Building a console

I’ve planned to build a console for a long time. The decision on design has been a tough one, but I’m finally decided on a general idea.

The console will house some real pipes (non speaking). They will stand in front of the speakers, which will be hidden behind black fabric. The design will be a blend of the following consoles:

I am not going to use drawknobs; the touchscreen(s) will stil be used.

I’ll update this article frequently when I start to build the console, like I did with the pedalboard, the bench and the keystack. Come back soon!

Update 12. august 2010

“Summer” vacation has arrived, and it is time to move on with the project. I have created a sketch of the console as a guideline; I do not want to spend a lot of time creating drawings. Instead, I have a general guideline in the sketch, and a bunch of images as inspiration. The console will then be created as I work. Since I am far from a skilled craftsman and organ builder, there got to beĂ‚ tons of details I cannot anticipate. And building the pedalboard, the bench and the keystack in the “by the seat of my pants” -approach worked rather well for me…

Here’s an image of the console sketch:

The console will measure about 170cm wide, 60cm deep and 210cm high. On the left side, you can spot the LCD monitor (shown with the Hinz console screen). Directly above it, to the left, there’s an organ pipe. On the right side (inside the console) there’s a speaker. The pedal board, the keyboard stack and the music rack are also shown. This should give you an idea on how the layout of the console will be. I have purchased a lot of timber, and will start the construction soon.

Please note that the measurements are specific to MY pedalboard/keystack/music rack/LCD monitor. This setup might not be correct for you. Also, I originally planned to make the console a bit wider, but I have some space constraints I have to take into account.

The computer will probably fit inside the console, with an access door on the left side. The power button will be mounted on the left jamb, underneath the LCD monitor. The amplifier will be placed on the shelf above the player’s position, and there will be placed real pipes in front of the speakers .

The design is not finished, and I will make alterations as I work on the console. I am considering different solutions – and I am just as eager to see the end result as I can imagine you are. 🙂

More to follow soon!

Update 16. august 2010

Just wanted to show the framework drawings with some measurements. I have started work on the frame components: Dimensioning and cutting lumber. “I love the smell of woodshavings in the morning…”.

I purchased some Ash for the console. It is cheaper than oak, but has about the same structure. Since I’m going to stain the thing anyway, this was the most “sound” thing to do.

Here’s the drawings:

And from below:

I plan to fill the “gaps” with plywood in order to get a nice, even finish. The plywood will be inserted into a groove, just like a framed door panel is made. Relax, images WILL be taken! 🙂

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, since showing a piece of wood inside the planer is about as fascinating as watching grass grow.

DISCLAIMER: All the measurements are based on MY specific setup. Do not follow the plans blindly; you might have to do some alterations. The console is dimensioned with regards to my own requirements and the available space.

Update 17. august 2010

I decided to split the console into two parts to make the installation easier. Here’s the new design for the lower part:

A simple “box” will be placed on top. This also allows me to remove the top part and install a “lid” on the above shown framework, creating a smaller console – should I ever need to. As a bonus, the parts will be easier to make. And there’s less chance for twisting / bending of the columns over time.

Another factor is that the top “box” can be made very stiff, so that it helps keeping the whole construction wobble-free. The two-part console will be much easier to construct than making the whole contraption in one big part.

The two support beams that runs from front to back on the support frame for the keystack, was added with a certain use in mind. I plan to make the keystack movable in and out – or if that is too difficult to construct, I can adjust the keystack before I screw it down for good.

All the lumber is now milled and ready for use, so you can expect some images soon!

Update 20. august 2010

Finally some images of lumber turned into something useful! Namely the side walls.

I cut the different parts according to the Sketchup drawings. Then I routed a slot for the panels, which are cut from plywood:

The different parts are fastened to eachother using wooden plugs. Simple and easy. As I mentioned earlier, the top of the console will be removable, so I haven’t made anything on that part yet.

And here’s the two side panels:

Here you can see the d-shape taking form on the leftmost panel.

I placed the panels 170 cm apart to get an idea – this thing will be very nice! The Ash is a very nice material to work with, although it doesn’t smell as good as Oak…

Update 21. august 2010

More work on the side panels. I had to do a few adjustments here and there.

The small sidewall was a real pain, but it is finished. I cut the horizontal beam that will run underneath the keystack, and placed the sidepanels in order to get a better idea on how this will work out. I learned that lesson from the pedal board project – testfit and do several “dry mounts” during the build, and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration!

And this is how it looks now – quite inspiring!

That’s all for today. My dad pointed out that I might try dark inlaid panels, but keep the framework light in order to get the whole thing less dominating. Food for thought…

Next week it’s back to work (for one week), but that won’t keep me from transforming a lot of wood into splinters and dust. And the occacional console part.

