catsittingstill: (Default)
So recently it started warming up and I got back to work on the guitar case.

I'm not claiming this is a cause and effect scenario--but I can't help but notice that having the workshop be slightly warmer has coincided with my being willing to spend more time out there.  And once I started standing around looking thoughtfully at the guitar case, it occurred to me that there might be an easier way to get the jig out.

Last time, I built the entire bottom of the octave mandolin case around the jig I used to hold the side strips in place while I glued them together.  Removing the jig was quite difficult because while whacking the jig into the case broke the hot glue bonds, the jig became wedged in place.  This time I attempted to make jig removal easier by only hotgluing every other strip to the jig and relying on friction to hold the strips between them in place while the glue dried.  This worked fairly well in the gluing stage, and I figured breaking half as many hot glue bonds would be about half as hard.

But it occurred to me--maybe I could sand the sides smooth on the outside -- and then fiberglass the sides before I glued the bottom on.  So I pulled the screws out (the ones that ran into the columns so I could support the jig on the soup cans while I whacked the top off, remember?) drilled the holes out with a forstner bit, patched them, did the epoxy seal coat, and fiberglassed the sides.

Then I carefully sanded away any fiberglass sticking out from the sides, laid the whole thing flat, and whacked all around the jig with a mallet (and a short piece of 2x2 to direct the mallet's force exactly where I wanted it--think mallet and really blunt chisel).  Once the hot glue bonds were broken I simply pushed the whole thing out the open side.

Last time removing the jig took me two hours.  This time?  Six minutes. As a bonus I can re-use this jig if I want; I did not have to saw large chunks out of it.  As a second bonus I went around what will become the bottom half of the sides and removed the blobs of hot glue through the open space where the bottom will go.  Much quicker than trying to remove them once the bottom is in place.

I was worried I would tear the fiberglass, but it looks fine.  I was worried the sides would be too floppy to glue to the bottom in their proper configuration without the jig.  They were definitely a bit floppy.  I stabilized them somewhat by laying the lid, open side up, on the workbench, laying a layer of wax paper over the lid (I did NOT want to end up gluing the sides to the lid with a stray drop of epoxy or dookie shmutz (epoxy plus sawdust)) and then fitting the sides into the lid.  In one place I used a short stick to brace the sides out where they were trying to squeeze in more narrow than the lid.

That seemed to stabilize the sides properly so I went ahead and glued the bottom on, and spent my work time today sanding the bottom back to match the sides exactly.  With a bit of luck I should be done with the outside fiberglassing by the end of next week.
catsittingstill: (Default)
So I've been working on making a guitar case (it's a commission) using pretty much the same techniques I used to build my Octave Mandolin case last year.

Now part of my build process was building a lid that would fit exactly over the case by building the lid actually *on* the case--using the rest of the case as the form I glued the lid together over. Since I'm using the hot glue method of holding the planks together while the glue between the strips dries, this means that once the lid is fiberglassed it is still held to the body of the case by multiple dots of hot glue. Last time I did successfully whack the lid off but it took quite a while and tore the lid a bit in the process.

Okay so this time I made a couple of modifications. Modification one was that the columns that held the two layers of the jig apart actually touch the outside of the jig, which made it easy to drill small holes through the sides of the case and into the columns. I screwed long screws into these so that they poked out of the sides. By propping up the case (soup cans under each screw,) with the lid on the bottom side, suspended over the workbench, I now had a way to support and secure the case while whacking down on edge of the lid.

Modification two was that while gluing the strips together, both for the sides of the case and for the lip, I used dots of hot glue on every other strip, instead of on every strip. This meant half as many glue dots to break to get things lose.

Yesterday was the moment of truth. I set up the jig as I'd imagined. I have a picture of it at my flickr, but flickr no longer gives me code I can imbed in this page. If you'd like to see it, it's here:

And it worked fine! Balanced on three soup cans (with plastic underneath in case the cans didn't stand up to the pounding) it was stable enough and held the lid nicely suspended so that I could use a wood mallet and a short straight piece of 2x2 to whack the lid off. It took me less than five minutes all told. The cans were fine and I put them back in the kitchen cabinet. It was sooo much easier than the last time I took a lid off.

With a little luck it will be that much easier to get the jig out also; we'll see when the time comes.

On the down side I still tore the fiberglass in a couple of places. I wonder if it would be better to cut the lip strips 1 and 1/4 inch long instead of 1 inch. Maybe that would give a little more space to let the strength of the fiberglass distribute the force of the blow.

But I can fix those little tears so you won't be able to tell where they happened.

