Then a spokeshave, whish was good for tight areas but didn't take off
Then that last flight of the Ryobi 4 inch random orbital sander.
It gave it's life removing wood for her (actually, a longer story you
will have to ask her about.)
Using the end of the belt sander
to shape the neck. It is a good way to make really long passes at
once, which makes things more uniform.
And 3 abrasions from the edge fo
the belt - arm got just a little too comfortable. No blood, a few
tears, a real trooper, and back to work.
And the NEW Porter Cable 5 inch random
orbital sander, with 120 grit, to do a near-final smoothing.
Same process for the neck. It is really starting to look and feel
like something you want to use, to play. Dad is getting more
excited than daughter to see this one finished. Well, maybe not,
but it's a close race.
And once more into the breech, with the modified forstner bit and th
drill press to hollow out the bowl. Lots of wood, lots of work,
box elder doesn't drill easy.
After the forstner bit, since this is a really odd round shape and
Ceilidh doesn't have the hand strength to drag the spoon plane through
the box elder, we fitted the drill press with a coarse grit twist-lok
auto body sanding plate and disk. By using the edge, she was able
to do a good job smoothing. It is not a mirror finish, but it is
a terriffic job for a kid who has to stand on a stool to get up to the
Part of the aftermath of the sanding process. That disk makes
dust. Lots of dust. And this box elder dust is almost as
white as snow and fine as cake flour. And it tastes bad and
doesn't wash out of hair easily. But Ceilidh loved being "Dusty
Sanding a stick of cedar to use as a brace. The soundboard is
bigger than 6 inches wide, which is my cutoff (no reason except
experience) for an unbraced carpathian red spruce soundboard. So
it gets 1 brace, crowned less than 1 mm.
The brace must be stiff, light,
and must not touch anything except the soundboard. Cedar is good
- if it were heavier, it would absorb vibration instead of passing
it. The brace has to be close enough to the bridge to support the
top, and far enough away not to act like a mute.
Now cutting the soundboard.
I have a stack of spruce dreadnaught guitar top halves that I buy
directly from the cutter, and they are usually just the right thickness
and need only hand sanding to finish. ~32 lines per inch on this
piece at it's tightest. Good wood.
A quick search on google for starfish clip
art - she chose one and we drew it, and off to the jigsaw. There
is a predominate nautical theme in her life, not just her
instruments. And since we don't have any instrument to go by, we
just decided that the aesthetics were up to her. Build a very
period basic instrument and dress it up however you want.
Gluing and clamping the brace. I usually use hot hide glue, but
in this case I used liquid. It's not the same, but it will work,
and it is easier for Ceilidh to get everything positioned and clamped
without a whole lot of extra hands. She is learning techniques,
but some things take a little more practice than she has at this time.
The hollow body and the rough soundboard, ready to be joined after the
bracing glue dries. This unusual shape will require a different
approach to clamping - using a really heavy weight seems the thing to
And here's that weight. A
very heavy, 4U RAID bay equipped redundant power supply steel computer
server. On a flat floor with waxed paper down, glue squeexeout
Shaping the fingerboard. A diagonal
slice off a half cylinder of the right size to start. Then the
matching to the neck begins. You have to make sure that the
strings have the same action heighth from the fingerboard at every step
- so starting out with a cylinder is almost mandatory. On the
neck of a violin, which is rather straight, the curve can be
constant. But on a flat neck like a rebec, with deeply curved
sides, it is hard.
Removing wood where it might touch the resonating surface of the
soundboard - under the tail end of the fingerboard. Using the
roll at the end of the sander to match the top profile.
In keeping with her nautical theme, Ceilidh
uses a small sanding drum to scallop the end of the fingerboard.
And now for the last major part of the construction (everything else is
pretty much add-on). Gluing the fingerboard to the neck.
This always ends up a bit gappy - but we have cheats to fix that.
And as long as you thve 95%+ bonding surface, it will be plenty strong.
Glued and taped. Now to let it dry. This is one of the
first pictures after the sad, scary incident involving Ceilidh the
Acrobat, a chair, a nose, and a concrete floor. You will have to
ask her. <shudder>
Now to sand the fingerboard to match - rough stock removal done on the
oscillating spindle sander.
And the random orbital takes care of a lot of the rest, including
blending in the edges of the fingerboard at it's top surface. The
geometry seems strange, and looks stranger on an instrument as large as
this, but it works.
Cutting square blanks for the tuning pegs and the tailpin. She
wanted to use redheart for the fingerboard - we tried but an
unfortunate accident ruined the blank. But we had enough left to
make the pegs, pins, and tailpiece, so she gets red on her
instrument. Too bad there isna a wood called 'aquaheart'...
Now at the lathe turning tuning pegs and a
tailpin. Redheart turns so well, it was a breeze to make the
Finishing the grip end of the pegs. A simple shape, round at the
top and concave on the flats for easy grip. Primitive and
The tapered hole and the tailpin.
Ceilidh was so afraid of messing up the instrument that she got dad to
drill the hole, then she used the reamer slowly by hand to fit.
Finishing the tailpiece before mounting the fine tuners (anachronistic,
but almost mandatory). Clear Briwax original. Works great.
Dad has been lucky enough to start having
local musicians bring their instrument to him for minor (and major)
repair - and thus he has started to collect things like wood to make
bridges. I don't have anything as fine as the good German Maple
wooden bridge blanks, but this hard maple blank will do, and Ceilidh is
cutting it to something like the shape Bernard Ellis used to use.
As close as we could tell from a picture of one of his older
instruments. But it should work. And now all that is left
is to put it all together.
Not a lot of pictures during the set-up - all hands busy holding
strings, keeping bridges from falling over, all that. But in the
end, after a very productive Thursday night, we let is sleep overnight
with some tension on the strings and a song in it's heart. It is
tuned to C-G-D right now (tuned in fifths as it should be, but modern
tuning will demand D-A-E, but after it has had a chance to experience
some string tension. This is the morning shot, Friday morning,
Ceilidh taking her new baby to school (did I mention she attends
"Benton County School of the Arts"?
The range of this instrument is
the same as the bottom 3 strings of a 1/2 cello. It is nasal and
powerful, but not as expressive or vairable as a violin. It
resonates forever. And it needs better strings and a more precise
bridge to really get the most out of it, and we will do that after we
actually determine what better strings and bridge design to use - by
experimentation. My wife looked at Ceilidh Tuesday night and said
"You do realize you are building that instrument for your dad, don't
you?" Ceilidh laughted - told me I couldn't have it, but she
could obviously see how really cool I though this one was from the
beginning, and I think she was just a little complimented. But
one thing is for sure, now I really have to have one. So I guess
it will be off to the shop again, darn the luck...
Be sure to
visit Ceilidh at Queen's Prize Tourney on January 10 to see and hear
the instrument and find out how much she's learning.