BETA speakers

Built this speaker set based on the BR-1 kit from Parts Express.  The boxes use a 14 ply phenolic wood showcasing the grain on the side edges.  At 14″ tall and 20lbs a piece very happy with my first speaker building foray.  Built them to run on a vintage 1976 receiver to match larger speakers of that time.  Custom metal rods protect the driver cones.


Sky Dome at Nichewaug

How many people does it take to make a public interest design build project get realized…and how much time? Depends on the scale and goals, the Nipmuk project has been on the UMass Department of Architecture radar for over 5 years and has involved more than 100 individuals. This weekend we built a temporary structure on Nichewaug (Petersham) land newly reacquired by the Nipmuk community! The “sky dome” is constructed of Douglas Fir and the oculus points to the southern sky equinox. Wrapping the walls and roof next weekend. This site is off grid, no power or water.

Teaching Concrete Counters in VT

It was great to be back up at Yestermorrow Vermont last weekend teaching a group of 12 students the art of concrete counter-tops.  The best class we have taught in recent years!  My biggest worry all weekend was forgetting to bring socks.  The weather was as beautiful as the group of students!  The projects had several challenges we were able to overcome through collaborative thinking.

The experience is always powerful no matter how many times I do this.  By lunch on the first day we had poured our first set of counters, and by days end had a full kitchen formed up and the math done for a weigh-out of materials Sunday morning.  Students seemed to have a serious focus and motivation to learn and build.  This combination allowed for a brighter side throughout the weekend, humor was crazy, we even came up with a business plan to market concrete balls of all applications…baseball fruit etc send us your money for a start-up ha ha.


roadster bluetooth stereo build

Finished building the Roadster stereo model.  Having built four Aries versions (see other posts)  the goal here was to make a bluetooth stereo with a battery backup and internal power supply to both charge the batteries when plugged in and to run the system while charging.

Running a test on the battery capabilities.  This of course is a general average…volume and input source have a large affect on the rating.  Hoping to get the projected 6 hours realistic about 4.  This system incorporates a 50w variable power source connected to the main amplifier board rated at 50w.   The installed “battery charge bank” of three JETBeam JL260 18650 2600mAh 3.7V Protected Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Button Top Batteries is rated for 500 charge cycles.  The charging is regulated for over and low voltage charging due to the amp range on the power conversion and voltage input sliding scale.  Also changed the indicator lights to be less bright.  A 1/4″ plexi strip is introduced across the top.

Next up is a 20w solar panel to power this off grid!

Mini Blue Tooth Stereo builds

Project Cost:
$100 – $500

Project Description:
A countertop/shelf mini Bluetooth stereo with several case material options to suit any space.


Design Goals:
My goal was to design a mini amplifier speaker unit that incorporates bluetooth for modern convenience while embracing the classic styling from the 1970-80’s. Maximum sound quality and output in the smallest case were a must. This device connects to a laptop, smart-phone or the 1/8″ cable for direct input. using materials of local wood or concrete results in a more natural alternative to the black plastic ‘boom tubes” and soundbars

Driver Selection:
Dayton Audio DSA90-8 3″ Designer Series Aluminum Cone Full-Range Driver 8 Ohm
Dayton Audio DS90-8 3″ Designer Series Full-Range Driver 8 Ohm

Enclosure Design:
The concept was to fit the 3″ drivers into the smallest case possible while still keeping the optimum speaker box size with venting. The result was a 16″ long x 6.5″ deep x 5″ tall without legs. The wall panels to be 1/2″ thick.

Starting with Baltic Birch plywood for the beta version, a charred local white ash face plate was fabricated.

blk ash aries

Next was a solid cherry case for both box and face plate. Lastly a Concrete box with charred white ash wood face was created.
Front panel includes direct power source switch and light indicator as well as master volume knob. Rear panel has a 2.5mm power jack and 1/8″ input cable.

Tips & Tricks:
Wire your speakers polarity correct.

The case design and styling was of equal importance to the sound quality. I had to struggle to achieve this. The wool batting was changed to polyfill with better results. Still testing the concrete unit for sound quality but the cherry sounds great… chosen for its local availability and resonance.concrete aries front

Next up is a durable “Roadster” version at 18″ not 16″ to allow for an integrated high power rechargeable lithium- ion battery pack.


I traveled out to “upstate” NY this weekend for a Bamboo Building Workshop trusting my old Audi wagon to make the 135 mile trip.  Having attended and taught many building workshops over the past eight years, I was super excited and nervous at the same time.  Did I forget anything, or more importantly not bring extras in case, adding to my load.  Possibly my favorite cooking knife or/and an extra tent might come in handy?  Will we need a 4″ ladder, that can fit in the car.

Leaving at noon on Friday gave me plenty of time to make the informal arrival deadline 3-7pm, but with the day off why not show up earlier.  A drive across the Pike and onto the Taconic Parkway was beautiful.  The deer crossing signs are true!  Three sightings on the way.  Getting off the parkway way the first service station of the drive.  A good chance to pick up cigarettes and lighter (hate to say this was/is important).  The ride from the Mobil to the farm brought me over the Hudson River into the Woodstock region of NY…I knew I was close…20mi max…but on the back roads.  Many chances to get twisted around but I soon arrived at the farm.  Boy do I miss my old Audi sports sedan on these drives.  Alas, the gate described in the email appeared, and it was open!  A dirt road with hand painted arrows gave directions up a steep winding hill giving a vista of the 60 acre art-farm called Rosekill.  I arrived.  At this time I get the feeling in my gut I want this to last forever.

The anticipation of the build and meeting people is on my mind, but I must set up camp.  Events like this require a certain amount of private space to sleep, keep your belongings change clothes, but also need to be close to the group you’ve yet to meet.  I picked a spot after meeting Alejandro(alex) a co-instructor and Jill who owns the farm with her mate Hoke.  They were cleaning and prepping the kitchen for the crowd to show up.  I set up my camp and wandered a bit waiting for people as I was early.  Alex was expecting between 5-15 people which is often the situation.  In the end over 25 people circulated through the build weekend.  Some for a couple hours others just a night…

Quiet…deserted outbuildings wildflower fields all types of trees rocket stove shower wood fired sauna lake vintage caravans dogs running free wind sun composting toilet rock walls birds insects…

I forget, was I there for a workshop to build a bamboo structure?


The first person I met was a guy from Queens NY.  It was late afternoon and I was doing crosswords unwinding at my tent.  He was carrying many bags, one of which bottles were clinking, another I soon found out was full of NY bagels!  People soon rolled in and by sunset we had a good crowd but no real dinner but a good bonfire.  Time to eat.  The “cooks” which became a revolving bunch soon realized two old Colman camp-stoves on plywood counters were the “cooking” equipment, yet a commercial double-basin stainless sink and glass front fridge on each side.  Communal meals ensued as everyone brought supplies for preparing meals, or great snacks fruit to graze on.

As it was our first night the meal ended later then planned, but by about 10pm we had a sheet up and were ready for a powerpoint on Bamboo from Alex and Joana.  It did not disappoint, although I did break to tend the bonfire.  Keeping this going all weekend soon became a priority.  This meant firewood.

more later..



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