Sunday, June 22, 2008

Modular Cabinet Update - EPIC FAIL!

The title just about says it all.

I should have listened to that voice in my head six months ago that said "whatever you build, it's not going to be 'good enough' and you'll just be disappointed. You'll justify it by reminding yourself constantly that you saved money". That would have been mildly valid had I been able to build the case in short order...but I didn't, it's been six months since I sold my Doepfer A-100P cases. For just $150 a month during that time period would have paid for the difference of the Doepfer Monster Case.

I spent all this morning and majority of the afternoon gathering the up the final materials (of which only 80% was obtained) and started building the case. I even got some nice red oak wood normally used for kitchen cabinets and had the guys at the lumber yard cut it for me, since all I have at home is a shitty old jig saw and oak is hard shit. Oh yeah, and it was $80 of Oak so I didn't want to fuck it up.

I was able to finally find some small corner brackets that I could use for mounting the Vector rails. They would work, but they weren't perfect. A minor issue, but it bugged me.

I searched everywhere for a nice thin, but sturdy piece of wood for the back of the case. Plywood was overkill, and ugly as fuck. Even though I wouldn't see it, it just seemed wrong to screw down this shitty plywood on $80 of sweet Red Oak. Everything else was too thin and flimsy.

After driving around most of Campbell and Saratoga to all the various hardware stores (Ace, OSH, and Home Depot...the trifecta), I finally returned home and got started putting the case together.

Of course, I have no jigs or anything...not even a proper workbench, so the glueing process started to get messy. I thought, "fuck it, I'll just skip the glue...the corner brackets should be fine". Well they weren't, the case was flimsy as fuck. And, despite what looked like an extremely well planed piece of Oak, it wasn't perfect and the corner joints did not align well and there were some slight gaps/overhangs. Again, not a big deal, but it was another one of those "fuck it, it's just cosmetic" things.

At this point, the sturdiness of the thing was starting to bother me. If you would have pushed it a little hard from the side, I'm sure all the screws from the corner brackets would have ripped right out of the Oak. "Well...", I thought, once I get the module rows mounted in, that will reinforce it well. So I brought one row outside to mount in the case.

But, as I was sliding the row in, I found that the inner dimensions of the case were to small...the rails were too big by about 1/8 of an inch.

FUCK! <- I yelled this so loud, I'm pretty sure my whole neighborhood heard me. One guy thought I had drilled my hand or something.

I spent the next half an hour thinking about what would be better/easier... using the spare couple feet of Oak that I had left to replace the one side, making the case slightly too big *or* take the vector rails down to a local metal shop and get 1/8" trimmed off each one.

The latter seemed extra complicated since 1) I didn't know of a local metal shop setup for this and 2) If I fucked that up somehow, then I'd been even more set back. And, of course, it would be more downtime...the modules still wouldn't have a case.

So I opted for the former, which would make the case less sturdy (since the rails wouldn't be butted right up against the wood...the mounting bracket would make up the difference, and it would look sloppy...oh yeah and there would about 1 foot and 1/2 of extra Oak that I would have to cut with my crappy old jig saw.

After measuring twice, I made the best cut I could with the jig saw. It actually took 3 minutes to cut through 10" of 3/4" thick Oak with that fucking saw and I had to actually pause twice to catch my breath and get a grip on the saw handle. After it was done, I re-attached the side and took a step back. It looked like shit! And it wasn't level! FUCK FUCK FUCK!

"You're 90% there", I thought to myself, "just mount the rails and see how it looks". So I did, well one row anyway, which was all I had patience for. The row wasn't perfectly parallel with the front edge of the cabinet and because the mounting brackets were making up the extra space, the whole row could slip around a lot. The case was barely any less wobbly than when the rails were not mounted.

And it looked like absolute shit.

So that's it. I'm fucking done. I'm ordering a Doepfer Monster Case first thing Monday. I'm too pissed off at this point to chalk it up to a learning experience. And, the only thing I learned, if anything, is that I should listen to initial gut instinct.


Now that you've read this horror story...if you are thinking of making your own cabinet, I have parts which I'd love to sell to you ;) No, seriously, the Vector Rails (including nuts and screws for the modules), the +/- 12V/15V 3A power supply, and Doepfer power bus boards are all up for sale. If you are interesting, just send me an email. I'm sure to have calmed down by then, and promise to be as helpful as I can.

james.cigler at gmail dot com

In the meantime, I'm going to hang myself... and try not to fuck it up.


synthetic said...

Bummer. I've also learned the hard way how to make racks and cabinets. I always start with a frame, like 19" rack rails with blank panels in them, and use this during the entire building process. This was leaned when we made a 3-section rack and only two of them were 19" wide.

But yeah, DIY can be a mean bitch. I'd just store the project somewhere for a month or two and then try to salvage it.

Muff Wiggler said...


