Rick's Steampunk Stereo Weather Science Station
Shop has been on a bit of a hiatus for a couple of months. First, parts have been taking forever. Second, we've been waiting on the mini-split to be installed.
SWMBO had cleaned in anticipation of the AC install and had vacuumed to the point that we were able to actually see the floor. Having been instructed to keep things clean and clear for the AC tech, sawdust production stopped.
Things took a bit longer to get installed, mostly on paperwork, but once the day came, it was a 1/2 day job and done. The weather has broken here in Fla and we're FINALLY under 90° F but the humidity is still high and having AC is all the difference in the world. I ordered a grizzly air cleaner to help keep the AC clean. It should be here soon. It's been a lifetime dream to have an air conditioned shop and it's finally here!
This is another steampunk inspired, kitchen-sink gadget. It does lots of things, much of which is geared to looking cool.
- Bluetooth radio w/LED display
- separate LED volume bar graph meter & green LED sw
- time/temp green LED module & green LED sw
- RH% LCD meter (always on)
- storm glass w/RGB LED & blue LED sw
- prism w/RGB LED & red LED sw
- display stand uplight RGB LED puck & white LED sw
- high voltage antenna terminals
This is a conglomeration of three or four other projects into one big overly ornate and complex gadget.
Here it is in all of its glory. You can see the various displays cycling. The top buttons control the associated device and each can be turned off and on separately. The puck, Storm Glass and Prism are all RGB LED lighted. The puck has a remote control. The Storm Glass and the Prism have independent (not synchronized) RGB lighting.
The time, internal and external temps appear in the first three frames. The bar-graph is also active.
Internal wiring details showing:
- Wiring in process. All units were pre-wired and tested prior to installation
- +5 vdc regulator mounted on LED support block.
- Bar-graph module on lexan.
- Bar-graph mounted in case
- Each device had power and ground leads soldered to common bussbars.
- Top view shows final layout
Rather than make a six way spider, I installed ground and +12vdc bussbars made out of 12ga solid wire. This greatly simplified final interconnects. The ends of the buss wire were flared out a little bit for retention in the pilot holes.
Heat sink was mounted at first random location on LED mounting block. A hole was drilled & tapped 6-32 to hold the heat sink and +5vdc regulator. Yellow wires are +5, red +12, and black is, of course, gnd.
The bar-graph has built in connector, and display mode select button. Although the module retains the selected mode, I thought it might be cute to bring the button out so the display mode can be changed without opening the case. As luck would have it, the fenestration needed a "nose", and what better than a (push) button nose?! LOL
Pressing the display mode "nose" cycles the bar-graph thru the following modes:
- Standard Bar-graph, full height bars, no peak hold
- Standard Bar-graph, full height bars, peak, hold & fall
- Instant/Peak, Single LED shows instant value, 2nd LED shows peak, hold & fall
- Center expanding, no peak hold
The display module didn't really have mounting tabs, just a semicircular M2 sized notch on the far ends. Additionally, any mounting hardware would contact the fragile traces, so that was out. It obviously was shaped to fit a specific application, not ours. I put a nice bead of clear RTV down the center of the module and attached it to a 1-1/2" x 3" piece of smoked Lexan.
The Lexan with the bar-graph module was, in turn, glued (more clear RTV) to the inside of the case, centered in the beveled slot. The beveling makes the bar-graph easier to see and is an intentional rhyme with old tube radio panels.
Old Philco radio beveled panel.
For most projects I only need small pieces of Lexan. Only problem is that if you want anything other than clear you generally have to buy a full sheet. Wayyyy overkill. I did manage to find one plastics company, ePlastics.com
that sold sample packs of a half dozen assorted 4" x 6" x 1/8" shades of grays or colors (I bought a pack of each colors and grays) and now I have enough assorted pieces to last for years.
