Monday, February 9, 2015

Day 72: A Visit with Owen Daly

I was privileged this past week to visit Owen Daly, Maker of Early Keyboard Instruments, in his shop at Daly Harpsichords in Salem, Oregon. He was a gracious host who generously shared with me several tips and tricks. For example, he schooled me on the use of hot hide glue, something I will be taking quite seriously moving forward. The explanation he gave for using it on fine stringed instruments is that it creates a sonorous interface that does not deaden the tone of an instrument as, say, Titebond III, a glue that essentially dries into hardened plastic.

He also said it would be more effective to mix my own based upon my needs and that this method is better than Titebond's hide glue. I'm sold. The photos below illustrate Owen giving me this lesson.

Along with this, he advocates for a builder to be intimately acquainted with the repertoire that is unique to each instrument he builds. He had just finished up a beautiful Zell (German) copy that sounded awesome when he played it. In fact, I had never before heard a harpsichord with such tonal depth and clarity.

He also had a French instrument hanging around that displayed its own unique tonal qualities when he played for me.

On the construction side of things, he helped me with an example of how to notch and round a key in less than a minute. Amazing. I was on the right track, I just wasn't using a chisel during the process. His way is, of course, much easier than what I had been doing. Lesson learned. I also very much appreciated talking tools and wood acquisition and just poking around his shop; it looked just as I imagined a master builder's shop would.

We then met up at a lecture and performance of D'Anglebert's music at Reed College the following day. It was great to watch Owen in his natural environment - a master among masters.

Thank you, Owen. It was a pleasure and an honor visiting with you in your shop. I hope we have many more fruitful discussions in the future.

In my own shop, I continued to sand away at the keys before the first application of tung oil. I decided to go ahead and smooth the naturals using 400-grit sandpaper and then a Scotch-Brite pad and just the sandpaper for the sharps; oak is a hardwood, but it's less hard than the blackwood and tended to take on a green hue from the Scotch-Brite pad, which I stopped uaing as soon as I noticed what was happening.

I also decided to replace the top head on key 46, a natural. It looked pretty horrible as I cleaned up the other keys, so I sliced it off and cut and mounted a new head using the Titebond hide glue. It will be a little while before I can purchase the glue pot and supplies for the hot hide glue. Until then, it's Titebond to the rescue.

Until next time...

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