Plyo Boxes

In an attempt to regain a certain “spring to my step” which seems to have dissipated with my battling of injuries over the last few years, I decided to get back to some bounding and jumping drills. As part of this little experiment I thought it might be nice to get some plyometric boxes. These can be rather expensive though, and being somewhat of a cheap bastard when it comes to things like this, I decided to build some. I am by no means an expert with tools but I have managed to build a few things over the years and I figured with the assistance of a friend who is an expert with tools involving wood, this shouldn’t take too long nor cost too much.

I decided to build three boxes of 4″, 8″, and 16″ height and 2’x2′ square. By stacking them I could get 4″ increments from 4″ to 28″. To keep them from separating I figured I could latch them together. 3/4″ plywood is plenty strong, especially when glued and screwed together, so that would be the body material. It turns out this takes a little more than one 4’x8′ sheet of plywood but I had an old treadmill deck sitting in the basement which would make up the shortfall (3/4″ MDF). So it was off to the lumber yard.  The sheet was about $40 plus another $8 for a box of wood screws. From there we went to my buddy’s shop and spent a few hours cutting, drilling, and assembling the units.

Fortunately, I had some left over exterior grade poly, so the boxes got two coats. Now I needed something to prevent slippage. I ordered something called “gymnastic rubber” from an online place but it turned out to be very flimsy. Even at 1/4″ thickness it could easily be torn with just your fingers. I returned it and wound up with a couple of 2’x6′ yoga mats ($9 each, on sale due to discontinued colors-oh the horror). The “gymnastic rubber” weighed a mere 1.3 ounces per square foot. The yoga mats are over 1/4 pound per square foot and should hold up nicely. These were cut into 2’x2′ squares and glued onto the top and bottom surfaces of each box. I had some acoustical sealant laying around which is like caulk that never fully dries, it stays rubbery, so I used that.

Then the latches. It seems you can’t buy decent latches at the local home improvement store. The ones I finally grabbed are made by GateHouse and came with perhaps the cheapest screws I have ever seen. The phillips head slot will strip out with only modest torque.  I replaced them with some beefier units I had (3/4″ #8 as I recall).

OK, so the whole thing was less than $100 (not counting supplies on hand) and in total took the better part of a day. The set weighs over 80 pounds. Here’s a pic:

We’ll see if they work.

 

In Search of the Elusive Volume Control

Did you ever find yourself asking the question “How did I get here?”

The first pro-quality drum kit that I had was a Gretsch five piece with birch shells, Ludwig hardware, and Avedis Zildjian cymbals. It was purchased second hand in the mid 1970s. After being overly influenced by Bill Bruford, a set of six Remo Roto-toms was added a few years later. As much as I enjoyed the set there were two problems associated with it. First, in spite of some nice Shure and AKG mics, it was difficult to get a decent sound out of them in my home recording studio. Of course, being that the “studio” was a basement with scant acoustical treatment and a seven foot ceiling, the kit could hardly be blamed. The second and perhaps more confounding problem was the loudness level. In fair consideration to the rest of the family and neighbors, there were limits on when I could play. I simply could not afford any manner of “sound proof” room and unlike the ubiquitous guitars, basses, and keyboards that my friends played, there was no volume control on a drum kit. As I was finishing my degree in electrical engineering at the time, I was hopeful that there might be a technological solution down the road, something more advanced than the “beep-boop” Syndrums of the day.

Continue reading “In Search of the Elusive Volume Control”

Hand It To The Austrians

Really. I think this is perfect.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8272651/pastafarian-wins-right-wear-colander-in-licence

I don’t find a Pastafarian demanding to be able to wear a colander on his head for a license photo any more ridiculous than a Christian demanding to be able to wear a cross or a Jew wearing a star of David.

I do draw the line at practitioners of voodoo wearing dead chickens around their necks, though. Health concerns mostly.

DIY Bass Trap

So I’ve been busy lately.  Built a new recording/practice studio this summer/fall and I’m finally getting a few finishing touches done. One of those “touches” is acoustic treatment.

One of the more important aspects of studio acoustics is making sure you have a reasonable reverberation time. At the bass end of things, most untreated rooms are filled with the acoustic equivalent of mud. Trying to mix in such an environment is difficult at best. So, the front line treatment is something called a “bass trap”. You can find decent bass traps from a variety of companies such as GIK. The job of the bass trap is to absorb low frequency energy thereby reducing the sonic mud for a more clear and detailed response. Many bass traps are little more than a frame filled with a rigid fiberglass or rock wool material (denser than typical house insulation) and covered with a fire-rated acoustical cloth (such as loudspeaker grill cloth).

