Tag Archives: RoboticGlockenspiel

The Robotic Glockenspiel is complete!

After putting the finish on the Glockenspiel case, I reassembled all the electronics, mechanics, and the box hardware (hinges, etc.). It works great!  See the full demo video.

Ok, I still want to adjust the amount of silicone on each solenoid, to smooth out the sound, eliminating the clanking on all the chimes. …but that’s for later.

The Finished Robotic Glockenspiel
The Finished Robotic Glockenspiel

As a reminder: the sources for the Glockenspiel are on the Glockenspiel Github site.

Adding A Finish to the Glockenspiel Case

Previously I finished the labels for the glockenspiel. In this post I literally Finish the case.

Last weekend and this weekend are nicely warm enough, so I’ve put a few coats of Minwax gloss polyurethane  finish on the Robotic Glockenspiel case.  In a few days the finish will be dry, and I can do the final fine-sanding (to remove dust captured in the Finish) and assemble the thing.

Finishing the Glockenspiel case
Finishing the Glockenspiel case

P.S., don’t copy my style of finishing – I’ve not learned how to do it well, and here I’ve not done most of what you want to do to make it come out right. I haven’t put down a drop cloth or newspapers to keep the surroundings from being Finished; I haven’t used pinpoint-tip stands to keep the work from sticking to the support table; I haven’t sanded between coats to remove dust/pollen; I’ve sprayed when it was breezier than it should be.

That said, I expect it will turn out well enough for this first-prototype, and functional enough to keep dirt from getting into the wood. (How many times have I said “the end is in sight”?) The end is in sight!

Next I complete the project at last!

Final labels for the glockenspiel buttons

Since trying out woodburned labels, I made another attempt at scrollsawing the button labels for the Robotic Glockenspiel, and am happy enough with the results that I’ve glued the labels to the glockenspiel box. I’m so happy to have finally made up my mind – whew!

So this blog is a sort of “how to scrollsaw” in a nutshell.

First, print out your pattern on paper. Make sure to print outlines rather than solid shapes, because the edges of solid shapes are hard to follow with the scrollsaw’s blade.

Next, use a glue stick and a roller to stick the printed pattern to the wood you want to cut. Some people like to use temporary adhesive, but I’m partial to glue stick.  For any closed spaces, drill a hole the size of your scrollsaw blade.

Pattern glued to the wood. Note the drilled hole in the O
Pattern glued to the wood. Note the drilled hole in the O

Next, cut the pattern out using your scrollsaw. For any closed spaces, unhook the blade, slide it through the hole you drilled earlier, reattach the blade, then cut the space. By the way, one of the things I love about my new saw (RBI Hawk) is that it’s made to do this sort of “pierced work” very quickly.

Cutting the wood. The circle interior is cut
Cutting the wood. The circle interior is cut

Once all the pieces are cut, admire your handiwork for a moment :-)

All the button labels cut out and lying on some scrap wood
All the button labels cut out and lying on some scrap wood

Next, remove the pattern paper from the cut pieces. If you used temporary adhesive you can peel the paper off. I prefer to sand off the paper because that sanding also removes any glue residue which would interfere with the Finish of the wood.

Sanding one of the cut labels
Sanding one of the cut labels

Once I sanded all the button labels I glued them to the glockenspiel box with white glue (carpenter’s glue) and clamped them down until dry.  Observe the lovely result!

Glockenspiel box with scrollsawed button labels glued on
Glockenspiel box with scrollsawed button labels glued on

Next I can (once the weather warms up) spray a clear finish on the glockenspiel box and reassemble all the hardware.

Wood-burned Glockenspiel labels

In my previous post, I scrollsawed labels for the glockenspiel buttons. This morning I tried out pyrography – wood-burning – to label the Robotic Glockenspiel buttons, using  a piece of scrap wood of the same material as the Glockenspiel box.

First I transferred the printed image to the wood using carbon paper and a stylus. I tried using an iron to transfer the pattern directly from the laser-printed paper, but found that works best (that is, at all) on inkjet prints rather than laser printing.

Pattern, carbon paper, and stylus
Pattern, carbon paper, and stylus

Next, I used a wood-burning iron to define the edges, then fill in the spaces. The result is pretty um…”rustic”, but not bad for having done almost no wood-burning before.  I’m still deciding whether I’ll go with this (pretty sloppy) or try thinner wood and my scrollsaw.

Woodburned glockenspiel labels
Woodburned glockenspiel labels

One advantage I just realized about raised, scrollsawn labels: the icons are simple enough that you can distinguish them with your fingers alone – great for people with visual impairments or for controlling it in the dark.

