Monday, July 25, 2016

Day 125: Belly Rails and Dogs

Before jumping onto the creation of the upper belly rail, I decided to complete the cleanup of the cheek/bentside joint. I had cut off most of the overhang last week and borrowed a couple of tools from Random Roger Green (yes, again) to finish the job: a face float and a low-angle bench plane. The face float is an interesting tool. Basically, it's a (in this case) draw rasp that's offset with a nice handle.

The thing is, though, the offset allowed me to rock the float while using it and I dug into the side of the instrument about 1mm. Frustrating, but not a game-changer - I'll just putty it up a little, which is fine because, as you recall, I'm veneering the case with quarter sawn red oak. I'll be more careful next time.

Ultimately, it was the low-angle block plane that did most of the heavy lifting - 1/1000th of an inch at a time. It took a while, but I'm pleased with the result.

Before tackling the upper belly rail, I went ahead and threw in the keyframe support blocks.

And puttied up and sanded a few of the screw and nail holes left from jointing the case sides.

I then took up the matter of creating an upper belly rail for the instrument. This part is made from poplar, like most of the instrument, and is dimensioned at 11/16" x 3 1/2" x 30 5/8", so I went to my stock to see what I had available. I did have a nice, big piece of 3/4" x 12" poplar, but it pained me to think of cutting it up in this way. I quickly realized I could simply plane and joint a thinner piece and cut it to dimension. And I got to make real use of the new Roubo-style bench for the first time!

So, there you go.

This part has a couple of interesting cuts in it, as well: a dado and a rabbet. A dado is a slot cut into the board and a rabbet is cut on the edge. In this case, the dado was to be 1/2" from the bottom, 3/16" deep and 3/8" wide. I decided the best way to cut this was on the table saw with repeated passes, so I went to town - only to discover my depth gauge had misled me (it had somehow slipped from 3/16" to 1/4"), so I decided to fill the dado and start over.

I left it a bit rich so I could plane it smooth using the Roubo and a couple of the new dogs I made (more about these later). I planed it down using my refurbished Stanley Bailey No. 7 and it worked like a charm. I must admit that it was really nice having all of the parts, pieces, and tools, including my intent, come together around this little task. I eventually got the dado cut and will be cutting the weird, little rabbet tonight.

On a tangentially related note, I've been working a devious plan to make my own bench dogs for the new workbench. Roger Green recently introduced me to a cool concept from Time Warp Tools: wooden dogs. These are a great idea because a brass or aluminum dog always has the potential of ruining a perfectly good hand plane blade.

After reviewing the Time Warp Tools version, it occurred to me that I could probably find the spring-loaded rollerballs somewhere on the Interwebs. I did - on eBay from a company in England. I ordered a pack of 10 for $11 with free shipping and sat back to wait a month or more for them to arrive. Wonder of wonders, they arrived the next week. Vive la Par Avion!

Once they were in the shop, I scooted over to Home Depot and purchased two 3/4" oak dowels and start cutting and drilling. I wanted a harder wood like ash or oak, rather than a softer wood like poplar, because they would be holding boards on the bench under some pressure.

The roller balls are actually door latches. I glued them in with a little activated Gorilla Glue and just used Titebond on the leather pieces. In the end, I made ten dogs for under $20, rather than spend $9 each + shipping from Time Warp Tools. Sorry, Cool Time Warp Dudes.

As you can see, the spring-loaded roller ball takes the place of an awkward spring thingy. You can also see a couple of them at work in the upper belly rail screwup fix photo above. Now, back to that belly rail.

Until next time...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 124: Building on the Bottom

This past week has been a fairly productive one at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters. As you know, I had decided to leave the bottom off, allowing me greater access to the inner workings of the instrument, or so went the theory. As I started the process of adding the bottom braces, it occurred to me that I may as well follow Mr. Miller's suggestion in his eBook Most Excellent and go ahead with mounting the case sides onto the bottom.

As I laid out the glued sides on the bottom, things, of course, did not exactly line up properly. In the future, I will most likely not draw up and/or rough cut the bottom until I have the sides glued up. In this case, I simply needed to add a little real estate to the front of the bottom - the part that supports the keyframe. I had decided to add just 1/2", so I grabbed a piece of 3/4" pine and ripped 1/2" from it. Then, I decided to plane the piece down to 1/2" so I would have the correct thickness (the bottom is 1/2" thick).

Yes, I was tired. No, I was not thinking clearly. As I gleefully planed away with the Stanley Bailey No. 7 on the new bench, I kept thinking, "Boy, that sure looks like a thin 1/2"." Good grief. In the end, I realized that by ripping a 1/2" piece from a 3/4" plan, I would have my 1/2" thickness with a 3/4" extension off the front. Easy peasy. And it turned out I needed that extra 1/4" wiggle room. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sometimes, I scare myself.

Once I had the piece ripped (again), I glued it up and let it sit overnight.

I then proceeded with the sides-to-bottom glue-up.