You can leave comments in the thread over at the Hauptwerk forum. And if you’re not a member, there’s allways the email option.

Update 29. August 2010

Since the last update I’ve finished the two side-“towers” and glued some parts. The plywood panels has been stained so that the frames can be glued together. I chose to stain first in order to avoid gaps in the finish should the panels move during the seasons.

I’ve also constructed the “ladder” on which the keyboard stack will rest. I used epoxy glue for this, since I wanted a very short cure time in order to avoid any errors. The “ladder” needs to be dead square, or the side panels will go out of alignment. I used a large square, clamped it to the front part and twisted the whole thing into coherence – that means, into square.

The epoxy cured in 5 minutes, and everything is dead on now. I then sanded the sawmarks from the table saw and routed a 45 degree bevel at the front where my feet will move about.

Here’s how I mount the dowels that keeps everything together:

1. Mark it…

Drill it using a depth stopper on the drill bit (the hole is half the length of the dowel)…

Place center markers in the holes, press the other piece firmly into place, drill according to the marks, insert dowels and mount! Remember to remove the center markers though..

It also helps if you draw a triangle across the “seam” so that you know which side goes where afterwards. Trust me, you’ll forget…

I also tried a new thing: resawing a board into thinner strips in order to create a wider panel. This is for the “coffe cup holders” on each side of the manuals.

I sawed a piece of a board in three pieces after I planed it and made all sides sqare to eachother (important!). I then dimensioned the pieces so that all of them was exaclty the same thickness. I then made a “bookmatch” – the grain pattern is matched. I marked the board before cutting so that I would know which board goes where in the stack. Then I “folded” the pieces out like a sheet of paper that has been folded into a tall pamphlet (first third folded to the front, last third folded to the back):

I then glued them and clamped the panel firmly:

Here’s a great tip: use blue tape to create a “hinge” on the face of the panel. There will be very little glue squeeze-out, and the edges will be aligned perfectly. And it makes the glueup that much easier too!

The panel will be cut in two parts and mounted to the “ladder” – I will use the router to create a dado around the edges where the panel will be mounted, so that the panel can be flush with the “ladder” top edge. Relax, I’ll post images to clarify my “explanation”…

Another week off work (vacation time!), so things should be moving quite rapidly now. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring the parts into my livingroom for a quick “testmount”Ă‚ in a day or three.

Update 30. august 2010

Just a quick follow-up on the “coffee cup holders” and how the glued-up panel is mounted to the “ladder”. I cut the panel in two, then used the planer / thicknesser to refine all the edges and faces. I then used a straight-edge and the copying attachment on the router to make a dado for the panel pieces:

I used a chisel to make the corner square. The dado is just a hair too shallow, allowing me to sand theĂ‚  panel flush with the support beam. Here’s an image of the test fit:

I then applied glue to the dado, placed the panel into it and clamped the living daylight out of it! I will glue a piece of wood underneath to support the panel, although it will never hold any weight besides a cup of coffee…

More to follow soon! This is going to be a productive vacation week! 🙂

Update 31. august 2010

Things are slowly coming together now. The stain on the inlay panels has cured, and I glued up the cabinet sides today:

The long clamps I bought for the bench are great! I could use even longer clamps in order to glue the bottom part of the cabinet sides, but I’ll manage somehow.

I decided to try stained inlay panels with natural frames in order to make the organ case less dominating. And it proved to be a good idea! It really look nice; the images from my cellphone does not do them justice. Here’s a shot of a completed cabinet side:

And a shot from “inside” the cabinet:

The little thingamabob that extends outwards on the left side is the support for the “ladder” on which the keyboard stack will rest.

I thought I would show you the raw material I’m using:

This is a piece of white Ash, as it comes from the lumberyard. After running it through the planer on two sides, this is the result:

The next step is to use the thicknesser to get the piece down to the desired thickness, and to make the two wide faces parallell. If needed, I use the table saw to make the two small faces parallell too. But most often you’ll need to rip the board down in thinner pieces, and it does not make any sense to mill the board “four square”. Very often the board is slightly wider on one end, and you might get more out of the board if you can cut a part from the widest end – instead of having to use another board.

Note that you should ALLWAYS get the board(s) at least 10 cm / 4″ longer than needed. It is very easy to get snipe on the ends when using the thicknesser (a small dent in the surface – google has the answer), and you should keep that in mind. Also, the outer end of a board, usually about 2-3 cm (about 1″), tends to be very dry or have some sort of error or miscoloring to it. Plan for that, but do not throw away! Everything can and will be used – andĂ‚ that’s a very eco-friendly thing to do. Both economical and ecological.

