The InSide Story

A project log for Sol-20 Reproduction

I am making a full sized Sol-20 reproduction, the first fully assembled microcomputer with a built-in keyboard and television output.

Michael GardiMichael Gardi 11/16/2021 at 02:454 Comments

The walnut sides of the Sol-20 are beautiful and help to set it apart from all of the other computers of the era. I really wanted to do them justice in my reproduction. I also saw the fabrication of the sides as an opportunity to advance my woodworking skills.

A couple of years ago I was thinking about building my own CNC router. At that time the The Mostly Printed CNC (MPCNC) was a popular choice. At the same time a friend told me about the Kwartzlab makerspace so I took a tour on one of their Tuesday Open Nights. I saw their massive Mach3 driven CNC router with a 4x4 foot cutting bed, plus their 100 watt laser cutter, complete woodworking, metal fabrication, craft, and electronics shops and decided to join on the spot. The cost of the parts for a MPCNC would pay for a years worth of access to Kwartzlab. I was attracted by the cool tools, but what I didn't consider at the time was all of the great people that I would get to know there.

Despite the fact that I have had access to the CNC at the "lab" for almost three years now, I have never actually used it. Finally now I had a great reason to remedy that. I had to take some online courses and one-on-one training but eventually I made my first CNC artifact. 

This of course is a Sol-20 side piece that I cut from a scrap piece of plywood I had lying around. I wasn't about to risk my expensive slab of walnut on my first attempt! But it went well so I took the plunge.

And thankfully that went OK too. But I was not quite done. The CNC just cut out the side shapes. I wanted to get the nice rounded edges as well. I learned that this was accomplished by using a round over routing bit (pretty clear at this point that I'm not a woodworking guy right). With a little more expert coaching from some lab mates I got this done as well learning how to use a handheld router.

Finally to finish off the pieces I applied some Minwax Walnut Gel Stain. This couldn't have been easier. The stain is applied evenly to the wood with a brush or rag and after only 3 minutes the excess is removed by wiping it off following the grain of the wood with a rag. 

This afternoon I installed the walnut sides onto my Sol-20 reproduction.

So happy with the result.


Dave wrote 11/16/2021 at 15:45 point

Beautiful work!  I would love to see the final build from different angles.  And also with the emulator running :-)

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Michael Gardi wrote 11/16/2021 at 16:14 point

Thanks Dave. I still have some work to do on the back panel but more pictures to follow soon. 

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Michael Gardi wrote 11/16/2021 at 12:09 point

Totally agree.

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Ken Yap wrote 11/16/2021 at 11:57 point

That's really attractive. 👍 Wood is much classier than plastic.

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