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: " 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...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Project Update: I'm not procrastinating. Really, I'm not.

Okay, I am. After working with the soundboard, I think it's just too thin to end up being any use in the instrument. This is somewhat demoralizing, but there are worse things. I'm going to work with it later today to make the final determination. I will not let this happen again. Ever. More to come on this.

So, the tool acquisitions are finally wrapping up. The Nova G3 four-jaw lathe chuck came in, which will help with making stand legs and other small parts.

Along with this, I earned a cast iron router table extension by completing a consulting gig for a friend's company. Rather than take cash, I requested they compensate me with the extension. It was a good trade. Mounting it was interesting because it weighs 60 pounds. I rolled the jointer underneath and propped the thing up with 2x4s while bolting it on. Fun times.

I still need to acquire a good router with the ability to adjust its height from the top of the extension. Typically, these systems can cost as much as $500, but I'm not going to let that happen. Instead, I found this combination: A nice Bosch router and an adjustable router base that will work just fine. I'm not sure when these will happen, but the foundation is in place.

The Tortuga Early Instruments Reference Library grew by two works this week.

Both of these are great books and I look forward to poring over them in the near future.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Project Update: Nearing the End

Yes, I'm nearing the end of the tool acquisitions. Thank goodness. I actually become quite stressed when going through acquisition periods like this, even when the tools I purchase are covered by selling other tools. Granted, this period has lasted longer than most. Once I receive a couple more orders (a Nova G3 4-jaw chuck for the lathe and a cast iron router wing for the table saw), the period will come to a close and I can get back to building the instrument in earnest.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had purchased a folding trailer some time back and never put it together. With the upturn in the weather (I've seen sun for several days in a row now - an odd occurrence here in the Northwest), I started assembling the thing. After three days of fun, I've realized I would have paid handsomely for someone else to do it. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Regardless, I got it nearly completed with the help of a couple of buddies.

Now, I just need to attach and wire the lights that came with it, put on a two-piece plywood floor, and build out the 2x4 sides. It will be so very nice to transport wood and tools without having to bother anyone else. I suppose the price of freedom is assembling it myself. I'll take that.

As you probably know, I acquired an older (built in 1972 when I was 10 years-old) Delta 4" jointer a few months back. I had taken the knives out to sharpen them and realized I had no idea how to get them back in and adjusted, so off to YouTube I went. I found a great video on doing it for "old school" jointers and managed to get the knives in and the outfeed table adjusted to near-perfection. I ran some thin walnut stock through and it worked just peachy fine.

And, finally, the Tortuga Early Instruments Reference Library just grew by one small book.

I've not had time to glance through it, but given the reactions on the book of the face, it's a good one to have. Of course, I have Hubbard's other famous book, but this one will make things a little easier when it comes time for final setup of the instrument.

Until next time...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Project Update: More Tools and a Trailer

I know, I know...I said I was going to jump onto making the bridge bending form, but I needed to finish up just a couple more things. I was nosing around on Craigslist last week, a uniformly bad idea for Yours Truly, when I discovered a tenoning jig and Delta mortising tool drill press attachment for sale. In Seattle. So, guess what I did most of the day on Saturday. Yep, I headed up to the environs of my favorite city (180 miles each way) and picked up both of them from Cool Craigslist Guy in Lynnwood, Washington. I saved about $150, so it was worth the trip.

The tenoning jig is in the top photo, the drill press mortising tool attachnment in the bottom. As you probably know, a mortise-and-tenon joint is a specific way of putting together, say, the legs of a table. The photo below is an excellent illustration of how this works.

What, then, is a tenoning jig and what is a drill press mortising tool attachment? Well, the tenoning jig allows one to awkwardly clamp a piece of wood and run it over the table saw blade in order to cut a tenon. The photo below is a better illustration of what I'm trying to describe.

And, of course, the mortising tool attachment mounts to a drill press and allows me to cut square holes.

Now, I am able to cut accurate mortises and tenons until the cows come home. Or the chickens come home to roost. Or both.

On a tangentially related note, I started what I knew would be the exacting and lengthy process of setting things up for hauling my own large cuts of wood. I knew it would be somewhat challenging, so I procrastinated as long as possible by citing the rains we had for months as mitigating weather circumstances. Well, the weather has taken a turn for the better and I can no longer make this claim. This means I started working on mounting the trailer hitch to my beloved KIA Soul and getting the trailer slapped together.

I started with the hitch and the help of my friend, neighbor and all-around good guy, Mike Crane, to mount the hitch and get the wiring installed correctly - something I sincerely believe I could not have accomplished without Mike's help. So, we did that on Friday night.

Thanks once again, Mike.

I then began the interesting task of assembling the trailer (yeah, purchased at Harder Fright).

I made quite a bit of progress through Sunday, but still have a ways to go before I can hit the road and no longer have to rely on the kindness of friends, family, and strangers to transport wood to my humble abode.

On a completely unrelated note, I picked up a safety shield for my delicate features while turning wood on the "new" lathe and also acquired a 55-pound anvil for upcoming work related to the instrument.

Safety first at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters. And, in the interest of storage on my tiny shop while providing easy access, I put hooks on all of the lathe tools and hung them on complementary hooks installed into the lathe stand.

Yes, I will be getting back to the bridges any minute now - as soon as I finish up the trailer.

