Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 36: Still More Slotting and a Restoration Project

I continue to make progress slotting the guide rail ends of the keys. It gets easier (i.e., less terrifying) with each pass. Progress is slow at this time because I want to make sure this step is executed with utmost care. When you think about it, the keys are really the primary player interface - they had better be just right or else!

One thing I've noticed is that some of the keys are bent downward or twisted a bit, and some of them just don't fit as perfectly as I would like. One thing every woodworker must contend with is wood movement. In this case, it's quite the pain, though I did expect it. I will need to work with a heat gun to soften the keys and bend them once I get all of the slotting completed. More on this later.

On a side note, a few weeks ago, I posted a photo of a Stanley Bailey #5 hand plane I picked up at an antique shop in Astoria, Oregon. It was missing three crucial parts - the blade, chip breaker, and cap. Well, I ordered them for a total of $15 from a dude on eBay and they just arrived this last week. This, combined with the original $15 I paid for the base and a little elbow grease will yield a nice tool once I get it restored. I'm going to break this out as a side project of its own, yet still report on it here. You can see its current state in the photo below.

The patent date on this little beauty is 1910. It should clean up nicely - I can't wait to get to it.

Until then...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 35: More Slotting

Well, my Australian dude on Facebook responded and suggested that I simply steam the key ends over a pot of boiling water and use a little pressure to pinch the slotted ends together if I have made them too wide. Another easy approach to a gut-wrenching perceived problem - he's the one who suggested I use a stop on the band saw deck to prevent me from cutting too far into the key bodies (photo below).

This required me to use one of the previously slotted keys to set the stop. Whenever he makes suggestions like this, it leaves me wondering about myself. Perhaps I make things too difficult at times (my wife would wisely refuse to answer this question)?

Before slotting each key with the band saw, I draw two guide lines and carefully cut inside each as in the photo below.

This requires me to file less than a millimeter at a time to ensure I don't make the slots too wide. You can see the file I'm using in the photo above - it's between the pencil and key; it's one of the many I purchased from the high school friend I mentioned in a previous post.

As you can see in the photo below, the keyboard is coming along.

Once I've completed the slotting of the keys, I will notch the ends of each so they are easier to slide back in should I need to take them out for maintenance at a future date - more on this later.

Until then...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Project Update: Not So Bad After All

I had to take some time off of the project while traveling out of town over most of the last week and weekend. Upon returning yesterday, I fiddled around with the loose key in question and decided that, well, it's just not that loose. The guy who I questioned on Facebook about it never responded, so I'm going to charge ahead with the determination to be more careful when filing the slots. The one thing I've learned about woodworking over the past few years is there is nothing that can't be fixed. Fortunately, in this case no fix is necessary.

Over the next few days I'll be completing the slotting and filing of the guide rail ends of all of the keys. This should take me the better part of the week because, like smoking delicious meat on my beloved Old Ironsides II smoker, I'm going to take it low and slow. I've never heard of a woodworking situation in which care and caution resulted in disaster, so onward!

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 34: Slotting the Guide Rail Ends

I began the process of slotting the guide rails ends of the keys last night. It is, in a word, terrifying. The process is to draw two lines on each side of the original hole I drilled to place the guide rail pins when the keyboard was still a solid piece of wood. Then, I use the band saw to cut a slot using the lines as guides.

The cut results in a slot that is too tight for the pin. This means I must sand down the slot using a wee, little file. It's totally, completely nerve-wracking. In fact, I think I overdid one so that it's a little looser than I wanted it to be. Ignoring this soul-crushing event, I charged ahead and ended up with five of the 21 completed. The photo below illustrates Key #1 after notching and sanding.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the one that's a little loose. As you may or may not know, I also maintain a Facebook page about this project. A Facebook user who, I believe, lives in Australia gives me wonderful suggestions from time-to-time. For instance, after seeing the first photo above, he suggested I clamp a stop behind the blade so that my notches are consistent and I do not saw into the main body of the key. This is an outstanding suggestion because it's really quite difficult to see the blade's progress as I cut.

I tell you about him because I intend to ask him what to do about the loose notch. Perhaps it's not as loose as I think it is, yet it gives me significant pause for reflection. This is one of those tasks where screwing it up results in a bad, bad situation. I hope I do not have a one of those on my hands now. More to come on this after I ask him about it.

Until then...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 33: Chamfering the Sharps

In my haste to complete the keyboard, I had glossed right over the section of Mr. Miller's excellent book that describes how the ends of the sharp keys should be sanded down to hide as much of that part of the key as possible. The technical term for this is "chamfer".

To accurately and reliably chamfer all of the keys, I set the wheel sanding deck of my electric belt sander to 45 degrees and went for it.

As I've said in previous posts, most woodworking like this (i.e., many pieces of the same or similar part) is 50% planning, 50% having the right tool(s) and 50% production work (yes, it's very much like Man-Bear-Pig). In this case, all of the sharp key foundations get the same chamfering treatment from me. After running through all 21, they each look like the piece in the photo below.

