Friday, January 29, 2016

Day 116: Clamping for Success

I completed the Register Escape Hatch Door last night. It's comprised of a plug that will butt up against the bass side of the register inside the case and is tacked onto the outside of the spine.

I didn't understand Mr. Miller's directions in his eBook Most Excellent for the outside piece, so I made it extend from just one end of the door. As you can see, I made the piece from solid red oak to match the veneer. In looking at it today, I've decided to remake the piece tonight. I want to be able to anchor the door on both sides of the hole with screws and this just won't cut it.

I was able to cut the lever slots into the nameboard last night. This took some precision drilling with the drill press, chiseling and filing. They're not perfect, but once I veneer the nameboard and frame the slots with African blackwood, they will look just peachy fine.

I started dry fitting the case pieces last night just so I could sleep without worrying about whether I had cut them to the proper dimensions or not. The first attempt was a quickie with the parts on their sides.

Everything looked pretty good, so I went ahead and clamped them up for further inspection.

Everything squared out perfectly, so I'm happy. I will be veneering and gluging things up this weekend - please stay tuned!

Until next time...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 115: Making a Square Hole

According to Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent, one of the steps in finalizing the case sides is to cut a "Register Escape Window" into the spine. This will allow me to remove the register in the likely event I need to effect future repairs upon it. The window is nothing more than a small, rectangular hole that butts up against the pinblock. Along with cutting the window, I will be making a door that's mounted with a couple of screws that are easily removed to get the register out and onto a bench.

I drilled the hole with several shots from a 3/8" Forstner drill bit, hacked away at it with a 1/2" chisel, and did a final cleanup using a couple of small files. I'm sure I will need to file it a bit when I make the door, which will probably happen tonight.

Along with this, I cleaned up the errant 3M 90 contact adhesive I used when tacking a small piece of veneer to a some junk pine. The secret is to cover both the wood and the paper back of the veneer and let them sit for a minute or two until they become tacky before pressing them together. Unfortunately, the surgical gloves I was wearing made me a bit clumsy and I managed to get some of the adhesive on the oak surface of the veneer. I cleaned it last night with isopropyl alcohol and it came right off. My only concern is how the alcohol might affect the final finishing of the veneer. Frankly, my Plan A is to not get any of the adhesive on the surface to begin with.

As you can see, it cleaned up nicely. And, as I've said in a previous post, they'll be selling snowcones in hell before I veneer another harpsichord side. But, now I'm committed, so veneer it is.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 114: Wrapping Up the Dados and Rabbets

I was able to cut the remaining dado and rabbet into the spine last night. All went without a hitch as I'm becoming more comfortable with the trim router and chisel method. Regardless, I did order a 3/8" top-bearing router bit that's on the way to Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters even as I write this. The cut results are below.

As you can see, there wasn't much left to do. Though I used the trim router on the dados, I did use the table saw for the rabbets. Easy peasy.

The next step, according to Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent is to cut out a "Register Escape Window" that will allow me to remove the register should I need to do any repairs on it in the future. I went ahead and lined out the window, but then stopped because it looked like it would butt up against the pinblock too closely when cut. I emailed Mr. Miller and he said that this was exactly as he intended it.

I received his email this morning - he lives on the East Coast - so, I'll be cutting the hole tonight.

When I hit the stopping point, I still had some shop time in me, so I charged forward with marking out the lines for the lever slots in the nameboard. These levers will control the buff stop, etc. and they run between tuning pins, so it's important they're perfectly placed - like, down to 1/64" (I chose to use an electronic caliper and fractions of a millimeter).

Once I got the slots lined out, I decided to hit a test board with some of the 3M 90 Contact Adhesive to see how the paper-backed veneer would interact with it. I sprayed both the wood and the veneer, let them dry a bit and slapped them together. One interesting note is that the adhesive gets everywhere and onto everything. Not only will I test its holding strength tonight, I'll also try cleaning it up with some rubbing alcohol to see how both it and the veneer take the cleanup.

On an unrelated note, when Owen Daly of Owen Daily Early Keyboard Instruments visited the week before last, he made a somewhat offhand remark about the bumpiness of the veneer atop the pinblock and how it will be hard for me to mount the bridge on such a rough road. Admittedly, it was a bit wavy based on the joint sanding I did to clean it up. As you may know, Owen's offhand remark is my command, so I planed it down using just a block plane set at about .001". Spruce is particularly cranky when a hand plane is used on it, so the blade must be razor-sharp and great care must be taken to plane it properly. As Owen said in a follow-up comment, I will need to pick up a wood smoothing plane for just such a purpose, especially when I start working on the soundboard.

As you can see, it smoothed up just fine. Thanks again, Owen.

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 113: Dados and Rabbets

Just before this last weekend, my laptop's Windows 10 decided to update on its own. At the same time, a message popped up saying Windows Defender needed to run, so, trusting bonehead that I am, I let 'er rip. The result: My computer took such a big, horrific dump that it trashed the BIOS on the machine. I can't even get to Windows to fix it because the machine goes immediately into repeated alarm mode on startup. This has prevented me from updating you, my beloved followers, in a timely manner. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I was able to set up a profile on my wife's machine (while promising not to trash it), so here goes the latest.

