Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

On the Breadboard

May 30, 2016

Maybe this will be a recurring series. It should be possible if I’m actually Making Things.

Bazz Fuss

Information about the Bazz Fuss can be found here.

A few years ago I tried out the Bazz Fuss and was very disappointed. Being careful with transistor and resistor choice seems to be much more crucial than People on the Internet imply.

I actually fried one transistor by using a variable resistor that was allowed to vary down to zero. Was quite amusing to turn it down, then up again, only to find the tone was drastically different. Somewhere in the middle of this process I made an instagram video. Bazz Fuss fried video.

The “best” version I created consisted of a clean boost followed by a standard BF with high gain, then a tone stack, then a BF with lower gain and emitter degeneration added. This allowed bizarre octave-up effects with tone high and big muff-esque tones when low.

Double Bazz Fuss with Tone video.

Chance that I’m develop this further? It *was* pretty high before I built the next Thing. Now, slightly less.

Harmonic Percolator

The Interfax Harmonic Percolator is an legendary (or at least notorious) fuzzbox mostly associated nowadays with the music of Steve Albini. Albini has several youtube videos on the subject. There’s some info here.

Tried out a Harmonic Jerkulator, an all silicon Percolator clone developed by Tim Escobedo. Details available here. It sounds amazing. It doesn’t sound Albini, but neither do “faithful” clones or any other variant I’ve heard, so whatever. Sounds like a germanium fuzz-face to me except despite being boomier it never gets muddy enough to where you can’t hear all the notes.


Chance that I’ll develop further? 100% chance I’ll youtube it, 50% I’ll box it up, 20% I’ll try and market it.


The Ruby amplifier, from

Built this LM386-based 0.25W amplifier. It sounds suspiciously good. Even when plugged into my upcycled computer subwoofer. I’m definitely gonna box this up. This is an extremely high-margin Thing if it were ever to be Etsy’d.

100% chance it’ll get boxed up. I’ve never sold on Etsy before so … if I ever decide to this’ll probably be the first thing I do.


Anyway, those are the three ideas I’ve been monkeying around with over the past week.

On electronics recycling or reusing

August 12, 2014

I’ve accumulated four bad or otherwise worthless hard disk drives. Recently I made a Fedora 19 install on an old PC and about a month later started getting S.M.A.R.T. errors, so I yanked it out just now. I looked at it and it’s an 80GB parallel drive from Maxtor. I’m pretty sure Maxtor doesn’t exist anymore. I’m also pretty sure modern computers can’t use parallel drives. I’m also pretty sure hard disk drives no longer come in 80GB. The smallest I saw at Best Buy (whose hard drives were mysteriously low-priced) the other day was 500GB or maybe 320GB. Of course more expensive SSDs still come in smaller sizes.

I’m thinking about how and where I should dispose of these drives. When I googled “where to recycle e-waste” one the websites that came up suggested always trying to repair electronics rather than dispose of them, and this of course got my gears going, because I’m now trying to do a calculation in my head about what is actually more environmentally friendly.

If I get an old CRT monitor repaired, for example, instead of replacing it, then my carbon footprint is going to be (for argument’s sake) 5x as high as if I replace it with a more modern display. (LED and LCD displays are much more energy efficient). If I throw it in the trash, then I’m introducing mostly copper and fiberglass and plastic, but also small amounts of heavy metals, into the environment. What is worse? Producing 5x as much carbon as I would be for the next couple of years, or introducing a bit of heavy metals as a one time thing? Sometimes I wonder if whoever is writing the pro-reuse educational materials have actually made this calculation. Of course, if our electrical grid produced less carbon-per-kilowatt, then the point at which reusing is worse than buying a new one would shift.

I’d like to reexamine this problem with actual numbers, and also reexamine it with the criterion being actual monetary cost to the consumer rather than cost in damage to the environment.

Even if one were to make the calculation and decide that heavy metals are a worse problem, when taken in a vacuum, what if our global carbon-production problems are closer to reaching a tipping point than our global heavy metal pollution problems?

Anyway, this is what I’ve been thinking about. I haven’t made the calculation with real numbers, but to be honest my hypothesis is that we would be better off in the long run if everyone dumped every CRT television or monitor into the ocean immediately–for the environment’s sake. Of course, recycling them properly would be even better. ;)

Early April Update: WordPress glitchy bullshit; RSS; school–drugs–psychiatry; dogecoin; DIY update

April 1, 2014

WordPress Reader Sucks: Apparently the reason I’m not showing up in some peoples’ readers is that when I changed my name, it left you all subscribed to my OLD name and not following my new name. Yes, EVEN THOUGH it says you are following me in your reader, you have to click unfollow and then click follow again. Basically, this is the deal: never ever change your wordpress name. Not only will you lose all your followers, it will LOOK like you didn’t, and none of your followers will think there is any problem.

