Monday, November 13, 2017

Day 159: Register Relief and Thinning

I've not been working on the instrument much over the past month based, once again, on other obligations. I'm back at it and expect to make some pretty good progress now. I have a lot to do to get this thing finished and I want it DONE.

After speaking with Owen Daly and reviewing Grant O'Brien's Ruckers book, I realized some additional thinning of the soundboard was in order, especially around the tail and cheek edges. I went to work and got things down to where I think they should be - at least according to Mr. O'Brien's book (p. 101).

Once that was done, I could turn my attention to another task I'd been putting off for quite some time: cutting tongue relief notches into the upper registers. First, I lined out one side in order to position the 1/4" chisel for the cuts.

Then, I cut away.

It was fairly quick work and I needed to be sure to keep the register snug against the scrap plywood and make sure the chisel stayed straight; otherwise, I was in danger of taking big, ugly chunks out of the underside (this may or may not have happened). I completed the 4' register last night. Tonight, the 8' shall be completed.

I was able to make a pilgrimage last Friday down to Salem to meet up with Owen Daly and see his latest Italian instrument. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Owen's work is just wonderful. It's cosmetically beautiful, which is important, but it's the sound he's able to produce from oddly-shaped wood boxes that is just amazing.

As you can see, the instrument is sublime. It still has a few more weeks to "settle in," yet it's almost there and sounds just lovely.

I was also visited today by Jack Peters and his protoge, Mike. Jack said he was making his annual "Oregon instrument maker trip" and called me up to see if he could stop by. It was a pleasure and an honor to have him in the shop and he gave me a couple of suggestions, especially about lightening up the business end of the keys, that I took to heart. It really was great to meet the man I had heard so much about.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 158: Drilling a Hole Where the Rain Gets In, the title of this post has precious little to do with the topic yet who doesn't like the Beatles, right? I actually ended up drilling several holes, but more about that later. First, I finished up the near-final thicknessing of the soundboard. I have some feathering left to do, but it's good to go for now at or near 3 mm.

I still need to work a bit on cleaning up the reverse, as well as getting the bridges bent and completed for mounting. More on that later.

I was able this past week to finally get the holes drilled for the tuning pins. This entailed making a couple of small sort-of-guides with 5-degree angles cut into them. One was necessarily thinner to accommodate the lack of space between the eight foot pin holes and the nameboard, but I really just ended up using it for both sets and, eventually, abandoning it altogether. Before drilling the holes, I tested an idea from Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments that involved initially running the drill bit backward to prevent tear-out on the soft spruce that caps the pinblock.

Once I was satisfied with the results, I laid out the plan, tapped in starter dimples and scored the location of the nuts with a marking tool.

The IKEA lamp I use for close-up work messes with my phone camera - I didn't really do the work with the lights off and a flashlight shining on the plan. Once it was all dimpled up, I went to town drilling the 104 holes.

I'll be gluing the eight foot and four foot nuts up soon (I'm not really sure when as a couple of other urgent projects have caught my attention as of late).

On a completely unrelated note, I recently ordered some clavicembalo music written by Ferdinando de Medici and the envelope it came in identified me as Dr. Chief Sawdust Maker Darin Molnar. Yes. Yes, I am.

And...finally...The Tortuga!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Day 157: Back at It

I've not posted in a long while because I've been busy with other tasks, such as making a couple of Native American flutes with my daughter, Jordan's, guidance and assistance. Lest you think I'm engaging in cultural appropriation, she's the indigenous person, I'm just the woodworker. We made a couple of really nice cedar flutes - one of Alaskan yellow (the Blonde) and the other of both Alaskan yellow and western red (Odd Duck). I still have a few more to make for friends and family, but things have settled down considerably in this regard, so I'm back at the instrument.

As you probably know, I've been vacillating about whether I cut the nuts and bridges correctly or not. Well, I finaly contacted Mr. Miller and he set me straight - they're fine. I was a little confused by what he was referring to as "the bevel" because there really are two bevels. I followed his directions closely, taking my time and referring back to them as I made the cuts, so it was something of a mystery how I could have gotten it wrong. It was nice to learn I didn't.

Now, before I glue them to the wrestplank (aka pinblock) and soundboard, I'm going to drill the holes for the tuning pins into the pinblock. Mr. Miller in his eBook Most Excellent recommends clamping the nuts to the block with the sliced up blueprint between. This will hold the plan in place while I use a punch to mark the holes. I visited Master Builder Owen Daly this past weekend and he recommended I go ahead and eyeball the angle on the holes (5 degrees). He says most people are off by that much when they think they're drilling straight, anyway, so there you go.

When I decided I had cut the nuts and bridges backward, I charged ahead with making new ones.

Fortunately, the flutes pulled me away and I only partially remade the eight foot nut. Sometimes, I scare myself, but you already knew that.

