovered that laid out as I have them – bottom row running right to left, from the BubbleTron, top row running left to right from LPB1 right to the Ditto – the patch cables I have aren’t going to let me finish. I need a bunch of longer ones.

I could change the pedal layout. And I may well do so once I start playing with it. But I’d rather buy in some more longer cables – I’ll go with the flat profile type, I like ’em! – for now. I’ve also discovered that my top slat-gaps are just big enough for all the adaptor heads, so long as they point directly downward. So far I’m working round this by positioning the pedals pretty precisely. This low tolerance may cause issues… we shall see!?

Pedal Board Build
Rear view: gaps at bottom and top of rear panel too narrow?

The top gap at the back, however, is way too narrow for the cable ends to pass through. So I’ll need to either notch it in places, or widen the whole thing. Or I could ‘hard’ wire some leads in situ? In fact I have a number of ideas on how to solve this.  Wiring the pedals also makes me want to install some stuff under the board to hold the wire-spaghetti neatly in place, and prevent it snagging on stuff.

All told, I’m pretty chuffed. I wound up making this board bigger than I’d thought I might. I drew two cardboard mock-ups, a larger (or rather wider) one, and a smaller one (probably medium, in truth). In the end this one is actually a tad larger than the bigger of my two draft designs. So there’s room for my pedal collection to change and grow.

Pedal Board Build
Nearly ready to be ‘used in anger’, as they say.

The footnote to this project, with which, I must confess, I’m very pleased, is the power-supply. I’d like to upgrade to a proper solution; fully isolated, with every pedal getting its proper allocation of power, and probably with a built in female kettle-lead type plug outlet, for the whole board. But that’s for the future…

HOME: ARTEX vs X-TEX, AKA DIY Sado-Masochism

X-Tex
X-Tex

We live in a house in what sometimes feels like Artex capital of the world. Loads of the houses we looked at in March (plus places friends or acquaintances live or have lived), when we bought our current home, are more than liberally coated with this dreadful stuff. In our home it was on almost all flat surfaces, and in numerous places in a really thick heavily textured impasto. I’m only surprised and relieved they didn’t Artex the floors as well!

Fortunately the guy we bought our house off had already done the walls in the downstairs lounge/diner and kitchen. That left us with the bathroom (downstairs, off the kitchen!), almost every single room/surface upstairs, plus all the ceilings, including the sloped under-stairs area, downstairs.

I read about X-Tex online, having googled ‘how remove artex’. What I found I ncluded some glowing reviews of the product, such as some that appear on Amazon’s UK website. So I opted to try it. In the end I used it on the walls in the bathroom, upstairs-landing, and second bedroom, abandoning a partial attempt at the master bedroom ceiling after a messy neck-crick-inducing hour of hell. But it was so messy, expensive, and such incredibly hard work, that work stalled at that point. So we still have quite a bit of hideous Artex to deal with.

Three years have elapsed since I first used it;I’m posting this in 2020, having originally used X-Tex back in 2016-2017. Just recently I’ve considered buying more, and trying again. We would dearly love to be rid of what remains, the very worst of which is in the stair-well area (literally inches thick!). But recalling the horrors of working with it, and then finding it ‘currently unavailable’ when I searched online (Amazon, for example) has saved me from that fate.

In theory it’s a good product. And perhaps on very thin layers of Artex it’s viable? This said, the thinnest Artex-coated area I worked on with X-Tex, our downstairs toilet/bathroom, was still very hard work. And the results were very far from perfect. But I think that was partly because that was the last area I did, and by that point I was exhausted, and heartily sick of both Artex and X-Tex.

Why then would I even momentarily consider trying again? Well, for the same reason I originally went this route, economics; expensive as X-Tex is (or was?) it’s still cheaper than getting a plasterer in. If one opts to plaster over the godawful abomination that is Artex, and I’m thinking here of the areas in our home where Artex was very thickly applied, you’re actually looking at losing appreciable space! That’s why removal of the Satanic substance seemed appealing; gain a little room, don’t lose it!

