Reclaimed, Recycled and Scavenged Musical instruments and Noise makers.



Luke Gottelier's Painting guitar

I've found myself recently in a really fun new role of consulting on instrument building for various people. Recently, I helped Luke Gottelier turn one of his old paintings into a working guitar for an exhibition here in London.

From the Press release:
Luke Gottelier will be responding to the DOLPH brief by moving into the space for the month and adding to his ongoing ‘Home Improvement’ series. This involves torturing and re-utilizing a group of failed paintings from 2004-2005. So far he has made a painting into a remote control car, an ashtray, a postcard, an electric guitar and a candlestick. Temporarily relocating his studio to Streatham and surrounding himself with the books, music and resources that inspire, Gottelier will aim to make sense of the upheaval by producing a piece of work that explores his predicament.

For more info on the exhibition check the gallery's website here:


Results from the Scrapitar workshop!

Last Saturday was the inaugural instrument building workshop at the wonderful Machinesroom in Limewharf.

I learnt a lot from running it and hopefully the participants did too, each person made a completely different instrument to everyone else.

We spent the day and turned this:

Into these:

I also consulted on and helped figure out ways to turn this painting from artist Luke Gottelier into a working guitar for an upcoming exhibition. I'll post more on that in a bit!

Death of Narrative (and Happy Birthdays)

A good friend of mine and collaborator Ryan Cockerham is performing an amazing piece with his comrade Er-Gene Kahng on the 27th of this month at The Great Hall, Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas.  

The piece, "Music on a Long-Thin Wire" by Alvin Lucier, uses a long-string instrument which I gave technical support and theory explanation of for it's creation. 

I wish I could be there to see the performance, if you happen to be in the area yourself please go! 

More details are here:

The Great Home Hack

Here are a few photos from The Great Home Hack, it was a fun and cold weekend, met lots of interesting people and didn't lose my voice explaining myself!  


Fret Placement Tutorial

I get asked quite often about how I figure out where to put the frets on my instruments. Building proper guitars takes incredibly precise measurements, the length of the neck and the height of the nut and all sorts of different factors go into measuring the exact placement of guitar frets.

My stuff tends to be much harder to accurately measure distances and figure out heights and how much a neck will bend under tension. So, over the years, I've realised that the best way to do it with oddball instruments like mine, is thusly:

Frets are the last thing I do to my instruments. 

I string them up, tune them, leave them for a day or two and tune them again. Sometimes the strings need to stretch out a bit or the neck needs to settle down for the winter, so it's good to take your time at that bit.

The next step is to take whatever you're using for your frets (I tend to favour round nails at the moment) and to simply plug in your tuner and go up and down your neck with your loose fret on the neckboard, pushing the strings against it until you hit an in-tune place. Mark it with a pencil and keep going up until you hit the next note.

The video should clarify what I mean if that doesn't make sense.

Be patient and slow while trying to find the right spot, my tuner is good but often gets confused and jumpy. Also, it REALLY helps if your nut and bridge are exactly 90 degrees to the neck, this way your frets will be more consistent if they're all at 90 degrees also.

If you want to do the measurement methods, the best calculator I've found has been here: http://www.manchesterguitartech.co.uk/fret-and-nut-calculators/


Instrument building workshop!

I've been having some fun meetings over at Machines Room, in Limewharf about running some workshops with their scrap materials. And I'm happy to announce the first (hopefully of many) workshop will be on March 21st!

"During this 4-hr workshop you will learn how to build your own 3-stringed, fretted instrument from scratch, from scraps! With the application of very basic woodwork and a simple bit of electronics take home your very own, SCRAPITAR. Suitable for 12 years and up (under-16s must be accompanied by an adult)."

Tickets are limited and available here:


The Great Home Hack

I will be exhibiting some of my creations at The Great Home Hack.

"The Great Home Hack will make its debut at Fulham Palace on March 13-15 and will feature new and original works from leading designers, artists and creators within the world of upcycling. Curated by Channel 4’s Max McMurdo, the weekend will include workshops in home hacking and upcycling, live demonstrations and of course, tastings of Brancott Estate’s award winning wines."

Tickets are available here:


Piano Stool Viol

It's been a while since I made this one, but things have been very busy over here and I never got around to playing it much!

It's made entirely from a broken piano stool! The neck was one of the legs and then the body is made from 3 planks that surrounded just underneath the cushioned seat.

The burnt design is one of Phil Mann's tattoo designs, he recently added to my little collection of inked bits of skin and his designs are utterly incredible. His site is here, and 100% worth a look at.