In my next post I return to scrollsawing the labels.

Scrollsawed button labels for the Glockenspiel

Since putting a lid on the glockenspiel case, I’ve been wrestling with exactly how to label the robotic glockenspiel buttons: If I had a laser engraver I probably would have engraved (woodburned) the labels on; sticking paper labels on could look pretty sloppy; decals sounded like a production of their own, with the risk of gumming up my printer; painting the labels would require a steady hand; woodburning by hand is another option; so is gluing on scroll-sawn raised labels.

So today I tried out my new (used) RBI Hawk 220 VS scrollsaw, that I’d cleaned up a few weeks ago.

Hawk 220 VS Scrollsaw
Hawk 220 VS Scrollsaw

Looking at the result,  I don’t think I’ll go with scrollsawn button labels: the labels look good, but I think they need to be more precise and on thinner wood. I’m also concerned that they could pop off the glockenspiel box pretty easily as I move the box about.

Scrollsawn button labels, laid on the box's wood
Scrollsawn button labels, laid on the box’s wood

By the way, the RBI Hawk is a sweeeet scrollsaw, far better than my old Sakura (knockoff of a Strong-brand saw). Even as old and worn as it is, it makes a really good cut.

The more I look at the scrollsawn labels, the better they look, but I think traced and woodburned labels will work better for the glockenspiel.

So next I’ll try transferring the labels’ pattern onto the wood  and woodburning it.

Putting hinges, lid on the Glockenspiel

Since fixing the sound of the chimes,  I’ve been finishing the software for the glockenspiel. Now all the buttons work: on/off, play/pause, skip back, skip forward, and shuffle. Woohoo!

Today I made the lid, attached the molding on the edges of the lid, attached the piano hinge and attached the side hinges. It’s not fine furniture, but I’m learning a lot about how to make The Real Thing. For example, don’t sand the wood with the sandpaper you used to remove rust from your new scrollsaw (ouch!).

All the hardware (except the front latch and the feet, which should install easity) is now installed.  So now I’ve taken all the hardware off so I can easily do the labels and spray the finish.

Next I plan to label the buttons – I plan to try woodburning – the end is in sight!

The lid is built
The lid is built

Silicone pads make a lovely sound

Now that the control buttons are in the circuit, I’ve tamed the clanking noise of the Robotic Glockenspiel! Hear it in this YouTube video.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I’d used a tube of silicone to put a drop of silicone on each solenoid, to reduce the loud ‘clank’ when the solenoid strikes the chime. I found out that a drop of silicone is way too much: the chimes hardly sounded at all.

Too-thick silicone. It damps the chime too much
Too-thick silicone. It damps the chime too much

I then found these fabulous 21-gauge glue syringes on Amazon. They’re perfect for painting just the right amount of silicone on the tip of the solenoid. They’re easy to use: pop the syringe open, squeeze a little (very little) silicone out of the tube into the syringe, touch the tip of the syringe ‘needle’ (really a thin metal tube) to the solenoid tip, then gently squeeze the syringe plunger as you paint the silicone onto the solenoid tip.

silicone and glue syringes: the path to success
silicone and glue syringes: the path to success

The photo below shows the result: a pad of silicone that’s about 1/2 the thickness of the drop shown above. I still have to experiment / adjust a bit: I thought I painted all the solenoids with about the same amount of silicone, but the chimes sound very different from each other. I suspect that I just have to be more careful about painting exactly the same amount of silicone on each solenoid.

Silicone applied with the glue syringe: just right
Silicone applied with the glue syringe: just right

Next I build a lid for the box.

The first switch is in

Since my last post about the glockenspiel, I’ve been taking a vacation from my vacation (aka working). Today I turned back to the glockenspiel and wired up the first of the 5 lighted switches.

The hardware is lighted buttons from Sparkfun in various colors, some 4-wire phone cable I bought years ago, and 4-conductor 0.1″ connectors. The heat-shrink tubing keeps the 5 pins of the button from shorting to each other. Two wires run the LED, and the other three make up the button (common, normally open, and the unused normally closed).

lighted button
lighted button
connector for the lighted button
connector for the lighted button

I had a little trouble reading the switch: whatever I did, the output was close to ground. After much experimentation, I realized that the pin I was using (pin 52) is used on the Arduino Mega 2560 for part of the SPI bus.  Once I moved the input to an unused pin, it worked like a charm, with the internal pull-up resistor to keep the parts count nicely low.

The result: push the button and the light comes on!
The result: push the button and the light comes on!

Next I improve the clanking sound with silicone.