The Artex under our stairs was on plasterboard sheets, fixed to the underside of the staircase. Having reached the end of my tether with both Artex an X-Tex, I ended up opting to simply tear it all down. Our stairs have remained in an open/gutted state ever since, as I continue to ponder how best to proceed. Anyway, having ranted long enough… in conclusion: this X-Tex stuff does kind of work, inasmuch as it does soften Artex. But in our experience the product was A) too expensive, and B) given the thick impasto Artexing perpetrated on our home, incredibly hard work, and horribly messy.

So, better than one (or no stars). But I couldn’t honestly recommend it. Unless, perhaps, you’re a DIY-sado-masochist? I suppose I’ll have to learn to skim plaster myself?

MUSIC: BAD FLUNG SHOE & DRUM SET-UPS

Drums facing walls
Drums facing walls… bad flung shoe?

Count Arthur Strong, on his superb BBC R4 Show (never liked the TV version), talked about the ancient Chinese art of ‘Flung Shoe’. Or, more specifically, ‘bad flung shoe’.

I’m always put in mind of this when I see drum kits set up in a room facing the wall. Been there and done that myself, naturally. But I’m convinced that it’s not a good thing.

I include a few pics randomly found via Google. Some up against just one wall, some in a corner, and one crammed in to a blind alley of three walls (big kit/small room, poss unavoidable?).

Just as I find living in the country and under open skies with access to or views onto a garden liberating, inspiring and so on, I find staring at walls cloying.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Workshop: Spring Clean, Phase 1

Workshop tidy
‘Unrolled’ 360° shot.

As the world around us grinds to a halt, amidst Covid-19 craziness, I’m enjoying spendibg time on the man-cave/shed that is ‘Ye Olde Workshoppe’.

The fairly recent acquisition of a Triton Mk3 workbench – with built in circular table saw and the doings for mounting a router – has entailed some serious rearranging.

I destroyed an old chest/cupboard that I inherited from the previous owner, which up until fairly recently had been home to a lot of power tools and assorted bric-a-brac. It was horrid, lacked a back (and consequently became a dust/debris trap), and old and knackered.

I’ve still got all the timber from dismantling it. I intend to use the Triton table-saw to cut it all up for kindling. The contents are now either up on the tool wall, which I’ve been reworking, temporarily of no fixed abode, or migrated to another smaller chest of drawers.

Workshop tidy
Viewed from the bandsaw.

We’ve accumulated several doors: one purportedly to replace our current front door, another for the greenhouse, and two or three others intended for outbuildings. The largest of these I’ve now moved out of the workshop, to free up space. The others have been moved over to where our still as yet unused kiln is secreted.

I’ve moved the bandsaw over to where the doors were previously. And the Triton is now kind of between where the bandsaw was, and the vacated spot where the dismantled chest was. I’ve relocated the (also as yet unused!) Kity planer/thicknesser to a position atop two storage chests, on the left of the room, by the bookshelves (the latter containing more paints and other sundries than books). This has freed up the aforementioned smaller chest, which I’ve moved over to the area under the main window, that looks down the garden.

 

I might put the drill-press on this unit. I did think about having the planer/thicknesser there, but as I recently located a load of tool storage racks along the bottom of the window, and they’d be inaccessible behind the pretty chunky Kity unit, I decided not to. The view from the window is, for the most part, blocked by the timber storage racks I put up, and all the timber I’ve accumulated.

There’s still an awful lot of stuff without a proper home. But it’s a lot better than it was, and even a little more spacious. even though it’s now late March,  I’ve found the concrete floor is like a huge slab of ice. Working in the shed for extended periods has been numbing/swelling my feet. So I put down some cardboard, as an insulating carpet type layer, and brought in a couple of heaters.

Workshop tidy
Viewed from the ‘kiln’ end.

