Archive for September, 2010

Starting the keychest

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I ordered my kit with the keychest unassembled, which obviously meant more work for me. But I wanted to customize it a little.

Because of this, the keychest sides came needing trimming on three sides. The tops already had their final edge. My first big concern was marking the bottom edge at the correct angle to match what the strings would have coming off the wheel. Secondary to that, but involving the same line, was making the sides the proper height. It is hard to tell what that is supposed to be with the soundboard surface being curved. I tried to err on the high side if anything. More can always be sanded off, if necessary.

Next was marking the vertical sides so the keys would end up the right distance from the bridge. The distance from the wheel opening in the soundboard to where the head block meets the curved part of the body seemed to be 1/16″ longer on mine than on the plans. I wanted the keybox to join the peghead right in line with this corner where the headblock meets the curve of the body. So, I marked the keychest sides to be 13 1/16″ long. The end cuts are perpendicular to the bottom edge. As you can see from the following photo, the bottom cut is at an angle from the existing edges, which would take some very careful cutting. And both pieces have to be cut identically. 


Stacked keychest sides marked for trimming

All this of course meant a trip to Jerry’s backyard shop! With all his experience, patience and wonderful tools, we were able to make these critical cuts.


Keychest sides cut to shape, showing inside surfaces

The big question is, did I mark them right in the first place? We shall see at some point further along in this odyssey.

Back trimmed

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Jerry was kind enough to let me use his router table to flush trim the scrap off the edge of the bottom. A stressful operation, but all went well.


Portion of bottom edge showing flush trim

The sides haven’t been sanded smooth yet, nor has the edge been rounded, but it looks good!

Hurdy-gurdy Construction DVDs

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Brook-ConstructionDVDNow he tells me! Or, more like “just in the nick of time!” Neil Brook announced today on the Hurdy Gurdy Forum that he has a new 2-DVD set which covers the building a guitar-shaped hurdy-gurdy. I have finished the body, but the second DVD covering everything else would be timely, and might make up for my ignorance and prevent some poor decisions. I can still watch the first one and find out what I did wrong on the body!

So, I’ve placed my order.

Back glued on

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I’m getting behind here! The back was glued on a couple weeks ago. To try to catch up quickly…

First, the builder’s label had to be glued in position.


Builder's label in place with ermine border I designed


Inside of back with label and center support strip

For nostalgia’s sake, I shot two last views of the inside showing the bracing and bottom of the soundboard, before the back was glued on.



And thanks to Leonard for the use of his clamps…


Back clamped in place, t-shirts protecting top and bottom

The big unwanted surprise during this process was how much the back slid around due to the glue before I could get two clamps tight enough to hold it in place. It was quite unsettling until I got that settled. Hopefully, enough glue got into the kerfing to make a good bond, and there wasn’t too much of it smeared on the label.


Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I did manage to take a break from hurdy-gurdy building to do one of my favorite things for Labor Day weekend — drive down to West, Texas for the town’s annual Czech festival, “Westfest.” This is over an hour away, so I don’t make it every year, and it had been  about 3 years since I’d gone.

The beautiful costumes of the various folk dancing groups is a nice antidote to blue jeans & t-shirts and other blah, unisex or over-exposed modern attire. They have folk dancing each afternoon for 6-7 hours, and I try to catch it all, except for some kids gymnastics that is always thrown in. That’s when I go get some sausage and sauerkraut. The groups include Hungarian, Czech, Ukrainian, Alpine, and Norwegian, as well as some cloggers.

I wonder if any of them are in need of a hurdy-gurdy player?


Csárdás Hungarian Dancers of Austin, Texas

Hermine on the loose!

Monday, September 6th, 2010

With my interest in Brittany, France, and my incorporation of her symbol, the hermine [French spelling of ermine] in the design of my hurdy-gurdy, I’m sensitive to ermine references. I heard about one on the radio today — Tropical Storm Hermine is heading this way!


A wild hermine sighted

The following is what I think of, instead of storms, when I hear “hermine” mentioned. I bought this postcard recently on a French auction site — still practicing that French!


L'Hermine — The Ermine

I thought that was quite a coincidence that the same storm season during which I’m making my hurdy-gurdy, there is a storm named “Hermine.” 

I’m thinking of naming my hurdy-gurdy “Erma,” short for ermine.

Soundhole inserts glued in

Monday, September 6th, 2010

We’re making all sorts of progress here lately! I also got the dark brown cocobolo inserts glued in under the “ermine”-shaped soundholes. I wanted the design to be as big as what is seen at first glance, but I didn’t want the actual triangular hole that big. Plus, I was worried about the light soundboard wood cracking along the grain where all the tufts come together at the top, or the two cross-grain tips breaking off at the wide bottom. The inserts glued in the bottom solve all these problems, hopefully — and make it look nicer, too!

If you missed what the “ermine” is all about, see this.


A two-tiered soundhole with its supporting cocobolo base

Another thing I did was round the edges of the soundboard holes. I used thin strips of sandpaper like a shoe shine rag, holding it top and bottom and rubbing it over the sides. I still need to file out the corners a little. 


Same soundhole and edge before the weekend's work


The other soundhole with insert glued underneath

The inserts were glued in with carpenter’s glue, but little blobs of epoxy were added along the edge for good measure. I can’t afford to have one fall off once the bottom is glued on!


Cocobolo inserts viewed from underneath

Outer diagonal inlay 5

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The edge inlay is done! Well, I might round the edge slightly, but the hard parts are done. This post is about the flattening of the edge tiles to soundboard level, another very worrisome task. They were all different thicknesses. Some whites were much thicker than the blacks and vice-versa. Many were rough on the top.

My first approach was encoring the sanding cradle, which had rounded the top to begin with. That got some of most uneven parts, but it was just taking too long. I changed to a sanding block which got them in the neighborhood, but was also grinding in ebony sawdust into my light-colored soundboard. I decided it was time to go with the cabinet scraper, which saved the day and gave fantastic results.


Final smoothing of the inlay top edge with a cabinet scraper


Close-up 1


Close-up 2

Outer diagonal inlay 4

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I labored over my hurdy-gurdy over Labor Day Weekend. I was very pleased –and relieved– to get the black and white diagonal edging flush with the edge and flush with the soundboard surface.

I was worried about using a router with a flush trim bit, because I was afraid it would split out bits of some of the tiles, since the grain of the pieces is parallel to the edge. So I did it by hand, first grinding it near the edge with a little drum sander on my Dremel tool. Then filing and sanding it smooth. This was not without its own perils, especially the hand-held Dremel part.

White Post-it tape was put around the body edge to help protect it from  the Dremel sanding bit.


Body clamped into work bench showing Dremel tool and bit used


Close-up of uneven tiles before smoothing edges to match body


Another close-up of rough-cut overhanging edges


Close-up of final smoothed edge

Outer diagonal inlay 3

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

On the home stretch! Here are tiles #43-48 prior to being glued in. The last slot is numbered so I will know how far I need to apply the epoxy. I also number the bottom of the tiles and put an arrow showing which side fits inward. This is important, because they aren’t interchangeable, and often end up getting knocked on the floor.


I'm almost done custom-fitting these tiles

This is the second side. The first side of 60 is done. The total will be 128.