Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Process of making an Ocarina.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

One day at around three in the morning I decided I’d learn how to make an ocarina.  After spending a few hours reading about how to make one, I went to the Georgia Tech craft center.  Since then I’ve made several, but have only fired and tuned a few, due to the enormous amount of time it takes to tune them.


Cultural Craft
An ocarina is a wind instrument that uses both hands and a fingering system to play different notes.  Hand-made ocarinas are typically made out of clay or wood, and machine made ones are typically made with plastic.  Wooden ocarinas are typically shapped in a rectangular fashion, whereas the clay one I made are typically shaped like an egg with an attached mouthpiece.
Prior Knowledge
I know the general shape of a clay ocarina, and I’ve made a couple before.  I learned this from watching youtube videos, reading tutorials, and learning about the (very) basic physics of the voicing hole.  Additionally I’ve played wind instruments for the last 13 years, and know how to work a tuner.  Despite the videos and tutorials, the first time I tried to make an ocarina, I had no skills in using clay.  Fortunately, the people at the craft center when I went were kind enough to explain some of the basics of working with clay.

I’m making this for myself, but want to try to make a smaller ocarina.  I’ve typically made much larger ones which I’ve found are somewhat less finicky to get to make a sound.
Umbrella Plan

  • Finances:  All the blocks of clay at the student center are about 15$.  Everything else involved in the craft is free.
  • Materials: I went with a more grey type of clay.  They had several to choose from and I didn’t have great experiences with the brown or reddish clays, but had used the grey successfully before.
  • Skills:  I know how to use the tools that are below, as I’ve used them at the craft center for this specific purpose.  I know how to tune an ocarina basically, and very well with a tuner present.  I don’t really know how to make a wooden ocarina, so I’m going to be working on a clay one.

Begin Crystalization/Decisions
First I need to decide what tools I’ll use.  I pick out some of the clay tools, then decide upon which pre-made mould ( an egg shaped lump of hardened clay that will form the inside of the ocarina) I want to use.

The clay is cut from the block, then kneaded to get rid of the bubbles and flattened with a rolling pin. Then I cut the clay and form it around the mould I’ve made. If the clay doesn’t feel even around the mould, I’ll add more. Next is shaving off more clay to make it less lumpy.  It’s always difficult to determine when to stop–the more I shave off, the less structurally sound the end product will be (and the harder the next steps will be) the less I shave off, the more uneven the ocarina is, which can cause problems in firing.

Once I’ve got a basic mould set up, I cut the ocarina in two, and decide upon a “bottom” half.  I construct and attach the mouthpiece.  If the hole for the mouthpiece isn’t big enough, I have to make it bigger and recut.  If the hole cut for the mouthpiece is too big I have to add more clay. A small square hole is cut where the popsicle stick meets the shell.


The hardest part comes in making the wedge that splits the air from the mouthpiece to create the sound. This often takes at least half an hour of evaluating, making decisions about how to fix it, and proceeding from there. Often the sides will not be straight enough, or the actual wedge will need to be reformed, or realigned.

The last bit is putting the two halves together, sealing it, smoothing out the edges with more clay, and then cutting the finger holes. During this whole step the wedge will need to be realigned, reshaped, and sometimes the entire ocarina is unsalvageable.

Final Analysis.

Since this is just a simple ocarina for myself, whether or not it played was my final analysis. I wasn’t too interested in tuning it this time, as I’ll do that later once it’s hardened more.

Craft Activity: Western Gua Sha

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

In designing for this challenge, I drew heavily from the Niedderer reading:

This remarkable quality of craft seems to emanate from the emotion bestowed on craft objects both by the maker within their creation and by the owner through possession, display and use. They consist in material quality and sensitivity of a craft object which imbue it with personal emotions and meaning, values and memory that can be perceived as related to the idea of
the gift.
For this project, I chose an object from my childhood: a china or ceramic spoon that is used to give massages in a process called “Gua Sha”. This process is soothing and usually used to “remove fever” from the patient or receiver. This is a very personal exchange between the administrator and receiver, as it entails a certain trust that typically exists between doctor and patient, or parent and child (as this is typically a folk remedy).
Thus, the kit that I provided is to make a personal massager that can be given as a gift. The kit that I provided includes:
  • A vibrating core, composed of a NanoBug, air-dry clay, and tin-foil
  • A tub of clay, for the kit receiver to create a shape that may mold to their own hand
  • A pack of markers, to decorate after the clay is dry
  • An instruction sheet

Both the process of making and using will imbue this simple item with emotional value from both the creator and the user.

Modular Craft: Outwards & Down

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
The modular pieces of a hanging mobile are the tools people use to craft this piece according to their specifications. Clips, string, hooks and metal wire are provided as a guides to get started, but by using inexpensive objects found around the home, we hope builders are inspired to create additional parts from various mudane bobbles.
The next step is to digitize the mobile, which I hope to accomplish by wiring the piece as a simple circuit. Individual parts will be equipped with analog inputs (tilt sensors, photocells) that respond to the environment and store values that control other parts equipped with digital and analog outputs (LEDS, speakers) once the circuit is completed. Additional opportunities for kinetic action are possible with Nitinol wire, which assumes a set shape when exposed to heat.  This way, the modular piece is a representation of the user’s actions and the immediate environmental context in which it behaves