Converting machine screws to thumbscrews

Thumbscrews are useful for things you want to take apart/adjust by hand, such as guitar pedals, cases, clamps, and microphone stands.

I often find myself wanting a thumbscrew for something that didn’t come with them, but I’m too impatient to order one or visit the hardware store, especially when I have a bunch of perfectly-good matching machine screws around the house. So why not make them?

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Adding the missing STOP button to the JamMan Solo XT

The JamMan Solo XT by Digitech is a basic, compact, affordable looper pedal. It does most everything I would need, but after using it a few months, I found the lack of a dedicated stop button really frustrating. Sure, you can stop a loop by quickly double-tapping, but this is actually not very easy to do in the heat of the moment, especially when you’re juggling all the other things you need to remember in this one-pedal setup (long-press is undo, tap once is overdub/start track/start record).

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Project: Stringmaster T8 Pickup Cover Reproduction

When I first met Lee Jeffriess, he was playing bass in a Hawaiian swing band that I perform with called the Alcatraz Islanders. What I didn’t know at the time is that he was a steel guitar legend and a former member of the fantastic Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys during some of their best years.

Go ahead and put this on while you’re reading this, why don’t you?

As I got into steel guitar playing myself and combed through the Steel Guitar Forum for tips on this unforgiving instrument, it soon became clear that not only was Lee a monster player, he was the authority on all things vintage steel. That included history, technique, gear, recordings, and other minutiae like tone capacitor values. Many informative threads ended with something to the effect of, “That’s what I think anyway, but Lee Jeffriess would know for sure.”

So when Mr. Jeffriess, knowing I’ve been getting into this 3D design thing, asked if I could make a pickup cover for Fender Stringmaster T8 pickups, I knew that there was absolutely no other way to get them. A quick googling pointed me to aforementioned Steel Guitar Forums, which confirmed this. Ironically, you can still get modern reproductions the pickups themselves… just not the covers!

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Update: Audio Technica Adjustible Bridge Mount

A banjo-playing colleague came across one of my AT bridge mounts and liked it, but found that the fit was quite loose on thin-string gauges, which are common on banjos.  We went back and forth a bit trying to adjust the clearance gap, but at such tight tolerances, results were mixed.

It then occurred to me to make a more universal adjustable model. I had some M3 threaded inserts left over from a previous project so I simply separated the halves of the string clamp sections and made it so they attach to each other and tighten down with a thumbscrew. Now any gauge of string should work, including bass strings if you’re feeling lucky!

So screwed
So screwed

Project: DPA-Style Gooseneck Mount for Audio Technica Instrument Microphones

replicator

Update! I no longer sell these, sorry 4/29/2020

First, a digression: one of the first things you notice while getting into 3D printing is that it is far from the magic “replicator” of Star Trek, capable of spitting out molecularly-correct cups-of-joe every time. It takes a lot of research, tweaking, and stalking nerdy fellows on YouTube to figure out how to get acceptable quality prints, and even then your stuff will look pretty rough. It’s the nature of the medium… this machine is essentially a hot-glue gun on motors.

As such, I roll my eyes a bit at people who use their 3D printer primarily for making infantile decorative figurines or props. Do you really want to use up all that material, time, electricity, and post-processing hours to produce more useless plastic crap around your house? If this is the trend, future civilizations will no doubt stare in complete bewilderment at landfills full of multi-colored Baby Groots long after we’re gone.

Aww, I know, that’s mean.

Good for you if that’s your bag, but I keep my designs functional and fully understand this stuff is not “production-ready”. They just can’t have the polish necessary to survive the scrutiny of an Amazon review. So 3D printing, to me, is good for small-run niche problem-solving where looks don’t matter.

Once in a while, though, I cook up some design and when I’ve put it all together, I’m surprised that it actually looks good and is functional beyond my expectations.

Lookin' good!
Lookin’ good!

In this case, it was yet another mounting project for Audio Technica instrument microphones, which I use a lot for acoustic guitar (specifically, the Pro 70 or 831b lavalier models). I found myself wanting something that would point the mic to a sound hole or neck position with a gooseneck arm, “DPA-style“. I’ve heard some bad things about the clamping mechanisms on the DPA mounting hardware, so I thought about other ways to attach to a guitar. Why not suction cups? It worked for Nerf!

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Project: Amp Tilt-back Stand

front

Update: These are on sale now at my store!

Being a working musician, city-slicker, and general disliker of ridiculously loud music, big heavy amps are not my thing. While it would be a great honor to someday be featured on the venerable Rigs of Dad, for now I’ll save my back. My chosen tube amp to date is the classic 10″ Fender Princeton Reverb. Light enough to carry with one arm, and enough power to get me to the Tone-Zone®.

However, one problem I have with smaller combo amps is that they can be difficult to hear in live situations. Amps placed on the floor simply aren’t pointing in the right direction to be heard by someone standing on stage. Sometimes I’ll hike my amp up on a chair, but that also takes up a lot of space and is unsightly. What I need is some tilt-back assembly, which would allow an amp to point upward at an angle.

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