Musical PVC Bench in the News!

September 25th, 2013 by SLSolarz

A worker in downtown St. Paul takes a break on my bench during the September, 2013 display.

A worker in downtown St. Paul takes a break on my bench during the September, 2013 display.

Hey thanks for checking out my blog!

MPR aired a nice story today on the bench but cut out all 3 of my mentions of Twin Cities Maker at the Hack Factory.  Kind of a bummer.

At least in this short TPT piece you can see the back of my Twin Cities Maker T-shirt!

 

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The final push to installation: volunteers welcome!

September 14th, 2013 by SLSolarz

Hello and thanks for reading my blog!

This is me testing out my bench at the half-way point.

This is me testing out my bench at the half-way point.

At the time of my last posting I had only 2 sections of my Musical PVC Bench completed.  Again, many thanks to the TC Makers volunteers who helped me get to that point!

Here are all 6 sections lined up as they will be when bolted together.

Here are all 6 sections lined up as they will be when bolted together.

Every section is now welded together.  You can see in the attached photo that I still have some sanding to do (mostly of excess PVC cement) and that it will need to be painted in order to hide markings and solvent stains as well as to protect it from the sun.

My mentor, Jantje Visscher, tests out the full bench.

My mentor, Jantje Visscher, tests out the full bench.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with final steps will be welcomed. Remaining steps are sanding, spray painting, finishing paddles, attaching paddles, welding/cutting metal anchors & bolting sections together by Sept 22.

Willing to help?  Email me at slsolarz@gmail.com.

Building a musical bench: a Twin Cities Maker effort

July 22nd, 2013 by SLSolarz

A couple of weeks ago I posted an invitation to join my effort to build a musical bench of PVC.  Thank you to TC Makers Becca, Bill D, Bob G, Colleen, Jon, McSteve, Roxanne, Scott and Shawnuk for their generous help over the past 2 weekends.

Section 1 (of 6, foreground) is done!  Sections 2-4 can be seen in the background as well as one paddle prototype.

Section 1 (of 6, foreground) is done! Sections 2-4 can be seen in the background as well as one paddle prototype.

Because of them I now have a paddle prototype, 4 sections cut, 2 sections in welding progress and one section complete!

My original plan was to have the bench finished by last night—not even close!  Several complications arose as we started to build:

1.  Two circles = 0 surface area

Fellow TC Maker, Steve M, pointed out to me that before I began solvent welding, it would strengthen the bond if I increased the surface area where each pipe intersects.

There is almost no surface area at the intersection of 2 circles.

There is almost no surface area at the intersection of 2 circles.

I tried using the band saw to shave off some of the pipe exterior and flatten the places where each pipe meets another but that was really messy and slow.

Bill D generously made a jig for me to use with a router which tremendously speeded the process back up.

This is me using the jig that Bill D made for shaving a flat surface into the edge of the PVC pipe using a router.

This is me using the jig that Bill D made for shaving a flat surface into the edge of the PVC pipe using a router.

2.  Four inch diameter pipes are not musical

My friend Shawnuk stopped by the Hack Factory to help me work out details before I geared up to start building.  As soon as he saw my 4” diameter pipe samples, he pointed out that they would have to be much taller than bench height in order to make a musical note.

We tested this out and he was right.  Luckily, I had purchased only one pipe.   Recognizing that a 2” diameter pipe would probably work, I had to re-draw my design in Sketchup.  In order to keep the bench reasonably large, I now need to solvent weld 270 pieces!

My new bench design (foreground) compared to the old design shrunk along the horizontal axis to a 2" pipe diameter. The old design would have been too small if made with 2" diameter PVC pipe.

My new bench design (foreground) compared to the old design shrunk along the horizontal axis to a 2″ pipe diameter. The old design would have been too small if made with 2″ diameter PVC pipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Welding pipes takes TLC

TC Maker, Colleen, can solvent weld better than anyone else I know.  She showed me that although bungee cords and rubber bands can be helpful to hold pipes together as they dry, as the welded section grows there is no substitute for just holding the pipes in place until they are dry enough to stand on their own.  This really slows the overall process when I am working alone.

As the size of the section grows bungee cords no longer work to keep pipes in place as they dry.  Here, Colleen holds several pieces together until they can maintain their position on their own.

As the size of the section grows, bungee cords no longer work to keep pipes in place as they dry. Here, Colleen holds several pieces together until they can maintain their position on their own.

Please stay tuned for future volunteer opportunities!

Help build a musical PVC bench, improve a St. Paul community and learn how to solvent weld

July 6th, 2013 by SLSolarz

Hey, thanks very much for checking out my blog!

