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...

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...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Project Update: Books and Blades

I've not yet begun the process of cutting the bridges and getting the soundboard in shape to accept them. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I have begun by practicing the angled cuts on some scrap pine. At the risk of understatement, I can say it's a difficult task, indeed. I've been in brief conversations with Owen Daly and Michael Peter Johnson about how to accomplish this and I've pretty much decided they'll get cut (probably later today) on the band saw and smoothed with a spokeshave. Then, to the steamer.

Speaking of the spokeshave, I must admit I had some trouble planing down the soundboard using both the 62 and block planes. Lots and lots of tearout on that beautiful spruce. I also didn't have much luck with the scraper. After conversations with Owen Daly and Mark Roberts, I realized my blades and scrapers were in a pretty sorry state. In short, I wasn't able to shave anything with them, including my forearm. So, I broke out the honing blocks and went to work.

First up was the spokeshave blade. The spokeshave is an interesting tool; it's like a planer (it can probably be classified as one) with handles that stick out at 90-degree angles from the working surface. It also provides a flat mouth surface that helps balance the tool while working with it. The one I purchased at the suggestion of Mark Roberts is easily adjustable with a couple of screw knobs. I haven't used it since it came into the shop, so I pulled the blade out and, holy cow, what a mess. It was kinda sharp, but not razor-sharp, so to the stones it went.


My honing blocks are basically Japanese whetstones. I have four at 1000, 3000, 4000, and 8000 grits. I started with the 1000, went to the 4000 and finished with the 8000. And I shaved my forearm a little with it.

Then, I decided to check all of my plane blades and, wouldn't you know it, none of them are razor-sharp. I pulled all of the blades to prepare them for honing, but it was getting late, so I'll get to them later today.


Once these are all honed up, I'll start working on cutting the bridges and cleaning them up with the spokeshave.

While completing work on the soundboard a couple of weeks ago, I also had some trouble with the scraper. A scraper is simply a piece of good, hard metal with an edge or two that have been prepared in a specific way. While using it, I experienced some pretty horrible tearout and scratches left in the soundboard. After discussing it with Mark Roberts, he asked, "Who showed you how to prepare a scraper?" My response: "Um...no one." So, Mark took the time to explain his process to me and how I should get small, fluffy scrapings while using one.

I followed Mark's directions that included removing all burrs on every edge of card. I then carefully honed the sides and edges of the scraper to make sure it was flat everywhere. I finished up by lightly burring an edge ("turning the hook") using my hardened burnisher and tested it on a piece of scrap. It worked beautifully, resulting in nice, little fluffs of sawdust. In fact, it worked so well, I gave the cosmetic spruce on the pinblock a much-needed rub down.


I'm quite pleased with the result and will be preparing the scraper in this manner before each use, or at least when necessary.

On a few completely unrelated notes, I acquired some books over the last couple of weeks. One of particular note is a two-volume set titled The Organ-Builder by François Bédos de Celles, more commonly known as Dom Bedos, translated by Charles Ferguson in 1977. I first saw a copy of these in 1980 when I was still in high school and I've wanted my own ever since. Thanks to John Kinkennon, a fellow early instrument enthusiast, we made a deal and the books are now mine.



Something interesting I noticed right away was that many of the pages of Volume 1 were not cut at the top of the page, rendering the book useless - at least to me. After asking for help from my beloved book of the face friend community, several gave suggestions and posted videos of how to go about cutting the pages without ruining them (e.g., a knife tool going astray and cutting more than intended). The solution: a greeting card slid through as an edge.


It worked perfectly. And so ends 37 years of wishing and hoping. I guess good things do come to those who wait.

Another book entered the Tortuga Early Instruments Reference Library, as well: Ripin's edited volume on the organology of keyboard instruments between 1500 and 1800.


I'll be studying this one closely, especially with regard to the several chapters on Italian harpsichords.

Finally, now that the router extension has been installed into the table saw, it's time to begin the acquisition of a nice router setup. I want to be able to adjust the router up and down without having to kneel under the table everytime. Rather than purchase a $500 or more (yeah, some of them control the riser using Bluetooth and a phone app and can cost upwards of $1,000), I found a $50 sleeve that mounts under the table and holds a specific model of Bosch router. This configuration is ideal for two reasons: 1) Cost and 2) I can raise and lower the router with a hex key from a hole in the top of the insert.


As you can see, I'm still working on getting it installed and will be picking up the Bosch router in the next couple of weeks. This will help me with routing the decorative moldings that will mount over the soundboard edges and also be useful for projects not related to the instrument. Either way, I'll be good to go as far as routing is concerned.

Until next time...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 152: It's All About the Soundboard

Now that ToolTime is coming to an end, I could comfortably return to cleaning up the soundboard. One of the challenges I've had with it is really horrible tearout when hand planing the thing. I attribute this to plane blades that are not sharp enough, so I'm going to get to work on that today. I used my Lie-Nielsen 62 low-angle bench plane and my little Lie-Nielsen adjustable mouth block plane (based on the Stanley 60 1/2), and I got to use my beloved Roubo-esque bench for the work (I had flirted with the idea of raising the bench a bit, but, after this exercise, I've firmly decided against such an effort).




My main concern about the soundboard was that it was too thin to be of any use for the instrument. When I joined the planks together to make it, they were already at about 5mm in thickness, which made for an interesting exercise in keeping them level while clamping them from the sides. I used my 48" Rockler Sure-Foot Aluminum (Aluminium for my British friends) clamps and held them down with boards and go-bars.

As I continued to thin it by cleaning it up yesterday, I was concerned I may be taking too much off, so I was careful to plane as little as possible. I could see quite a bit of light through the shavings, which is a good indication they're pretty thin. A quick book-of-the-face conversation with Owen Daly convinced me I'm still in the ballpark, especially since the outside edges will need to be planed as thin as 2mm. More to come on this as I do the final thinning and prep for the bridges.

On a completely unrelated note, I worked on the lathe stand and tried my hand at the tool, something I've never done before. When I completed the stand, I was glancing through the user manual and discovered a nice schematic for making a stand. I hadn't allowed sufficient room for the handle that tightens the endstock to the pipe, limiting the span of the handle. I cut out some of the top to make room. And it looked like crap, so I prepared some of the Free Box walnut to veneer over the scar.


I finished it with Tru-Oil and mounted it with some of the Norland high tack fish glue. It worked so well, I decided to finally try my hand at the lathe, so I grabbed a piece of 1" oak dowel and went for it.


As you can see, it's nothing to write home to Mom about, but it's an indication that I can, indeed, use the lathe to great effect. I'm told woodturning can be an addictive endeavor, but I'm not seeing that, yet. As long as I keep my turning impulses under control, all will be well.

Until next time...