As I took time to work on the flutes, it gave me ample pause to reflect on completing the instrument. I just want it done. So, the next couple of months are going to be intense, especially now that the weather is cooling off and the two-car oven will be more habitable (this was also partially responsible for the delay - the aluminum garage door is on the sun side of the house and it heats up quite nicely when we have 100-degree days). I have many tasks ahead, including jack making. Everyone says I'm crazy to make my own jacks, but I just don't have it in the budget to purchase them from someone like Norm Purdy (whom I've yet to meet). So, I soldier on.

On a few unrelated notes, I have been able to make some minor acquisitions and to also make a major decision about one of my tools. First, I picked up some sandpaper in grits from 230 to 2000 so I can finally get the edges I want on chisels and plane blades. I also picked up a nice, little jeweler's hammer to adjust plane blades as well as a couple of nice containers for the fish glue.

I've also decided to sell the Craftsman 18/36 open-ended thickness (drum) sander. My standing rule is that if I don't use it within a year, it's gotta go. Well, it's been about that, maybe more and it's taking up valuable real estate that I'd rather have the planer occupy, so...buh bye.

Finally, I spent last night cleaning up the shop after making the flutes. Between routing the wind channels and lathing the outside diameter, a horrible mess is made. Everything is all cleaned up and I'm ready to get back to the instrument - tonight.

Until next time...

UPDATE: After successfully installing sandpaper and sanding a guitar top, sides, and back, there's no way I'm selling the thickness sander - what a blessing it's turned out to be!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day 156: Finishing the Soundboard Trimming

As with the sides of the soundboard, I marked and cut the front and then trimmed it down with a bench plane.

You can see in the top photo above where I scribed a line and then cut roughly 1mm away from it with the band saw. I then simply cleaned it up using the little bench plane and checked the fit in the case.

As you can see, not too shabby. Of course, I have a ton left to do with the bridges, nuts and underside bracing, but I'll get to that soon enough, especially since I discovered I cut the nuts incorrectly. I trimmed them backwards and also put the bevel on the wrong side. Ah, heck, it was good practice, right? I'll be cutting and preparing new ones this week.

Once I get them completed, I'll set up the template to cut the tuning pin holes into the pinblock. As with anything that's permanent, it's going to be a nerve-wracking process, but I can plug any hole and have a do-over, hoping I don't end up having to plug too many - or any, really.

I'm anxious to get these two major tasks completed so I can move on to creating jigs for the jacks and, well, the jacks themselves, another exacting process (aren't they all?).

Until next time...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 155: More Soundboard Work

I was able to work on the soundboard a bit over this last weekend. Now, before I go any further, I'll address the gorilla in the room: I used a jig saw to make the final cuts on the soundboard. As I shared this tidbit on the book of the face, heads began to spin. I explained how I use a couple of marking tools that actually slice into the wood. In a soft wood like spruce, this allows me to create a mark and cut, say, 1mm away from it. This not only makes a nice cut (I use a special Bosch jig saw blade that's super-sharp), it tears the wood away between the cut and the mark.

Later today, I will work on trimming the roughness down with a spokeshave or block plane. All will be well. I promise.

The photos below illustrate what kicked off the flurry of comments.

Again...all will be well.

I also began preparing to drill the tuning pin holes into the pinblock by slicing and dicing the plan accordingly. In Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent, he describes gluing the 2" oak block block into the case once the cosmetic spruce laminate is glued over it. Then, he describes how you can also wait until later to make that happen. I should have waited until later. Likewise, I should have left the bottom off until much later in the game. I have many of these (hundreds?) that I won't bore you with at time time (I certainly will later). Regardless, I'm now in the tricky position of drilling holes relatively freehand using a drill bit guide block.

Once I finish cleaning up the soundboard, I'll get the pinblock drilled. It's still incredibly hot in this part of the country. As you may know, I work in a two-car garage. The garage door is on the sunny side of the house, so the aluminum (aluminium for my British friends) heats up nicely, turning the garage into a cozy, little oven. I'm hoping things settle down soon.

On a tangentially related note, I was able to get the new router installed into the table saw extension plate. This required some fancy geometry that I thanked my high school algebra/geometry teacher for in absentia. Yeah, I finally used it.

I laid out the holes on a piece of parchment and transferred them with a felt pen to the plate. I then drilled with abandon and, before I knew it, the thing was mounted.

Drilling aluminum is a wonderful thing.

No excuses now - time to route something.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day 154: Cutting the Nuts

As I explained in my previous post, cutting the bridges and nuts go hand-in-hand because they represent two parts of a whole when it comes to stringing the instrument. As you know, I cut the bridges first. As a building newbie, I must admit I would have preferred to have cut the nuts first, mainly because they're shorter. But, what is done is done and now both the 8' and 4' bridges and nuts have been cut, beveled, and scraped into submission.

