Friday, August 22, 2014

Bridge Height

I just received an excellent question from Justin Z:
Hello, I was wondering what bridge height you'd recommend for the dixie?
I recently scored one from the local salvation army and it was missing its bridge.
Can I just use a tenor banjo bridge? if so, does a 1/2" or 5/8" suit it best?

I appreciate your insight.
And I appreciate the question, Justin! You've made me think.

I have 1/2" high bridges. The string "grooves" are 7/16" apart. Be danged if I can find the measurements for a tenor banjo bridge, but I'd bet that's exactly what my bridges are (they came with the Dixies I've bought).

The actual height of the bridge is 1/2", but with the "give" of the Dixie's head, the height above the head tightening rim is 6/16". So there's a 2/16" "dip" where the bridge has pushed down on the head.

Here are some things to consider in all of this:
  • Head tension is important. It affects the height of the head rim and the height of the bridge (and therefore the height of the strings).
The feet of the bridge have pushed the head down to where they are below the level of the rim. Of course this lowers the bridge and the strings. It could cause the strings to come into contact with the rim. See the next photo.

The rim height depends upon the amount of tension you put on the head. The more tension, the lower the rim (but the higher the bridge as it won't push the head down so much with greater tension. Here, the space between the strings and the rim is a good bit less than the space between the strings and the frets. The head is as tight as I dare make it here, so I have to live with the rim being higher. On this Dixie, the frets above fret 12 can't be played as the rim hits the strings when they are played above fret 12. The smaller diameter strings can be played a fret or two above fret 12.

  • You can have control over this head tension/rim problem by putting shims under the feet of the bridge. But remember that will raise the strings where you'll have to use more finger pressure to get them down to the frets. That, in turn, could cause the strings to sound out of tune, since you'll be changing the tension of the strings a good bit when you have to push them further down to come in contact with the higher frets.
  • Remember that bridge placement affects intonation (tuning) as you play on higher frets. This was explained in an earlier post on tuning. But, basically, you have to move the bridge to a point where the strings are in tune when played open and on the 12th (octave) fret.
After saying all of this, I would think that a 5/8" bridge would be too high for a Dixie. And I don't think you'd want to have to trim its height. Of course, with a 1/2" bridge, you can always add popsicle stick shims to raise the height of the bridge (see instructions to doing that at Banjo Bridges by Bart -- http://banjobridge.com/sizingabridge.htm).

And finally, you have to take the time to play around with all of these parameters. I would get the head tightened enough so that pushing the bridge down on it at the approximate proper location* won't have it sinking down into the head by more than about 1/8th inch.

Then I'd put the bridge under the strings and see that I can play at least to the 12th fret. If the strings buzz against the rim (or hit it) at fret 12, shim the bridge as suggested above.(see these instructions at Banjo Bridges by Bart -- http://banjobridge.com/sizingabridge.htm.

* The approximate proper location for the bridge on a Dixie is 13 inches from the fret side of the nut. The nut is the thing below fret one that has the slots to keep the strings in place. It's the first thing the strings contact running from the tuning pegs. It's approximately 6 1/2 inches from the fret side of the nut to the middle of fret twelve. The nut could be considered as fret zero. Pressing down in the space between the nut and fret one causes the string to come into contact with fret one and raises the tone of the string by 1/2 step. So, to find fret twelve, press down at the first space and count one, move to the second space and count two, and so forth until you reach twelve.

You can also measure 6 1/2 inches from fret twelve up onto the head to find the approximate bridge location.

I hope this is helpful to you! If I've confused any of you, please comment and I'll try to clear it up.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dixie Banjolele Contact Form

Blogger finally added a Contact Form widget. If you'd like to contact me directly, you'll find the link to the form in the column to the right (at the top of the page).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ukulele/Guitar Chords/Tabs On The Internet

When looking for some lyrics I'm not sure of, I often run upon sites that have chord names or tabs with the lyrics. All too often these chords are very wrong. It's nice when people try to help by posting these, but wrong chords are not very helpful. A site that has many songs with excellent chord choices is Dr. Uke's (Dr. Jim Rosokoff) at http://www.doctoruke.com/index.html. The songs are in pdf format and are easy to print.

