New power supply being manufactured for a Jupiter 8!

I have been bashing on about the massive amount of heat that the Jupiter 8 power supply produces and its inefficiency for some time in chats, social media posts, forums and to doods at the Pub. Girls at the bar seem to find such discussion particularly fascinating. (Tip: don’t ask a random girl if she would like to come back to your place to feel how hot your big Jupiter gets… it doesn’t end well).

There’s a reason why the Jupiter 8 heatsink has developed affectionate nicknames over the years such as “The Steak Grille” and “The Scottish Hand Warmer”. It gets REALLY hot. Hot enough to cook a steak on (and leave nice stripes), and hot enough to keep hovering fingers warm on a cold Scottish night during that warehouse band practice. And it dissipates a considerable amount of heat through the top metal panel and transfers around inside. It’s the reason why the big ribbon cables turn a burnt yellow nearby. It’s no doubt one of the reasons why so many of the components on Jupiter 8 boards fail due to the temperature stress, in particular the drying out of electrolytic caps. And I’m convinced that it’s one of the main reasons why the sliders can fail, as the metal slider cases get transferred the heat from the top panel they sit on, and the lubrication inside the cases dries out.

A Jupiter 8 needs a lot of power to run all of the layers of boards inside, and there are a lot of boards. More than most. Roland needed to make a serious power supply for their flagship synth to deliver the current needed. And they delivered … but it wasn’t without the massive heat trade off. They *just* managed to pull it off without requiring a built-in fan (Thank God) but only just. But let’s face it, it was designed and built in 1981 with early 80s technology.

Surely there could be something more efficient made now? With less heat? I’ve asked this over and over, almost secretly wishing that someone would hear my pleas and take up the challenge. Well one day I read a post on Facebook and it was almost as though my dreams had been answered. Someone was working on exactly this …. A new, more efficient, cooler power supply custom designed just for the Jupiter 8! . It was too good to be true! I was right in the final stages of re-installing my re-capped original Power supply and the timing was remarkable. If this was truely the case then I would need to just cool my heels and explore this first. The company was Synthtronics … and the man behind it Andre. Here’s a link:

https://synthronics.de/roland-jupiter-8-new-psu/

Andre goes into significant detail about how his new design works and has improved in comparison to the original PSU:

  • NO OVERHEAT! In this PSU, power components are 25°C warmer than the ambient temperature (e.g. for ambient +20°C it is +45°C)
  • Efficiency around 75% = less heat inside the synthesizer
  • No audible NOISE
  • Precise Over Voltage and Over Current Module that monitors possible fault conditions
  • Less weight
  • New and quality electronic parts
  • Top metal protection cover and bottom insulator plate that covers all components under high voltage
  • Compact construction
  • Easy to install

The instructions for installation are on his site and detailed pictures of what is required so you can get a good feel if you are up for the task before diving in.

When I contacted Andre he was still in the testing phase and finalizing the design. He is the nicest guy and his communication has been quite amazing. We chatted on Messenger and I plonked my money down and excitedly became of the first in line once ready. He even asked me for advice as to what an owner might want to see in a design which was exciting. There was a wait of several weeks where he kept me informed of his final design and testing phase where he ran my PSU inside a Jupiter 8 before he sent it. I was very excited when it arrived!

It was beautifully packaged and protected.

The main PCB comes fully produced and populated but you also get lots of extra parts necessary for the installation such as stand-off pegs and screws

The main PCB..notice also the metal cover to shield the rest of the Jupiter boards from any possible interference and noise:

The underside of the new PSU PCB… it’s beautifully designed.

Some very smart design of the PCB with heat slots cut into it to help keep things cool …

Only one regulator is required to be mounted on the heatsink. This is two less than the original setup which makes installation much easier. You can imagine this is going to run much cooler. Original PSU:

And with the new Synthronics PSU there will be just one on the left and a single lowly ground wire connected to the heatsink on the right!…

Should certainly make the heatsink run cooler! One of the online discussions about this new PSU revolved around concerns that it is a “Switch Mode” design and that could potentially introduce some kind of noise into the audio output of Cora. Whilst most new analog synths already have this design of PSU, they have been designed with this factor in mind and noise carefully regulated, whilst the Jupiter 8 (and other early analog in general) was not made with a “switch mode” supply being present or taken into consideration. Andre however designed HIS PSU with the Jupiter 8 specifically in mind and has very carefully ensured that there will be no interference or sonic difference whatsoever with his new PSU. The only real way to test this however would be for someone independent to do a “before and after” demo and I guess that I’m best positioned to do exactly that (I want to do it for my own peace of mind as well!). So I am going to record some wav files and upload them here in a future post for all to analyze. It should be very interesting and useful for other Jupiter owners.

However to do this comparison, means I really need to install my old original recapped Roland power supply back into Cora first. And get her up and running for the first time properly. Even if it’s just for one day of creamy analog joy, to record some noodling to wav before taking it all back out again and performing the Synthronics PSU transplant. I sooo wanted to just jump right in with this new arrival and avoid mounting the 3 original ole-school regulators to the heat-sink, with the messy heatsink grease procedure and all the wiring but I knew I would have to do things properly and in the right order to get a proper perspective. And I know others would like to see and hear the difference between old and new too so it would have to be done in certain order. So this beautiful shiny new board would need to be put aside temporarily. Ouch. I would need to be patient and keep calm…

I still don’t have a better/straight heatsink yet for Cora. Or the new side aluminum cheeks drilled, polished or anodized either. Maybe that would have to wait. Let’s just get her up and running with the old beaten up heatsink and cheekless. I’m kinda scared that there could be other issues that might raise their ugly head yet. Were those dead chips that I found the only ones that needed replacing….or are there more lurking? Will this old PSU blow up when I plug it in after the full recapping job I gave it? Will the new ribbon cables I manufactured all work perfectly as expected without any faulty sockets? Did I plug everything back in correctly? did any of the original wiring looms go faulty? I’d been warned by Jeff that the new powder coat of the panel could cause grounding problems between the boards (the metal of the panel is used in the Roland design as a ground loop between the electronics)… did I scratch enough of the paint away in the right spots for this? Time for Cora’s long-awaited Power-Up! She’s much closer now with all the panel sliders and patch buttons installed:

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Full electro capacitor replacement list for a Jupiter 8

A fellow Jupiter 8 owner Peter Nielsen who discovered this site emailed me and and has been working thorough his Jupiter replacing every single electrolytic capacitor. A big job indeed. His advice has been invaluable during my restoration process. We were both working on the power supply capacitor replacements around the same time so we continued to exchange information.

We both had noticed that there were some irregularities between the schematics in the Jupiter 8 service notes, and what we actually found inside our Jupiters. I stopped at the power supply but Peter continued onto the precious voice boards and changed every single cap! And during his journey took detailed notes of the values and differences from the official notes and have created an invaluable resource sheet for all owners to compliment the Service notes…

Manufacturers often change values at the last minute to tweak things further (often for stability or noise) or just put in a different cap to the schematic because it’s value is deemed not to be very critical and they simply had more of a particular value cap in stock to use. So this list is not so much evidence of caps that are “wrong” but more a document of what is different to the official service notes. Well done Peter for your contribution to the community!

