Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day 149: Registers Accomplished

As promised, I've been in the shop nearly every day since my erstwhile recovery from pneumonia. And, as you may recall, I was in the throes of completing new upper and lower registers in some beautiful European beech I picked up at the local Crosscut Hardwoods because it is, after all, "The Woodworker's Candy Store®." I was able to finish the slotting of all registers this past weekend using my fancy new jig (you know, the one I made from scrap wood).

I described how the jig works in my last post, so I won't belabor it here. Suffice it to say it worked great. Yet...there is a dicey aspect to all of this: cutting the 10-degree relief slants into the bottoms of the slots. This is done to provide room for the jacks to tilt freely (i.e., without binding) when one of the upper registers is slid to the side so the plectra for that rank (8' or 4') are moved just enough they miss the strings and vice versa. This effectively turns the ranks "on and off".

The diceyness (yeah, I just made that up) comes when cutting the slants because I've already cut the straight slots. When cutting the reliefs, I simply line the existing slots up with one of the table saw blade teeth and run it through the blade again with the Incra miter gauge set at a 10-degree angle. This isn't much fun because the tiniest slip will ruin a slot. Clamping is not really possible because the clamps tend to pull the registers up at an odd angle. So, I basically ran them through while holding the register to the miter gauge with my free hand. It wasn't the greatest approach, but it worked and I was able to complete all of the cuts over the course of two days with no mishaps (I know, a first).

Because no two cuts are ever the same, I had to clean the slots up with a nifty razor knife I frequently use for just such a task. Once the slots were free of cut anomolies, I dove into the glue up process.

When I posted the photo above on Facebook, I said, "I love the smell of fish glue in the morning," a direct rip-off from Apocaplypse Now, but you've gotta find fun in the shop where you can, right? And, yes, I'm using fish glue on most of this instrument. And, no, it doesn't smell - at all. I have detractors with regard to this, yet the only thing I fear with using this glue is excessive humidity or submersion in water. Extremely high humidity is a real concern. If you're submerging a harpsichord in water, you have issues beyond playing the thing. For this task, I'm using Norland High Tack Fish Glue. I just love the stuff.

As you can see from the photo above, I use frog tape to secure the parts before clamping them for the finish. This is a pretty common luthier strategy and one I highly recommend. I had cut the parts a little rich so I would have wiggle room to smooth them once they came off the clamps, which is what you see me doing in the photos below.

I'm quite happy with the end results.

The only thing left is to cut a relief notch for the jack tongues into each of the slots (more on this later). I'll need the hollow square hole punch I ordered specifically for the task. While it's in transit to Tortuga Early Instruments Worldwide Headquarters, I'll be turning my attention back to the soundboard and its attendant bridges and braces.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day 148: Remaking the Registers. Again.

It's been a while since I've posted because I managed to pick up a pretty nasty case of pneumonia (is there any other kind?). I've been sick quite a bit the last couple of years, which gives me pause, but I digress. During my nearly four-week hiatus, I had sufficient time to think. This is usually good for most people, but I have a tendency to overthink and overcommit (another story for another time). In this case, I believe the time was well spent as I considered the unevenness of the spacing between the register slots. I thought, "Do they really need to be this way?"

After laying both the 4' and 8' registers (jack guides) over the ends of the keys, it became glaringly apparent that I could do better. Now, lest you think I overthought the matter, consider this: there were some pretty huge gaps between quite a few of the slots. This made me think about how the tuning pins and strings were going to appear once the instrument was completed and I decided I had enough time and enough beech to start over. Again.

The first step was to plane down enough wood to slice it up for both the uppers and lowers.

Once this was accomplished, I ripped two uppers and the one lower(s), as well as caps for closing the combs of the uppers (I already had the two cap pieces from the previous version of the lowers).

Beech rips and crosscuts like a dream - I just love the stuff. Henceforth I declare that all things Tortuga shall be made from beech! Unless they're not.

Next, I grabbed some poplar from the wood pile and trimmed it down and taped it to the ends of the keys so I could eyeball where I wanted the slots to go. In this case, I cut a small piece off of the former lower and used it to mark one side of the cut I would make with the table saw. I always mark one side because I feel it's easier to line up a side, rather than eyeball the middle of a cut, which usually ends up a disaster.

Once I got all of the cut sides scored (I use a scoring knife, rather than a pencil because I feel it's far more accurate), I went ahead and cut all of the slots that would become the guide slots for the poplar jig.

Then, I set about making another part that mounts to the Incra miter gauge and contains a small piece of jack-sized wood that juts from it to act as the alignment guide. You see me cutting the guide slots in the photo above; that piece will be turned upside-down and slotted into the part of the jig that mounts to the miter gauge in the photo below.

You can see the two jig parts lining things up in the photo below as I've taped all of the upper and lower register parts together in order to get consistent cuts for at least three of the register sides.

See how the slotted jig lines the cuts up with the blade? It took a little while to make the jig, but the peace of mind it offers is incredible. Unless you forget to tighten the jig to the miter gauge and it slips during the second, third and fourth cuts. Which, of course, I did, resulting in the funky slot spacing you see below.

After laying the slotted parts on the ends of the keys, I pushed around a couple of the endpins and, voila!, they lined up (for the most part). An alternative would be to plug the most egregious of the mishaps and recut them, but, as you can see in the photo below, they line up well enough that I'm calling it good. Or at least okay.

Holy cow, what an adventure. The only task left is to cut the remaining slots into the blank side of the lower registers. Once this is done, I can close the combs on all of them and get on with my life. The fact that I've come this far and now remade the registers at least six times is a bit frustrating, but, hey, that's the nature of learning, right? At least it can be. Okay, in my case, it absolutely is.

On a tangentially related note, what the heck are they thinking when they put the little plastic gridded filter thingies on the business ends of a dust collector? I already removed the one that was clogging the hose end and realized while using it with the planer that something was still amiss. The planer chips going everywhere but into the collection bag was my first clue. When I pulled the bag off, I found another clogged plastic grid thingy that I promptly removed.

It's not like I already make things hard enough on myself by making multiple, repeated mistakes, you know? I have to deal with this silliness. Then again, they're probably on there for some sort of safety reason, but, in my most humble opinion, a dust collector that's clogging both high-speed power tools and itself is not safe, so there you go. Now, it works like a charm.

Until next time...