Friday, December 30, 2016

Day 138: Patching a Hole

It's been a while since I've regaled you here. Sorry about that. Life intrudes, you know? Not that building this instrument isn't a major part of my life, there are just other aspects of it that have demanded my attention for the better part of the last three months. Enough said.

As you may recall, I had been on some sort of mind-altering drug or something when I cut the middle register hole into the nameboard of the instrument. There are three holes in the nameboard, each intended to hold a rod that helps move the 8' and 4' registers and apply the buff stop. Like not drilling the holes into the wrestplank before mounting it into the case, I wish I had cut this hole correctly before gluing it into place. But, alas, I did not. So, I finally went about filling in the hole.

The bottom photo above is the backside after the putty dried on the front side and I scraped it with my trusty card scraper.

I had decided early on (before I really knew much about harpsichord construction) to build this one in the Craftsman/Arts & Crafts style using quarter sawn red oak veneer over the poplar case. While this isn't a deal-breaker, it certainly isn't the best idea I've ever had. This means I'll be covering the filled center hole with more veneer once the putty dries and I recut it, so that's my silver lining in all of this.

Just for giggles, here's a gratuitous photo of me sharpening the card scraper.

You file, then burnish an edge. Burnishing actually curls the nicely filed edge over and gives you a fine scraping tool. I use the scraper more than I would have expected - it leaves a wonderful surface that, most of the time, needs no sanding or planing.

On a completely unrelated note, the wheeling and dealing at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters continues. After much deliberation (actually, a quick conversation over a beer), I decided to trade my neighbor, Mike, my Delta scroll saw for his Delta 12" sander. I've needed one from time to time over the last few months, so there you go.

I may put it on a stand, but I don't have much room left for such luxuries. On the other hand, it's a super-heavy, cast iron beauty, so a stand is looking pretty good at this point. A final decision will require a Scotch and cigar. I'll let you know the outcome at a later date.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Day 137: Jack Blank Heaven

One of the surprise visitors at last weekend's open house was John Finn. I met John by attending meetups of the North Clark County Woodworkers breakout group that spun off from the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers. John is a semi-retired professional who has forgotten more about woodworking than I currently know. He still maintains a pro shop with enormous machinery made by the likes of Oliver.

While visiting this past weekend, John was curious about the jacks I had on display. He asked me what the material was and I said I was considering making them out of European beech. His reply was, "I have some European beech left over from a door project. Why don't you come over this week and we'll cut all the jacks you need?" What a blessing. I took John up on his generous offer and hit his shop last night to watch the master at work.

The first thing John did was trim off down some pieces on his monster table saw. Then, we ran them through the huge planer.

Once this step was completed, we had jack blanks that were dimensioned a little rich for the registers so I can trim them down when the time comes to place them. John then cut them to the appropriate sizes for the 8' and 4' versions.

I ended up with 104 beautiful beech blanks with some left over that I will use for learning how to make jacks. Michael Peter Johnson has reminded me a couple of times that I will make and place the jacks dead last, but John's offer was for this week and one must strike while the iron is hot, as they say.

I'm in jack blank heaven.

Until next time...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Project Update: Open House Fun

As you probably know, we held an open house at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters this past weekend. About a dozen people filtered in and out throughout the day. It was a wonderful time to see old and new friends and a couple of people I would not have put money on showed up. Mostly, we talked and reminisced and ate cookies and drank cider (and other stuff). Oh, and talked about harpsichords a bit.

The intent was to "close the combs" on the upper registers as a demonstration of what goes on at the Headquarters. Given the entertainment factor, I was not able to do that. So, it was more a rolling party, rather than a real open house where the visitors could watch me work on the instrument. One of them did manage to make some nice curls on some oak with the LN low-angle jack plane, so there was that. In the end, it was, in a word, awesome.

I really was prepared to close the combs...

Have I progressed far enough on the instrument for an open house? Probably not. Yet, this was more about offering my friends an opportunity to see the shop and the instrument in progress and ask any questions they might have had. There were lots of good ones and it gave me an opportunity to realize that perhaps I do know a little more about the harpsichord than the average Joe. True, very little, but more nonetheless.

On a couple of unrelated notes, Random Roger Green stopped by a couple of weeks ago bearing gifts: some tasty ebony tidbits.

Normaly, I'm wary of Greeks bearing gifts, but I don't think Roger is Greek, so I probably needn't worry about it. I am grateful, though. He has requested some of my BBQ as payment, which I am happy to supply at a later date ("I will gladly repay you Tuesday for some ebony today.").

Something I've not talked about much is the inadequacy of the throat plates supplied with the Grizzly table saw; they're about 1/2 rung above crap, so I made a zero-clearance out of - you guessed it - walnut that works great, but the screws were giving me trouble, so I decided to replace them. In my wisdom, I didn't think it through to realize that just about everything from Grizzly is made in China or Taiwan, so I purchased standard screws and managed to snap one off in one of the holes. If I had purchased metric, it would have been fine.