How does one decide if a chord is the correct one? Trust your ears. If the chord sounds wrong, it probably is. Often, a chord's notes will include the note the melody is on for at least part of the chord's duration.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Some Strings That Work Well

Just to be clear, I'm suggesting these strings for the Dixie Banjolele. They may work well on any ukulele that has a string buzz problem, but I haven't tried them on a different instrument.

LaBella Black Nylon  Model No. 15.

These strings are thicker gauge so they don't buzz in the slots at the nut. The nut is the string separator at the tuning end of the neck. The Dixie has some pretty big slots for the strings and smaller gauge strings can buzz.

The package doesn't have the string sizes, but the LaBella site does:

A - .028
E - .032
C - .040
G - .028

Maybe the black nylon has something to do with the thicker gauge. Whatever, they don't require a rubber band or other method of keeping the strings from buzzing.

These strings are less expensive than many other ukulele strings, too.

My wife has played the same set of these 5-6 days a week, several hours a day for the past three months and they are still sounding good.

Let me know if you find some other strings that work well for a Dixie. I'll do the same.

We've tried a LOT of different sets of strings, and none of them work as well as these.

Edit: 08/22/2014: As a testament to these strings, my wife has now used the same set for over a year, with no broken strings and no apparent degradation in sound. Except for the "Hillbilly Amplifier" I added (a cake pan resonator explained in an earlier post), her Dixie is not amplified, but her voice is. So, she plays the strings HARD. But note that she keeps the strings and the instrument clean of dirt and oils.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Resonator For the Dixie Banjolele

I've had an idea buzzing around in my head for quite a while. Maybe I could devise a resonator. A resonator is a device that fits on a banjo to project the sound forward. You've probably noticed the big difference it makes to hold the Dixie at an angle so the opening of the body isn't smooth against your body. That lets the sound get out of the body. A resonator allows you to hold the Dixie any way you wish and it will reflect the sound forward (and can increase the volume). Trust me, this thing can increase the present maximum volume of your Dixie. I estimate up to twice the volume for your loudest playing. Along with that, it allows you to play very quietly too -- and you can hear nuances in your playing you haven't heard before. The result is a greater range of volume, which is a good thing.

If you want to "cut to the chase," scroll down to the bottom for what you need to put this thing together.

Edit (12/01/2013): Since this posting a couple of years ago, the resonator has been in constant use for many hours each day. It has worked flawlessly, even after taking a number of bumps, dents and scratches.

Edit (08/22/2014): This resonator has become to be known as a "Hillbilly Amplifier" since it's played in the shadow of the Smokies :-)

I envisioned using an aluminum pie pan. A couple of weeks back I went to a local kitchen store and looked around. They had a variety of pie pans. One of them was beautiful -- it was shiny chrome. But it wasn't an ideal size/shape, had an edge that was not rounded and it weighed a lot. Others had non-stick surfaces and would look strange on the Dixie.

Finally, I saw a 9 inch round aluminum Cake Pan that looked promising. It didn't have the deeply flared sides that a pie pan has, but it looked like it would fit well.

Before I went to the store, I had taken measurements on a Dixie that's taken apart. I figured that I had to have at least a pan bottom that was 8.5 inches in order to clear the body of the Dixie. The 9 inch cake pan had a slight flare in the walls.

This is what I bought.
Hamilton Beach 9 Inch Aluminum Round Cake Pan
The code for the cake pan
Pay no attention to the holes and scratches :-)


The photo above was taken after I'd started hacking this thing together, but you can see the slight flare of the sides.
Notice that the ridge at the top of the pan is nice and rounded. There are no sharp areas. I liked that about this pan.