Here is the full pdf list to download :

https://www.dropbox.com/s/z11qgsa2s48hb3f/jp8_ecap%20%5BPeter%20Nielsen%5D.pdf?dl=0

Finally… the Jupiter 8 panel returns from silkscreen!

It’s been a long Hard road full of many bumps and turns. But the day has finally arrived… Cora’s panel was finished!

There really was only one chance at getting this right. After Coras powdercoat failures there really wasn’t going to be yet another opportunity to powder coat her again if the silkscreen went wrong. That’s a lot of pressure on her…and a real narrowing of the chances of a positive outcome. If a mistake is made, you cannot remove paint from a powder coated surface once it’s on, without leaving paint streaks, or the chemical used in an attempt to remove the paint turning the shiny powder coat surface milky…ie damaging its finish. Either the silk screen was going to go on once and correctly, or I would need to sadly dump Coras original panel and have a whole new one laser cut. That is what it basically came down to, because she just couldn’t handle another metal sanding. I don’t think that I could handle it either! And this decal application stage is where the MOST could go wrong. So much of it was out of my hands. I had done my homework and due diligence with the decal file, there was nothing more that I could do. It was now down to Peter, the man with over 40 years experience in silk screen printing to metal that I put my trust into.

Peter specialises in printing to antique and custom car panels. Decal paint onto metal… exactly what the job requires. He’s usually busy adding racing logos to the sides of unusually shaped vertical car doors. flares to bonnets etc. This is why he had larger screen printing frames that could clear taller pieces underneath than most other workshops. And Coras panel sits nearly 10cm high with the rear panel kink pushing it up considerably.

This height is the reason why 2 other workshops were unable to do the job. It seems the modern screen printers use a method and equipment that only has 9cm clearance. To add extra degree of difficulty, the panel to be printed on is not flat when sitting, but on a downward angle adding further technicalities. Printing to the smaller rear section was even more cumbersome.

Peter wanted to wait until after the hot spell of weather as he was worried about paint runs, and paint drying speed being affected and looked for several days in a row that he was guaranteed not to be sidetracked. It was an agonizing wait I must say of several months. I had to do several gentle nudges along the way. Coras panel also couldn’t be baked in any way between prints to expedite the drying process, which is a common technique, … all of that special filler in the rust and weld holes would likely create problems for the powder coat if cooked again. So would be a slow process for the workshop also.

Peter said “your job was one of the toughest I’ve had to tackle in 40 years.”

I felt quite lucky that he was prepared to take it on. There’s a reason why there is only a couple of people in the world that will agree to doing the job of a silkscreen print to a Jupiter 8 panel. Because others take a look at what’s required and if they have enough experience, they see the headaches and potential problems. But I hear you say “Plently of people print to other synth panels, so what’s the big deal with a Jupiter 8?”. Well the main problem is the massive WIDTH of a Jupiter 8 panel that’s required to be printed on (with the clumsy angle problems coming in a close second). Over 100 cm wide.

A single clear specialized film must be made of the illustrator art file. The film is as long as the whole panel. In the silkscreen world, this film is considered REALLY LONG (read: a massive headache). Here’s a pic of the film in the workshop that was used:

This film is then used to create a “negative” on a large metal frame that can swing up and down on a bar using rear hinges like a sandwich waffle maker , with silkscreen stretched across the frame and the image produced using a specialized chemical “emulsion” process and the film:

So where the clear film has “black” writing .. the silkscreen above has instead just clean see-thru silk where paint can soak through when applied, creating that image on whatever is below. On the silkscreen in the picture above it looks light grey, because that’s the color he used on Cora and the paint soaked through. The clear “dead area” parts of the original film are turned into areas on the silkscreen that are solid/blocked (green on the pic above) so paint can’t travel through. To save time and money, all of the graphics needed for the job are printed to the one silk screen. The front including a different layer for each color, the rear and the side mod panel were all committed to one screen.

This printing system has been used for decades. Theres no doubt it was the identical one that was used on Cora originally in the Roland Japan factory. It’s also used for mass T-Shirt production. Here’s a summary:

But here’s the problem… with a Jupiter 8, the frame needs to be so wide that when they put the film across the silk and tighten it to make it stable, the long strip of film stretches. Out of shape. Causing the image to be wider than original. Then of course it’s stretched across a flexible, stretchy silkscreen. For something small to print, the distortion can be as little as around 0.5 mm or so. But across over a span of more than a metre, you get up to 5 mm shift! Ouch! And it’s impossible to predict how much this variation will ultimately be, and then try to compensate on the illustrator file because … every time it’s different. Different film thickness/ brand and printer (that can introduce their own size variation), different tension, different silk, different length, it’s just a massive floating target. A minefield.

Jeff from Custom Synths warned me about this. He had wrestled with the pain of this reality before, from his own experience when doing a Jupiter 8 so I was well prepped when I got the exact same lecture from Peter. It will never be 100% perfect. Especially for the first panel being printed. When Roland was decal printing Jupiter 8s back in 1981 they no doubt threw out the first dozen or so panels as they printed and tested and tweaked their films (at $200 a film… nothing for a big corporation but a lot for me!) and therefore new silkscreen every time, getting the alignment eventually right for the bulk run. Going into this, if all goes amazingly well, Coras panel (the first and only one being printed) might get 90% there. Prepare yourself in your head, I was told by both. There will be something you will have to live with. Either a smudge, a color problem, an alignment problem, a decal mis-print such as a missing letter, a panel scratch or damage if it slips off or the screen is dropped, anything was possible. As far as alignment, the decals most likely to suffer we’re going to be the ones to the far left and right of the panel, they would be the toughest to line up due to the distortion issue.

It’s really, really hard.

As much as I had planned on making the whole process a simple one with a guaranteed single pass of the decal per color due to my time spent making an accurate transfer paper print and file, Peter still in reality had to print in multiple passes, a section at a time and moving across the panel. A total of 5 passes just for the front grey. What he did is “mask off” sections of the screen and then just squash paint through for a certain area using what the industry calls a Squeege (rounded rubber strip..attached to some wood to hold onto) rather than a traditional paintbrush, wait for it to dry, do a re-alignment on Cora, gently remove the masking tape that covered up the next lot of decal from being printed, and mask over what you’ve just done so it’s not double- printed. Peter used a small squeege about 10cm long, small enough to be able to just squash the paint through a small selected area. Very easy to make a mistake and forget to mask something you’ve already printed. Very easy to smudge something that has not dried properly yet.

Cora has 2 colors on the front panel (grey and orange) and 2 colors on the rear (grey and cream). Peter called me in on Day 2 to help get the orange color right. We made up several different color batches …

And tweaked and tweaked. A bit more red… a little more white, etc. Every time, running several test prints on the spare metal sheet I had powder coated for this exact purpose when Cora was done:

Color is another floating target. The same orange paint printed onto silver raw metal looks different to when printed onto a dark background. You need to test .. test .. test. And wait for it to properly dry every time as the shade and reflective properties change as it dries!

