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MODULAR => Dave Smith Modular => Topic started by: chysn on July 06, 2016, 04:28:09 PM

Title: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 06, 2016, 04:28:09 PM
If there's one annoying thing about Eurorack (and there are several, but this might be the number one thing), it's that cases are expensive. I'm sure it's all about the niche market.

There are some "low-cost" options, that aren't technically low-cost, but have notable drawbacks. Take, for example, the Moog eurorack skiffs. Attractive, well-made, sturdy, with an innovative rack stand system. But there's no allowance for getting power to other skiffs.

Suitcase-style racks are still expensive and not particularly attractive. Wooden racks that are attractive can really break the bank.

Fortunately, if you can build a box, you can do something about that, and this is what I've decided to do. I've picked out some boards of red oak, and ordered custom-cut rack rails. I want to build something that will be functional, that will be the size I want, handle the power that I want, and that I'll be proud to display in my music room.

The full-size side view is attached. The modules will be in two rows, each 72hp (14.4", or 366mm) wide. The front row will lie flat, and the back row will be angled up slightly, at roughly the same angle as a Little Phatty panel. It will accommodate around 20 modules, including two oscillators.

I'll update my progress as I go, and show the final project when I'm done.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: Steven Morris on July 07, 2016, 12:44:42 AM
Looking forward to seeing this project progress! I was really lazy when I made my case and literally just used 4 pieces of wood-- so there's no back!

There are actually advantages to a simple design like that because it allows for easy module swapping. However, having the back exposed is a bit scary. Also, the wood I used was very light-weight. That means my modular is very front-heavy. At the same time, this prevents me from being able to patch it without two hands, which is a bit of a bummer sometimes.

Best of luck!
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 09, 2016, 12:00:31 PM
Here are the red oak end-cheeks, rough and unsanded, along with my Doepfer VCA for size reference.

I was hoping to pretty much finish the case this weekend, but my rails have not arrived. The postal service says they've been accepted, and scheduled for delivery last Thursday, but there's no tracking information after that. So I'll be planing and sanding these end-cheeks today. I don't want to cut the front, rear, or bottom panels until I have the rails. I know they're supposed to be 14.20" wide, but I want them in my hand before I do all that cutting.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 11, 2016, 08:11:58 AM
And here are the rails. They are Vector Rails, cut to length by ErthenVar, who did a great, accurate, job. I highly recommend them for custom projects. It costs a little bit more than if you want rails at the standard euro lengths, but when you know exactly what size you want, it's worth it.

Hopefully I'll have some time to finish up the case this week. Then I have to figure out why the forum is always turning my photos sideways. They look right on my computer before I upload them...
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 11, 2016, 12:01:36 PM
Here, I have the rails affixed to the end cheeks, with the front piece wedged in. I still need to (1) cut the back panel and bottom, finish sand and stain everything, and put in the structural fasteners. Technically, it's usable now, but not... quite... ready...

Bonus: My German Shepherd Dog puppy (9 months old).
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: Sacred Synthesis on July 11, 2016, 12:07:36 PM
German Shephard:

"Hmmm, I can't find a fire hydrant, I can't find a bush, I can't find a tree.  Nowhere to...hey, what's this over here?"
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 11, 2016, 12:35:26 PM
German Shephard:

"Hmmm, I can't find a fire hydrant, I can't find a bush, I can't find a tree.  Nowhere to...hey, what's this over here?"


When he was a bit younger, he ate socks and chewed on some of my wife's shoes. So that would be fair, I guess.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: Sacred Synthesis on July 11, 2016, 12:37:50 PM
He's a beautiful dog.  I'm sure his ears will perk up when you play your synthesizers.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: dslsynth on July 11, 2016, 12:52:34 PM
Another DIY case approach:

PS: Cute doggie!
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 12, 2016, 12:09:48 PM
And here's the finished product! For the most part, I'm pretty pleased with out it turned out, as I'm not the most experienced carpenter. Once I get my console table, and get the synth off that bleak IKEA table, the setup will look pretty nice.

This wouldn't be a very good project thread if I didn't share some of my lessons:

(1) If I ever do a eurorack case again, I'll buy the internal brackets for the rails. The Vector rails are easy enough to install with 10-24 machine screws, but for a few more bucks, the brackets guarantee proper spacing, and would save much time.

