Monday, December 28, 2015

Project Update: A Day with the Master

Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments is one of the Master Builders I frequently mention on this blog. I met Owen through a harpsichord group on Facebook and was delighted to learn he lives less than an hour south of me in Salem, Oregon. Owen has been a kind and generous mentor over the last year or so. From time to time, he invites me down to his shop to show me what he's up to, so I went down to see him on December 23.

Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

Before I went down, we had agreed to cover a few topics I've been a little sketchy on. The list included hand plane sharpening and maintenance, hot hide glue sizing and use and conversation around the Ruckers 1640-ish instrument that is the main subject of this blog. As a bonus, Owen threw in a tutorial on stringing using some of Stephen Birkett's (yellow) brass wire. Observe Owen in action below.

I learned more in those few short hours with Owen than I have in the last six months. He truly is a National Treasure and it's an honor to call him my friend (and mentor).

This Italian harpsichord in progress is an example of some of the amazing work the man produces on a regular basis.

As you can imagine, I came home locked and loaded - at least as far as sharpening goes - so I broke out the Grizzly sharpener and went to town on my planes and chisels.

I don't have any Shapton waterstones for honing (like those in Owen's photo above), but I was able to order up a set of 1000/4000 and 3000/8000 stones; they're in transit now. I ended up using the fine side of my trusty, old diamond stone to get all of the tools razor sharp. What a difference this will make in my accuracy and productivity. Thanks again, Owen.

On a completely unrelated note, I was able to successfully store (hide) all of the walnut from the Goby Walnut and Western Hardwoods Free box. It will all now live behind my main toolbox. Given the difficulty trimming down the wood and finding a place to store it, I've managed to free myself of the inclination to visit the Free box again any time soon. Or ever.

We also made our monthly pilgrimage to Astoria, Oregon over the Christmas weekend where I found a breast plate drill at Astoria Vintage Hardware that I've been wanting for quite some time.

It needs a little work, but is in vastly better shape than some of the others I found. Like me, it's a little rusty and rough around the edges, yet will come back to life with a little TLC.

Until next time...


  1. Wow, what an experience it must have been to visit Owen and learn more from him! I'm sure you had a great time...

    1. Being in the presence of greatness is always exhilarating!

  2. Nice post Darin, some really great pictures.

    1. Thank you! Owen is a very, very special guy. It's always an honor to be in his presence, to learn from him and catch some of his infectious enthusiasm for building.