Here is Cora with the grey passes finally down but the orange still to be run:

That last miraculous powder coat done by Ed and Sash was looking stellar .. she was shining. I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel it was 60% there!

There were a couple of decals that were around 1mm off. I mentioned them to Peter. The sweat on his forehead and the look on his face pretty much gave me my answer… this was as close as it was going to get. He could start again if I REALLY wanted to, but only if she was powder coated again. Remember, it took 3 powder coats to get Cora right to where she was before the decal. Chances were that another sand would just destroy her, or if I was lucky would need 100s of hours of work to strip and re-fill the surface, and it could then very easily take 3 powder coats again to get it right back to here without bubbles and likely $100s of dollars and months of further waiting. Only to possibly have the decal still be 1mm out for a few places in a reprint. Araraghhhh!!

I briefly went back to the tracing paper print I had made months before that Peter had sitting there to see if any variation was my fault. And to my horror, the whole tracing paper sheet was out of alignment also… when lined up on the left, it was out by a whole 5mm on the right!! Huh? What the hell! Peter just shook his head and said “this is what has thrown us as well …you see what we are up against, take a look at this…” and held up a ruler against my printed tracing paper ruler. Indeed it was out by 5mm. “But Peter, I checked this over and over…”. He replied “I’ve seen this before .. the damn tracing paper has SHRUNK over the few months since the print.” Indeed, it had.

And when a tape measure is laid down next to my printed measuring tape, the reality of the shrinkage compounding across the distance of over 1m is apparent:

So many moving targets it’s just crazy.

We still had the orange layer to go and also the rear printing, we were only 60% of the way there. But the orange layer was a biggie. It’s the color and decal design that uniquely just screams JUPITER 8. It needed to line up with the other printed grey decal in so many places and also with the two LED holes in the panel on the left. It could still all go pear shaped…We decided to forge on and see how this next stage went. Would this be the next potential stumbling block that brought the whole process to an end?

The orange layer needed to be printed in several separate sections too.. and Peter again pulled it off. His 40 years experience was paying returns. Now we were 70% there. However now there was something that didn’t look quite right, the orange was not “popping” quite like expected. Peter explained that the original 80s paint used by Roland was Lead-based. That made it thicker and heavier.. but also poisonous. Lead paint has been banned now for many years. To replicate its look however with modern paints is yet another challenge and it rarely looks identical. Granted, we had used more of a matt reflective paint when the original was probably closer to gloss also. Peter suggested an option (be it a risky one) which was overprinting a second orange layer. If originally Cora had required only a single orange pass of the screen, and it had originally lined up perfectly, this might have been a viable proposition … the lineup of the second print needed to be perfectly the same to look good. But the orange had been printed in 3 stages across the panel with positioning tweaks, to make it line up best with the 5 different stages of the grey layer below that had been printed before it. To now print a second layer of orange over orange in 3 more stages would have been dicing with death.

After some head scratching, deliberation and weighing up the risk it dawned on me that part of what I felt was missing was a shine from the orange layer. “So Peter … what if we overprinted a clear GLOSS layer … would that work? Is that possible? It would help pop the orange, but in the event that there’s a slight mis-alignment it would not look so bad because it’s just clear paint that would be mis-aligned, not actual more orange paint…”. He responded “Hmm…leave it with me”. So I went home. For an anxious nights sleep.

The next day he had a smile on his face. And behold.. well Hot Damn if he didn’t nail the second layer with gloss PERFECTLY! Peter was quite proud of himself from that quiet smirk. Now the orange looked right!

Now we were 80% there. Yes there were small overall 1mm alignments this way and that way in the orange that in a perfect world I would have adjusted. With all the variables that Peter was working with, the result was outstanding. There was every chance that some of the slight variations could even have been my fault in the file. But we were entering into a world of diminishing returns and it was getting harder and harder to turn back. She was very close.

But the next question was …would there be a mistake in the rear panel print that might still cause a scrapping of it all?

Well with 2 layers (2 colors) and that clumsy and difficult angle to print on, anything was possible. Another day later …and Peter came through.. no smudges and the color and alignment perfect on the rear.

Peter got 90% there with the Roland logo and now we were 95% there with the correct rear plug decal print.

There was simply not enough of an excuse to turn back now. I was simply going to have to live with the last 5% small variations. One of those variations (the J in JUPITER on the logo being slightly too close to the next letter) was actually my fault it seemed when I looked closer at the file…. something I had missed several times over during my beta test prints. Plus I had purposely changed some of the decals from the Roland originals, Cora was never meant to be identical to how she was before, for instance I commandeered the far right panel button away from a rarely used “Tape Verify” function to be assigned as a far more critical “MIDI SETUP” for the Kenton midi mod (a much more elegant solution than the ugly red push button drilled into the side key bed rest of other Jupiter 8s), and for the Arpeggio switch I modified the “Ext” sync label to “Ext / Midi” (this is the position for the Kenton Midi mod for the Jupiter 8 Arpeggio to sync to the Midi clock) and I signed Coras name on the rear panel and the date for prosperity. So she was never meant to be just the same as before anyway.

After another day of drying it was finally time to “Come get her.”

Since Coras face panel has been home, I’ve sat and stared at it now for 5 days, waiting for the paint to properly cure. Literally watching paint dry. There’s something about the layout and color of a Jupiter 8 panel that is just so beautiful and mesmerizing. It’s a work of art, not just a synth panel. The Roland designer was a Frikken Genius. My guess is that with all the sliders and knobs and buttons returned to the panel, any slight inaccuracies that are apparent now will sink more towards the background. Peter explained that the paint doesn’t actually harden until the 4th day so i could take it home but the panel couldn’t be touched or twisted. When you stand back and take in the full picture, the result is pretty outstanding. Especially when you think about the poor rusted, flakey scratched dented mess she was before….

Time to start putting the panel back together

The 3 crucial front panel screws on a Jupiter 8

There’s screws, and then there’s SCREWS.

You can go completely bananas trying to find out the exact same replacements for some screws. Only once you start looking at them closely do you realize the vast variation between them. And some are simply custom made for the manufacturer, or in some cases even custom made for the PRODUCT. And you simply can’t find them anywhere for sale new, unless you pilfer them from another one of the same product units.

The number of different types of head shapes alone is staggering. I’d never paid attention much up until now. I kinda stopped at whether it was traditional cheese-head or Phillips, what color it was and whether it fitted when shoved in the hole. Spotting them and knowing what you are holding in your hand can be an advanced skill in itself. It’s not as easy as you might think.

There is the types of screw head drive to think about:

Then there is the type of head profile:

Then there is the type of thread:

And this is before the length or color or screw material used for its manufacturing is even considered!

There are several thousand screws inside and outside a Roland Jupiter 8. On Cora, there was probably a few hundred less than what she was originally born into this world with. No doubt they are scattered about on bar stage floors, buried in road cases, still bouncing around in the back of roadie vans and littered around on the synth workbenches of the world from her emergency transplant operations it looks like she received during her travels since the 80s. The screws that were left, were in many cases shoved forcefully into the wrong spot, stripped on their heads or thread, and most of all…Rusting. Cora the Corroder was living up to her name in every way possible.

