Thursday, February 25, 2016

Project Update: Some Tweaking Needed

As I've slowly moved back out to the shop, I've had time to notice a few things that need improvement. One that I will definitely work on today is a small separation beginning to show between the ceiling and the top of the go-bar deck. This is not good, particularly if I'm standing under it when it decides to pull free and crash down onto whatever's below it. You can see the potential disaster in the photo below.

The plan is to purchase a 3 1/2" inch carriage bolt and get the offending corners drilled and screwed in tonight.

Another nagging issue is with the throat plate that came with the Grizzly 10" table saw. Like the miter gauge, it's proving to be practically useless. I had picked up some ash to slice up and use for go-bars and got around to ripping it all up last night. One thing I noticed is that the throat plate is recessed too much, which allows the wood being pushed through to tilt and rub against the saw blade during the cut. Now, I like the pleasant smell of gently burning wood as much as the next guy, just not in my shop while I'm cutting wood.

This piece of ash was pretty great and I ended up cutting the bars to 5/8" x 3/4". Unfortunately, the go-bars I cut from it are now all decorated with unintended pyrography. And it's not that pretty.

Sure, they'll work just fine for clamping, yet I will have to look at those burn marks every time I use them from now until they disintegrate. To mitigate against future pyrography, I'm going to alter a zero-clearance throat plate I made from some of the Goby Free Box walnut I picked up months ago to accommodate the riving knife and use that plate 99% of the time moving forward. Fortunately, I possess a seemingly limitless capacity for ignoring that which is unsightly - my impending mortality, a possible Trump Presidency, burn marks on my go-bars. I can do this.

On a completely unrelated, happier, note, I rummaged through a toolbox Random Roger Green left before I came down with the creeping crud. The man owns some amazing tools that belong in the top drawer of any shop in the world. In this case, I pulled out an enormous chisel, a couple of planes, a nice auger bit, and some other trinkets.

Just holding the tools in my hands was quite motivating. Motivating enough, in fact, that I took a crack at smoothing one of the workbench leg tops a bit so I could start cutting the tenon into it. Yeah, it's on its side. No, it didn't hinder my work. It was on the assembly table, so I swung it around, clamped it, and went to town.

I did experience a little tearout, but nothing too bad. Of course, I posted this photo on the book of the face and got about 15 suggestions about how to do it better, most of which were really helpful. At the end of the day, I just need to smooth these a bit because I'll be cutting them of sufficient depth that they'll stick up a bit when the top is slid on. I can just trim them flush then and all will be well. Regardless, it was a little progress.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Project Update: Back at It, Sorta

As I've entered my second week of illness, I'm actually starting to feel a little better. Well enough, really, to get back out into the shop in spurts. The first thing I turned my attention to was the dust collection situation. I sold the big, clunky Delta dust collector on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago and rolled the money into a compact unit that fits nicely under the right wing of the table saw. Along with this, I purchased a flexible hose that extends from 4' to 21', which allows me to stretch it all over the two-car, and I picked up an accessory pack that allows me to fit a handle on one end of the hose with an adapter on each of the tools.

So far, so good.

The next task will be to assemble the two shelving units I recently purchased from Home Depot that will allow me to further organize the shop to clear some space for the Roubo-style workbench. Once I get things organized, I'll jump back on the bench so I can, ultimately, get back to completing the instrument.

Until next time...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Project Update: Still a Sick Puppy

Last Saturday, I took my cold to a performance of French harpsichord music by Owen Daly on an instrument of his own making: a beautiful French two-manual instrument "after the harpsichord by Jean-Claude Goujon, a fake Ruckers made in Paris 'sometime before 1749,' rebuilt with an enlarged compass at some point, and then extensively butchered in 1784 by one Swane (signed 'Swanen,' but the consensus is that this is simply the dative form of his German name) who chopped out the gap to make room for four registers. Originally, the compass was something like GG, AA (no GG#)-d’’’. Later stretched to the current 'standard' five octave FF-f’’’" (Quoted from Owen).

