Saturday, February 26, 2011

Music Tableau, Episode 4: State of the Tableau

So where are we with this tableau? We finished the organ. What we have now is best shown in a picture:
At the far left is Anton the fiddler. Going counter-clockwise, we have Bertha the bass player. Then comes Heidi the vocalist, with her guitar. Then the organ. Since I have yet to carve the organist, the amazing Skeletor is at the console. Skeletor is a stick figure, barbecue kebab sticks and wire with a notional head; I can bend him into any shape, he is about the size of most of my figures. An artist's mannequin, in fact, if rather crude. Finally on the far right, Andreas the accordionist, whom you have already met. All of these figures need work, but we are down to the details where, as we all know, the Devil resides; so I have put them aside to marinate. In my head, mostly; I have to let the figures sit for a while as I decide what to do with them. And, of course, we need a stand; but that is work for the last.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Music Tableau, Episode 2: the Organ

When I make my tableaux, one piece of the tableau takes on a life of its own, and winds up taking more time than the rest of it put together. In the case of the Crafts Tableau, for instance, the loom took forever. In our Music Tableau, the long path went right through the organ. The sketch in the last post shows an organist and a crude organ. OK, let's make an organ. The organ was a whole bunch of subassemblies glued together as we went. I began with a keyboard.
Keyboards on organs are called manuals. This manual was put rogether by cutting out individual keys and gluing together. This is the hard way to do a keyboard. The sharps were cut out of contrasting wood and glued on, with great difficulty and tweezers. The thing below the keyboard is the beginning of the pedal assembly, because all self-respecting organs have pedals. I did not do sharps for the pedals. Too much like work. I have pinned the pedals in, no glue yet, bacause pedals splay out and I needed to adjust all the keys later.

The next step was to make another manual. Again, all self-respecting organs have at least two manuals. This manual I made by cutting slots in a solid piece of birch. Much easier! Gluing on the sharps was just as difficult, though. Here we are gluing together the two manuals and the pedals to the sides of the case. There are tiny slots cut into the case to take the tenons on pedals and manuals. I refuse to use glue by itself, got to have a proper joint. But what is a pipe organ without pipes? So I started in on those.
Here is a rectangular piece of wood, the "windchest" it is called, that holds up the pipes. This rank of pipes is lilac, passed through my trusty drawplate. The pipes are "scaled," that is they get thinner as they get shorter. Drilling the holes is painful; you can't make them all the same size. As you can see, I blew the last hole on the right of the picture. I rescued it with plastic wood (oh, the shame, the horror of it all!) and kept on going. Then I made another rank of pipes, square-section. Quite legitimate, square sections. Many pipes are made that way in real organs.
I have also put on tiny pieces of lilac for stop knobs. Hmm, short pipes in front rank a bit askew. Well, "history of the piece." And so we come to the current state of the organ:
I like it. A bit rustic, as it should be. It is very small, and great detail at this scale is impossible, for me, anyway. Organ is 45 mm wide. And I see some of the sharps have become unglued. One more shot, taken an hour ago:
Case completed. Yes, it will definitely fit the Tyrolean aspect of the tableau. Now all I have to do is carve the organist!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Music Tableu, Episode I

An alternate label for this post could be "work in progress." Anyway, it occured to me that a bunch of Tyrolean-style musicians would be a great addition to my tableaux. The woodsmen, the craftsmen -- they need entertainment. So let's have a band! Yuch-he! as they used to say --and possibly still do -- in the Tyrol. It means, more or less, "yippee!"

The construction of a tableu begins with a single sketch.
Hmm, a little dark at the bottom. Have to work on the lighting a bit more. But it gives you an idea. Sometimes I will make more sketches of what I want. This time I didn't. There is a fiddler, an accordionist, a bass player (morphed into a woman in the final version), a vocalist with guitar, and an organist. I threw the organist in because I love pipe organs.