I was going to replace every single one of her screws. I would spare no time or effort or expense to track them down.

Every screw that hung out the bottom of Cora’s base panel underneath had its black head “shaved” from the lack of synth foot-rests. She literally sat on her screw heads. Many screws under there were bent or had their heads completely torn off !! with just the stump remaining as a result of the punishing years that Cora had being ripped on and off keyboard stands relentlessly, anything sticking out underneath a synth panel tends to invariably catch on something eventually. Plus the ones that were still left had bare metal remaining and thus were all rusting.

Most replacement screws can be found reasonably easily for a Jupiter 8. In an upcoming post I plan to list all the screw types and where I sourced replacements from. But there are a few that are truly Unobtainable. Case in point… the 3 crucial front top panel black screws that run along above the keys in plain sight. (Circled in red):

They are a unique pointy shaped dome head, with an unusually small “+” on them for their size yet a considerably wide diameter, and feature in every single photo you see of a Jupiter 8. You can get away with close approximations for many, but in these 3 locations if you dont use screws that are Right, your Jup simply won’t look Right. When you play your Jupiter 8, and stare down at her gorgeous panel, these 3 screws are … right there. In your face. You can’t miss them.

From my deductions and discussions on forums these Phillips screws were a Roland Japan custom job, exclusive to a period in the 80s. They do appear on several other Synths of that era including the Jup6, JX3P and Junos. On the outset, they are a standard M3x6mm thread. From Wiki:

The M3 is a metric screw specifying a nominal diameter of 3 millimetres (0.12 in); and standard coarse thread pitch defined as 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in). The M3 is the second most common screw found in PCs. … 2.5-inch hard disks and solid-state drive.

But it seems Roland wanted to keep them looking reasonably inconspicuous, and thus gave them a small head “+” imprint. Smaller than usual. They also were given a larger “round” or mushroom style head shape and larger head diameter (often also called Truss-head) as their important job was to help hold down the whole front panel from swinging open, from only 3 anchor points across the front, and they needed to do this without supporting washers which were deemed ugly. (Ed: note that the side cheek screws also help keep the from panel secure and closed from the sides). These needed to handle a decent amount of force on them without letting the metal panel beneath pull over their heads, so they were wider and stronger. And they were also a dark grey to disguise themselves further with the panel color… Not a traditional pure black. Then there is the socket type…ie the type of “+” is actually formed in the head is a different type to your standard Phillips. It is called JIS, or Japanese Industrial Standard, a screw that was mainly made and used in Japan.

JIS looks much like a Phillips screw (and even more similar to another cross socket called Frearson), but the cross is “tighter” so the screwdriver will not to pop out (or “cam out”) if it’s tightened too much. JIS screw teeth can be damaged by a standard Phillips screwdriver if it is tightened too far. These screws had a strict criteria to meet and are indeed …Special.

The problem is..they are also the Primary Gatekeepers to opening the top panel of a Jupiter 8 so as to gain access to its inner workings and voice boards… that let’s face it need access OFTEN and regularly. To fix stuff. So their tiny teeth are the first to get damaged… their threads the first to get stripped. And with all that handling yet small size they are indeed the first to fall off the bench, roll under the desk, get mixed up with other screws and thus…Get LOST.

Cora landed in my arms with ONE of these original screws remaining, that was in a miserable condition. Flogged to within an inch of its life. The second screw along was a brown wood screw! Shoved in there as a feeble attempt to hold things together, with the 3rd screw completely missing. Unbelievable. The blatant disrespect. Fortunately the wood screw was short and too small for the job, so it did not do irreparable damage to the securing thread below. This is what the single original screw that was left looks like:

It is not easy to find JIS screws on the Internet. Even harder to find black ones. Most are silver. These 3 screws get twisted and turned on a regular basis, it’s not just a simple case of spray painting the silver screws to a black color. Once a screwdriver touches the screw head for the first time the paint chips off with any kind of pressure applied. And then the silver shines through and it looks dirty and messy. I’ve been told it’s possible to spray paint a screw black and then ease it in gently into its location using Blu-tack on the tip of your screwdriver to help reduce damage but it’s a one-off proposition.

Not a viable option for 3 screws that need to be used every time to get into a Jupiter 8 synth. It’s also very hard to convince a powder Coater to do some screws. Every powder coater has a minimum flagfall fee. From my experience it’s between $100-$200. They don’t like mixing up the powder and cleaning their jet guns for anything less. Plus the powder coat tends to sit inside the screw head cavern and make it harder to get the screwdriver in successfully. The only successful method is to buy the right color screw, anodized that color from the factory. So I was going to try and find a black screw .. and see how it looked on the panel. I would then decide if I would need to spray paint the screws as well over the top of the anodized black to a panel- matching dark grey color. At least then if the spray paint chipped off it would uncover a black color underneath rather than a raw shiny silver. A black chip showing here and there through an otherwise dark grey spray paint would be acceptable.

Searches for a JIS black M3 screw on the Internet after several days were not very successful. I found an excellent JIS M3 screw but like many others looking for such a screw i was disappointed that the only one available was silver. Frustrating. However in a forum I was given the hint that a search for “truss head” was going to show up a similar dome-shaped screw head, although the “+” was not going to be the tight JIS shape. It was as close as I was going to get. At least it was not going to be the flat pan-head shape which is the main visual giveaway that the screw shape is “wrong”. I did some extensive technical calculations according to the graph below:

And after deliberation I finally found these on EBay:

They look pretty good! They were expensive for what they were … more than $15 for only 50 small screws. So they tilted my Value vs Effort graph somewhat. But if they were an acceptable match then they had to be tried out.

Finally they arrived. Below I convinced 4 screws to stand up straight in a line for their very first photo shoot. Bunch of amateurs they refused to stand still. It was about as easy as trying to keep 4 kittens still in a bathtub.

(Cue fashion parade music)…

“Well welcome everyone …First today we have Coras original Roland screw showing her age somewhat, looking rather miserable and wearing a decidedly rusted coat….Second in the line now its great to see new Ebay Screw which just arrived …looking just stunning in shimmering and glowing polished black! That domed head shape is eerily close in shape and design to Cora Screw we just experienced beforehand … this new arrival is one sexy screw! Third is Standard vanilla everyday black M3x6 PAN HEAD screw that is about as common as Pencil Sharpenings. As you can see, pan head screw for this special main-event purpose just ain’t gonna cut it in the looks department I’m afraid. That fat side rim and smaller diameter flat head is just miles away from the original. And lastly, as a special bonus we have for your entertainment a “truss head with washer” black screw combo that you might find comes up in your searches to find a match with Cora Screw. The diameter width is right, the color is right, it’s an M3x6mm Phillips screw all right but she is about as ugly as a Christmas sweater. Big thanks to all our participants I think we have one clear winner…number #2 step forward to claim your prize!”

Preparing the Jupiter 8 Decal graphics for printing

Now with Cora’s panel returned to me and finally looking beautiful after her powder-coat success, it was time to finalize the decal art file. I had tweaked and tweaked Jeff’s (from Custom Synths) original .cdr vector-based Coreldraw file for weeks in anticipation of this day. I used high- res SLR pics I had taken of her panel before I took the mighty plunge into stripping her that fateful day on the balcony some months ago. So I imported my pics into the decal session and laid the images underneath the parts to make some adjustments.