Anonymous said...

yes, building cabinets can be a bit of a challenge. ive built three now. let me tell you a story and maybe you'll feel better.

my first was a small dotcom cabinet that had 1/8" gaps on both sides of the modules. that was a good learning experience but an ugly cabinet.

the second was a moog-style 1 x 24u motm cabinet. i really took my time to get all my measurements right, all cuts were made on a table saw (yay for friends with woodshops)...and i got the thing together, sanded, lacquered, glued (it was about a 6 day process) and it looked beautiful, made of white mahogany...and when i got done i discovered the fuckin wood was warped. so anything that sits on top of it wobbles on three feet. somehow i missed the warpage.

third attempt: 2x24u motm cabinet. very carefully planned, white mahogany, carefully cut, designed to be a visual match with the previous cabinet. after i sanded it and gorilla-glued it together) but before i drove a few screws in it, i was routing the edges down (to get a perfect corner)--and the fuggin router edge grabbed the cabinet and flung it to the garage floor, and it shattered into pieces. im lucky i didnt get hurt by the kicked back pretty hard at me

so i glued the whole damn thing back together and clamped it, waited another two days. screwed it together, finished the routing, sanded it, lacquered it, installed the mounting rails...and now some o of my 2u motm modules dont fit in the right hand sides of the cabinet on both top and bottom. yes, warped wood again (not as bad as the first cabinet, but not perfect). fukkin exotic hardwoods.

so, if i do this again, im getting perfectly straight oak panels from a big box store; the design will be extremely simple, and the cabinet will be small so fuckups are less costly.

i think you should consider finding a carpenter/cabinetmaker somewhere near you who can build you a simple oak would be a bit more than you were planning to spend DIY but waaaaay cheaper than a monster cabinet. a job like this is supersimple compared to what they normally build. you could even give your rails and some blanking panels to them so they can install the rails themselves. just an idea.

surachai said...

Dude, reading this is like a day in the life of Surachai. Except not as much swearing/ blood/ sacrifices. Are you sure you want to give up already? Seems like you've got grounded advice above and some frustration (motivation) to get you through it. I BELIEVE IN YOU.

felix said...

@ consumed - that does make me feel a little better

@ surachai - geez, make a brotha feel guilty why don't cha!

Honestly, this whole cabinet fiasco was the last straw to break the camels back. The most frustrating thing of the whole process has been walking into my studio each morning/evening and seeing my modules just sitting there, unable to be used. It's made me almost depressed this whole time...without the Elektrons and metasonix modules I think I would have abandoned the cabinet project a long time ago. In fact, that's really what I really wish that I had done, was abandon it early and just went with the Monster Case. Ironically though, it was probably back then when I could not have actually afforded it. Funny how that shit works.

And, I'm not going with the Monster Case out of pure frustration, it has features that I desire and have been known trade-offs for building my own case

1) Portability. Sure, it's not small, but it is portable. It has a very secure lid. The case itself is very rigid and has metal corners, sides, etc. It has been designed to withstand travel. Even if I'm just driving the rig to my friends studios, I appreciate those things.

2) More space. It actually is bigger than what I came up with, by about 72HP I think. Way back when, I *thought* my case was going to be plenty big, however, after a few more acquisitions, and plans for the Harvestman modules I haven't snapped up yet, I estimate that I would have had less than 50HP available. Going with the Monster would be at least 120HP available. Another sequencer would be nice...

There's also the piece of mind that I won't have wired anything wrong and not fry all of my modules. Sure, it's probably pretty unlikely, but if I did somehow do that, I would surely commit suicide.

The final advantage is that I can start on a couple other DIY projects (of which I have more faith in) that I had put on the back burner until I finished the cabinet.

Overall, I'm not so disappointed that I gave up, but that it took me this long to finally do it. I'm more frustrated with the lost time than the money (which if you talk to a lot of people, are one in the same).

I've already been able to find a good home for my PSU and 2 of the bus boards. :D

surachai said...

Killer, maybe our cases can meet and have babies. At least you know how to say when, cause I would've ditched that a long time back. I always thought you rigged your modules somehow to get some use out of them but after reading they were just sitting there, I feel sorry for them and you. But then I think of the massive mansion you'll be housing them in and all is well!

felix said...

Yes. Our cases. We mates them!

synthetic said...

I've done some projects (a desk and three bookcases) out of 3/4" oak plywood with oak 1x2s on the edges. It looks great and it's strong as hell, and won't warp. I wish I had access to a shop -- I've built all of my stuff with hand power tools in a 20x20 patio outside of my apartment.

J said...

Yeah DIY not the like the TV is it. I think I know where you're coming from re false economies. I bought some Blacet DIY modules and even though they work, because I know their construction imperfections (revised joints, desoldered misplaced electolyitc capacitor, slight singeing on one wire cos I soldered the joint on the pot just a couple of seconds too long) all this means I don't quite love my DIY modules as much as the factory built, cos they ain't perfect!

Moral = if you can afford it buy it. No pockets in a shroud

小小彬 said...