Copper Accent Lamp

 

Here’s some shots of a little side-table accent lamp I built. Built out of copper and brass with an oak base. Simple on and off switch and an Edison bulb in it. It’s about 14″ high. It’s always fun to work on projects that don’t take months to complete, and I need a few smaller things that I can sell here and there to fund some larger projects that I have waiting in the wings. They will be signed and numbered.

The bare bulb that I have in it makes it kind of unusable as a desk lamp, but it uses a small candelabra-base socket, so the bulb could be switched out for something smaller that sits up inside the shade so you’re not staring right at the bulb.

I have a couple designs for things like this using different materials that I’m going to knock out here in the upcoming months. Stay tuned!

Cheers!
Mike

The Long Journey Home

West-Indies-Map

 

The West Indies are an interesting place. The natural surroundings are undeniably beautiful.  The water is so clear and blue, you can see everything underneath you for 50 feet or more. It’s like swimming in the world’s largest swimming pool. The beaches are serene, the wind rustling through palm trees elicit a level of calm that’s hard to reach on the mainland, and if you are lucky enough (as I was) to live on a mostly undeveloped residential island, it can be truly, almost heaven. Almost.

The journey started back in 2008 when my wife (GF at the time) and I decided it would be fun to disappear into the caribbean for a spell while the economy played out it’s grand guignol. We had our minds set on a small island next to St. Thomas called Water Island. Knowing that it would be a huge adjustment to just up and move there from the relative reality of Orlando, we took a halfway-step and moved to Key West. We lived there for four years, then made the move to the VI.

During our time in Key West I really got some traction with this CopperSteam stuff.. I think I really made some progress on the direction and feel of what I was trying to accomplish with it. I’m still honing in on it now, and don’t expect to ever really stop changing directions, but those four years were really the foundation of the thing.

When we moved to St. Thomas, I kind of hit a logistical wall.. shipping anything to the VI is expensive and slow, and they have virtually NO local options for buying any kind of supplies but for the Home Depot up on the mountain, and even they have a limited cross-section as far as Home Depot’s go. My tools all rusted immediately because of the salt content in the air (We did live on a cliff overlooking the Ocean, so I guess I should have seen that one coming), and polishing copper and brass was a tremendous exercise in futility, as it would begin to tarnish immediately. Needless to say.. not the best environment to construct an evil scientist’s lab.

Despite all the difficulties, I was able to construct one of my favorite pieces to date.. the SteamAmp II, a commissioned piece for a gent in Connecticut. It cost a fortune to get the materials shipped, and I had to re-do every piece I finished at least once, but perseverance paid off and it came out great. I vowed to never again attempt another physical artwork while I was living there.

Apart from the difficulty of trying to build stuff there, life was pretty much a waking dream. I drove around in my golf cart, floated in the pristine waters on our little beach, drove to work in a dinghy… and dreamed of fresh fruits and veggies and cheap and plentiful meat and dairy. You see, while liquor (especially Rum) was a fraction of the cost on the island, the food-supply chain to the VI is slow and expensive, and getting good groceries was really quite a challenge. A small price to pay I suppose, for living literally a two minute drunken golf cart ride to one of the best beaches ever. Water island was a balancing game.. the sooner you just learned to go with the flow, the more you could just relax and enjoy the beauty of it all.

So, as fate would have it, just as I decided to kick back and only work on conceptual design stuff, and play out my days in a dark rum-fueled version of some Hunter S. Thompson novella, Christina got a job offer she couldn’t pass up back on the mainland. After no small amount of deliberation, we decided to come back early.

And so it comes to pass, I am back in Florida, three weeks from moving back into our house that we’ve had renters in for 6 years, and planning my grande return to the original Ævil Laboratory… and oh the fun we will have then!

So stay tuned kiddies, I’m dusting off the workbench!

SteamAmp II

 

It’s cool to see it in the flesh as compared to my 3D model of it that I posted a few months ago.. I think it looks pretty darned close to the concept!

A few technical details for the nerds; the amp circuit is a hot-rodded version of the S5 Electronics K12G amp. I upgraded all the caps, and replaced the stock output transformers with a nice pair from Edcor. There are 5 inputs, 4 on the back, one on the front, and the volume knob is a stepped attenuator. The amp puts out 8 watts per channel and uses 4 10GV8 triode tubes in push-pull.

The speakers are Tang-Band W4-1879’s and the copper spheres are ported through the bases with a 1×4″ flared port. The enclosures are reinforced inside with epoxy resin-soaked fiberglass matte, and they are very solid. They sound amazingly LARGE for such small drivers! I couldn’t be happier.

This was a really challenging piece, not so much because the construction itself was that difficult, but because here in my new workshop the air has so much salt in it that the copper tarnishes really, really quickly if it’s not coated right away after polishing. I’ve re-finished every piece of this thing twice! It’s now wrapped it in plastic and closed up in a box until I finish the speakers. I’ll unwrap it and get some good professional photos of the whole set together, and then ship it as quickly as I can to get it out of this harsh environment and on to it’s owner in Connecticut!

Cheers!
Mike

The Secret Island Lair, New Concept Art, and Rum.

