DIY Foam Tip for True Wireless IEM or Ear Buds

I want to start this off by stating that I’m not an audiophile, I just want my true wireless in ear buds to stay in my ears, which they just don’t with the typical silicone tips that are packaged with most entry level buds.

My search for tips that stay in my ears began when the collar of my winter coat brushed my new BT earbud and it tumbled out of my ear and onto the train tracks. Luckily the train was still 10 minutes away and I was able to retrieve half my investment.* I’d heard of foam tips before but hadn’t ever needed them for my corded earbuds. Everything I read suggested that the foam tips would solve my problems.

Because I didn’t know what size would fit my ears, I ordered a mixed pack of small medium and large tips from Comply. Be sure to check the Comply website for the right size tip to order for your in ear buds- I ordered the wrong size and the tip would slide off the stem and stay in my ear.  The cost plus shipping for 3 sets was just a hair over $20, you can get them on the ‘zon for about $15.  After that I purchased a package of JLab Cloud- you get 4 sets, 1 small, 2 medium, and 1 large.  The cost for those was around $7 (price fluctuates).

My right ear is sized small and my left medium, so each mixed pack nets me 2 usable sets with Comply. With the Cloud, I can wear medium in both ears. But the small fits well. I like the JLab Cloud– they are super soft and feel great, but they don’t fit my back up pair of Skullcandy Sesh (purchased via Woot for under $15.)

Foam tips stay put and my expensive buds stay put, my cheap Sesh stay in my ear. Also, the noise canceling effect means that my wife can watch TV and I can listen to music while I read.

A major downside of foam tips is that they degrade and after 3 months or so they get mushy and floppy, they still stay put but they are a pain in the rear to put in. You have to have fast hands to get them in place before they expand.

Even more annoying is that every brand of bud needs a different Comply tip or they won’t fit into their case, then they won’t charge. Annoying.  My search for a cheaper option lead me to the JLab Clouds. At $7 for 3 usable pairs is a better deal for my more expensive JBL buds, but they don’t fit my Sesh well.

I knew I could get a perfect fit from Comply foam, but I have a hard time spending more on tips than I spent on the buds. I could order a mixed pack and get 2 usable pairs, or I can order a pack each of small and medium- which would cost around $40.


So DIY options?

Most that I searched for were for IEM like Klipsch with very narrow posts for the tips or to make large silicone custom tips that lock into the ear. I have a couple of sets of heat moldable material (link to a DIY silicone version) that I use with corded buds, but I’d be into the problem of removing the tips every time I needed to charge. I’ve also grown very fond of the noise cancelling effect of the foam tips. It’s great for when I use the lawn mower or snow blower.

I found a number of DIY options using ear plugs. Which totally made sense- ear plugs are made of the same soft squishy foam as the tips. I also considered craft foam. Which did not work at all.

My reading of the above linked articles and more led me to picking up the softest ear plugs with the highest sound blocking rating that I could find… at the local CVS. I found a 10-pack of super soft plugs that reduce noise by 32 decibels, in hot pink. They had a variety of other colors but they all looked rather medical, other than another version that didn’t reduce noise by nearly as much. I like the hot neon pink though. Package of pink earplugs

I decided to poke the holes first then cut to size. I used 2 different hole punches- a Japanese screw punch with a 2mm and a 3mm bit and a hammered leather punch with a 3 mm bit. Because of how they cut and the properties of the foam, the holes were smaller than the bit themselves. With the punch the middle section and end of the hole are substantially smaller than the first part, which helps hold the tips to the buds very tightly.

I was worried that the plugs would slip off the buds without recycling the interior of a Cloud or Comply tip, but the hole is so small and the fit so tight they don’t. Keep in mind that the memory foam is expanding in all directions- so the compressed foam is trying to compress back into that tiny hole and compressing around the stem for the tip. I’ve been using a set for a week now and not had a problem with them slipping.

After you punch the hole through the height you need to let them expand, this works better if they are warm, so hold them in your hand. After they have expanded to their full height you are going to lay them down and flatten them along the height. Measure a silicone tip, add a millimeter or 2 and then cut the plug with a sharp pair of scissors. EDIT: The step of adding a couple of mm to the length of the tip is really important. Without that length they are too loose to stay put.