RSS: Of course, if everyone just followed via RSS instead of via WP’s built-in Reader, this would not be an issue at all. The fact that RSS is a dying technology angers me to no end. My suggestion is to subscribe to everyone ever on RSS. Get a deskop-based RSS reader or if you want, a cloud-based one. With Google Reader having bit the dust IDK what the best cloud-based ones are anymore.

Mental Health: Life is basically terrible. I had to confront my teacher today to give her an explanation about my absenses and late assignments because they became too great. She was sympathetic and we bonded over our hatred of the Office of Disability Services personnel. Now, of course, I have to complete three assignments in the next two or three hours, but the actual source of the actual paralyzing anxiety is actually gone.

Drugs, Typography: Today I took half a NuVigil at 4:30AM and a whole Klonopin at 7:30AM. Class was at 8:00AM. To the chagrin of most of the other students, I spoke more in class today than usual. I blame drugs. Everyone else was basically asleep while I interrogated the professor about different style-guide’s recommendations for dash typography. A reader may have noticed that I am a big fan of using dashes instead of parenthesis. My professor recommended using a dash in that way about once a page or so. Dash usage is a habit that can get out of hand really quickly.

About class. Did I mention I missed a full week last week? I couldn’t do anything! I’m considering upping my Vibryyd dose but I have an appointment in a week, so I might as well wait until then to discuss it with the pro. Thank the gods for the “emergency” drugs.

Dogecoin and Cryptocurrency Day-trading: I currently hold 23,000 Dogecoin, which has been sitting at an ask price of 121 Satoshi for a few days. The price reached 120 the other day but never touched 121 and I’m very disappointed. It’s now trading at 111 and 110, so I think I’m going to play market maker for a while today before placing another high ask, maybe at 118 or so. I bought at 114, and the price is almost 100% guaranteed to reach 115 eventually, so I’m not worried. I am not currently doing any automated trading.

DIY projects:

  • Single-transistor-dirtbox: I populated and drilled the board I etched. There is too much gain and the transistor saturates with almost any input at all. I replaced the 1M miller resistor with a 500K potentiometer. At 500K it sounds close to what I envisioned, but when reduced the miller capacitance dominates and an odd effect occurs: the lower the gain the more high frequencies are rolled off. I’m thinking that I like the actual idea of this kind of effect, but the pedal overall is now too dark. I’m thinking about adding a treble-boost cap in parallel with the top resistor above the diodes, and also reducing or eliminating the capacitor in parallel with the diodes. That way the pedal will still have idiosyncratic controls that inspire through their simplicity, but will also be usable. Also considering changing those resistor values to add more distortion anyway.
  • Champ-inspired tube amp: I love it, it’s great, the few glitch aspects of it are relatively minor. I still want to paint it, which will be a pain since everything is already bolted on. I’m thinking about replacing the epoxy’d in standoffs with screwed in standoffs, for no real reason other than the epoxy keeps breaking. Possible additions include adding a power brake–if I do this it will be done shittily, with just some wirewound resistors. I also need to redo the speaker jack wiring so that the output transformer is less likely to be damaged in the case of a cable malfunction. Also I want to build a cabinet. My dad has some leftover hart pine from building floors in his house like ten years ago that have just been sitting around for eons. I don’t know how to work wood. I think I can figure out the joinery–basically I will just hack stuff together and if it doesn’t work, use metal brackets instead. It’s the sanding and finishing that I’ve done the least work with. How exactly does one finish hart pine? I suppose it would be a shame to paint it or cover it in tolex, so I’ll just leave it looking like some expensive antique furniture, lol. Is staining ever used on pine? If so I might be able to do something cool. I’m thinking about naming this amp the “Baby Whale”, by the way.
  • Found Amp: I found a $60 Ibanez practice amp by the side of the road. It turns on but does nothing but makes a loud buzzing sound–this is probably because the power cable is missing the “earth” pin. Someday I’ll fix it, even though it almost certainly sounds worse than my Roland Microcube (which is of similar wattage and speaker, but is a modeling amp) or either of my Peavey Combos (which is of a similar solid-state design, but are much higher wattage and have better speakers).
  • Found Chassis: I also found a blank amp chassis. It’s about four times the size of the one I used for the Baby Whale. I supposed some day I’ll build an amp into it. Maybe something Plexi inspired? I’m honestly not sure that I would ever want an amp that uses a quad of power tubes. I love the 6V6 in the Baby Whale, so maybe I would go for a dual 6V6 or dual 6L6 design. If I gigged in a room big enough to warrant a quad, I’d be mic’d up anyway … right?
  • Antique Radio Restoration: I have made no progress on this. One thing I need to do is purchase a set of “all american five” miniature vacuum tubes from ebay. Apparently a full set of five can be had for ten to twenty USD. One thing I learned about the five-tube design is that the use of these particular tubes is what allows the lack of a power transformer. The tube filaments, when placed in series, demand a total of precisely 110VAC. Guitar amps usually use a power transformer that drives all of the tubes at 6.3VAC in parallel. In this radio all five of them are stacked so that the total voltage is what matters, and it has been designed so that the total is the same as the standard line voltage. IDK why this is considered to save money, however, since there are two isolation transformers present that I would omit if designing this radio myself today. Perhaps high-voltage quality capacitors were not available or reliable in the 40s. This radio might also need woodworking.