Until next time...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Project Update: The Tale of the Lathe (and Other Things)

In continuing the Tortuga Early Instruments Semi-Annual Cleanup program, all of the tools I listed on Craigslist went their merry ways (thank goodness). Sold were:

2 - No. 4 Hand Planes
2 - No. 220 Block Planes
1 - Spokeshave
1 - Drawknife
1 - Egg Beater Hand Drill
1 - Antique Marking Tool
1 - Big, Ugly 39 1/4" Harder Fright (it that shall not be named) Lathe

Whew. All of the tools went within 48 hours. What a blessing Craigslist can be.

My initial plan for the "new" lathe was to mount it to a board that I could clamp on and take off the assembly table for storage when not in use. As I considered the space from which the previous lathe was extracted, I realized I really did have room for a decent stand, especially since it only needed to be a couple of feet wide. I had some spare 2x4s and procured some maple veneered plywood from a local lumberyard, so I went to work.

As you can see, I decided early on to build out a shelf near to bottom of the stand that would provide stability as well as a little more storage space. As I cut the plywood up for the top, I discovered the lamination was failing. I guess that's why they called them "seconds" at the store. I just thought it was because they were fast. I ended up having to reglue the top and one of the shelves. I used the go-bar setup and it looked something like this:

After swearing off of poverty mentality and dropping the Cheapest Guy Alive moniker, I still succumbed to bargain basement thinking. Dammit. Fortunately, the fixes were quick and easy and I had the pieces glued up in no time. And the end product isn't too shabby at all.

Now, it's really time I got back to work. Next up: Steam Test #2.

Until next time...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Project Update: Some New Old Tools

Every once in a while, I pause to clean out the shop and collect some "new" tools. Well, this past week has been one of those pauses for a variety of reasons. First, I've been slowing things down a bit. In the past, I've felt rushed to get the first instrument out (yeah, I know, it's been over two years) and just about 100% of my screwups are directly related to rushing through without thinking about things, planning, reviewing Mr. Miller's eBook most Excellent or asking for help and advice from the Master Builders.

Part of this slowing down process, at least for me, has been retooling the shop. When I first started woodworking, I was not building instruments. It just wasn't on my radar. So, I took a shotgun approach and bought up all of the tools and accessories I thought I would need. But, things tend to change over time, don't they? Even before putting a shop together, I was flipping through the newspaper during lunch one day (something I really never do) and saw that a guy was offering a guitar building class at the local community college. I signed up and quickly realized I could do what he and his students were doing on my own.

I then signed up with ADX Portland in order to use their amazing facilities. They really do have everything a maker would want or need. Except for dedicated space. They had lockers available (at an additional expense, of course), but there was a one-year waiting list to get one. After carrying wood and other supplies in and out for a couple of months, I started looking at Craigslist to see if I could buy a couple of tools to put in the garage. The rest is, as they say, history.

Of course, when you buy from Cool Craigslist Guy, you get what you pay for. Over time, I transitioned from, for example, a crappy, little Delta contractor's table saw I was chasing around the shop during cuts to a Riyobi BT3000 wondermachine to my current brand, spankin' new Grizzly. Building this instrument has helped me focus on what's important - and what's not. When you're building fine instruments, saving money is not a factor, so I had to shift my thinking in this regard. Now, I purchase tools with the longue durée in mind.

And this brings us around to the latest acquisition period. But, it's not only about acquisition; it's also about purging that which no longer suits. A good example of this is my lathe.  I knew I would eventually need a lathe of sufficient length to carve the legs of any instrument stand I might make, so I purchased one I thought would accommodate some pretty lengthy stock.

As you can see, I opted for the cheapie. I purchased it from Cool Craigslist guy early in the shop building experience for $40 and added a stand for another $50. It will take 39 1/4" stock with a turning radius of 12". I thought it would work just fine. Then, I tried to use it. When I tightened the tailpiece, the entire thing bent in the middle. Good grief. I quickly realized my Mr. Thrifty mentality was, once again, working against me. Fortunately, I've committed to the long-term mindset, so this one is going out the door and a better one has already arrived:

As you can see, a steel pipe supports the bottom. No bendy bendy moving forward.

Other tools of note that I've recently acquired are a Lie-Nielsen Skewed (Right-handed) Rabbet Plane; this will be helpful when trimming up the various rabbets required by your typical harpsichord.

The plane is used, yet it's also an heirloom-quality piece that I will pass down to the grandkids. Along with this, I picked up a 1-ton press and some nifty handtools, all (including the plane) from Cool Craigslist Guys. The drawknife in the older handtools photo below is razor sharp and the guy only charged me $18 for it. Thanks, Cool Craigslist Guy.

When I purchased the caliper, he threw in the screwdriver for free.

Finally, it was wood processing night at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters a couple of nights ago. Over the years, I've managed to acquire lots and lots of log pieces. In my effort to declutter the shop, I realized these logs could be cut down now and stored, significantly reducing the amount of space they take up.

The photo above is a piece of apple being cut to size. The photos below illustrate the amount and variety of woods (redwood, cedar, maple, apple, and walnut) that were cut and what it looks like once it was stowed under a shelf.

What a difference a few cuts make.

The next time we speak, you will hear about the new lathe table/bench and my steam bending success. Once again, it's time to get on with building.

Until next time...