TOOLBOX MAKE LOOKS AT KITS
Cuckoo for Coconuts
Although coconut shells do have some well-established niche market uses, such as novelty
bikini tops and small caged-pet shelters, lately
I’ve been feeling that too many of them are going
to waste. So, while recently trying to find an
enclosure for the ukulele amplifier I was building,
I naturally reached for a coconut. I don’t think
I could have found a better case for my project.
In addition to the obvious thematic tie-in with
the ukulele, the coconut shell has a number of
other redeeming qualities. The shell is hard,
durable, easily machined, and has a pleasing
organic texture which can be left hairy, sanded
smooth, or anything in between. The little brown
dome of a coconut half-shell is cute as a bug,
bringing a smile to all who see it. The parabolic
shape is extremely stable and tip-resistant when
used in the facedown position. Tip them up on
edge and fashion a stand of some sort, and you’d
have the basis for a really cool set of satellite
speakers. I don’t even want to think about how
great a pair of coconut shell headphones might be.
For my coconut amp prototype, I opted to
start with a basic amplifier PCB and parts kit
from Minty Amps. (Building circuits from scratch
178 Make: Volume 14
Minty Amps: mintyamps.com/store
Grille Cloth: grillecloth.com
using the parts in your box can be rewarding, but
for speed and convenience, nothing beats a kit.)
The Minty Amp circuit, built around the LM386
amplifier IC and a handful of other components,
has a tiny footprint. Tiny enough to let you house
your new practice amp, complete with battery,
speaker, switch, inputs, and outputs, inside that
favorite little project box, the mint tin.
The Altoids tin does make a nice project case.
It has a hinged lid, giving you easy access to
your business, a great pocketable form factor,
and of course it’s everywhere for free. The metal
construction provides convenient RF shielding
and a nice common electrical ground.
But despite these merits, I really had no
choice but to opt for the coconut shell. I made
a floor plate from ¼" plywood and secured it
to the shell with 3 screws. The speaker grille is
reproduction radio grille cloth stretched over a
hoop made from a slice of PVC pipe. A classic-style knob for the power switch/volume control
and a chrome input jack finish off the amp.
Now how are the Howells supposed to sleep
with Gilligan making that confounded racket?!