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DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller (UPDATE: Version 2)

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 8:34 am
by gjm
Here is Version 2 of my DIY Foot Controller using an apple keyboard mounted in a "shuttle" and utilizing Lives KeyMap Mode. I have tidied up the body from version 1 (V1 details at bottom of this post)

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I have also added springs to the plungers so now the plungers do not rely on the keys to return the plunger to the up position. The extra hole you see is to be able see to if caps lock is on when I daisy chain two of these together.

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I have also added a pin to capture the plunger so that it will not fall out if tipped on its side or put in a bag. Also added is a felt pad between the plunger and the qwerty keys.

It all works fine, and I am very happy with my new found freedom. I will now do some prep and planning for version 3 which will concentrate on form and materials. Everything for this "shuttle" was bought from my local hardware store.

I will get brave and try and make a video as well.

BELOW ARE THE DETAILS FOR VERSION 1

This is my working prototype, proof of concept before I refine it, utilizing Lives Key Map Mode.

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I have been wanting a foot controller for about a year now. I wanted something really simple for basic functions for when I am playing my guitar. There are a number of mods around for qwerty keyboards utilizing Key Map Mode and MIDI keyboards, but none really grabbed me as being right for me. In the end I wanted to mod a qwerty, but I wanted to make something half way decent, or at least have potential for development. After pondering this for several months I decided on using an apple keyboard because it was the easiest to 'mount' in a case because of its flat design.

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The unit has an approx 7 deg angle which does not look like much in the pics, but is fine so far.

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As you can see, the dowels have 2 different lengths for the front and rear pegs. They are simply 12mm dia dowel sitting in 13mm holes. There is plenty of spring back from the key and no friction to speak of. The action is very small, all you need is a light tap with your foot. It was important for me to be able to wear shoes, not bare feet or big toes like some of the other mods I have seen around. The 10mm difference in height of the rear dowels and the current dowel placement has meant no accidental triggering of the dowel next door.

The top surface of the unit is 19mm MDF. The dowels simply sit in the holes on top of the keys. There is not enough spring in the keys to flick them out so no worries about watching a dowel sail across the room when I need it most.

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There is a simple frame with a groove in it which holds the KB in place. The width of the groove is exactly the kerf created by a standard table saw blade, that is 3mm here.

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I will use it like this for a little while longer and then make a 'finished' article. Its not heavy. Its perfect for transportation in a med sized back pack. Just remove the dowels and bag em.

I will update this thread as time goes by. If you can put aside my previous wankery, feel free to ask questions, make comments, mods or what ever. I know I don't contribute much in the way of Ableton Live, but I hope this inspires someone else to get on with their DIY's. If nothing else, Thank you oh Mighty Ableton Community for every thing you have done for me.

Cheers. Greg.

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 8:43 am
by UKRuss
Mate! Thats some tight work there!!!!

Great idea. :D

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:52 am
by fishmonkey
nice one...

btw, if you want to create more complex key sequences of key commands, you could use Keyboard Maestro:
www.keyboardmaestro.com

and if you ever want to convert the keystrokes into actual MIDI commands, there's Bome's Mouse Keyboard:
www.bome.com/midi/keyboard/

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 12:17 pm
by Pasha
Great Idea!
Do you plan coating it in satin black?
I'm not a DIY expert so did you use a special drill to make the holes
or standard one?

- Best
- Pasha

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 6:45 pm
by gjm
Pasha wrote:Great Idea!
Do you plan coating it in satin black?
I'm not a DIY expert so did you use a special drill to make the holes
or standard one?

- Best
- Pasha
Hello Pasha.

I won't be finishing this one as it is rough and ugly.
I am pondering some other materials and finishing concepts though.
I am very much a wood man and so will make a V2 out of solid Pine.
I will coat it with a mineral based semi gloss air dry varnish.
If you stayed with MDF, you could easily make it black, or any color you want
using either tinted lacquer or spray can paint ( which is expensive).
One idea I have uses up some carbon fiber I have left over from boat projects.
I would use super light PVC foam with a thin decorative layer of carbon which would be clear finished.
But that would be bling for bling's sack, and a lot of work.
The best thing though would be to find a material that is pre finished, including the edges once cut to size.
Possibly some sort of plastic sheet with low expansion properties.

The holes were drilled in a drill press because it has a 1/2" chuck to fit the 13mm drill bit, but could easily be done with a hand held power drill with the same sized chuck. Most hand held drills have 3/8" chucks.
I drilled a 5mm pilot hole first and then the 13mm holes. Pilot holes help larger drill bits from wandering.
The drills are standard HSS, high speed steel, just regular stuff from the hardware store.

