Friday, July 21, 2017

Project Update: Books and Blades

I've not yet begun the process of cutting the bridges and getting the soundboard in shape to accept them. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I have begun by practicing the angled cuts on some scrap pine. At the risk of understatement, I can say it's a difficult task, indeed. I've been in brief conversations with Owen Daly and Michael Peter Johnson about how to accomplish this and I've pretty much decided they'll get cut (probably later today) on the band saw and smoothed with a spokeshave. Then, to the steamer.

Speaking of the spokeshave, I must admit I had some trouble planing down the soundboard using both the 62 and block planes. Lots and lots of tearout on that beautiful spruce. I also didn't have much luck with the scraper. After conversations with Owen Daly and Mark Roberts, I realized my blades and scrapers were in a pretty sorry state. In short, I wasn't able to shave anything with them, including my forearm. So, I broke out the honing blocks and went to work.

First up was the spokeshave blade. The spokeshave is an interesting tool; it's like a planer (it can probably be classified as one) with handles that stick out at 90-degree angles from the working surface. It also provides a flat mouth surface that helps balance the tool while working with it. The one I purchased at the suggestion of Mark Roberts is easily adjustable with a couple of screw knobs. I haven't used it since it came into the shop, so I pulled the blade out and, holy cow, what a mess. It was kinda sharp, but not razor-sharp, so to the stones it went.

My honing blocks are basically Japanese whetstones. I have four at 1000, 3000, 4000, and 8000 grits. I started with the 1000, went to the 4000 and finished with the 8000. And I shaved my forearm a little with it.

Then, I decided to check all of my plane blades and, wouldn't you know it, none of them are razor-sharp. I pulled all of the blades to prepare them for honing, but it was getting late, so I'll get to them later today.

Once these are all honed up, I'll start working on cutting the bridges and cleaning them up with the spokeshave.

While completing work on the soundboard a couple of weeks ago, I also had some trouble with the scraper. A scraper is simply a piece of good, hard metal with an edge or two that have been prepared in a specific way. While using it, I experienced some pretty horrible tearout and scratches left in the soundboard. After discussing it with Mark Roberts, he asked, "Who showed you how to prepare a scraper?" My response: " one." So, Mark took the time to explain his process to me and how I should get small, fluffy scrapings while using one.

I followed Mark's directions that included removing all burrs on every edge of card. I then carefully honed the sides and edges of the scraper to make sure it was flat everywhere. I finished up by lightly burring an edge ("turning the hook") using my hardened burnisher and tested it on a piece of scrap. It worked beautifully, resulting in nice, little fluffs of sawdust. In fact, it worked so well, I gave the cosmetic spruce on the pinblock a much-needed rub down.

I'm quite pleased with the result and will be preparing the scraper in this manner before each use, or at least when necessary.

On a few completely unrelated notes, I acquired some books over the last couple of weeks. One of particular note is a two-volume set titled The Organ-Builder by François Bédos de Celles, more commonly known as Dom Bedos, translated by Charles Ferguson in 1977. I first saw a copy of these in 1980 when I was still in high school and I've wanted my own ever since. Thanks to John Kinkennon, a fellow early instrument enthusiast, we made a deal and the books are now mine.

Something interesting I noticed right away was that many of the pages of Volume 1 were not cut at the top of the page, rendering the book useless - at least to me. After asking for help from my beloved book of the face friend community, several gave suggestions and posted videos of how to go about cutting the pages without ruining them (e.g., a knife tool going astray and cutting more than intended). The solution: a greeting card slid through as an edge.

It worked perfectly. And so ends 37 years of wishing and hoping. I guess good things do come to those who wait.

Another book entered the Tortuga Early Instruments Reference Library, as well: Ripin's edited volume on the organology of keyboard instruments between 1500 and 1800.

I'll be studying this one closely, especially with regard to the several chapters on Italian harpsichords.

Finally, now that the router extension has been installed into the table saw, it's time to begin the acquisition of a nice router setup. I want to be able to adjust the router up and down without having to kneel under the table everytime. Rather than purchase a $500 or more (yeah, some of them control the riser using Bluetooth and a phone app and can cost upwards of $1,000), I found a $50 sleeve that mounts under the table and holds a specific model of Bosch router. This configuration is ideal for two reasons: 1) Cost and 2) I can raise and lower the router with a hex key from a hole in the top of the insert.

As you can see, I'm still working on getting it installed and will be picking up the Bosch router in the next couple of weeks. This will help me with routing the decorative moldings that will mount over the soundboard edges and also be useful for projects not related to the instrument. Either way, I'll be good to go as far as routing is concerned.

Until next time...

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