There is a small piezo embedded in the inlay underneath the bridge, which goes directly to the amp. The strings are strimmer wire and the tuning pins are from a piano.

I'm not quite good enough to carry a tune on a bow yet, so I hooked up my loop station and made enough textures with it to hopefully cover up my awful technique! 


Vulpestruments at the Model Engineering Exhibiton

This Friday I will be exhibiting some of my creations at the Makers area of this years Model Engineering Exhibiton at Sandown Park. 

 It's going to be a pretty interesting day, hopefully some of you can make it!


Dronitar Reverie

MAKER FAIRE is coming up, and I've been busy finishing up a bunch of instruments and noise makers to bring along with me. 

It's going to be a seriously amazing event and I'm really excited to be a part of it. I just hope I'll find time to have a look around myself!

You'll be able to play with any of the instruments I bring along, including this little fella:

Mini Coconut Kora

Although I made this one a while ago, I've only got around to making a recording of it!

It's a mini-Kora style instrument made from one half of a novelty coconut bra, a plank of wood and a bunch of piano tuning pins.


Newest Dronitar

My latest Dronitar is a 3 stringed, 2-motored, piezo contact pickup'ed instrument made from plywood and a strip of hardwood from a doorframe!

The frets are positioned so that it can only play the same notes as a Tempered Hang, this was in the brief for the commission. This makes it very easy to play within a set scale and have each string/fret on the same scale. Making it hard to not play harmoniously! (no offense Rich!)


I'll be at the London Mini Maker Faire!

I'm very excited to announce that I will be exhibiting some of my instruments at this years London Mink Maker Faire in Elephant and Castle!
The MAKE movement is something I'm very excited about and believe strongly in, I'm very honoured to be asked to be a part of it!
It is being held on Saturday 15th November at the London College of Communication.
I haven't quite decided exactly what to bring along yet, but expect to see/hear/be able to play some of these:


I'm playing a gig in London on Friday

I'm taking a few of my instruments for a spin in Londons Brick Lane on Friday!

It's going to be an evening of improv/experimental happy fun times.

Come down if you can!

A New Mouthbow

I've been commissioned to do a few new instruments, one of which was this nice, simple and hopefully elegant Mouthbow!



It's been a while since an update so I'll keep this brief.
  • In 12 days’ time I will be running an ultra-marathon, which is a ridiculous distance of 50k (2,343 Blue Whales, 555 football pitches, 2.3 Manhattan Islands, 1 Channel Tunnel) to raise money for children in Nepal through a charity I helped set up many moons ago.
The program provides therapy, through art, dance and music and play it helps disadvantaged and often traumatized children heal and reminds them how to be kids again. A large portion of the kids we look after have travelled over the Himalayas from Tibet in order to seek refuge.
As an added incentive to donate to my effort, I will be raffling off one of my creations to every donor, and will also build a unique and custom instrument for whoever donates the highest amount (currently at an incredible £150!)
To donate, please go here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TomFox
To find out more about the charity please go here: http://www.artrefuge.org.uk/
  • A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the London Hackspace for the Acoustic Hacskapce meetup. You can read a very flattering write up about the evening over here.
As a result of that evening, I will be doing a gig in Brick Lane in September, more details on that to follow!
  • I currently have 3 commissions on the go, which is brilliant, very much looking forward to sharing these creations with you.


A simple Mouthbow

I saw a TED talk where David Holt played a Mouthbow, it sounded amazing and looked like it used similar mouth techniques that I've used before on Singing bowls. So I made a quick one from a plank of wood, a piano tuning pin and an acoustic guitar string. So so so so simple!


A short film about my work by Dave from Daves Conservatoire!

The amazing David Rees has made a short film about me! He's managed to make me sound coherent which is a testament to his excellent editing skills.

It also features my newest instrument which I still don't have a name for.

His website is an amazing place to learn music and music theory for free. Definitely worth looking into if you're wanting to teach yourself.



Rich playing the Leviaphone

Before I hand off one of my Leviaphones I bought it into the studio to get Rich to play around on it, here's the video!

Analogue Interference Synth

This instrument is a quick prototype that could lead to some much bigger ideas.
In a lot of my droning machines I need to place the motors as far from the pickups as possible to avoid interference/noise being generated from the moving parts. With this instrument I've used that noise/interference to my advantage to generate a dirty-synth sounding tiny machine.
Using a small variable resistor to control the speed of the motor you can get different pitches of noise/interference when that motor is next to a pickup. Add a simple switch and you can get results like this:

Very very basic stuff, it could be replicated using two motors sat next to each other too instead of the transformer I used as a pickup in the prototype.