Last week I promised to discuss the influence of Chuck Taylor shoes on my chair design.  However, I need to take a short break from my rocker to create a bench for a block-improvement effort in the Dayton’s Bluff Community.

This is the bench that I designed for the block improvement effort at Dayton’s Bluff. To construct it, I must solvent weld 210 pieces of PVC pipe. I need a few volunteers to help cut PVC pipe and solvent weld so that I can finish the bench by July 20, 2013.

This is the bench that I designed for the block improvement effort at Dayton’s Bluff. To construct it, I must solvent weld 210 pieces of PVC pipe. I need a few volunteers to help cut PVC pipe and solvent weld so that I can finish the bench by July 20, 2013.

In this post, I will describe the bench design and invite you to help build it!  Interested?  Shoot me an email at slsolarz@gmail.com!

All participants will learn how to solvent weld PVC.  The skill is used to build many exciting maker projects from potato launchers  to musical instruments like the ones played by the Blue Man Group.  In fact, the bench that we build can be used both for rest and to play a few tunes while waiting for the bus!

Two sets of foam-rubber paddles with wood handles will be attached to the bench using a small gauge steel cable.  The paddles create a musical sound when the player strikes the top end of the pipe (the foam rubber must cover the entire opening) forcing the air out the bottom very quickly.  The length of the pipe determines the pitch of the note.  Shorter pipes produce higher notes and longer pipes produce lower notes.

Two sets of foam-rubber paddles with wood handles will be attached to the bench using a small gauge steel cable. The paddles create a musical sound when the player strikes the top end of the pipe (the foam rubber must cover the entire opening) forcing the air out the bottom very quickly. The length of the pipe determines the pitch of the note. Shorter pipes produce higher notes and longer pipes produce lower notes.

 

To make construction easier, I designed the bench in 6 sections.  Each section is 39 inches long and 19 inches wide.  Five of the sections are identical (just oriented differently) and one section is unique. Once I have all of the sections on site, I will bolt 3 pipes from each section to 3 pipes in an adjacent section.

Pink, orange and green colors identify 3 of the 6 sections that comprise the PVC bench.  The bench will be made in sections for ease of transport and installation.  The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council will remove the bench in the winter to avoid damage from snow plows.

 Pink, orange and green colors identify 3 of the 6 sections that comprise the PVC bench. The bench will be made in sections for ease of transport and installation. The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council will remove the bench in the winter to avoid damage from snow plows.

 

The design uses PVC pipes of 5 different lengths with the longest pipes serving as the legs of the bench.  Standard bench height is 18 inches and each section of the bench has four 18 inch-long pipes.  Placement of these bench legs will be important for balance and stability.

 

This is a view from underneath the bench illustrating how many 18 inch-long PVC pipes there are in each section.  Only the longest (18 inch) PVC pipes touch the ground and, thus, it is only the 18 inch pipes that are displayed in this view.

This is a view from underneath the bench illustrating how many 18 inch-long PVC pipes there are in each section. Only the longest (18 inch) PVC pipes touch the ground and, thus, it is only the 18 inch pipes that are displayed in this view.

Please contact me at slsolarz@gmail.com to help build a bench for a better block in the Dayton’s Bluff community!

Origami chair redesign: a fiberglass exterior

June 16th, 2013 by SLSolarz

Hey, thanks for checking out my blog!  Last week I promised to write about creating the exterior of my chair.  Below, I describe my thought process around editing the seat shape, choosing a color and an exterior finish.  I also discuss the mistakes I made and how I corrected them.

Between layers of fiberglass and resin I sanded from 80-150-220 grit—a mistake.  Because resin will drip, I was limited to applying it only to surfaces that were level.  I then had to reposition the chair and again apply resin only to the level surfaces.  All of the sanding and limits to resin application meant that it took several weeks just to apply one layer of resin to the entire chair.

Between layers of fiberglass and resin I sanded from 80-150-220 grit—a mistake. Because resin will drip, I was limited to applying it only to surfaces that were level. I then had to reposition the chair and again apply resin only to the level surfaces. All of the sanding and limits to resin application meant that it took several weeks just to apply one layer of resin to the entire chair.

First, I needed to ensure that the ergonomic seat I had just carved from spray foam and covered in body filler would be comfortable for any adult.  Minne-faire was approaching, so I decided to display my unfinished chair in order to collect some data about the comfort level of the seat and whether or not I needed to edit the shape.  My carving mistake was quickly revealed:  every woman who tried the seat loved it and every man found the back half of the center ridge too high!  Oops!  Luckily, that was an easy fix.

