22 Apr 2020

Duncan Fry – Par 43 Launch

History: CX Magazine July-Sept 2007

Regular readers may recall that I have a steady gig with the Harris Tweed Band, a group of like-minded old farts who have a stranglehold on the bayside geriatrics party circuit.

Struggling with the limitations of their minimalist low-budget production has been the subject of a few stories, and this one is no exception!

The phone rang the other day, and it was the drummer and self­-appointed manager of the band on the other end.


“Dunk” he rasped, “you’ve just gotta get some lights, mate. It was so dark on stage the other night I couldn’t see my walking frame.”

Actually he said songlist, but walking frame sounds so much more appropriate!

“It’ll cost you some money, you know” I replied, hoping this would kill the deal stone dead. but he was undeterred.

“Well, we made a bit of a killing on the combined 60th birthday and funeral the other week, so we’ve got a bit of cash to splash.”

“How much?” I asked tentatively.

“What do you reckon we could get for, say, a hundred bucks?”

“A hundred bucks? That won’t even buy a couple of globes for anything decent. Are you kidding?”

“Well, do what you can mate,” he replied. “It doesn’t have to be anything flash – just get something quick, alright? Gotta go – I’m late for my nap.”

And that was that.

I put the phone down and groaned to myself. Lights – the curse of every soundman’s life. But, I had to admit, the last few gigs had been a bit gloomy, and some basic stage lighting would definitely enhance the look of things and maybe even hide some of the ever increasing wrinkles, so I set to work with a vengeance.

A quick Google on PAR 56 cans showed that there was nothing available under $50 each, and that was without globes, so it looked like anything professional was going to be out of the question.

And then a thought flashed into my head like a flaming Xmas pudding. Many years ago, just for fun, we put out a press release announcing the new ARX lighting division.

The first product was to be a revolutionary luminaire (sounds so much more up­market than light, doesn’t it?) which we called the PAR 43, consisting as it did of old Nestle 500 gram coffee tins with a Pattern 23 floodlight inside!

Truly 43 Beams in every can.

We didn’t actually make any of these things, and people who inquired about them (and we had quite a few calls. believe me) were directed to the launch date on the press release -April 1st!

At the factory we go through about a can of coffee a week, so by investing heavily in the 500g coffee futures market, I soon had six empty cans, a big bag full of coffee, and the caffeine monkey on my back.

The perfect start to the lighting rig for the terminally tight-arsed.

Good old Blokeworld Warehouse had a deal on a six-pack of globes, and the factory next door to us had an even better deal on a bunch of globe holders courtesy of their Dumpster!

They always have such good stuff in there; it’s a very peaceful way to while away a lunchtime browsing through someone else’s old crap, and in this case very worthwhile.

Although I couldn’t truthfully say that I had ever played around much with lights, I had seen enough of them to have a fair idea what I wanted to do.

Top of my list was making sure I didn’t fry myself (no poetic justice intended!), so the wiring had to be totally idiot proof, even if other idiots than me would be putting it together.

A quick search through the back of the factory turned up some power leads with moulded plugs and bare tails, from the days before all equipment had removable IEC connectors (jug plugs} on the back.

I put the phone down and groaned to myself. Lights – the curse of every soundman’s life. But, I had to admit, the last few gigs had been a bit gloomy…

My plan was to mount the globe holder on the can lid so that I could open it if I had to and then pop it back on without disturbing the gels.

So it was out with the can opener to make the bottom of the can the front, where the light would shine. I then bent up some scrap steel to make U shaped yokes for the cans and bolted them on with 5mm bolts and Nyloc nuts, so they could move and be angled without coming loose.

Things were starting to take shape. Power leads -1 short, 2 long, and a switchable 4-way plug board were also courtesy of Blokeworld, and some red and blue cellophane would do for gels until I could get some of the real thing.

There isn’t a great deal of heat (or light, for that matter I) out of these things, so I didn’t expect the cellophane to erupt into flame. And if it did, then it would all be part of the show!

Last but not least, I sprayed my little babies matt black. Wow, what a difference -now they looked like real lights!

The next gig, I arrived early to set up, so that the band would arrive and be dazzled by the hi-tech light rig, and also by my cleverness in putting it together.

I hung 2 cans from the handle of each 12″ and horn box, angled across the front line. A couple of turns of baling wire for safety, and some gaffer tape for angling them.

The last two cans I hung from a length of water pipe over the drums, pointing straight down and neatly enhancing the drummer’s wrinkles and bald spot!

Thanks to a double adapter on each pair of lights I only used up three out of the four sockets on the plugboard, leaving 25% available for future expansion.

When the band arrived I said “Hey – check this out,” flicked the switches and they were suitably impressed. After all, any light is a hundred times better than no light.

“Are they moving lights” the bass player asked.

“Sure they are,” I replied. “Once that gaffer tape warms up they’ll move all over the place!”

“Wow, that’s great.”

My sarcasm went unnoticed. I gave the drummer the receipts for the stuff I had bought and he was pleased with the price.

“See – I knew you could get something for a hundred bucks.”

“But what about the hours I spent putting it all together?” He laughed “Ah, that’s just part of the gig, mate.”

For revenge I coughed into his microphone when he wasn’t looking – that’s just part of the gig, mate!

 CX Magazine – July- September 2007

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