The session went really well and I ended up with sides securely mounted to the bottom. Finally, I'm "building on the bottom!" Of course, after all of this effort, I saw Owen Daly of Daly Early Keyboard Instruments over the weekend and he summed it up nicely (as he always does): "Heck, I just throw a few trenails or nails in and call it good." He mentioned nothing of glue. Oy. So, I guess I now have a box that will not warp or curl in strange ways over time. Thanks, Titebond.

Once I got the sides mounted, there was some overhang that I needed to clean up with a router and a "bottom-bearing" router bit. This router bit has a small bearing mounted on its bottom that matches up perfectly with the diameter of the business sides of the bit. This way, it acted as a guide against the sides as I routed off the bottom overhang.

The spine needed the least amount of cleanup.

The bentside was a bit more challenging because I still had the excess piece hanging off of the bentside/cheek joint. I don't have a photo, but I'll detail this a little more later as I clean it up. I did cut the overhang from the bentside/cheek joint and will be rasping it down over the next couple of days - more to come on that.

I saved the front trim for last based on the way the wood was situated and what I had learned about end-grain tearout when putting the bottom together. Saving it for last worked perfectly.

My son, Trey, had come over for another visit and was once again quite helpful with suggestions and helping me get things into place for the trimming efforts. In the photo below, he contemplates our next steps.

Well, it turns out the next steps are to rasp/trim back the bentside/cheek overhang cut and start putting the lower braces in. It looks to be a busy week ahead, indeed.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day 123: Case Front Molding

Now that the Roubo-style bench is 100% complete (more on this below), we can all get on with our lives. Well, I know I can - and I'm happy to do it. The first thing I did post-bench was to work on the instrument case front molding. Because I'm building this one in Craftsman/Mission style, I will not route or shape this molding - or any molding on it - in any way. Since I did not yet mount the bottom, I decided to glue the two front molding pieces together before gluing them to the case sides (rather than use the bottom as a glue anchor/support).

When I took the piece(s) out of the clamps, I realized I had glued them sort of upside down (just trust me on this one), which prompted me to use the new bench to shave off some saw marks that would otherwise have been hidden. I can't even blame the beer on this one - I was just moving too fast.

The bench worked famously (Did you expect anything else?).

I then went ahead and glued the piece to the sides and let everything setup overnight.

Yes, the instrument is upside down in the photo above - one of the reasons I left the bottom off was that it would provide me easier access to these sorts of parts and pieces.

The next pieces I'll be installing are the bottom braces. It will indeed be interesting cutting the bentside (curved) ends.

Speaking of the bench, I was able to apply a couple of coats of clear Watco Danish Oil to it.

Please Note: No Danes were harmed in the oiling of this bench.

I had made a story up in my head (with the help of a few well-meaning friends) about needing to add additional wax or poly to the top. Random Roger Green assures me the application of the Watco Danish Oil, which is a sort of varnish on its own, is enough to resist any glue I might spill onto it. I must admit, the thing looks pretty good now.

I can't tell you how nice it is to have the bench completed. Of course, I'll be adding a Moxon vise to it in the very near future, but that in no way prevents me from using the bench again and again and again.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Day 122: Gluing Up the Case Joints

Now that the bench is in its final throes, I can get back to the instrument in earnest (no pun intended, Ernie). As you probably know, I dry fitted the case joints using screws as recommended in Mr. Miller's eBook Most Excellent. In the end, I made something of a mess of it and will probably take this path in the future without the assumption that fully screwing the joints together will make everything fit perfectly. It won't. Instead, I found that properly placed blocks inside the case along with only partially seated screws worked great.

The two photos above are the bentside/cheek and the bentside/tail joints. I ended up choosing to use Garrett Wade Gap Filling Glue because it has an interesting property: the glue that squeezes out of joints simply chips off once it's dry. I know, it's weird, but that's how it works. I also have not taken the time to become comfortable with my new hide glue setup. I wasn't willing to experiment with the case and felt the need to get on with things after a four-month break to work on the Roubo-style bench. As you can see, the joints work. In the (unlikely?) event they weaken later, I can explore my options then.

The photo above is the spine/tail joint. Along the way, I chose to position the case in some strange ways, a luxury I was afforded by the assembly table I put together many moons ago.

Most of the time, I found that using a syringe to squirt the glue into the joints provided the control I was seeking during these awkward glue-up sessions.

I had originally purchased syringes with several "needles" for an Arduino-related project (another story for another time) and I think Random Roger Green was a little surprised when he asked me if I had syringes for one of our bench glue-up sessions and I responded, "Yeah, I do. I'll be right back," and returned with a baggie of kits. It's a great way to shoot glue where you want it to go, not where it wants to go.

On a related note, I was able to pick up a nice bag of remnant leather at the neighborhood craft store. I ended up facing the bench and chop for the leg vise and both holdfasts with some of it.

All that's left to do on the bench is to oil it down with some Watco Danish Oil and let it cure for a couple of days. This will prevent me from using the bench, but I can live with that knowing it will be 100% complete once it dries. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait to be done with it.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Project Update: Okay, Not Quite Finished

In my last post, I said it was my next-to-last post about the Roubo-style workbench. Well, it turns out I may have exaggerated this claim. No, I'm not running for political office. While I was able to make some significant progress toward the finish line last night with the help of the inimitable Random Roger Green, I still have a couple of tasks to complete before I can put a stake in the heart of the monster.

