Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Day 168: Bridges, Bridges, Bridges

As much as I wanted to shoehorn the bridges bent on the side lamination form into the proper angles, they just were not acceptable. Owen Daly could tell from the photos I posted here and on Facebook that they were not okay and it was at his adamant encouragement that I embarked on a rebending exercise for the 8' bridge (the 4' will be next, but only if this works), only this time using a form I made on the original sheet of plywood I used for the first failed iteration (yes, I'm on Bridge Adventure #3).

As you can see, I ordered a dozen spring clamps and waited a week for them to arrive before embarking on the bending session. This time, I also steamed the bridge using my custom setup, rather than soak it overnight.

We use only the highest of tech here at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters.

I steamed the 8' bridge and got it into the form using clamps I already had - they clamped tighter and held better. I ended up using only a couple of the spring clamps, but I'm sure I'll find a use for them from time to time.

The bridge currently sits in the form. I'll remove it toward the end of the week to see what we have to work with. I'm also waffling about running them on the band saw. I have a razor sharp drawknife and that beautiful new Veritas spokeshave - they should both make quick work of beveling should they not?

Speaking of Veritas, I made a management decision a couple of weeks ago. I decided that jointing anything in the shop will be done by hand moving forward. This meant I needed to dispose of the Delta 4" knuckle-shaver and convert all jointing activies to using hand planes. Cool Craigslist Guy purchased the jointer the first day I listed it.

The empty space is where it once stood. So much more room for activities. It was replaced with a Veritas low-angle/bevel-up jointer hand plane. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and pick up their low-angle/bevel-up smoother, as well. The default blades for both of these planes are a 38-degree beauty. I'm not going to get into a discussion about the merits of bevel-up vs. "regular" planes here. There are plenty of other fruitful places to argue which is better/worse. I prefer bevel up. Period.

I will say, though, that on bevel-up planes, specific angles accomplish specific tasks such as hogging out more wood with a minimum of tearout or nearly emulating a scraper. In this case, the 38-degree blade combined with the 12-degree bed provides the basic 50-degree York cut that so many favor for smoothing. Since the 2 1/4" width blades are interchangeable between the planes, I also picked up 25-degree and 50-degree blades. There are many subtleties associated with using low-angle/bevel-up planes, including how microbevels are honed, etc., but, again, this ain't the place.

So, we welcome these two new team members to Tortuga Early Instruments.

The gadget at the bottom of the photo above is a jointer fence what will allow me to joint vertically, rather than setting up, say, an 8' horizontal shooting board, using the Roubo bench leg vise while not introducing unintended bevel into the process. If you've ever tried to freehand a joint, you'll know what I mean. Like the planes, the fence has a tiny, little set screw to keep things lined up and accurate. I also had a cleaning session to get the shipping/preservative goo off of the team members.

A little mineral spirits followed up with a some Boeshield T-9 (I silently thank Random Roger Green for introducing me to the stuff everytime I use it) will keep these fellas in good working order for many years to come. Who knows, I may even sell the Lie-Nielsen No. 62 and go with a Veritas low-angle jack, we'll see (John - that Lie-Nielsen large scraper is staying with me, sorry).

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Day 167: Bridge Update

After reviewing the bends in the bridges via Facebook photo, Owen Daly declared them inadequate. Dammit. Now, you know that I always take Owen's comments seriously - all of them. So, this time, I compared the bridges to the plan and, while Owen is right - the lower end of the 8' needs a little more roundness - I believe I can achieve that with a little extra bending to bring it into shape. The 4' will work just fine.

And I still get to cut them on the band saw with its table tilted at 30 degrees. The fun just never stops.

On a tangentially related note, neither travel to the Oregon Coast nor food poisoning will stop the acquisitions at Tortuga Early Instruments. I mentioned the new CNC machine in a previous post and, well, here it is assembled and ready to go:

Cool Craigslist Guy sold it to me as an XL (19" x 33" cutting area), so I expanded it to XXL with an extension kit from the manufacturer, Carbide3D. This required basically gutting the thing and reinstalling the y-axis rails, as well as all of the wiring. Fortunately, everything was clearly marked and their online installation instructions are top-notch. I was able to test their Hello World design with a felt pen taped to the router and it worked just great.

