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Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Pine 10 inch drum

03.03.2017 – Pine and Cedar drums

I’ve been making more and more drums over the winter – I have 7 or 8 now under my belt.  I’m making them because I want to become great at making them – tone, playability, looks, pitch, toughness, beauty, record-ability – all of that – but also because I am doing R&D for Hexagon Craftworks, trying to ramp up to being able to sell a very nice set of items that people will love having in their set of instruments.  I also enjoy the creative process of doing it.  I have made a few improvements with these two, and every time I do one, it gets better.

P I N E   D E C A G O N   D R U M

First, I made a pine-based decagon with 10 sides.  It’s about 10″ wide by 11″ deep.  I have always loved the knots and grain of pine, and it’s look when it’s stained dark.  Before stain, the drum shell was almost white!  Very light.  Pine gets “fluffy”, too – it takes stain deeply and I had to sand the hell out of it, with 60, 150, up to 400, and it came out great!  The reddish stain sank in and gave it a super-awesome look after the clear.

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Pine 10 inch drum

The tone of this drum has the best tone from any drum I have made so far!  And, it’s light.  Maybe the shell resonates more?  I don’t know.  An oak drum that has half the dimensions still weighs twice as much as this (roughly).  The oak ones have their own kind of tone, but this one just came out great with a thicker goat skin.

As I said, the wood is softer, and that comes with advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage is that it’s easy to sculpt, and part of the disadvantage is that… it’s easy to sculpt!  Make one mistake trying to carve that logo in there and it’s very hard to overcome, so I had to be extremely careful carving detail this wood.  But, using the router and sanders to shape it was a great experience.

C E D A R   D E C A G O N   D R U M

I made another 10-sided drum from cedar, but this time I went crazy and made the width 4″ and gave it a foot height.  This thing “pops”!  I love this drum, too!  An added benefit with this one is that it just matches my arm length with my fingers on the head, so I can get my upper arm behind the drum and use it to bend the pitch when I need to without using an extra hand – nice advantage.

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Cedar 4 inch drum

The wood is of course darker in color so the added stain on top makes it darker than the reference.  I used a charcoal-like stain on this one and it came out great!  I did the straps differently on this one and I really like it.  It’s a better “system” for keeping the skin tight, plus managing the exposed strap.  I will do this more.

Now I know what seems to be the limit of a medium-thickness head – I’d say about a 4-inch diameter.  I think it would have been better to use a lighter gauge head on it as the tone is a bit muted, but still has some good overtones – actually probably pretty useful for mic’ing it up, but I do enjoy a small drum that is rather spilling out with higher harmonics.  I also made the bearing edge more rounded, so that affects it.  It still sounds really good and unique and I love playing it.

I N   T H E   E N D

After it’s all said and done, these drums are my favorites, and they’ve gotten great response from the initial groups I have shown them to – from both players and collectors, and including general art and music enthusiasts.  I try to get the most honest feedback from people as possible to help me identify what people are liking and what they would like to see better.  That’s for the market research, but I also just take them to jam sessions to actually play and have fun, as well. 🙂

Brad Ormand - Hexagon Craftworks Drum Clamps

I have a few more drums I’ll do in March, one with more exotic wood, one with a thinner oak, and another with pine.  And, I’d love to do one with birch!  I’ll do some lighter tints and experiment with mixing paint with some of the stain to get a vingette effect around the borders.  Also, I will do at least one with more carving detail around the sides, like a plant sprouting out or hanging from the top.  And, there’s even the idea of making a drum from a geometric platonic solid – that would be super awesome cool!  Still working on that one…  Lots of ideas, I just gotta keep on making and making!

Native Stave Drum 8 Inch Rawhide

11.25.2016 – New Hand Drums

I’ve been making drums in anticipation of releasing a few lines of instruments through Hexagon Craftworks.  I’m doing a little R&D, making different kinds and proving different techniques.  I’ve built 5 so far and modified a few more that I had built in the past, and I have several upcoming.

I used to work in a drum shop and I’ve been a drummer since school, so making them to play them is a good combination – a great way to spend my time and fulfilling as well.  My academic background is in both audio and computer engineering, so that also helps me tune the sound because afterwards, I can record them to the machine and analyze what sound properties each building technique has produced, and where to go from there.

The goal for me now is to have 10 or so varying kinds that I can take out with me and have musicians play them, collectors look at them and hold them and to see what people like or don’t like about them, in general.  Of course, my vote counts as well.  I’ll be seeing what features I consistently like in them.  Then, once I have the feedback, I can go on to produce more of the drums and features that make the most sense to do.

Hopefully, I’ll be releasing this line of drums to my web store ( https://www.hexagoncraftworks.com ) sometime during the Spring of 2017.  I also have other things I’m making to sell in the store so I will have to determine priorities at the time, such as the Snub Dodecahedron model and the wood tools.

Native Stave Drum 18 Inch Rawhide

 

This one (above) is a big one – an 18″ hexadecagonal stave drum made out of oak.  It’s got a thick cow rawhide head.  The properties, of course, change with moisture and temperature, but at about 75 degrees F and 50% humidity (comfortable indoors), it’s fundamental tone is somewhere around 38Hertz, with a loud overtone around 100Hz.  Perfect little boom and punch combo.

 

Native Stave Drum 10 Inch Rawhide

This next one is about 10″ in diameter and it started out as an octagon.  It’s also made out of oak.  The thin rawhide is very transparent and was a pleasure to work with.  I really like the sound of it, too.  It’s got lots of overtones and resonance.

Native Stave Drum 8 Inch Rawhide

And, this one is another oak drum (I love working with oak, but have some made out of cedar and pine, as well).  It’s smaller – about 8 inches OD and is rounded octagonal as well.  It’s got a very high, tight, pingy tone – perfect for a slap or backbeat with ghost notes.  Also, it has a carved logo right in the front, and I took some creative liberties with the lacing and forming.

I have a few more not shown on this post, but these 3 are my finest examples.  All in all, they were all made from hardwood lumber that I cut and processed, and I’m still refining my methodologies, but I have a solid hold on the techniques I’ve used to make these.  After a few more, I’ll have decided on a good base set of techniques to call my “style”.