Roger came to Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters last night to help me drill the holdfast and dog holes into the top of the bench. It turned out that I didn't have the proper tools to do this myself (imagine that), so Roger showing up with a plunge router and upcut bit with a routing template and a long auger bit was just what was needed - again.

The measurements for the holes are specific, but I won't bore you with the details. We started by placing the router template on the top and using the plunge router to get a good start on a straight hole.

Then, we finished each up with the Wood Owl auger bit.

In the photo below, you can see Roger measuring for the front side dog holes, which we placed 3" from the front and spaced 5" apart.

Based on a photo sent to me recently by Owen Daly of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments, we also drilled some holes into the front edge of the bench.

When all were drilled, we chamfered each hole using a 45-degree router bit.

And...voila! A nearly completed bench!!

The only tasks left are to glue (3M contact cement) some leather to the contact sides of the holdfasts and leg vise parts and to finish the entire bench with something like a clear Watco Danish Oil. Speaking of leather, I did manage to hit the local craft store and pick up a bag of remnants.

This should work just fine for my purposes. I'll have both of these final tasks completed over the next couple of days.

I was also blessed last week with a visit from my son, Trey, who has a ton of woodworking experience from high school. He told me about a technique he used with some success in which he melted wax into a hole and scraped it off for final finishing. I encouraged him to go ahead and fill the many holes in the bench top.

This technique works great and is far less costly than epoxy. As with any bench top, I'll maintain it over time by planing it down and refinishing it. Until then, the wax should at least keep sawdust out of the holes and give me a nice, flat surface on which to finish the instrument.

Until next time...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Project Update: Wrapping up the Roubo

Today's post will only discuss the completion of the Roubo-style workbench that carved the better part of four months out of instrument production time. I hope it was worth it. I'm pretty sure it was. As I convert more and more to hand tools - planes, scrapers, chisels, etc. - it became more and more apparent I needed a bench that would support those efforts. Fortunately, I have a friend in Random Roger Green who has worked with Christopher Schwarz to build his own Roubo bench out of French white oak in Schwarz's shop. I could not have completed the bench without Roger's guidance, help and, frankly, tools.

For better or worse, this will be my next-to-last post about the construction of the bench. The only tasks left to accomplish are drilling of the holdfast and dog holes that will allow me to use holdfasts and dogs for clamping. What are holdfasts and dogs? Holdfasts are the shaped iron hooks that, essentially, get jammed off-kilter into their attendant holes and dogs act as stops for clamping, as well.

This week's efforts were directed at completing the leg vise and getting the bottom shelf installed. The work to complete the leg vise was centered principally on getting the chop - the part that holds the handwheel and moves in and out from the bench - into shape.

The first step was to take the thing to Random Roger Green's cavernous shop to put the chop on his enormous Powermatic jointer. We set a stop to allow for four untrimmed inches at the top (the thickness of the bench top) and cut it 1/8" deep. As with anything Random helps me with, it was perfect and trimmed up without a hitch. Once back at Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters, the next step was to think about whether I wanted gently sloping sides or more decorative curves. I decided on the latter and broke out the trusty pot lid to draw the top curves.

It's important to always be technically accurate in the shop, hence the pot lid. I drew the bottom curves using a magnetic parts dish, as well. Once all lines were drawn, the first cut I made was on the Laguna SUV to get a straight line up the sides. Then, I put it on Little Buddy (the 12" Delta band saw) and cut the first curve.

Then, I cut the lower curves and shaped the top.

A little sanding on the Ridgid oscillating spindle sander turned me into Darth Molnar, but I muddled through.

Once I got everything sanded down, I oiled the screw, waxed up the metal crisscross pins and threw the chop on and, voila! - it worked!

I still need to pick up a some suede to mount on the chop and table and also for the tail vise at the other end of the bench. The suede will protect anything I put in them and allows me to visit the local craft store, which I'm really looking forward to.

Once I was done with the leg vise, I turned my attention to the bottom shelf that acts as the place of repose for all of my hand tools. Fortunately, I don't have too many at this time. I picked up a couple of eight foot 1 x 12 pieces of #3 pine at a local lumber yard, mounted a 1" rail on the bottom sides of the stretchers, and cut the pine to length. I had to notch each of the end pieces to fit around the legs - this was the most difficult thing I had to do to get the shelf completed; it took about 10 minutes, probably less.

As you can see, it worked famously and freed up a rack shelf for, yep, MORE WALNUT! Speaking of walnut, Random made me a chisel holder to be mounted on the back side of the bench and presented it to me a few months ago - another fine product from the Goby free boxes.

The chisels in the photo above are on loan from Roger and will be returned shortly, I just wanted to illustrate how the holder will be used. Thanks again, Roger, I'll return the favor soon.

The nearly-completed bench in all its glory:

Later this week, I'll place and drill the holdfast and dog holes and then get back to the instrument full time.

Until next time...