In the meantime using half as much hot glue has really sped up the cleanup on the inside also. I've put in about an hour on it and I think I'm about half done. It looks like I'm nearly done but I always end up cleaning up little fiddly details that take longer than you would think. I bought a dremel tool that has sped up that clean up a lot also--it doesn't mind sanding hardened dookie shmutz (expoxy mixed with sawdust, used to fill gaps between the top and the lip before fiberglassing.) It has the texture of peanut butter until it hardens so it can droop and run and need to be sanded smooth, and the inside of the lip is hard to get to so my other alternative is hand sanding which takes quite a bit of time.

So that's where I am on that. The next stage on the lid will be fixing the tears/finishing smoothing the inside, fiberglassing the inside, and the next stage on the body of the case will be removing the screws, and drilling out and plugging the holes they left.

In other news I have my good bodhran back and have been working on playing it a bit, trying to work out ways to make the techniques Brenda showed me work on my comparatively tiny little drum. I can't help but notice that Amazon has actual Irish bodhrans for sale, with the cutout so you can snug them. "The cutout" means part of the rim is cut away so that you can trap the drum between your forearm and your ribs (called snugging it) to hold it steady while you let go of the handle and damp the drumhead in various ways with your left hand from the back of the drum while holding the beater in your right hand to strike the front of the drum. This lets you get different tones out of it. I can't snug my drum very well--partly because it has no cutout and partly because its diameter is about 4" smaller than a regular bodhran and also I am tall with long forearms which doesn't help--and have been using different combinations of free fingers to touch the drumhead while holding the drum handle, but that changes the tone in a more limited way.

Maybe I'll ask for an Irish bodhran for Christmas.

Also I have poked google repeatedly looking for a bodhran beater with rubber balls on the ends like Brenda has because that one was very bouncy and fun, but I can't find one so far. They don't seem to be a regular thing. The shopsmith can be a lathe, though I haven't set that up yet, so maybe I could make my own beaters, but I'm not sure how I'd go about attaching rubber balls...
catsittingstill: (Default)
Boy, have I been making progress!

I put in the ring-posts to allow me to snap straps on the case and carry it like a backpack. This meant varnishing would have to happen around the ring posts, which was not ideal, but once the kit-box was in, access to the inside would be pretty restricted, and I figured it would be easier to install the ringposts first.

I fitted the two uprights to make the under-neck kit box. That took me like two weeks, and I was feeling like I wouldn't be able to finish in time for OVFF but once I got them glued in things went much faster. Fitting the lid was a pain because the sides of the box aren't straight at that point, and I knew one of the handle attachment points was going to have to go in there also. I ended up making the hinges of the box and its pull tab out of leather, which matches what I used to pad the edges of the neck supports, (which fit Pearl's neck quite closely, and thus had to be softened so they wouldn't leave marks which meant more time fitting because I needed extra space to account for the leather.) The leather hinges let the box lid shift around a little more than metal hinges would, which I think makes the tolerances for opening a bit less stringent. I'm very pleased with the lid--it fits tightly enough to stay closed on its own, but opens with a tug on the pull tab. Having fit everything, I cut the lid loose again temporarily.

I bought a different handle for the case, which didn't require a shim to install (saving me a week, easily,) and which looks very nice. It was 25$ instead of 8, but I think it was worth it. I spend a lot of time with Pearl wedged in temporarily with padding and all the kit I expected to carry in the under-neck box put in, to find the center of gravity of the whole thing as closely as I could. The handle needed to be mounted perpendicular to the line extending from the center of the handle through the center of gravity of the case, so that the case would hang evenly. The major reason I wanted a new case is that the old case doesn't hang right when full and the hinges of the handle chew on my fingers.

That did, as expected, put the attachment points of one end of the handle at the same level as the lid of the box. I carefully cut out two notches in the lid of the box to accommodate the attachment points. It looks a little odd, but it is functional, and as neat as I can make it, fitting closely enough that even small stuff shouldn't be able to fall out of the kit box shouldn't be able to fall out.

The instrument case has four coats of varnish (though only 2 in some places, because in an effort to get its surfaces more level and less ripply I sanded all the way through those first two coats in some places--which is easier than you would think, even wet sanding with 400 grit sandpaper, because in my desire to avoid drips and runs I try to put on a brushful and then pull it out as thin as I can and cover as much surface as possible with it before it dries, which makes for a thin coat.)

The last coats of varnish are very matte--I bought semi-gloss varnish but failed to read the directions until I was halfway through. Thus I was using it without stirring and wondering why it was so glossy. I think the stuff that makes it semigloss is some kind of particulate suspension that sinks to the bottom of the can over time, so when I started stirring it I got a full can's dose in a half can's volume of varnish. This is okay, though; lesson learned, and in the meantime the very matte surface disguises the unevennesses fairly well, and the lack of a gleam makes the whole surface seem to have a soft glow.