I also painted some areas of the back/tool-wall, which hadn’t been painted before (having been hidden behind stuff),  the internal side of the door, and my DIY window frames. The roof needs replacing altogether. And I’ve a mind to clad the internal framework, and paint the resulting inner walls in a white, or off-white. If I fill the cavities with insulating materials, and replace some rotten/broken boards, along with a new roof, it might even be possible to keep it warm!

Rearranging the larger ‘static’ power-tools and some of the furniture, and losing the ugly old chest, also lead to rearranging and further developing tool storage on the tool-wall and elsewhere. I always seem to rather enjoy working on this particular aspect of the workshop. The idea is, however, that I’ll soon stop with the rearranging, etc, and actually start using the workshop for more creative things!

I’ve been taking a few pics as I go along with the funky 360° camera I have. I’ll post some here in due course, hopefully. But I need to work out how to embed them as scrollable 360° images. Otherwise it’ll just be screenshots of them flattened out…

DIY: Bathroom Shelf

Teresa asked me to make a towel rail or shelf, for the bathroom. So I knocked this together. I’m definitely getting better and quicker at stuff like this. Plus my newly reorganised workshop is way more ergonomic and productive.

Bathroom shelf
New bathroom shelf…

Ar the time of posting the second coat of paint is still drying. I may go over the upper shelf edging, as bandsaw striations are still visible. I may even route a little ogee type edge… hmm!?

Bathroom shelf
… with towel rails.

Even though I masked around the shelves, I need to go back and touch up some of the surrounding areas. But, all told, I’m very happy with this. And I knocked it out double quick, which was satisfying.

DIY: Restoring a Freecycle Snooker/Pool Table, Pt. 2

I actually finished this a while back. See pics!

Snooker Table
The finished table, laid out for a game.

Well, in true Sebulous-stylee, I say finished, but… Well, I still need to mark the baulk-line, D and colour spots. And I haven’t done the base/legs. Although I may not do the latter at all. I may just leave as is, and place it on other supports when playing. As indeed I already have done.

Snooker Table
And from another angle.

The biggest issue is space, in our tiny and very narrow home, which is also chock-full of stuff, such as the recently acquired upright piano, dining table and chairs, an armchair, the hard-top for my MX5, and my modelling area (a table, sideboard, and a lorra, lorra model-making bits’n’pieces).

In the long run I hope this will be in an outbuilding games-room. But for now it’s in the lounge, or rather dining room. It was a fun project. And for something around £50-75 in expenditure, plus my time restoring it, we have a fun little snooker/pool table.

Book Review: The Yellow World, Albert Espinosa

Yellow World cover
A textual version of the book cover.

It’s not a philosophy, it’s not a religion; it’s just lessons learned from cancer.’ Espinosa on his ideas in general, and his concept of ‘Yellows’ in particular, p.173.

Espinosa survived childhood cancer, spending a lot of time between the ages of 14-24 in hospital, losing a lung, a leg, and more – including many fellow patients, or ‘eggheads’, as he calls them (from the baldness caused by chemo’) – to the disease. This book is one of the things to come out of his experience.

Surviving cancer is a great/amazing and, thankfully, ever more common thing. And not to be sniffed at. However, as a generator of self-help literature it has, in my limited experience, a chequered past. I was once gifted a book by Louise Hay, who survived cervical cancer, which shared the positivity aspect that is the chief strength of this book, but then went seriously bonkers in ‘diagnosing’ the supposed causes of disease.

Yellow World cover
The actual and more boldly abstract cover style of the edition I have.*

Fortunately Espinosa seems more rationally tethered to reality than Hay. Although that said, whilst I like many aspects of it, I don’t buy fully into either his core ‘yellow’ idea, or even less so his (to me) arbitrary choice of 23 ‘yellows’ in your life. His concept of a ‘yellow’ is essentially someone more than a friend but less than (or different to) a lover. If you’re keen to understand his ideas, read the book. I’m not going to synopsise them any further here.

