Max Lab

The Max Lab is the hub of what we call Physical Interaction Design at CCRMA. Named after Max Mathews, the Max Lab is where we focus on hardware and software interfaces for interacting with sound.

We are physically located in Rm. 201 of the Knoll.


Lou Harrison, from "Music Primer," 1971 C.F Peters Publishers


Max Lab - Denizens


During any given term, the Max Lab may have up to 50 users, including students of Music 250 -- Physical Interaction Desgin for Music and Music 36N -- Experimental Musical Instruments. Regular inhabitants of the Max Lab are:

Max Lab - Access and Hours


There are 2 prerequisites to using the Max Lab:

1. You need to have a CCRMA account and access card in order to enter the lab. People who are unfamiliar to regular Max Lab users will be asked to log in to a CCRMA machine and open the Max Lab door in order to demonstrate that they are a current CCRMA user. If you are a Max Lab user, and someone you don't recognize attempts to use the Lab, do the same. It is the responsibility of the entire community to ensure our safety, security and the continued availability of resources.

2. As of Fall 2006, new Max Lab users must all receive a 30-minute safety and courtesy briefing. Please contact Sasha Leitman (sleitman at ccrma) or Michael Gurevich (gurevich at ccrma) to schedule a briefing.


The Max Lab is available 24 hours a day. The door automatically locks when it is closed. The door can be left open only when someone is working in the lab. If you are the last person to leave the lab, turn off the lights, close the windows and close the door behind you. This applies at all times, even during the day.

Max Lab - Cleaning and Caring for the Lab

Cleaning and Caring for the Lab

There is a large number of people using the lab, and it doesn't take long for the lab to get very dirty. Our cleanliness rule is as follows:

Leave the lab cleaner than when you found it.

This means thoroughly cleaning up your mess, in addition to something else. It only takes a couple minutes to sweep the entire floor or wipe down all the work surfaces. Plan on stopping your work at least 15 minutes before you need to leave, or longer if you've made a big mess. This will give you enough time to properly put away all the tools or components you have used, and to clean up the lab.

Max Lab - Safety Practices

Safety Practices

The Max Lab contains many power and hand tools for your use, but many of these tools are dangerous if used improperly. Important safety precautions must be obeyed.

There is a general Stanford-wide Health and Safety Policy.

General Safety Common Sense

Use common sense to keep the lab safe and your fellow lab users happy. Examples of common sense:

  • If something seems like a bad idea it probably is. Don't do it.
  • Don't leave things on the floor that people may trip on.
  • If you run an electrical cord across the entire lab, someone will probably trip over it.
  • If you are about to make a loud sound or turn on a loud tool, warn those around you.
  • Please speak up if you see anyone in need of some coaching on any of these points.

Work in Pairs

It is always a good idea to have someone else around while you are working in the lab, especially if you are using power tools. Try to avoid working alone wherever possible.



  • Wear appropriate clothing for what you are working on.
  • Avoid bulky clothes that may get caught or snagged on tools or soldering irons.
  • Remove long necklaces or dangling jewelry.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back.
  • Wear closed-toed shoes (i.e. NO FLIP-FLOPS). Even if you are not using them, there may be others around using heavy or sharp objects like clamps or cutting tools that can fall on your feet. 


Safety Gear

Safety glasses, disposable foam ear plugs, dust masks and work gloves are available for your use. Eye protection must be worn at all times while you are cutting, drilling, soldering, or near to anyone who is doing any of these. Use your discretion for when to use ear plugs and dust masks.


Ventilation and Dust

The Max Lab is not set up with an industrial ventilation system. Furthermore, it contains and is used to produce many sensitive electronic devices. This means that you should avoid using hazardous chemicals or creating large amounts of dust in the lab. If you are soldering or making moderate amounts of dust, open the windows to help air circulate. Make sure to close the windows when you leave. And as always, thoroughly clean up your mess and one other before you leave.



Absolutely no alcohol may be consumed in the lab. Do not use the lab if you are intoxicated or your coordination may be impaired. This includes fatigue. Especially toward the end of term you may be run down and working late. If you are very tired, its not a good idea to operate power tools.


