From Electronics

Sound Lab Kitty (Sound Lab Mini Synth)

When I graduated from Evergreen, I rewarded myself with a synthesizer kit. After much research I decided on the Sound Lab Mini Synth from Music from Outer Space (Ray Wilson). The kit arrived in July 2013 and I have been steadily working on it since (I was a teaching assistant in the summer and I’ve been in grad school and working, so, steadily is what I can manage). Nothing like thwarting the anxiety of graduation and grad school prep with a lot of soldering. Anyway, at this point I have…

– populated the main board

– constructed a +/-9V Linear Power supply

– built a case

– designed and drilled the front panel

– had front panel silk screened by my friend Lauren

– populated and labeled the back of the front panel for wiring

So, a lot has happened. I have been endlessly frustrated with the documentation that Ray Wilson provides. The board is laid out seemingly randomly, which made it rather tedious to populate. I was careful to check every single component twice and clean all the leads before soldering them in, so I don’t foresee any issues, but there’s really no way to test the board until you wire the panel. I am choosing not to worry about this, and instead choosing to curse Ray Wilson’s name (I did really enjoy his Analog Synth book from MAKE and his TL07X op-amp webcast, but still). All that said, here are some photos.

Don’s workshop is the best place in the world. Don Johnson has been an immense help throughout this process and through most of my projects– hooray for mentors! Asking for help is important! He also builds amazing tube amps (that you should look into if you love amazing tube amps).

Here is the board with just resistors. The blue tape thing behind it was my resistor organization system. I taped the resistors to a piece of cardboard and labeled it for increased efficiency.


Now, the board with all components. I heat synched all of the diodes and transistors. The sockets are soldered in and awaiting chips.


Here is the secondary board of my power supply. This board will first be wired out to the transformer, and then wired to the negative and positive points on the board. I am assembling a ground bus inside the case for power ground. The panel will have its own ground bus. The kit was originally meant to be run off of a 9V battery. I thought that was ridiculous, so Don helped me to work out how to build a Linear supply board.


Of course this post would be incomplete without your discovering that I really love cats. More specifically, I designed my front panel with a bunch of very tastefully drawn cats on it. I drew the cats. There is also an abundance of cat puns. This is my design. If you want to use this design, please ask me first. I don’t bite, I just want credit.

sound lab kitty cat

Here is the burned silk screen for the panel. Lauren is basically my hero.



Finally, here is my current progress. the front panel has been populated, and the back has been labeled so I can begin wiring it. In addition to the main board, I am constructing a Sample and Hold and an External Trigger input. I am going to build those circuits point to point on perf board because it is decidedly cheaper and easier than printing them, and just as effective. I will document the case further as I proceed with upholstering it with vinyl (likely it will be glitter vinyl, because you can’t stop the cute train, and this is MY synthesizer). I will also need to drill four 1/4″ jack sized holes into a piece of aluminum and amend it to the case for the output/input jacks. I will also post further documentation of the power supply section as some folks might find that useful in their own projects (+/-9V power supplies are fairly commonly needed things).









So yay! I’ve done something! It is not done, but I am pleased so far with the progress I have made. I’ve made PLENTY of mistakes along the way, and I’ve learned a lot. Mistakes are your friend, they teach you things!






Custom Stratocaster


Here is a stratocaster guitar I rewired and redid the body on. I had had the guitar since I was 12 and the wiring had always been a tad terrible, so I took it upon myself to remedy that. I dismantled the body and wiring and completely sanded the body down to bare wood (it had previously been red with a ton of primer to boot). Then I burned a peony pattern into the body with a wood burner and varnished the entire body with four coats of marine quality varnish (the wooden boat nerd in me wanted to let the wood breathe… who needs epoxy).


After finishing up the body work I rewired everything with new pickups from GFS. I used a boutique zebra humbucker on the bridge and two overwound strat pickups on the body and neck. I inverted the phase of the body and neck pickup and wired everything to a five way switch and tone control. The neck ended up being too high on the body so I had to have the body routed down 2mm in order to set the neck flush with the body. I also installed a new tremolo bridge with five springs to hold it in place and then adjusted the height and intonation. I learned a ton and can’t wait to do more!







Ouija Board Capacitance Sensor

I made a capacitance sensor out of a Ouija Board by gluing a piece of tin foil (conductive material) and insulated copper wire to the back of it. It can be controlled with the Planchette or with your hand. Initially I hooked it up to my Arduino Uno to test that it was working, then hooked it up to my electronics playground and fed it through a simple oscillator in order to produce some sounds. I am waiting on a wave shield so I can turn it into an instrument. I will probably add a couple more capSense pins to the sketch and split the tin foil into a few sections so they can be controlled individually and trigger different samples.