The case and all its shims varnished, I drilled holes to install the feet. The plan was to have three on the bottom, to protect the varnished bottom from damage if it was set on a gritty floor or something and two on the hinge side to match the hinges plus hinge shims so the case wouldn't topple over if I set it down for a minute to open a door or something. The two on the hinge side required wood shims so shim-plus-foot matched shim-plus-hinge.

Now the place I ordered the feet send me the wrong size backing pins. (I asked for 4 of length X and 2 of length Y and got 2 of length X and 4 of length Y.) I thought at the time it didn't matter because the instructions for installation specified a minimum length the pin must protrude from the mounting surface, but not a maximum length, so I thought an extra 1/16th wouldn't matter; I'd just pound it down a bit more. I'm here to tell you that Buckleguy backing pin 1414 has an iron shaft, even if you can order them in brass, and you can pound on them *quite a bit* without mashing them down any farther. I discovered this while setting the length Y pins in the shims for the hinge-side feet, so it wasn't a tragedy because I had to drill out the underside of the shim anyway because Y wasn't long enough to go all the way through the shim, so the dookie schmutz should have packed into that cavity to glue the foot sufficiently in place so it can't "extend" and "retract" anymore.

But this was going to be more of a problem for the one foot on the bottom side that got a too-long pin. So I called up Buckleguy. Now I'd already had to call them about that particular order because I got hardware for straps to carry the instrument case like a backpack and one of the trigger snaps hadn't worked properly, and they sent me a new one, so I was pretty apologetic about not having straightened out the pin issue at the same time, which would have been easier for them. But their returns guy understood and said it was their job to get the order right in the first place, and furthermore he sent the stuff out second-day express to get it to me in time to mount the third foot before I go to the con. I should receive it today and I trusted them enough that I have already installed the other two bottom feet. If worst comes to worst and it doesn't arrive in time, the case will be a little tilted at OVFF, but still useable.

So I've got to say, if you need brass hardware, Buckleguy has quality stuff, and very nice customer service if you have any problems.

And the hinge side feet are on, and two of the bottom side feet are on, and all the hardware and its assorted shims have been re-bolted on. Someday I will glue the shims but that day was not yesterday because it's useable this way and I would really like to bring it to OVFF and I might not have time if I try gluing the shims.

I have also sewn some brown corduroy over the padding for the body--so the major thing I need to do today is finish sewing down the edges of that and figure out how to handle the padding on the inside of the lid that will keep Pearl from dropping on her bridge if the case is, for example, dropped lid-down. I have the foam all cut to size but I have to cover it with corduroy and secure it to the lid, and the padding-gluing glue I bought turns out to have acetone in it and I'm afraid it will damage the expoxy that is a major part of the lid's strength. I may run down to Walmart and buy some sticky-sided and some sew-on velcro as a stopgap.

But really, it's already better than the old case in terms of protectiveness, and I have carried it around by the handle, and the handle is in the right place, and comfortable.

It's almost done; it's almost done! But I spent so much time working on it that I need to spend extra time on my Dutch translation this morning to be ready to skype with Dad this afternoon.

Must run!

Odd Day

Oct. 11th, 2014 03:29 pm
catsittingstill: (Default)
So it's raining--again--wasting what would otherwise be a lovely October with weather where I don't want to go hiking or canoeing because I'm getting soft in my old age.

On the other hand, that makes it a lovely day to stay inside and work on my instrument case, because I don't feel bad about missing out on the good weather.

I was planning to clean up the third set of latch shims--sand off all the rasp marks, get the top and bottom edges of the shim lined up better (I have kind of given up hope on "perfectly") chamfer the edges, damp down to raise the grain and sand with fine sandpaper. I have already done the hinge shims and the shims for two of the latches. Sewing the padding together was going to be something I did for a change, when I felt like a rest.

Instead I sewed the padding together. Well okay then. It's not wasted time, or anything. Soon, very soon, it will be time to sew the cloth over the padding, but I figured it would be good to have the padding in one piece first.

Sewing open cell foam is kind of fun. It has a shape to it, and a certain amount of give, and bounce. The stiches can be as big and ugly as I like; they won't show when the cover is on. They don't have to be particularly strong; just strong enough to hold the whole thing in shape while I get the cover on and get the padding installed.