As part of the construction, I wound up with a box of 12 two-by-four foot sheets of two inch thick Owens-Corning 703 rigid fiberglass left over. So I purchased eight yards of Guilford of Maine fabric from GIK and sew-on Velcro from Industrial Webbing, made a pattern that is essentially a two-by-four foot box with a lid, six inches high. The Velcro covers the three edges. I dropped in three sheets of the 703, closed the lid, and bingo, four nice bass traps. The photo below shows one of the units open, ready to receive the 703. Note that there is an extra 3″ of fabric beyond the Velcro to help keep any stray fibers contained.

Opened bass trap

Bass traps are most effective in the corners of the room. These units are stiff enough that they stand up by themselves so I simply propped them in each corner. Here is one sitting behind my drum kit:

Bass trap in corner

These were relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering that the 703 was surplus from the construction. I can barely sew on a button, so a faithful family member did the sewing duties for which I am extremely grateful.

FYI, a thread about the studio was started on the VDrums forum this past summer. You can find it here.

This Might Actually Be Useful For Someone

In the midst of the general flotsam and jetsam that is the Refuge, I thought I would post something that some readers might actually find useful.
DIY Guitar Rack, Completed
It’s an inexpensive DIY multi-guitar/bass rack. The one I made holds six guitars/basses (seven in a pinch) and total parts cost was around $20. It’s made out of PVC and pipe insulation. It’s about 36 inches wide, 30 inches high and around 10 deep. It can be scaled easily for fewer or greater instruments. All you need to put it together is a hack saw (and a rat tail file can be useful too, which I’ll explain).
Continue reading “This Might Actually Be Useful For Someone”

Christians waxing dishonest about new hate-crimes law, as expected

With President Obama having just signed a bill toughening standards relating to certain “hate crimes” into law, the religious right is using the opportunity to boost its dishonesty and hysteria quotients beyond their already stratospheric levels. OneNewsNow.com (who else) is claiming that Christian broadcasters are now at risk for being punished for speaking out against homosexuality and other things:

Appended to the hate crimes amendment was a statement ensuring that a religious leader or any other person cannot be prosecuted on the bases if his or her speech, beliefs, or association.

But Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discounts that statement, pointing out that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith. He believes the law approved by Congress is potentially dangerous as it relates to comments made about homosexuality or another religion.

This is obviously bullshit. As Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center points out:

To illustrate their fears, religious conservatives cite cases in Europe and Canada where a few pastors have been prosecuted in recent years for “hate speech” after they spoke out against homosexuality. These prosecutions are indeed insidious attacks on free speech and free exercise of religion – but they all occurred in countries without a First Amendment.

In my view, it can’t happen here. Americans have, after all, lived under hate-crimes laws, federal and state, for decades – and some of the state laws already include sexual orientation. In all that time, religious leaders of various stripes have preached controversial beliefs about race, religion and national origin without ever being charged with a hate crime based on the content of their speech.

Thanks to the First Amendment, we enjoy the strongest protection for free expression in the world. In a society where even white supremacists, anti-Semites and anti-gay hatemongers like the Rev. Fred Phelps are free to speak, local pastors need not worry about being prosecuted for preaching the Gospel as they understand it.

But just to be certain that the legislation will not be misused, sponsors of the hate-crimes bill have added language to ensure that “nothing in the Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech.” Further, “nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating of espousing such beliefs.”

Game, set, match.

Another thing religious conservatives–arrant hypocrites renowned, of course, for trying to use the courts to limit various nonviolent “attacks” by “militant atheists” who “persecute” them–might consider is that if they weren’t assholes insistent on maintaining a never-ending and comprehensive pogrom against homosexuals in the first place, they wouldn’t have to worry about this issue (also according to specialists at Libery Law, for reliable legal defense). But for present purposes that’s not the point, which is that they are free to continue being assholes thanks to constitutional protection, and as nauseating as the output this guarantees is, this is exactly how things should be.

National 24 Hour Championships

The North Coast 24 Hour Run has just completed. The men’s winner is Phil McCarthy with over 151 miles, and Jill Perry takes the women’s with 136 miles.

But I have to give a shout to two members of my running club, John Geesler who came in second with over 138 miles, and Dave Putney, eighth in the men’s race with over 124.  I train a lot with Dave and he possesses an enviable, dry humor. This makes him an excellent partner for weekend long runs. Unfortunately, he had a bad fall while on a 42 mile trail run with John a couple weeks ago and banged up his ribcage. I’m sure it had a negative impact on his race. Meanwhile, John churned out yet another enviable performance which is all the more impressive when you consider that he’s 50.

Between the two of them, they have ultra stories galore (John, like Dave, also has that certain dry wit). I’ve been trying to get them to write a book on some of their exploits. No doubt that even non-runners would find it entertaining.  Dave’s description of his 24 hours at the Across the Years event two years ago is priceless (over 131 miles on that one).