Monday, October 26, 2015

Project Update: Completely Shored Up

Based upon my neighbor Mike's suggestion (he's a licensed contractor and expert-of-all-trades), I went ahead and shored up the go bar top deck. The challenge was that I had created a solid structure that would handle downward pressure from the wood stacked inside, but I had not done a very good job of addressing the upward pressure the go bars will inevitably exert on the frame. So, I added modifed 2x4s to the corners, making sure the pressure driving upward would transfer directly into the 2x4s mounted on the ceiling.

Mike also said that I could provide additional stability simply by adding some 1/4" plywood I had laying around. This is the stuff I used to surface the bentside lamination jig.

This represents 100% completion of messing with the go bar top deck. I'm serious. Now, I can get back to working on the case bottom. I'll be picking up the remaining pieces of clear pine I need today and I hope to start the cutting and glue-up process tonight.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Project Update: Final Cleanup

While going through the boxes of scrap in the shop, I kept finding more boxes. Boxes and boxes and boxes of goodies - and some crap. So, I sorted by species, boxed each and put them under the assembly table for easy access. I also placed the larger pieces in the top go bar deck and have three boxes of scrap ready to go out the door. The sorting process was an exercise-and-a-half.

In the end, I found the following woods (in no particular order):
  • Oak (White and Red)
  • Poplar (Tulip)
  • Pine (Clear and Knotty)
  • Spruce
  • Cherry
  • Mahogany
  • African Blackwood
  • Cedar
  • Redwood
  • Ash
  • Ebony
  • Sapele
  • Walnut (Black and Claro)
  • Camphor (Burl)
  • Purpleheart
  • Bloodwood
  • Maple (Figured and Clear)
  • A couple I don't have a clue about
The good news is everything is arranged, filed and otherwise squared away.

Now, I can finally get back to work. Coming up over the next week: completion of the instrument case bottom and shoring up the top go bar deck for upward pressure.

During the course of cleaning and arranging, I came across several hand planes, a suede apron, wood, and a beautiful toolbox that once filled the shop of Donald Lengacher. Mr. Lengacher has since passed and his wife and daughter, Judi (a friend from high school - thanks, Facebook!), were kind enough to allow me to acquire the goods with their blessings. They will have a seat of honor at the worldwide debut of the instrument. The toolbox is old - I have no idea how old, I just know they don't make them like this any more.

Having this piece in my shop is a constant reminder about how what I'm doing has the potential to last generations. My power tools will wear out, my shop location will change, other projects will come about, but the one thing that will outlast me by several lifetimes will be the instruments I produce.Thank you, Donald, for the constant reminder about why I'm doing this.

Until next time...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Project Update: Go Bar Deck Accomplished

Because I've worked on guitars before building this instrument, I used a go bar clamping system to glue back and top bracing, among other things. This is a great way to clamp because it applies consistent pressure and is especially effective if you use cauls to spread the wealth. O'Brien Guitars often posts helpful lutherie tips to YouTube and have supplied a great introductory video about go bar clamping.

Once I had completed the 4' x 8' assembly table, I knew I would need a go bar deck mounted to the ceiling if I wanted to use the system for the instrument. The thing about this method is that it puts enormous pressure on the top and bottom decks. On a past visit to Owen Daly's shop, I noticed that his go bar setup is so robust that the pressure from the bars has actually moved his rafters up a bit. Thus, I knew that rock-solid decks would be necessary if I wanted this to work.

First, I started building the frame so I could mount as little of the structure to the ceiling as possible.

I had help with this part, but my help had to leave before I completed the entire structure. Regardless, we were able to at least get the frame onto the ceiling. Note that I have to mount 2 x 4s crossways on the ceiling based on the funky 12" studs. Weird. The next step was to start fleshing out the beast.

This I accomplished on my own. It was pretty hard work and I largely don't know what I'm doing, so it was an interesting exercise in drawing things out, cutting them and then having to recut where necessary. In the end, I got the frame built out.

The next challenge was how to mount the 3/4" plywood onto the bottom of the structure by my lonesome. Because I was completely, utterly exhausted from building the framework (yeah, I sit on my butt all day at the day job), I decided to sleep on things. I awoke the next morn having dreamed about a way to get the thing mounted by myself. First, I clamped a 2 x 2 to the far end of the table. I then clamped an adjustable roller stand to the table using an oak plank and some 2 x 4 cut ends for spacing. Once that was solid, I was able to tilt the plywood up onto the roller and loosely clamp one end of the plywood to the frame before clamping the other and then both tightly.

