Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Cuckoo Chronulator

For those of you that are regular visitors here you'll know I've become more or less obsessed with designing and building cuckoo clocks. This has involved teaching this old dog some pretty new tricks. And I've loved it. I've found myself immersed in woodworking, woodcarving, clockworking, electronics and mold-making. It's been a blast.

What i've enjoyed the most is finding different ways of telling the time. Unearthing outdated technology and applying it to my cuckoo clocks in strange hybrids of chronology. Things like the wonderful nixie tubes with their oddly cold-war retro feel...

And the seventies flip clocks that have such a great analogy vibe that digital clocks could never replicate.

The joy of this on-going project has been finding problems and then solving them. Recently I've been fiddling around with wonderful Chronulator from the clever chaps over at ShareBrained Technology. It's a great kit that uses panel meters to tell time. So instead of showing voltage this kit allows panel meters to   display time. Nice aren't they?

The poplar and walnut case on this one was built by a clever chap called Kraig but all the internal workings are pure ShareBrained.  This is me assembling one of the kits...

It's a sweet kit and a clever piece of electronic jiggery pokery. However I want to make my clocks a bit more retro in feel than this. So I've been buying up old retro panel meters to use instead.

As you'll see they suit the mash-up steam-punky quality I'm looking for in my clocks.

However there is one small problem. These panel meters are very hard to come by and every time I get one it involves either a really big rebuilt to replace the shunt or the difficult task of replacing components on the kit in order to change the voltage. Given that whenever I find another second-hand panel meter the voltage or set up is different this has become a very laborious task each and every time.

So I hit on the idea of building my own retro panel meters. Ones that I can fit with a shunt that perfectly matches the ShareBrained Chronulator. No need to rewire or source old panel meters.

Seems like a simple solution right? Well, yes and no. Building the new panel meters has involved making new prototypes in wood. This meant some pretty intense wood-turning but I think you'll agree they've come up a treat.

First of all I needed something to model my new/old panel meters on. This old Simpson amp meter fitted the bill nicely.

Then I had to remove the shunt from the meters supplied with the ShareBrained kit. Given that their panel meters are square and my are round this was a pretty tricky task. Also when you cut plastic with an electric saw it tends to heat up and then reattach itself as you cut. Slow speed was the answer and constant pressure to keep the pieces separate.

So once it was cut I had some dimensions to work too. Here are the three pieces to my meter.

And assembled.

By 'eck it looks just like a bought one doesn't it? Then it's just a matter of slotting in the shunt housing.

Fits like a glove. Next up I also wanted to make one to a slightly larger size so I can have some variety in my meters. So I just scaled the process up.

Here they all are side by side.

For the next step I'm going to make molds of all the parts and reproduce them in black polyurethane plastic. This will bring them another step closer to looking like the Simpson meter. I'll also laser cut a hours display to slot inside and a clear plastic window to complete the look.

I'm really pleased with the way tis has turned out and it will lead to some pretty slick looking (and relatively hassle-free) clocks down the track. As always I'll keep you posted on my progress.   

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Making Vino!

As you guys know I made my own wine recently. It was a surprisingly easy process but it took over three years to come about. It started when I stumbled down the back of my old property in Kingsland and discovered that my clothesline had grapes growing all over it. This tells you two things. One: It's not that hard to grow grapes. And two: I don't do the washing very often.

The year before I made jam from the plum tree at the front of the property so I thought I better do something with these grapes before the birds had their evil way with them.

I wanted a challenge and as I'd already made jam so I thought to myself - wine. My chum Waz has made feijoa wine so I thought he was the man to talk to. And I was right.

So was born the Clothes Line Vine

Liberated from a clothes line in Kingsland these grapes were of unknown origin. However they have produced a lively, sweet summer drop that is the colour of pink panties with hints of rocket fuel.

The winemakers themselves are surprised by the drinkability of this fine drop. Enjoy in the shade in Summer and do not operate heavy machinery afterwards.

Crafted by hand and lovingly pressed by foot.

So here for you're viewing pleasure is the making of the wine...

This is at Waz's place but that's some of my jam in the background there. It wasn't part of the process. More's the pity. 

All this sugar went it. It's what makes the wine boozy. 

That's that. Now we had to play the waiting game. So we left the wine to sit in Waz's garage.

Fast forward three years. It was time to bottle up. So I purchased some old bottles on trademe and cleaned them up. Sterilizing the bottles was relatively simple but getting the labels off was the real job. I realized that taking labels off a bottle is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman. Some just come off in your hand while others make your life a misery.

Once the bottles were cleaned up. It was time to bottle up.

First you'll need some sterilized corks.

And one of these things.

Waz, me and his boy Benny made a little production line bottling the wine. We were done in no time.

The first sampling.

Then it was time to add the label.

Then simply sit back and enjoy it's sweet goodness. Oh and, true to form, it's incredibly alcoholic. Which is nice.