The performance was for the Western Early Keyboard Association at Reed College here in beautiful Portland. The instrument stands as a testament to Owen's skill as a maker - it was his third build dated 1984 and has hardily stood the test of time. I was fortunate enough to help him load it in and out, as well as watch him prepare with a little warmup.

Now, I have never really been a big fan of French Baroque music in general and I told Owen as much a few weeks before his performance (I do this sort of thing quite often - open mouth, insert foot). I suppose this is related to my experience with the French organ works that I find at times shrill and a little too "frilly" for my taste. In short, French Baroque music just never resonated with me. Until now. I found the Couperin and Rameau on Owen's program to be quite pleasant. Heck, I almost liked it.

Along with some excellent playing, Owen was generous enough to speak and take questions about the history of the instrument, as well as its tuning, Stephen Birkett's brass wire, and his music selections. It was a pleasant and energizing afternoon, indeed.

Unfortunately, I'm still a bit under the weather. This, combined with the build-out of the Roubo-style workbench, has prevented any progress on the instrument over the last couple of weeks. The only thing I accomplished in that time was to receive an Incra 1000HD miter gauge I ordered on eBay a few weeks ago.

The irony was not lost on me that the Incra miter gauge arrived packed in a Kreg box. As one of my woodworker friends remarked, it was probably a theft-prevention strategy. At any rate, I got the thing dialed in and onto the table saw. It's going to make working in the shop so much safer and more accurate - the tick marks on the gauge will do fractions of a degree. Why I would ever need such precision is beyond me, but it's there if and when.

Back to coughing up a lung and sleeping all day.

Until next time...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Project Update: The Saga of the Bench Continues

As you know, I've completely halted production on the instrument until I have the shop rearranged and the Roubo-style bench finished. Well, I went and caught a pretty horrible cold that began to make itself apparent Friday night and I'm still sicker than an old Tortuga. As a result, the tenons I planned to cut into the legs over the weekend never happened. What did happen, though, was the arrival of the crisscross and handwheel for the leg vise.

While I would like to have purchased a cast iron handwheel, cost and prudence dictated a polished aluminum model. Should I find it too light for my purposes, I can always replace it at a later date.

You may have seen the update to my last post in which I included a photo of the bench top cut to size as it sat in Random Roger Green's enormous van.

Roger continues to be my savior on this project. As he loans me tools and gives me advice, I realize a little more every day that I was a bit foolish to think I could complete the workbench on my lonesome. Sort of like making a harpsichord from scratch on my own. I am so thankful for Roger's friendship and guidance - he is a man among men.

One example of Random Rog going above an beyond is the help he has given me with cutting the bench top to size. He and I loaded the 300-pound piece into his van and he ran it to Creative Woodworking NW where they used their table saw with a 22" blade to first rip it.

Then, they threw it on their huge jointer to clean up the cut side in preparation for the final rip to 22" in width.

When they finished with the width cuts, Random told them to just trim up the ends.

I had been planning on the top coming back at 7' long based on some damage to the piece that was, fortunately, cut out when they ripped it to width. When they were done cleaning up the ends, I ended up with a piece 4" x 22" x 98 5/8". Yeah, that's over eight feet long. This falls directly in line with Owen Daly's advice to make the bench "as long as you can fit in your shop." Fortunately, it will fit just fine.

I'm still pretty sick, so I don't anticipate getting back out into the shop for a few more days. When I do, I will work on flattening the legs on one end and cutting the tenons. More on that later.

Until next time...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Project Update: Bench Top Trimming

After conferring with Random Roger Green about how best to go about cutting the Roubo bench top to size, he made an obvious suggestion: Have Creative Woodworking NW do it. As you may recall, this is the place Owen Daly and I went to have his Port Orford cedar log sliced up. Roger tells me they have a table saw with a 22" blade, which will more than suffice to cut the 4" top to size. We settled on 22" x 84" for the final width and length.

Roger will take it for me and bring it back slim and trim. Thanks, Roger!