So basically I have made tiny amounts of progress in a wide variety of things. It could be worse. Which of these topics would you like an in-depth post about?

(I.e. What do you want to see pictures of? Getting my recording studio running again would be yet another project, so sounds must have to wait.)

Early morning rambling update

March 25, 2014

I have this thing I do where instead of writing essays staying up the night before class, I wake up at 4AM to write them the morning of. Class is at 8. Why exactly am I blogging instead of writing it right now? For some reason I feel like I blog about “The Imp of the Perverse” all the time, but I probably don’t.

I did finish rewiring the guitar I was working on. It sounds … like a guitar. It sounds kind of farty but I think I just need to lower the pickups. Having a hard time with the setup because everything is rusty. Honestly it might sound better on my old solid-state amp than my new tube amp. I’ll have to try that out later today.

Still haven’t drilled the PCB I made yet though. I don’t think I even have a digital version of the schematic. Also I haven’t decided what transistor to use. Shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. Maybe I should find some classic silicon transistor designs and make a study of how much difference it actually makes. For the  most part I just design around vBE and hFE and that’s it. For some fuzzes vCE matters, but that’s more of a “plug and pray” design process anyway.

Overall I’m actually doing well in school this semester, actually. That’s always a surprise.

DIY PCB Etching process pictures

March 22, 2014

My first etch! It’ll be a single transistor overdrive for guitar, maybe.

Nail polish on copper on fiberglass:

Ferric Chloride solution:


Nail polish dissolves in acetone:

Finished etched board:

Now … drilling is next. How exactly I will drill 40 holes in that, we’ll find out later. :)

PCB Etching and Guitar Rewiring

March 21, 2014

Supposedly this is everything I need to etch a PCB.


Also I’m rewiring a guitar. I already “dewired” it, lol. When my friend Travis moved he let me have it. That was almost a year ago I’m just getting around to fixing it.


I might need to sand some of that flaky looking wood? IDK.

Not sure if there’s a way to get the rust off some of this hardware other than by buying new. Also three wood screws are missing.


It looks like the rear cavity was shielded with conductive paint but much of it has worn off. Redoing that might be unnecessary though. If I did I would use copper tape instead.

DIY PCB Etching

March 20, 2014

Did I mention that I’m going to try etching my own PCB for the first time this weekend?

I’m going to do it super quick and dirty: hand drawn traces with nail polish, etched with ferric chloride, etch resist removed with acetone. I make a design for a single-transistor boost/dirtbox and that’s what I’ll be etching. My etchant and my board comes in today in the mail. We’ll see how this goes.

Anyone here ever etched their own PCB? What’s your process like?

Update, lots of DIY thoughts, not much DIY progress

March 13, 2014

Sorry for no update. Really not that much going on.

Haven’t touched my diy-guitar amp. It still sounds great but no change. Haven’t recorded with it yet. I have a few things I need to do before I am capable of recording anything at all.

I’m thinking about using some hart pine my dad has to construct a cabinet for the amp head. IDK exactly what I’m doing in terms of DIY joinery, but it’s worth a shot. Main problem is that the best tool I own is a dremel. Worst case scenario I just use lots of brackets and screws. Also I have never finished wood. Anyone know the best way to finish hart pine?

Another problem with finishing the amp is that I’ll need to completely disassemble it in order to repaint the chassis. Should have done that first instead of last… oops.