Over the weekend, I worked primarily on the dados and rabbets (or rebates for my friends in the UK) for the various boards and beams for the cheek and spine. As you might recall, the cheek is the short piece that runs from the keyboard to the bentside and the spine is the long piece that runs from the keyboard to where it joins the tail. Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent has me cutting 1/4" dados and 9/16" rabbets into both to provide insets for joining up the pinblock (wrest plank), name board, and lower belly rail.

This was an interesting exercise because I do not own a 3/8" top-bearing router bit as suggested by Mr. Miller. I do, though, own a trim router and a 1/4" router bit, so I decided to set up guides and use the thing to get the job done. It turns out this was not one of the best ideas I've had so far. It will be okay in the end because, fortunately, I will be veneering the inside and outside of the case with an astonishinly thin quarter sawn red oak paper-backed veneer. This will hide some of the roughness of the cuts, but I certainly will not head down this path in the future, choosing, instead, to pick up that 3/8" top-bearing router bit.

The first step was to measure the width of the trim router guide offset, which ended up being 1 5/8" on each side. I then clamped a small board to a piece of scrap and ran a test cut.

All went well and I also learned that this process produces sawdust nearly on the level of sanding, so I went ahead and donned my HEPA filter mask, which always gives me the Mad Scientist look.

I enjoy this because it's the only time in the workplace I get any respect for having earned a doctorate.

The next step was to jump into the process and start carving out the dados.

The clamped boards in the photos above are guides for the trim router. This worked pretty well, but I would have much preferred tacking a guide onto each as described in Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent. The cuts are not horrible, they're just not perfect and I believe the top-bearing router bit would provide a much cleaner, more reliable cut. I will absolutely need to do this on the next one because they're going to be selling snow cones in hell before I veneer another harpsichord case side. Regardless, I charged ahead.

I actually cut the rabbet on the end in the last photo above using the table saw because it required a 9/16" deep cut, rather than 1/4" and I wanted to leave the router and table saw set for the spine work. As you can see below, it worked out pretty okay in the end.

On a completely unrelated note, I visited my friend, Roger Green's, shop as part of a Clark County Woodworkers meetup, which is an offshoot of the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers. We who live all the way up in North Clarkistan get together once a month in a selected member's shop to observe each other's work and generally lie about how much we know. Last week, I got a gander of Roger's beautiful Roubo-inspired, French white oak workbench. Bravo, Roger - nicely done!

While I do have a little 5' x 18" workbench anchored to one of my shop walls and the assembly table squats in the center of the room acting also as the bottom of a go bar clamping setup and the outfeed table for the table saw, both are really too high for my burgeoning purposes; those purposes are centered on doing increasingly more work with hand tools - hand planes, scrapers, etc. This requires a lower workbench to reduce back and arm strain, both of which I enjoy on a regular basis after spending any length of time in the shop.

After seeing how such a bench would benefit me in so many ways, I picked up Chris Schwarz's The Workbench Design Book on how to, well, design the perfect workbench. Schwarz recommends the top height of your workbench meet at the place where your pinky connects to your hand when you hold your arm comfortably at your side. This is a pretty low bench that also offers hand plane storage and multiple clamping opportunities using leg and end vises, as well as a "deadman" for holding your work and dog and hold down clamps. Yes, this design is old, but it's time-tested and it would, I believe, alleviate much of the back pain I experience (and don't talk about here) after working in the shop. Watch for this mini-project to kick up over the next few months.

Until next time...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 112: Cutting and Casing

A lot has been going on at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters the last few days. First, Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments came for a visit to the shop. He gave the keyboard a once-over and, I suspect, conveniently ignored the many flaws readily apparent in it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Owen is a kind, generous mentor who I've been fortunate to meet.

And he also brought a log.

Owen had been holding onto a Port Orford cedar log that he had purchased over 20 years ago from a guy who had pulled it out of the surf - there's no telling how long it had been in the ocean. His first attempt at having it resawn into just over 1/4" slices resulted in smoke and sparks, neither of which are good to see when resawing any kind of wood. I suspected it said more about the state of the blade being used by the resawyers than anything else, so I recommended we hit Creative Woodworking NW to see how they might go about resawing it without the fireworks.

As you can see, it went very, very well - no smoke or sparks whatsoever. Their resaw blade was a monster at about four inches with an amazingly small kerf for a blade so large. In the end, Owen got about 16 pieces sliced off with a small piece left over that he can use elsewhere. All in all, it was a successful trip, indeed.

Back in the shop, as I was preparing to size and glue up the case parts of the instrument I decided to proceed with adding more light to the shop. This has been an issue since I installed the top go-bar deck, so I went ahead and added a four-foot power strip and a couple of neon lights to the deck. The lights plug into the power strip and will just pop right off should I need more space on the surface of the deck.

Once I completed that little task, I could get to cutting some boards. First, I rough cut the case bottom in preparation for matching up the sides to the lines I had drawn on it a while back.

Next, I had to get a straight edge on the spine so I could cut it to width. For this, I used the same technique I used for the bentside - I tacked on a couple of pieces of straight wood to use against the table saw fence and cut it to width.