The pan's measurements are:
  • Bottom diameter - 8 inches (and it's a 9" cake pan?)
  • Top rim diameter (outside to outside) - 9 inches (ah, a 9" cake pan!)
  • Side height - 1 5/8 inches
  • Flare - that amount you'd find going from 8 to 9 inches diameter with a side height of 1 5/8 inches. The shorter the side height for these same diameters, the greater the flare.
So, now I should say that using the body from a disassembled Dixie for measurements caused me problems later down the line. More about that in a minute.

As I looked at the pan in the store, I was envisioning buying some kind of clamps that I could use to attach the thing to the Dixie's body. Then I remembered the threaded stock that holds the head clamp in place on the Dixie (it's size is 10-24). Could I somehow use hardware to connect to it?

Notice that the threaded stock goes beyond the head tightening nut here.
But not all Dixies have the extra length of threaded stock. Even so, maybe I could replace the nut with some kind of connector. This photo shows a problem I'm going to face in fitting the cake pan to the Dixie.

I remembered seeing spacers used in electronics and mechanical devices, but didn't know what they're called when they're threaded. The internet answered my question. They're coupling nuts -- made to hold two pieces of threaded stock together. Perfect, if I can find the right size.

The local hardware store had two 3/4 inch coupling nuts -- not enough! They had no idea when they'd get more, so I went to the internet.

Two 3/4 inch 10-24 coupling nuts being held together with threaded stock.
 I ended up ordering these. They were $21 for 25 of them, but I figured I might make resonators for all four Dixies.

These came in record time. I love good service from internet savvy companies!
Some of the nuts had holes that were slightly off center. That could cause possible problems if you want to drill your holes in the resonator with exactness. "Measure twice, drill once."

I already had some 1 1/2 inch 10-24 bolts to use. My idea was to use one 3/4 inch coupling nut to tighten on the Dixie threaded stock. Then, use one of the bolts through a hole drilled in the cake pan to connect it to the threaded stock. I'd do this four times on evenly spaced threaded stock on the Dixie.

Problem was, it didn't work!

I failed to realize that the neck of the Dixie would be in the way of the cake pan's sitting evenly on the coupling nuts. And, the coupling nuts were not long enough anyway.

What to do?

Oh, and by this time I'd drilled the four holes I'd measured using the head tightening rim on the disassembled Dixie. Thus, you'll see some extra holes from the final "design."

I decided to use two coupling nuts on four of the Dixie threaded stock "head tensioners." I cut the 1 1/2" 10-24 bolt in half and used the headless part to connect the two coupling nuts together. Then I could use the headed part to attach the cake pan to the coupling nuts.

I also realized that I had to cut the cake pan where it would fit where the neck was hitting the pan.

So far, the cut has not tried to continue onto the bottom of the pan.

The two bolts/nuts you see are "mistake" holes :-)

Measuring for the holes in the pan was impossible using my limited set of tools and tricks. I got one of them like it should fit and ended up pushing the pan flat and using a small screwdriver to scratch the pan where the coupling nuts hit it.

Thank goodness I bought some 10-24 washers, because my holes ended up being larger than the ones better measurement methods would have resulted in. But none of them were too large to hide with the 10-24 washers :-)

The holes in actual use are the ones with the bolts with washers.
 The bottom two bolts in the photo above and the ones at 10 and 2 o'clock are holding the cake pan resonator in place.

The wiring inside the body is covered in an earlier post about lighting the Dixie.
In the photo above, you can see the four connecting points for the cake pan. As I mentioned earlier, some Dixies may not have the extra threaded stock that you can attach to. In that situation, you can either use the coupling nuts in the place of the existing tensioner nuts or you can cut longer stock to replace that on your Dixie.

I used lock washers to keep the coupling nuts from loosening when I unscrew the bolts holding the cake pan.
Haven't added the bottom lock washer yet.

