Category Archives: videos

The Electric Western THERMATRON

Test of the THERMATRON flame controlled synthesizer by Lorin Edwin Parker from



Ionized gas, chemicals, heat and applied high voltage conduct through a flame, modulating the impedance across the grid and or plate of vacuum tubes. This applies a control voltage to a Phantastron synthesizer.

Odds and ends (videos)

First, artist Jake Waldron usually does sculpture;
but he did build a complex noise box, and he circuit-bent a TV set.

Then we have this thing, made of an old SN76477 noisemaker chip.

The guy who built a sequencer out of a Dekatron tube is braver than he realizes–
Dekatrons are erratic and unreliable. Same guy who previously built a modular synth out of tubes.

An experimental analog video synth–very rare to see anyone doing this today.
(Doing it with a VGA monitor simplifies the electronics, because
you don’t have to worry about recombining sync and chroma signals.)

Finally, this defies explanation……


With the Astra. Video here.

I quote the creator:
“ken stone power supply board – caps/regulator/heatsinks/diodes from gutted wersi organ.
ray wilson’s 1v/oct single bus pcb. the keyboard is from a gutted lowrey wandering genie keyboard.
i recycled most of the capacitors in the unit from the genie and a dead tr606
(the rotary switches from 606 and a dead scope)
inside five small protoboards w/ 2 VCOs based on thomas henry’s 3080 vcos
(w/ matched transistor pair/tempco/polystrene caps).
white noise source (based on henry’s PNP noise source) through a Lm386 amp.
passive ring modulator using BAT56 schottky diodes – through their own lm386 amp.
VCF is a CEM 3328 from a dead mirage keyboard following jeff pointus/scott stites schematic – thomas henry 3080 VCA – a 555 based ADSR, two asm-1 lfos.
each CV section has it’s own modulation matrix rotary switch w/ choice
of lfo 1 tri, lfo 1 squ, lfo2 tri/squ, adsr, noise, gate, vco cross modulation
i didn’t buy anything for this unit.
i used some pretty crappy pots – but used good ones where it counts –
even the wire was from an old medical device

this is my depression era thrifter

the unit has linear FMs to the vcos and voltage controled Q
that are not even available on the front panel 🙂
i also built another lag in the unit – but didn’t need it…
someone can circuit bend it when i’m dead….

used decal paper for the first time to do the panel –
wood was dumpster wood

assembly of a mad man…”

But smarter than most mad men……and not afraid to part out crummy old combo organs. 😉

Phantastron Kit Available

Electric Western is proud to present the Phantastron Kit: an all tube synth kit. The first all tube synthesizer extracted from Navy radar circuitry (at least that’s where I got it).

Here’s my video of testing the prototype model (yours will be prettier and sturdier) Audio starts as the tubes warm up (within 25 seconds) –

Video Demonstration:

Phantastron Under Test

First, I’ll start with what you don’t get:

1. A metasonix oscillator (yes it uses a 2d21 thyratron, and yes, I too love metasonix and Eric’s work, but this thing is different – the last thing I want to do is rip off someone else, really). But thank you Eric for introducing me to the 2D21, it does work better than the 884 in this case (although the 884 is sooo sexy looking)

2. 1V / xxx — the CV is quite variable, which makes this intstrument, well more like a trautonium than a TB303. Just watch the video above and know that the ribbon controls 0 to 5.5VDC linearly.


A Turret board with extra turrets for your own mods.

All the electronic parts, including a 2D21/PL21 thyratron and a 6SJ7 Pentode. Why these tubes? Well, the 2D21 is the most affordable thyratron and the 6SJ7 is a metal wonder that is RESONANT as heck in a phantastron circuit.

An all wooden box and 1/8″ Steel panels. Copper, brass and other shiny things.

A completed, safe power supply which reduces the possibility of tasering yourself and eliminates the possibility of working directly with AC wall current.

Instructions with theory lessons and the original scans of navy and pre-WWII tube textbooks. Drawings and and assembly guides. A nice note from me and my wax seal (yes, I am steampunk, and I do write the note with a quill pen on artisan paper).

All the fun of tubes and experimentation without buying metalworking tools, having a workshop, etc.

Oh, and please buy one, they’re pretty cheap, awesome, and I quit my job as an audio electronics professor and corporate employee to make more crazy stuff. The pitch ribbon is the next release, but if you’re really anxious, you can get a 500mm strip from SpectraSymbol at Spark Fun electronics and make your own. Or I can show you how to make one from $5 worth of EM shielding plastic and mylar. The Electric Western one will include some logic to change tuning, allow two touch finger control, analog computing and sustainable local lumber, etc.

Also, we are total “western steampunk”, post-apocolyptic mountain folk, and we use no lead, local materials, wind our own coils, never get Chinese circuit boards, use “green” canadian lumber and have a solar power array that makes 5KwH a day (and a steam engine that makes abut 9 watts), catch and use rainwater and live in an earthship, compost all of our feces and urine into bio-gas and humanure. And I really do wear a cowboy hat and I’ve punched a goat (lovingly). So, just buy one (a Phantastron kit, not a goat) to support our carbon neutral anti-corporate lifestyle (if that’s your thing).

Or just buy one and return it if you’re not happy. I can deal with that too. But you will be happy.

Here’s a time-lapse video of soldering the turret board:

Oh, and thank you to Eric and Metasonix for opening up the world to crazy tube instruments!

But visit Electric Western:

Old news, but still….

We just have to bring up the notorious “swearing” Leapfrog Alphabet Pal. Idiots have been blubbering about it since it hit the toy market in 1999. Even David Sedaris has some comments about this “evil” toy.

It became such a popular meme, Leapfrog reprogrammed later versions to censor its speech.

Thankfully, Austin Cliffe of Creme Dementia did the proper thing with the “obscene” talking caterpillar.

Talking toys can be a problem. (not)

Oddly, Leapfrog’s corporate office is right next door to the office of Electronic Musician magazine. Is there a conspiracy here? 😉

The Parker Steam Synthesizer is finished (and works!)

Lorin Parker’s steam synthesizer was posted earlier, but the information linked was at least 2 years old…

Steam synth in operation

The steam synthesizer has been fully operational for more than a year!!

It generates electronic sound through a modified dynamo, and, well, hisses and clacks like a steam engine.. . No electricity is used to generate an electronic signal. Only fire, heat, steam and metal!

New video, audio and info about the Parker Steam Synthesizer can be found here:

Furthermore, Lorin Parker has recently started Electric Western, a DIY oriented site for the dissemination of deviant and expressive electronic instruments. Many other instruments are showing up there as the site grows, and Electric Western will be providing unique kits and instruments in the near future.