You can see the antenna and bar-graph connections to the stereo. The bar-graph, terminals, speakers, and stereo balance, all agree on L & R.
moving forward. That last stray parts and pieces have shown up, including a very cute, and very tiny,
The woods were selected as
- Flame wood front and bottom
- Walnut ends with dual racing stripe inlay
- Sapele top
- back is a piece of clear pine resawn to 9/32"
The pine back works, but is the least proud part of the project. I didn't even bother to finish it as I'm really considering a remake on it. I over drilled the cord hole, have it a hair too tall, mis-aligned to mounting screws and forgot to drill the hole for the "outside" temp probe. (Sigh.) Nothing is ever perfect.
The front and top were complex layouts with multiple rectangular cutouts, various diameter holes and ornate joints. Here is the box receiving its 2nd coat of thinned poly.
Check out the fine ripples in the flame wood grain:
The screws are in place to keep the poly out of the holes. They were replaced with fresh ones as the originals were slopped with poly from the finishing process.
The two large diameter recesses are for the Storm Glass and prism and have hidden blocks with 3/8" holes for color changing LED'S. The Storm Glass needs at least 1/2" of support and the LED needs another 1/2". This means that top to bottom we need 1" of material. Since the top itself is only 1/4" (actually an RCH under) I needed to attach a 3/4" block under the mounting location to hold everything. The blocks are 1-7/8" by virtue of that being the size of the piece of scrap pine I used.
The prism shows what it's mounted on so I wanted the Sapele to show under it. Initially I considered trapping the prism vertically to allow it to rotate, but I just couldn't figure out a good, sturdy mount. So I decided to just RTV it down like the puck. However, just plopping down near the LED hole didn't seem like a good plan. Since I'd already made a Stand for another prism of the same size I already have the 1-5/8" forstner to make a centering recess. With this in mind I piloted the center of the recess and then glued the backing block in place, extending the pilot hole once the glue dried. I then used the big forstner to drill about 1/2 way thru the top, leaving the sapele showing. Then I thru drilled the 3/8" thru LED mounting hole. The recess helped hide the RTV squeeze out and insured the prism was centered over the LED. I squared one face to the top to insure it looked centered and not cockeyed. I think it came out well.
You may be wondering why I used a highly figured flame wood on the bottom. Well its a salvage from a botch on the first front I cut. The design was to be 11" overall so I cut my front and top to be 11-1/2" figuring this would be enough to hs some margin. Wellll I forgot to trim the front and routered the ends at 11-1/2" instead of 11". I'll just trim 1/2" off and reroute the end sez I. I trim 1/4" off (the original routing took 3/16" off already) and reroute the fancy crowns. Only problem is that some of the pattern was left and interfered with rerouting and looked like bleccch. Ahh, so the original front is now the bottom.
The crazy electrodes aren't just decorative. They are the antenna leads but they look cool. Due to the thickness of the lid I had to order longer 2-1/2" 10-32 screws than the 2" ones that came with them originally. Now I only needed 1/4", but the screw is 1/2" longer. I both took up some of the slack, and added another touch of steampunk detail, by padding out the mount with a stack of different color washers, black, white, and brass. The antenna has a 32" vertical rod and a 32" grounding chain that hangs down from the back like a thin brass tail. I had extra clamps and I used one on the end of the chain as a weight. Again, more steampunk details.
The Storm Glass has four decorative screws around it to imply something of power. The five screws on each end of the top are functional to allow internal access. With all the crap and wiring its a little messy on the inside.
You can see where the chamfer bit was used around the LED sound bar graph opening. This is a style I've seen on old radios. The inside of the opening will have a piece of smoked Lexan covering the back of the hole. The Lexan and the bar graph will be glued in place with clear silicon RTV. This solves trying to mount the LED bar-graph with essentially no mounting holes. It only has an M2 semicircle at each end. How cheap is that? They could only afford one hole, and at that, had to split it, half a hole at each end!
Anyway, the cutout for the bar graph is only 1/2" and I had to special order a tiny,
3/16" bearing, chamfer bit to route the edge of the opening. $28
just to edge that one hole.
Amana Tool MR0108 Miniature 45 Degree Chamfer with 3/16 D Ball Bearing x 9/16 D x 1/4 CH x 1/4 Inch SHK Carbide Tipped Router Bit-$28 + shipping!
