BillyRadd Music

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Dymaxion Film Can Combo Amp/Speaker

“Do More with Less” was an admonition from the late, great educator, philosopher, architect, and design scientist/futurist R. Buckminster Fuller who, among his various inventions in the last century, included practical applications of the geodesic dome.

The word Dymaxion, a brand name that Fuller used for several of his inventions, is a portmanteau (a combination of two or more words and their definitions, into one new word) from the words dynamic, maximum, and tension.
This brand name was needed for Fuller's first architectural model of a synergistically designed single family dwelling, later known as the Dymaxion house. He also used the word for many of his other futuristic inventions including the Dymaxion house, the Dymaxion car, and the Dymaxion World Map.
As a very-much lesser inventor myself, and having a need for a inexpensive, simple,  portable, battery-powered combo speaker/amplifier to use with my other “invention”, the 3-string film electric canjo I call the Kodakaster, I decided to try to use another larger film can similar to one I used for the canjo (this one 14 inched in diameter) in the spirit of  the modern mantra, “recycle - reuse”.
My thinking was that I might find some way to turn the empty metal film can to my purposes by applying a so-called tactile transducer inside the can. I had to look no further for such a devise than the wonderful online store, Parts Express. The Dayton Audio QEX19 Quadpod Self-Amplified Sound Exciter fit my purposes perfectly since it is small and relatively inexpensive at $18.90. As the Parts Express site proudly declares, “the QEX19 Self-Amplified Sound Exciter turns virtually any solid object into a speaker by vibrating it at speeds of up to 20,000 cycles per second. Built-in amplifier allows you to put sound virtually anywhere!”
After consulting with a knowledgeable tech expert at Parts Express via email, I also purchased a Behringer PB100 Preamp / Volume Booster Stomp Box ($24.99) to boost the piezo pickup output from my Kodacaster canjo to match regular amplifier input of the Dayton Audio exciter.
My order from Parts Express arrived a few days later in the mail and I assembled my new canjo amp, which only took about 20 minutes since each electronic component was a self-contained module and the film can only needed a small hole to run the exciter’s wire through from the inside.
I inserted batteries into the two components, fired up my newest musical tool and, golly-bob-howdy, the sucker worked. 
Next, I built a short triangular stand from some spare wood sticks and hardware on-hand, plugged the canjo, going through the pre-amp, into the film can combo speaker and began evaluating the intensely funky sound of sliding open chords up and down the strings of my canjo’s neck.
But, I also noticed that the can produced a more pleasing tone if the bottom of it, where I had attached the exciter in the center of the inside, was facing forward toward where an audience would be. The only problem was that the bottom was completely clean without the old film laboratory label that was affixed to the top.
Then, it hit me. 
I had a decal/sticker that I'd gotten at a R. Buckminster Fuller exhibition at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center in Asheville last year. It fit the bottom of the can, now facing forward, as if made for that purpose, and that’s when I thought of calling it the Dymaxion Film Can Combo Amp/Speaker.
Since I’m not planning to reproduce and market my canjo speaker, I don’t think The Fuller Foundation will bother to come after me for using the brand name, Dymaxion.
And, somehow I don’t think Bucky would mind either.


  1. very nice !

    I like what you do!

    1. Thanks, Anonymous Ed. I appreciate your appreciation.

  2. This is SO very cool! I love having such a creative Papa.

    1. Thanks, Beth. I made a demo of the Kodakaster where I ran it through a few effects. Please, check it out and crank it up!

  3. He wouldn't mind, he'd want to hear you play it!

    1. Thanks, JB. It would sound cool in a dome, too.