Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 144: Gluing Up the Soundboard

After conferring with my good friend and wood scholar, Alan Ollivant, I decided to go ahead and clean up the soundboard plank edges using the table saw. Alan made the point that due to the cut angle, it will actually be a cleaner surface than if I had, say, used a jointer that compresses the wood as its knives push against it to make the cut. While this may seem like we're picking nits, it's important. The joints between boards should appear as seamless as possible. So, I commenced cutting them with the table saw.

And it worked just fine.

No more gaps. I then prepared some hot hide glue and clamped up the first joint.

I was pretty happy with it, though I could see a bit of glue material between the boards. This means either my joint was not clean or the hide glue has started to harden before I could get them secured. I suspect the latter because I also neglected to heat up the wood first. I then broke out the trusty fish glue given to me by Mark Roberts of Mark Roberts Guitars and Ukuleles a while back and glued up the second joint.

I planed off the excess squeez-out and examined the joint.

The hot hide glue joint is near the top of the photo and the fish glue is in the bottom 1/3 of the photo. Notice any difference?

Now, woodworkers will say that a joint is only as good as the prepared wood, yet I can't help but see a pretty significant difference between the two glues. I've worked quite a bit with fish glue, which is soluble at room temperature, and I just love the stuff. I even tested it by gluing up some scrap and shooting moisture and pouring water on it with no failures. So, this calls for a management decision: Fish glue moving forward. If the thing falls apart later, no worries - it will happen in my living room and I can just ignore it. Regardless, I'm going to saw off the hide glue joint and reglue it using fish glue.

On a couple of completely unrelated notes, I secured the end vise spacer given to me by Random Roger Green to the side of the Roubo bench.

This spacer is invaluable to me because I chose to mount the end vise in the middle of the bench, rather than on the left side (which is probably more typical). When Roger saw this, he scratched his head and didn't say anything, but I kinda knew he was wondering about me. The result: he gifted me the spacer. Sometimes, you just have to step up and save people from themselves, you know?

As you can see, if I have something clamped on the left side of the vise, which is where most of my dog holes reside in the bench, the spacer keeps the vise from twisting awkwardly and, eventually, breaking the wood buffers I made and, possibly, the vise. Thank you, Roger, for saving me on this one.

Until next time...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Project Update: Straight Edge Woes and Looking Ahead

As you may recall from my last post, Random Roger Green helped me prepare the beautiful spruce planks for the soundboard of the instrument. Unfortunately, I discovered a bit of rounding on each end, which is a typical unforeseen outcome when using a jointer, even for seasoned woodworkers like Roger. You can see a miniscule gap between the two leftmost boards in the photo below.

Unfortunately, even a 1mm gap when gluing up two pieces like this is unacceptable. So, I decided to put together an impromptu shooting board to flatten all of the planks.

It worked pretty well, as far as I could see. The real proof will be the "light test" pudding in which I can hold it up against another flattened board and not see any light peeking through. I didn't have time to work on any others, so the test will have to wait. I remain hopeful.

On a tangentially-related note, I did manage to acquire a "new" jointer over the weekend. It's an old Rockwell that will fit right in with my beloved Rockwell drill press and I just love the old guy. It's got stops for 15-, 45, and 90-degrees (and will accommodate all degrees between, of course) that will make it dead accurate for such cuts. When it came through the door of Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters, it was in pretty rough shape.

But I worked at it a little at a time.

And whadya know, it looks pretty darned good.

This one I will keep forever and ever. And ever. My good friend, Alan Ollivant, is coming for a visit this week and he has promised to help me tune up the old fella - there's a bit of a nip at the end of each cut, which means the beds need to be adjusted and aligned. Alan is just the guy to help me accomplish this - he's forgotten more about such tools than I know.

When Random Roger Green helped me, he gifted me a print of a Christopher Schwarz composite Roubo graphic; it shall live in a place of honor in the shop. Thank you, Roger, you are a gentleman and a scholar.

Finally, on a completely unrelated (and random) note, I discovered through a friend, David Bolton, the most interesting harpsichord I've ever seen: the Cristofori 1690 oval spinet (spinetta). I've been captivated by it and am actively trying to locate detailed drawings of the instrument. Tony Chinnery generously provides CAD drawings on his website, yet some of the detail I would need to make the thing are missing, such as case height and jack design and dimensions. I've emailed Mr. Chinnery, so we shall see. Hey, I know it's crazy to be thinking of the next instrument at this stage, but it is highly motivating and will, I believe, move the current one along much quicker now.

I also discovered through David samples of the instrument and it's fantastic. I can't wait to begin construction of this little guy.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 143: Owen, Donzelague and Random Roger

From time to time, I drive an hour south of Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters in sunny Vancouver, Washington to visit the bustling Salem, Oregon workshop of Owen Daly Early Keyboard Instruments. Owen is a master builder who is kind, generous, and an all-around good guy, so I enjoy my visits immensely; they're especially nice now that I have more context under my belt to understand what it is he's talking about most of the time.

Today was no exception. I watched Owen put the finishing touches on the Donzelague (1711) copy he's been completing for the last couple of months. It's a beautiful instrument and it was an honor to play it and watch Owen tweak a few things here and there.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Every time I visit the man, I come away with several new and exciting knowledge points. He really is a wellspring of wisdom and I think the world of him. I consider myself fortunate to have met him and look forward to my next trip down to soak up more knowledge.

As you probably know, I've got a couple of mini-projects related to the instrument in play at this time. First, I've been working on fixing the nameboard windows and getting it prepared for a front re-veneer exercise. When I mentioned to Owen what a pain in the rear-end the veneering has been, he simply looked at me and asked, "Why don't you just paint it?" My response was, "Um, I don't know. Why don't I just do that?" This is an example of Owen's deep well of experience and pragmatism that sometimes make me feel like a dumb-dumb.

So, all of the work I had done to prepare the name board for spraying on the 3M contact adhesive and to cut the veneer was, I hope, for naught.

I'm just done with the stupid veneer idea; it doesn't add anything to the instrument that some nice paint wouldn't accomplish. I will have to clean up the sides pretty substantially, but there are worse things - like veneering.

The other mini-project is preparing the soundboard to accept bracing and bridges. As you probably also know, I sold my beloved Delta 6" jointer (only to need it the very next day) and had to throw myself upon the mercy of Random Roger Green for the cleanup of the soundboard planks. As always, Roger was more than happy to help. He really is the best and I know, deep in my heart, that someday I will be able to do something nice for him (please leave your suggestions in the comments section below).

The first photo above is Roger going to town with the planks using his monstrous Powermatic jointer with a helical head. The joint sides cleaned up nicely and then Roger asked if I wanted to go ahead and run them through his monstrous Powermatic planer to clean up the faces. My response: "Heck, why not?" The results are illustrated in the bottom photo above. I'm quite happy with them and am looking forward to tearing the tape, plastic and newspaper off of the instrument so I can move it from the assembly table and get to work on jointing the boards.

On a completely unrelated note, after thinking about the resaw fence I had made for the Laguna SUV, I came to the conclusion that a 14" face was a bit much, so I trimmed it down to eight inches, which will still accommodate any width board I choose to move through it.

The next time I post, you will see how I went about jointing the planks of the soundboard, as well as a description of how I intend to go about hand planing them into submission.

Until next time...