Now be patient and let them expand again, then flatten them like you are punching the hole again. While the plug is flattened pancake style, stretch and pull the donut shaped plug over the stem where the tips usually sit.  Pull the plug down past the end of the stem, the stem should poke out a bit. Let the tip expand, when it is fully expanded, wiggle it around until it’s sitting where you want it. It should not expand too far past the tip of the plug.

Every brand of IE buds will need a little different work. The Skullcandy Sesh were much easier to DIY- the way the plug fit over the stem was easy, and it fits into the case perfectly, so the buds charge without interference. My JBL Tune125TWS needed a bit more tweaking- I had to trim out the tiny hole over the stem so the foam wouldn’t interfere with the sound. I also used the interior of a dead Comply foam for these buds and they worked well. I would suggest, leaving a bit of old foam on the core to keep them put inside the plug.

The ultimate goal here was to create a cheaper alternative to Comply foam tips that fit into the case of my various BT IE buds. This has been accomplished and they look pretty decent and fit in my ears just as securely as the Comply, if not more so. They sounds pretty decent too. Like I wrote in the intro, I’m not an audiophile, but I like it if my buds sound good and don’t need to be cranked up to be heard.

The cost? A little elbow grease and $0.25 per pair. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited.

Many of the instructions offered other suggestions for poking the holes- from mechanical pencils to the metal tips off gel pens. Anything will work so long as it is at least a millimeter smaller than the stem on the in ear bud.

I did reuse the interior tubes from a couple of Comply tips, they were a bear to fit into the ear plug material, but once in there, they seem to hold well enough. I get the Comply tips with the added acoustic grate that keeps dirt out of the IE buds. I’m not sure this extra step is worth the effort and work. Continue reading

Keeping a Notebook PERFECTLY

There is no way to keep a notebook that is perfect for every person. There is only the perfect way for each person. That is to say, keeping a notebook is highly personalized. My method of a pocket notebook and 3×5 cards alongside a sketchbook (currently also functioning as my ETEW Journal) and a separate work sketchbook would not work for most people. Hell most creative people merge home and work into one planner and notebook- especially if they freelance. That doesn’t work for me because I need to create a division between work and life- I need work- life balance.cover of a red talens sketchbook covered in stickers

What do these different notebooks look like? (I’ll be using notebook and sketchbook pretty interchangeably from here.) My work sketchbook is an A4 (8×10) red Talens sketchbook covered in stickers. Eventually it will have doodles too. I use a larger sketchbook at work because I use it in classes to teach kids about sketching. We also work larger than I do at home, so my sketches are correspondingly larger. I purchased this sketchbook because it was inexpensive and also the bright red cover could be easily found on any table in my studio.inner page from sketchbook filled with skull, pineapple and other doodles. Also meeting notes.

The work sketchbook is a place where I capture meeting and course notes.  I doodle and jot down notes and I try to keep each meeting to a single page, but sometimes I use 2 pages. Occasionally I work on a page shared with another meeting , especially if the previous meeting didn’t need a lot of notes.sketchbook page showing a watercolor demo and sketches of soda cans and pineapple on pizza

I’ll be the first person to say that my meeting and other types of notes won’t make sense to most folx. I tend to draw the speakers and doodle important words and points in funky lettering. I see the goal of taking notes as a way of jogging my memory. For work we have a notetaker for each meeting, a quick look at the notes will get me the info I need. For trainings I take notes that are a little more detailed but are mostly to jog my memory. I save a copy of any printables to the cloud or my computer and call it good. Generally I believe that info can be pretty easily looked up if I search, but I have to jog the memory of that instruction first.more sketches of pineapple on pizza

My home sketchbook is a B4 (6×9 ish) Hand Book sketchbook. They’ve changed the name of them several times over the years. Speedball seems to have either purchased or is handling distribution of them now. Which is a good thing, for me, they have been my go to commercially made sketchbook for a few years, and better distro is great. The paper is perfect for a wide range of materials.A planning page with lists of possible projects for my summer groups

The pocket notebook is where I gather on the go ideas- things I hear on podcasts, in conversations, phone numbers from students for their parents, notes from books I’m reading and so on. It’s a good capture system. Sometimes these ideas get pulled into my Every Thing Every Where journal or sketchbook, or here as a blog post.steps for carving lino, things to consider and a reworked statement for a group

The above is what works for me now. Over the years I’ve used different systems, most documented here and there in this blog. I still like to read about the systems of others. The Take Note Podcast Blog (that’s a mouth full) has had a number of great posts about keeping a notebook where they gather information about authors and creative folx who keep a notebook.

