Electric Uke Project – part 1

A few months ago I decided to build an electric ukulele. I have built a couple passable electric guitars in the past and thought that it would be fun to have another go, this time with something much smaller.

While ukuleles traditionally have hollow bodies, glued-on necks,  and nylon or gut strings, the one I am building will have  a solid body, bolt-on neck,  and steel strings, essentially built like a tiny electric guitar. I will use modified electric guitar parts for some of the hardware.

I decided take a look around the internet to see what was around for inspiration. I found several places with electric ukuleles similar to what I had in mind to build.  Elderly Instruments carries the Blue Star Konablaster with a bolt on neck, flashy iridescent finish, and a bridge made from an empty rifle shell.  Specimen Guitars make an absolutely beautiful custom solid body electric uke with a classic uke shape. The ukuleles from Jupiter Creek Music in Australia were the closest to what I wanted to build.

Next time – The Design!

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Zymurgy!

Another thing I have been doing lately is trying my hand at brewing beer.  A few months ago a friend and fellow beer lover brought up the idea of making our own beer. That sounded like a fantastic idea to me.  He had found a set of instructions for a basic ale on the how-to site instructables.  We bought the ingredients at The Lil’ Ole Winemaker Shoppe here in Nashville.  I had bought a MR. BEER kit quite a few years back,  so we used the brew keg fermenter from that for our fermenting container.

The basic process is pretty simple. You steep the ingredients in boiling water for awhile, let it cool, pour it into a fermenting container, add yeast, and let it sit in a cool dark place for a week or so. We used the tub in his guest bathroom, just in case of any accidents.

The next step is to prime the beer.  Priming is adding a little additional sugar to the beer so that the remaining yeast will feed on it an produce CO2 that will carbonate the beer. We did this by adding a small amount of regular cane sugar to each bottle before we added the beer.

The final step is bottling the beer. We used pry-off bottles that we had asked our friends to save. We rinsed them and then ran them through the dishwasher on an antibacterial cycle.  Keeping things clean and contaminant free is important throughout the entire process.  We filled the bottles from the spout on the MR.BEER keg and capped them using a hand bottlecapper.

After that, we waited another week or so, and the beer was finished. We ended up with about 25 bottle from a 2.5 gallon batch. Much to our surprise, it turned out delicious! We have started another batch, this time using amber malt extract instead of the light malt extract called for in the recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Update – May 24, 2009 – We debuted our second batch at a party Friday night! It was a hit. It turned out similar to Newcastle. It was also mentioned that it had hints of cotton candy flavor, but in a good way. 

Delicious Homemade Beer

Delicious Homemade Beer

I made a super blinky!

I like to dabble in many hobbies.  One I have been trying to do more with so as to feel so guilty about having spent so much money on tools and equipment is electronics.

In the past I have wired up electric guitars, built an electric kazoo, repaired a car stereo, fixed laptop power jacks,  and fried a brain machine kit with my handy-dandy soldering iron.  This week I completed a cool LED blinky kit called a Lux Spectralis.

This kit is available from the designer’s website and also from Make: Magazine’s Maker Shed.  It has over 30 different, brightness, color, flash, and wash settings. The two I think are most useful are a five minute night light which runs at full brightness for a few minutes, then fades for a few minutes, before shutting off, and an hour night light that is on full for 30 minutes that fades for 30 minutes, before shutting off.

It was a fun and easy kit to build.  It took me about 30 minutes to solder together. The documentation was very clear, and at about $10, the price was right.

My Collections – Notgeld

I like stuff, collections of objects that stimulate the mind and comfort the soul.  Over the years I have collected all kind of things, including toy cars, sports cards, stamps, coins, military insignia, and bottle caps. I have been given collections of things like little bottles, old luggage stickers, antique keys, and glass paper weights.  I have bought collections of things like Mardi Gras doubloons and beer bottle labels.  Having interesting things around makes me happy!

One of the things I like to collect are notgeld.  Notgeld  are usually small, colorful banknotes, but sometimes coins,  and other things, that were issued primarily in Germany and Austria by local banks, municipalities, etc., to deal with a lack of small change.

I love notgeld because they have beautiful artwork, there are many, many different ones to collect, and they can be had quite cheaply. I buy most of mine from ebay.

Here is a gallery of notgeld from Flickr that I discovered through MeFi.

Best New Hobby of 2008 – Ukulele

A little over a month ago I took some of my yearly bonus and bought a Lanikai LU-21 ukulele.  I had became a secret Tiny Tim fan after buying the CD he did with Brave Combo, Girl,  from the cut-out bin as a joke.  It is mostly covers and it turned out to be funny and fantastic.  His “psychedelic” album from 1968,  God Bless Tiny Tim is great, too. I had toyed with the idea of getting one for years, even going so far at to buy a build your own uke kit that was never completed.  The thing that finally convinced me to take the plunge was seeing a video on YouTube of Julia Nunes playing “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys on the uke.

Ukes are cheap, relatively easy to play, and quite portable.  I am having a lot of fun with mine.  The band I play with has even worked up a few songs featuring the ukulele. (We are called Boy/Girl Party. No, you’ve never heard of us.  We have only ever played in the guitarist’s dinning room with my son, her roommate, and her cat as an audience. It is a blast!)

Thinking about getting one?  Here is a guide from Ukulele Hunt. (By the way, it is abbreviated in their logo as “Uke Hunt”  Say that out loud, but make sure there are no children in the room. *snicker!*)

Gotten one and don’t know what to do next? Ukulele Hunt offers a downloadable beginner’s guide in exchange for signing up for their How to Play Ukulele mailing list.

Want to learn some songs? Ukulele Hunt, Ukulelesongs.com and Ukulele Boogaloo! offer nice selections, much of which is in easy-to-read PDF format.