The cut in the pan worked. I smoothed the rough edges with sandpaper.
A problem I've yet to handle is how to turn on the lights in the Dixie without removing the resonator. The switch is part of the printed circuit board (it's on the end of the battery box you see in the third photo above). I'll probably get a switch from an electronics store and put it in line with one of the wires you see coming out of the battery box. Then I could hot glue it where it could be flipped without removing the resonator. The batteries last long enough that it won't be a big hassle to replace them once a week. My wife plays this Dixie five days a week at Dollywood.

The Cake Pan Resonator looks pretty good in playing position.

Ready to go in the oven :-)
 So how does it sound? GREAT! Instead of having to strum hard for the Dixie to be heard in a crowd, normal strumming is plenty loud. And if there's a crescendo required, this little thing can do it with this resonator.

How does the Dixie feel with this thing added to it? Slightly different being a bit further from the player's body, but not so much that it causes a problem.

Here's a shopping list if you want to put this thing together and try it out. This is what I recommend after going to the school of hard knocks in putting it together the first time:

This was $1.29 for two feet
  1. A cake or pie pan with an 8 inch diameter bottom (and I'd say at least an 8 1/2 inch rim).
  2. Eight 3/4 inch 10-24 coupling nuts (I looked for 1 1/2 inch ones and couldn't locate any)
  3. 10-24 threaded stock (keeps you from having to cut bolts). Can also be used to replace threaded stock on your Dixie that's too short for this project. Can be bought in smaller lengths, I'd guess. See photo above.
  4. Four 1/4 inch 10-24 bolts (I could only find 3/8 inch locally) -- rounded Phillips head recommended.
  5. Eight 10-24 lock washers (two per pair of coupling nuts).
  6. Four 10-24 washers (one per bolt).
  7. Drill bit for 10-24 bolt holes. Depending upon your measuring skills/equipment, I'd have the next two larger sized bits, too :-)
  8. Hack saw blade for smooth cut on the cake pan (if required).
  9. File, sandpaper, emory board for smoothing rough edges on cuts to pan and/or threaded stock.
Factory smooth 10-24 bolts!
 Before you take the following steps, record yourself playing your Dixie. Play the softest up to the loudest you can. This is so you can compare the sound without and with the resonator.

If you're going to need to replace your Dixie's threaded stock where the coupling nuts will be attached, do that first, one at a time. Remove one of them completely from the head tightening rim. They're screwed into that rim. Use some WD-40 to loosen a tough one. Make sure not to get any oil on the Dixie's head! I'd spray some into a small container and pour a small amount down the threads.

I would suggest adding 1/4 inch to the length of the too short stock.

Cut four 1/2 inch lengths of the threaded stock to connect four sets of two coupling nuts together. Try to make sure that 1/4 inch of stock is inside each coupling nut. Use a lock washer between each set of two coupling nuts. No need to tighten more than a snug fit.

Mount the coupling nut sets to the four points you've chosen. The points I used have worked well, but you may have reason to choose others. Use lock washers to keep the coupling nuts snug to the Dixie's threaded stock.

If you have to cut the pan so it will fit correctly at the neck/body junction, do that now. You may not have to cut completely down the side of your pan, but I found it necessary to keep the bottom of the pan from trying to bend.

Press the pan onto the body of the Dixie until the coupling nuts furthest from the neck contact the bottom of the pan. Make sure that the pan is centered on the body. If you push it enough to contact all four coupling nuts, that's ok.

Make some kind of mark/scratch on the sides you can reach on one of the connector nuts, so you'll know where to drill the first hole.

I used a regular 10-24 nut to line it up with the scratches. Then I put a permanent marker in the center of the nut and made a mark.

Drill a hole large enough for the 10-24 bolt to fit through without you having to fight with it.

Put the pan back on the Dixie and thread a bolt with a washer through the hole and into it's coupling nut. A few turns is enough right now.

Once again, press the pan onto the body of the Dixie until the other furthest coupling nut comes into contact with the bottom of the pan. Make sure the pan is centered and that you have the pan all the way down on the one bolt you have screwed in a little. Scratch similar marks for this coupling nut.

Remove the pan and drill the new hole.