The Perfect…

I’ve spent much of my life looking for the perfect pen, pencil, brush, sketchbook, and journal. I read reviews of the items I’m seeking and things I’m not. If a new  article starts with “The Best…” I read it. Part of this is that I want all the information before I make a purchase, but also I want the information. *

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that the most perfect and best tool for any job is the one I have on hand and ready to go.

Case in point, when I sat down and started to doodle the fried chicken sticker (see this post) I used the pencil I had in my pocket (Blackwing 93) and the paper I had on hand (Staples recycled 20lb copy paper.) When I sketch out my Trans remembrance poster turned sticker, I used the same Blackwing 93 in my Talens sketchbook. When I wrote up ideas for a new group I used the Uniball Air I had in my pocket in my sketchbook. When I wrote down ideas for a series of found prints, I used my pocket notebook and Parker Jotter.

Much of these choices have to do with the fact that these were the tools that I have on hand, not because they were special or perfect. Though, one might suggest the Blackwing 93 (or other versions of the firm BW) is a near perfect pencil. I think that the Parker Jotter is a perfect pen for pocket carry. The all chrome and steel version makes for a good gift for a starting out pen collector.

I’ve been known to grab an AmazonBasics No.2 pencil and sketch with it. I have slowly started to switch out the pencils in my studio with Pen + Gear pencils.

If I wed myself to a particular pen or pencil or paper I’ll feel limited or unable to work. But if I use what is on hand, I’ll get something done, or started. I spend a lot of time seeking out the best, but I also let myself use what is around me. The ideas need to be collected and explored, I can do that with anything.

Yes, I make sure I have something decent on hand, but I’ll use anything if it’s there and perfect isn’t around.

* I recently read an article that said this is a trait of formerly gifted kids who strive for perfectionism. If I hadn’t rage quit the article I’d tell the author to go to hell. /sarcasm.

Process: From Spark to Art

My brain works in mysterious ways, well not really, I know how my brain works but sometimes it puts 2 things together in a way I didn’t expect.

Case in point:

pencil sketch of a fried chicken leg with the words fried 4 life

Not the chicken leg I presented her with!

I work with someone who loves fried chicken. I, also love fried chicken. We talk about all the different fried chicken places in the area. Unabashed love for fried chicken. After a few weeks of fried chicken talk, I doodled a fried chicken leg on scrap paper and presented it to her. We laughed.

chicken leg sketch in paint markers with words fried chicken 4 life around it

Early sketch and color scheme.

Somehow I started to doodle more chicken legs, this time with the words “Fried Chicken 4 Life” in various arrangements. Then with black Posca pens and finally with some color.

Chicken leg with 4 life inside it and Fried Chicken around it

This was declared the winning sketch, and the one that gave the idea of making it a sticker.

fried chicken leg with 4 life inside and fried chicken around it, in final color scheme of red and pink letters with orange and mottled brown chicken on a light blue backlground.

The final color scheme and thick black outline. 7 different colors of paint pen were used.

When I arrived at a final image and color scheme that I liked I took a nice clear photo and then arranged it into a grid in (yes) publisher. After that I printed it off on a color laser printer to sticker paper. Finally the individual stickers were cut out of the sticker sheet.

The sticker paper I used was the most inexpensive I’d found on the ‘zon and has done well with letterpress inks and now paint pens. It also traveled through the color Xerox machine we have at work.

final design arranged in a grid, ready to be cut out.

The final xerox printed colors are a bit lighter than the original, but they look great.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this ridiculous sticker turned out, even the little hand colored version is great. The color photocopied is awesome. I’ve also run this paper through the letterpress at work with some pretty good results.