Collaboration is not Part of Making; it’s the Heart of Making

This post is about what I’ve learned about Making through the Robotic Glockenspiel project.

Even at the beginning of the project, I was “standing on the shoulders of giants“:

As I learned things, I’d document them for others:

  • I blogged at major points in the project. I could have blogged more frequently.
  • I tweeted synopses of the blog entries, to point to the blog
  • I made YouTube videos from the very start, of the little soldering projects I built to relearn how to solder
  •  Once the software was (mostly) working, I put as much as I could think of on GitHub:
    • my Glockenspiel Arduino sketch
    • my Midi file reading library
    • my SD-card simple persistent settings library
    • The circuit diagram, in Fritzing format
    • the Bill of Materials (parts list)
    • the public domain MIDI files of the Christmas carols, as well as the Aria Maestosa source files for the carols.

Sharing shaped my thinking and the structure of the project:

  • Blogging made me imagine what someone like me would like to know about robotic instruments and glockenspiel construction.
  • Making YouTube videos made me think about how the project demos well or badly, and pulled me out of the technical bits into the user experience.  Trying to make a video of the glockenspiel playing showed me how unacceptably loud it was.
  • Tweeting made me think about how to get the word out about what I’d done so far, and what media to use to connect with like-minded people.
  • Open-sourcing the project on GitHub seriously changed how I organized the software (I created the libraries and examples of how to use them), and stretched my ideas of what a Git repo was for (e.g., Bill of Materials). It made me think of reusability of the code.

Sharing sends many messages

At work, Jessica and I discussed what Sharing Making says, and came up with these ideas:

  • The foreground message: “how to do what I did”. You’re giving people a recipe, that’s hopefully complete enough to be useful.
  • It’s a resource list: “Here are links to the sources I used to get where I am with this project”. It lets people find more detail and the people who created those details.
  • “I appreciate the work people put into the resources I used” – making a resource list gives kudos back to the authors.
  • “How I got here”. It’s a journal, showing your process of creation. Not just the recipe, but a guide to how to be a chef who creates recipes.  This is the big reason you want to share your project as you go rather than when it’s “finished”.
  • It shows authority: “Now I know how to do this.” “I’ve got chops”
  • Advertising that you’re a resource: “I’ve shared this much; ask me questions about problems you run into”
  • An advertisement for collaboration: “These are areas I’m interested in” “Contact me if you want to work together in an area”
  • Most importantly: if you only share the demo – what you did – you’re only saying “look at how great I am and you can’t be”; if you share how to duplicate the project, you’re saying “I’m nurturing the community”. I’ve seen how when people only post a photo or demo, the first comment on it is “So, where’s the source?”

So far, I’ve only written; I haven’t actually participated in a community

  • I’ve blogged, tweeted, youtubed, and githubbed, but I haven’t heard from anyone who’s used this info, and I haven’t offered changes to anyone else’s Open Source project – yet.
  • Everything I’ve said about “sharing” is just speculation at this point. I look forward to actually collaborating (in some way) with other people who are into music technology.
  • I need to “advertise” the project so people can find it. Once it’s more complete, I can put it up on the Arduino Blog, Sparkfun’s site, etc. I can also do more exercises to make the libraries I’ve created more useful.
  • Life is all about creating long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships. Linda says writing isn’t about one fantastic book; it’s about continually writing  wonderful new books for your growing audience. In the same way, Making isn’t about one cool project; it’s about building relationships to Make stuff that’s so much more wonderful than you can make alone.


Design Thinking via the Robotic Glockenspiel Project

Now that the glockenspiel is working and in a case, this post is about what I’ve learned about Design Thinking through my Robotic Glockenspiel project.

Caveat: since I didn’t apply formal Design Thinking to the project, I’m going to be shamelessly revisionistic in order to talk about how the project would have been better via Design Thinking.

Design Thinking process (Stanford)
Design Thinking process (Stanford)

The Design Thinking steps we use at work are labeled a little differently from the picture:

  • Gain Empathy
  • Develop Insights
  • Ideate
  • Get Feedback
  • Prototype
  • Test

A brief history of the project

  1. I was a music nerd as a toddler, then a band geek in late grade school and early Jr. High; then a vocalist from late Jr. High through adulthood. I love music.
  2. In the deep past I was charmed by music boxes and by The Mighty Wurlitzer at The Organ Grinder pizza in Portland Oregon.
  3. In 2003 I wrote a project note something like “make a circuit to play a toy xylophone”. And there it sat for years, awaiting something to help break through the inertia. I’d used Pic chips, but they were time consuming to use. I’d fiddled a little with Arduino, but hadn’t devoted any serious time to it.
  4. In 2014 I spent some mad money on an Arduino Starter Kit, and had a grand time going through the exercises in it.
    • During this time I started to post YouTube videos of the projects. This was the beginning of my blogging about projects.