Vector based files are the only files accepted by laser cutting and decal printing workshops. And they can only be made in software such as Coreldraw and Illustrator and AutoCad. Vector based removes any chance of graininess that can occur when you zoom in on a graphic image such as a jpg or pdf because it is a point to point representation rather than pixel. In other words, if you have a line across the screen, all that a vector based file will contain is a start point measurement and end position, the thickness and the color of the line needed. Where as a JPEG graphic will require information about every single pixel position and color along the way from the start to the finish of the line. Vector based files are usually much smaller in size than their graphic equivalents. They’re a pain in the ass to create tho. It’s a whole other technique and skill required when compared to Photoshop. You can’t just scribble and paint in an area with a paintbrush. It just simply doesn’t work that way.

Jeff described how he needed to “cut up the film a few times to line things up” as part of the decal printing process. I would have no such opportunity or luxury as I was handing the job over to a workshop to do and one of the first things they stressed when they gave me the quote was “THIS is assuming the file you give us is lined up perfectly … Right?.” He emphasized that there would be no cutting or fiddling if any things were “out” and instead would only be prepared to make another set of films to fix the problem. Films run at $200 each for this job. You need a film per color. There is 2 colors on the Jupiter 8 panel (well actually there’s 3 if you count the rear Roland logo which is by itself in a cream white color). Things could blow out very fast if the films weren’t 100% perfect from the start.

Jeff suggested that I print to a clear film transparency first, on my own, and lay it over the panel to see how things lined up before the big dive into film. Transparency film is the clear plastic film they use for overhead projectors. A great suggestion however a clear film transparency of the size of Cora’s panel (over a meter long) would still run in the vicinity of $100 per print. I envisioned needing to print several times to tweak and this could still run into big bucks. Plus it was not easy to find a place that would print transparencies of that size.

Along the line as part of my investigation I had one print shop suggest that perhaps I would like to print to transfer paper instead for only a meagre $26. Yes, I would! That would be good enough to get the job done! Harder to see through but certainly more useable than printing to standard 80gsm white paper. But once I told him the size, this then became another difficulty. Nearly every print shop I contacted did not have transfer paper this wide… or long. It really needed to be one single piece or there was room for error to creep in. And a few complained about printing to transfer paper and problems of smudging as the ink tends to sit on top of transfer paper rather than soak in. Finally I found a print shop that was attached to a large university art department that said “sure… no problem.” The students used it for their large scale design projects. Perfect!!

Next problem was that printing places simply don’t print white. The rely on the fact that paper is white. They print with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black or any combination. Before printing I had to modify the file to a color. Black was no good as Cora’s panel is close to black and I would not see it as clearly. Yellow is usually a weak color when printed. I went with pure red, the strongest printing color with the most contrast against the black paint. Eventually The first transfer paper test print came back.

I overlaid it on Cora’s panel and sure enough, it was not quite right. Thank the lord I had done this step beforehand !!!

My trick was to throw an LED light source underneath the panel and simply get it to shine thru and look at where the holes were, and see where the decals lined up. It seemed to move more and more out of alignment as I moved across the panel once I lined it up on the left side. It was out by around 8-9mm by the right hand side. Lucky I had not gone straight to film! If I lined up from the centre of the panel, then the sides were only out by 3-4 mm in places. I started to suspect the printer had not printed 100% to scale, or that my photos that I took to use for lining up the decal were suffering from a small degree of “fisheye”, which causes this exact problem…things start to be more and more out on the sides when this problem is present and that was what seemed to be happening. But I made adjustments and movements anyway assuming the print was correct. But this time for the next print I would also add a tape measure ruler incorporated into the graphic all the way along the edge in mm to be able to confirm the print was accurate. (Something i should have done in the first place really if I was thinking ahead). I really thought the first print would be perfect and that would be all I needed! Wishful thinking indeed.

The way around any photo fisheye i discovered is to stand as faaarrr away from the subject as possible, and to use a lens that zooms in as much as you can. The further away you stand when taking a pic, the less fish-eye. So you need a good lens and high res camera to get the job done. An iphone camera won’t cut it.

Ok tweaks done …and off to the printers again for a second try, and now with the built in measuring ruler to see if it was indeed accurate.

Here is what it looks like in Coreldraw with the SLR photo of the tracing paper beneath:

This is how I can determine the position of decals… the SLR photo is lined up with the decal design exactly the same as it was printed. (The holes in the panel can be seen as white). Then the decal designs are moved around so that they are lined up with the corresponding white hole correctly. I’m sure there’s a more technically correct way to do it. But this is my way, it was more fun than just taking measurements and punching in numbers somewhere …and it worked. And then just before you go to print again, you remove the underlaid image of the transfer paper to just leave the decal vector image:

So second time I was much closer …95% there. And the printer was dead-on accurate with its scaling … the printed measuring tape was lining up perfectly with the real one which was good news and dispelled any concern there. So i was in the ballpark for sure.

I made the last few tweaks to the file but it would need to be printed a 3rd and final time to confirm dead-on accuracy for all of the graphics and to supply to the decal workshop. I wanted to be able to say “here is the file, and here is a print out of the file, as you can see it lines up perfect so don’t try and tell me the file is out if there’s alignment problems.”. From experience , Jeff told me, the workshops always blame the file when they screw up. You can see the ruler on this image below, that was printed out across the bottom in yellow this time to confirm printing size accuracy. And you can make out the panel shadows on this pic underneath the tracing paper…perfectly lined up with the decal. Yay!

Time to finally visit the decal screen printing workshop!

Meanwhile it gives me great pleasure to announce that Jeff has kindly agreed to allow the file that is the combination of both our hard work to be uploaded here for all Jupiter 8 owners who have rusty panels they want to fix. A BIG thanks to you from everyone in the Jupiter 8 community Jeff! You are a champion!

Some Notes: The art supplied is exactly how it appears originally on Coras panel before I stripped it, a Revision 1 Jupiter 8. The revision 2 has an extra label for the “DCB Port” on the rear that is not present on this art, and there may be other differences in spacing or positioning that Roland made so consider yourself on notice. You may also wish to make changes to the labeling. For instance I have made a change to Cora’s art because i know she will be receiving a Midi upgrade kit. So I have changed the clock sync switch to read “INT – EXT/MIDI”. All of the midi upgrade kits also require you to add a dodgy looking red momentary push button for control, which you will need to mount somewhere and drill a hole into your panel which I personally think looks like crap. So Cora has relinquished her front panel Tape “VERIFY” button for a label named “MIDI SETUP”. Finally on the rear underneath the jack outputs I have inconspicuously written Cora’s name on the decal art, because she asked me to do so 🙂 All of these changes were made post the files supplied here to avoid concern or confusion. If you want these changes I have described you will need to do them yourself to the file. However it is a unique opportunity for you to customize your Jupiter 8 panel if you are planning on following a similar path with your synth to Cora. Maybe you want to change the word “BENDER” to “EXPRESSION” for all I know. Well now is your chance. I don’t recommend going too crazy tho. You can start devaluing your synth if you stray too far away from the original look and vibe. But a few small personalizations can be fun !

