DIY Projects

Box Amplifier Kit – Part 2

My Box Amp has a home.

Back on December 7th, I wrote about assembling the Box Amplifier Kit I purchased from the Maker SHED store. After assembling the kit, the amplifier tested perfectly. However, I was still looking for a box to install the kit in. I found what I was looking for at Michael’s arts and crafts store. Michael’s sells a variety of  sturdy fiberboard boxes. The box I chose was the right size and only cost a couple of dollars. Although I ended up with a box that I had to buy rather than reusing something I picked out of the recycle bin, I’m really happy with the results.

Completed Box Amplifier Kit - with "AMP" stamp from shipping box.

Freakin’ awesome.

So, how does it all sound? Freakin’ awesome. I’ve been plugging in my iPod, my electric guitar, my portable radio. Basically any portable device with an audio output. This Box Amplifier has great bass and you can actually crank it up pretty good. All powered by a 9-volt alkaline battery.

Below you can see the process I went through cutting holes to mount the speaker and control panel.  My intention was to use as few tools as possible. I used a box cutter to cut the holes. It looks a little rough but in the end everything cleaned up nicely. Also, since I liked the “AMP” stamp from the box the kit shipped in (which was too small for the final installation), I decided to cut it away and attach it to the lid of amp box using spray adhesive. It definitely has that grungy, DIY, handmade look I was going for.

Thank You Maker SHED.

A big “Thank You” to the Maker Shed store for putting together another great kit. As a huge fan of Make Magazine, the folks at the Maker SHED store have helped renew my interest in DIY projects. You rock!

DIY Projects

Box Amplifier Kit – Part 1

DIY Box Amplifier Kit

The do-it-yourself (DIY) project I chose to work on this past weekend was waiting for me in a box for over two months. I ordered the Box Amplifier Kit from the Maker SHED store around the end of September. Things, as usual, got busy and I just never made the time to assemble it.

Box Amp Kit

What originally interested me in this kit was a need for a small, portable, amplified speaker that I could use with my iPod, electric guitar or anything else that had an audio/headphone output. This kit does that. The description from Maker SHED store follows:

A great-sounding, loud amplifier kit designed to easily fit in almost any box (cardboard or otherwise). It goes from solder station to stage in under 60µF!! Solder it up, cut out holes for the speaker and controls, and plug in your instrument!


* 1/4″ Jack connects to most instruments (electric guitars, keyboards, theremins, etc)

* Highly portable – take the amp to your jam session, band practice, or the front porch!

* Simple installation in a box allows for easy enclosure customization

* Solders up quickly and easily

* Great for beginner “makers” and accomplished musicians alike

* Works with any center positive 9-volt power supply

* Can be modified to operate on a 9-volt battery

via Box Amplifier Kit.

What’s even better about this kit is, for a relatively low price ($29.95) and a little effort with a soldering iron, I get the satisfaction of having made it myself.

My assembly process.

Sunday afternoon, I finally unpacked all the parts, spread them out and got to work. Using the easy-to-follow How to Instructions I was able to assemble my amplifier in less than an hour. See some pictures of my assembly process below. In addition to the standard DC power jack that is for connecting to a “wall-wart” AC adapter, I added a 9-volt battery snap for portable use. After hooking up the power, I plugged in my electric guitar. Strumming a few notes, I smiled when I heard how much sound came out of that little speaker. Next, I connected the headphone output of my iPod to the amplifier. Again, even though monophonic, it sounded pleasantly full.

In search of …the perfect box.

The reason it’s called a box amplifier is simply because you have to find your own box to mount the amplifier and speaker in. Like the product description says, the assembled kit is intended to fit in almost any kind of box. But it needs to be housed in some kind of box for both protection and to provide the best sound. The kit came in the small cardboard box you see in my pictures with the big red “AMP” stamped on it. I think the stamp looks cool and I considered using that box, but after trying various placements of the speaker and circuit board inside, I decided against mounting it there. It was just a bit too small.

In Part 2 of this project, I’ll describe finding the perfect home for my new box amplifier. My goal is to use “found” materials for the enclosure. Nothing bought or manufactured. Something that can be reclaimed and re-purposed. In short, I’m in search of …the perfect box.

DIY Hobbies Projects

Giving the PalmPre a MintyBoost

I’ve spent about a week and half with my new Palm Pre and I’m still enjoying using this phone. This happens to be the week the new iPhone 3GS is being released with all the fanfare you’d expect from an Apple product release. I’m sure it’s a good phone with some nice new features and a lot of people will buy it. That’s cool. I’m not going to compare the two phones – you can find plenty of that information in countless other places. The Palm Pre is what works for me.

