Aislinn's Anglo-Saxon Lyre (her first instrument)

Here's a sound clip from the instrument, with the Luthier playing.
Neat thing lesson of the day - The button is an image of a vessel from the same excavation as the lyre. 
A cast bronze flagon of carinated form with a slightly convex base and a lid that is secured to the ornate handle by a chain. The handle was made separately and the upper part of the handle is secured to the neck by a plain band. The lower part of the handle is fastened by a second band, the central part of which has three embossed medallions containing a figure, possibly a saint, on a horse that faces to the left. The ends taper to form wires that extend to the handle and are twisted around it (now damaged). Vessels of this type were made at unidentified centres in the eastern Mediterranean area between the 6th and 9th centuries. They were widely exported. Similar vessels are known from Persia, Turkestan, Tunisia, Germany and Sweden, the largest collection being from Sardis, near Corinth in Greece. This is the first example of its type from England.

OK, there is another little known fact about sisters - what one has the other must have either more of or a better one.  I don't usually care about such things (in fact, they are the stuff that keeps Excedrin and Advil in business), but in this case any tool to use to advantage.  Aislinn is 15 months younger than her sister, and a bit lacking in physical development, but with some careful preparation we can accomplish the same thing as Ceilidh's project - just have to tailor the experience a bit for Aislinn.  Now, she is less focused but far more determined than her sister, prone to verbal outbursts and physical response, and deadly serious about doing things herself.  The underlying reasons don't matter all that much to me, but this is a powerful combination to harness, and if I can show her early (like we did her sister) that she has the ability to take imagination, tools, materials, and desire, and to build something just the way she wants, then she will be ahead of the game for the rest of her life. 

Now Aislinn is (for a 6 year old) a deeply principled individual, downright philosophical.  She bleeds Purple and Gold like her Dad (OK, not quite like her Dad, she just really likes purple and gold).  So the lyre will be somewhat more unique in color scheme than Ceilidh's - busier, with more going on, and some would say a bit overkill - but who's lyre is it anyway?  Beauty (and thus, for a little girl, the success of a project) is in the eye of the beholder.  So behold away - and if you don't like it, she doesn't care... (wonder where she gets that?)

Oh, and for those interested in the facts (historically speaking) here is a bit.  The tomb of an East Saxon king, believed to date from the early 7th century, was discovered at Priory Crescent, Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, Essex.  Among the items found was a very complete Lyre.  One story states that the burial chamber is almost certainly that of either King Saeberht or Sigeberht. Saeberht was England's second Christian king. He died circa 617 AD.  This find rivals the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk, discovered in 1939.  And thus a King's Lyre for a Princess (much more important a person, I think).

Started out the same as Ceilidh, with layout work.  This is a little more bulky instrument, so we are taking a bit of a different approach - rough cut it, then hollow it out to make it lighter and more easy to handle, then sand and shape the outside.  We found some very nice photographs of recreations of this style Lyre, printed them out in a size about 20% of the original, and drew centerlines and section lines all over it.  Then I taught Aislinn how to use proportional dividers to transfer the design to a plank of oak.  In this case it didn't matter what her hand size was - it had to be 1/4 inch bigger than her sister's.  So it has been spoken, so it shall be done (directly from the mouth of 'She Who Shall Be Obeyed')

Dad once again rough cut the body blank on the big resaw bandsaw, then we started to see what Aislinn could handle.  The big piece of oak was a bit much for her - it needed to be lighter for her to control it on the tools, so we swapped processes and commenced to hollowing.  Cutting a 1 1/8 inch hole in cured oak is a bit of work, and it took almost all of Aislinn's weight, but the most she would allow is for Dad to confirm that she was drilling each hole in the right place.  "Daddy, you can hold the lyre, but don't touch to tool".  Hey, I'm a married man, I have learned to take orders from women pretty well.

Now to the spindle sander for the outside.  Hollowing out the body took almost 50% of the weight off the instrument - now it is something she can easily handle.  A plastic milk crate with a plywood stage, dust mask and goggles, and away she goes.

Here's the proud hollower.  Took 5 sessions of red, stinging hands, but she got through it.  Now to nice it up a bit.

A twist-lok auto body sanding disk in the drill press was what she needed to smooth out the bottom of the sound box.  We are going to forgo the chiseling of the points - in my experience the sound in lyres doesn't suffer as much as it does if you leave the bottom of the box ragged, and the chisel is something Aislinn doesn't yet have the motor control to do.  As this is 'her' project, with rare exception if she can't do it, it won't be done.

Now it is light enough for her to work on with control and safety, and she takes off and does a fine job on the spindle sander.  3 fingernails and a knuckle later, this part is done.

The soundboard was made a little differently on this one - in order to get a really good parti-color, we cut the plywood into 2 strips, sanded them to fit, dyed each one, and glued them together like a modern guitar soundboard.  Without trying to use the jointer, the problem was how to get a good joint with the tools Aislinn could use.  So we clamped a piece of 1" square tubing to the pair of soundboard billets, and gave her a 12" sanding block to use to joint the pieces.  She got close, but something still wasn't right.  Well, to find another way.

Clamping the sanding belt to the table on my big 6x48 belt sander provided the answer.  the soundboard halves were firmly clamped together, and the whole thing was worked back and forth by hand over the sanding table.  Worked super - only one or two very small humps needed to be sanded out by hand for an excellent fit

Staining one half purple (the other half is amber),  A sharpie marker gave it's life blood for each of these dyes - isopropyl and sharpie make great dyes, and in almost any color you can imagine.  She likes the colorful part best, I think.