Disclaimer: A lot of work has gone into establishing the accuracy of the content of these files. However the authors will not be held responsible for any inaccuracies that you believe to be present. In other words, it’s your responsibility to make sure they are aligned and accurate for your Jupiter 8 before screen printing. The alignment or accuracy has not been tested on every revision of the Jupiter 8 that was made.

Usage: These files are for your personal use only. Not for Commercial use or for sale. In other words, do not make money from them or from their use. They are free. Do not repost/upload these files onto other sites in this or a modified form thereof.

Okay Here we go:

This is what the final file looks like … each color layer separated out and marked:

High res PDF (for viewing) :

https://www.dropbox.com/s/jmsc8nctbirdr04/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL.pdf?dl=0

dwg file (AutoCad version – this is what the screen print workshop will often want to use) (zipped file):

https://www.dropbox.com/s/vgrhpfdsb01zdcv/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%28Autocad%20dwg%20file%29.zip?dl=0

EPS File [Some workshops will prefer to use this file]

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cfxavi3ntd6ivi4/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%5BEPS%20File%5D%20%5BText%20As%20Curves%5D.zip?dl=0

AI Adobe Illustrator version [Saved in “Text as Curves” mode – With layers] : 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/f8r3uwai0gd4bf8/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%5BIllustrator%20File%5D%20%5BText%20As%20Curves%5D.zip?dl=0

Unlocked Coreldraw final file with layers (you can use to make changes if necessary) (zipped file)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0dt5t1gycvjd7mh/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%28Coreldraw%20cdr%20file%29.zip?dl=0

If you find the file useful please thank Jeff personally. I am sure he will appreciate it. Here is his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008276462369

Talk to Cora now on Facebook!!

Cora The Corroder is now on Facebook! Now you can talk to her and ask her questions! Join her new Facebook group to be able to get updates on when new WordPress blog posts on her progress land (especially useful if you don’t have a WordPress account to subscribe through) as well as be able to ask questions and discuss her restoration with others ! Join now!

Here’s the link:

https://m.facebook.com/groups/359832781432431

Finally …New powder-coating success for Cora! The Jupiter 8 Corroder

Great news! Finally I have managed a successful powder coat for Cora! Thank you to everyone who sent me messages of support to keep going! Well … i put in the time and work all over again and thank the Lord…this time its paid off.

This time I used a 3rd powder coding workshop who had been highly recommended to me as a place that handles “difficult” jobs. I was too embarrassed to take it back to the first workshop. Clive was on the other side of town and well over an hour’s drive away as well. I had a feeling I would be dropping in periodically this time to inspect the progress so ideally a place on my side of town that understood the importance of the job and has the right color in stock would be ideal. I found that place in Prism Powder Coating and the two fine lads Ed and Sash:

The minute I walked in I instantly felt confident that they knew what was required. We discussed the process of undercoat… and then powder coat… and then sand …and then second powder coat that I had done with Clive originally. But because I done such great prep work with the metal filling and sanding this time, they looked at the surface and were mighty impressed and convinced that they could pull it off with just an undercoat that would be sanded and then a single powder coat top. I was not convinced it would work but had to listen to advice and try. A second powder coat could always be added if it was not smooth enough at the end of the day. They explained a problem however, where the manufacturer of the Zinc undercoat paint specifies that it is not to be sanded in anyway before the powder coat is applied. It was the first I had heard of this. Even fingerprints can cause adhesion problems with the top powder coat layer. So this time instead of zinc undercoat they used what they called “Black Primax E-primer” that they believed would be better because it could be lightly sanded and the resulting powder coat would stick better, and they were right. And I trusted Sash to do the sanding in between as well. This job cost me a little bit more than Clive but the pictures speak for themselves Now I have a beautiful panel to work with and move forward to the next stage!

This was really Cora’s last chance at success with her original panel. If this had failed completely and required another strip back to the panel metal, she would have just been weakened to an unacceptable degree. I kind of expected it to fail to be honest and this is why I started measuring up every angle and every gap and every corner, and with some help had started designing the JUPITER 8 top panel in 3-D CAD as you can see from the video at the end of my last post. I’m excited but cautious, as there is still plenty that could go wrong at the next point in the process, with the decal application. One crooked print and it could require another powder coat if it can’t be removed cleanly to try again. So I’m going to continue with the 3-D CAD design to the end. A Jup8 panel has certainly never been 3-D generated before so that will be a first and useful to the synth community no doubt somewhere along the line in the future.

Here is Jedi powder-coating master Sash carrying out Cora from the workshop to my car:

And another shot inside the cardboard coffin I made for her to avoid any chance of damage:

Just magnificent and smooth.

Another angle… the rear:

Hinges are not welded shut against the panel (unlike a previous time) but are clean and free to swing… yay:

Underside looks perfection:

Now that I have her back I can do the last few measurements required to finalize the decal artwork file. Then I need to get a test print of the file to transfer paper to test it’s accuracy and just be 100% sure before sending it to have the expensive films made for over printing with paint.

Welcome back Cora!

A monumental powder coat #fail for Cora :(

It was a tragic mistake that ended in disaster… and the irony is that it was really not my fault. If only people would LISTEN to me and do as they were TOLD not as they think they should do, I would not be in this mess….

I experienced a massive powder coat #fail on Cora’s top panel last week. I am still reeling from the incident to be honest and it’s taken me this long to even be able to discuss what happened and why. I consider myself reasonably smart but you can never be smart enough to be able to completely account for and foresee the STUPIDITY OF OTHERS.

(Deep breath)… ok so I was working on Cora’s main top panel. Specifically, I was working around the area where the DCB plate is. Cora is an early Jupiter, without the DCB port on the rear or the expansion board inside. The DCB expansion “kits” were sold for early Jupiter’s such as mine by Roland originally, I’ve tried tracking them down but they are long-gone. I wanted to turn this empty plate into a place where the MIDI ports would reside. Others have done this in the past and it looks neat and effective. But I was going to do things differently …I was not going to use those ugly silver “aftermarket” looking plugs that the MIDI kits supply. They would be mounted from behind in a professional manner like in other Roland synths with factory MIDI such as the JD800. The actual gap in the rear of a Jupiter where the DCB port pokes through the metal panel is ever so slightly too narrow for a midi plug silver ring to fit through. There needs to be some degree of filing and cutting. So as I was nearing the design phase of the rear plate for the MIDI ports I went to work opening up the DCB port gap a little with some files and my Dremel cutter. I ended up with a really nice wider opening which could still be covered by the new plate but also allowed for nice access with the plugs. Here is how the slot looked originally behind the plate :

I marked it up nicely and then did some fine and careful cutting with the Dremel to make the slot wider in all the right places:

And then some fine finishing off with a file to clean and even out the lines:

(The full new MiDI plate Front Panel Express design file and pics will feature in an upcoming post).

