This is not the greatest instrument in the world, no
This is just a tribute!

When I asked my 9-year-old son who he was going to pick as the subject of his third-grade biography project, he thought about it seriously and answered, "probably either Abraham Lincoln or Jack Black."

I had to laugh at the struggle he faced when choosing among such great contenders, but his second option wasn't too surprising given that we're all fans of Jack Black at my house. We've watched Nacho Libre and clips of Jack playing his Sax-a-Boom more times than I care to admit.

There's an idea! Could I find a Sax-a-Boom for my son to use as a prop in his presentation? There had to be a few for sale on eBay…

Sax-a-Booms for Sale on eBay
Sax-a-Booms for Sale on eBay: Almost $700

Yikes! I wasn't going to pay $700 for a toy that was originally sold in the 90's for $20. I told my wife I could make a Sax-a-Boom for less than that!

It was an innocent thing to say, but I soon realized it was also a huge mistake.

Within those few short seconds, an unintentional idea had been hatched, vocalized, considered, dismissed, reconsidered, and ultimately settled. The idea had to be fully realized, or it would just never leave me alone. Thus began my journey of making a Sax-a-Boom replica.

Okay, suppose you’re from the future, and your AI overlords task you with recreating a curious artifact found in the digital record – a musical device called a Sax-a-Boom, known to be as rare as a Stradivarius. An actual Sax-a-Boom hasn't existed on Earth for at least 500 years. You have no specifications, engineering drawings, technical details, or dimensions of the object. You do have a few antiquated two-dimensional videos and photos of people playing a Sax-a-Boom, but that's about it.

That's essentially where I started, and honestly that framing was a big part of my motivation for the project. I wanted to answer the question "How hard is it to recreate a toy like this using only random photos and videos found online?"

After a little research, I came up with a basic plan:

  1. Create a 3D model in CAD software using photos and a little bit of guesswork
  2. Print the 3D model
  3. Paint it
  4. Add some electronics to make it work

That's essentially what I did, but as anyone who's done this kind of thing knows, the devil’s always in the details.

Now, I want to give huge credit where due and admit that I did not create the 3D model here. I’ve made a lot of functional parts in Fusion 360, but I’m not great at modeling organic shapes with a lot of curves, and the Sax-a-Boom's exterior is almost entirely made of curves - sexy, nostalgic, 90’s-era, in-your-face colorful curves.

So I pulled out the big guns and went where all futuristic humans and bipedal androids go for their affordable creative-content-for-hire needs: Fiverr.

I sent a few Sax-a-Boom images to a Fiverr user who specializes in 3D modeling. $20 and a few days later, the amazing @blackhillstudio delivered a beautiful mesh that approximated a Sax-a-Boom. It was as good as I could possibly expect from someone referencing a few limited photos of the thing. Definitely better than I could have done in that amount of time.

Unfortunately the mesh was far from being optimized for 3D printing, so I spent some time breaking it down into components, shelling it, and splitting the shell components into even smaller pieces that could fit in my 3D printer’s limited build volume. I also ended up modeling the buttons and volume knob myself to account for mechanically attaching them to switches and a potentiometer.

Printing Body Pieces on a Modified Monoprice Maker Select V2
Printing Body Pieces on a Modified Monoprice Maker Select V2

After printing the main pieces in PLA, I was left with a crude shell for the body.

3D Printed Sax-a-Boom Body
3D Printed Sax-a-Boom Body Held Together With Tape

What followed can be described as one metric butt ton of elbow grease as I tried to get the thing to fit together with continuous, smooth surfaces. This included superglue, epoxy, Bondo spot putty thinned with acetone, wet sanding, filler primer,...

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