I then realized I needed a dedicated computer of some kind to run the machine. The technical requirements to run Carbide Motion are not too bad, so I settled on an Insignia tablet I found on eBay for $200. Right before clicking the Commit to Buy button, I decided to give Craigslist a shot and, wouldn't you know it, another Cool Craigslist Guy was offering an 11" Windows 10 tablet with a keyboard, an extra 128gb SD card, and a Swiss Army case for $40. So, there you go.

The thing is tiny, but looks much bigger in the photo. Regardless, it runs the software just fine. What will I do with the CNC contraption? Well, I've already been approached by an experienced harpsichord builder to explore cutting intrument registers (jack guides) on the thing. The tolerances at which the machine cuts are just right for this sort of operation and I may or may not have other mini-projects in mind, as well. I'll keep you posted as this new tool continues to transform the way I cut wood.

Until next time...

Friday, February 16, 2018

Day 166: Recutting and Rebending the Bridges

As you know from a previous post, I decided to recut and rebend the bridges. The first attempt resulted in bridges that were less than cosmetically beautiful because I used non-stainless nails to hold them in place for the bend and they stained the wood. And, well, nail holes. So, after talking things over with both Ernie Miller and Owen Daly, I decided to create bridges using both of their methods. As in making two new sets of bridges. Then, I came to my senses and developed a hybrid approach.

I picked up some double-sided carpet tape at our local blue box store and grabbed the form I had used for the initial bending episode. I started with the 8' bridge assuming it would be easier to work with than the 4'. For once, I was right. I taped it to the plywood on a taper running from 3/4" to 1/2" and ran it through the table saw.

As you can see in the top photo, the beech board had plastic wrap around it. This was due to the fact that my friend, John Finn, donated the wood to the cause and it was raining buckets the day I picked the piece up at his house. He was kind enough to wrap it and there you go.

The tape held like, as Owen would say, grim death and I was able to cut the width and height to the dimensions I described above for both the 8' and 4', resulting in a couple of blanks that are just a fraction rich so I'll have a little room when it comes time to trim them down with the spokeshave.

The previous bending session went well by simply soaking the bridges in a water trough I made from some 4" PVC pipe capped with Talenti gelato lids and Gorilla Glue. I've been given the recommendation to also use a steamer, but I found all they really need is to soak overnight. They are super-thin pieces of wood and this is what Mr. Miller recommends in his eBook Most Excellent.

Yeah, that's a rock from the front yard and yeah, I cleaned it in this kitchen sink first with soap and water. When I checked the bridges the following morning, I noticed that the 4' had jumped ahead and started bending itself without me. I was not alarmed because it almost perfectly followed the angle I would be putting upon it with the form.

This may become problematic if it decides to twist, but I've been keeping my eye on it as it stands in the form and it looks pretty good.

Speaking of forms, rather than mess around with a custom jig, I went ahead and used the bentside form as Owen suggested in another one of our conversations that ended up with me saying, "I don't know." The question: "Why don't you just use your bentside form to bend the bridges?"

So, now they stand in the shop drying for a week.

And I remind you that this is a hybrid approach based upon suggestions from Ernie and Owen. I'll be cutting the bevels into the bridges on the band saw as soon as they're dry, which will get a blog post all its own.

Until next time...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Day 165: Beveling and Some New Gadgets

As you may or may not know, I've recently been sick yet again. Not only did I pick up "stacked infections" - sinus and urinary tract - I got food poisoning from eating oysters at the Oregon Coast. If misery loves company, I'm overwhelmed with the turnout. Now, having whined about that, I can say with 100% confidence that all illnesses have left the building - and my body. I'm good to go, so here we go.

After conferring with both Ernie Miller and Owen Daly about completely different ways to approach cutting and bending the 8' and 4' bridges, I've decided to pursue both methods and then compare and contrast the differences between the two. In the end, I really just want to get them done - as soon as I can figure out how to cut a 30-degree bevel on the table saw.