Continue reading

State of the Art: Getting Derailed

I’ve written here and on Ko-fi about how I like my routines and how they feed into my ability to make art and get a lot done. Usually, those routines are a good buffer between myself and chaos. But sometimes things happen and they completely derail my routines and it always takes a bit to get back to them.

A few weeks ago now, my debit card info was skimmed, likely at the gas pump, and the skimmer/thief siphoned almost everything out of my account. I woke up to a fraud alert as the skimmer attempted to completely drain my account. They almost got it all. The bank was good about labeling everything but one charge fraud and reversing all charges. I take it back they flagged that charge fraud as well, but the app used to pull the money out of the account didn’t reverse the charges. I’m getting into the weeds on this story, the end result was that my mortgage payment was gone, and I had to spend the next week and a half on the phone every morning with the bank. I attempted to work with the app, they shut me down.

If you want to start your day off wrong, call the bank about fraudulent charges on your card.

A few other things happened, the details don’t matter but it landed on my lap to fix them. The end result of them all was more time spent on the phone before and after work, and sending numerous emails to the wide variety of people who needed to fix this stuff.

It was and remains a lot. And it all completely threw off my routines.

My routines aren’t set in stone, though I do try to keep to them. My weekdays all start and end roughly the same. My morning routine is the most important and it was the most impacted by the calls and emails. When I get out of work the offices for all of the places I had to contact were closed.

Why are my routines so important? they set up my day and help me clear my mind of useless stuff. It allows me to be creative.

I find that when my routines are in disorder my mind is too, and creative blocks are more likely to settle in and take hold.

These last 3 weeks have not been fun, but also I have to realize that I only have so many hours in a day. I can’t shove in just one more thing, no matter how much I would like to do so. No that doesn’t work at all. The more I beat myself up for the disarray the long the disarray sticks around and fouls things up.

It’s a whole cycle of blame and disarray. By being gentle with myself- labeling the disarray and acknowledging the difficulty and letting myself be okay helps to break the cycle.

It’s hard to beat yourself up over something if you can say to yourself, “Hey, it’s okay. A lot of people go through this. It’s going to be okay in the end. How about today I just do one thing to get back on track, even if it’s just making a pour over and writing part of a blog post.”* That lets me get started on making changes, just small ones and feeling good about it.

Continue reading

RSVP: Use the Good Stuff

I announced a reboot of my podcast RSVP Stationery Podcast awhile ago. The first of the new season’s episodes is out, and I have to say it’s a banger.

The idea behind the reboot is that I take a topic, in this case, Using the Good Stuff and I interview and discuss the topic with 4 to 8 (maybe more) people. I use a framework of the same questions, but in true RSVP fashion we go on tangents.

I’m pretty excited by how this first season of RSVP went. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have in conducting the interviews. 

State of the Art: Notifications

I’ve turned almost all of the notifications on my phone off, and I never agree to them on my laptop. Why? The little dots fill me with anxiety, dread, and a constant urge to tap them open to deal with them.

I’ve been a proponent of “Inbox Zero” for years. I used to go into work, grab my cup of coffee and breakfast and immediately tackle the inbox- all the email that could be deleted was deleted, any email that could be given an answer in 5 minutes or less was answered during my coffee time, anything that required an action or a longer more thought out reply was scheduled to be completed as soon as possible. If I couldn’t answer an email because I was waiting on someone else, I sent a reply with that information and added a “nag/follow up” time to my day. This took maybe 15 to 30 minutes of my time and it made my day much better. I would also check my email at lunch and then after lunch. Email was never checked in the last hour of the shift.

Then came the creation of notifications.

This meant that when an email arrived a notification dinged on my devices and my work computer.

Then I got my self and iPod Touch. I snagged it for listening to music. But it also came with those damn red circles filled with numbers. The sight of them on my screen triggered my need to process the notifications to get rid of the red dots. In the early days of twitter and facebook this was nigh impossible. I’d deal with the notification only to get a friend in a different time zone going through and commenting on everything in my feed. My zero would climb rapidly to 20 and 30.

I found myself powerless to ignore the red circles.

So I turned them off.

For everything.