In this tableau, I made the musical instruments first and then carved the figures to suit. Anton the fiddler you have seen (being held by the Nano Vise) so I'll skip him. The accordion player came next. How do you carve a figure? Well, a real sculptor would no doubt have catfits looking at what I do. But I begin with a piece of wood collected during summer for just this purpose. Usually a branch. Then I saw two more or less parallel flats in it.
This is heavy work, the miniature Ryoba saw won't hack it (literally), so I'm using a big Ryoba in rip mode. Then I draw the figure on one of the flats and start roughing out.
Here, I am using a miniature Japanese keyhole saw to cut away superflous wood. This saw cuts very quickly, but it is not too good at getting around sharp turns, so eventually we resort to the turning saw, covered in a previous post. It is slower but much better at turning corners.
Mr Turning saw has a narrow bandsaw blade in him. You might say, "why didn't you use the bandsaw?" I answer, it was -20C in my shop. Just try using a bandsaw at that temperature! For rough work, I think a bandsaw is legitimate. But not at twenty below. Eventually we get something that vaguely resembles an accordionist.
At this point we can begin carving. I didn't take pictures of this stage. We use gouges (my own home-made gouges) and the occasional chisel to do this. As the duck decoy carver said, "start with a block of wood and cut away anything that doesen't look like a duck." Very sound advice; woodcarving in few words. At some intermediate stage, accordionist looks like
Looks a little better. You can see where the accordion fits in. Some more work, and we get
Not finished yet. But now recognizable. I never found a carving book yet that would put in all the steps you go through. However, I did find a book on duck decoy carving that went step by step; most of my carving technique is derived from that book! So, mostly, I do it this way because I taught myself by trial and error. Now it is time for the finicky details, such as features, round corners off, and so on. Accordionist is, by the way, 75mm high. I didn't plan for such a number -- scale is done by eye.

And that is enough for one post. Next time we might look at the organ.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crafts Tableau III: some details

This is to finish up some last details on the construction of Ye Crafts Tableau, as Olde Englyshe might put it. The spinning wheel was a fun piece of work.
The hardest part of the spinning wheel is the wheel itself. And here it is under construction, held up by the inevitable hemostat. All of it, as I recall, was alder wood. The hub was turned on the Taig. The spokes were then put into drilled holes in the hub. When I have nothing else to post, I will do a post on "the poor man's dividing engine", or how to divide a circle into equal parts with a minimum of equipment. The rim was planed down from a strip of alder, maybe willow -- I couldn't tell them apart then, I can now -- steamed, and bent around the spokes.
Shallow holes were drilled in the rim to take the spokes. The rest of it was easy:
Here you see Weaver poised at her spinning wheel. I wish I could get the bobbin to rotate. Too much to ask at this scale; the wheel is about 40mm long. But the belt does go around!

Next detail is Woodworker's tools. He had to have a saw and a plane, of course.
I happen to have a fretsaw with an impressive collection of blades. One of them was about 1mm wide, and it broke. It did very well for woodworker's saw blade. When it came down to pegging it in pace, I chickened out and used super-glue! It is a perfectly functional saw, about 20mm of blade. I put the tensioning rope ( read threads) on it later.

Woodworker's plane actually works. The blade was microforged from a finishing nail. Amazingly, the nail actually hardened. Off day at the nail factory, I suppose. So I tempered it and put an edge on it. Later I made a chisel for him, another nail. It does chisel! And finally I made a bench for woodworker. Can't do woodworking without a bench. I regret that I didn't put a vise on the bench. Well, "history of the piece," as my son says.

And there ends the saga of the crafts tableau. On to the Music Tableau!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crafts Tableau II: the Nano Loom

The saga of the Crafts Tableau continues with the making of the loom. This thing took more time than all the rest of it put together. It all began with Roy Underhill's book, The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop. In there are the plans for a full-size loom. So, for once, I had a plan. Usually I go by eye, and one or two sketches. Roy's stuff is all RGU, feet and inches. So, after some playing around, I decided on (as I recall) 1 foot = 1 cm. This is about 1:30. A big reduction. Roy suggests you use mill-sawn timber. Well, no nano-scale lumberyards are available here, so I set up my own and got timber from odd pieces of birch branch stock.
All this was ripped from branches with my trusty miniature Ryoba saw. The timbers are roughly 6mm square. They are sitting on my equally trusty bench hook, and do note the microforged holdfast in the middle of the hook. Very useful contraption and easy to forge. Just like full size.

Roy's loom is held together with mortise and tenon joints. I thought I could do no less, but the mortises are 2mm wide. Just try to buy a 2mm mortise chisel. (Actually, if you have a cooperative dentist, you might find that one of his or her dental scrapers will do the trick.) So I took time out and made such a chisel.
Above, the chisel sitting on the vise. My first mortise was really a dado (I have since learned to make real mortises) but hey, it's a pretty good fit! After a lot of this stuff, I had one side of the loom.
A bit blurry. I drilled very small holes and pushed "pins" made out of wire into the holes. I really couldn't peg them; at this scale pegs would be about 0.5mm and that's just too small for wood. I am using drills somewhere around #60 Morse, held in a jeweller's drill. Here's the exploded view, so to speak.