Second, I considered the color.  I could not decide between bright orange and white so when I invited visitors to try out the seat, I also asked them to vote for a color.  Their choice was clear:  classic bright red!

Throughout the dried, but not yet sanded, layers of resin (the shiny areas in this photo) appeared dozens of small mars and dents—with every single layer.  This was one clue that resin alone was going to be insufficient coverage.

Throughout the dried, but not yet sanded, layers of resin (the shiny areas in this photo) appeared dozens of small mars and dents—with every single layer. This was one clue that resin alone was going to be insufficient coverage.

Third, for a sleek, contemporary look I decided to give the chair a fiberglass finish.  Most of the chair received one layer of fiberglass and 4-5 layers of resin.  The seat and back were coated with 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and 5 layers of resin.  Between each layer I sanded the resin from 80-150-220 grit which turned out to be a mistake.  Each non-final layer of resin should only be sanded to 80 grit so that the next layer will easily adhere.

The extra sanding did help by yielding a perfectly smooth surface before applying the next layer of resin.  However, despite the smooth application surface, each new layer of resin consistently produced substantial mars & dents.  I seemed unable to pour a smooth layer of resin which made me wonder if I was ever going to be happy with the finish.

The white circles in this photo surround dark spots on the seat and back.  Those are not shadows but, rather, the dark green body filler that I used when I ran out of pink body filler.  It is showing through 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and resin.  This was my second clue that fiberglass and resin were going to be insufficient coverage.

The white circles in this photo surround dark spots on the seat and back. Those are not shadows but, rather, the dark green body filler that I used when I ran out of pink body filler. It is showing through 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and resin. This was my second clue that fiberglass and resin were going to be insufficient coverage.

I thought that using fiberglass resin would negate the need to paint the chair because the resin can be tinted with universal pigments (the kind that your local paint store uses).  The hardware store where I bought the resin threw in the pigment for free and I combined them in a plastic bucket.  The resin color looked perfect in the bucket!  But once on the chair I realized that resin is super translucent because it contains no opaque base.  Therefore, the 2 different colors of body filler I used on the seat were very visible, even through 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and resin!

If I ever do this again, I will make sure that the color of my chair before laminating is consistent throughout. With an even-colored base, the tinted resin and fiberglass cloth would have been adequate coverage.  Still, to get a smooth surface I would have to spray the resin rather than pour or brush it on.

The difficulty in achieving a smooth surface combined with the translucency of the resin made me realize that I must paint the chair.  After pricing High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint spray guns ($180), primer spray guns ($50), paint ($100), and the rest of the equipment I would need to do the job myself, I decided to save some money and have my chair painted at an auto body shop ($250).  But this will be my final step and there is a lot more to do before I get there.

Next time, I will discuss the influence of Converse All Star sneakers on my design.

Origami chair redesign: a plywood foundation

May 22nd, 2013 by SLSolarz

Over the next several weeks I will post photos of my rocking-chair project as it progresses.  I welcome your feedback and hope that you will help me find a name for this chair.

My design is inspired by 2 sources: the Frank Lloyd Wright Origami Chair and the Converse All Star sneaker.  I’ve always wanted to re-design the Origami Chair as an updated, cool lounger.  The Converse reference came later, after hours of observation, when it struck me (and my friend Ann who stopped by the Hack Factory for a critique session), that my placement of masking tape around the rockers was reminiscent of a pair of red sneakers (more on this in a future post).

This probably looks like a simple chair to make but there are no right angles so it was tough!

This probably looks like a simple chair to make but there are no right angles so it was tough!

A few years ago I made a large, black lacquered version of FLW’s Origami Chair and I kept one for my own home.

My original, very large version of the origami chair.

My original, very large version of the origami chair.

Using the chair at my home, I started my new chair by tracing a pattern onto poster board.  Then, I made another pattern about 2/3 the size of the large one, tweaked the proportions and used that pattern to cut the plywood.

I am interested in learning tips for sanding complicated shapes like this.  It is a slow process for me.

I am interested in learning tips for sanding complicated shapes like this. It is a slow process for me.

The seat and back are carved from spray foam and covered in body filler then sanded, more body filler, then sanded...

The seat and back are carved from spray foam and covered in body filler then sanded, more body filler, then sanded…

Once I assembled the plywood pieces I carved an ergonomic seat and back out of spray foam.  To create a smooth surface, I covered the carved foam in body filler and then did a lot of sanding.

Next week I will discuss the main design problem with FLW’s Origami Chair and whether or not I solved it.

 

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