At first it was more anxiety inducing, what were my friends going to do if I wasn’t IMMEDIATELY available to them? Would I lose out on some of the custom book binding business? Would I lose followers on the socials?

I quickly learned that the answer to all of those questions was that it would all be fine. The pressure to immediately respond was in my head, and most of my friends were okay to wait until lunch or after my shift. Twitter waited. Facebook waited.

Waiting wasn’t going to cause the end of the world, or my business. It did slow things down. I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t had to have the 40+ hour a week job, but such is life. We make choices based off our lives in the moment, and I learned a great deal of valuable information working in the various jobs I’ve had over the years.

Why do I bring this up now?

Well, damn the news is all sorts of messed up. We’ve got Florida attempting to control the language and speaking of it’s people. We’ve got Texas denying medical care to transgender folx. And we’ve got Russia starting a war. Not to mention social media controlling narratives and getting a Cheeto elected. It’s a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming.

When it comes to the news and notifications I treat it similarly to Inbox Zero. I sit down with my morning cup of coffee and breakfast and I read the news. For me news includes my Feed Readers (I use Feedly and the Old Reader, this way I can follow several hundred blogs and not go over the reader limits), Twitter and several Morning Brew newsletters. If I don’t have enough time to review or read them all, I don’t.

My goal is to stay informed about a variety of things going on in the world, without them overwhelming me. Though I have to say that the three things I mentioned above all feel very personal to me. This isn’t the place to detail my existential dread, but I’m feeling a lot of it. But I’m also not allowing myself to dive into and endless doom scroll of reading ALL THE NEWS. When I get overwhelmed with the news I tend to shut down. My brain goes blank and I find it impossible to get anything done, let alone my creative work. These are the times when I turn to things like rolling out gesso on canvas or coloring pages of my journal with watercolor.

Will turning off notifications work for you? I don’t know, all I know is that it helps me.

Currently I have notifications on for: text messages and weather alerts. That’s it on my phone. The only alerts on my laptop are for when it needs to be reset or has some sort of maintenance needed. Same for my Kindle.

Continue reading

State of the Art: Getting to It

After all my posts about material snobbery, I had myself a little pep talk about just getting to it. When it comes to visual art I’m pretty easily able to just get to it, but when it comes to writing, well, not so much.

I cleaned out my reading nook, an area in the house, not an electronic device. The reading nook functions as a space where I drink tea, read, and write. IN the nook I have a couple of book shelves. The shelves are filled with my professional books about art therapy, when I had a traditional office those lived there. Now they are at home. I also have all my art books.

On a single small shelf are my writing books. There are only a handful but they live closest to the chair, where I can grab them and muse on their pages. Also on these small shelves live my composition notebooks. Not the empties, but those I’ve filled with my writing. I had to stop myself from writing BAD there. The writing isn’t bad, it mostly just a series of shitty first drafts. The other half of the comp books are filled with what I call my story bibles- character snippets and outlines. I write about the settings and people in the books, name ideas and the such. IF I made post it notes or index cards, I stick these into the story bible.

Anyway, after cleaning out my nook, I sat with my story bibles and novels that I wrote over the pandemic.

Surprisingly they aren’t half bad. Honestly, I’m not sure why I was so hard on myself. I mean, the pandemic, work stress, and all that contributes but these stories are at least half as good as some of the stuff I’ve read recently.

Maybe because things are going well- work is good, my family is good, and I’m not feeling the pressure of the world, I’m feeling better about my life and thus better about  my work.

I took my long weekend to take a story that has been stuck in my head on and off since I started a rough outline and character sketch and I reworked the sketches so they fit my ideas now, and then I hacked out a rough outline. After that I started to write.

All this makes me wonder about what it takes to do our creative work and how it changes as we age. When I was in my early 20s, I made art all the time. I produced zines. Because I was in my early 20s my life was a mess, but it never stopped me from creating. I used anything I got my hands on to make art. I stole photocopies at work and made my own screens for screen-printing. I experimented. I moved around.

Art was a constant. Writing was relegated to blogging.

And that worked for me for a long time. I hadn’t had an urge to write fiction in forever. I made time for the things I had urges for- art and blogging.

