Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 54: Painting, Gluing and Notching

Last night I was able to get the sixth and, I hope, final coat of paint onto the sharps. They look pretty darned good. I think a final swipe with the steel wool will wrap things up there quite nicely.

While waiting for the sharps to dry, I turned my attention back to the naturals. Because I had sized all of the heads, they were ready to be scored. As you can see in the photo below, I used a scoring jig from plans included in Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent. This jig allows me to lock each key top head in and use two metal bars to run a decorative score across them at 1/8" intervals.

The notching to the second score I mentioned a couple of posts ago is a pretty difficult task. The danger is that the X-Acto knife, a razor blade, really, pretty easily slips and cuts the notch all the way through the end of the key. Very frustrating and potentially dangerous. I made a judgment call last night and decided to glue up five of the top heads to their respective keysticks and give the notching a shot. It worked great because I'm able to get a better grip on the little buggers when they're attached to the keysticks.

I used a rub joint on these and they set up nicely. I was able to notch one with some success and am looking forward to working on all of them through this coming weekend.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 53: Sanding is a Life-threatening Endeavor

I completed sanding all of the sharps last night using only the 0000 steel wool. It resulted in a much better finish that was ready to accept the fifth coat of paint.

I took a break about every three sharps and sanded up a few natural key top heads. As you will recall, my hands hurt pretty much all the time, so the break is not only nice, it's necessary if I want to get more than a few done per evening.

Sanding the natural heads required me to fit each head to each key top, holding the key upside down against the blackwood and drawing a cut line to which I would sand using my trusty belt/disc sander.

The small piece of poplar clamped to the sanding deck was designed to give the illusion I was making a perfect 90-degree "cut" using the disc. Because I cut all of the keys from a single piece of jointed wood using the band saw, none of the keys are what I would consider perfectly square, so this solution worked quite well. I also brought the floor lamp over from the band saw to shed some light on the subject and was able to get all of the heads completed between frequent sharp sanding breaks.

As you can see, I thought I was being safe by wearing a mask until one of my Facebook friends, Andrew Nolan (an Australian builder), told me the model I was wearing was completely ineffective against airborne dust. Taking his advice, I went ahead and ordered a new one from eBay. It should be here soon.

The results of all of this were the completion of the sharp sanding and the preparation of the natural key top heads. I was able to hit the sharps with a fifth coat of paint and will put the sixth on tonight so I can burnish them up with the steel wool by the weekend.

Overall, it was a productive evening, which was nice after a bit of a break from building.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 52: Sanding, Scoring and Notching

I've been working on lightly sanding the sharps using 320-grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool. Based on what I'm seeing, I believe I will do the final sanding with the steel wool, remaining careful not to remove too much paint during the process. I just want to smooth them up a bit.

While doing this, I've been testing the scoring jig and looking at how best to notch the natural key tops near the second score line. You can see in the photo below where Mr. Miller has notched to the second line.

Photo courtesy of The Harpsichord Project E-Book 3.1 by Ernest Miller.

The African Blackwood I'm using for the natural key tops is extremely hard. So hard, in fact, I feel like I'm notching a piece of stone. The key (pun intended) to success here, as Mr. Miller states in his eBook Most Excellent, is to take it slowly. And by "slowly," I mean a fraction of a millimeter at a time; otherwise, you stand the chance of driving the blade of the X-Acto knife completely through end of the wood. I'm not saying I've actually done this multiple times, I'm just saying it could happen...again and again and again.

I should have the final two coats on the sharps in the next couple of days. Then, it's touching up with the steel wool and knocking out the natural key tops. Easy peasy, right?

Until next time...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 51: Heads and Tails

Because I had so much success using the miter kit the day before, I decided to go ahead and prepare the key top tails, as well, yet I have an admission: I used the band saw after all. I cut the tail pieces to length at 3 1/2" using the miter box and then used the band saw to trim them down to a width of 5/8". The key to this was clamping a piece of wood to the band saw fence so the wee, little pieces didn't slide under the fence during the cut.

The other aspect to note is that I was ripping these little pieces on the band saw, rather than crosscutting them. Because I have misplaced my band saw miter gauge, it was extremely difficult for me to crosscut some of the smaller pieces without getting a funky edge. Ripping is another matter entirely. As you can see in the photo above, they came out just fine.

In another, completely unrelated matter, some of you have been inquiring about the source of my stunning success in the wood shop. Well, I attribute it to perseverance, making multiple, sometimes repeated, mistakes from which I learn many valuable lessons and the liquid in the bottle below.