There were a few challenges along the way – cutting and forming wet wood, getting the router to stay in place and not damage the sides when it binds, the notches becoming to small to twist the leather lace around, sanding across the grain, ripping various angles along a long piece, and of course, heads tearing and popping from excessive tension.  I got those worked out and look forward to doing this again!

Brad's Garden Plan 2016

10.24.2016 – Garden (Part One)

I built a raised-bed garden 2 months ago.  I am excited about growing my own food.  I buy an awful lot of fruits and veggies from the grocery store, and I want to experiment with having my own source.  Plus, I like watching the miracle of plants growing.  And, I like eating different varieties and studying them – all very interesting to me.

So, I grow.  These are my “test beds”, quite literally.  I made 3 beds to study how things will grow (even in this late part of the season – I just moved here).  Later, I will expand it 10-fold when I acquire some larger acreage.  This is a great pre-cursor experiment to see what mistakes I make or what problems I encounter here so that I can learn from them when I scale up – or if it just does really well, I’ll replicate.  I also want to see what dies in the frost and what survives and why.  Come Springtime, I’ll have a better understanding of what needs to be done for each plant I’m interested in when I plan the next layout.

So, here’s what I’ve got growing:  Corn, wheat, cucumbers, garlic, strawberries, tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, Chinese peppers, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, squash, onions, kale, radish, swiss chard, basil, parsley, cilantro, aloe vera, cacti, and probably a few more that I’m not remembering.  And, I have several varieties of some of them.  Let’s see what happens!

I planned the whole thing out before I started growing.  Here’s the chart:

Brad's Garden Plan 2016

So, I started the build in the late summer.  I used as much reclaimed wood (untreated) as I could find.  For instance I found some great 20′ 2×8’s used previously as roof rafters to use and had plenty of standard 2×4’s.  I bought the rest and went to work.

Brad Garden Pickaxe 2016

Muddy Garden Build

To make a long story short, I initially intended to drop them into the existing soil, but I decided to change halfway through to do raised beds as a more controlled experiment – like growing in huge containers with known, looser soil.  And, I ended up matching the building width of 7′ for alignment, so these are 4′ by 7′, and there are 3 of them.

That’s the old deconstructed, broken-down pyramid vocal booth that I built for my old home, in the background.  I broke it down to use the wood.  I found another sound booth solution for this place.  As you can see, the frames came up nicely – it was much easier after it stopped raining so much!  It was a pleasure to design and build these things – there’s great fulfillment that comes from it.  And, the garden area has remnant parts of that vocal booth and another climbing wall that I harvested wood from.  So, there’s some memories in there, as well.  🙂

Garden Under Construction

 

Brad's Bed Design - Close Up

And, finally, the finished product (below) with a few plants growing. 🙂  It took me about a month of evenings and weekends, after trial and error and design changes to finish it.  I used all untreated lumber for contact with the soil and plants.  For the treated 4×4’s, they are lined with plastic all the way up on the inside.  There are cons to using untreated lumber, too – they rot with extended water contact.  But with the chemically treated wood, I fear that they’d leech into the soil.  Cedar was overly expensive for my budget, so I went with what I had.  It’ll be fine for a few years.  It’s looking good!

Brad's Finished Garden with Rainbow

I am really enjoying my new location and being able to build stuff – having a great place to work out of.  I’ll be here for about a year while I save up and scout for a more permanent, larger acreage that I can live at for 10+ years.  The structures are transportable, so I can re-use them if need be.  My workshop is just adjacent to the garden, so I work wood and paint and carve stuff just right there nearby with the scenery – very inspiring to me!  I have a saw station, an “assembly” station, and a covered tool rack and deck that I’ll show more of with the 2nd garden update.  A fun, relaxing place for me to be.

In the evenings, like in this pic, the plants do go out of sunlight, but they get full sun from the time it comes up until about 6 or 7pm, in the Summer and Fall.  I specially prepared the soil with carefully-measured, all organic compost, vermiculite, peat moss, and other “dirt” to serve as an experiment to see what happens, built also of course, I made the soil rich and organic to grow good plants to eat, too.

 

Hexagon Craftworks Label 3x2 Black

06.04.2016 – Hexagon Craftworks

I’ve started a business!  I’ve been writing about my ideas in this blog for months about it, and the time has finally come.  I took care of all of the logistics and legal stuff, got set up with a great online platform, got some business partners / affiliates, and I did a lot of designing, coding, and talking.  It’s live.  I named it: Hexagon Craftworks, because of my love for geometry and also because of the geometrical usage in my artwork.

All of my in-progress projects will now be part of Hexagon Craftworks R&D, except for the software and music portions.  I’m dead serious about delivering great-quality and dead cool stuff – well, my idea of cool (which I think is very cool, of course 🙂 ).  And, there’s a market out there for that.  I’m serious about making this my full-time career – to put everything into it.  I have a Phase 1 (which we’re in now), a Phase 2 (about 6 months from now), and a Phase 3 (about a year from now) in my business plan, which will each mark new product lines, new buildings / moving / tooling, and revenue numbers to keep us afloat.  Once I get to that Phase 3, I’ll try to keep that rolling for at least 5 years, then reevaluate.

But, anyway, Hexagon Craftworks is an art and wood shop, predominately.  I’m the sole creator and innovator.  The art is formatted and sold at an online storefront as framed prints, on shirts, bags, accessories, and the wood art is also sold, packaged and, shipped.  Wood art is a phase 2 thing to be launched as soon as I develop the business system / procedure down for it.

Anyway, that’s a short writeup on what’s been going on with Hexagon, project-wise.  There are sooo many more projects to come now that this is set up.  And, this project log helped me come to many conclusions about what was possible.  Of course, structuring the business itself is a project on it’s own, but it’s also a formal outlet for the result of my physical projects.  I’m really excited about it and will make it succeed.

Hexagon Craftworks Label 3x2 Black

Hexagon Craftworks

In other news, just to resolve some of the other project threads I’ve had out in the past, since this is my personal blog…  The Audio Granulator has had some progress on it, but took the back seat while I formed this biz.  The Apple WWDC came and went – watched it, loved it…  Can’t wait to get back to it once things have settled down.

