Vintage suitcases, canteens, metal carrying cases and wooden boxes of varying colors and sizes occupy nearly every inch of a ceiling-scratching shelf in Kaden Hill’s suburban Sacramento garage workshop.
Hill will soon transform them into Rare Bird Stereos, one-of-a-kind reclaimed-material portable Bluetooth stereos. “I kept finding speakers everywhere (at thrift stores) that didn’t really have a purpose anymore,” he says, so he built his first stereo about five years ago, but got serious about it after he began studying to become an electrician.
Hill says he goes to thrift shops, antique fairs and yard sales a few times a week to find cases, speakers, screws and switches to create the unique sound machines. “Searching for everything is really fun, ’cause that will usually ignite something in my brain.”
For this stereo, he drills through an Argus slide projector case to install the components, then prepares the wiring to install the rechargeable lithium battery (above) that lasts 15-17 hours, he says. He sells his stereos for $150-$700 online on his Etsy store; at Miel Apothecary in Oak Park; and in markets and festivals, such as the Sacramento Midtown Farmers Market and the Kate Wolf Music Festival near Mendocino.
And how did he come up with the name Rare Bird? “The ‘rare’ part is the uniqueness of each one of them. … And the ‘bird,’ because they sing.”
While working in a bike shop in the early 1980s, Steve Rex was introduced to custom small-scale bikes.
Using his bachelor’s degree in economics was going to have to wait — Rex wanted to become a frame builder. He took machining and welding courses at Sacramento City College to learn the trade and made his first frame in 1987. He opened the Rex Cycles storefront in Sacramento in 1991, which he ran until retiring as a shopkeeper last year. He now makes frames out of his home workshop.
Local potter Joe Triglia of Tufarock Design details his process of making hand-crafted planters and other garden vessels that were inspired by a recent trip overseas.