Pusser's Rum (Nelson's Blood) was produced for the British Navy from 1655 until 1970 when the Admiralty Board discontinued its daily use. Fortunately, Charles Tobias resurrected the brand in 1979, producing the first bottles for public consumption in 1980. Since then, it has become a world-renowned "single malt rum" and the secret of my success. Given its long and storied history, it just seems fitting that it's an integral part of this project (in moderation, of course). Yo ho ho and a bottle of Pusser's!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 50: Back to the Future

I was able to get the fourth coat of satin onto the sharps last night. They're drying up nicely and looking pretty good--I can't wait to get that part of the process completed. In the meantime, I continued working on the key tops for the naturals. I have an admission: I've never worked with cuts as small as the ones required for the laminates. It seems that every time I try to cut them using the table or band saws, I cannot get a perfectly true 90-degree cut. So, here's my solution:

I was pacing around the shop being more than a little frustrated when I had a Tim the Tool Man moment. I swung around and spied the miter kit and thought, "Hey, wait a minute. Not only have I used a mitre box to get nice square cuts in the past, that's how they must have done it in the Good Old Days." I gave it a shot and, voila!, perfectly cut laminates. The first cuts were for depth (front to back) at 1 3/8"; you can see them in the photo below.

I then flipped them around and cut them all at 1" width. They will eventually all be trimmed for width by laying each key upside down on a key top and drawing a cut line from underneath that I will sand to for final width. For now, they're all cut at 1 3/8" x 1" and they're all perfectly square.

I guess they knew what they were doing 600 or so years ago.  Lesson learned...again.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 49: A Third Coat--of Satin

After talking with the helpful dude at the local paint store, I settled on Krylon black satin to finish out the paint on the sharps; he said Krylon had discontinued the semi-flat, so I went with one I figured would be around for a while. I applied the third coat and they're drying now.

In the meantime, I keep returning to the naturals. The photos below illustrate a little scoring jig I built based on a simple plan from Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent. I purchased the metal bar at Home Depot and cut it down to size with a hack saw. The jig itself is made from parts and pieces I had laying around the shop.

The bar is 1/8" deep; thus, the first score is at 1/4".

The second score is at 1/8".

And voila! Both scores are accomplished and I can get on to notching at the first score. You'll see what I mean in the next post.

Until then...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 48: A Man of Leisure

As you can see from the photo below, I'm taking the sanding of the first two coats of paint on the sharps at a leisurely pace (yes, that's a Cohiba in the ashtray next to the Margarita in a jelly jar).

The reason it's taking me so long to complete this first round of sanding is that I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) surgery about five years ago on both of my hands and they hurt all the darned time. I'm not sure if it feels like arthritis because I don't have that, they just ache, especially when the weather is changing as it is now or when I play the guitar or work with my hands for extended periods of time. Because of this, I can only sand five or six of the keys at a time before I need to break for the night. Ouchie.

As I've been completing this step, I started thinking about Mr. Miller's directions for painting in his eBook Most Excellent; he told me to use semi-flat paint and, as you know based upon a couple of posts ago, I'm more determined than ever to continue following his directions to a 't'. Well, I could not, for the life of me, find anything remotely resembling semi-flat spray paint, black or otherwise, at either Lowe's or Home Depot. Based upon that, I assumed he meant semi-gloss.

After thinking about it yesterday, I took the initiative to browse the Interwebs and, yes indeed, there is a Krylon semi-flat black spray paint available, so I'm going to switch to that for the remaining four coats. Now, I just have to find it somewhere local, if possible. Perhaps the shop dedicated to selling nothing but paint and related supplies just two blocks from Tortuga Ancient Instruments Worldwide Headquarters carries it? If not, Amazon, here I come!

Until next time...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Day 47: More Painting Sharps and Trimming Natural Tops

I put the second coat on the sharps last night. This time, I held the keys in a packing box while spraying them, which significantly cut down on the overspray - it only coated my face and glasses this time. It's a pretty underwhelming process, but needs to be done. I'll be sanding all of the keys starting tonight with 320-grit sandpaper before proceeding with the next two coats.

While waiting again for the paint to dry, I went ahead and trimmed up one of the natural key tops using the disc sander. It worked pretty well, so I'm fairly sure that process is solid. The next step for this first key top is to put it in the jig and score and trim it with a razor knife. You'll see what I mean in my next post.

Until then...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day 46: First Painting

I applied the first layer of paint to the sharps last night. The only thing more terrifying so far has been slicing the keys up freehand on the band saw. Well, it turns out it's not really that bad. The one thing I didn't realize is that spray paint covers everything within a ten foot radius, which is nice. Safety tip: Don't spray paint anything black if your car is white and you left the garage door opened. The photo below illustrates the first coat. I'll add another coat tonight and give it another 24 hours to dry before sanding with 320-grit sandpaper.

Because watching paint dry is about as much fun as waiting for water to boil, I decided to get started on slicing and dicing the natural key covers from the African blackwood I cut into 1/8" veneers a couple of months ago. The first cuts are for the front-to-back measurements at 1 3/8" with the grain also running front to back.

I'll trim these for width using the band saw now that they're so small. This is what makes the project so interesting for me. I've spent the better part of the last four months working on this small scale with these minute tolerances for the keyboard parts. Once I've completed them, I move on to creating the case, which is furniture-sized work. I get the best of both woodworking worlds and a harpsichord to boot!

Until next time...