The pegs may look thick in this close-up. They are in fact tiny, about 0.5mm, the size of a thin pencil lead.

So the frame came together. Somewhere in here I decided I wanted a working loom. So I made heddles. A heddle is either string or steel with a loop or hole in the middle. It is attached to a frame, which lowers or raises a group of strings. Again, no way I could see to do this in wood, with tiny loops. So I did the heddle pins in steel with a wooden frame. I can find no pictures of this process. I wasn't sure it would work! But eventually...
... the heddle frames and heddles were finished. Here I have actually warped the loom. The warps are the long threads running through the heddles. The white threads all go on one frame, the red ones on the other. The threads are ordinary sewing thread; I had to use a needle to get them through the eyes. Excruciating! You can see that I have put on the beams. These are rollers -- the one in front rolls up the completed cloth; the one in back holds the thread.

At this point, spring and summer intervened. So I put the loom and friends up on the drying rack on top of my furnace. And one dark and stormy night I bumped into the rack and dumped the whole thing on the floor. The threads got tangled beyond repair. I decided to weave anyway. All I wanted was a few rows, to show the loom would work if I didn't have all those tangles. To do so, I had to make a loom elevator jig. I had to get under it to operate the heddles. One's fingers are not scaled 1:30. Indeed, they are not scalable. I could have also re-warped the whole thing. I decided not to. Unwise, perhaps; but it takes about two hours and a lot of cursing to do. Everything tangles up.
I raised the loom up on four branchwood posts. This wasn't enough. The loom tended to jump out of the posts. So I improvised a hold-down based on a spanish windlass. And here is loom in (almost) weave mode.
Here you see the hold-down and the warp threads being tied to the warp beam. With this, I actually wove three rows. Had to use a needle as a shuttle. But it did, in the end, work. In retrospect I should have tied one end of the warps directly to the cloth beam. That would have cut down on the amount of work I had to do, and also reduced the tangle factor. Wise after the event.

Maybe the project was too ambitious. Maybe not. You don't know what you can do until you really push, and not just in loom-making, either.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Crafts Tableau, Episode I

As you must know by now, I am very fond of making Tableaux. They are sort of 3-D paintings, of vaguely Tyrolean or Bavarian character, rough-hewn -- what's the right word? dioramas, perhaps. So after more than a year's effort, I present the Crafts Tableau.
There are three characters in the tableau. There was no room for more; one of my self-imposed rules is that it all has to fit on one slice of log. In Front is Smith. He is, of course, hammering on an anvil. The anvil is the tip of a discarded Alaska Railroad spike, filed to shape. His hammer is a piece of scrap also filed to shape. To his right, back turned to you, is Woodworker. More later. In the back is Weaver. She is seated on her rustic chair in front of Nanoloom, which almost was Waterloo for this project. To her right is the spinning wheel.

Since Woodworker's back is turned to you, another view may be helpful.
Woodworker has a functional workbench, but alas no vise. He has a chisel, a frame saw, and a plane. These tools are about 10mm long, the saw (a frame saw) with a piece of broken fretsaw blade. All actually work. You need tweezers to operate them, but the chisel chisels, for example. At this scale, I occasionally had to cheat. So I fastened the frame saw blade to the frame with super-glue. Likewise, Smith's anvil is held to its stump by trusty super-glue. The figures behind the crafts tableau are the Woodland Tableau, which I posted about a year ago. How time flies!

The real difficulty in this tableau was the loom. It was difficult -- extremely difficult -- because I wanted a working loom. The NanoLoom deserves a post all to itself and it will get one. I will add that with extreme pains I got it working, more or less. I wove three rows. The spinning wheel was easy, but I did not insist that it work. The actual spinner is a wire ohh maybe 0.05mm diameter, a few thou for RGU fans. Too hard to get it to spin.