I’m not sure my point, but a good question is what art do you have urges to create? Make time for them, allow yourself to create and make.

I’ve always held the belief that for those of us with creative urges, it’s imperative to our mental health that we follow them in some manner. Ignoring the creative urge will only leave us bitter and unhappy.

Remember creativity in one area will feed creativity in another. Continue reading

State of the Art: Material Snobbery is Perfectionism

I’ve been having a series of great conversations about using the good stuff as I reboot RSVP as a solo project. I’ve been able to have in depth conversations with people I wouldn’t have these conversations with otherwise. It’s pretty special to me.

As I have these conversations ideas and thoughts come up. I try to make brief notes about them as we chat. These little ideas sometimes blossom into ideas for the blog(s) here or on Ko-Fi.

Using the good stuff is important to me on a number of levels, and the stories I’ve shared with my friends as part of RSVP are all part of it.

One story that I shared in the early stages of the conversations was about a friend who scoffed at my fountain pen. I was very excited about it and was talking to her about how smooth it was on  the paper I was using. She had the blank look of a person who didn’t quite get it. At the end of my pretty excited ramble she help up a Bic Stik, the worst of all the Bics (hell, get a Crystal for crying out loud) and said something along the lines of “This works just fine.” With a snide tone.

She was right, a Bic Stik will work just fine. It won’t be enjoyable but it’ll get words on a page.

It’ll do.

This is in part where material snobbery gets in the way of creation. Will I use a Bic Stik? Sure. Will it kill my wrist? Yes, it will.

When my quad core fancy laptop sang the blue screen of death song, I was sad and immediately wanted to replace it with another fancy high end PC. But I also realized, I don’t need that kind of power for the work I do on my laptop. I write words, barely edit pictures, barely edit audio (RSVP records pretty cleanly IMO), and layout my zine in Publisher. I don’t edit video anymore, so I really don’t need 8 gigs of RAM and a terabyte of storage. Instead I got a laptop that was cheap and handles what I do now- all of what I listed above. It bothered me for a hot minute, then I got over it, and just did what I had been doing- writing.

Here’s the thing, if you really want to create you will. You’ll find a way, if it’s with a fancy fountain pen, a cheap composition notebook, a chrome book, or a Bic Stik you stole from your DayJob.

I think that sometimes we spend a lot of time exploring new materials, new tools as a form of creative block. Maybe just maybe we’re looking for a magic bullet of creativity in a new fountain pen, new ink, new notebook, new pencil, new whatever. Maybe we’re also looking for a thing to blame if the creative juices never flow- I couldn’t create because this THING won’t work right!!!

Maybe those of us who collect supplies need to sit down with one supply and get to know it, and get to creating.

How many of us who want to write look for the perfect distraction free tool to type on? Or the pen with the right flow? The pencil with the right smoothness? The notebook that functions properly with whatever we throw at it?

What if the right thing is to just get to it? Stop with the excuses.

I write all this because I’ve done all this. And It’s a difficult thing to reflect on. I have had fallow times where I don’t create because I’m not in a mental space to do so, and rather than admit that, I buy pens, ink, pencils, and notebooks to fill the void.

The real question is, do any of you see this in yourself? It’s a thing to journal about for sure.

State of the Art: Battling Material Snobbery

Now that material snobbery has taken hold of my brain I battle it in the best way I know how- by focusing on the art.

Last week I had a moment where my entrenched material snobbery hit me head ON. I was taking part in an art prompt with my coworkers when I realized that the paints we’d been provided with were…. not my usual brand. Further we were given only the primary colors plus white and black.  I was having trouble mixing the colors I wanted and was getting frustrated.

I wanted to run to my studio and grab a package of acrylics I ordered for a group and use all the colors I couldn’t mix.

After a bit of frustration I focused on what I COULD do with what I had on hand. The image ended up working pretty well. I used cups to press circles of paint onto my canvas and little creamer cups to press perfect dabs of color all over.

In the end I had fun.

No matter what tools I have on hand I can always find a way to make them work in some way. It might be different than my initial plan, but it’ll work. This is what happens when you let yourself be flexible, and look at the possibilities instead of the limitations of the material at hand.

I try to remember that limitations are possibilities.