The rest was, as they say, academic. And I was pretty pleased with myself until my neighbor Mike pointed out that I essentially built a good downward load-bearing structure, but the upward load design pretty much sucks. I'll be reinforcing the structure as he advised throughout this coming week. Hey, I tried, right?

The secondary function of the upper deck is wood storage. I have lots and lots of specialty woods that I need to get out of deep boxes and organized so I know where they are. I cleaned out one huge box, the bottom of which I've not seen in over five years. Ridiculous. I got rid of a lot of scrap and got the remaining pieces up onto the assembly table for organization over the coming week, as well.

I'll be setting up a couple of shelves with the woods boxed by species against the far wall. This will help enormously because I just found a local wood source who sells logs and half-logs and carries several species priced at 1/4 of typical retail. I'd better get the SUV tuned up and ready to go, but that's another post for another time.

Until next time...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 100: The Fix is In

After contemplating my Garret Wade Gap Filling Glue solution, I decided it was a stupid idea. Why not just slice off the offending bad cut and have a do-over? So, that's exactly what I did.

Once I got the glue on, I used the luthier's top/back jig again.

The piece came out needing very little touch-up from a the #4 Stanley.

Now, I can get on to gluing up the large, staggered bottom boards that intersect this little piece.

In keeping with Tortuga Early Instruments 5S/Kaizen/Continuous Improvement program, I managed to get the oscillating spindle sander mounted so that it and the 12" planer are now firmly mounted on their respective $15 Craigslist stands, I just need mobile bases for both and I'm golden.

More importantly, I was finally able to get a 240v plug installed for use by the new Laguna 14" SUV bandsaw that I will using exclusively for resawing lutherie materials of all kinds.

This is a big development for Tortuga Early Instruments and my undying thanks go to my next door neighbor, Mike Crane, for helping. There really is nothing that guy can't do with metal, wood, electrical - anything, really. He was kind and generous and ran me all over creation for the parts and then took half a day to get everything set up safely. I owe him one - and then some. Along with this, I ran an extension cord to an isolated 120v circuit for the table saw. No more terrifying shutdowns during cuts when the table saw and dust collector are both running.

The only thing remaining is to get the top of the go bar clamping system installed into the ceiling above the assembly table. It will also act as wood storage, freeing up even more room in my little two-car slice of Paradise. Mike was kind enough to run me around in his pickup so I could grab the necessary 2x4s and plywood to get this done, as well. I see a bottle of Pusser's in Mike's immediate future.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 99: Amateur Hour

I rushed home from the day job last night and pulled the bottom piece out of the gluing jig. I must say that it looked pretty good at that point.

Then, I broke out my Stanley #4 Bailey smoothing plane and went to town.

I then cut it to length (31 3/4") and all was well until I started to cut it to width (17 11/16").

Yep, I started cutting on the wrong side of the cut line.

This amateur bonehead moment is brought to you by Tortuga Early Instruments.

Fortunately, I had some Garrett Wade Gap Filling Glue handy. I learned about this stuff from master luthier Mark Roberts of Mark Roberts Guitars & Ukuleles. It's designed to fill in gaps, but I'm not sure it was intended for gaps this large. I use a think kerf blade on the table saw and I suppose it could have been worse. As it dries, it will contract, so I'll keep an eye on it and keep filling if and when necessary.

One thing I've learned in all my years is that mistakes are usually based on scientific miscalculations while recovery from them can be an art form. The bonehead move notwithstanding, I plan to start laying out and cutting the bottom boards that run lengthwise front-to-back using more of the clear pine I picked up at Home Depot. Viva l'arte!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 98: Gluing Up the Bottom Front

Yeah, I said that - gluing up the bottom front. Or front of the bottom. Whatever. The point is, I've started putting the case bottom together and the first step is to get the front part completed. This consists of four 5" x 34" boards - before trimming to final size - that I cut and put into a guitar top/back gluing jig I made six years ago. The jig simultaneously pulls the pieces together at the glue joints while also pushing down on them. This is particularly effective for 1/8" thick pieces of wood, yet I thought it might do the trick here, as well.

As you can see, the jig consists of two oddly shaped boards, a few wedges, and some twine. The first step in using the thing is to protect it from glue sticking to it, creating a permanent joint that, while artistic, would defeat the purpose of this exercise. A great, cheap way to mitigate against this is to use waxed paper. A 75 ft. roll cost me $1.10 at Winco, which ain't bad when you have champagne tastes and a beer budget.