So, I picked up this hand-dandy measuring thing at Lowe's (no more shopping at the Orange Box) to get more accurate screw size measurements moving forward. Not a big deal, I know, but if you feel that strongly about it, you're welcomed to come get the remaining piece of screw out of the hole for me.

Finally, another book found its way to Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters.

It's a good one and I'm hoping it's not outdated, as most of them are these days. I'm sure one of the Master Builders will let me know if it is. Regardless, I'm going to pore over it this coming week to learn what I can.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day 136: Slotting and Exploring

After last week's attempt(s) at getting the upper register slots cut, I was able to actually get them completed this week! Naturally, the steps were the same - drill the relief cuts, line out the cuts, etc. The only difference this time is I used one of my little knives to scribe the cut lines using the register I had already cut. The initial step was to replace my thin-kerf, combo blade with Owen's monster.

I'm showing this photo because it illustrates how the retaining ring/washer gets hung up on the blade collet every single time I take it off and, yes, put it back on. Someone at Grizzly, okay, someone in China, owes me an explanation about this. Holy cow, how frustrating.

Once I got the lines scribed, I ran another down the length, which gave me axes on which to punch the divets for drilling.

Then, more drilling and cutting.

And...voila! I screwed up three of the cuts, so I plugged them and recut them. They're now ready for me to "close the comb," which I'll be doing this week.

On a couple of unrelated notes, I attended a Western Early Keyboard Association (WEKA) performance event that featured Dr. Mark Brombaugh, brother of renowned organ builder, John Brombaugh, who is located in Eugene, Oregon (a couple of hours south of Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters). Dr. Brombaugh's "Road to Hamburg" was excellent and I enjoyed his commentary very much.

He performed on two instruments from Reed College's collection - a French double and an Italian single after Grimaldi by Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments. It was a good day.

I also discovered Portland Parks and Recreation Community Music Center has been holding out on me - they not only have a 1970s plywood instrument in their main auditorium, they have a lovely Flemish single kit instrument from Zuckerman Harpsichords International hiding downstairs.

Yes, that's me lying underneath, checking out materials and Zuckerman's building philosophy. It's a wonderful instrument that badly needs some TLC and replacement of those pesky plastic jacks. Maybe this is something I can volunteer to do for them once I get the jack making thing under my belt. I'll tune it up for them in the near future and clean out some of the bugs and dust on the soundboard, as well. I look forward to my next visit to the little fella.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day 135: Upper Register Jig Fun

After spending a little time with Owen Daly of Daly Early Keyboard Instruments, it became clear to me that I would need another jig to cut the upper register slots (the holes through which the jacks extend up and then down to pluck the strings when keys are pressed). Owen had mentioned in an offhand way that all I really needed was a box joint jig. As you know, any utterance of Owen's is a pearl of wisdom to me, so I embarked on a lengthy and mostly fruitless box joint jig building project.

I assembled the parts and pieces I thought I would need, encouraged all the while by Mr. Miller's CAD drawing from his eBook Most Excellent. In the drawings, the slots appear to be spaced at perfect intervals just under 1/2" from center to center. So, I proceeded to make a jig that would cut perfect slots at that interval.

I used an MDF board covered with Formica from Home Depot, bought some 1/4"-20 bolts and nuts and mounted the thing to my Incra miter gauge. In the end, I could cut perfectly spaced slots. And by "perfect," I mean they were freaking Mary Poppins.

The trouble is, my key ends are not spaced at perfect intervals. In fact, they're not even close. I checked. So, I then picked up the story stick idea recommended to me by no less than Mr. Miller, Michael Peter Johnson (on Facebook) and Owen (in person). The idea behind a story stick is that you cut a thin stick and mark it up where you would like to cut something. In this case, the register blank became the story stick and I marked the centers of each key on it.

I then drew a line the length of the stick/blank 3/16" from one of the edges. This gave me a reference point for punching the starts for drilling the holes that intrude on the slot lines. These holes end up being semi-circles that give the jack some relief space after the pluck - it swings out as it makes its way past the string when it comes to rest after the key release. I'll illustrate and explain more about this in a later post. I used my nifty spring-loaded punch and put holes along the reference line about 1/16" away from the right slot line (if the bass end of the register is on your left). Yeah, I eyeballed them and they turned out to be just right for the most part (I may have to clean a couple of them up later).

Once all of the holes were drilled, I slotted the heck out of both registers - yes, there are two (more on this later, as well). I went to town using the table saw blade loaned to me by Owen.

And everything came out just about right.

