Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Viscount Project, Part III

Woodworking is lots of fun. I made dovetail joints the newfangled way:

Doing this made me feel full of geeky and also full of awesome.
It felt like cheating. A little. Doing it this way. Instead of with a saw. Or a toothpick. Like they did in the old days. But it also made me able to cut dovetail joints, so: compromise accepted!

After gluing all the corners square, and marking and cutting big thin bits of wood for the top and bottom of the box, I cut the sides in half so the box could swing open to reveal the pedals when it was all put together.

Then I made my fatal error.

My plan required the keys to come in from the top of the box. There were supports. The keys would get bolted to the supports, and live happily inside their box. But this, crucially, required attaching the bottom of the box permanently, i.e. with nails and glue, and then attaching the top bit removably, i.e. with screws. That way I could put the box together, finish it, and then take it apart again to get the keys inside.

Instead, I very precisely, meticulously, with no drips of extra glue— and at the very end of class— glued-and-nailed the tops on each half of the box.

Then I rode my bike home through a lovely sunny spring day in Bath.

Then I realised what I had done.

I emailed the instructor— in a state I'd be reluctant to describe as 'panic'— to warn him, but really, deep down, I knew the glue would be set by then, and I'd just have to find another way to get the pedals inside the case.

Thankfully most things are— in life and in woodworking— if not reversible, at least work-around-able. At the next week's class, after following the pedals' electrical traces carefully through the PCB board I determined I could lose the top 1/4" or so off the circuit board, which is the bit that sticks up the highest. I then spent about 40 minutes sanding it down. (PCB board dust cannot be good dust to breathe in. Remind me not to do that again.) Finally I could slide the pedals into the case. Victory!

* * *

One secret of woodworking is: you know those beautiful corners you see on the box? It did not start out that way. After everything else was in place, I planed and sanded to get all the bits aligning perfectly. At the end it looked as though I had really just measured and cut to a degree of precision I am definitely not capable of. I like that aspect of wood, its forgivingness.

During the week I had ordered some hardware online, so that went on the box, again with Paul's don't-do-it-the-dumb-way-here's-how-to-do-it-right friendly guidance and good ideas. As the class finished I took everything home, took the hardware back off, and put some coats of Danish Oil on the wood.

Danish Oil is my new favourite thing. It makes old bleached wood look amazing, it makes new raw wood look amazing, and it makes everything waterproof without making it shiny. (When I bought it, I naïvely thought that it would just be some fancy oil. It is an oil with all sorts of horrible toxic solvents in it that make it penetrate into the wood. This part I like a bit less. I have learned how to save and reuse white spirit, now, though, so I don't have to feel like I'm destroying all aquatic life in Britain every time I clean a brush.)

Here is the final product of the woodworking class. I am very happy with it:

Pedalcase: closed.

Pedalcase: open!

Now you may be thinking one of two things:

  1. Wait, what does this do?
  2. Why are there wires sticking out the side?
These two things are related. There is an Arduino hooked up to the pedals. The next step is to write a nice little bass synth that can be controlled via pedals.

Soon, soon...