(2) I suffered for lack of proper tools, and had to make due with what I have. For example, I don't have a drill press. Even with half-inch oak, it's hard to drill perfect perpendicular holes. Also, I could have used a countersink drill bit.

(3) Find out what cuts of wood are available at your local lumber shop before designing the case. I made some assumptions that sort of forced me to go back to the drawing board. For example, oak boards seem to be a half-inch narrower than they say (e.g., the .5" x 6" x 24" board was actually 5.5" wide, etc.). This seems to be a common practice ("nominal width" vs. "actual width") and it totally mystifies me.

As for the modules in the photo:

Top, L-R: Empty space for Mutable Instruments Links mixer/mult; 2 x Doepfer A-110-2 VCOs, empty space for DSM03, Intellijel Triatt attenuator/mixer, Make Noise LxD low pass gate, Doepfer A-106-5 SEM filter, empty space for Aion 904A ladder filter, DSM01, Tip Top uZeus power module.

Bottom, L-R: Empty space for Pittsburgh Modular MIDI3, 2 x Make Noise Function (for EG or LFO), empty space for Mutable Peaks, another Triatt, Intellijel Multiple, Intellijel uModII ring modulator, Mutable Kinks (S&H, and other stuff), QuBit Octone sequencer, empty space for Doepfer A-183-1 dual attenuator, Doepfer A-132-1 Dual VCA, Pittsburgh Modular Outs.

The final cost of this project was less than $100US. Most of this was the rails and sliding nuts, about $65. Hardware (screws, etc.) was about $2. The lumber came to about $19 (but I already had the bottom piece). The stain was about $5. My total time commitment was maybe eight hours, but I'm sure that a more experienced individual could do it much faster.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: dslsynth on July 12, 2016, 12:27:19 PM
That is certainly looking oaky dokey! Given the nature of eurorack world I am sure you will soon be building an extra case. Any plans for Mutable Instruments Clouds and/or Rings?

That's a neat power supply, thanks for the info!

Also, did you sell your Evolver?
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on July 12, 2016, 01:18:22 PM
That is certainly looking oaky dokey! Given the nature of eurorack world I am sure you will soon be building an extra case.

Thanks. This is sort of my way of putting brakes on the whole thing. I've put a ton of thought into the question of "what's the balance between a highly-functional synth and a manageable synth?" The answer I came to was 144hp. The size of this case isn't random. If something else comes in, something comes out. For example, I do plan to upgrade the oscillators to triangle core oscillators before too long, but it's down the road.

Any plans for Mutable Instruments Clouds and/or Rings?

Rings would have fit into the plan better, but I want to keep the audio in the analog realm. The low pass gate will handle the job of simulating stuck and plucked surfaces in conjunction with the DSM03. Clouds would take me too far from the vision of a semi-dedicated Karplus-Strong synthesizer.

Not to say that I don't find Mutable's offerings attractive. I plan on getting Peaks, because I like the open-source idea, and it could be fun to hack, and it's a lot of stuff to pack into a small space.

Also, did you sell your Evolver?

Alas, I did. I just didn't enjoy the interface any more. This synth's features are largely inspired by the Evolver; with the Curtis Filter and the Octone, I can already get the same sorts of rhythmic patches. It can sound very Evolver-like, all for the price of only four Evolvers!
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on March 17, 2017, 01:16:40 PM
Let's see, where did I leave off? In July I had a functional eurorack case, but I was using a rack-mounted power supply. I finally found the time to finish the thing off.

First, I took everything out and gave it a few coats of polyurethane finish. Stained wood collects dust, and I want my synth to show off the wood's natural grain.

Second, I installed a power supply. I got the Intellijel TPS30MINI. The TPS30MAX's width is exactly the interior width of my case, so I didn't want to risk not being able to use it. I also bought a 2.1mm Switchcraft jack and an awesome rocker switch from Mouser.

When I received the jack and switch, I realized that I forgot to check something. I was going through a half inch of wood, so I couldn't just mount my parts into the back of the case. I needed to make a power panel. I went to Lowe's and got a small poplar board, and drilled holes for the jack and switch and two #40 machine screws. I beveled, sanded, and stained this, and mounted the parts.

Then, I soldered the wires up (from jack sleeve to ground terminal of the power supply, from jack center to the switch, then from the other terminal of the switch to the positive terminal of the power supply) and tested the thing with the jack and switch.