You need to be very careful as the Dremel head can get away from your hands very quickly if you’re not holding tight and fly off in a sideways direction if it grips the steel. Then you get these tyre-mark type skid lines across your powder coat. The file is the same, don’t let it get too close to the end of the file or it comes out of the slot and then you get the equivalent to a vinyl record needle scratch sound and damage (Whoops!). The whole Roland panel metal is only 1mm thick, and the thin side of the slot has a tendency to bend and deform under pressure so you need to go gently.

Inevitably I had made a few scratches and marks here in there whilst doing this procedure so I wanted to get just this small area powder coated, also so that the raw metal could be sealed that I had exposed to avoid rust in the future. Sounds simple enough. For such a small job I figured I didn’t need to drive across town back to the master expert Clive (who did the amazing powder coat job on the whole panel). I could use someone closer around the corner just for this small area. I found a workshop that had the same powder coat color nearby.

Its funny how every supposed “expert” Tradesman seems to have an opinion about the work of others and it’s always a critical one. This guy commented on Cora’s powder coat and pointed out some apparent flaws in the work (that I couldn’t even see), as if to suggest that if he had done the job that it would have turned out better and that he knew more than whomever did this work. You get this all the time when you present something at a workshop that someone else has previously worked on. I can only guess that this is one of the chapters in the Tradesmen handbook on How to Demonstrate Apparent Credibility in the Eyes of the Customer.. “Criticize everyone else’s work to make yourself appear as the only true Expert”. Well this guy must have just finished a refresher course, because he served it up in spades. A real smart-ass. At any rate, I just nodded and dealt with it, after all this guy was doing such a small and insignificant job that I didn’t really need to listen too his sales pitch much. I just nodded my head and played along and said “yep, yep, ok just do this little area for me as discussed… cheers.” I waited a few weeks and received the call to pick it up.

What I discovered when I arrived at the workshop was a horrific sight.

Now here is where I don’t quite understand exactly what the HELL happened. Clearly my instructions were not followed to the letter. I’m not sure whether it was because he screwed up the job and then secretly tried to fix it without telling me, or whether he just thought he would be much more “cleverer” than Clive who did it originally and felt like he needed to prove something to himself or me and wanted to try and “improve” the paint job. But this moron had COMPLETELY STRIPPED Cora’s whole panel by SAND BLASTING the whole bloody thing!!!! Without asking me!!! What the hell!!! He had unknowingly thereby removed all of the Roland silver that had covered the welds in the process, as well as my detailed and intricate own filling work that took me weeks. And then he had proceeded to powder coat the whole panel yet again… BOTH SIDES. I took one look at her panel and my heart sank. She was a total mess. There were welts and weld marks and crators everywhere showing clearly through. She looked like a pimple-faced teenager who had gorged on a block of dark chocolate the night before. There had been no sanding between coats. The previous coats were gone after all and she now just had this new foreign one. Worst of all this IDIOT was not even aware that there had been a Zinc undercoat to avoid rust. And because he never called me or told me what he was doing, that was missing too. Incredible. So this coat that he had put on was completely useless and she would have to be stripped to bare metal… AGAIN! Just to get the Zinc coat back on underneath.

All my hard work and time spent and $$ has been… Erased.

Basically i had to start from the very beginning. Actually, back before that even. Because of this smart-ass fool. And he had damaged the panel in the process.

There is nothing worse than a bad Tradesman who is told exactly what to do, but then inevitably strays into the margins and attempts to Grow a Brain.

Because all of Roland’s silver filler had been blown away by the damn sandblasting process (a definite NO NO for a Jupiter 8 panel as i explained in my powder coating post), it left significant new holes that were not even there originally. Plus sandblasting weakens and stresses the metal, making it thinner and creates new pits as well in 35 year old metal. I was even originally warned it might likely buckle the panel (but one saving grace is that it was not the case here it seems). For him to have gone and just done this without consultation was Criminal. He tried to tell me that it’s “normal” for metal to look like this with an “uneven surface” once it’s powder coated (or some crap like that) and tried to tell me it looks better than it did before.

I wanted to punch the guy square in his smug face.

Instead I collected my poor girls’ damaged body gently up into my arms and carried her outa there. She had been interfered with and abused by a monster. I was so sorry that I had somehow let it happen to her. I felt so guilty. I put her battered shell in the boot and sat in my car across the road and slapped around the steering wheel like it was this guy’s head…screaming at the top of my voice “Fuuuuuuukkk!” I pounded on the dashboard with my fist to get it out. And then shortly after that took a breath, and then proceeded to cry like a baby. Real tears. Sobs of anguish and frustration…and regret.

A few days later after processing it all I summoned the strength to take a closer look at the damage:

As you can see, everywhere you turn to look you discover weld crators and sand-blasted pits. It’s a sad, sad scene.

And I’m at a crossroads now. Do I work on re-filling and sanding and cleaning this original panel AGAIN, that’s been weakened and damaged already, and spend the $250 on the Zinc rust coat plus two layers of powder coat, or do i cut my losses and start again by getting a whole brand new panel laser cut, bent and powder coated for double this price, with brand new steel, for $500 as I’ve been quoted. I would need to make up the laser dwg file for this price (it would be over $1000 if I just handed them the panel). But I feel I could successfully make the dwg file as I learned from doing Cora’s aluminum side cheeks successfully about the process and the tricks in Coral Draw. No-one in history has ever made a brand new Jupiter 8 panel laser cut from scratch. I’m heading into uncharted waters for sure. There’s lots of new potential pitfalls there as well (eg one slight measurement mistake and a slider won’t make it thru the panel!). But this is where things seem to be going. Maybe if I did it first and provided the laser file then as a personal bonus I might find that others want to follow my lead and do It as well, making it worth the time spent on re-creating Rolands’ original design. I doubt even Roland’s head offices would even have such a file. Or do I try one more time with Cora’s original panel, and spend $250, only to find that it didn’t work out again and it still looks like the surface of the moon. And then need to go and make the new panel, totaling $750. Losing more money, and time.

A crossroads for sure. I still need time to think about this one.

Today I took a big step forward and started to strip the ole girl yet again back to bare metal, to survey the damage and extent of the job ahead …she looks very different to last time without the Roland silver and filler, but instead a rough sandblasted raw face. I apologized over and over to her as i worked. I’m sorry Cora for what this asshole did to you. But I won’t ever give up on you. I promise.

There’s only one way to move … forward …but the road has just become that much longer. 😦

New aluminum cheeks for a Jupiter 8 Part 1:/ Laser Cutting

(Note: To be read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson…)

Such a seemingly simple thing …getting some new aluminium cheeks for Cora made up. Such a drama.

Getting trade businesses to actually do something for you is such a frustrating and energy-draining exercise. From my experience, the closer into town they are located, the longer they take and the less they care about doing the job well or in reasonable time. They need to be called and called for updates and massaged just to keep your job seemingly in a mysterious and fluid “queue” and even then after all the torment it still doesn’t get done. You end up hearing all about the problems with their business over the period (“…the guy we had here just took off..”,”I got bigger jobs I have to clear first then I’m into yours first thing”,”…our supplier has just gone under …”,”Christmas has thrown a spanner in the works”, “Easter is coming up”…etc etc). It never ends.