I just need to bevel the undersides at 10 degrees (more about this later, too), glue up the combs (with the thin strips you see in the photo above), and cut them to length. The next step will be to create the lower registers, which should not take as much time as this adventure - 20/20 hingsight and all that.

On a tangentially-related note, before I embarked on the slotting fun, I thought, "Boy, it's been a while since I've cleaned out the table saw cabinet." In reality, I hadn't cleaned it out since purchasing the saw, which has been a good while. What I found when I opened it up gave me cause for alarm.

This just reinforced the fact that I need to adhere to my regular shop maintenance schedule. In my defense, I usually shut things down during the winter holiday season and clean everything up. Now that this is done, though, I may not end up shutting down this year. The good news: I ended up with a clean saw cabinet.

Along with this, I decided to clean up the scrap pile that's prevented me from walking all the way around the assembly table for quite some time now. I have an amazing ability to ignore such things. The upcoming open house on December 3 is largely what prompted me to take this action. Oh, yeah, we're having an open house from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 3. I wanted to hold it to show anyone interested what the inside of the case looks like before I glue on the soundboard and obscure everything. You're invited - check out the Molnar Opus 1 Harpsichord Project Facebook page for details.

As I was saying, I decided to clean up this mess:

It was creating a situation in which I didn't ever feel like venturing out into the shop. Cluttered shop, cluttered mind. I pulled all of this crap out into the front of the shop, canning a lot of the little, useless pieces.

Apparently, there was a wall behind all of it. Who knew?

Then, I hopped over to Home Depot and purchased one of the shelves to match those I purchased for all of the walnut. This little shelf will hold up to 2,000 pounds, which ain't bad. Now, I can get around the assembly table and I don't feel an impending sense of chaos when I hit the shop (the election season notwithstanding). It's good to be organized. Now, if I can just stay that way.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Project Update: Visiting a Master Builder

As you probably know, Master Builder Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments lives about one hour south of me. From time to time, I email Owen with questions and concerns and he promptly emails back with solutions and encouragement. Well, yesterday was one of those special, rare days in which I was able to head down to Owen's shop and meet up with the great man in person. Before discussing my petty concerns, Owen was kind enough to show me a couple of instruments he is currently working on.

The first is a "Poggio virginal," an instrument from the Russell Collection currently residing in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's a wonderful instrument with resonant depth and beauty that's hard to describe here except with a few photos.

I even played it a bit! I've not talked about it here, but I'm very, very hesitant to play before other human beings. Playing is my thing, one that I will rarely, if ever, share with others. I know, it's weird. But the playing and interpretation of music is something that's intensely personal and I feel I already share so much of myself on this blog that I get to keep the playing for myself. Of course, my wife, Tonya, probably feels differently about this - she must endure my practicing.

The other instrument Owen is currently working on is a Donzelague, a larger instrument from the 18th century.

Owen and I discussed a wide range of topics. We covered building techniques, including keyboard construction, register slot cutting (an obvious choice), and jack making and he held a short sharpening clinic for me, as I brought the new planes (described below) along for the ride. It's always great seeing Owen. Not only do I learn a lot about building with every visit, Owen has a quick and inquiring mind and we end up talking about all kinds of interesting subjects.

Owen loaned me a table saw blade he had made by a local (Salem, Oregon) company. It will cut the registers with perfect precision. In fact, I emailed Mr. Miller about a discovery I made with the CAD drawings and he detailed a better way to go about cutting the register slots that aligns with the method described to me by Owen - and Master Builder Michael Peter Johnson on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. In the end, I'll be making a jig that attaches to the Incra miter gauge/cross cut sled that will allow me to cut them perfectly so I can get on with things. More to come as I work this out.

There have been several shop tool acquisitions over the last few weeks and I'm happy to report they have come to a successful end with the arrival of a small Lie-Nielsen 60 1/2 block plane. I've named the new LNs the Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers
Lie-Nielsen bench and block planes - 60 1/2, 112, and 62
These, along with the new Grizzly band saw and Kreg band saw fence with microadjuster mark the end of a long shopping list created years ago. Now, it's time to get moving on the instrument once again.

Yet...before I can do that, I need to get the shop into shape. I've made light of my fixation with free walnut over the last year or so, but, like any addiction, there are ramifications to the behaviors with which it is associated. In this case, I just have too damned much walnut crowding the shop and I have nowhere to store project parts and pieces. It's a problem.

As you can see, the shop is a mess. And, I'm working on restoring the 6" jointer Alan Ollivant was kind enough to loan me. There's just so much to do and so little time and space. It's clear now, though, that I must simplify and if that means getting rid of some walnut, so be it. I'll be working on it tonight so I can get back to completing the instrument. A cluttered shop creates a cluttered mind and that's no condition in which to work with large, loud, fast-moving cutting tools.

Until next time...