Tag Archives: project

The MicroMoorg is Complete

After months of work in my off hours and spare time, and learning a pile of new skills I never had before, I am very happy to say that the MicroMoorg project is finally done! The results are right here, and I’m very happy with how it came out. Check it out!

The new casing is made completely of red oak, a nice dense hardwood, with a thin but sturdy piano hinge to hold the pieces together. It folds through three positions from a very MS20ish almost-straight up and down, a more Moogy reclined angle, and all the way back to the original flat MicroKorg shape. This last bit was very important to me since I wanted to make sure I could still carry it around in the same gig bag that I had for years.

Thanks to this project, I know more about woodworking an soldering than I ever have before. Take if you will all that wood along the outside edges of the top and bottom pieces– it isn’t just decoration, it’s structural. Once you cut the little Korg in half, you end up without much in the middle that you can attach something like a hinge to.  I had the epiphany one day of building these rectangular U-shaped pieces and attaching them to the sides of the old plastic housing. This would give me a nice solid structure that I could run a full-size piano hinge along, but it came with its own complications. For instance, how are you supposed to even build something like that?

According to the Internet, real woodworking types use finger joints to make corners for thin pieces of wood like this. Having absolutely no idea how to do this, I watched a few videos on YouTube and went on my way. After a couple false starts, I eventually picked up the right set of woodworking tools (some new bits for the router and some bigger clamps, for instance) and finally made it work right. Once I had these pieces finished up, I was a lot more confident that I might be able to pull off the rest of the project after all. You’ll note that the side pieces are cut at a gently sloping angle, to match the MicroKorg’s original shape when flat. While this did make things a bit trickier to measure, cut, and fit, the aesthetic results were well worth it.

But another issue with the new design was the wiring. Back when I’d first decided to take this project on, I was planning to simply have an open space between the two halves for the wires to go through. With a big hunk of wood in the way on each side, this was obviously not going to work anymore. But since I was working in hardwood, I was able to drill some slots in each side without compromising the structure. But then with all this extra wood in the way and the wires now having to snake around a bit, I would need to extend all of the signal and ground wires. I toyed with the idea of trying to find new, matching wires, or putting longer wires into the existing headers, but eventually settled on cutting each of the signal wires in half and soldering in about five extra inches of 26 guage wire on each one. This would give me more than enough space to make it through the full rotation. In fact, I measured the extensions such that the soldered joints would always remain safely inside of the housing on either side, no matter what position it’s in. Finally, I wrapped each piece and all of the openings in a thin coating of teflon to make sure everything would slide along nicely without wearing through the wires or getting anything bunched up.

Finally, I had to figure out the base and kickstand. The base is a solid hunk of red oak, and it accounts for a large portion of the weight. As a matter of fact, the whole thing weighs 9.9 pounds now, roughly twice what the starting weight of the MicroKorg alone was. I did build the whole thing in such a way that I can completely detach and replace the base at a future date, should I be feeling frisky enough to make a new, lighter, better one. The side rails on the base are simply nailed on in place, too. I could’ve done the same finger joints that I’d used to make the upper hinged casings, but those are hard to do, and I didn’t have to here.

The kickstand was tricky. I wanted something that would let me pick from a couple discrete positions, but it still needed to fold completely flat. First I tried to find pictures of how Moog does it, but nobody wants to take a picture of their MiniMoog from the back while it’s open. I drafted out a couple ideas, but in the end went with a very simple single-hinged kickstand with a grooved slot in the bottom. The top bit of the hinge is reinforced by an unseen piece of oak on the other side of the plastic, which also helps stiffen the back panel a bit, since it’s only screwed in on one side now. I will eventually put in a bit more reinforcement to this piece, but for now this works, and works quite well. You may notice a bit of extra space in the back of the well that holds the kickstand when the whole thing is closed up. This little extra gap is very important, as physics cruelly dictates that a rectangle’s diagonal is longer than its sides. So, when it’s opening up, that space gives the little foot someplace to go before it comes back to normal.

A hand-rubbed finish went on all of it, with some cursing at the dusty surfaces in my shed. I added a bit of trim to set off the rough edges of cut plastic, some simple rubber feet for tabletop use, and there you have it: The MicroMoorg. Apart from one of the arpeggiator buttons being a touch wonky (but still functional), everything works great. All the controls, all the keys, the wheels and knobs, everything. I even managed to get all of the screws back in without any leftovers! I just set it up into its old home above my Korg x50 (I really am a Korg fanboy, that’s a nanoKontrol2 in the background and I have an old X3 out of the shot here), and this two tiered setup is fantastic to play. I set out on this whole project figuring I’d like it, but I am in love. Having the edit matrix and the real-time knobs right in front of you is wonderful. And, if you ask me, it just looks amazing up there!

Now that I have this project finally wrapped up, I should probably get back to making music, shouldn’t I? As happy as I am with how this project came out, I’m not sure you could pay me to do it again. Well, maybe if you payed me a lot. And you were really nice about asking. But really, back to new music: If you sign up for the newsletter, I’ve got some interesting things to tell you on that front in the near future, too.

Minor MicroMoorg Project Progress

You may recall that a little while ago, I cut my venerable microKORG synthesizer in half in an attempt to build my own MicroMoorg style synth. As soon as we had it sliced apart, it became clear that putting it back together the way I wanted it was going to be a bit trickier than originally anticipated. So I just popped the guts back into the shell and kept it safe in its bag for a while longer to think about it.

Then, the other night, I had a revelation as to its construction. Initially, I’d been thinking about how to attach some plates to the open space between the two halves of the shell to hold the hinge, and then just tossing some pieces on the side for decoration. That’s when it occurred to me: by making the side pieces actually part of the structural integrity of the project, I could give the important pieces a lot more to hold on to. This seemed like it was going to be outside of my woodworking skills, so I sought professional help.

With a basic plan in mind and parts of the plastic shell in hand, I headed out to a local unfinished furniture store last night for some advice. I was hoping that they’d say something like “Oh yeah, we can just toss that right together for you!” Unfortunately for me, my little out-of-left-field project didn’t quite fit with their more pedestrian furniture building. Different lumber sizes, doesn’t quite fit into their existing jigs and frames, etc. However, I did get some good advice for how I could put the thing together myself, so I’ve got something to go on. Looks like a new miter saw and some hardwood lumber stock are in my future. Not generally two things that you associate with synthesizers, but hey, we’ll see what comes out.