The striped inlay was ordered from Grizzly. For some reason, one of our cats decided that it tasted good and chewed up about 6" of it. The strips were sold as 3/8" wide and I have a 3/8" straight router bit so I figured no biggie. Only thing is that actual strip width is 13/32". The Incra saves the day! One pass on both edges of both ends with the 12/32" (3/8) bit, move exactly one
tooth (1/32") and run 'em again-perfect fit!
Grizzly T23918 - Bloodwood/Maple Diamond Inlay Banding Strip
Got one more 3/8" hole to drill in the center of the front face for the nose. When doing the layout I was conscious of the fenestration. The radio is the wide big mouth (since it makes the noise), the meters are the eyes, giving insight (into the time, temp & humidity), and the last will be the push-button nose for changing the bar-graph mode.
I think of the Storm Glass like the cartoon image of an idea light bulb coming on over your head.
The electrodes: I had thought about mounting them on the sides as neck bolts, but the layout didn't work. So they're top mounted for practical attachment.
The color puck and prism will just be glued in place, along with the LED's, using clear silicon RTV. The puck has a small, black, IR sensor at one point on its circumference. Be sure to mount with the sensor facing front, otherwise the remote may not work. As long as the puck has power (even if commanded off) it will retain it's display settings. This is nice so you can set the mode you want and just on/off from there. This is also why the pucks are battery eaters. They're on standby as soon as the batteries are inserted and even when commanded off. Since the puck has its own dedicated +5vdc power supply, standby power consumption isn't an issue.
Moving on to final assembly:
Since I had pre-wired, tested, and clearance checked everything early on, assembly was easy. I had even gone so far as bagging all the parts and pieces to keep dust out and all parts needed in one kit. Much easier, especially when weeks elapse between stages.
Everything is screwed down or glued with RTV. The fitments are snug so it's going together just as planned.
I still have the back to do.
Need to drill & mount feet. Used 6-32 cap screws to mount on bottom. Looks good. Seems to float as feet are dark and not obvious.
Internal wiring will take a bit. Still have to figure out where to mount +5v regulator. Thinking of adding ground and +12vdc buss bars to make tying all those leads together easier. Actually the buss bar idea worked great.
You think this one is wild? My next weather station will have an LCD, IR remote, and an Arduino controller! (Cackling like Kamala while wringing hands …)
The final dimensions are still fluid as I'm waiting on parts. I can't do more than doodle until the real parts are on hand. It worked out to be 11"W x 5"H (plus 1/2" for the black rubber feet) by 4-3/4"D. The gadgets add height, depth and heft. The antenna rod is nominally 30" (~100 MHz FM band) high and I added a zigzag bend in it to give it a more sci-fi feel and to reduce the mechanical length without severely impacting the antenna's function. I have a COTS T antenna and an "hi power" antenna and my simple rod antenna pulls in the same stations with the same clarity as the others.
I started by looking for an inexpensive yet functional car radio. I found a nice one in my budget ($25) that had 4×50w outputs and USB, Bluetooth, etc features. Its also controllable by smartphone. This means I can use it like a stereo even when offline.
I settled on the Dual XDM17BT
single DIN (50mm x 180mm, 2-1/8" x 7-3/16") unit. This is a very shallow (under 1-3/4") box so it will fit in a small sized box.
Full featured car stereo, $25 at Walmart
I purchased a 10A @ 12VDC power brick and put a car cigarette lighter socket on it this gives safe, UL approved power with no liability or safety issues.
AC adapter is UL approved and puts out 12VDC @ 10A, ~$25 from Walmart
Here is the lighter cord set:
Lighter connector can carry 10A, $10 at Walmart
The speaker terminal block is readily available at Walmart.
About $10 at Walmart
Bluetooth radio & PS pre-wires.
Some of the parts have been trickling in and I've pre-wired & tested as much of the support electronics as possible. I'm using these really cool lighted push buttons to turn off and on each gadget individually. This adds more needless complexity and ornamentation that, to me, hallmarks steampunk. Lots of machine screws!