The chamfer is at the end nearest the player. This way, the extra wood that might have shown through on the completed instrument is stripped away - another example of how woodworking is both a subtractive and additive discipline. The end results of these efforts will look very much like the photo below.

Please note that the back end of the sharp top (the right end of the sharp top in the photo above) is aligned with a pencil line I drew before cutting apart all of the keys. If I screwed up and took off a little more chamfer than required (not possible, right?), all of the sharp tops would still align properly when I glue them up.

The final step is some light sanding of the chamfers; then, I can get back to slotting the guide rail ends of the keys.

Until then...

Postscript: For those of you who might think this is more properly called a bevel (which is what I did on the balance rail before installing the guide pins), observe: Chamfer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day 32: Ship-Shape Sharps

I finished cutting all of the sharps. The process gave me pause for reflection regarding my band saw blade - I think I need a new one because the cuts were a bit frayed. Heck, the blade came with the saw when I purchased it; I probably should have picked up a new one before now. Regardless, the entire cut sequence went smoothly over the course of two days, resulting in 21 sharps ready to go.

Sanding them was a quick matter. I used a sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper, some tasty indie pop music on the Bose, and a cold Miller High Life (just like high school). I had the entire batch completed within 30 minutes.

I positioned one of the sharps on one of the longer key pieces in the photo above so you could see how I will be mounting all of them at a later date. Now, it's on to notching the end of each key. These notches will work with the end rail guide pins to help the keys remain stable (i.e., no clacking allowed) as the instrument is played.

I will initially notch them on the band saw using a blade with more teeth. Saw blades like this are measured in Teeth Per Inch (TPI). The general rule is that you want at least 3 TPI, which depends entirely on the height of the wood you are cutting. Because this is such a small cut with astonishingly miniscule tolerances, I'll be using a thinner blade with more teeth. When completed, I will flange the end of each using my trusty Dremel tool. If this is not clear, you'll see what I'm talking about soon enough.

Until then...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 31: Cutting More Sharps

It turned out that I couldn't really cut all of the sharps on the table saw after all because the gap on the insert is too wide and the finished keys would fall against the blade or into the machine. It was just too big a pain in the rear-end, especially when I have other saws in the shop that are perfectly capable of making a 10-degree cut.

In this case, I switched to the band saw where I set the table at 10 degrees and cut with abandon. As you can see in the photo below, the insert gap is small enough that it did not cause me any problems at all.

You might have noticed an additional piece of wood clamped to the band saw fence. This is to keep the angled part of the key from sliding under the tiny, little gap between the fence and the table and reducing the width of the angle cut. I did something similar on the band saw, but it was not enough to save the keys from pretty significant harm after each cut.

You might also have noticed that I'm not using a piece of scrap to guard against tear-out here. It's been my experience that such a piece is just not necessary with a band saw. Yes, the cuts are a little rougher, but they're nothing some sanding (my favorite task) won't clean right up. I completed 14 of the little buggers tonight.

Because of the clean cut issue with the table saw, I'm going to keep the key I cut yesterday on my desk at work to remind me of what I really love doing (hint: it's not working the day job), replacing it with another I cut tomorrow.

I did trim the boards down with the planer to 7/16" from 1/2". I'm not including a photo of the planing process because, frankly, I forgot to take a picture. The next step is to complete all of the sharps, sand each and every one and begin the somewhat tedious process of gluing them to the longer pieces of the sharp keys.

On a final note, I have not yet cut the slots into the guide rail ends of the keys or sanded/filed the balance rail holes that I punched on last week. I will complete these tasks before gluing the sharps, and it will take quite a bit of time because I'll be measuring my progress in 1/1000th of an inch.

Until then...

Day 30: Cutting the Sharps

I began the process of cutting the sharps last night. The first step was to find enough poplar from which I would eventually cut the 21 keys. I settled on two pieces that, combined, would allow me to produce the 21 plus quite a few extras. The second step was to install the glue line rip blade on the table saw, set it to 10 degrees and rip both pieces of poplar down one side. This cut represents the front of each key.

I set the blade back to 90 degrees and cut both pieces to 2 3/4" in width. I then set the blade back to 10 degrees and took a precise measurement of one of the C# keys using my digital caliper. It turns out the width of each key is just a hair over 1/2". At this point, I cross-cut one of the boards and discarded that first piece because one side was at 90 degrees with the other at 10 degrees.

I then flipped the board over and cut the first sharp key. As you can see in the photo below, I used a piece of scrap wood behind the board to prevent "tear out," something that is easily prevented with such a scrap piece. This often happens when you cut or drill a piece of wood without another piece behind it.

I will cut all of the keys to 1/2" in width, which means a few of them will overhang some of the keys on each side. Mr. Miller assures me this will not be noticeable in the final instrument. The photo below is the first key I cut from one of the prepared boards.

One down, 20 to go.

Until next time...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Day 29: I Stand Redeemed

Okay, so the glue-up of the broken key apparently worked.

As we all learned in high school shop class, the hardened glue will actually be stronger than the wood surrounding it, so I believe I have effected a fix. Or redemption. Or just a fix, we'll see.

