Tom Bugs teaches DIY synth building in four hours

Had a great time yesterday at a synth building workshop in East London hosted by Tom Bugs. We built little one board synths with ten knobs, three oscillators, overdrive, line out, onboard speakers, touch points. Flickr set here. What I learned:
1. Soldering now holds no fear. Get a £5 soldering iron with a pointy tip, a cleaning pad, some skinny solder and some wire snippers. It's fine.
2. Well-designed kits are really easy to make. Tom's kit was perfect - well laid out, nice clear circuit board, great instructions (he should be selling the kits 'soon'). The quickest maker did it in about 3 hours, and that was slow and steady... (The Thingamakit is another really well done kit which is available now)
3. Musical accompaniment is important. We were lucky enough to have the Sun Ra Arkestra soundchecking next door.
4. Good lighting is also important. Soldering by candlelight = atmospheric, but not easy.
5. Tom Bugs has only been building electronics for five years - starting out with circuit bending. He's now at the point where he has an assitant to do the boring bits. He's a bit down on veroboard. He uses Eagle to design circuit boards, which are mass-produced in China. His next thing: modules for Frac-rac modular synths.

Thanks Tom! It was great fun and a real pleasure to meet you finally.

I totally agree on the need for decent lighting when soldering (sorry again..)
Oh, and the Arkestra show was *really* amazing!

Hehe - mass produced?! Well, small scale mass production perhaps!

Tom / BugBrand
Just adding my recommendation of the Thingamakit. You don't have to know anything about electronics to build one. The instructions are full of pictures and diagrams and every part is clearly labeled. Very easy to build.
Ooh, looks like a fun little device! Wouldn't mind getting my hands on a kit if you start selling them :)
Damn- shame I missed that. It was just down the road, too (I'm in SE London). It's a while since I made a kit synth, though I have just installed one of Mike Hawkin's Hawk-800 mods in my Korg EX-800.

I'm just buying up bits for one of Wilba's lovely SID-chip synths, the MB 6582
another well-documented synth project, with really nice boards available from SmashTV in the US.

Thanks for the blog, incidentally. Keep up the good work...

hey the chick in the middle looks hot, can you get her number for me?
Good to meet you there too Tom - both of you. And I'll pass anonymous' comments on to Sarah.

If I can add to Tom's advice. Make sure you get one of those heavily weighted soldering iron holders. Irons lying on the bench = burning things. And the holders get hot too.

I have the scars to prove the above.
This is cool, but I think that DIY is not about pre made kits.

My reason for getting into DIY audio is that you could find any schematic and build it on breadboard. You don't need to wait for someone to make a PCB, so you can build anything you like. You also get to understand how the circuit works at the same time.

Kits are a good place to start, and have a big satisfaction to time spent ratio. You won't learn anything other than how to solder though.
It's been nice to hear about a beginner getting into this stuff as it's giving me the courage to try things out myself. I've never really been interested in circuit-bending (even though it seemed like an obvious entry-point) and full-on electronics projects used to strike me as being a bit scary.

The girl in that looks so much like a friend of mine that I was going to call her to find out if it was! If her name's Sarah though, then I guess it's not her. I'll have to assume that they were separated at birth.
what makes you think she's called sarah? sarah the synth babe yay ;-D
Didn't someone mention the name 'Sarah' somewhere above? I assume that's in reference to her. If not, then for the sake of conversation (if not, imagination) then we may as well call her Sarah. ;)
Bug Brand has some interesting products. I just wish they'd stay in stock longer!
sarah oh sarah
you look a bit like bjork
surrounded tho you are by
some iron wielding dorks
will you be my oscillator?
filter, adsr and noise maker?
sarah oh sarah
i'm having improper thoughts
DIY or die
I'm such a huge fan of Tom - was lucky enough to participate in his workshop in berlin a little while ago, and I still whip out the little device we made quite often to make some truly earth-shattering sounds. It's so wonderful that Tom shares his knowledge and creativity so freely with the world - his generosity of spirit is really something to admire. Hope to be part of another workshop before too long!
Gee, i wish they had these kind of workshops over here in Australia. I remember as a Kid i used to build little kits, which got as fancy as making up-down siren noises, and was considered the 'nerd' for doing so.

Kit building is cool!


Musicians Gear Australia
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