And, the guitar practice is staying constant and consistent into June.  I’m a far better player than I ever was.  I can run scales up and down the neck at 100bpm, sixteenth notes, no problem for every major and minor scale, these days – it just took 90 days of practice, though.  Haha.  But, the real marker of success would just be my ability to now improvise in a much better and more smooth fashion – over most keys.  I could already strum and knew chords (of course – listen to my recordings) before I started these 2016 practice sessions, but the goal of 2016 was to be able to solo and make riffs easier so that I could pull out whatever I needed when I needed it – it’s going well.  On to July with that!

And, lastly, it’s growing season again – I got more cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, ginger, greens, and a lot more going this year.  Can’t wait to see how they do, and even plan more for 2017.

Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

12.15.2015 – Hex Light and Animation Controller

Recently, I have been making a light animation controller.  The prototype is on a breadboard and combined with a separate little 2 x 3 RGB LED matrix module I built last month.  I have the system running on 3.3v with a few test animations programmed in C on a 16-bit Pic24.

I’m excited about this project and I’m continually making it better – both in features and in the kinds of animations I’m writing.  It’s pretty wonderful to see it all come together!

I still need to mount the pieces together and stain them, but it’s taking shape.  I’m also going to carve the pieces with some more detail and perhaps put in some metal inlays – I’m still messin’ with it.  In the end, it’ll all be one piece, but I just have it sitting on the BB for the time being, to get a bearing.

Got some stills here:

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Prototype - Brad Ormand

I cut and sanded some wood last night and put a cut sheet of coated mylar underneath to let the colors diffuse and shine through a bit.  I thought of this design while falling asleep a few nights ago and got back up to draw it out on the wood.  So, it was nice to see it come to life.

Mainly, my workstation has been my pool table (lol), and it’s a pretty awesome little surface.  I clean it off and play pool in between projects, but yeah, it’s central and in the main room and it’s a great place to work.  Also, I have some of my other in-progress projects in the background there that I brought out to be inspired by 🙂  This captures the scene for the end of 2015, for me to look back on…

Hex Light Circuit - Brad Ormand

Hex Light Breadboard - Brad Ormand

The pins talk to multiplexer-inverter chip pairs that gives each anode and cathode of the matrix a 3-bit address that I take advantage of when I control the sequence in code.  I like this way of doing things – the complexity has been offloaded to the hardware.  I handle the current load by never having two or more LEDs on at the same time – it’s just very fast switching that makes it look “on”.  I have a rotary encoder switching the animations, properly debounced, feels great, and integrated into the user event loop to provide more features.

As I go along this month, I’ll be closer to deciding on an arrangement for a reproducible product.  I’m currently investigating putting in an OLED or Chip-on-Glass display to show the current animation and battery state, etc.  Some smaller products won’t have this, but I want other, larger ones, to have that visual piece in there.

All-in-all, I have been busy with software engineering at my day job, but when I have the time, I like to work most on this project – it’s an offshoot, or simplification, of the honeycomb light I worked on earlier this year.

I have been doing a little painting lately using a “crackle” technique, and I have been drawing and carving more human faces, too – gettin’ better with both.  One day, I’ll integrate all of them into my professional projects as well.  The practice in those other disciplines, though, also helps me come up with designs like this to do this project:

Hex Light Prototype1 - Brad Ormand

And, the next step on this Hex Light project is to design the SMD boards and get those etched and tested.  Once they work and I have the kinks worked out, I’ll send off for some properly solder-masked, dark green and gold boards (fancy), and drop my logo on it for a real nice-looking internal product.  And, yeah, I’m going to make the board a hex shape, too. 🙂   Until next time…

Cucumber Plant - Brad Ormand's Garden

09.25.2015 – Gardening & Land

In less than a year, I am planning on getting a big spread of land to build a homestead on.  I’ll have my wood workshop, my electronics lab, my recording studio, my tool shed, my camping areas, and my painting and crafting area all on the property.  I mean, that’s total paradise to me!  In my mind, I ask, “why spend more in the city for a quarter acre and close neighbors, when you could have your very own territory to expand and grow food out in the quiet country!”  That’s obvious to me (for my life).  There’s still excellent community out there…  But, there are different strokes for different folks, I realize.  I’m going to build a home there, put down some roots, and then get ready to start businesses and raise a family and all that.   Even if I had a billion dollars, I’d still be on this same path – I’d just buy more acreage and have more expensive tools, ha – and probably one or two of those Pro Tools | Avid S6 consoles, as well..  but I digress…

Seedling Garden 1

Anyway, at the land, I envision at least 200 sqft of outdoor farming to start off with.  I have been growing cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.  That’s one of my projects, too.  There’s also basil and eggplant and cilantro, and more, too.  I started from seed (inside) and took care of them and now they are huge!  Well, none have bore fruit yet, but it’s almost time.  And – I wanted to test to see if I could do it in the summer.  It worked – even on 100 degree days as seedlings.  I gave them plenty of attention.  I’m glad I have done these tests/experiments with this right now to see what I have to do with a small sample size.  I’ll report about it some more when I get some fruit!  These 3 photos are about a month apart, each…

Seedling Garden 2

I’m really excited about these.  I might be moving to a new place sooner than later, but I’ll take what I can with me.  I also have about 20 other plants in other portable containers.  I’m not sure I can take the cucumber plant with me, since it has already vined, but I’ll grow another if it’s too “dug in”.  It’s really miraculous how the vines reach out for sturdy things to grab onto.  Incredible!

Cucumber Plant - Brad Ormand's Garden

 

Brad Ormand - The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal - Music Album

09.14.2015 – The Music Journey

So, my album “The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal” was released this month on the 4th.  I wrote the songs, played the parts, sang, recorded, produced, edited, mixed, and mastered it.  And, now I have released what I made to the public.  I’m both excited and relieved!  Now, I can mature my style and move on to the next batch of songs.  I have lots of new things planned!

It’s out in all major outlets – iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify, XBox Store, and a lot of other places.

