RECOMMENDED READING: Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Peterson

Although this is framed as a manifesto by a former bike-racer-turned-designer/bike-populist, railing against what “racer mentality” has done to the otherwise universal American pastime of “riding bikes,” I’m *manically* recommending it to anyone who likes to pedal. It’s a great, great book: a quick, fun read composed of short, tightly focused practical articles. the book is *packed* with excellent advice on fitness, maintenance, bike fitting, and riding techniques. E.g., this was the first I’d heard about using your hips to assist cornering, and it’s *changed my life.* I disagree with him about helmets (since I started riding daily in a city full of drivers-from-elsewhere, I’m *deeply* committed to my relationship with my brain bucket), but his points about how to own a slightly larger slice of the road by giving the *impression* that you’re an incompetent rider has been revelatory.
I’ve never been tainted by the bike-racing headspace (I’m *waaaaaay* to lazy to be into competitive *anything*), but I read this book in a single day, and have been going back to it frequently since, applying Peterson’s tips to my bike, diet, and exercise regimen. Get a copy, read it, and keep it close at hand.

Recommended Reading: Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking by Nicolas Collins

If you’ve enjoyed the “Electro-Skiffle Band” projects in SNIP, BURN, SOLDER, SHRED–or dug my Droid Voicebox talk at Maker Faire Detroit 2012–then you really, really need to check out Nic Collins’s Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking. I give it multiple shout-outs in the book, but I’m being emphatic here: It’s impossible to overstate how inspiring and fun his book and projects are. I’m hugely indebted to Nic for having written it, and then revised it (the newest edition includes a DVD of audio and video examples, making it even awesomer than what my library had to offer when I first stumbled across this gem).

Also worth checking out is Nicolas Collins’s web site, which includes video tutorials and some great new circuits.

Print-n-Snip Boomerang Template

boomerangs-sm.pngThis PDF includes templates for three boomerangs: a scaled down version of the quad-blade fast-catch boomerang in Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, plus two new tri-bladers). Each fits on a single sheet of standard 8.5-by-11 paper (and, as a bonus, each of these designs scales pretty well; if you have access to a printer that can handle bigger paper, then you can scale these up and make bigger boomerangs).

To use the Print-n-Snip Boomerang Template:

  1. Print out the boomerang that catches your eye (slightly heavier paper—like resume stock—makes for a slightly easier to trace template)
  2. Trace the design onto light-weight cardboard (such as poster board, a cereal box, a Krispy Kreme donut box, etc.)
  3. Carefully cut it out
  4. Crimp the quarter-line on each blade (as described in step 7 of Project 18 in the book)
  5. Tune and throw!

If you come up with a boomerang design you like and want to add it to the template, drop me a line! (My email is in the “About the Author” box.)

“Circuit Snippets” by T. Escobedo

If you have a little soldering experience–including building any of the electonics projects in Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred–then you’re ready for T. Escobedo’s “Circuit Snippets.” This document includes several dozen sound circuits (largely guitar effects, although they work with any sort of instrument you can plug into an amp), which range from the relatively common (e.g., distortion pedals, phasers, envelope followers, pre-amps, auto-wahs) to uncategorizable strangenesses. In terms of quality, many of these sound as good as mass-market stompboxes at one-tenth the price.
(The Synthstick entry has a bit more about Escobedo’s FolkUrban website, but the short story is that it was really cool, had lots of great designs for different instruments, and disappeared with GeoCities in October 2009. I saved PDFs of “Circuit Snippets” and the Synthstick, but many other Escobedo fans have done a much better job of archiving than I did, scooping up all of the audio samples, too. The “Circuit Snippets” mirror at Guitar HQ UK is one such faithful recreation of the old GeoCities page.)
“Circuit Snippets” by T. Escobedo

“The Synthstick” by T. Escobedo

For years, Tim Escobedo maintained the excellent FolkUrban website, which featured a wide array of instruments–both traditional and electronic–cunningly made from cheap, common supplies (lots of PVC and tupperware, grocery sacks, etc.) His projects were a huge influence, and served as invaluable templates to my tinkering; the synthstick was the first synth I ever built, and its VCO (the core noise-making circuit) found its way into many of my projects, as well as those built by my students (sharp eyes will see something very similar nestled at the heart of the Cigar Box Synth, Project 17).
GeoCities evaporated in October 2009, and Escobedo’s entire site with it. I archived the Synthstick and his collection of Circuit Snippets as PDFs, but these don’t include any of the audio examples. Happily, I’ve discovered that many other tinkerers loved Escobedo’s site as much as I did, and archived various chunks; Googling for “T. Escobedo” is a good place to start.
“The Synthstick” by T. Escobedo

“Making PVC Didgeridoos” by Steven L. Sachs

For years, Steven L. Sachs maintained a great page on didgeridoos. It largely concerned making PVC didges like the Electro-Didgeridoo (Project 11 in the book), but also offered info on modifying lower-cost store-bought bamboo and teak didges into instruments that, sonically, could often pass for their genuine (and expensive) eucalyptus cousins. When GeoCities folded in October 2009, it took Steven’s site with it. I’ve archived a PDF of his page, and humbly offer it here:
“Making PVC Didgeridoos” by Steven L. Sachs