Put the pan back onto the Dixie and put both bolts with washers into the holes and screw into the coupling nuts a few turns. If the second hole does not align, take the pan off again and widen the hole a bit in the appropriate direction until you can screw the second bolt in. If the hole is really off, you may want to widen both of the existing holes in the appropriate opposite directions to minimize the change you'd have to make to just the second hole. When both bolts fit, screw them down so they hold the pan snugly against the coupling nuts they're threaded into.

On the third coupling nut (one of the ones closer to the neck), make sure you push down on the pan until both it and the fourth coupling nut are touching the pan's bottom. You may have to put some pretty good pressure to make this happen. Go at it slowly to allow the cut you made to widen without trying to split further.

Mark the third hole and remove the pan once again to drill that hole. Replace the pan and three bolts/washers (bolts screwed in just enough to see if the third hole is in the right place). If you cannot get the third bolt aligned, take the pan off and widen its hole in the proper direction. Again, if it's far off, you may have to widen the first two holes as well as the third one.

When the three fit, tighten them down so the pan is snug against the coupler nuts. Push on the pan to make sure the fourth coupling nut is snug against the bottom of the pan. Make your mark/scratch. Remove the pan again and drill the fourth hole. Replace the pan and the first three bolts/washers. Don't tighten them completely down. The fourth hole should fit, but if it doesn't, take the pan off and widen it (and maybe a couple of others) to get it to fit. When everything lines up, tighten the four bolts (with washers in place).

And you're through!

Now play your recording of your non-resonator Dixie. Then play your Dixie with the newly installed resonator. You should hear quite a difference :-)

Finally, let me know how things turned out!









Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Source for Parts

I've corresponded with Marvin Walker on banjohangout.org. He posted a photo of many Dixie's and parts he has. He may have what you need. Contact him directly through his page on banjohangout.org. You'll have to register on the site to do that, but it's easy and free.

http://www.banjohangout.org/my/BNJOMAKR

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How About Some Flashy Lights? The Method

So I wanted some lights behind the Dixie's head. Flashing, steady, chasing, twinkling, whatever. They had to be battery operated. After some internet searching, I found a site that had plenty of lights. Problem was there were no videos of the lights. So, I took a chance and ordered what seemed to be the best choices.

The site is http://www.littlebrightlights.com/. They have a new site that is easier to navigate (and a more modern design): http://www.lightsforalloccasions.com/. I learned about it from a mention in the receipt for the items I ordered.

The sets I purchased are:
  1. Item Number: 1105-62
    Description: LED Deco String Lights Teeny Bulbs, Green Wire, AA Battery Operated, Multi-Color Twinkling, 0.1 lb
    Weight:      0.1 lb
    Unit Price:  $5.99
  2. Item Number: 6203-28
    Description: Multi-Color LED Deco String Lights, 20 Teeny Bulbs, Green Wire, AA Battery Operated, Flashing or Steady Burn, 0.1 lb
    Weight:      0.1 lb
    Unit Price:  $9.99
Comparison of these sets:

Set #       # Lights  Colors  # Functions  Switch Positions    Description
1105-62     10       RGBY         One         Off/On               Chasing (linear sequence).

6203-28     20      RGBY          Two         Off/Flash/On     All  on, All unison flashing

RGBY = Red, Green, Blue, Yellow

Both sets have a plastic battery holder that takes three AA batteries. The wire(s) to the first light are long enough that the battery holder could be attached to the strap on the instrument. It would be relatively easy to put a polarized plug between the battery holder and the lights, if that would be desirable.

The chasing lights have a small plastic module between the battery holder and the lights.

My first thought was to hot glue the bulbs directly to the inside of the Dixie's body. I tested that idea by temporarily taping the lights in place. After reflecting on that idea, I realized that it would require keeping the lights in place even when they wouldn't be used.

