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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5/11/2011 Almost Finished

Lots of vegetable gardening done in the past couple of months, and it could not wait, so the harp building project had to wait a while. Finally last week I got back into it after 6 weeks of seldom working on it. Now it is almost done- but let me go back to where I left off in March.
I had these beautiful abalone mother-of-pearl wings provided to me by a fine Lumberjock. She also did a great blog about how to do inlays, and that was very helpful to me. I didn't follow instructions exactly (remind me to kick myself in the butt next time) but decided I could hand carve the voids for the dragonfly.

It went pretty well actually, though I found out too late that one of the wings set into the void at an angle (my fault) and I had to sand a lot to get it all flat. No harm done- except to my fingertips.

I used my micromotor tool with a carbide cutter to gently shape the body of the dragonfly to fit between the wings. The central edges of the wings were trimmed a tad after they were epoxied into place.

Getting the eye-sockets big enough to hold the ruby eyes was a trick. There was not much wood to work with, but ebony is a wonderfully dense wood, and it is strong. The holes are 4mm long, and the area between them is less than 1mm wide. The hole between the eye-sockets will let the light shining into one eye to shine through to the other eye. I also lined the sockets with aluminum foil to reflect light like a mirror through the rubies.

After the inlay was done I needed to frame it with 1/8" wide pink ivory pieces. This was not easy. If I were to do it again I would do it differently- using the 'big boy tools'- table saw and router table. My Mickey Mouse approach using band saw and lots of sanding was not too efficient, but it did work OK.
This was tricky. I attached the holly to a piece of scrap using light-duty double-sided tape, and then epoxied the frame pieces to the sides of the holly. The tape helped to keep everything together. The tongue depressor was used to tuck the frame pieces snugly against the holly. I'm sure there must be a better way- I just could not think of one.

Figuring out how to finish off some raw edges took a lot of head-scratching. I ultimately settled on a curvy border design to echo some of the curves in the neck and pillar. Again I did it the hard way with band saw and lots of hand sanding. Labor intensive, true- but lots of control too.
My gluing left a lot to be desired as you can see in the photo with dried squeeze-out. For shame. And at the corner there is a patch job that is less than gorgeous. So a little more time spent scraping and sanding to get the same place looking like the second photo.

Tis series of 4 photos shows the evolution of the reinforcing piece from wood choice and design to finish. I chose pink ivory because it is beautiful, and matched the pink ivory frame on the insert. And, I like pink.
After gluing it in place using yellow glue I shaped it with power sanders, this scraper, and (yet again) lots of hand sanding. The pay off was in putting the oil finish and seeing the colors of the wood as they will look on the finished harp. (note- oiling was done all at once- this photo out of sequence)

Now, to inlay the inlay into the harp. I used double-sided tape to hold it in place as I traced around it with a good carving knife. One could use a scribe, but a deeper cut is better. I started shallow and then made multiple cuts until it was deep enough.

Mostly I used this wide carving chisel to make the stop cuts around the perimeter of the inlay area. Then, I used a variety of shallow and smaller gouges to clean it out down to the 1/8" goal.

Ta-da! Doesn't look too pretty, but it is all I need to make a good gluing surface for the inlay.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to go straight to the Arm-R-Seal clear finish, or start with a tinted Watco oil in Cherry, so I did a sample on a similar piece of cherry to see the difference. I could see no difference- they both looked great to me, but hubby liked the oil so I proceeded to coat the entire harp with the oil first.
I had forgotten two things:
#1. Cherry tends to stain blotchy
#2 The white woods would also be stained since there was no way to keep them from the oil.

Well, the insert looks good in this photo, though there is a gray area in the holly that I don't think I can do anything about at this point. It was on the back of the holly too.
The neck and pillar are pretty uneven in color now, but I'm hoping that it will even out when the oil has cured.

The soundboard has me worried because the stain took strangely to the 600 grit sanded birch ply. It may look good when the clear finish is on. Or, maybe I should sand it before the final finish. Opinions?

The stand looks best of all. With such smooth and sanded surfaces it was a no-brainer. Hmmmm.

This is the ebony pivot dowel with a piece of brass rod inserted to keep it from sliding sideways on the harp body. This way the end of the neck can pivot freely as the strings tighten. It looks a lot better with finish, but I wanted to not forget this part. Drilling the holes were a lot easier than anticipated- whew.
Now I know you are all thinking. . . finally, all done. Hah. Nope. At least 2 coats of Arm-R-Seal with two surfaces at a time and plenty of drying/curing time in between.
When that is all dry as a bone it is time to fit her out with some jewelry- the soundboard hole reinforcement, and the tuning pins, and the other pins.
Then- the strings, and tuning. Tuning will take a couple of weeks of daily tuning, more than once a day, before it will stay in pitch for more than a minute. I will post a video before then though- so we can all hear how it sounds. Also, I want to show everyone how the stand goes together and fits with the harp. Stay tuned.