I'm mostly kidding. A good buddy, John Finn, is visiting later today to chew the fat over the best way to accomplish the bevel. Honestly, I believe it involves tilting the the saw blade at the complementary angle to 30 degrees (that's right - 60 degrees) and ripping the beech board with the fence set very close to the blade. More on this later.

Over the last few weeks, I've engaged in my regular Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters Winter Cleanup, including selling the Laguna 14" SUV resaw band saw and dumping that money into a nice, little CNC machine - the Shapeoko 3 XL. I purchased it from Cool Craigslist Guy in Waldport, Oregon (hence the bad seafood story) and saved a cool $1000 off the regular price from Carbide3D.

I've since ordered the XL--> XXL upgrade kit to double the y-axis depth of the machine. Will I be using it for harpsichord work? Probably not, but it definitely changes the character of some of the other (ahem...guitar) work I do.

Along with this, I finally broke down and replaed the $7 spokeshave with this:

The Veritas Flat Spokeshave, O1. As I've said in the past, the poverty mentality that accompanies being the Cheapest Guy Alive no longer applies to the shop. From now on, it's heirloom quality tools for me. Another example of this sort of mentality is the former CNC machine that took up space for over two years under the assembly table:

Heirloom. Quality. Tools. Moving. Forward.

Speaking of heirloom quality tools, I also brought a Grizzly air filter into the shop. It's not really heirloom quality, but it does filter dust at the 5 and 1 micron levels. I'm really, really, really hoping this, combined with greater attention to dust collection at tool origins, will help me cut down on the bronchial/sinus infections I've been enduring the last couple of years. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but I'll take that bet.

The little unit offers three speeds with three timer levels: 1, 2 and 4 hours, so I never have to remember to shut it off. I did the "flame test" by holding a lighter in various areas around the shop and I must say I'm impressed with its coverage. Grizzly claims it will recycle the entire shop air seven times per hour and I'm inclined to believe them.

Now, back to cutting that bevel.

Until next time...

Monday, January 29, 2018

Day 164: A Visit with Owen Daly

From time to time, I hop down to Salem, Oregon, an hour's drive from Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, for a visit with Master Builder Owen Daly. Owen is a kind and generous mentor who always provides a ton of information for any questions I might have. This last weekend was no different. I headed down to see Owen with several questions in hand. My questions ranged from bridge making (yeah, I'm having another do-over party with the bridges) to soundboard thinning to string pinning.

Owen makes a small Italian instrument that sounds absolutely wonderful. Of course, his craftsmanship is also stunning, yet it's the warmth of tone that comes from one of his little harpsichords that is most impressive. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. This weekend, Owen was lining out the string speaking lengths between the nut and bridge (this one is a 2x8) using some thread and a couple of small weights.

In the photos above, Owen is hanging a spool of regular thread over the front of the instrument and then using it to track where the string should fall on the register as it makes its way to the distal/bridge end of the instrument. As with most of Owen's work, this is a brilliantly simple way to ensure complete line accuracy of string speaking length. I can't wait to use this method when pinning my own instrument.

Other questions led to more answers and I ended up stopping by Rockler on the way home to pick up a couple hundred solid brass escutcheons/nails/brads that I'll be chopping down for use as pins when the time comes. Another answer involved picking up some Melton wool at the Mill End Store in Milwaukie that I will be "felting" with "agitation and heat" in the near future. The felted wool will be use as jack rests on the distal ends of the keys as well as for an upper cushion on the jack rail. I like the milk chocolate brown.

Finally, Owen and I discussed at length a quick and easy way to bend and cut the bridges. As with most aspects of building I've spent considerable time and effort overthinking how to go about doing this. Owen showed me the way again by asking yet another simple question: "Why don't you just use your bentside lamination form to bend the bridges?" Once again, my answer was, "I don't know." After discussing it with Owen, I've decided to go ahead and follow his directions for steam bending, cutting and cleaning them up. There will definitely be more to come on this subject in the weeks ahead.

On a completely unrelated note, I've decided to sell the Laguna LT14x14 SUV band saw. I purchased this saw with the best of intentions. I wanted to create a cottage industry for myself resawing exotic and local woods for luthiers, but life and time are short and my focus needs to remain on building, not on cutting wood. So, out the door it goes. It's not a cheap item by any means, so it may take a while to leave, but I've learned to be patient about such things. It will sell. Someday.