Update 01. september 2010

Today I made some progress on the framework. I made a rectangle-shaped frame for the upper part of the cabinet. It will help me during testing of the concept too. But first, let me show you a couple of details.

In the image above, you can see the 45 degree bevel I routed where my feet will move about. The bevel extends just outside the keyboards. From the point where the bevel ends in the image above, towards the front sidewall, I plan to mount a drawer for a keyboard and perhaps a mouse – crucial for when you need to do some work on the computer that lurks inside…

Another shot that shows the bevel. And you can see the “coffee cup tray” on the right side.

Here’s a shot of the bolt that secures the “ladder” to the side panels. It is countersunk using the router (hence the somewhat irregular shaped hole).

And now for some exciting images – the console as it stands now! First up is an image showing the “ladder” and the top frame. I haven’t made any mounting options for the frame yet, but me clamps is holding me together… 

Next up: an image showing a mock-up of the side panels for the pedals and the keystack:

The interior will be in natural color. The idea my dad had about keeping the framework natural and just the side panels stained dark proved to be brilliant! At least for my taste.

And the last image; A shot of the panel on the right side of the keyboards:

The panel will hold the touchscreen on one side, but I am considering another touchscreen on the other side as well. If not, I’ll find something to put there…

That’s all for today. Tomorrow I will continue work on the upper frame, and perhaps mount the thing in my living room together with the keystack and the pedalboard to get an idea of how this will end up.

Update 04. september 2010

Wow! The autumn is clearly on its way – pretty cold outside, and the mountains surrounding the fjord got a light drizzle of snow some days ago! Yet the forest is still green, but that won’t last too long. Perhaps it is a hint for me to bring out the score for Vivaldi’s four seasons? Anyway, on to the organ building business.

I moved the console parts into my living room for a little testfit of all the components. WOW! This thing is going to be perfect! The height of the keys are now perfect, and the pedal board is correctly placedĂ‚ – the playing experience is far, far better! Not to mention that it looks awesome!

The next task is to make the jambs on both sides, the back wall behind the keyboards and the panels around the pedal board. Here’s two pictures of the beast:

Here’s a picture that gives you an idea of how the area around the keyboards will look like. The right side will be empty, and the touchscreen will be mounted on the left side. I am considering another touchscreen on the right side, but that is not a priority. I might just end up mounting switches for the stops (voices) on the right jamb…

You can also spot the “roof” over the keyboards, near the top of the image. I used the router to create a dado/groove around the edges of the framework, and cut a plywood panel to size. It will be secured in place using screws. On the underside , the framework creates an edge around the “roof” so that I can mount a hidden light for the keyboards (will avoid glare).

The music stand will be mounted to the back wall using keyhole hardware (a piece of metal with a keyhole in it; you can hang it on a screw). This enables me to do a lot of things should I decide to add a row of coupler switches under the music stand – or even install a fourth manual.

And finally, a picture of the whole setup. In addition, there will be a 60 cm high case on top of what you see in the image, and I’m going to mount real pipes at the front. More on that later on.

It was a good idea to do a test fit like this – it gave me a few ideas, created a few issues and it gave me a GREAT boost in motivation! Can’t wait till this thing is completed!

The only thing that can’t be fitted into the console is the subwoofer. Perhaps I should make a RĂĽgpositive and place it behind the bench? Perhaps I should build a bigger house first…

Update 11. september 2010

Todays update is dedicated to the memory of all the people who perished in the attacs. We will never forget!

Back to organ related business: The top part of the console is on its way, and some other areas have gotten some attention too. The side walls on each side of the keyboards must be fastened somehow, and since I want the whole thing to be IKEA-style (meaning that it can be disassembled should the need present itself), I made a rail for the plywood sheet on which the sidewall will rest. At the top I’m going to screw the sidewall in place. The rails was made from solid oak which I routed a 10mm rabbet (the plywood is 9mm). I then drilled and countersunk holes for screws. I then glued and screwed the rails in place. Kind of overkill really, but I needed the practice anyway. I could’ve just glued and used 3-4 clamps. On the other hand – glue + screws equals rock solid. So why not?

Here’s a detail shot of the rail:

The screws I had lying around was a bit too short, so I had to countersink rather deep. Should not matter anyways… And here’s the concept demonstrated:

I am going to add solid wood banding to the plywood sidewall, and the stop jamb will be mounted flush as shown in the image (although hopefully a bit more “exact” fit…).

I also started work on the pedal board “house”, but unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. That is bound to happen when I have my iPod loaded with woodworking podcasts and listening to them while working… However, I’ve only made a few plywood parts. Nothing fancy, really. I’ll post images as soon as I get more work done on that area.

