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Steampunk artisan Molly “Porkshanks” Friedrich (right) modded this awesome violin for Nathan Johnstone (left) of Abney Park. The faux vacuum tubes have LEDs inside and flash colors as the strings vibrate. The violin will premier at tonight’s Abney Park performance at Maker Faire, along with Culann’s Hounds, on the Main Music Stage (West Parking Lot).

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. Tanner Smith says:

    Very cool. Would it be possible to get a video of this violin in action? That would be very neat.

  2. Anonymous says:

    more like viowin

  3. Austringer says:

    The cloth insulated wires are a nice touch.

    I’ve been looking at unorthodox stringed instruments lately (Mostly to annoy a cello player at work with.) and there is a lot of really amazing stuff going on out there, both in terms of reworking modern stuff and remaking things that haven’t been used since the violin became fashionable. My favorite so far has been this gem http://www.elderly.com/articles/dopyera/110-4480.html made by one of the Dopyera brothers. Hint: Dobro is a contraction.

  4. dj_nme says:

    Hey Austringer, how about something even stranger looking?
    Something like a Stroh violin should make your cello playing friend cringe.
    It looks even less like a normal violin than a Dyopera.

  5. Insolence says:

    Maybe something is lost in translation for me… and I know that steampunk is a bit of a moving target. But…

    No bronze + no gears (that I can see) = no steampunk?

    I’d love someone to explain to me what exactly makes this steampunk in their opinion.

    Also, what a pity so much time was spent on the front, and the back just looks really plain, in fact really quite sad. The electronics, batteries, wires could have been incorporated into the design for a complete steampunk effect. Some of the best works I’ve seen in this style balance usability with design, and generally make the functional elements into part of the design. It’s generally the view and goal of most steampunk artists. Instead, this approach of just throwing the battery and wires onto the back just seems… half hearted. The entire back looks really bad, even a back cover of some sort with a window or two would have been better.

    You could argue that during a concert people will only see the front, and while that is a valid point, it’s just a pity to do all this work, and not finish the job. I think a window from the front to see through to the back where the batteries are stored would be neat, with some gears?

    Maybe she ran out of time… pity.

  6. Molly Friedrich says:

    You have a rather limited view of steampunk style, its really not just about brass and gears. You should probably do some more research into it before you try to attempt a further critique.

    The technology that came from the 1800s and early 1900s was an inspiration to me for this, I am not concerned with replicating a look that has already been done to death. If you want brass and gears check out the modding I did to Nathan’s guitar a few months back. Steel or nickel is very common in vintage technology, so we wanted to represent that side of things with this violin, in order to mix stuff up a bit and help people see that Steampunk is indeed not just what you think it is. Thanks for your comment tho, you did ask some other interesting questions which I will extrapolate further on now;

    One of the restrictions the design had was that everything needed to be removable so that when Nathan decides to upgrade to a new violin body, he can sell this one as it was before I modified it. That is why the back was so exposed, the microprocessor and battery pack were kept minimal because weight was an issue. Nathan wanted to be able to play it as long as possible on stage, and it is already much heavier than he is used to, so the design did not include trimmings to cover up anything needlessly.

    Budget was also a reality, as creating it as a fully realized 100% technology incorporated piece would have doubled the price and build time, and those were two constraints that Nathan chose to set where they were for good reason.

    This was purely created to be a performance piece, used on stage, and not as a 360 degree viewable prop, which I am capable of and would love to do a version like that if someone is willing to hire me for that.

    The main focus of the piece is the colour organ performance. My friend and electric engineer Phil R of Project:MOPTAW did the LED/microcontroller work based on my idea.

    The Violin has special pickups that allow for the body to be in any shape without effecting the sound, and are unaffected by the electronics present on the body.

    It was a real pleasure to work on this with Nathan and Phil, I’ve had this idea in my head for months, and it was great to finally see it on stage Saturday night!

    cheers,
    Molly ‘Porkshanks’

  7. buy violin strings says:

    Even if it looks strange, i find it very cool! In order to get the people’s attention, you really need to do something strange!

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