Hey There! It’s Been a While!

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted here. I’ve been busy getting my life settled here on our Secret Island in the V.I. Well, I suppose it’s not really very secret, but there aren’t many people here, so that makes it feel pretty secret!

Back in July (of 2013) we uprooted our home in Key West to make the final leg of our “10-year-plan” to run away to the Caribbean. This involved selling even more of our stuff, purchasing a bright yellow Jeep, a road trip to New York to see my son graduate high school and drop off our old Toyota 4-Runner for him to drive, camping in the Smoky Mountains, more road tripping to Traverse City, Michigan to visit with the extended family, a scary trip through blighted neighborhoods in Detroit, a flight back to Orlando, a trip to Jacksonville to drop the Jeep at the freight docks, and finally, a flight to St Thomas. It was a long, arduous, and immensely fun road trip that took a few weeks, and ended with us transplanted on our new rock… Water Island.

Honeymoon-BeachPossibly the happiest photo on the whole site…

Water Island is a small little island just south of St. Thomas. It’s about 490 acres, and has no stop lights, no convenience stores, no grocery stores, and very few people. There is however, a world-class beach with a beach bar, an old abandoned government fort tunneled through the mountain, lots of turtles, and very little traffic. I love it. The yellow Jeep lives on St. Thomas, and we drive our golf cart on Water Island. Our dinghy gets us between the islands for food and booze runs, and gets Christina to Charlotte Amalie for work. I work on Water Island, so I don’t leave very often, and that suits me just fine.

Another thing that suits me fine is the price of rum here.. apparently the government subsidizes the production of rum in the VI, so the prices are silly-cheap. It’s half what it costs anywhere else in the US. Not that I drink or anything. Much.

So Anyway…

Uprooting things like we did, I had to dismantle my tiny shop in Key West and put most of my tools in boxes to wait for shipment at a later date. The large things like table saws, mitre saws, drill presses, etc. had to stay, and they are being harbored by a friend in Orlando so whenever I decide to go back to the real world, I’ll have them there.

I’ve been slowly trying to get things back together, not really worrying too much about it until recently when I was contacted by a gentleman in Connecticut who wanted to commission a Steam Amp. Well, never one to back down from a challenge, I told him I was game if he wasn’t in too much of a hurry, and we agreed on a design and price, and off I go!

The Steam Amp II is somewhat similar to the original; same circuitry under the hood, but with much upgraded drivers, more inputs, a bluetooth receiver, and some cool-as-shit spherical speaker cans. I’ll be posting construction shots of this project along the way, so I’m not gonna go into any details now. I’m going to build 5 of these as a limited-edition run. That means there will be 4 more available, so if you want one.. drop me a line.

Another concept I worked on was the Æther Lamp. It shares a lot of the same aesthetics as the Steam Amp II, and would probably look great sitting on the same shelf. It’s built around an old 10″ glass fresnel lens I picked up on eBay a few years ago. I’d like to build a couple of these, and sell them as a pair.

I can’t wait to get started on these projects… stay tuned for updates.

Images modeled and rendered in Maya.

Stay Ævil..

Mike

The Final, All-Finished DeuxAmp Project!

 

 

Well it’s done.

No more little details, no more what if’s, no more polishing till my fingers bleed! The DeuxAmp project is ready to be jettisoned out into the world.

The system consists of a pre-amp, two mono power amplifiers, and two tower speakers.

The Pre-amp is based upon the amazing SP-14 from Roy Mottram at Vacuum Tube Audio. I had to modify the circuit board a bit to fit my purposes, mainly because I wanted the tubes to be in a radial pattern around the central torroidal transformers on top of the box. His kit has the tube sockets soldered to a PC board, I just chopped off that section of the board and point-to-point wired that half of the circuit. Yeah, that made me a little nervous, but all worked out well, and nothing blew up when I turned it on for the first time! The large volume knob is a vintage knob from an old variac. This was actually the first piece I bought for this part of the project and the rest of the design kind of sprung up around that knob. I wanted it to have a sort of Victor Frankenstein vibe to it.

The Amps themselves are based upon the Dynaco MKIII circuit, and use an upgraded octal driver circuit section from Vacuum Tube Audio. I have never listened to an original, unmodified MKIII, so I have no personal basis for comparison, but I can tell you this, these amps sound fantastic. They crank out 60-watts per channel, which doesn’t sound like a lot these days, but those 60 watts are tube watts, and they certainly pump out the volume.

The speakers are a ported design and are clad in solid walnut and maple. The driver is a Tang-Band W8-1808. At first I was nervous about a single point-source driver, because I’d never heard a speaker with a whizzer cone that sounded for shit, but these things are unbelievable. I get frequencies out out of these speakers that quite honestly shouldn’t be coming from an 8″ driver. It really sounds like there’s a subwoofer in the room, and the highs are crystal clear and not even the slightest bit harsh. The only way I’ve been able to describe it that comes close is that these things breathe – they sound very liquid. The ports on these speakers are unique as well. Originally I was going to just use pre-made plastic ports, but decided it would look cooler if I built my own out of copper. If you scroll down a bit on the blog you will find the build shots from that project.. it was quite a journey.