Once I knew it would power up, I cut a hole in my case, big enough for the switch, but small enough to be completely covered by the power panel. I marked the spot on my case, drilled a 1/4" hole, and then used my jigsaw to cut the hole. It's not an attractive hole, but it doesn't need to be.

I then mounted the power supply into my case (using the rest of the machine screws, from the bottom). Tested again, and started putting my modules in.

And now, I'm done. The 18 modules are the result of countless hours of playing, research, experimentation, budgeting, and various mistakes. This is the Buchlavolver. It has the dual oscillator setup, function generators, low pass gate, and control surface inspired by a Buchla, and the sequencer, tuned feedback, and Curtis filter inspired by the Evolver. Yeah, of course there are components I might upgrade over time. But for the first time, I think of it as a finished instrument.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on June 25, 2017, 07:14:44 PM
Did I say "done?"

I took my synth apart and did a couple case-related projects this afternoon.

First, I installed a Faraday shield, enclosing the inside of the case with anti-RF fabric using copper tape. I've been fighting against an AM radio transmitter a few hundred meters from my house, which has been rough on my Pressure Points touch plates. The interference comes and goes throughout the day, depending the the synth's orientation and the weather. RF interference is a strange thing, and its behavior is hard to pin down. I should know over the next few days whether the shielding is doing any good.

The next project was to install a USB jack in the back of the instrument. This is to power low-draw devices like a lamp or the QuNexus. I spent an hour building a little voltage regulator circuit (7805 regulator and a pair of 10F capacitors). Then, Danjel at Intellijel pointed out that I already had a 5V connection inside my power supply, that isn't pictured on their website. So the USB connection was pretty bloody easy. As usual, the hard part was building the panel, because I don't have a good way to drill large-ish holes.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on March 29, 2018, 03:29:44 PM
I'm starting up my DIY saga again and building a new case!

This one is going to be a small, 40HP "control skiff," containing only a pair of Tetrapads. Now that I have some experience doing this, there's no mystery as to what I need, and I've ordered my parts:

(1) A power jack (I've already got an appropriate adapter around someplace)
(2) A rocker switch, for power
(3) Vinyl stand-offs for mounting the power supply in the case
(4) Custom rails (40HP)
(5) Brackets for the rails (applying an important lesson I learned from the last time)

Next weekend, I'll go pick out a couple nice pieces of red oak. This will be the same color and style as my synth's case, but the goal is to get it as thin as possible. Tetrapad is a slim module, and with the power supply I should be able to get this thing under two inches thick.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on April 07, 2018, 07:43:33 AM
The second case went much faster. I had it built in about three hours. For this project, I used the Make Noise Mini Power. It's a tiny power supply, and it only has two power headers. They intended for you to power a row using flying busboards (which are included). But since this skiff's job is to hold two Tetrapads, the number of power headers was perfect!

Things that made this project way easier than my main case:

(1) I bought the side brackets for the rails. This made it super-easy to square everything up. I basically just measured and built the box around the rail assembly. It's $20 well spent, considering the frustrations I had last time.

(2) Spade bits! My goodness, it's hard to convey how nice it was to use spade bits. In my other case, I drilled a pilot hole in the back, then used my jigsaw to cut the hole for the power panel. That was a ridiculous waste of time considering the fact that spade bits exist. Get spade bits!

(3) No angled panel! Okay, if I had to build another main case, half of it would be angled up at 30 degrees. That's just how I like it to work and look. But for my control skiff, I just wanted a flat surface, which needed a simple box. A box this size is well-suited to the tools I have (I have only the aforementioned jigsaw and a mitre saw, not a table saw, and the miter saw worked nicely yesterday).

Pictures are below. Again, I'm a total n00b at carpentry, so there are still things to improve for next time. My grandma's boyfriend was a master carpenter and he taught me everything I know, but I wasn't the best listener when I was 10.

And but seriously: spade bits!
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: BobTheDog on April 09, 2018, 07:53:13 AM
For some reason I have missed this thread before!

Looks like a couple of nice jobs there.
Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: chysn on April 11, 2018, 11:10:00 AM
Thanks! Here's everything together. Got my second Tetrapad in there today, and Boss Bow Tie. Two modules in one day!

Title: Re: DIY Case
Post by: BobTheDog on April 16, 2018, 12:59:13 PM
They look really good :)