Wired for Sound

Wednesday I got my package from Brazil, much faster than anticipated. In it was all the 1:6 scale keyboards and synthesizers hand-crafted by Ronaldo. Simply amazing work, worth every centavo.

I immediately broke out my soldering station and went to work. First up was installing my own custom LED vacuum tubes inside the two HIWATT amplifier heads. This was as delicate an operation as it looks, negotiating the various layers of balsa wood and embossed paper. But once the 5mm UV lights are powered up, the effect is stunning.

Next came David Gilmour’s Hi-Fli Guitar Synthesizer. For this piece, I just drilled through it and installed one of ten N-scale train lights, securing it with a drop of super glue. Here it is lit up with a 3V battery pack (two AA batteries) for testing purposes.

The AKS synthesizer is probably my favorite piece. It doesn’t have a stand and I want Roger Waters to be using it in my scene while standing upright. And because he’s 79 years old I thought, hey, why not reuse the medical walker I made for James Bond in POSERS? It’s a near perfect fit. I only had to make a foam board brace across the bottom of the AKS’s briefcase shell to hold it in place. Then I mounted another piano light to it and attached a foot switch for it (not pictured).

Today I added three more vacuum tubes inside the open back of the Hammond organ’s cabinet. This too was tricky, but I eventually found a way to route their wires in a self-contained manner. The Hammond also got two piano lights on the left and right sides, up top. There was no place where I could drill straight through, so instead those wires make a 90° turn and come out the sides.

I also added lights to all the other instruments, including a sixth microphone. I’ll post better photos once I get them all placed on stage and wired up to power. I’ve made the connections as modular as possible but avoiding a rat’s nest will be a challenge.

This project involved a crash course in soldering. Some of these wires are literally the size of a human hair. It still takes lots of trial and error to successfully attach these tiny 2-pin connectors to 28 AWG and Kynar bare wire I can barely see. And my $79 soldering station’s “helping hands” are minimally helpful, as is its lighted magnifying glass — which is just in the way. But, I started to get the hang of it after a few frustrating hours of swearing and starting over. It feels good to learn a new skill and level up a bit.