Next, I cut the spine to 65 degrees on one end to accommodate the joint with the tail. Then, I cut it to length. The photos below only show the angle cut and clamp up test.

Next, I clamped the bentside on the bottom and began the exacting process of cutting the cheek to meet up with the bentside. This was not a terribly easy task. I ended up cutting several practice pieces and actually used one of my thicker aluminum rulers to angle the wood for the final cut on the table saw. I'm pretty sure there are easier ways to do this, but it worked, so I'm not fixing it. For now.

Finally, I drew up guide lines for cutting the nameboard and wrestplank dados into the cheek and spine, as well as the rabbet at the keyboard end of both.

I may not have gotten a ton done this weekend, but I feel like I did and isn't that really all that matters?

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Project Update: The Veneer is Here

I was able to pick up the quarter sawn red oak veneer for the instrument a couple of days ago. The stuff is astonishingly thin, like paper-thin. I had planned on it being a bit thicker, but that's because I made the assumption without first checking on how thin it actually is. Welcome to my world. Regardless, I think it will work out given the fact I need to add a couple of layers of adjesive to both the wood and veneer before mounting it.

I really kind of screwed myself by going with veneer for the instrument. Of course, the decision was made before I knew much about building a harpsichord and I thought I would only ever build the one, so it was completely uninformed. The next one will not be veneered. I promise. The veneer makes it extremely difficult for me to accurately figure out the length measurements for the nameboard, wrestplank, bracing, etc. What a pain. Fortunately, I love learning.

Last night, I picked up the adhesive for the veneer, some sprayable 3M contact cement. This after speaking with Cranky Wood Dude who rang up the veneer for me at Crosscut Hardwoods. I clearly elicit the cranky response in the Wood Dude community, but, frankly, I don't really care. They're always happy to take my money, so they can hold my wood between their knees. That didn't sound right, but I'm gonna stand by the statement.

I did not pick up the poplar to complete the spine last night. My only choice was an eight foot piece (cut to length) of 3/4" x 12" board. Because I'm going to plane it down to just under 1/2" (to accommodate the beloved veneer), I'm pretty squirmy about spending $50+ on a piece of wood that a good portion of which will end up in the sawdust bin. So, it's back to Cranky Wood Dude(s) at Crosscut Hardwoods to purchase a piece that's already planed down to 1/2" that they will also cut to length for me. Rather than pay per linear foot there, I'll be paying by square foot. This comes out to roughly half of what it would cost me at Home Depot.

On a completely unrelated note, you may remember my multiple dumpster diving incidents at Goby Walnut and Western Hardwoods. Lest you think me overly goofy for the pursuit, observe below.

This is just one small piece of the hundreds I dragged home. I'll be using it mostly as veneer except where I need thicker pieces for small parts on instruments. I'll be stopping by Goby again soon. Where will I store it? Who knows, but how can I pass up such succulent morsels, right?

Until next time...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Project Update: A Little Maintenance Here and There

After all of the hang-wringing about the 1/16" tearout on the wrestplank, it turns out both ends will be buried in 1/4" dados. Once again, my lack of experience created unnecessary chaos and work. I love learning.

Image courtesy of Ernest Miller and the Harpsichord Project eBook

Though I'm ready to go ahead and cut the dados in the cheek and spine for the wrestplank, I've discovered I don't have a poplar board of sufficient length to prepare the spine. I'll pick up an 8-footer on Monday and can start that process next week. Until then, I'm continuing to clean and maintain the shop during this short Winter Break.

The first of the mini-projects I decided to embark upon was centered on cleaning, repairing, and sharpening the various hand planes I've picked up over the years. While I've picked all of them up at antique and junk stores, they're all in good enough shape that a little cleaning and sharpening will bring them back to life.

As you can see, I needed to hit many (most?) of the blades with a wire brush attachment on my drill before I could sharpen them. The second photo above pictures my trusty Grizzly grinder/sharpener working its magic on one of the hand plane blades. The trouble with this tool is that the clamp in which the blade sits does not provide a way to get the blade in at a perfect 90-degree angle to the wheel.

I'll be figuring out a way to do that, like, today because I was really, really, really frustrated to discover that the clamping tool skews the blade a bit. Did I mention this is frustrating? I'm sure Grizzly offers an add-on tool that costs nearly as much as the sharpener that will provide a perfect angle to the stone. At any rate, I did the best I could using a square and some patience. The sharpening needs to be done before I can hone the final microedge on the blades, so I proceed.

To accomplish the final honing, I went ahead and purchased four Shapton ceramic whetstone knock-offs from eBay. As you can see in the photo below, the grits are 1000/4000 and 3000/8000. I will most likely use the 1000, 4000, and 8000 for honing up the blades.

While these are knock-offs, I'm reasonably sure they will work fine for my purposes. This purchase was inspired by Owen Daly of Daly Early Keyboard Instruments. Owen continues to teach me something new every time I visit his shop. He's a kind, caring mentor who has been instrumental (pun intended) in my development as a builder. So...back to cleaning, sharpening, and honing.

Until next time...