Here it is on iTunes  &  Google Play  &  Amazon :

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It’s out for sale and stream, but it’s also simply a statement that “I’m out here, too” and “I want to have fun with music, too, and engage in business with it, too“.  And, I’ve been receiving some attention for it from players in the industry.  It helps to put me in place to do more and more and more of it.  And, I’ll only get better and better at it because I’m determined to do so and I just work all the time.

Brad Ormand Album on Google Play

This one was far better-sounding and more balanced than my last, and the product gets better with each release.  My plans are to keep continuing to release every year or so until I am coming up with hit records every time with Grammy potential.  I may or may not be capable, in the end, we’ll see, but I’m sure going to try. 🙂  I mean, if you examine a successful entrepreneur’s or artist’s or businessman’s early work, it was likely not his defining work.  But, when they do succeed in a big way, the lessons and potential came from practice and those earlier experiences and their grit.

I’m already inspired by other July and August releases, such as from Dr. Dre, The Chemical Brothers, Astralwerks, and Skrillex’s labels that have forged my image of what better, more intricate touches the next album can contain.  I’m not saying the album I released this month is not strong work, because it is, but I am saying that I have even better-sounding stuff coming through the pipe, which is why I am somewhat relieved – it’s because now, I get to switch over to work on the new ones and prepare them for massiveness!  I’m going to keep doing this.

Brad Ormand Album on iTunes

In 2013, I completely re-vamped my production and engineering style.  I went back to basics and learned other ways to do many things, and then combined it with what I was already good at.  The process and practice paid off.  Now, in 2015, I am at that platform again.  I have dug deep into the interworkings of modern vocal synths and more advanced synth parameter automation with Pro Tools in the last few months, which was my 2015 goal – to do more with synthetic harmonics using formants and organic, voicebox sounds – both beautiful AND retched!  And, I can’t wait to take it to its depths in the next few months.  Also, I have a much better narrative and storytelling sense now, and I have an idea how I can improve my mastering approach.  I have so many ideas for sonic production that I can hardly stand it – from heavy songs to really chill, beautiful, warm songs.  A lot of good stuff is coming, I truly believe.

Anyway, I’m excited about Spirit of Adventure because it contains a few gems, some great choruses, and some powerful sub bass and kick drums (that I’m proud of) – all of that can garner attention and be licensed for broadcast, sustaining this.  I want this business to fund my writing and production process (and each upcoming album), and so the engine goes on and on, etc…  That’s all I ask.

Brad Ormand - The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal - Music Album

All this is part of my journey as a music producer.  The album had varied genres, and it can stand for what many things I am capable of doing up to 2015, my versatility.  I am an unknown artist, right now, but this album at least puts me on the map so that my next one comes through with people already paying attention.  I’m open for business, tho.

I’m dead set on making top-quality songs – songs that evoke real emotion and spread love and dazzle you and make you excited about life!  And, I already know where to go from here.

 

Woodcarving: Barbara

07.12.2015 – Wood Stuff, Tool Hanger & Garden Fence

During the last few weeks, I have been using the wood from the fallen Juniper tree to build all sorts of things.  First, I carved some raised letters into a thick, peeled branch to give to my Mom for her 60th birthday.  BARBARA.  Some of the smooth spots were hard to get into, like the inside of the “R”, and breakage did occur once or twice, but I glued the affected parts back.  In the end, it looks pretty nice.  It was a fun project that took a considerable amount of time, and I learned about where I wanna go next.  I worked on it nights and weekends, after my full-time job.  Perfect compliment to logic-heavy thinking all day…  I did lightly paint and finish parts of it, but here it is before all of that.

Woodcarving: Barbara

And, last week, I restored a raised garden and put up a fence around it.  I planted potatoes, tomatoes, and some herbs like Basil in there.  And…  when the tomatoes start to show, I’ll build a small frame out of the same wood.  I want to get my gardening skills up so that I can have a large garden one day on my own ranch land and eat my own organically grown food.  I had this particular garden going with many plants in the past (twice!), but never got to full harvest because the deer and rabbits and foxes ate them up every time!  They even ate the cactus in another pot.  Can you believe that?  Haha.  So, I had to do the fence this time.

Round  Raised  Garden

I had to dig 8-inch-deep holes down into the ground for the poles, and it was really tough going with this rocky soil where I live.  Believe me, I had to take a chisel and hammer to break up the Texas limestone rocks, a half inch at a time.  But, nonetheless, despite the work..  yes…  It was fun.

I made it a hexagon pattern, since I love hexagons, and it was a more round shape for the round garden container.  I used hexagonal plastic chicken “wire”, too.  Yep.  So, we’ll see if this is enough to keep the animals out.  Probably enough for the rabbits and foxes, but the deer can jump right over that.  However, we’ll see if they wanna put up the effort.  Let’s test it.

Garden Hexagonal Fence

And, finally, I made a tool hanger wall.  I cut a few posts off of the fell Juniper tree and skinned ’em to use as supports for the tool wall.  I sanded and shellac’d the posts and the backing board (made of birch) – they all have a nice, rich grain to them.  And, I started to lay out places to hang my tools.  It’s all securely hung up there.  I had a lot to hang and only a little space to hang them in, so it got a bit cramped.  However, this is a fAR better solution than putting them on the floor of my workshop – you know, “that place on the floor over there where all the hand tools go”…  So, yeah – the hanging system has been really awesome.

Brad Ormand's Tool Hanger

And, more importantly, the wood is from a tree that I chilled out under when it was alive.  So, it’s got that nice memory attached to it.  Below the tool hanger is a shelf that I just assembled this week, bought from the Home Depot (likely, my favorite place in the world).  Inside those crates, you’ll find sandpaper, drill and router bits, glues, knives, bolts and nuts, and many other things organized by type so I know right where they are.  Plus, the Sabre Saw, the Belt Sander, the Dremel Tool, and all of that have a home of their own.  I’m stating to get more organized and it feels good.

9 Inch Log Drum - whole - Brad Ormand

06.14.2015 – Wood Drum, Mac Pro & WWDC

Every day after work this week, I carved just a little bit more out of the log for the large drum (about 9″) and finally finished it.  I used my wood mallet and 1-inch chisel for most of it, but I drilled some pilot holes with a 5/8’s bit, several times, on both sides to give me some tension relief so I wouldn’t just crack the outer shell as I hit it.  I had figured that I’d go to the hardware store to get a super long and fat bit later, but I was enjoying the chiseling, and I had already core’d it.