Palm Pre (keyboard open)
Palm Pre (keyboard open)

What I’m excited about today is the the MintyBoost Kit I ordered from Adafruit Industries. What’s a MintyBoost Kit? It’s a make-it-yourself portable battery pack and USB charger in a mint tin. Once assembled, the MintyBoost will charge my Pre and many other rechargeable USB devices. I learned about this little $20 device on the PreThinking Blog.

MintyBoost battery pack & USB recharger
MintyBoost battery pack & USB recharger

My MintyBoost Kit shipped today and I should be receiving it via USPS Priority Mail within the next couple of days. I’ll get it all put together and post an update on how it’s working for me.

DIY Hobbies Projects Soap-making

Fight Club and Soapmaking.

Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter Soap

I was given a great gift for Christmas – new soapmaking ingredients I haven’t used before. Among them were Cocoa Butter, Clary Sage Oil, Avocado Oil and Ginger Root Powder. Since then, I’ve been wanting to experiment with some new soap mixtures but haven’t had much time until this last week.

As a hobby, making soap is a great stress reliever. It’s a mixture of science, art and aromatherapy all in one. I had a pretty busy week and by Thursday night, I was ready to “degauss” (as my coworker and friend, Noah, likes to say!).

So I popped open a beer (gasp!), laid out all my supplies and spent an hour on the following creations. Click on the picture of the soap  for notes on the ingredients.

Shea and cocoa butter homemade soap
Shea and cocoa butter homemade soap

I finally watched “Fight Club“.

Fight Club DVD cover art (C) 1999
Fight Club DVD cover art (C) 1999

Have you seen the 1999 movie “Fight Club”? I love watching movies but apparently I missed that one. A couple of months ago, after mentioning I make soap, people were asking if I had seen the movie. Everyone was surprised that I hadn’t. I think the actual response was “WHAT?  You make soap and you haven’t seen Fight Club?? That movie’s awesome! Tyler Durden makes soap!”

Another friend at work, Michelle, loaned me her “Fight Club” DVD before Christmas. After a bit of prodding, I finally watched it yesterday. All in all, I liked it and thought it was a decent movie. The movie has a large following of fans that can probably add more to this analysis. For me, I now understand the Tyler Durden/soapmaking references. I’d say more but I’d be breaking the first rule of Fight Club.

Want a bar of soap?

Want a bar of soap? Leave a comment and be entered into my drawing!

I don’t sell my soap. It make it, give some away and use most myself. I’m not making soap in large enough quantities to supply a lot of people but I’m going to try something new with this batch.

Comment on this post by 7:00pm (Arizona time), Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 on why you want a bar of soap. The names of those who comment by this time will go into in a hat. After that, I will draw one name from that hat and award one of the bars of soap pictured above to the person whose name I draw.  Comment all you like, but I’ll only put your name once in the hat. (Gotta be fair, right?) Make sure you put an email address I can get back to you with. I’ll only use that so I can ship you your free bar of soap – I’ll even pay for the postage!

I’ll post the winner’s name by Friday, January 30th. Good luck!

DIY Hobbies Projects Soap-making

This Weekend’s Batch of Soap

Shown here are my most recent handmade soaps:

Latest Soap Creations
Latest Soap Creations
DIY Hobbies Projects Soap-making

Amateur Soap-making7ujh

About six months ago, I started experimenting with making my own bars of soap. Some pictures from my earlier experiments are on my soap-making project page. I’ve had both good and mediocre results. I’ve tried a few different soap “recipes”. Currently, most of the soaps I’ve been crafting begin with a glycerine, shea butter or olive oil base. Of those I’ve made, I think I like the olive oil-based soaps best. They lather pretty good in the shower, moisturize the skin and are longer lasting.

Some of the essential oils I’ve used so far are: lemongrass, sandlewood, lavender, vanilla, orange and coconut. I like the first three best, either alone or combined. Things start getting a little more interesting when you start including additives like chamomile and lemongrass leaves along with soap coloring.

A couple of days ago, I started putting together the vanilla-scented soaps you see here:


I used scraps from previous batches to get the marbled red chunks. I didn’t document that process, but here’s what I did with the large slab of cured soap tonight:




P4304548 P4304559

We’ll see how this soap works in practice. I think my next soap will be an olive oil-based lemongrass and sandelwood combination. Maybe I’ll throw some oatmeal in there too. Why not? Throw caution to the wind – that’s what I say!