Monday, June 22, 2015

Project Update: A Visit with a Master Builder

Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments is one of the master builders and players I frequently mention on this blog. I "met" Owen via the Facebook project page when he extolled me to not chop off any of my fingers using the old Ryobi table saw. This is funny because I had posted a photo of the saw without the zero-clearance throat plate installed and I was talking about the 1/16" sharp tops I was cutting. In reality, I had used the zero-clearance plate, I just posted the photo because I didn't think anyone would catch it and/or call me on it.

I was wrong.

When I looked further into Owen's own Facebook page, I was pleased to discover that he lives and works in Salem, Oregon, just about an hour south of me. I took the initiative to suggest a visit to his shop so he could teach me more and he was gracious enough to spend four hours with me on our first visit. It was awesome. He answered every question I asked in great detail and I learned more in that four hours than I had the previous year of building on my own.

On that first visit, Owen had just finished up a double-manual Zell, a German harpsichord that had the depth and clarity I had never before heard from such an instrument. It was, in a word, amazing. While I enjoyed hearing him play and looking it over from top to bottom, it was a finished instrument and I wanted to see one in the early stages of production. Well, I recently got my chance. Owen invited me to come for another visit this past Sunday to see two Italian harpsichords he's building. It was the best Father's Day gift I could imagine.

One of the reasons he invited me down is that I'm in the beginning stages of creating the bentside of my own little instrument. As you probably know, the bentside is the curved part of the case that starts just past the keyboard and extends to the tail of the instrument. In my case, I decided to go with a laminated bentside because I don't have 220 in my shop and I'm renting the house we're currently in, which prevents me from making the changes I would need to set up a bending tool like the one Owen has in his shop. Regardless, he thought it would be instructive for me to see him bend the side and bridges for the two Italians, and it certainly was.

Owen's bending tool is unique; it's constructured of a large piece of pipe that looks like a Cat D9 ran over it. He's capped one end and put an oven element through the other with an on/off switch and thermostat to control the heat. All of this is welded to a stand and he has bolts mounted to he can change the position of the bending bar to change the angle of whatever he's bending. Here's a photo of the little beauty:

And here it is with a cottonwood plank being bent into submission.

One thing I found interesting was how Owen was able to basically eyeball where to bend the plank, which he then marked with a pencil. Here he is during the eyeballing process:

And here he is in full bending mode:

When he got a good bend going, he would pull it off and measure it against the instrument frame. I could not do this with the Ruckers I'm building because I have no frame against which to compare a bend. The construction process between an Italian and a Flemish are completely different and require different ways of completing the sides and bottom of the case (too lengthy to discuss here, but I will provide more detail in a later post).

Once he completed the bending of the side, he went ahead and clamped it to the frame to "train it how to behave."

Then, he bent a couple of beech bridges for the two instruments, being careful not to go too fast, lest he break them.

He had to shave one end down a bit so they tapered before bending.

And then he bent away.

The results are going to be wonderful. Owen is a master builder and I'm honored to know him and have the opportunity to watch him work. Every time I visit him, I learn a ton and come away completely energized and ready to get back to work in the shop.

Thanks again, Owen!

Until next time...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 91: Finishing Up the Lamination Form

I was able to get the bentside lamination form completed last night. As you know, I've been staying off the table saw pending receipt of the motor pulley parts from Grizzly. Well, I couldn't put it off any longer and went ahead with slotting the form cross clamp bars using the saw (please don't try this at home). And I lived to tell about it.

Before I completed them, I went ahead and got the side blocks situated.

Then, it was time to glue up the top of the form using the form itself. Yes, this comes straight from the Tortuga Early Instruments Department of Redundancy Department.

Once the glues dries, I'll go ahead and begin the process of actually laminating the bentside. Oh, happy day.

A few world-class builders and players have, surprisingly, taken an interest in this little project via Facebook. Over the last year, they've offered tips, tricks, and guidance as I plod along in my particular Tortuga fashion. One of them, a famous builder residing in London, shared photos of his bentside lamination form he's been using for over 40 years. He has produced no less than 200 museum-quality instruments and I'm so glad to know that a man of his stature is laminating. Most are not, or at least they don't admit to it. He also recommend using Cascomite Powdered Resin Wood Glue, a cold glue as opposed to a hot glue such as hide, so I'll most likely hold off on the lamination until I can bring some of that in the door.