Then the inspiration hit to find some wire that Christmas wreaths are constructed with. A springy type wire that could be bent in an unclosed circle and would fit inside the body of the Dixie.
The "springy wire" would have to fit against the ribs of the body.
If you look closely at the ribs where they meet the body (the inside circle shown above -- where the head rests), there is a lip that might hold a wire so it wouldn't come in contact with the head. Note the photo above is of the body without the head.

So, I went to a Christmas store to look for said springy wire. They did not sell what I was looking for. Then I headed to a local Ace hardware. Walking down the electrical aisle, I saw some copper ground wire. There was #4 and #6 wire. #4 looked like overkill. #6 was smaller and had good spring. I bought enough for two light sets.

The circumference of the "circle of ribs" in the Dixie's body is 16.75 inches. I bought 3 feet of #6 copper ground wire (the wire's sold by the foot). It was about $2.30.

I also bought a small glue gun and glue sticks. A large glue gun looked too bulky. In retrospect, it would have been.

I failed to ask the hardware man to try to measure the wire without straightening it out too much or crimping it. It's easier to make a smooth circle of the wire if it's already in a circle.

My not so smooth circle.
So, I had to "massage" the wire into as smooth a circle as possible. You don't want the ends to meet so it has spring to hold against the ribs of the Dixie's body.

For this light set, I had to mount 20 lights. There are 268/16 inches in 16.75 inches. Dividing 268 by 20 lights, it turned out that the lights would have to be 13.4/16 inch apart. I made marks starting so that the first and last lights would not be right at the opening in the wire.

The copper wire in place. The gap is at the 7 o'clock position.
I actually cut this wire a bit short -- the reason for a gap being there. The wire is springing against the ribs and won't come out under normal conditions (and maybe even hurricane conditions :-) Note that the banjolele head is installed and at tension on this body. If you look closely, you can see pencil marks where someone noted the bridge position on the top side of the head.

To keep the wire in place while I hot glued the lights to the wire, I decided to keep the wire in place inside the body. If you do this, make sure to do as you see in the following photo.

Aluminum foil to protect the head from hot glue.
When I made the second "light ring," I decided not to install the wire in the body. I was able to use a heavy object to hold the wire at the edge of a cabinet.

#1 of 20 lights hot glued!
I tried to keep all the lights glued at the same point on each light so the lights would all be the same distance from the head when everything's together. Because I'm right handed, I mounted the second light to the right of the first. This was my first time to hot glue lights, so I learned as I went along. I discovered that it's best to squeeze a gob of glue and then roll the light up against the glue. The glue gun instructions say to attach the objects to be glued within 15 seconds. With the wire acting as a heat sink, that time's more like 5 seconds, but you still have time to get placement right. Then, hold the light straight for 10-15 more seconds. It takes a bit longer than that for it to cure where it will stay in place tightly.

And, yes, I did have to reglue a couple of lights that didn't hold. I carefully removed as much of the glue from the light as I could without breaking it. I used my fingernails only.

While finishing this project, I've had to reglue at least two more lights. The reason is that the copper wire is too smooth. For this reason, I recommend roughing it up with sandpaper where each light is to be mounted. This way, the glue has something to stick to.

Protect your work area from glue. It will drip from the gun -- thus the extra foil.
Make sure to keep the wiring of the lights away from the tip of the glue gun, too.

All lights glued in place.
See the coils in the wiring between each light? That's not the way the lights came. My first experiment was to wrap the wires around the copper wire in an attempt to fit lights and wires. It didn't work. Too much wire to single layer it and mount all 20 lights. Only 17 would fit that way. Besides, that would create a toroid coil of a sort which might shorten battery life (?). Besides that, the wires would be pushed against the ribs and the insulation would eventually wear thin.

I still have not decided what to do about the wires. They don't really get in the way after I bent them all inward. Having the coils from my earlier experiment actually worked out well to keep the wires from going all over the place.

View when I first removed the light ring.
 When I removed the aluminum foil, I discovered that  a good bit of glue had dripped from the lights to the foil. I had to be careful not to pull the lights along with the foil. See the gobs of extra glue on the lights in the photo above. To remove it, I used wire clippers. But, I didn't clip the glue -- I just clamped onto the glue even with the top of each light. Then I used my fingers to twist the glue until is broke away. The idea was to use minimal pressure near the lights.