Found these cool lighted push buttons:
$5 ea. at SuperbrightLEDs
Found this car clock/temp/voltage display. It comes with dual (short & long) temp sensors and has all sorts of options but no docs. It's not that hard to figure out but a cheat sheet would be nice. I'll see if I can work one up.
$11.69 at Walmart
My cheat sheet.
Top center I'm going to mount a waterproof remote control RGB LED puck. It's designed to run off three AAA batteries, but I've modified it to run off a small 12v to 5v regulator. I'm going to add a USB charger port out the back so the regulator has a heat sink to carry the heat load (potentially ~15w).
Puck with remote is $10 from SuperbrightLEDs
The prism and Storm Glass are both under-lit with RGB oversize (3/8" dia) LED's. They have 365 ohm ½W series limiter resistors in the power lead to prevent overload.
8mm (3/8") color changing LED is under $1 ea. from Digi-Key
The 12v to 5v regulator IC has just three terminals; in, gnd, and out. The red leads are 12v while the yellow are the +5v power. Again, purchased thru Digi-Key.
Pre-wires for: RGB LED w/sw, time/temp w/sw, 5v RGB puck w/sw, remote, and v reg.
This will be the living room stereo with a nice set of Bose speakers as well as a night light. Each item is individually switched so the entire thing can be turned off or lit up like a carnival. Big color changing LEDs go under the prism and storm glass. There is a 3" dia remore control LED puck that will be used as a lighted base for a display stand. None of the lights are synchronized so the color mixes and patterns will be strange - the stranger the better!
RGB Puck and 12v-5v regulator with wiring to battery clips.
These LCD humidity modules are cheap and cool.
A pair for under $15 from Walmart
A Storm Glass is an old piece of technology. It responds to changing weather conditions by having crystals in the fluid go up and down. If the top is clear the weather will be. The more crystals at the top the worse the weather. It looks really cool under-lit by a giant RGB LED.
Storm Glass. From WalMart
A 6" prism was to be captive mounted upward to balance the Storm Glass visually, but was on back order. The shorter 2-1/2" prism was available, and you can see it here. It's a good piece of quality optical glass and comes in a nice protective case.
About $16 at Walmart
I've always loved watching the VU meters while listening to music. The particular radio used here doesn't have built-in VU metering functionality so I'm hoping to be able to add it via the pre-amp output jacks. I'll cobble it up on the bench first before finalizing the layout. Centered over the radio module might work … vertically on the side fit better.
Dual LED VU meter, $15 at Walmart
I got the device in and the hookup was easy, R & L inputs, power & ground. I wired a pair of short, shielded RCA cables to the supplied harness, added power and it worked on the first try. The meter has a variety of display modes, selected by a tiny
surface mount push button on the back that simply won't be easily accessible once the project is completed. So now I'm waiting on a plain momentary PB switch to wire in parallel to the rear panel. Inside every small problem, is a larger problem, struggling to escape. This one part delayed the project almost a month …
Again, I'm going to mix lots of colors and patterns in the wood and joinery. Finally settled on Sapele, Flame wood, and walnut.
I normally use a two terminal barrier strip for the antenna leads on the radio. These are plain-Jane but functional. For this monstrosity I'm going to use a couple of high voltage ceramic insulators just for nonsense as the actual antenna leads. Maybe put a Jacob's ladder shaped coat hanger on it. LOL
Should be impressive as antenna terminals!
I researched FM antennas and there are basically the classic (fugly) "T" dipole and a vertical monopole. The monopole has an 30" (for FM band) vertical rod with a vertical ground wire of the same length. Having a rod sticking up is cool, but the same sticking down causes no end of positioning issues. What is called for is a flexible rod ... a chain!
Conductive, will hang straight down, flexible. Brass pull chain!
The electrodes are #10 studs and the aluminum rod I found was .125" or just a hair under 8 ga wire dia so I had to locate an 8 ga to #10 wire terminal. nothing was really available in crimp type terminals, esp. as I wanted specifically un-insulated type. Regular crimp terminal aren't that thick or strong and I had concerns they might not be stiff enough to hold the rod upright. McMaster had these copper plated steel ones that were the right sizes but also looked (and was) very rigid.