I've also committed to purchasing a Carbide3D Shapeoko 3 XL CNC machine from Cool Craigslist Guy in Waldport, Oregon. This is a small unit that is easily extensible (to create more working space) and quite affordable. It comes with great design and operation software packages and Cool Craigslist Guy added necessary dust collection to it that I will be basically getting for free when considering his awesome purchase price. So, a road trip next weekend is in order. And then...a moderate learning curve as I figure out how to include this sort of automation into my building life.

Until next time...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Day 163: They Call Me Captain Hook

The bridges came off the bending form some time ago, but I've been busy with other things, as well as engaging in my annual Winter Maintenance work, so I'm just now getting around to finishing them up. One remark I received from one of the Master Builders on Facebook regarding soaking and bending the bridges was that he wouldn't like all the nails in his bridges. Of course he wouldn't, and neither do I, but it needed to get done and this is the method suggested by Mr. Miller in his eBook Most Excellent*.

The detritis in the photo above is composed of the remnant pieces of 1/4" plywood pads I used for cushions against the brad heads. Part of the reason I'm not crazy about the soaking method is due to nailing the bridges to the form while they were still wet. This resulted in the brads leaving dark stains on the bridges at each contact point - not my preferred level of quality. And, yeah, using stainless brads was probably the key here. My bad. If I build another Ruckers, I'll bend the bridges in a completely different manner (to be disclosed at a later date).

The 4' bridge is ready to glue up. The 8', on the other hand, requires a "hook" to be joined to its larger, "far end". This hook curls the string contact points away from the bend and requires me to cut one from a smaller piece of beech and then stitch it onto the bridge at the correct point. As you can see below, I traced the hook onto some parchment paper so I could draw it onto the smaller piece.

I then took it to the band saw, the table of which I set at a cool 30-degrees, and went to work - until the blade snapped. Granted it was a tiny blade, but it was still scary. I neglected to purchase a new blade last payday and the tiny blade was the sharpest in the shop. Suffice it to say, it made the work a lot more interesting.

I made it through most of the cut before the break.

I then mounted an older blade onto the saw and went to work, resulting in this:

It turns out the smell of burning beech is actually kinda pleasant. The burns notwithstanding, I pulled out the oscillating spindle sander and went to town cleaning things up.

As you can see, it cleaned up nicely, though I'll do some final polish with a spokeshave once I get the hook joined to the bridge. I'm planning on using a half-lap joint, which I've had some success with in the past. Before I can do this, I'll need to get another printout of the plan - I mangled it pretty badly getting the bridge templates onto the bending form. This is not a big deal because I'll have it printed at the local FedEx Office up the street for a few bucks. The lady there is now referring to me as "the harpsichord guy." I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife and I travel to the Oregon Coast every Christmas season, sometimes staying there for Christmas day (a beach with 10 people is a good thing, even when it's chilly outside). This year, we found ourselves in Lincoln City where we stopped at an antique store and I discovered the Holy Grail of 6" rulers.

I've been looking for a 6-incher to keep stowed in my shop apron and this one is special because it's not only sturdy, it offers both U.S. and metric measurements, as well as decimal equivalents for numerous measurements on its reverse. This was definitely the best $5 we've spent in a very long while.

Until next time...

*Mr. Miller has significantly updated his eBook Most Excellent, the Harpsichord Project eBook 4.0. It now has more content with multiple ways of accomplishing several tasks, as well as upgrades to several of the sections. If you're looking to dive into building a harpsichord as a first-timer, I highly recommend this book - it's a bargain.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day 162: Bending the Bridges

After soaking the bridges for 48 hours, I pulled them out of the soaking trough and nailed them to the templates on a piece of 3/4" plywood.

Now, they dry for a week (until next Monday) when I pull them off and work on the eight foot end hooks. In the meantime, I return to my work on the jacks. I have a surprise coming up and I must admit I'm going to have fun watching the heads spin around and explode. You've gotta find the fun where you can, right?

Until next time...