Notice that the glue does not affect the brightness of the lights.

Those yellow lights don't quite cut it. Here's the finished ring -- all lights working.

I started to put a cable tie between each light -- nah, overkill!
I did cable tie where the wire leads to the battery holder -- for stress relief.

Update: The wires sometimes snagged on buttons or belt buckles and such, so I took some old hosiery and hot glued it like this:
This keeps the wires from catching on things.
 In the next photo, most importantly, I added glue from each light around the outside of the ring back to the glue at the bottom of the light. It greatly improved each light's solid connection to the copper wire.

Notice the glue strings (lights to the left). They're easily removed.
See the cable tie hot glued at the 6 o'clock position?
This cable tie was left an inch or so long. It's my tool for removing the ring with little effort.

To put the ring into the Dixie's body, grasp the copper wire on each side of the gap, between lights. Place the non-gap side of the ring inside the body against some of the ribs. Compress the gap side until you can get the whole ring inside the body. Now press down on the copper wire to seat it at the bottom of the ribs.

To remove the ring, pull on the cable tie shown above until you can compress the gap to pull the ring free of the body.

Next problem is what to do with the battery case. I was thinking to attach it to the banjolele strap, but it would be better to have it inside the body with the lights. So, what about a piece of right angle aluminum with a hole for one of the neck bolts to hold it in place? Velcro the battery case to it, deep enough into the body so it doesn't get in the way.

Imagine an L bracket coming off the bottom of the top bolt in this photo.
It would be deep enough for the case to fit inside the body.

Another Trip To Ace

Here's what happened, mistakes and all.

I looked for angle brackets that might work with the bolt in the photo above. They either were too long or too short. I opted for flat brackets ("Mending braces") shown below. I figured I could bend one of them at a right angle at the proper point.

While I'm at it, I tried to complete this whole project without having to use any special tools. No tool room either. So, no vice, which would come in so handy.

6-32 bolts, wing nuts, #6 washers, mending brace
In retrospect, I should have gotten bolts that would countersink some in the plastic of the battery case. Four braces came in the package. Also in retrospect, I would have gotten nuts instead of wing nuts.


Not so special tools for bending the brace.
I ended up just using the adjustable wrench and pushed the free end of the bracket hard against the driveway. The bend is not sharp, but it will work.


The 90 degree bent brace.
Now I can see how it fits into the body using one of the neck bolts.


It will fit either this way or turned 180 degrees.
Ah, if I had only thought more carefully about this -- and put the light ring in to check for clearances between the then non-existent bracket and the wiring/lights. Turning the bracket upside down in the above photo looked good until I realized that it would come too close to the wire end of the lights, possibly putting breaking pressure on them. So, I'll have to try the way you see it. Now I have the clearances right!


The location of the bolt hole.
Here, I'm ready to drill the hole in the battery case. This is not the cover to the battery case, it's the part that holds the switch, batteries and wiring.


Correct clearances -- not by a long shot! The battery case is 3/4" deep and will hit the wires/lights below if it's mounted using this hole. Unfortunately, I didn't discover this until I had already drilled the hole :-(


The new bolt hole location.
Fortunately, the holes are in the slot for the middle battery. That's also unfortunate with the size of the bolt head.


Mistake is to the left of the +. But what about battery clearance with the bolt head now?
Yes, the case cover has to be depressed slightly to slide and lock into place at this bolt end of the battery case. Then I remember that batteries can be bent and still work.


I put slow, careful pressure on the battery to flatten this part out some.
The case would now close.


Yippee! Problems solved!


Update: To truly solve the problem, I found some flat head screws and carefully reamed out the screw hole in the plastic case so the screw head would fit flush. No more having to bend the batteries.



Not quite like I envisioned it, but looks like it will work.
Nope!


