Thursday, February 5, 2015

Day 71: An Epic Battle - Scotch-Brite vs. Brillo Pads

As I've worked with the African Blackwood on this project, as well as others, I've taken to using Scotch-Brite pads for the final "sanding" step. I've found the pads leave a finer finish on the wood than, say, 400-grit sandpaper. At the end of the day, the pads are just another rough surface used to smooth one that is already pretty smooth. I went ahead after scraping all of the keys the night before and used the Scotch-Brite pads as preparation for several upcoming tung oil applications. You can see my preliminary results in the before and after photos below.

Granted, the difference between the two keys is slight, yet it's there. The plan is to finish up this preparatory sanding and apply a coat of tung oil, let it dry overnight, sand all of the keys with a Scotch-Brite pad and repeat and possibly add a coat or two of satin polyurethane. Mr. Miller in his eBook Most Excellent uses 400-grit sandpaper, oil, 0000 steel wool and oil twice, and then applies a final coat of satin polyurethane - two, if needed. In my case, I will also need to dye the sharp key tops and the arcades to give them a nice, rich Craftsman caramel color before applying any kind of finish to them.

When I posted the photos above to the Facebook project page, I received a flurry of comments from the Seasoned Builders, most of which included reasons why I shouldn't use the Scotch-Brite pads. In fact, one of them suggested I use Brillo Pads intended for "just such a purpose" as finish sanding. So, I looked up Brillo pads and, wonder of wonders, they're advertised as "steel wool soap pads," while the only soap included with Scotch-Brite pads is that which you add yourself.

This latest exchange left me pondering the interactions I've had with most master luthiers up to this point - heck, with most veteran woodworkers up to this point; they've been interesting because, in the absence of more complete information about me, the assumption is that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. This, combined with a general curmudgeonly attitude amongst that group has left me wondering about what their real motivations are when they offer their helpful suggestions in ways that call out my general incompetence.

I believe none of them intend to come across as curmudgeonly; they are generally good dudes (I haven't met a female seasoned builder, yet) who offer their expertise and advice freely and without reservation. Yet they do, sometimes, come across as rather opinionated and a bit gruff, as if there exists a right way, a wrong way, and their way and I'm doing it the wrong way. In my most humble opinion, if I've found a way to do something that works and resonates with me, then it's something to be lauded and encouraged, is it not? Lee Garrett's encouragement to complete the keyboard comes immediately to mind here.

Perhaps this is the professorial aspect of my personality that brings me to these conclusions. In my book, there is always room for creativity and innovation. Doing things in new and different ways does not mean they are wrong, it just means they are new and different. If the end result is acceptable or, God forbid, as stunning as if I had used someone else's method(s), what's the diff, right?

On an unrelated note, some good news: Steven Baker, a violinist, violin maker, recorder maker, and tool maker, has purchased the Instrument Workshop from Mr. Bungart's widow, Martha. This means the parts referenced in Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent will be available again starting some time in March. I wish Mr. Baker all the success in the world - now, where are my parts...?

Until next time...

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