Help? My Steampunk Theremin project.

Posted: 9/22/2012 6:14:20 AM
Midnight Habit

From: Katy, Texas.

Joined: 9/22/2012

I'm building a Steampunk Theremin for a music video. I've gathered vintage electronic parts and vacuum tubes which will be lit by LED's on a 12v DC system, which will show through a glass front. I've got a switch panel and amp / volt guages which will be on the housing facing the player. The housing will be modeled after the large early Theremins, and I intend to put a working Theremin in the top of the housing, above all the feux gizmos, as close as 6".

1: Can I get this to work, with all the metal mass so close below it, simply by tuning?

2: Will a sheet of lead or aluminum foil between the Theremin and feux parts help or just make things worse?

Anyone have some wisdom on this?

Posted: 9/22/2012 7:58:15 AM

From: Small town Missouri on Rt 66

Joined: 2/27/2011


If you keep the showbiz hardware as far as possible from the antennas it might function after a fashion.

Any shielding will just make it worse.

Posted: 9/22/2012 2:08:53 PM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

Hello Midnight Habit,

Sounds like something I did when I was 12.

Steampunk Theremin

You must be connected with the guys in Austin, if not get connected.

"Don't Mess With Texas!"

About your two questions, there will be varying opinions but most successful theremin designers would probably agree.

1: Can I get this to work, with all the metal mass so close below it, simply by tuning?

Yes, as long as anything that might ground out pitch field remains below the theremin circuitry. Think of an imaginary line where above the theremin circuits is the pitch field and below is what I call the "ground field". Others may use a different term.

2: Will a sheet of lead or aluminum foil between the Theremin and feux parts help or just make things worse?

I like this idea if the conducting separation is rigid and mounted firm. Connect a good earth ground to this, 4" below the theremin components is more than adequate. A slight re-tune is most likely.

What you need is time on your side, a project like this does not like deadlines.

Which theremin design are you going to stick on top so everyone in this theremin group can say "Oh not that theremin!". 0-'


Edit: Being this is for a video why not construct the theremin art exactly how you want and have someone from this group furnish the sound affect? Avoid true theremin construction all together as it is more difficult than you imagine for reasons unseen! Just have your LED's respond to sound changes.

Sound to Light


Posted: 9/22/2012 3:03:18 PM
Midnight Habit

From: Katy, Texas.

Joined: 9/22/2012

Nope. Don't know the Austin crew. I'm closer to Houston. Since, my time is limited (It's a Halloween music video, which I'd like to get done well before Halloween), I'll forgo a kit. I'm trying to decide whether to go with a B3 Deluxe or Etherwave Standard. The B3 would be pretty easy to relocate the knobs onto my switch panel, and is less expensive. I also know the exact dementions of the housing and could be building mine to have it ready for dropping the B3 into, when it arrived. But, having noticed the Moog Halloween video contest, and our project being a Halloween video, I might just go with the Etherwave. I had also considered simply making the prop a prop, and recording the sound separately, but I wouldn’t need help from the group. I'm a musician, too.

Here's what I can do with a keyboard and an electric kazoo. lol.


Posted: 9/22/2012 3:33:11 PM

From: Flying with the Phoenix

Joined: 3/9/2011

Matt; When you mention "relocate the knobs onto my switch panel" I do hope you are not thinking of moving the "pots" of the B-3. The circuitry/parts in the unit are soldered directly on to the pots, you would be moving the heart of the Theremin out of the enclosure. You could install (non metal) extensions on to the pot shafts to extend the knobs out farther, and not have any problems. The B-3 Deluxe is constructed completely different from the Etherwave Standard, in fact there is only two (2) wires in the B-3, one attaches the pitch antenna to the area of the pots, and the other attaches the volume antenna to the same area. There is No printed circuit board(s) at all. I wish you well with your project.

In His Service ---- Dana

Posted: 9/23/2012 3:13:12 PM
Midnight Habit

From: Katy, Texas.

Joined: 9/22/2012

Not sure, but it sounds like it. Couldn't find any pics or vids of B3 innards. I was thinking they might have been simple rheostats, and not the working heart, and that longer wires would be enough to move them without affecting things. That seems not to be the case. As, my time is limited on this project, I think I'll just fake the steampunk and post two videos, the original video project with separate Theremin audio and fake playing on the steampnunk, and one where I'm actually playing the real Theremin. I'll probably go with the Etherwave, wearing my vampire getup, and enter it in the Moog contest. I was playing around with a Minitaur (the Grand Prize) yesterday. Pretty cool gizmo. lol.

Posted: 9/23/2012 3:50:08 PM
Chainsaw Willie!

From: Just a short walk away from Nike Missile Site S-13/14

Joined: 1/28/2011

I have been inside the Burns.  SewerPipe is correct.  It is built in the old-old-school  point-to-point construction.  There is no circuit card.  There are few wires.  It probably would not be friendly to being moved out of the original cabinet.

The Deluxe cabinet is long, but the cross section is small.  It could be easily hidden inside an "artwork".  Instead of building a prop theremin and then putting the working guts of a real theremin inside, I would begin with a real theremin and build an "artwork" around it.

Whichever model you use, I think it would be much more likely to work if you modified the decoration to fit a theremin than if you modified a theremin to fit inside a decoration.

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