On an unrelated note, we recently received some new tools at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters: Four small convex-bottomed finger planes and a marking knife. While it's highly unlikely I'll use the planes on the instrument (or any harpsichord), the marking knife will become an invaluable part of my building efforts. The planes are for other lutherie projects that I'll describe on another blog at another time. The marking knife is on loan from Random Rog and will be returned to him with the Chris Schwarz bench book he also loaned me (Roger is pictured in the book!).

While the top is out for trimming, I'll continue to work on the legs. The first step is to flatten the tops using a nice, little Lie-Nielsen low-angle block plane on loan from - you guessed it - Random Rog. When I'm satisfied the tops are flat, I'll begin the exacting process of cutting the tenons into them. This will test my burgeoning hand tool skills and involve a back saw, a chisel or two and my abiding patience.

Yes, the Dude abides.

UPDATE: Random Rog just sent me a photo of the trimmed bench top and I must say - it looks GREAT!

Another big thanks to Random Roger Green!

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Project Update: I'm Getting Roubo Legs

Random Roger Green showed up as promised last night and he brought books, tools, a crisscross and knowledge with him. It was interesting to see the crisscross since mine has yet to arrive. I was pleased that he agreed the Benchcrafted Crisscross Solo was the correct choice. I finally got one right - please alert the media.

Roger and I will continue to work on the bench until it's completed. I'm hoping it will take only a couple of weeks and I can get back to work on the instrument soon. In the meantime, the work last night was centered on cutting the legs long enough that I could cut some practice tenons into the ends in preparation for the real thing.

The original stick was a 12' 6x6 that I had cut in half at Parr Lumber. They're not going to be the prettiest legs in the world, but I'm okay with that - it's just a bench. Some of the parts for the leg vise arrived last night and I was pleased to see the precision screw was more robust than I had imagined.

It's 30mm wide, so it should work great, and Random ROG says it's definitely long enough. Interestingly, he is recommending I also create a Moxon vise for the bench - something I had not considered but that I'm completely open to doing. In this case, I'll be getting help from both Roger and Chris Schwarz. It's nice to have such knowledgeable and helpful friends.

Until next time...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Project Update: More Roubo

I have a fever and the only prescription is more Roubo!

I've fired up the process of putting together my own Roubo-inspired workbench. A Roubo bench will offer me several advantages as I increasingly switch to using hand tools such as planes, scrapers, brace drills, etc. It will be short, heavy and functional - just like me - and will, hopefully, be easier on my poor, old back. This Instructable provides a pretty good example of what I'm building.

One advantage I have is personal and long distance mentoring from Chris Schwarz, Roger Green and Owen Daly, all of whom are master woodworkers who have built, modified and otherwise own one or more Roubo-style benches. Schwarz's recommended height for the bench top is level with where the pinky meets the palm of your hand when you hold your arm comfortably at your side. For me, this is about 31 inches. In order to make the most robust, yet affordable, bench I could, I found a cool Craigslist guy who was breaking down a large, laminated fir beam. He agreed to cut it to 4" thickness for me and have it planed and sanded by the time I picked it up.

Cool Craigslist Guy quoted me a price for a 4" x 24" x 78" piece. What I ended up with was a 4" x 31" x 99" piece. And it's heavy. Like, 300 pounds heavy, which is a good thing. Ultimately, I had planned on a 4" x 20" x 72" bench, but Owen is recommending I go with as much length as I can fit in the shop. Frankly, it's going to be a tight fit regardless, so I'm going with a 4" x 20" x 84" model - unless Roger tells me different tomorrow night; he's coming by the shop then for a visit and to talk about how to proceed. One thing I will ask him about is what to do with a sheered off nail I discovered in the beam.

I bet the guy planing was plenty happy to hear it grinding away at his planer knives.