As said before, its just the first one. I will make some mods and post a simple set of instructions, materials, tools and measurements.

Cheers. G.

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 6:47 pm
by gjm
fishmonkey wrote:nice one...

btw, if you want to create more complex key sequences of key commands, you could use Keyboard Maestro:
http://www.keyboardmaestro.com

and if you ever want to convert the keystrokes into actual MIDI commands, there's Bome's Mouse Keyboard:
http://www.bome.com/midi/keyboard/
Thanks. I will look into these guys.

Cheers. G.

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 7:34 pm
by The Phat Conductor
lol!

i love it!

best not use it when you're drunk on a stage tho ;) stomp *crushhhhh!

very creative.

full marks!

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 7:50 pm
by gjm
The Phat Conductor wrote:lol!

i love it!

best not use it when you're drunk on a stage tho ;) stomp *crushhhhh!

very creative.

full marks!
Hehe... you could actually step the pegs so they have two diameters, with the bit of the shaft that goes through the face plate cut to a length that presses the key, but the collar created by the step in the dowel would stop you driving it through the keyboard.

I'll put that on the V2 model. It would actually kill a second bird by creating a cover larger than the hole through the face plate incase bits of grit fall into the space between the dowel and face plate.

Cheers. G.

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:02 pm
by Pasha
gjm wrote:
Pasha wrote:Great Idea!
Do you plan coating it in satin black?
I'm not a DIY expert so did you use a special drill to make the holes
or standard one?

- Best
- Pasha
Hello Pasha.

I won't be finishing this one as it is rough and ugly.
I am pondering some other materials and finishing concepts though.
I am very much a wood man and so will make a V2 out of solid Pine.
I will coat it with a mineral based semi gloss air dry varnish.
If you stayed with MDF, you could easily make it black, or any color you want
using either tinted lacquer or spray can paint ( which is expensive).
One idea I have uses up some carbon fiber I have left over from boat projects.
I would use super light PVC foam with a thin decorative layer of carbon which would be clear finished.
But that would be bling for bling's sack, and a lot of work.
The best thing though would be to find a material that is pre finished, including the edges once cut to size.
Possibly some sort of plastic sheet with low expansion properties.

The holes were drilled in a drill press because it has a 1/2" chuck to fit the 13mm drill bit, but could easily be done with a hand held power drill with the same sized chuck. Most hand held drills have 3/8" chucks.
I drilled a 5mm pilot hole first and then the 13mm holes. Pilot holes help larger drill bits from wandering.
The drills are standard HSS, high speed steel, just regular stuff from the hardware store.

As said before, its just the first one. I will make some mods and post a simple set of instructions, materials, tools and measurements.

Cheers. G.
Thanks for the clear explanation.
I see you're very well into DIY stuff, time for me to learn.
I'm not as good as you with wood but I know I can improve.
I guess your next project could be a wooden FCB1010! :D

- Cheers
- Pasha

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 10:07 pm
by gjm
The Phat Conductor wrote:best not use it when you're drunk on a stage tho ;) stomp *crushhhhh!
Here is a simple solution. Now you can give it a good old whack.

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This is just to prove the concept of limiting the dowels movement as to not damage the keyboard. I used the same 12mm dowels, but I would instead use 6mm next time with a 7mm clearance hole, as that is the size of the drill bit that the hole saw has that I used to cut the collar with. It will also limit the added extra extra weight of the 'cap.' There is still enough opposing force in the keyboard button to 'return' the dowel to the neutral position.

Cheers. G.

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 10:21 pm
by Bleep Blop Ima Robot
that shit is pretty dope

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:24 pm
by fishmonkey
you could attach little flanges/disks on the inside ends of the dowels to keep them captive...

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:39 pm
by gjm
fishmonkey wrote:you could attach little flanges/disks on the inside ends of the dowels to keep them captive...
Yeah, those collet washer things (don't quite remember proper name) that you occasionally see on metal shafts. But in the spirit of simplicity you could also drill a small hole through the shaft, like 1mm, and push a panel pin through it (I think they have 1.25mm shafts), then snip the head off with end cutters. There would be enough fricyion to hold it in place with minimal weight gain to the plunger unit. :D

Whoa I have a lot to do this arvo....

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:10 am
by pulsoc
Very cool and interesting. I was thinknig the same thing about crushing the keyboard but looks like you tackled that.

Would be really cool to see a video if it in use :)

Re: DIY: My Wooden Foot Controller

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2009 2:21 am
by mikemc
yep, this is nice. I had thought about doing something similar using those small paintbrushes that have foam rubber on the end, either using an old midi keyboard or a USB keyboard, where the foam rubber would be pushing on the keys.