Electrode and rod assembled, tip was rounded over for eye safety.
One issue is that these electrodes were designed to mount in thin (metal) panels and not 1/4" wood. I may have to use longer bolts or countersink the underside. We'll see. -The bolts were 2" for 1/16" metal panels. Using a thick 1/4" panel didn't leave more that a thread or two for the hardware, without the crimp terminals. So I looked around and no one really has 10-32×2-1/4", its 2" or 2-1/2" and I didn't need a box of 100 so I bought what I could get, 2-1/2". I had a lot of stud left so I ordered brass, clear, and black #10 washers. I stacked these on the top of the electrodes to give a more complex, steampunk, look.
Figuring out all the electrics is the major part. I've CAD'd the layout but still have a couple of unknowns and missing parts.
radio - $25
speaker terminal bloc - $10
12v/10a power supply - $30
car lighter plug/socket pair - $12
Antenna lead - $8
Crimp terminals - 2
chain, bead, 36" - $5
rod, 1/8 alum, 36"
electrodes - 2 - $10ea - $20
2-1/2 10-32 screws - 2 - $2
#10-8ga terminals - 3 - $6
#10 flat washer, brass - 10
#10 flat washer, nylon - 4
#10 flat washer, fiber - 4
Storm glass - $25
prism - $20
bar-graph - $15
no pb - $5
RCA patch cord - $5
Dumont jumper - $0.50
Lexan - $30 sample kit
- chamfer bit - $28
Jumbo RGB LED's - 2 - $2ea - $4
Resistors, 360ohm, 1/4w - 8, $0.05 ea, $0.40
humidity gage - $8
Time/temp gage - $15
RGB puck w/IR remote - $10
5v reg, TO-220 - $2
heat sink - $1
bypass caps - 2 @ $0.10 ea, $0.20
1×6x12 (1/2 bf) walnut ends - full 15/16" thk - $8
1×6x12 (1/4 bf) sapele top - resawn 9/32"
1×6x12 (1/2 bf) flame wood front & bottom - resawn 9/32"
1×6x12 (1/4 bf) clear pine back - resawn 9/32"
1×3x6 (1/8 bf) clear pine blocks
Lighted, sustained, spdt, push buttons - 5 at $5 - $25
Wire, 22ga, stranded, asst. colors, ~30'
Wire, 12ga, solid, bare, 12"
HS tubing, asst. colors, 1/8", 3/16", 1/4", 2' ea
Wire ties, 4", ~25
6-32×1/2 SS allen cap machine screws - 23, 14 top, 4 back, 1 interior, 4 feet.
6-32×3/4 SS allen cap machine screws - 4, spkr pnl
6-32 SS nylok nuts - 4, spirits pnl
glue, titebond III
poly, 3 coats, Minwax Varathane
brushes, foam - 3 (one per coat), $0.25 ea, $0.75
inlay strip, 2' - $10
feet - 4 at $0.75 - $3
RTV, clear, 1 tube - $7
Total - around $350 matls only!
router, 1/2", table - dovetails & inlay
Fast-Joint kit - dovetails
3/8" straight router bit - inlay
router, 1/4", hand - bar-graph bevel
scroll saw - cutouts - 5, radio, hygrometer, time/temp, bar-graph, speakers
band saw (cord slot) - could use scroll saw
square, small - plumb storm glass & align prism
layout rule & .5 mm pencil
glue brush, disposable
clamps, 2×6", 2×12"
5/16" box wrench (nylok nuts)
1/16" pilot drill for all hole locations
3/32" drill (buss bar mtg holes)
1/8" drill (#6 clearance drill)
3/16" drill (temp probe holes & puck feedthru)
Bits, forstner: 3/8" nose button, LED's, 7/16" electrodes, 5/8" lighted buttons, 1" Storm Glass, 1-5/8" prism
VSR Hand power drill
needle nose pliers
wire bending/cutting pliers - antenna rod forming
reverse tweezers - soldering 3rd hand
allen driver bit
Soldering iron & solder
lighter - HS tubing