The interesting thing about the nuts and bridges is that they mirror each other. I mentioned the diminishing cuts in my past post. Well, these happen the opposite way on the nuts from the bridges. This is so that strings can clear the proper structures (particularly the 8' clearing the 4' bridge) on the soundboard. Now that they're completed, I can get on with mounting them onto the soundboard, as well as gluing up the bottom bracing.

On an unrelated note, a Bosch router for the table saw router extension came into Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters last week. Interestingly, it came with an adjustable sleeve, so the one I purchased previously has been rendered completely useless. This rankles quite a bit considering the fact I tried my best to save money over buying one of the fancy schmancy $500-$1,000 router raising gadgets. I may try to sell it or just hold onto it for the future.

Now, I must drill the holes and mount the thing into the extension insert. I'll be accomplishing this over the coming week, but I have no idea when - temperatures are reaching 106 degrees here today and I don't have an air conditioner in the shop. I'll get it in when it gets in, right?

Until next time...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 153: Cutting the Bridges

As promised, I proceeded with sharpening all of my plane blades over the weekend. Frankly, I'm not sure I'm too enamoured with the ceramic wetstones. While I was able to get the blades plenty sharp, I didn't feel as if they are as sharp as I could get them. Yes, I was able to shave a little hair off the forearm, but it wasn't as if I was running a razor over it, so I shall continue the discovery process around getting the blades to where I want them to be.

Once I had finished sharpening all of the blades, I turned my attention to the bridges. Finally. As you may recall, I had chosen beech over cherry, both of which are traditional Ruckers bridge and nut materials. The bridges are the bent pieces of wood you see strings running over on the soundboard. The nuts are near the tuning pins by the keyboard.

The strings are stretched over both and, technically, the vibrating length of each string - the part that determines the pitch at which they play - runs between the nut and the bridge. On a guitar, this would be the part of the string that runs between the nut and the saddle. Unfortunately, a harpsichord is not fretted, so each key get its own eight foot and four foot (an octave higher than eight) string.

Cutting the bridges and nuts is an exacting process that's a lot like pulling one of your own teeth. First, they change width from end to end so that the eight foot changes from 3/4" to 1/2" over the span of the thing and the four foot changes from 1/2" to 1/4". The height also changes in the same way at the same measurements. And this includes a 35-degree cut on one of the faces, as well as a 30-degree bevel where the bridge pins are driven in to control the paths of the strings.

Following Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent pretty closely, I cut the 35-degree face into boards at the proper lengths for both bridges. As a side note, never rely on the blade angle degree indicator on your table saw - it's completely useless. The next fun part is to cut the line for the diminishing width (from 3/4" to 1/2"). I chose to do this on the Laguna 14" band saw with the 1" blade. I felt this would provide a straighter, more accurate cut and I was right on this one (journal entry recognition coming up).

Before cutting the 30-degree bevel, I went ahead and used the spokeshave to smooth down the 35-degree cut. No matter how well your band saw is set up and how thick the blade, it's going to wander a bit. Fortunately, the spokeshave made quick work of cleaning up the saw marks. I then cut the 30-degree bevel and smoothed it up accordingly.

As you can see, once I had the eight-footer cleaned up, I went ahead and cut and smoothed the four-footer. It was hot and humid in this part of the country over the weekend, so I took frequent breaks to cool down and hydrate. The shop side of the house gets the sun all day, which means I'm working in a nicely warmed oven when the temp gets into the 80s and above.

Today, I'll work on cutting the nuts. The process is similar to cutting the bridges only with shorter pieces. Now that I have a couple under my belt, it's not as intimidating as when I was making things up in my head. Sure, the cuts are difficult and one must be super-careful with the spokeshave and scraper, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

On a tangentially related note, while I was working on sharpening the hand plane blades, I naturally had to disassemble them. Now, most planes are sufficiently simple in design so that it's easy to slap them back together. Not so for the Stanley No. 92 shoulder plane. I quickly realized I had no idea how it went back together, so I hit the Interwebs for the answer.

A shoulder plane is a nice tool for cleaning up rabbets and dados because the blade extends all the way to each side (not so for a typical hand plane). While the sides are not sharp, this still exposes more cutting real estate on the business end of the blade. While perusing the detailed information about the plane on the Stanley site, I discovered that the plane is intended to be partially disassembled to also become a chisel plane.

As you can see in the photo above, disassembly removes the "nose" of the plane, exposing the blade so that is can be used as a stable chisel to clean out corners when necessary. When I discovered this, I danced like no one was watching because, well, no one was. Mostly because it saved me $165 by obviating the need to purchase a chisel plane from my manufacturer of choice Lie-Nielsen. Sure, it's small, but, most of the time, that's just what the doctor ordered.

Until next time...