9 Inch Log Drum - whole - Brad Ormand

9 Inch Log Drum - cored - Brad Ormand

I set a flat rim up top, and sanded it down.  I went ahead and nailed a piece of mylar to the top opening and started seeing how it would sound.  It sounds awesome!  Like a real drum would.  I noticed that I was getting a lot of sub frequencies, too – like 30 to 50 hertz out of it.

Of course, the head isn’t tensioned really tightly like you could get with a commercial drum, but for now, I’d like to record some sounds off of it while it sounds low.  Earlier, I mentioned that I’d make a rim and lug system for it, but I didn’t have any large enough stock to go around it, and I wanted to just vibe with it and play it.  I think I’ll build a decagon rim (with 10 sides) or something like that to tension heads in the future, with some metal lugs bolted to the shell as I get a few more built.

(The pic was taken after a few days, and it got pret-ty flappy.  Moisture changes, etc.  on to plan B)

9 Inch Log Drum - temp head - Brad Ormand

And in other news…  my Mac Pro died again!  Welll..  actually either the display or the graphics card did.  Just in time for the Apple WWDC show!  It’s okay.  I looked at the diagnostic LEDs on the motherboard and they checked out – except when the display shuts down, the comp goes to standby..  Hmmm. Or maybe the comp goes to standby instantly and that’s what makes the display shut off.   I pulled the graphics card and reseated it,  I reset the PRAM, checked voltage on the backup batt, and reset the SMC.  Still nothing.

So, the next thing I’ll try is to rule out the display hardware itself.  This week, I’ll get some adapters to hook up to the female DVI ports on the graphics card and see if I can get any other monitor rolling.  I’m suspecting that the graphics card is fine, but that my monitor power supply blew.  Yeah, I’ve had that one since 2003.  so, yah – I just kept recycling it because it’s big and 1920 pix across, and new ones like that are expensive…  But, might be time.  I’ll test and find out.

And then…  The WWDC15 Apple developer conference was this week.  I spent a lot of time watching it.  I have an XCode project set up and waiting for me to start rendering objects to the screen.  I did a lot of Sprite Kit, SceneKit and Metal API research.  However, my 3D modeling package and toolkit is on my Mac Pro!  …So, gotta wait for the fix, there.  I have been brainstorming game ideas and have written and drawn out a few concepts.  I do love geometry and that kind of stuff, and I don’t do as much graphics programming as I did in the old days (5 years ago, etc).  So…  I’d really like to try to commit to some graphical software project and finish it and publish it.  I think I can do it, and the project log is helping me see where the bottlenecks are.

 

Brad Ormand - Building Wood Mallet

06.05.2015 – Woodworking & Drum

So, I took care of cutting the fallen tree down in my yard from the storm.  There’s plenty of wood to work with, and I made some things with it. I did a woodworking mallet for chisels, and a drum.  It was awesome fun.  I’m getting to know the anatomy of Cedar (or Ashe Juniper) pretty well – and, it smells wonderful!  The wood is fresh and green, and although, for some things, I could better use it dried, I’m trying things right now while it’s green, and I’ll learn the lessons from it, directly.

Brad Ormand - Fallen Tree Progress

First, I wanted to build a drum.  But, I needed chisels and I got some new solid chisels to work with – I only had some blunt ones that had chips and heavy use.  Also, I only had steel hammers, and I wanted to hit them with a heavy wood mallet to not mar them up.  So, I built the hammer first, and then the drum, over the weekend.  If I had a lathe, I’d utilize it, but actually I’d like to hold off on that for now, and keep doing stuff by hand until I get the basics down.  Plus, it’s really fulfilling.  I want to record a song later using only instruments from this tree.  Jus’ Cuz.

Wood Mallet:

Brad Ormand - Building Wood Mallet

I have some inner bark that I kept intact that I am going to use as a veneer, and perhaps even a drum head / playing surface.  I have those drying out under weight on the patio…  Also, I talked to my brother about getting some rawhide to use as well.  But, I ended up buying some mylar sheets from the local hobby store, for now.  I used to work at a drum shop (with a drum factory next door), so I have lots of real, practical experience with drum stuff.  I’ll do a few different sizes and types of drums, and then see where it takes me. 🙂

Drum:

Brad Ormand - Using Mallet to Chisel Drum

The one I made this weekend was a small one, roughly a 4″ hollow.  At first, I put some dry 1/4″ plywood over the top of it with silicone, and well, it’s wasn’t very resonant at all…  at ALL. 🙁   It sounded more like a woodblock than a drum.  It’d be a good addition to a set, but not for a drum sound, and that’s really what I wanna make – a responsive hand or stick drum that has a bit of woooof to it.  Then, later, I made an edge and nailed on some mylar.  Much better!

Now, as I go along, I’m cutting another piece off the (fallen) tree this week (this time 8″), and I’ll make a little rim system for it (out of the same tree) to secure it nice and tight.  Should be a fun project.

All-in-all, I’m really feeling great doing this kind of work.  It’s stress-free, natural, challenging, and it’s real, man work.  After I finish this one, I’ll move on to the table…  But, I revolve from woodworking to software projects and research, to working on music, to electrical stuff, to painting – all at the same time.  And, when I get good updates, I post it here.  But, that’s the thing, everything is working in concert with each other by fulfilling a certain kind of creative interest with each discipline, by which I get ideas for the other stuff as I get my mind directly off of it, and so on.  Ok, until next time…

Shade Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

05.25.2015 – Austin Storm & Woodworking

It has been a combination of exciting, hectic, and sad during these last few days…  In our area of Southwest Austin, we had major floods and a tornado roll through here.  Hectic, because we were met with Nature’s strength which did damage that we are cleaning up, and exciting because of the awe-factor, the witnessing of what weather is capable of…  And, of course sad, because people lost property and were injured and a few died because of it…   I mean, I have never seen winds this forceful before, in person.  I was shaken out of my comfort zone and headed to cover in my “safe place” in my house.  Like, I started hearing trees fall over and structures blow away!  For real.