Chapters are on the whole plentiful but very short, which, together with the informal writing style, make this is an easy if rather whimsical read. It’s certainly more poetic and thoughtful than scientific or intellectual. Like me, the author likes lists. But, and again like me, despite his penchant for lists the overall feel of the book is somewhat loose and random feeling. One little unexpected nugget; I like that there’s a very positive and somewhat surprising chapter on ‘wanking’!

For those affected by cancer, whether personally or indirectly (and in many ways most of us are), this may well be worth a read. Beyond that rather particular aspect, the primary and more general thing I take from this book is that it’s best to reframe potentially negative events in as positive a light as one can. A stunningly obvious ‘lesson’, in all honesty. But nevertheless one a great many of us find hard to put into practice.

Three stars seems mean, and four stars generous, for so slight and whimsical a book. So I’ll give it three and a half.

Albert Espinosa
The author.

* Here’s a link to an article on the design of this book-cover: https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/may-2012/book-designer-jon-gray-on-creating-the-yellow-world/

Music: Fried Lumberjack

My pal Patrick just gave me an EHX Lumberjack Log’ OD pedal that he fried by connecting to 48v, instead of 9v. I may have to give up on it. But I’m going to try and repair it.

Here are a few pictures of the guts. I can see no obviously fried components. It also looks very complex: lots and lots of components… gulp!

Fried Lumberjack
Fried Lumberjack
Fried Lumberjack
Fried Lumberjack

I’m hoping that in time I’ll be able to locate and replace any ‘fried’ components. But what do I do? Can I simply test either side of each component, for example, and thereby determine where the signal path breaks down? Initial responses to a post I made on the EHX forum are a bit scary, suggesting the whole kit caboodle might well be jiggered.

Here’s the link to the EHX forum: https://www.ehx.com/forums/viewthread/9922/

DIY: Restoring a Freecycle Snooker/Pool Table, Pt. 1

Some while ago I got a pool table off Freecycle, with a view to restoring it. I then bought some green felt. Since dismantling the table, which I did very soon after getting it, the project stalled.

Pool table
The old felt, ready to come off.

Today I finally got the table top out of the shed (acquisition of a Triton Mk3 workbench required a rearrangement of the contents of the shed, to get the workbench in!). I removed the felt, and then laboriously removed all the tiny little staples with which it had been fixed to the table-top.

Pool table
Felt and ten-zillion staples removed.

The table top surface then required some cleaning and sanding. Then it was time to find the new felt, and iron the creases out of it. This took a good while longer than anticipated. Partly, perhaps, due to ironing the felt under a protective layer of old towel.

Pool table
Ironing creases out of the felt.

In the pic above you can really see where I’ve ironed sufficiently, and where there’s more to be done.

Pool table
Getting the creases out took quite a while!

Annoyingly, whilst I took two pics during ironing, I didn’t take any during the attaching of the new felt. Having watched several YouTube vids on pool/snooker table re-covering, I’d learned that you work from the middle of the longer sides, pulling in two directions, to stretch the cloth out taught and flat. I had a few woodworking crocodile type clamps to help in this process. The fixing was done with a staple gun.

Whereas the original cloth was stapled to the very edges of the top, I had sufficient material on hand to staple around the sides, into which my cheap staple gun could easily punch. I then had enough left over to further secure the cloth to the undersides.

Pool table re-felt
Time to stop… finish tacking tomorrow!

I tried the first shorter side with the staple-gun. But, as I’d feared, it wasn’t man enough to penetrate the tougher top/bottom surfaces (the whole table top seems to be a big laminated block made up of compressed layers). So I did the opposite end with small sharp tacks. It was about midnight by this time. So I had to stop banging the tacks in with a hammer!  I’ll finish that job off tomorrow, or rather, later today.

Snooker balls
Powerglide 1 & 7/8″ snooker balls.
Pockets
The pockets.

I also ordered a set of 1 & 7/8″ snooker balls, and six pockets, off Amazon. The old net bags were shot, the leather was gone, and the metal parts were rusty. So it’ll be nice to have shiny new pockets along with the pristine new felts. Sadly I don’t have enough felt left from the re-covering of the table to do the rails. So it’s another trip to Boyes or elsewhere for more felt tomorrow as well. I hope they have enough of the right shade of green!