Applying the glue to join the soundboard - a comedy of errors, a flood of tears, but finally it was done and without Dad taking over.  The jig for joining the soundboard I learned about on DIY network's Handmade Music.  A row of panel nails is driven into a board (about 1 inch spacing).  One piece is layed against the nail (non-jointed edge) the other is placed against it (jointed edges together) and a line is drawn along the opposite edge.  Then another row of nails is driven just inside this line - this makes the boards 'peak' when they are layed into the fixture.  A bit of downward pressure forces the edges together better than any clamp arrangement.  Good thing Titebond is water-cleanable, she likes to use a lot of glue!

The good old Acme Anvil Company came through for the soundboard weight.  Once she was convinced that we could get the extra glue off, she was very happy.  Now only hoping she has the patience to let it dry - two hours is almost a lifetime to a six year old girl who is missing 'The Fairly Oddparents'

I cut the rabbet for the rear tuning peg reinforcement, and cut the rough plate that would go in the rabbet.  To make the joint nice and tight, we returned to our old friend the emeory cloth block, and she sanded until the gaps went away.  Then we glued.

Now for cleaning up and making the tuning head area look nice.  Using the single spindle on the oscillator gave her the control she needed inside the handhole.  She likes using this tool - it doesn't make as much noise as most of the tools in the shop.

Dad again had to throw himself on the scroll saw to cut out the soundholes, with much arguement from the daughter - but we only had one soundboard blank, and she wasn't doing so well on the practice pieces I set up for her.  So I handled that part.  She sat patiently for the 3 minutes it took, then grabbed the soundboard and told me that I had already done too much of her work.  Now to glue.  All of our spring clamps later, and Voila!.  We just built a very happy girl.

Next to clean up the soundboard and make it look nice.  Both girls are becoming real professional at the drill press and oscillating sander.  They are good power tools to start with - they can be dangerous, but they are good confidence builders and if you plan right, they might not be the most efficient tools, but they can get most of any project done for you if you are willing to get 'creative' with them.

Back to the sander to clean up the front tuning peg reinforcement.  This is a quiet tool, but for some reason Aislinn really likes wearing the orange hearing protectors - maybe because it helps her ignore Dad, I don't know...

Just a shot of the tailpiece after it's second dip in the lacquer.  Purpleheart for the tailpiece and tailpin, padauk for the bridge, and probably orange stained mammoth ivory or cow legbone for the saddle.

Finish sanding the lacquer on the body - the 500 grit chapter.  I have made her go from 180 to 500 to 1200 to 2000 and then finish with 0000 steel wool.  Unnecessary, and the work doesn't reflect the extra effort, but when you get people used to the fact that finishing takes time and effort from the get-go, you are more likely to have good finishers.  The cello body under the stack of sandpaper is one of dad's other projects, a repair of a badly, badly busted instrument.  I never thought I would end up doing this kind of work...

Sanding and finishing a bridge.  Dad cut a blank on the band saw (Bandsaw with no guards as a power rasp 101 will be a class at the next "Woodworking for the fingerless' seminar coming soon to your town).  The concentration is priceless - I hope she is finally learning how to pay full attention to fine detail work - truth is that she is having great fun making bright orange sawdust that gets onto everything.  Truth is in the perception, don't you know.  I'll stick to the 'She's learning focus' definition.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A bonus lesson from another knowledgable adult.  Ceilidh and Aislinn both got basic lessons in gold-leafing from Fionnuala, which was nice because the girls only expected to paint metallic paint behind their soundholes in their instruments.  Again, this is an advanced skill, but the girls did good work learning and it improved the instruments.  Thanks, Fionn.

Making tuning pins on the machinist lathe.  The compound slide is set to the right angle, a depth stop is attached to the bed of the lathe, and the crossfeed is set to read an even number on the indicator when it is in the right position.  Not really 'woodturning', but set up so she could do it.  And that's the point.  4 each padauk and purpleheart pins (1 spare each color in case something happens).

The tapered machinist hand reamer does a fine job on oak, but Aislinn didn't quite have the hand/arm strength to turn and push cutting 1 1/4 inch oak, so dad got it close and let her finish fitting the pins.  I didn't really have any other way to make this happen.  1 point off for dad helping - and boy, did I hear about it (Dad, why CAN'T I do it?)

Peace and love, man.  Groovy feelings abound.  Grazin' in the grass.  Barefoot.  I think there is a budding folk artist in there somewhere (but I hope not, you know how those outspoken woman folk performers are...).  Next stop, tri-levels.  I am very proud of both girls, but in different ways - Aislinn really made my day by giving full effort at her age (I expected Ceilidh to be able to - Aislinn was a wild-card).  They have given Dad one of the best memories he will have in his whole life.

Both girls were bugging me about maybe taking their instruments to some kind of contest, so I decided to let them enter one of our SCA Arts and Sciences competitions.  In fact, I decided to let them enter the biggest and most serious competition of they year - the Kingdom Championships and Tri-Levels tournament.  Of course the girls didn't enter the Kingdom Championship - that requires too many entries and too much work, but the same judging and environment is used for the Tri-Levels (judged in either novice, intermediate, or advanced).  They both entered in novice - they had never entered a contest before.  Here Aislinn is displaying her documentation before judging.

Her judges are all recognized artisans and craftspeople in our region, and they were VERY serious about judging.  They didn't approach these projects with any less scrutiny than they would have judged one of mine - although they were very kid-friendly in their approach and language, they pushed for information and didn't go easy on the girls - they made sure the girls had an understanding of what they had built, why they did things certain ways, they made sure the girls could justify their entries.  And the girls did fabulously - perfect scores.

Click Here for Aislinn's judging sheet
Click Here for Aislinn's comment sheet.

I am so very proud of them - they were told in no uncertain terms that they were never to enter in novice category again!  It was just too cool.  And throughout the day they got more visits from more people than just about anyone else - all because everybody really thought their projects were very worthwhile, as well as just plain neat.