But, yeah…  I lost a good shade tree out back and the neighboring property lost a carport ( it did a 180 flip and moved 100 feet), and another tree, 50 feet from my shade tree, actually got uprooted and laid down on the ground!  The forces were incredible.  My primal system kicked in when it came through!

Uprooted Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

Shade Tree by Brad Ormand's Workshop

I was really sad to see that tree go.  I spent half the day today cutting it down / out.  I only got one third of the way through before another storm rolled in.  It became so dark at 3pm that the street lights switched on!  Lots of lightning, and lots of rain…  Again.   Anyway…

Although I was sad to see it go, I am going to build something with the wood.  Something nice to remember it by,  to commemorate this cedar tree’s time on the Earth and role in my life…  I sat under that tree with coffee, tea, girlfriends, the guitar, my phone, exercised under it, my Dad and I cut grass around it, and had many chill times there.  Today is Memorial Day after all…

I’ll make some lumber stock with it, and I want to do a nice workbench with it that accepts a vise.  Also, I want to build a few drums and a guitar out of it.  I have experience building workbenches and drums, but I have never tried a guitar.  My main workbench right now used to be a climbing wall I built that [ironically] got knocked down in another storm a while back.  I recycled it.

Anyway,  I took a photo and posted it here on my project log a while back.  Here’s a comparison with that photo… (The top photo shows the tree that fell (when it was still standing), but not pictured is another tree to the left of it.  That nearby tree is still standing, as pictured in the [bottom] photo of the fallen tree, from a similar angle)… [whew]

Mowed Grass at the Studio - Brad Ormand

Fell Shade Tree Outside Brad's Workshop

So, that’ll be another set of projects that I can get excited about.  Turning change into opportunity.  I think I like having more projects than I can do at one time because it gives me a selection of things to work on when I get the time to work on one.  I can cycle through the ones that are active and see which ones I feel most like doing at the time.  It’s a blessing and a curse because fewer projects get to completion that way.  This project log is helping me see that.  And, I’m adjusting accordingly.  I have several things to choose from, though, right now, and that’s still kind of exciting.

And..  a few more photos showing the force of the storm…

– The fence post by the fallen tree…  I was amazed to see the metal had bent like that!

Fence Post Storm Damage - Brad Ormand

– And, down the street, the bridge flooded over!  I thought this pic made a statement in itself for why to watch for water on the road. 🙂

Water on Road - Brad Ormand

Now, it’s time to clean up, help neighbors, and move on with what we’ve got.  I was fortunate, but others not too far away were not.  My thoughts go out to them.

iOS Meal Tracker - Brad Ormand

05.04.2015 – Job, Meal Tracker & Wood stuff

I have been immersed in my new job, lately.  I spend a lot of time writing and debugging code all day long, but it’s inspiring.  It has also sparked a resurgence in me researching new software development methods on my own time.  Things change in this industry sooooo quickly!  And, I have to keep up.  I have been intrigued lately in several dev areas – mainly in graphics and animation.  Mostly graphical UI as related to application development, but I have been trying to borrow concepts from video game menus and sci-fi films.  So, most of my time lately, on and off the job, has been spent writing code.  I’m on kind of a rampage right now, as this is where my interests are leading me.

About a year ago, before I started this Project Log, I left behind a halfway-finished personal project that I was calling: “Meal Tracker”.  The name and domain have been pretty much taken in industry, so I’ll choose something different once I get a beta going.  I wrote the app for iOS in Objective-C and used SQLite and Cocoa.  It was a tool similar to MyFitnessPal for tracking calories and macros, but I had it tracking micronutrients, exercise, moods, and sleep, as well.  I have been revisiting that.  I went back and forth whether I wanted to dev it in JS and wrap it with Apache Cordova to deploy on multiple platforms, but ended up starting to port it over to Android separately with the Android SDK, because I had wanted to work with Java FX 2.0, since the newly revamped version looked so excellent.  But, that’s about where I stopped.

iOS Meal Tracker - Brad Ormand

And, now I want to develop in Swift, Apple’s new programming language.  I also want to try to build with Ember JS – we’ll see what happens, what I choose to go with.  It’ll be awesome either way – and a good chance to put together a good experimental UI.  And, I have a secure PHP backend written and nearly ready to go.  So, I’m picking this back up to try to see what I can do, here.  Right now, I’m just going to make my first commit and push to Bitbucket and make some progress toward a first version.

And, related, I am currently tracking my calories and macros in MyFitnessPal (as I work on getting back in the shape I was in last Spring 🙂  One of my goals is to run a 5k in 24 minutes by October…  the one I “ran” yesterday was almost twice that time!  (I walked some – ha)  I used to pop ’em out at about 30 a piece.  Got some work to do, but Anywayyys…. ). MyFitnessPal is great, actually, but I’m just wanting to go a little further as far as data accuracy and with more metrics to track.  I think it would be cool to have these extra non-nutrition-related features to get an overall picture of what’s affecting what in life – sleep, moods, weather, etc.  The extremely hard part with rolling my own app will be the nutrition database – especially getting restaurant menu items from everybody out on the planet to drop into the tracks..  Whew!  (not really feasible).

I have found many discrepancies in the data coming from MyFitnessPal, though – I think the users create them themselves and then share them.  The titles are sometimes all backwards and sometimes part of the nutrition data is missing or just wrong.  It’s ok, though.  It’s a great app, don’t get me wrong, but I was considering having something that was “official” for everything.  I was thinking of using the comprehensive USDA database and designing a way to provide estimates, but I am still doing research on it right now.  Also, I’m still investigating the licensing, too.  I just don’t know, yet, what’d it take to use…  But, there will always be the ability to create *user* profiles, so I’ll have a path there if I needed to somehow create the data myself.  It’ll take a few years.  But, I’d be willing.

W O O D W O R K I N G

Unsanded Wood Blocks

Woodworking has been on my mind a lot, recently.  As I get more and more involved with crafting wood items, the need for better, more precision tools is emerging.   I want to start adding to the equipment in my workshop.  I’ve got a router, a jigsaw, and a belt-sander, but I’d like to have a circular saw and a lathe one day.  And, maybe a lathe that could also double for cutting aluminum stock as well, I don’t know.  I could make my own PCB cages and standoffs, special bolts and nuts, etc.  That’d be fun.