Remember when I wrote earlier about "in retrospect" and the wing nut?


Side view of the rear of the body, flat across from one side to the other.
The wing nut is outside the body enclosure and will surely snag on something. So, ease of removal is out with the wing nut. I'll put a regular nut and lock washer, and bend the bracket a little further into the body so there are no clearance issues.

I'll add the final results. I did try to play the Dixie with the wing nut as you see it in the photo. It posed no particular problem. It does keep the Dixie from sitting flat on its back, though. 

Here are the two finished light rings. I still have to do something with all the wires, especially those on the chasing light set.
The chasing light set - 10 lights.

Both light rings.
The mass of wires on the chasing lights is required so the lights can turn on/off individually.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How About Some Flashy Lights? Intro

Hokey? Maybe :-) But I wanted to see what LED's would look like behind the Dixie's head.

I'll tell you what I've discovered ASAP. For now, here's some photos:

These either all blink on/off together or stay on steady.

There are 20 lights (RGB & Yellow) -- the yellow ones do not show up as well as the others.

The pattern appearing on the head is the different textures of the head.
Here is this same light set with the lights blinking. The sound is not the lights -- they're silent. Someone else is typing away on a keyboard in the background.
video
Note that the video can make the flashing lights appear to turn off/on slightly out of perfect sync from one another. They don't. That's a video artifact from the iPhone camera operation. This is my wife's instrument and those are angels on the inside of the head. The lights are not as bright as they appear here. They look much better in "real life."

video

I do not know why this video got interpreted so that the video is sideways from what I intended, but it gets the idea across. This is 10 sequenced lights that chase one another. Again RGB and Yellow. The problem with this light set is that it cannot be turned steady on. That would be nice. Still, the lights chasing certainly makes for an attention getter (but it could get old quickly, too).

Coloring Clear Nylon Strings

Wouldn't colored nylon strings look good on a Dixie? This is my experience in an attempt to come up with pink  and purple strings for my wife's banjolele.

First I said, "Impossible! Nylon wouldn't dye." I was wrong. I found a company that custom makes colored strings -- http://www.guadalupecustomstrings.com/index.html. The prices were not outrageous. But, that convinced me that it was possible to color nylon strings.

Then I found this site -- you can use Koolaid as the dye! http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/drinkmix.shtml

So, here's what happened:

I looked at Koolaid at the store and decided to try several types to see if pink and purple was possible.
Pink and purple strings?
I decided to try these two. I also decided not to do the microwave instructions from the link above. A boiler on the stove top seemed to be more simple to monitor.

A double boiler would insure that the strings don't touch really hot metal?
Problem with doing the double boiler was the smaller pot water never boiled. So I went to that smaller boiler directly on an eye.

The pink lemonade - this photo color is darker that actual.
I let the strings boil for at least 30 minutes. If I do this again, I'll have a lot less water so the color is concentrated. But, make sure that the water doesn't get too low or you might have burnt strings.

The "secret" to dying nylon is to have an acidic mixture. The citric acid in Koolaid is supposed to be enough, but I added some vinegar, too -- just to make sure. I don't think that was necessary.

The "pink lemonade" string.




The "grape" string.
The photos do not reflect the true colors. The pink lemonade strings are a shade lighter than the grape string, but there is not that noticeable a difference. Notice, though, that the string did take on the color -- it just isn't as brilliant a color as I'd hoped.

Side by side, there is a difference, though slight.
I also bought orange and lime Koolaid -- haven't tried that yet.

And, I noticed that if you pay attention to the colors that make up these flavors, I had one (pink lemonade) with red dye in it, and one (grape) with red and blue dye. The difference is the amount of dye. From now on, I'll go with the deepest color dye and adjust the boiling time to make shade differences.

Is there a way to get the colors darker? Maybe a second treatment (or more)?

I'll try that some time in the future. I'll also be buying some strings from Guadalupe. I've seen on at least one ukulele site where they have been discussed. Next time I find that link, I'll make sure to save it for posting here.