      My first YouTube Project video
      My first YouTube Project video
  5. As my Intel Sabbatical (8 weeks of vacation) started looming, I decided I wanted to build a Robotic Glockenspiel with part of that time. I started learning circuits I needed, and how to tune chimes.
  6. I spent the last few weeks of my Sabbatical feverishly working on the project; then spent much of my Christmas vacation getting it to a point where it would work. I blogged the project as I went, and put the project code, music, and materials list under GitHub.
  7. There’s plenty left to do, but enough is done to talk about it. You can see and hear the chimes.

The project though the lens of Design Thinking

  • Gain Empathy: I wanted to build it for myself. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t really examine it any more than any hobbyist. Also, only later did I realize that there were a couple more audiences: 1) my wife, family, and friends, 2) other Makers and musicians, and 3) my co-workers. I only talked with my wife about what we might do with it after it (the first version) was playing music.
  • Develop Insights: Early on I did actually spend time thinking about what music I wanted to play: Public Domain Christmas Carols, mostly from the Oxford Book of Carols. Looking at specific carols led me to design a chromatic scale with a large (1.5 octave) range, rather than the 8-note Major-scale many hobbyists have built. I also knew I wanted to play MIDI files that I could create with an open source MIDI editor. Originally I wanted to play playlists and Midi files from the net, but later realized that playing them locally (from an SD card) fit better into the model of setting it up somewhere and having it play.
  • Ideate:  I didn’t spend much time ideating: creating alternative physical designs and interactions beyond the single design I could think of: a thing that looked like a xylophone in a box, with an Arduino playing it from a playlist and MIDI files on an SD card.
  • Prototype, Test: Here’s where most engineers want to start the process: Skip the understanding and alternatives, and jump straight into building stuff. In retrospect,this is the bulk of the work I did – so it’s clear I fell into the trap of the engineer’s approach rather than the designer’s approach.
    • I tried out several types of chimes cut from different metals, and settled on 1/2″ conduit.
    • I tried out a couple ways of cutting the chimes to length and tuning them, settling on a pipe-cutter, rough metal file, and my ukulele tuner – this worked great. My first narrative blog was about cutting and tuning chimes.
    • I built a few test chime mountings, to see if the chimes would ring properly. I tried 2 ways of mounting the set of chimes, because my first attempt failed miserably.
    • I experimented a bit in mounting the solenoids, mainly because I’d just bought a router and didn’t really know how to use it yet.
    • I made a test circuit before too long, to make sure the power supply would ring all the chimes at a usable volume.
    • The software development went pretty smoothly, because I’m a software engineer by training.  …although I did get thrown a bit by Arduino interfacing (I forgot to write a blog entry on that). …and I changed the design a few times once I started thinking about making the project Open Source.
    • I waited until the mounting and circuit were done before I designed (or even thought much about) the box the whole thing would go into. As a result, the box is huge and unwieldy.
  • Get Feedback: Once the glockenspiel played tunes, I showed it off to Linda and we talked about how we might use it. This would have been a great conversation to have before I started – doh! We now think the best use would be 1) as a doorbell that plays tunes appropriate to the time of year, or 2) as a quiet music box that plays in the background at Christmas parties.  We also learned a few things from this first prototype:
    • It’s huge. I need to build a totally different, more compact frame. It’s bigger than a card table, and certainly can’t be discreetly tucked away as a doorbell.
    • It’s loud; perhaps literally deafening. I’ve experimented a bit with dampening the clanking, and have more experiments to do.
    • There’s no way to control it. After it started playing, I realised it needed at least Pause, Stop, and Skip buttons.
    • I generally like how it turned out: The circuit works, it sounds pretty good and is nicely in tune, it’s easy to make MIDI files for it to play, and easy to edit the playlist.

So even though the project was mostly for my own enjoyment – a situation where you’d be tempted to skip parts of Design Thinking, I could have made a much better first working prototype by  formally following the process: Gaining Empathy (looking into our lives and music); Developing Insights (analyzing how such a music box might fit into our lives and our house);  Ideating (coming up with multiple designs for a music box / doorbell)); prototyping and Getting Feedback through low-fidelity prototypes that would let us pretend we’re using it.

I’m sold on Design Thinking. I’ll be using it in the next project (or iteration of this one).

Next I start putting the control buttons into the circuit.