I enjoy this type of work immensely.  And, if I could ever get to the point to where I had a stable production line of electronic modules for lighting coming out, I’d be all set up to create pretty much anything on a small scale.  But, also, I’d need the *time* to do it all, too.  Ha. (I still have to etch those SMD boards…)  I have my hands into a lot right now.  Still…  it’s about enjoying the process and exploring these new avenues as I enjoy them.  This project log helps me see where things change and what trends emerge, and helps me look back on what I was motivated by and when.

Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

03.25.2015 – Main MCU Board & ComCath RGB LED MaTRIX

After hours and hours of taxing my brain for what approach to use to streamline the “guts” of the HoneycombLight (for real – it deadened me for a bit from getting stuck several times and trying to overcome these obstacles.  I lost sleep.), I finally came to a conclusion for the architecture of the matrix routing (and then I was ok).

MATRIX BOARD

So, I figured, I’ll just place daughter boards, matrix mixer boards, every 4 pixels and let the pixel driver boards run straight to it, 4 at a time, raw, (R, G, B, and cathode) instead of “mixing upstream” by soldering wires together right on the drivers (like I did last time).  Mix as I go – 4 times downstream to the final MCU – it’ll all be prepared once it arrives there.   …Because the entire thing is really messy if done with twisting or soldering wires together onto connectors at the pixels, believe me.  It’s a “grid”, a Matrix, a mess.  I really needed the double-sided planes, here.  I did it in two “phases” (those 9 via holes in the center), alternating top and bottom copper.  Reminds me of the butterflies in Fast Fourier Transforms, but physical.

This allows the entire path to the MCU boards to be nice and clean with dedicated plugs for easy service and replacement, and I admit, also for the cleanliness of the way it looks – fresh, not cluttered.  I like that. 🙂  That was one of the tradeoffs I made.  The way that “under the hood” looks is important to me.

Brad Ormand RGB LED Matrix1x4 MixerBoard

MCU BOARD

And, as for the MCU board, most of its architecture is the same as the first through-hole rendition, but it’s just double-sided, solder-masked, and silk-screened, now.  Loads of improvement!  But, the concept is the same…  However, I can’t have it looking like it’s still a prototype.  (I have already built that and it worked (with wires all over the place), so now it’s time to do it for real).  So, every component is now surface-mount, minus the row and column connectors (for rigidity).  It’s not the *final*, final version – I have already thought of things that I’ll have to do to revise it, but it’s a good start.

I am yet to send it off to be manufactured, so I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m really excited to get a small batch back and run it through the ringer!  I mean, I’m almost as excited about how it’s going to *look* as I am about how it’s going to work!  Haha – to me, it’s like a work of art!  Especially with that ground plane in there surrounding the traces – looks dope.

Brad Ormand HoneycombLight Main MCU Board

I don’t know if putting “BradOrmand.com” on there is “forced” or not, actually.  I want a “maker’s mark” on there, but am still deciding if that’s the direction I wanna go or not.  I might put in a bitmap with my logo or even transfer it over to the company name I’m thinking about using for the marketing of the lights, etc.  I don’t know, yet.  Decisions, decisions.

All-in-all, though, this board was weeks in the making and took a lot out of me.  I didn’t think I could do it there for a while…  But, I was also kind of stressed out with all of the Portfolio and job stuff, recently.  But, I have it quite in-hand, now.  Let’s hope the electrical connections all check out and that those tiny-ass traces can handle the current I’ll give it.  It’ll be multiplexed, but still only milliseconds between blasts.  We’ll see.  This is all part of the learning.  I’m determined to do this.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Last thing…  The main thing I am concerned about right now with this is soldering the central ground pad underneath the 0.8mm pin pitch TQPF without a reflow oven or a good heat station.  I don’t know how that’ll work.  I’ll be thinking about it.  In fact, I think it has solder-mask under it right now.  I’m going to have to investigate, but the datasheet *does* recommend tying it to ground.  Onward we go…

 

BradOrmand_WoodPiecesAfterStain

03.18.2015 – Honeycomb Light Wood Stain

I have changed the name of the “Hex Light” to the “Honeycomb Light” because I am making single hexagon lights as well, and I wanna call *them* the Hex Lights, instead.  Ha – So, the animated light with the integrated 16 hexagons on them will become the “Honeycomb Light”…  cuz the name fits a little better.

Speaking of the Hex Light (errr…)  Honeycomb Light!…. (my bad)…  I stained a whole bunch of different birch wood panels using 4 different stains this weekend.  I had never stained wood before (that I can remember).  It was a pretty cool experience – except for the dangers of the exothermic reaction / spontaneous combustion taking place with the oily rags after you’re finished.  The care and maintenance during the cleanup and after-care was a bit of a pain.  The guy at the Home Depot skooled me in the basics when I bought the gear.  But, nothing caught fire, though.  And, it was fun.

TriLight-CoffeeWoodStain

Anyways, I tried water-based and oil-based stains, along with a clear coat, to treat the new cutouts of my light frames.  They’re lookin’ good!  It’s another step toward making the case holding the electronics look super good!  Or, in other words, it’s starting to finally look like art augmented by electronics 🙂

I have already cut another set of wood panels for a second Honeycomb Light.  This one features a deep, dark stain on the backing panel and front hexes with their edges sanded down.  It’s kind of a nice effect.  I’m also making this one look and act much better than the first one I built.  The backing wires are now nice, clean ribbon cable, the switching mechanism is a rotary encoder with a massively good feel to it – that “clicking” action when you turn it.  And, the individual hexes are cut with much more precision this time.  That’s the thing I had hoped would happen – I’d learn each time I did a revision and make the next ones consistently better.  It requires a lot of thinking and planning – especially for the electronics, but it’s fun, and worth it.  I’m having fun with this. 😉

Brad Ormand - HexLightWoodStain

I’m working on a few circuit boards for the whole bunch – the Arrow Light, the Hex Lights (the single ones [micro, mini, and macro]), the Tri-Wing Light, and the Honeycomb Light.  I want them to be able to share modules and components as much as possible.  I’m talking about matrix combiner boards, RGB LED driver boards, main MCU boards with optional modules, electronic components, common C libraries, bulk part orders, etc – I’m ramping up to build like 20 of each.  Plus it’s a chance for me to write and design the stuff as I come up with it.    As I get the PCBs ready, I’ll assemble the lights and see if any other improvements can be made and try to get some good stock, and to get in a “rhythm” with the refined process so that it’s easy and fun.

