Parker Steam Synthesizer
This project started as
a discussion with my friend Lewis Keller. I kind of joked about the
absurdity of a steam powered synthesizer, and how strange and
inefficient it would be. Well, the idea stuck in my head and a year
later, here it is the Parker Steam Synthesizer.
Click the image above or watch and hear the video of the steam synth here: SteamSynth VIDEO:
The steam synth runs best on coal (of course). However, since coal is
hard to find, and polluting , I've also had success with:
requires a pretty constant, hot fire to keep the synth going
continuously. The boiler can build up to 40-50psi before the safety
The pressure delivered to the engine is controlled by a ball valve seen between the boiler and the engine. The dynamo is much like a brushless, permanent magnet motor which is spun by a belt attached to the flywheel. This creates an alternating magnetic field which is turned into electricity by an inductive pickup.
The steam synthesizer does not use any electricity -- only steam power. In fact it generates electricity! It generates about 6 watts of AC at high pressure and speed. Much like any of my synthesizers, I usually amplify the signal using a standard amplifier before sending it out to speakers.
The steam synthesizer runs for about 20 minutes on one tank of water. I have no intentions at the moment to add any additional features or sounds. The clacking of the engine, hissing of the steam, and the unique waveforms generated by the reciprocal motions of the piston are compelling enough by themselves.
The castings used were ordered from PM research inc., a supplier of model steam engine parts and kits. I machined all the other parts using a lathe and mill. The belt was made from a bicycle tube and the dynamo is a modified speed control sensor from an analog tape machine.