This bench will hold two vises. The first is a leg vise that I will be putting together using parts I've already ordered. The best part of this vise is the crisscross from Benchcrafted recommended by Owen. According to Owen, it will support the vise better than any other solution and allow it to glide with the flip of the handwheel. You may remember the quick-release vise I picked up at Astoria Vintage Hardware a few months ago. Well, it will become the end vise for the thing. And you can see in the first photo above that I decided to go with 6x6 fir legs. I want this thing to be as beefy as possible - I'm tired of chasing boards around the shop.

I attended a Guild of Oregon Woodworkers meetup at the NW Woodworking Studio run by Gary Rogowski last week and left with two handy new tools for the shop. The first is a set of holdfasts for the new bench; notice the nifty leaf motifs on the ends. The second was a high-quality bronze scribing tool I'll be using for keyboards and other marking work. You can see them in the photo below in addition to a micro-edge blade honing tool (accommodates plane blades and chisels quite easily) and a nice, little router plane I'll be using to clean up the spine and cheek dados and rabbets.

On a related tool note, based on adding the Roubo bench to the shop, I'm forced to completely redesign how everything is laid out. I need a better solution for wood storage because I'd rather have tools like the chop saw, blade sharpener, planer, oscillating spindle sander and even the little CNC machine handy so I can just pull one of them up onto the assembly table, clamp it down and get to work. These would be tools I use infrequently and going with this strategy would free up some much-needed floor space. Then again, I'm not 100% on this - something to chat with Roger about, as well.

As I redesign, consolidate and compact the working space yet again, I've decided to get rid of the big, clunky Delta dust collector. Sure, I'd love to keep it or have a nice, overhead system. But, the fact is that I just don't have enough space in the two-car to accomplish what I want - and that's to build harpsichords without tripping over tools and mobile stands. So, it's a hearty goodbye to a friend that's served me well (and which will be replaced by a smaller unit that fits under the right side of the table saw quite nicely).

I posted it on Craigslist for $120 and had a taker within an hour.

Now...what to do with all the boxes of small pieces of wood. I think I have a plan...I'll have to ruminate on it a bit first.

Until next time...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 117: Veneering the Nameboard

The last couple of days have been centered on veneering the nameboard; it's a small part of the instrument that I could easily replicate if I screwed things up. I'm not saying I ever screw things up, but the unlimited potential is always there. The first thing I did was throw the 4' x 8' sheet of quarter sawn red oak paper-backed veneer on the assembly table for inspection.

I picked this one out at Crosscut Hardwoods after looking at a couple of others. It has very few flaws and will look great on the instrument. Before starting the glue-up, I ran to a hobby store and purchased a brayer, which is really just a hard-rubber roller, for rolling any bubbles out of the veneer. It also came with a small, credit card-sized "squeegee" I'm sure will come in handy at some point.

Then, taking a lesson from Owen Daly, I gathered up my supplies and implements before embarking on what I thought might be a harrowing experience.

Fortunately, the 3M 90 Contact Adhesive sprayed smoothly and accurately. I covered both the veneer and the nameboard with a pretty good coat and let it set up for two minutes. The total open time on the stuff is 10 minutes, but I just needed it tacky, so I proceeded after a couple of minutes with some success.

I didn't take photos during the glue-up for pretty obvious reasons, but I do enjoy wearing the blue rubber gloves whenever possible. Once it had dried overnight, I cut out the slots and started preparing the tiny frames of African blackwood that will go around each. This is in keeping with my Arts & Crafts/Craftsman/Mission design theme (I know, it's not traditional, but neither am I).

The little frames will take a while because they're minuscule and I want to take my time to make sure they're as perfect as I can get them. I'll detail the process here over the next couple of days.

On a somewhat related note, I decided to try some of the Tru-Oil out on the piece of veneer I used for the glue-up test. As you may recall, I used Tru-Oil on the keys - it's more commonly used on gun stocks, which makes it a perfect finish for the instrument.

You can see in the photo above that it does make a bit of a difference. I may regret the choice later on, but it looks good to me at this time. I'm going to apply another swipe tonight and see what it looks like tomorrow.

Until next time...