Appropriate Use of Tools

The Max Lab contains many specialized tools. However, it is not a machine shop or a woodworking shop, and doesn't have every tool that you may need. It is generally a bad idea to use a tool for something for which it was not intended. This is a great way to break tools and cause accidents. For example, a jigsaw is not meant for cutting through-holes, and the drill bits we have are not for cutting titanium. If you have a very specific need, you may need to look to work elsewhere, the Product Realization Lab, for example. Also, things like screwdrivers or hammers should not be used as percussion mallets. Feel free to use your own tools for this purpose, but not those from the lab. If you do not know how to use a tool, ask a staff member. Some general principles apply:

  • Your work should always be securely or properly fixtured – this applies to any cutting or finishing tools.
  • Keep electrical cords away from cutters or sources of heat or liquids.
  • Never orient a cutting tool toward your body. Don't drill something while holding it in your hand, and always move a power saw away from you.
  • Don't try to use a drill bit as a milling tool. We have some endmills for milling with the drill press and cross vise. Ask someone for help if you aren't sure how to do this.

Max Lab - Other Protocols

Other Protocols

General Courtesy

Be aware of your fellow lab users. Some things that may not be immediately obvious:

  • Be aware of the size of your workspace. Your neighbour won't appreciate it if your sawdust flies into her laptop.
  • Space is at a premium. Leaving your project on a desk means that someone else won't be able to work there.
  • Some past projects, components, and the Music 250 prototyping kits do remain in the lab by special arrangement. Don't play with or use parts that don't belong to you, unless they are in the scrap bin (see the next point).

Scrap Bin

There is a designated “Scrap bin” in the corner beside the workbench. You may use materials in the scrap bin for your projects. If you see something else that looks like scrap, it probably isn't. Always ask before handling or using materials from outside the scrap bin.


Again, the lab is small. There is very little room for storage in the lab. Floor space should never be used for storage. You may store things only for very short periods of time (e.g. while waiting for glue to dry) only if they are clearly labeled and you can find an appropriate place for them. If you leave something in the middle of a desk, it is occupying space that someone else can no longer use. Note that Max's desk is not a good place to store things. CCRMA's lockers are the best place to store your stuff that you can't take home.


Obviously tools make noise. Many projects make sound as well. There is a fine line between testing your noise-making project and “jamming”. Testing is welcome and encouraged where it is necessary. In order to conserve space in the lab and to avoid disturbing other users, take your project elsewhere to jam. There are other spaces available for jamming, including studios at CCRMA, practice rooms in Braun, and your house. Caring for our Tools In addition to using tools properly, they need to be cared for.

  • Some power tools have cases, to which they should be returned after use. They should be left clean and free of dust and debris.
  • Drill bits and saw blades should only be used to cut their intended material. Using them even once on other material essentially ruins them for everyone else. If bits or blades are dull, please inform Sasha.
  • Handle drill bits and cutting tools with shop rags, and don't leave them on desktops or drop them. This will keep them sharp.

Putting Things Where They Belong

Tools should not be removed from the lab. If you have a messy project that requires you to work outside, you may take the tools you need and return them to the lab promptly. Tools should never leave the Knoll.

Tool Cabinet

Certain dangerous or valuable power tools are kept in a locked tool cabinet. Max, Bill, Michael and Sasha have keys to the cabinet and can open it to allow use of these tools while they are present. If you need to use tools from the cabinet, try to plan ahead so that you are doing so during consultation hours.


The Lab is not very big, and currently has around 50 regular users. For this reason, please don't bring guests into the lab. If you need someone to help you with a project, you may bring a guest provided that they have been thoroughly briefed on lab safety and obey all the safety and courtesy practices outlined here. You are responsible for the conduct of any guests.

Max Lab - Emergencies


In case of an emergency, pick up a CCRMA telephone (there are 2 in the lab), select a line by pressing one of the buttons on the top row, and dial 9911.

For minor accidents, a First Aid Kit is located in the Lab in the open upper cabinet beside the drill press.

In case of fire, there is a fire extinguisher as well. Familiarize yourself with the locations of the telephones, safety equipment and building exits in case of emergency.