Trash can bass drum

I’ve been looking for a portable bass drum for busking for month now and I finally have a solution.  I had some spare 18″ bass drum hardware and figured if I went to the hardware store I could find something to act as a drum shell.  Armed with my tape measure I found the perfect candidate – the 32 Gallon 28×22″ BRUTE trash can!

First I measured an 8″ band around the trash can and used a dremel to cut off the top.  Then I mapped out holes for the hoop mounting hardware and legs, cleaned up the edges and installed the drum head.  [Check out the handles!]  The sound is deep and loud and without much sustain because there is no resonant head.  Works great for the streets!



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It’s hailing in San Jose!?

What is going on??? It’s hailing in San Jose!!!

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Custom LED Vanity

The internet has a lot of DIY vanity projects out there but I’ve never found the flexibility I would like with regards to light intensity and color temperature.  Building some LED lighting with a dimmer is not too hard but setting the color temperature is a bit trickier.  Color temperature is how “warm” or “cool” the light is with incandenscent light bulbs generally being more warm and fluorescent lights being more cool.  Here’s an example of color temperatures from 1000K to 10000K.


After working on my design – here are the results!

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Building the Custom LED Vanity

For this build we are making a wall-mounted vanity mirror with about a 2000K to 8000K color temperature range.  White LEDs are available in this range but they typically achieve the color temperature target using special composition and density of phosphor materials.  To build a variable color-temperature we need to use an RGB LED strip and employ calibrated control of each channel.

Here are the components we need:

  • DK Hardware Pivot-N-Vue mirror
  • SparkFun LED strip COM-12021
  • JIRVY Led Aluminum Channel with White Diffuser
  • Arduino Uno

The software on the Arduino Uno takes input intensity and color temperature data from potentiometers and then computes three RGB channel intensities.  Each intensity value maps to a ATmega PWM register that is connected to a MOSFET gate.  The MOSFET FQP30N06L is a perfect complement to the Arduino because it enables the 5V outputs of the ATmega328P to switch up to 60V and 30A (wow!).  In this design the SparkFun LED strip uses a 12V power supply operating around 600 mA and is well within in the limit.

As far as the color temperature formula it came from trial and error as well as user testing.  Here’s the formula I used:

virtual void set_color_temperature(int kelvin) 
    float k = (float)kelvin;
    R = 255;
    G = (k - 1000.) / 9000. * 165. + 75.;
    B = (k - 1000.) / 9000. * 60. + 5.;

Basically we always want the red to be at full blast.  Then we vary the blue and green in about a 1:2 ratio, starting from the lowest temperature where blue is at 2% power and green is at 30% power.  Your mileage may vary!

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Cymbal journey…

After a few weeks of exhaustive research and constant product returns I have assembled my new set of cymbals for my drum kit.  I purchased all of these online as used cymbals and let me tell you these guys rock!

  • Zildjian 20″ K ride
  • Zildjian 18″ A medium thin crash
  • Paiste 16″ full crash
  • Paiste 14″ Alpha medium hats

One thing I like about this setup is that the larger cymbals are made from B20 alloy (80% Cu, 20% Sn) with a darker tone and the smaller cymbals use B12 and B8 alloys with a brighter tone.  Using low Sn alloys in the smaller diameter cymbals extends the range of pitches in the group.


Getting to this group took a lot of searching!  I started off looking mostly at the Zildjian lines to replace my 18″ and 20″ Sabian XS20 cymbals.  My first guess of 20/18/16 A Custom were nice but the 20″ was way too lively and the bell volume was just off the charts.  The 16″ also must have been bent or something because it would turn dissonant at higher volumes.  The 20″ K ride swapped in and had the restrained wash and high-pitched bell I was looking for.  Then I realized that I hadn’t properly given the A Series a try and picked up the 16/18.  The 16″ was severely bent and sounded terrible, so I gave up searching and grabbed a Paiste full crash.  The 18″ A Series vs A Custom took some serious soul-searching but in the end the great attack of the A Series won out.

Whew we made it!



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Visiting the Columbia Icefield

I just walked on a glacier!  We were visiting Canada’s Banff National Park and decided to take a day trip up to the Columbia Icefield.  I fully understand that by taking a tourist trip up a glacier we are increasing its melting rate, but we don’t get a lot of chances to hang out on a glacier we went for it!,-117.2769318,8682m/data=!3m1!1e3







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Banff National Park

We just came back from an excellent trip to Canada’s Banff National Park.  Here’s some of what we saw during our visit!

We recommend the Tea House Challenge at Lake Louise!

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Let’s make electrical outlets!

Now that I have a good table to work with, the next step is to install some electrical outlets.  Any good workbench needs a place to plug in tools, and any good desk needs a power source for your computer.

We had an existing outlet on the right side of the door but the contacts were bent and corroded.  I decided to keep an outlet there and also splice a second one over to the left side of the door by the workbench.  Rather than try to run run new wires in the wall I opted for a design with mounted PVC conduits holding the conductors.  Here it is!



  • 2x two-plug device box
  • 2x weatherproof duplex outlet and wallplates
  • 3/4″ x  10′ PVC pipe and 3 elbows
  • 3/4″ pipe hangers
  • PVC cement & primer
  • 12′ outdoor electrical wire
  • 8 oz sample of color-matched exterior paint

Always disengage electrical power from the circuit – confirm with multimeter!  Then remove old hardware and install the first new device box and outlet.  Feed the wire into the PVC and start cutting and cementing each piece into place.  Then install the remote device box and outlet.  For a great look, bring in a color sample from your wall and Home Depot can mix up a custom match!  Use the color-matched exterior paint to make the conduits invisible.

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Visiting Hawaii’s Fissure 8

Our trip to Hawaii coincided with the lower Puna eruption on the eastern side of Kilauea rift zone.  The area had not experienced a volcanic event since the 1960s and several housing communities had been constructed including Leilani Estates and Vacationland.  Fortunately the lower Puna eruption caused no fatalities but it did cause dozens of injuries and $800 million in damages to the area.


We first tried to approach Fissure 8, the most active volcanic area, on foot but the National Guard was deployed to prevent access and we were stopped at the 130 to 132 intersection (19.491535, -154.940722).  Even from a distance we were close enough to see the billowing gases and the unearthly red glow filling the sky.  This picture was taken from Pahoa High & Intermediate School.


With our interest piqued in learning more about the active fissues, we did some research and discovered that helicopter tours were the only way to get a closer view.  The Hilo airport helicopter tours are usually focused on the local waterfalls and rainforest, but they had been suspended due to poor visibility and risk of flying into volcanic plumes.  As it happened the tours had re-opened the day before and we were able to book a last-minute 7AM flight.

During our flight we gazed into the roiling caldera of Fissure 8, inspected the various stages of the lava river flowing from the fissure and marveled at the steam plumes formed where the lava reaches the sea.  No photos can capture the experience but here’s my best attempt!

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Table surgery

You may remember my first draft of a table.  That table did NOT age well haha!  I started to get fancy and thought it would be good to pull out all the screws holding it together and pound some dowels in their place.  All-wood design sounds great, right?  Well, the problem was I didn’t actually glue all of the joints together so the table was on life support from day one.  That’s OK – we can fix it!


I barely got the table on saw horses before the whole thing came apart, but then we could start the triage.  I glued the five top planks to the cross beam and added the front legs and two dowels per join.  Then I assembled the rest of the structure but this time with full glue coverage at each join.  After drying took the dremel to all the uneven dowels, put down a coat of Danish oil and finished with light polyurethane.  Much better!


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