BradOrmand_WoodPiecesAfterStain

It’s exciting.  Soon enough, I’ll have the experience required to get even more creative with them, and to practice up for more involved projects as well.

Brad Ormand's New Resistor and Capacitor Case

11.13.2014 – Resistors and Caps & Fourier

After work last night, I needed a break from staring at the computer screen.  I mean, it was really getting to me.  So, I decided to re-organize my capacitors and resistors into labeled bins, which is far better than what I had before.

I got a new order in, recently, of caps and resistors, and got a few shelves / cases to organize them with a while back.  So, I just took that project on, labeled it and stuff.  It was nice to work with physical objects for a while instead of being “jacked in” to the system.  So, there ya go.  I got an awesome system going that will serve me well in the future.  And, I’m fully stocked and ready, now.

Brad Ormand's New Resistor and Capacitor Case

And, in other news, I did perform a DFT on simple sinusoids and started my FFT implementation. Whaat.  That feels good, for real!  However, I have more work to do because I want higher resolution in the bass region!  The linear nature of the k-bins, mapped out to the logarithmic nature of our ears’ tone discrepancy, make it so that I have more data than I need up top, and not enough data that I want down below! Haha.  I forgot about that 🙂  Once I performed a few DFT’s I realized this phenomenon.  I’m using a 31.250k sample rate with my destination chip, locked to it’s interrupt (8Mhz/256), hence the Nyquist 14k at the top.  But, I did this implementation with JavaScript and Canvas and drew in the wave used as an underlay so that I could see what I was inputting…  This is a ~400Hz sine.  The labels are approximate.

Brad Ormand's First Fourier Transform - 400Hz Sine

I’m not sure why I’m getting harmonics, though – maybe the crudeness of my sampling?  I’ll continue to work with it…  And, here’s some noise…

Brad Ormand's Second Fourier Transform - Noise

Yeah, so, I have a few ideas.  I can throw away (and not compute) some frequencies that I don’t need.  That’s also an advantage of writing a custom solution –  that I can optimize for my own ends.  I can “make” it logarithmic from within the algorithm, skipping over the non-interpolated values.  How that’ll map to the butterflies and FFT?? – you got me!  I don’t know.  That’s the work left to do.

Let’s say that I want 30Hz on the far left, with another 60Hz bin next to it (and 10 more bands up to 14k on the right, logarithmically up), I’ll have to (at least) bump my number of samples per window up to 1024 (whew – a lot for an embedded system!).  But, I bet I can get that down to at most 256 by skipping bins.  The runtime overhead would of course be the comparisons (compute->don’t compute) and the memory of the key indices.  That’s my first idea.  I’ll try it and see if I don’t come up with something better as I move further along, who knows.  [This is fun 🙂 ]

Oh well, that’s something I’m thinking about.  Onwards we go.

 

Brad Ormand - Fourier Transform Notes

11.11.2014 – Jameco & Blog

Umm..  yeah, I’m super excited because my Jameco shipment came in…  whew!  My 5532’s, JFETs, mylar caps, my 160 LEDs, some PCB connectors, the awesome new white/grey LCD (damn – can’t wait to write the driver and get it dropping black-grey rain!) and a whole bunch of other components that I need for my projects.

I’m still tweaking my WP theme, and it’s coming along.  I have the music page and player to a good point, and I am starting on the blog index, which I think will be a risk, but a hit.  We’ll see.  And, I’m still formatting the posts and image widths and heights and paddings and fonts and etc, for the whole thing.  It just takes tine.  Soon enough, it’ll be dropped and live.

Last night and a few times in the last few days, I went back and tried to get a good grasp on Euler’s formula (e^ix = cos x + i sin x ), so that I could get the necessary background to be able to understand the Fourier Series and Transformations in a little more depth.  I studied Euler’s formula, the power series and the the nth derivatives of sine and cosine – very interesting stuff!  And, it gave me the background I needed to plow through the core of Fourier’s stuff.  So, that seemed to be the key for me – the point where it all came together.  I’m very close.

Brad Ormand's Metal Paint Case

11.10.2014 – Calculus & Paint Case

I spent some time studying trigonometric identities and some more calculus in preparation to be more adept at understanding the Fourier Series and Transforms.  I have a rudimentary understanding of Calculus from school and from other avenues I have ventured into in the past with physics and programming (for instance, I frequently use velocities and acceleration in my animations and have to calculate them).  And, my internship was a actually a physics internship at NASA/JPL, but the day-to-day activities was really more computer-science-related solving some physics problems.   So, I’m not scared of the mathematics anymore, but it is frustrating a bit when you need to derive or transform trigonometric functions and don’t remember the identities or derivatives off-hand.  Or, when I need to understand something quickly and am rusty with some of the less-frequently-used notation.  So…  I’m trying to beef up the skills a bit so that they don’t get in the way of my understanding.

It’s kind of a bit like what I’m doing with guitar, as well.  To get good habits and sufficient skill so as to be able to use them to express myself without having to remember, explicitly, the techniques or placements I’m using – so that they are automatic and ingrained, and I can just speak in fast, native brain machine language and just start expressing instead of thinking: “What was that chord configuration again?”, or in a moment’s instant: “Do I pull off here or pick it?”.  Instead, I just *do*.  So, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.  Also, that’s when it becomes the most fun and interesting, I think 🙂

Also, over the weekend, I built a paint case from supplies I got at the Home Depot – I love that place!  I needed to find a solution because I had robbed the shelf the stuff was formerly in to put my Tek Oscillator on.  And, I had been wanting to make something a little more proper and accessible.  It’s a great addition to the shop.  It was a fun project.

Brad Ormand - Making a metal case

Brad Ormand's Metal Paint Case

Brad Ormand's Metal Paint Case with Paint