I’m planning to rebuild the pool table without the collapsible frame or legs that it came with. We can just pop it over our gate-leg table when we want to play. This makes the re-build that bit less involved. All that then remains is to get a cue or two and start playing… can’t wait

Music/Media: Adventures in Music, Stewart Copeland (BBC4)

Copeland_AIM
Copeland with world’s oldest known musical instrument, a bone flute.

Finally got around to watching Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music today.

I’d had lunch with my mum, and she mentioned watching it. Had I? She and husband Malcolm said they’d liked it, but not been blown away by it. They’d liked each episode more; sceptical about the first, etc. And a pal, John Morgan, was raving – or should I say singing it’s praises? – about it on Facebook.

So I binge watched all three episodes today. First off, as a drummer who loved and was influenced by Copeland as a teenager, I just enjoyed watching him enthuse about music, a subject I share his fascination for.

Structurally, I seem to have had the reverse experience to my mum and her husband. I liked episode one enormously, and two built on that. But three – as good as it still was – lost me a little, as it seemed to become less analytical, in particular in relation to the religious connections he was exploring, and the (for me, at least) vexed subject of ‘spirituality’.

CeCeWinan
Gospel singer CeCe Winan.
TalibKweli
Rapper Talib Kweli.

Funnily enough, earlier in the day I’d been listening to Frank Zappa, and one song that came on and really struck a chord with me was Cosmick Debris, in which the singer takes to task a new age type bullshit peddler. In the final episode of Copeland’s series, when gospel star CeCe Winan says ‘music was created by God… I don’t know if any of us can really articulate how this [the ‘transcendent’ effect] happens, except that God made it happen’, I’m thinking, er… no… that’s a typical religious explanation: you can’t explain something, and so, for you, God fills in those gaps. Like Zappa, I’m not buying that junk.

That I don’t agree with what I deem to be simple-minded religious zealotry is no surprise for me. But someone else who kind of came a bit of a surprise cropper was Stephen Pinker, with his ‘cheesecake’ angle. As a rationalist/humanist, I believe I share certain many aspects of Pinker’s approach/worldview. But, like Stewart, I’m kind of nonplussed by this. Maybe Pinker’s just got a tin ear? Or is otherwise missing something?

Pinker_Cheesecake
Pinker’s infamous quote.

Plenty of other scientists, numerous even in similar areas to Pinker’s own field of expertise, including some who appeared here (Dr Nicholas Connard, Daniel Levitin, and others), think otherwise. Some, for example, and I can tell Copeland likes this idea (as do I), believe that music predates and maybe even helped create language. From this perspective it cannot be dismissed as mere cheesecake.

The series is overwhelmingly positive in tone, which is no bad thing. But it does mean that some areas, areas that might’ve benefitted from deeper exploration – had this been commissioned in the Attenborough at the helm era of BBC2, it might have been a 13 part sledgehammer! – are glossed over way too briefly and simplistically.

Copeland_Sting
Nice to see these two chatting, not fighting.
Copeland_Coppola
Copeland‚ with film director Francis Ford Coppola.

One of these relates to how as we grow in age and experience, our identification with certain types of music evolves. Hearing simply that we love music, and we especially love it in groups (not an exact quote, but a simplification of a recurrent theme) left me wondering why for me this is not really the case. Certain kinds of music are anathema to me, frankly. And I know it has a lot to do with what they signify to me regarding belonging (or not) to certain groups.

Still, all in all, this was a good series. Too short, perhaps, and maybe even a little too personality driven [1] and ‘lite’. But very good nonetheless. Lots in there to enjoy. Lots to think on.


NOTES:

[1] Copeland nearly always seems borderline manic, and his effervescent energy bubbles away throughout the series. At times you can see him consciously reining it in. Whilst occasionally it bubbles over in a less controlled manner. Sometimes this is great. But occasionally one senses it masks or precludes other possibilities… if you know what I mean?