Dad is not cruel, but also really
want's this project to be Ceilidh's
work. So Dad rough cut the body blank and the peghead on the big
resaw bandsaw, then turned Ceilidh over to the oscillating spindle
sander to shape and smooth the body. Proper safety gear is
mandatory for the little ones - mask and goggles for the dust-making
tools. Dad, well, not so much.
Lots of clamps LOTS of
clamps. Even though the fit was
nice, lots of clamps. The original had a soundboard held on by
brass tacks, not glued, but this one will be both glued and
tacked. LOTS of clamps.
Rounding and smoothing, sanding
and finishing. Repeat the mantra
- "Sharp edges are where splinters come from". Repeat the mantra
- "Trust your fingers, not your eyes". Sand with 80, 200, 500
grit - make it nice and smooth, raise the grain with water, sand it
again. Sit under a shady tree with a nice breeze - what could be
a turquoise / agua / green-blue
it will be. How to do that without sending out for analine dyes
and waiting and mixing and all that? Easy. Find the right
color Sharpie marker, pull out the wick, and flush rubbing alcohol
through it into a jar. This is a permanent dye that is very
transparent. Holds up pretty well to sunlight after being
sealed. 4 coats, rubbed down with scotch-brite between coats to
remove the dried solids residue on the surface. But it is alcohol
based, and dries quick - a good thing for a little girl who is getting
impatient and excited to play her instrument..
To seal the dye, and to give it the
kind of shine and depth of color that she really wants it to have,
several coats of Bohning's blue-clear arrow shaft lacquer were applied,
sanded between coats (200, 500, 1200, 2000 grit paper, then 0000 steel
wool). This blue-clear formula is designed to enhance colors, and
if it is durable enough for arrowshafts, it is good enough for this
instrument. I provided extra hands to hold when necessary, but
again, Ceilidh did the work.
original rote soundboard was
held on by medieval brass tacks. These were made by hammering a
strip of brass somehting like 1/16" thick and 1/2" wide, then using a
cold chisel to cut off thin triangular pieces from the edge,
alternating the point end as you went. This made a thin-headed
nail that held surprisingly well, but when you really want visual
appeal, the head wasn't quite enough. So we used commercial
tacks, after drilling pilot holes for them. Dad set up the
drilling jig on the press, and let Ceilidh go to it.
The tuning peg head is held into the arms
with mortise and tenon
joinery, and dowel pins through the outside of the arms. A
little overkill, but the 6 strings on this instrument can put
substantial tension on the peghead, so better safe than sorry.
The mortises were cut with a 1/4 inch keyway cutter (metal lathe tool
for cutting slots in round stock) mounted in the drill press at about
400 RPM. Set the table for the right depth, and let the cutter do
the work. Flip the lyre over and work from the opposite side, a
mortise (with rounded ends like a biscuit joint). Dad removed the
majority of the tenon waste with the band saw, but Ceilidh cleaned up
the joint with a chisel and rounded the ends of the tenon to match the
mortise on the oscillating sander. Some glue and 'Voila!".
And for the dowel pins, well, she is becoming quite the master at all
the uses of a drill press - drilling a few 1/4 inch holes? No big
Preparing some old-growth
'toxiphilus palletus' (pallet wood, in this case some slitch-cut hard
maple with nail and screw holes throughout) on the surface
planer. This will become the bridge and the tuning pins.
The tailpin will be oak. The tailpiece was already cut from a
piece of remnant hard maple from the small scrap box.
Maybe Dad is the only one to shed
blood, but Ceilidh has been initiated into the ranks of 'tool wounded'
- the thumbnail sanded on the power belt. I'll accept this one
for an 8 year old - a lesson learned in tool respect.
bunch of mishaps later (none dangerous, just time-wasting) and some
missed photo ops. But after some executive decision making (the
peg heads should be the right shape to carve the Saxon warrior heads
later on) the pegs are installed and drilled for strings. Now is
time to put it all together.
The tailpiece and the bridge are made of
hard maple. The tailgut is a piece of harp string from
Natalia. The tailpiece is lacquered, but the bridge is left
natural. Both pieces are the simple versions, so Ceilidh could do
them herself. The bridge was the piece responsible for the
Here it is - the shot worth all the money in the world to this
dad. I snuck in with a little sound recorder while she was just
playing around and caught the sound clip that is at the top of the
page. We still have to paint the inside of the sound box behind
the seahorse in gold, but other than that, it is done enough to call
good. I am very proud of my daughter for sticking with this
project. It is really more than anyone expected, and looks and
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 Ceilidh is
studying her documentation before judging.
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 Ceilidh's judging sheet
Click Here for Ceilidh'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.