I'm mostly just padding out the belly of the case. I've got 3/4 of an inch of foam around the sides, and 1/4 inch of foam on the bottom, supplemented by a sort of donut of 1/2 inch foam, because the instrument has a domed back and I'm trying to match the curve as well as possible so that any shocks will be spread out over a wider area. This involved a lot of "put a little strip of foam in, put the instrument in, measure the distance from a straightedge across the top edges to the bridge. Take the instrument out, put a narrower, or wider, strip of foam in, lather, rinse repeat" as I figured out what dimensions I could make the various edges of the donut. I have got it mostly right, and have lost patience for messing with it. It will have to be good enough, unless I have more patience to mess with it tomorrow. I am putting in some chunks of padding on the lid to help keep the instrument from falling on its bridge if the case is dropped lid-down; that will probably help.

There is a bit more sewing-of-padding to be done, and then it will be time to make the cover. And I still need to clean up the third latch shim, which I need to do pretty soon to allow time for varnishing.

And in the meantime I have written a song for the OVFF song contest, which I will post after the contest.
catsittingstill: (Default)
I didn't notice that I was typing this morning's post at LiveJournal rather than Dreamwidth. So I will put it in here also, with crossposting off, so it doesn't get re-posted there.

I keep thinking I'm going to make a longer post about the short story I mentioned last time--and I am, but this is not that post.

I want to talk about my instrument case for a few minutes. I have got all the latch shims finished and attached the latches and made sure they all close properly. I gave up on cutting down the 1 inch thick open celled foam (foam dulls a cutting edge fairly quickly, by the way) and discovered that, if it is possible to find local open celled foam in sheets using google, my google-fu isn't up to it. I stepped down the tech to a five year old yellow pages, and found a company that sells upholstery supplies, and made a special trip into town for 1/2 inch foam and 1/4 inch foam. They sell it by the running foot, but the roll is five or six feet wide, so now I have quite a bit more foam than I need but the total was $4.50 so I can't complain--anybody need some foam?

I wanted uprights to cradle the neck in two places, which I would then put a lid between to make a little box under the neck to hold things like a capo and a tuner and picks and such. And also eventually straps, because I want detachable straps so I can carry the case like a backpack when that is convenient.

So I made cardboard fakes of the uprights, and fitted them, while the belly of the case, padded out at the sides with 3/4 inch of foam, held the instrument in the proper position. I constructed small blanks of fitted white pine strips (some with a boxwood or cedar stripe) epoxied and fiberglassed on both sides. I used the cardboard fakes to cut the uprights and discovered I had let myself in for a lot of fitting and trimming and fitting but eventually got them fitted to the case. Then I discovered that they also had to be fitted to the neck at the two places they were going to hold the neck, so there was a certain amount of filing to do. Then I decided that I had better pad them, and cut up a retired SCA belt pouch to provide a little leather. I figure this will provide enough padding to prevent the cradles from scarring the neck, but still be firm enough to keep the instrument from rattling around in the box. So now I need enough clearance for the leather, and that was more filing.

Also, I mentioned that I want to be able to carry the case like a backpack. I don't want straps permanently installed; they would flop around and be annoying. I want something installed on the case that I can clip straps to when I want them. So far the best thing I've found that I could actually track down and order was a ring post from Hardware Elf. So I got five of those--the extra so I could install it in one of the blanks (in a part that was going to be cut off to make the cradle) and test it to see if it would be strong enough to do the job.

I clamped the blank to my bench, put a rope through the ring, and started hanging weight off it. Three full 2 liter bottles, no problem. But that filled up my hanging space so I took them out, and started hanging Kip's hand weights off it. I got up to 35 pounds, both perpendicular to the blank and parallel to it. (I clamped it two different ways for two different tests.) The ring post showed no visible strain, and neither did the blank. Since case plus instrument weighs 10 pounds at this point, I decided that was probably going to be good enough.

So ring posts it is, but they come in two parts, one placed on the outside and one forced through a hole from the inside. Alas they don't screw together; they have to be pounded, so I don't want to install the uprights until I have the ring posts installed, so that I will have a little more room to work on the inside of the case.

But, when I did the fiberglassing, I was running out of epoxy. So I didn't fill the weave of the fiberglass, because that doesn't add much to the strength anyway, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to finish the fiberglassing on the inside if I filled the weave on the outside. I bought more epoxy, but had been putting off filling the weave--but now was the time, so I removed all the hardware and shims (need to epoxy the shims on, but I may not be able to do it without permanently installing the hardware, so that may be a late step) sanded the outside with 80 grit, and put the second, weave-filling, layer of epoxy on last night.

So now I have a bunch of interlocking jobs to do. Still hoping to get this done by OVFF but it may be closer than I thought.