I also just bought materials for etching my own PCB. I’m going to try and throw together a single-transistor dirtbox sometime that I planned a layout for.

I haven’t touched the antique tube radio I bought on ebay. I’ll post about that sometime. It’s going to take quite a bit of work to get restored.

I’ve gotten heavily into a new hobby: mining and trading cryptocurrencies. For the scope of this blog, the less said about it the better, I’m sure. I guess I actually mentioned it in passing last time. I taught myself python so that I could write an automatic daytrading bot. It’s been making me an average of a dollar or two per day, so that’s cool. Python is exactly like how xkcd described it. It makes programming fun again.

I always WANT to blog more and I WANT to record more music and I WANT to make youtube videos but sometimes these things just don’t happen. I scribbled down some music today at least, but unfortunately I have to do things to my computers before they can even record at the quality that I have in mind.

Here, listen to a cover I recorded three years ago:

Oh Sheesh (school, guitar amp, dogecoin, etc.)

February 5, 2014

I don’t seem to blog much right now. Since school has started again maybe my routine will work out so that it happens more. School is dumb this semester. I was too anxious to talk to all the right people to get signed up for the difficult things I need to do to graduate, so I’m just doing the easy things. Despite the things being easy, I am currently writing this post while procrastinating on something due at 8AM tomorrow. Such is life, I guess.

I finished the amp from last post. It is wonderful and it is loud. It still needs a tiny bit of troubleshooting:

  • Hum, probably from heater current. DC elevation didn’t fix it, nor did switching out the center-tap ground for a virtual ground. The heater wiring can be shortened but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. I could also reduce the total current.
  • The preamp plate-starve control does nothing. It varies the preamp supply voltage from 300V down to 150V as I planned–however this doesn’t affect the sound AT ALL. Apparently none of the amp’s distortion is actually coming from lack of plate headroom. It’s also possible that this control is bleeding hum into the signal, but it seems unlikely. This control will be removed, but I might put a master volume in its place.
  • The “snappiness” control is wired backwards, it seems. I’m gonna leave it.
  • If the second boost switch is enabled and the volume or tone is set at 8 or higher, very loud crackling and feedback occurs, in addition to small white sparks visible at the top of the power tube. Adding series resistance to the bypass capacitors didn’t fix the problem. I’m thinking about adding series resistance to the power tube grid to see if that helps. If it doesn’t, I’ll just rewire the knobs so that 8 is the new 10. :)

Soon I will take pictures and possibly video and make audio recordings, but I’d kind of like to fix these issues first.

The other thing I have been “into” recently is dogecoin mining. I’m getting about 100KH/s but I only made a $50 investment into gear, so whatever. So far I’ve made back about $15 (actually Ɖ11,000)  but I’m planning on holding until the price goes up. The inflation rate is going to halve in almost exactly a week, so that’s interesting.

What have you guys been “into” recently?

DIY guitar amp in progress pictures, 5F2A inspired

January 13, 2014

Here are some pictures of my amp in progress. Tooling a steel chassis with nothing but dremel is kind of way too much work bit for my first build ever it’s still worth it.

Here’s the first batch of parts I got in:


Vacuum tube power! This is the power amp tube, a 6V6GT made by Electro-Harmonix:


And here is the preamp tube, a 12AX7, also from EHX:


This is the power supply soldered on the turret board… Next time do wires first and components second, self. Of course at this point my 600V wire hadn’t come in the mail yet.


Power Transformer holes on chassis:


And here’s where the output transformer will be:


Finished turret board in place for reference, no wiring yet lol.


Finally got the tube socket holes dremeled out. Never again, lol.


Power tube (temporarily) in place next to power transformer. Panel drilled and (temporarily) populated.


All front panel and board wiring done. All socket wiring done except for whatever goes to the transformers.


All I have left is drilling the output jack, drilling the output transformer wire holes, dremeling the lamp hole, then wiring the output and power connections. Then I can rock out! Oh yeah I do need to finish wiring my old combo as a cabinet before then, but that’s basically done already.

I have spent about $170 building this amp–a new replica would cost at least $600 (and wouldn’t have any of my extra features ;)). Of course I’ve also put at least 10 hours of work. Maybe 15. And that’s not including planning which is probably another 15 or 20. So if I was selling it you could say I was paying myself about $9/hr. Better than I thought! Of course to actually get $600 it would have to be painted and mounted in a nice wooden box with a panel decal, etc.

I was hoping to finish before school started (which is today) but no dice. I might not get to put any work into it until tomorrow, and even then I might only get an hour or two. Hopefully by the weekend I’ll have it knocked out.