So finally the crafts tableau is up on my wall. It had its ups and its downs, literally. It spent summer up on my drying rack above the oil furnace. And then I bumped into it on a dark and stormy night, and down it went. Mostly, everything survived the encounter with Mr Newton's gravity, but the loom got its threads tangled beyond repair. More next post.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pegging out

In a previous post (the Nacimiento) I complained about not being able to make very small pegs. Fortunately, my bedtime reading includes that marvellous classic, The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships by C. Nepean Longridge, fortunately published anew by the US Naval Institute. Dr Nepean was a past master at making very small things. He needed zillions of tiny pegs, 2mm and less, to secure the planking and decking of his "small" model of HMS Victory, and how did he do it? With a drawplate, of course.
As soon as I read Dr Nepean's wise words, I felt silly. Why, I use a drawplate myself in full size! I use much thicker metal, of course, and I still have to tackle drilling a 13mm hole through a big thick piece of metal for full-size to be really useful, but never mind. For this job, even a tin can would do as a plate. But I have a stiffer piece of sheet metal off some long-discarded appliance, and I used that. What you do is drill a series of successively smaller holes in it. I started at 4mm and went down by 0.5mm, all the way down to 1mm. I have a set of machinist's drills, 6mm to 1mm by tenths, which makes this easy. I think that to get down to 1mm I'd have to start at 2mm and go down by 0.2 or so -- a 1mm peg is skinny indeed.

So, what you do is what I am doing in the pic above. Start by knifing down so your future peg is a wee bit larger than your largest hole. Hammer it through. Pick it out of where it fell (these things have an amazing attraction for floors. Maybe that's how Newton thought up gravity; he kept on dropping things on the floor and had to crawl around looking for them. Don't give me that apple tree stuff). Then you hammer it down the next hole, and so on till you reach the desired diameter. The drawplate is amazingly effective. Good to 2mm easily on Lilac scraps. One mm is just a wee bit too small; I think I could go to 1.5 mm without trouble.

I have, by the way, a lilac tree that, like Darth Vader, wants to conquer the known universe in general and my house in particular. So this summer I restrained his expansionist tendencies. I pruned him. I kept the prunings and I'm glad I did. It is a very nice wood for things like pegs and canoe ribs (in miniature; see Tippecanoe posts). It bends well, can be shaved down to nothing. And the Finns use it for rake tines! A much underrated wood. And a much better thing to do with wood than to burn it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The NanoVise

Recently I began carving a bull moose out of Ben Hunt's book on whittling. Alas, out of print; it sometimes turns up in used bookstores (which is where I got my copy). The only difficult part is Moosie's antlers. They are less than 20 mm longways. I have a real specimen to copy (see some previous post last year!) The real problem was holding the blasted things as I carved them. I nearly gouged my fingers off doing it. Couldn't put an antler in the metal vise; it would have crushed them or at least scratched them. I needed a very small vise to hold very small carvings.

Now a vise is not all that different from the Nano X-table of the previous post. This one had to be made of wood, to avoid scratches on carvings. Instead of a table, the moveable jaw of the vise is substituted. A manic session with miniature Dozuki and Ryoba saws, and a trip to the drill press, and Nano Vise came to life:
The NanoVise has a pair of fixed pieces (right and left) and a movable piece, the jaw part. This jaw, in the center of the above pic, slides on ways made out of brass rod. I bought the brass rod, I must admit; very difficult to find it thrown away, especially in Alaska midwinter. Buck and a half, I think. It is very difficult to drill the holes for both NanoX-table and NanoVise. It has to line up in two directions.
The holes have to be the same distance apart, but they also have to line up horizontally. I solved the first problem by making a drilling template out of scrap metal. Never throw away anything! The horizontal problem is only partially solved. If you had a very long drill of the proper size, and a great big drill press, it would be easy. So we impro-vised. Ouch.

The next job is to turn the feed screw (another found long bolt, 8-32 RGU). You have already seen this in the NanoX-table post. When it came to collars for the feed screw, however, I wound up microforging the collars out of brads. Much better than the plastic on the Xtable, but a lot more work, too.
Here NanoVise is seen holding Anton the Fiddler, a protagonist in the upcoming Tyrolean Music Tableau, date of release uncertain. I cross-drilled the feed screw and stuck a brad through it to act as a vise handle. I used a bead from a found plastic necklace to keep the brad in its proper place. Expect to see lots of future appearances of NanoVise. The feed nut was epoxied to the moving jaw, as in NanoX-table.

I am really glad I spent a few days making this vise. It has already paid back its price in utility. Miniature carving demands miniature fixtures. There are a few problems with NanoVise. If you are not careful the pressure of the jaws will force the ways right out of their holes. This, of course, is why version 2.0 was invented in the first place. So stay tuned. And for those who dote on measurements, NanoVise is 83 mm long. (I was trying for 80, but you can't win them all).