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Getting Started with Sid - Scratchbox Soldering Project

June 15, 2021

Getting Started with Sid - Scratchbox Soldering Project

Hello again Elmies! After all the soldering instructions I wanted to actually show a project with light soldering that’s relatively simple and uses minimal components. So I’m giving David Erik Nelson’s Scratchbox a shot! I was drawn to this project for two main reasons: 1. I have a habit of keeping little tins for no real reason and 2. It makes noise and therefore I think it’s neat. 

So here’s what you’ll need for this one: tape deck, altoid tin, soldering iron, solder, standard wire, drill, screwdrivers, cut-off switch, and audio jack. You can also get some sandpaper/steel wool and metal paint if you want to change the look of your tin.

First step is to locate the playhead inside of the tape deck, mine is seen right in the middle of the tape deck, the metal piece sticking up. Now it’s all about freeing the playhead by unscrewing every single screw you can see on the tape deck.

You’ll flip the tape deck to the back and get to work. Once all the screws are out remove the back piece and you should have all those nice tech guts revealed.

Your playhead might be easier or trickier to remove depending on the set up. 

Once you get to the playhead make sure to keep the two little screws that held it in place, you’ll need those again later. 

Now it’s time to get the soldering done! Cut one 6 inch and two 3 inch lengths of standard wire, strip the ends and tin them. Now you’ll solder one end of a 3 inch to the audio jack and the 6 inch to the other side. The 3 inch side can now be soldered to one side of the cut-off switch. Solder the second 3 inch wire to the other side of the cut-off switch. 

I decided to see what would happen if I added a second playhead since I had two broken tape decks lying around. For this modification I cut a third 3 inch length of wire. 

To prep the playhead(s) simply add some solder to the pins on the bottom and then solder the 3 inch and the 6 inch wire to either side. For my modification I used my extra piece of 3 inch wire to go between the two playheads. You'll also want to use the needle nose pliers to fold back the two little pins at the top of the head that normally help guide the tape in a cassette tape.

After I had all that set I got to work on the tin. I made a hole on the short side for the audio jack to go through, and another on the long side for the cut-off switch. I also made a hole in the bottom of the tin for the playheads to go out through. I used my needle nose pliers to widen and alter the holes to accommodate my components better. 

Then it was time to fit everything into the tin. I started with the audio jack and then used the nut it came with to secure it. Then I got the cut-off switch in place. Finally I got the playheads through the bottom of the tin and then lined them up to have the heads just peaking past the edge of the tin. I used those little screws that used to keep them in place in the tape deck to secure them to the bottom of the tin. My build is a lot messier than the Make Magazine version, something I will probably clean up later but I always cut wire extra long because I get nervous about it not being long enough. 

There you have it! David Erik Nelson’s Scratchbox is complete plus one extra head. Now I just plug it in to an amp and play it by rubbing expired card mag stripes over the playheads and seeing what sounds it creates.

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