More importantly, I discovered shortly after hammering all of the balance rail pin hole slots that there was a conspicuously large gap between a couple of the balance rail pins (keys 35-38 to be exact). I had noticed this in previous photos and was anxiously waiting for someone to call me on it, but no one ever did.

It turns out I missed drilling the balance rail pin holes for keys 36 and 37. This is a huge drag because I drilled all of the holes when the keyboard was a single piece of jointed wood. This means all of the holes were perfectly aligned, I just needed to cut the keys apart.

Needless to say, it was a major pain in the rear-end to get keys 35 through 38 aligned precisely enough that I could be confident drilling the holes in this post hoc manner was going to yield good results. There was a lot of swearing and painter's tape involved, but I finally got things aligned and drilled. Not fun at all.

The good news is that all of the slots are completed and I can move on to filing and sanding the holes to clear them of any errant detritus left from the slotting process. After that, I will begin the process of cutting the sharps from poplar and getting them glued on.

Until then...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Day 28: Redemption?

I completed hammering the slots on all of the keys tonight. When I finished, I grabbed the broken key to try to figure out how I was going to measure it to cut a twin when I noticed the break was so clean that I might be able to clear away some of the detritus and glue it back up.

I won't tell if you don't.

I guess we'll see tomorrow whether it worked or not.

Until then...

Day 27: Oops

Well, it happened just like Mom said it would: Everyone's having fun until somebody pokes an eye out. I was working diligently last night to get the mortises punched into the 51 keyframe balance rail pin holes on each of the keys and it was going swimmingly...



I'm honestly not sure what happened, it happened so quickly. One hit...two hits...oh, crap. From the looks of it, the punch simply aligned with the wood grain in an unfortunate way and the rest was, as they say, history. You can even see in the photo above where the punch twisted into the grain a bit.

Fortunately, this was one of the sharps - a piece without the quarter sawn oak arcade on the front - so, I can replicate it completely. Or so I believe. More to come on this in the days ahead.

Until then...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Project Update: Planes, Pencils, Set Screws, and Files

I received a message from the distant past last week when a friend from high school who had been watching my Facebook project page contacted me to see if I would be interested in some high quality hand tools left when her father passed away a couple of years ago. I'd heard stories about other guys running across a treasure trove of tools, so I was really quite excited by the prospect of discovering one myself.

When I arrived at her mother's home, it was clear that her father was a talented and industrious woodworker. He had produced from his small basement shop shelves, chairs, bird feeders and, I'm sure, a list of accomplishments that would humble even the most creative woodworker. It was an honor to be chosen to acquire his tools and I will honor him every time I use one.

The list of tools I picked up includes
  • 2 - Stanley #4 hand planes, one with a patent year of 1910
  • 1 - Stanley 220 hand plane (I already owned the black 220 in the photo below)
  • 1 - Small, but very high quality hand plane
  • 2 - Antique hand planes
  • 1 - Antique scribe tool
  • 2 - Metal rasps
  • 1 - Small hand saw
  • 1 - 1/2" wood chisel
  • 1 - Square palm sander
  • 1 - Leather apron
  • 1 - Antique toolbox
  • 15 - Packages of sandpaper of various grains
  • 1 - Heavy duty straightedge
  • 2 - 90-degree straightedges
  • Assorted files of various shapes and sizes
  • Assorted scrap woods, including white oak, poplar, maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany, pine, cedar, and spruce
  • 1 box of smaller scrap woods of all kinds, including several dowels of different sizes
And they let me get away with all of this for only $60.00.  I will always be grateful to my friend and her mother; they will surely be invited as honored guests for the concert debut of Molnar Opus 1. 

As if this weren't enough, I then picked up 72 mechanical pencils at Costco. According to my calculations, it will be the summer of 2065 before I need another pencil (they have a tendency to disappear, but it takes a while).

Finally, I noticed a few weeks ago that a set screw was missing from the left guide block of my band saw. After ordering one and patiently waiting several weeks for it to arrive, I installed it last night in a jif. All good now.

Though I haven't made much progress on the instrument itself, it's been a great couple of weeks.

Until next time...

Day 26: Gluing Felt, Punching Keys

I finally got the back rail felt glued to the keyframe. This felt is intended to cushion the back end of the key, reducing noise when the instrument is played. I ended up using 3M Super 77 spray adhesive for the task.

In hindsight, I should have taped off the back end of the felt before spraying the adhesive - that stuff gets everywhere. This won't affect the sound or playing of the instrument, it just looks a little tacky (no pun intended).

BTW, this means the keyframe is OFFICIALLY COMPLETED! Woo Hoo!!

I also went ahead and tested the key mortise punch tool I received from Hubbard Harpsichords. Yes, I paid $16 for the "tool" because I don't have a grinder, something that I've needed a couple of times during this project. I see a Craigslist adventure in my near future...

The punch tested out fine on a piece of scrap poplar, so I'm going to go ahead and punch away tonight. I've been busy with life the last couple of weeks and have only found myself in the shop after everyone in my neighborhood has hit the sack, which has prevented me from whacking away at the keys. Best not to piss off the neighbors, if you know what I mean.

Until next time...