Speaking of world-class builders, I'll be visiting Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments this Sunday in Salem to observe the master as he bends the sides and bridges for two Italian harpsichords. I always learn something new when I visit Owen and I'm excited about seeing two instruments that are so different from my little Ruckers in progress. Naturally, I'll report back here with photos and a post or two.

Until next time...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 90: Framing Up the Lamination Form

I was able to make some pretty significant progress on the bentside lamination form last night. I had already cut the crossbeams and the side clamp blocks - in fact, I cut the blocks about a year ago - so, I had only to clamp the parts in place and screw with abandon. Wait, that didn't sound right. You know what I mean. I present the various stages of assembly below.

The next step is to glue the 3/16" plywood top to the frame. That will not happen tonight, as I lead a writers group and must attend. I'm pretty sure it will happen by this coming Monday. When the table saw pulley parts finally arrive, I can go ahead and slot the cross clamps (the whitewood pieces in the last photo above) and get the bentside completed.

Speaking of waiting on the table saw pulley parts, I sent Grizzly an email on the 17th asking them to confirm their promised June 15 ship date for the assembly. This is what I received in return:

"Dear Mr. Molnar,

Thank you for your email dated June 17, 2015.

We apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We are currently awaiting approval from CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) on the replacement pulley kits. We expect CPSC to respond later this week, and we will immediately begin shipping the kits at that time.

Again, we apologize for this inconvenience, but preventing possible injury to yourself or others is our top priority. If you have any questions about this notice, please contact us immediately.

Thank you for your business and continued patience.


Grizzly Industrial, Inc.

Uh huh.

Until next time...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 89: More Lamination Form Progress

As you know from my last post, the table saw motor pulley assembly is in flux. I finally took the initiative and contacted Grizzly last week and received a reply that the parts would be shipped on the 15th, which is today. I've not yet received a shipping notice and I've been able to successfully suppress any emotions around the assumption they didn't move on sending me the parts until I contacted them, but it's been difficult. I'll continue to give them the benefit of the doubt. For now.

Because the table saw parts are set to arrive this week, I went ahead and jumped back onto the bentside lamination form mini-project. I decided to make the sides of the form from chipboard, reserving the whitewood and oak for the bracing and clamping pieces. The photos below illustrate the process I went through to get the piece cut using the instrument plan.

In the excitement of finally working in the shop again, I neglected to take photos of the nails I used to first mark the cut line using the plan and then again to clamp an old saw blade to the nails to draw the line. The saw blade came with Big Bertha when I picked her up; she had no tires and a dull 3/4" blade running directly on her wheels. Poor, poor Big Bertha. I have no idea why I kept the blade around, but it proved useful for this exercise. I cut the blade into manageable lengths and it worked great.

The next step is to cut the form sides (two stacked pieces of chipboard) using Big Bertha and finally get the form put together. In the meantime, I'll continue to let some Dutch Rush I picked up at the Oregon Coast this weekend dry so I can test it as a finish sanding resource. I have no idea how it will work, but it's what they used back in the day, so I'm hopeful.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Project Update: Table Saw Woes

I received the following email from Grizzly Industrial, Inc. on May 28, 2015:

"Dear Valued Customer,

According to our records, you own a Grizzly G0771 10" Hybrid Table Saw.

We recently discovered that the motor pulley on this saw has an over-sized bore, which may prevent the pulley from securing properly to the motor shaft.

During saw operation, an improperly secured motor pulley and its machine key can come off the motor shaft and be thrown with great speed by the rotational force of the motor. If this happens, there is a small chance that the machine key can be ejected through the table opening and strike the operator or bystanders.

PLEASE IMMEDIATELY STOP USING THIS TABLE SAW! Do not use it again until the motor pulley is replaced.

We will soon send you a new motor pulley with step-by-step replacement instructions at no charge to you. Using the included instruction sheet, the motor pulley replacement procedure is easy and can be accomplished in less than 15 minutes-without needing specialized tools or mechanical skills.

We apologize for this inconvenience, but preventing possible injury to yourself or others is our top priority. If you have any questions about this notice, please contact us immediately.


Grizzly Industrial, Inc.
(800) 523-4777"

Oh, boy.

Given the fact the pulley part could do me serious physical harm and given the fact that it's Safety First at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters, I have halted any production that might include the use of the table saw. This means I've set the bentside form aside while I patiently await the arrival of the new pulley parts.

In the meantime, I'm finishing up a project that is long overdue - an electric cello for my son, Reed. Once the table saw parts arrive, I'll jump back into this project and begin posting again with abandon.

Until next time...