I dropped off Cora’s two road-beaten Aluminium end cheeks to a local workshop closeby in November of last year, to be remade. A fairly simple job you would have thought….

a closeup of the damage due to Cora’s hard-living past…from collisions undoubtedly with keyboard stands, microphone stands, roadcase hinges, flying beer bottles, lead singers’ stage-diving antics etc:

The first business I visited was described as a “metal workshop”. The guy took a look at them and said “sure, no problem” and took me for a walk through his factory to the rear where he located some clean 4mm thick Aluminium sheets, perfect for the job. Excellent. He already had the raw material to get started. “Give me a week, or so.” Every Trademan’s first universal rule that all the buggers learn… be vague with dates and purposely leave any deadline open-ended. Hence the “…or so” thrown in at the end. That “…or so” seems to give them license to extend a week to over 6 months. The other trick that Tradesmen employ when you attempt to nail them down to a completion date is the old “I’ll call you when it’s ready” chestnut. It goes something like this:

Me: “So how long do u think it will take?”

Shady Tradesman: “A week OR SO…” (note the necessary insertion of “or so”)

Me:”So if I come around in 2 weeks, on the Monday, it would definitely be ready then because that’s 2 weeks away, and you think a week is all you need, that’s what you just said … Right?”

Shady Tradesman: “…um..I’ll call you when it’s ready Ok.”

Then you don’t receive a call after the 2 weeks, the Monday passes, you wait another week to REALLY make sure it’s ready and then you call back yourself …and the explanations begin.

This went on for 6 weeks before the first workshop finally produced… something. But oh my god what a dogs breakfast it was. It looked like some kid had hacked away at a chunk of Aluminium with pliers and then filed the edges with a brick. It was missing curves altogether, and the edges were rounded off unevenly in places. The left and right cheek had differences in shape by over 1cm in places! If I had presented this in my 5th grade school workshop as a finished product it would have been a FAIL. But he had the audacity to hand this over the counter as “job done” with the added “…you just need to get a Polisher to finish it off… we don’t do that here.” My eyes were shocked. Unfortunately I don’t have a pic of it because i handed it straight back over and said “how about you try again” and he essentially chastised me for complaining, saying that it was as good as it was going to get and that if I was not happy the best thing was for me to just take my money back if I was going to be fussy (I had to pay up front to get the job started). Thankfully he offered me this option as I gently mentioned that “perhaps that would be best” and got the hell outa there. He did offer me one piece of advice as I had my hand on the door knob to leave ..”what YOU need I think is a Metal ENGINEERING place if you are going to get pedantic about the result. Try the one down the road.” And that’s exactly where I went. I jumped in my car and without a moment to spare (I had already lost 6 weeks) I drove straight to “Attempt #2” Metal engineering.

His workshop had some impressive looking industrial machinery. It was a big factory, but with only one guy named “Gary” there. (That should have been my first warning sign… one guy in a huge workshop? Where were all the others?). He agreed to take on the job, explained to me that it would be “perfect”, but quoted me twice the price of the original hack-job place. Well I figured it would be double the price but this time done properly. So away he went, keeping Cora’s original cheeks for reference and giving me the textbook Tradesman response “Give me a couple of weeks… I’ll call you when they’re ready.” Yep. Why do I always believe them when I should know better?

Two weeks turned into 4 weeks at which point I was told categorically that they would be done “before Christmas…”.

Christmas comes and goes, and of course the workshop is closed for 3 weeks until Jan 21st, and then the excuses of “we are really backed up with jobs from being closed for 3 weeks…”. Then another 4 weeks and then he proclaims “I’m really embarrassed now, yep let’s get this job sorted for you before Easter…”. Then Easter comes and goes … and then apparently he’s running behind due to Easter holiday messing things up. Another 3 weeks and my normally patient and reasonable self starts to get a little cranky with this and does a calculation of the time so far and it’s been over 5 months.

I finally walk into the workshop on a Monday and there’s a young trainee guy there working the machines who tells me that Gary was “away on holiday for 3 weeks”. I had not seen this guy before and explained the situation to him, he had no idea about the job but had wondered about the Aluminium “brackets” that were sitting on the bench. I asked him if, under the circumstances, he could give them some priority and them done by the end of the week after waiting over 5 months and he said casually “probably.. not…”. So I calmly walked over to Cora’s cheeks, took them back into my possession and made a B-line for the door, bumping into another customer who had just arrived on my way out as I was leaving. Now with an audience I spun on my heels and politely told the trainee guy to make sure he passses on the message to Gary to “Go Fuck Himself”.

Back to square one.

I sat in the car out the front in the street…thinking to myself “surely it can’t be this hard to get someone to do something as simple as this? Even I could bloody make them…” and considered the possibility for a moment. Then I made a plan to simply break this job down into 4 parts and manage them myself.

There was no way someone was going to do all of this for me in a “one stop shop” and if they did agree to do it then the cost would be so high as to be ridiculous so this was really the only way.

There were plenty of metal laser cutting places around. I went and visited two nearby with Cora’s cheeks. It quickly became apparent that no laser cutter wants the job without something called a “dwg Autocad file” as they needed one to feed the laser and making them was “too much stuffing around and too time consuming to be worth while”. I would have to make this file myself. Part 1 just became more complicated.

The Autocad software was a completely foreign beast to me, and Adobe Illustrator and i have just never gotten along well, but Coreldraw and I had a basic understanding, I had learnt how to use it whilst tweaking Jeff Toman from Custom Synth’s Jupiter 8 decal file. And it could output a .dwg file too which was fortunate. So I spent a few nights measuring and designing Cora’s metal end cheeks in Coreldraw to perfect specification. Finally the laser cutters would actually give me a quote! And they all accepted the dwg file. Here it my file available for download, zipped along with a pdf representation of what’s inside to view:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8f4gwejbrrlca5p/Jupiter%208%20Aluminium%20Side%20Cheeks.rar?dl=0

So now I had my file to cut. I wanted 3 quotes (the official minimum for a reasonable comparison) so i contacted 5 laser cutting places. Because from experience two always don’t get back to you. I called them all to get a feel for the place (don’t email a workshop for a quote if you want a response!) and they all wouldn’t quote without seeing the file ..”send it thru first” they said …Sure enough, only 3 responded out of the 5. Two were similar and a reasonable price. They both said it was the same price whether I made 2 or 4 cheeks. I figured that I was going to make 4 cheeks in that case! And have 2 as spare in case there was a drilling mis-hap, or to sell later. The third place quoted DOUBLE the cost of the other 2. I rang him back and asked him why and was quite rudely and he abruptly said “I DONT NEED THE WORK MATE” which is a classic trap and why you always get 3 quotes. This asshole knew the going price for the job but wanted to see if I was stupid enough not to get other quotes and “tried it on” by quoting double the cost. He was hoping to rip me off, either way it appears he could not care less. He failed. Always ask for 5 quotes (if possible) and don’t start until you have 3 is the lesson my father taught me years ago.

So away i went with one quote and 8 days later I had 4 basic Aluminium Jupiter 8 cheeks…

Next up… time to drill the holes and countersinks…