The photo above is the bottom of the jig waxed papered up and ready to receive the glued boards.

Once the boards were glued and placed, I applied more waxed paper to their tops before placing the top frame. When the frame was in place, I wrap twine around the legs (there are more elaborate, figure-8 approaches, but this works fine for me), leaving a little room for the wedges. Once the twine was wrapped, I pushed the wedges in, which tightened the twine, pulling the boards together while pushing them down for a clean joint.

Yeah, this is an old luthier's trick (the trick, not me) that I've used to joint guitar tops and back, table tops, and, now, a harpsichord case bottom. This goofy, little jig is the gift that keeps on giving. The next step will be, of course, to remove the jointed piece and lightly plane it with a Stanley #4 smoothing plane, which I'm hoping will happen tonight.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 97: Starting the Case Bottom

Now that I can walk through the shop without bumping into anything, knocking anything over or tripping over anything and the bentside lamination is completed, it's time to start the case bottom. Because I'm building a harpsichord modeled on a 1640 instrument originally built by Flemish harpsichord maker, Andreaus Ruckers, the sides of the case sit on top of the bottom. In my case, the bottom is made of really nice clear (no knots) pine I purchased at Home Depot or Lowe's, can't remember which.

The first part of the bottom to be completed is the front. Due to how wood tends to expand and contract under different temperature and humidity conditions across the grain, this part of the bottom is built with the boards running right to left lengthwise (or left to right if you're left-handed) to allow a little more flexibility for movement. The first step was to plane the 5 1/2" x 72" boards from 3/4" to 1/2" thickness.

My goal here is to end up with four 5" x 34" pieces that I will joint into a single board. Once the boards were 1/2" thick, I cut them to length.

And then ripped them to width, taking 1/4" off each side so I would have nice, clean cuts for jointing.

The result was four pretty nice, little boards ready for jointing.

I had built a jig to glue guitar tops and backs a while ago and realized it would accommodate this glue-up just fine, so I pulled it off the wall, found the wedges under the assembly table, located the twine and...BAM! Dead stop.

I didn't have any waxed paper in the shop - or the kitchen. Waxed paper is necessary to prevent the pieces you're gluing from sticking permanently to the wooden jig. In this case, I would cover the bottom of the jig and the top of the boards with the paper - hardened glue just peels right off waxed paper (which is probably why I covered the bentside with it during the lamination glue-up for no apparent reason - old habits). I know the jig may look a little odd/confusing. I'll post more about how it works in the next few days, after I pick up some waxy paper.

Until next time...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Project Update: A Cleaner Shop

In continuing my current trend of cleaning and organizing the shop, I disassembled the 12" sliding, compoung miter saw, stowed it out of the way, and got rid of its stand. I jockeyed things around a bit and boxed up the black walnut I had piled under the assembly table. In short, I cleaned up and organized. I can now walk through the place again, including around three sides of the assembly table - the fourth has yet to be cleared.

To continue, I will be getting rid of a lot of spruce 2x4 and plywood scraps that are hiding at the bottom of a large, plastic storage bin. Some of this wood I've not seen in at least five years, so it's got to go.

Now that the bentside has been laminated, I'm going to turn my attention to putting the case bottom together using clear pine I picked up at Home Depot. There is the matter of a bentside liner to be created, but I'm going to do that at a later time using the kerf method recommended by Mr. Miller in his eBook Most Excellent and by a few of the Master Builders.

Building the case bottom will involve planing them to 1/2" thickness, cutting them down to the appropriate sizes, and jointing them. Because Flemish harpsichords of this period are built "on the bottom," this is an important part of the build that I'm looking forward to completing over the next couple of weeks.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 96: Freeing the Bentside

Last night marked 48 hours for the bentside in the form. When I removed the cross braces, I had a little trouble where I chiseled out part of the side, yet all other bolts came out with ease.

Now, I must scrape the residual glue from the sides and scrape the surface a little more.

Of course, the Master Builders made the point that I should have staggered the rip seam for the laminate pieces, yet I believe it will hold strong due to the fact I introduced incredibly hard layers of plastic between the rip joints and the laminates. If it moves, it moves. I'll deal with it if and when.

Regardless, I raised a glass of Pusser's to the Ruckers family and the Master Builders. May your days be long and your instruments longer (whatever that means)! Cheers, my friends!

Until next time...