Sunday, June 19, 2011

6-19-2011 Finally Really Finished

Fixing the popped soundboard was not too difficult, though it did take some time. I knew instantly how to fix it so that the problem would never reoccur. I needed a block to connect the soundboard firmly and immovably to the sturdy base. I sure wish I'd though about this from the start of the project.

I cut the trapezoidal block to shape matching the harp's angles on the table saw and then cut it to length and removed a piece to go around the bottom of the string band.

It also needed an arc removed so that the head of the bolt would have room.

Then the problem was how to hold it firmly in place while the glue dried when there was little access to the interior of the harp. I wanted to use bent sticks, but there was no way to get a long stick into the harp through the access holes- believe me I tried everything- including cutting the sticks and then gluing them together inside the harp. No way. What a mess.

Finally, my husband suggested using the hole in the harp to make a clamp through the base. Utter genius! Now I know why we have been married for 44 years. It was an elegant solution utilizing the hole and the clamping pressure that was normally used to hold the harp to the stand. I had the parts made within minutes using just scrap already on the workbench.

This is how it looked on the exterior. The scrap of 1/8" ply helped to distribute the pressure of the knob and there was no damage at all to the finish.

This is how the clamp looked on the inside. Worked superbly. Used lots of glue.

I wasn't about to trust a glue joint again- even though this one had maybe 20 times the glue surface and would probably never give way- I was not going to take any chances. So I drilled through the bottom of the base of the harp into the repair block and glued in some redheart dowels. They looked terrible even after sanding and I fiddled with some oil with stain again- and then it looked worse. Oh misery!

Yeah- after the finish was applied again it looked great- whew- sigh of relief. Even though this is the bottom of he harp I did not want it too look ugly. This is nice.

Then I wanted to secure the soundboard to the block. Removing the securely glued trim strip was not an option, so I went right through it and the soundboard with steel screws countersunk to just under the surface of the wood. Glue was applied to this joint at this time. Hubby noticed that they were not at the same height- darn it all.

I took this picture because I was very proud of the fact that I did not come through the block with all the drilling that I had to do. I was dreading finding holes visible on the interior.
Got lucky.

I made plugs in the same cherry wood to disguise the heads of the screws on the front. They were about 1/16" thick. I thought I could chisel them smooth to the front, and then sand, but the result was terrible.

Add to this the irregularity of their location and I had a problem. The solution came to me in wanting to add more ebony accents.

I cut some larger ebony plugs and reduced them to 1/16" thickness, and rounded their edges over to the back. Then I sanded the heck out of them until they were the same smoothness as the other ebony accents and glued them over the messy cherry plugs- both at the same height from the base. After a bunch more sanding and carefully applied finish the repair was done.
And it looked super.
I haven't taken a photo of the harp since the repair was finish, but you saw the finished harp in the last blog entry and the only visible difference is the addition of the ebony plugs to the front.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trials and tribulations as well as my fixes and eventual successes.
I enjoy reading your comments- and stay tuned- I plan to put a video clip at the end of this in a few weeks when the harp stays in tune- then you can hear how it sounds. Donna
PS- I did continue to keep track of my time spent on this project, though I was less accurate during the repair phase. I give it 210 hours overall, with 165 for the harp and 45 for the stand.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

5-11-2011 to 6-11-2011 Disaster!

The harp broke as the strings were tightened- way back to a month ago. I was devastated, since I had little time to fix it (and everything else I had to do) in time for the show, carving and box-making seminars in June. I will show you here what I did to finish the harp for the first time and discovering the BIG PROBLEM.
With the next blog installment, I'll go into what I did to fix the BIG PROBLEM.

The figure on the soundboard is very erratic- looks like a mistake though I actually chose to use that section of the aircraft ply thinking that it looked interesting. I decided to 'fix' the problem by adding a light wash of blue-green dye to the wood to complement the mother-of-pearl dragonfly wing inlays.. It already had a finish on it with the Arm-R-Seal, so I had to work quickly to try to avoid blotching. I experimented with the dyes first to get a nice greenish-blue, but I forgot that the wood already had a yellowish tint to it- resulting in a more greenish hue than I'd wanted. So- I tried to sand it to make it less obvious, but as you can see in the photo the 400 grit paper filled in almost immediately. It did lessen the impact of the puke-green a bit
It is interesting that if you compare all 3 photos they look different- bluish, greenish, and goldish (after a second coat of finish). So I'm hoping it passes in a dark alley.

I also applied a second coat of finish to all surfaces of the harp and stand after a light sanding. It looks better with more coats,but it takes forever to get to all the areas.

Now this is what I was aiming for when I was first thinking about how to improve on the bulky and squared top on the Limerick/Rainbow harp. It took a lot of work to shape the wood , but it was worth it to me.

Here is another view of that curve with me adding the tuning pins and bridge pins. I'd rather hit my fingers at this point then hurt my harp finish.

My favorite part of the harp- of course- the dragonfly inlay. So much work- but it is worth it now to have it exactly as I wanted it. Not to be too critical, but if I had it to do over again I would have integrated the inlay a bit better with the overall design of the harp. This way though it is like a piece of jewelry the harp is wearing. Not a bad thing.

This is a close-up of the grain I sought first to emphasize- and then to minimize. It is what it is- no changing now- it has the string grommets in place.

Here I am pulling one of the 26 strings through the brass grommet in the soundboard, and then up to the tuning pin. Time consuming process- then tuning. They say it takes 50 tunings on a new harp to get it to stay in tune more than a minute or two. The strings stretch, the wooden neck bows, and the soundboard bellies up; so it always goes flat. Tuning was fun though, because I knew that very soon it would sound really good. It was already proving that the changes I made to the Limerick design did not reduce the sound at all. It sounded great- for a minute or two anyhow.

This is how the ends of the strings are secured on the inside of the harp. They need to be very well secured or they will pull through the soundboard as the strings exert a whole lot of pressure. This was my last moment of happiness for a while. Note the darkness at the bottom of the harp interior- before any strings are tightened.

This is what I discovered after 3 days of tuning twice a day. It is fortunate that I'd decided to take some photos of the 'finished harp' and saw the light shining through the bottom interior. Ye gods and little fishes- what a disaster! I knew how to fix it,and I knew it was not a quick fix. What was amazing to me was that I'd thought that the joint would hold with just a thin line of glue. What a dummy. I should have known better. In the close up of the front you can see how the bottom of the pillar kept the soundboard from pulling completely up- and breaking.
I will show in the next entry just how I fixed the problem, but first I want to show you the pictures I took right after loosening all of the strings so that the soundboard would not crack/break.

I am very happy with how the design worked out. It was worth all the trouble to make the foam version and work out the 'lines' of the piece before getting into the wood.

How sweet it is to see everything- well almost everything- working out so well.

Back side- still does look like a 'walking man' I think.

Here is how the shelf part of the stand works. Some music could sit there too. I like this feature.