In order to undertake this project I had to completely take-apart the toy piano, unfortunately slightly damaging it in the process due to the way it was originally connected together. As all the electronics for the project are now finished, I spent this week putting the piano back together as well as adding some small extra touches, some to make the synth easier to use though some just to improve the aesthetics of the design.
The finished enclosure of the vintage toy synthesiser, propped open like a grand piano
Attaching the Panel
Instead of securing the synth panel to the top of the piano enclosure in the original standard way, I decided to connect it in a way so that the top of the synth could be opened like that of a real grand piano (see image above). I chose to do this for a couple of reasons:
- It improves the charming miniature form of the toy piano, a characteristic of the object that I didn't want to lose in the conversion.
- It gives it a great modular-synth-esque look, exposing all the colourful wires and flashy LEDs of the microcontrollers.
- It allows me to easily get into the synth for development and repairs
To do this I added 8 miniature hinges to the top-left-underside of the panel, using screws to attach the hinges to the wooden side, but unfortunately having to use superglue to attach the hinges to the acrylic panel due to the screws being too brittle for the tougher material (I prefer screws so things can be easily taken apart again if needed).
The hinges attaching the panel to the enclosure
A couple of weeks ago I posted a blogpost about the sockets and controls I've added to the back of the synth, and this week I added some labels to the sockets/controls so that the user knows what each socket/control is for. I made these labels using gloss white filmic sticker sheets, using text of the same font and colour as that of the front panel on a black background, in the hope that it would look as similar as possible to the panel for continuity without being able to apply the same laser-engraving method to this part of the synth. Unfortunately I don't think they look quite as professional as the text on the panel, and I'm probably going to recut and reposition them before the end of the project so that they look a bit neater, however they're not highly visible and are mainly there so that I can remember which MIDI socket is MIDI-in and which is MIDI-out!
The finished (-ish) back panel
Keyboard Gap Covering
The original toy piano enclosure came with a strip of blue fabric (possibly velvet) draped above the keyboard to hide a fairly large gap into the pianos body. Unfortunately I made the mistake of removing and misplacing this fabric, however on the plus side it gave me the chance to experiment with different types and colours of material to use for the synth. After trying out various colours of both ribbon and felt, I settled on using a burgundy ribbon as a replacement. I chose a burgundy colour as I felt it matched with the red on the front of the keyboard keys but without being too garish, with the glossy/shiny aspect of ribbon going well with the rest of the glossy enclosure. Below are a couple of photos:
The gap above the keyboard
A strip of ribbon used to cover the gap
The main thing that got damaged when taking apart the existing toy piano enclosure was the paintwork, so I needed to touch up the paint where this had happened. I also had to paint some new areas of the existing enclosure now that the front panel could be opened and expose some previously-hidden areas. After trying out a disastrous gloss black paint which destroyed the first synth panel I had produced, it turned out that gloss black nail varnish was the perfect tool for painting the enclosure.
Painting the synth with nail varnish
A couple of other things I did to fix-together and refine the enclosure:
- The base sections of the toy piano (including the keyboard) were reattached to the rest of the enclosure using self-tapping screws. It was initially secured together using nails which is what made taking it apart so difficult and destructive, however I'd like the option to remove the base/keyboard in the future incase I need to do improvements or repairs to the electronics I can't get to otherwise.
- I attached a set of rubber feet to the base of the synth, so that the enclosure could sit stably on unevenly surfaces.
- All stripboards and the BeagleBone Black have been secured to the enclosure with self-tapping screws
Here are some images of the final enclosure of the vintage toy synthesiser. I'm probably going to take some better quality images for my final blogpost next week.
The original toy piano enclosure
The finished vintage toy synthesiser enclosure
The synth propped open like a grand piano
Back view of the synth propped open
That's it for now. Next week I'll be posting my final blogpost, after doing some final software tweaks, in which I hope to include a set of videos demoing the finished synth and showing everything that it can do.