Aug. 8th, 2014 08:44 pm
catsittingstill: (Default)
I have been working on an Octave Mandolin part for Outward Bound, beyond simple chords. I have come up with something I like and have been trying to memorize it. I think I'm getting a lot quicker at learning new things.

I have been working on some new words for Cripple Creek, as Carole (new banjo player) and Ed (excellent banjo player) at the barbershop both know how to play it. Ed isn't comfortable singing it (banjos really only like to play in G and in G the song is either too high or too low for him. I have the same problem. But I figured out that I could take the first and third lines and give Ed the second and fourth lines and together we could sing it.

But I wasn't happy with the words which are kind of boring and sexist, so I did a little revamping. Ed wasn't there today and I won't be able to go next week because I will be out of town returning dulcimers but week after next we can get together and see if we can make it go. Carole and I worked on Cripple Creek, I'll Fly Away, Blackberry Blossom and ... something else that escapes me at the moment. Oh, I think we kind of worked on Cripple Creek twice because we tried out my new verses and then we tried it out with me playing melody along with the banjo, which I hadn't practiced at all. Carole was impressed with how fast I went from picking out I'll Fly Away to playing the melody along with her (not that I was playing it perfectly, and not that it's very fast or complicated, but you know--it's that the bear can dance at all.) So that's another point of view on me getting faster at learning things; maybe it's real.

Also, after skyping with Peggi on Monday, I got all inspired and went back to work on my instrument case which had been kind of languishing since I had family over because the next step was putting on the latches. I had made the shims that mated the curved surface of the case to the flat surface of the latches, but kind of got stuck because drilling the holes through the latches, the shims and the case is scary. It's the sort of work where one little slip puts the hole in the wrong place, and while I could probably fix it, it would be a lot of work I don't want to do. So I was having trouble nerving myself up to do the deed

I finally got myself over the hump by doing some not-scary stuff. I plan to build a box inside the instrument case, under where the neck of the instrument will go, to hold picks and tuners and such. I'm going to put in pair of props, with a u shaped depression in them, to hold the neck of the instrument, and they will define a space that becomes a box, as soon as I install a lid below the level of the neck. But I need thin light board-equivalent to make the props and the lid. I've decided to make more woodstrips/fiberglass to saw into the proper shapes for that. That meant I had to saw a bunch of leftover white pine wood strips to an even length and glue them together, which was a nice amount of non-threatening simple work to do yesterday and this morning.

And once I had cleverly figured out how to clamp them together and clamp a board over them to make them lie flat on the strongback (now pressed into service as an auxillary workbench, so I didn't tie up my workbench for 24 hours) I realized that if I first clamped a bunch of stuff together to make a sort of form to force the top of the latch to line up with the top of the shim and drilled the holes through the shim, I could then put the shim up against the side/lip of the case, and drill the holes the rest of the way through to the inside of the case.

This reduced one very scary step to two moderately scary steps, which made it easier to bring myself to do it.

Then I did the same with the top shim and top part of the latch and now I have one latch installed, and it latches. The upper shim flexes somewhat when it latches. I think the problem is that the heads of the screws I am using are kind of domed, and I think they come up farther than the designer of the latch was thinking, and they interfere with the latch a bit. I'm going to file them flatter and see if that helps. If that doesn't do the trick, gluing the shims on with dookie schmutz will probably take care of it.

I'd really like to have this done in time for OVFF.
catsittingstill: (Default)
I have successfully installed the hinges for the instrument case. This is not a permanent installation as I'm planning to epoxy the wood shims into place to provide a strong attachment point for the hinges. But I have the hinges all shaped, and the holes for the hardware drilled and the hinges bolted on and the bolts cut to the proper length. I still need to enlarge the notches in the case body that allow enough space for the lid hardware to move freely--I have notches; they're just not *quite* wide enough. But at that point I had been working for eight hours today and I decided to wait until tomorrow.

more details, for those who are interested )

This will not be done in time for Contata. But OVFF is a real possibility.
catsittingstill: (Default)
My current project is an instrument case, made using the same wood strip and fiberglass technique I first learned in order to make canoes. It seemed to me at the time that this technique should be adaptable to lots of things, and I have been craving a better case for my octave mandolin for ages.

Here is where I began the instrument case, gluing the flat top and bottom together.

Here is the next step in the process, making the sides around the jig, or form, that I used to get the right shape.

Here is where I glued the sides to the bottom.

Shaped the top and bottom to match the sides.

This gets fairly long... )

Here is where I am as of today; the inside of the case is sanded, but unfinished.
Instrument Case, closed

Most of the inside of the case has to be hand sanded because of the size and the angle. I made a lot of progress on that today; I may be ready to seal coat the inside tomorrow.


catsittingstill: (Default)

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