As you might have guessed, the console was disassembled and moved back into the shop. The next part was the top of the console. I decided to make the console with a removeable top part should I ever need a lower console. I made the bottom frame earlier, and started by fastening the roof over the keyboards. Plywood tends to bend a little when stored upright, and the roof part was no exception. I routed a rabbet around the center opening in the frame and cut a piece of plywood into shape to fit into the rabbet. The rabbet is 15mm, and I wanted to use screws and glue to secure the roof in place. The screws are placed at the center of the rabbet. I measured ~7mm from the edge of the rabbet and marked a line around the perimeter of the roof plywood. I then used a neat tool to mark the location of the screwholes: a compass with a pencil holder. I adjusted it so that the legs had the desired distance from screw to screw, and the rest was childs play. Here’s a few images to clarify:

I used my beloved large square to trace the center line of the rabbet, the caliper was used to measure the distance and the compass “walked out” the markings for the screwholes. FAR more easy than measuring with a tape measure! Get the point?:

Here’s an image of the rabbet (no, a rabbet is not a bunny’s larger cousin!):

The center lines for the rabbet can be seen, in addition to some markings. The rabbet was routed using a rabbet bit with interchangeable ball bearings. It was routed in no time! I’ve invested in a professional grade router, the Bosch GOF 900. Fantastic tool! At the same time I got some other smurf tools (meaning the professional series from Bosch, which has blue color. Green is for noobies! ):

It is a pure luxury having more than one drills! And including my father’s green Bosch (one need to distinguish oneself from the older generation!), I have three. Spoiled? Yeah, and I love it!

All kidding aside; the smurf-drills wasn’t placed there just to brag. The large one was first uesd to drill the holes, then to countersink them. Then I used the smaller one for the screws. I’m trying to include the tools I’m using more, so that people with little experience can get a clue what I’m talking about. Not that I’m a skilled craftsman or anything, but I’m starting to get quite a bit of knowledge about woodworking. I had very little from before I started this project…

Back to the top of the console. Here’s the completed framework:

It is constructed in the same manner as the lower console. All the parts are fastened to eachother using dowels. The next step is to disassemble it, route a dado for the panel inserts in the sides, make the panel inserts and stain them brown, then glue everything up. Then I have to make the roof using the same method as the roof above the keyboards (a plywood piece inserted into a rabbet), and the back wall (using thinner plywood). The real organ pipes (non speaking) will be mounted in the frame, in front of a speaker fabric screen.

And here’s the console top placed where it belongs:

It is starting to get big…

Bonus: you can spot the start of the panels surrounding the pedal board! As for the tools: on the left side is my dust-collector (a vaccuum-cleaner on steroids!), and below the center: my planer/thicknesser combo machine. The brown thingamabob is what’s keeping me warm…

As you probably can see, the shop I’m working in is rather small. But a bit of planning helps a lot. If I had a larger shop, I could’ve done more work in less time, and it can be frustrating having to lug the heavier machines around – especially when you discover that you forgot to run that last part through the thicknesser…

But – it is a hobby, and it is SUPPOSED to take up a good chunk of my spare time. The reward: my own, self-built digital pipe organ! And if you wander: yes, I’ve thought of making my own keyboards too. I plan to leave it at that.

Update 18. September 2010

A quick shot of a LOT of work: the side panel for the pedal board. Not that difficult to make – once you have all the angles figured out! The idea here is that the back panel is fastened to the side panels, and the whole thing can be removed by pulling the side panel backwards. The “roof” will rest against a stip of wood, and at the top it will be held in place by two wooden latches. It can then be swung down and removed should I need to do some maintenance.

I’ve stained the inlay panels for the top part, and glued the framework together. And since I didn’t want to invest in even longer clamps just for this project, the DIY muse jumped in. I grabbed a cargo strap and went to town on the framework! I placed the strap around the frame and jacked it into coherence:

This band is supposed to hold up to 3 metric tonnes, so the framework was no match for it.

I am getting kind of fed up with the project; I spend a lot of time on small details, so I needed a motivation boost. I therefore decided to work on the top part of the console until it is finished, and I thought that I should check how the pipes will look in place (and I needed to decide how to mount them anyway). So here you go:

The pipes will stand on a small board, extend up into the framework where they will rest against a board with holes cut to match the diameter of each pipe. What a motivation boos! This will look fantastic, especially when I’ve polished up the pipes to a shine! I will mount black speaker fabric behind the pipes to hide the inside of the console. I am considering different options for the middle opening since I don’t have enough pipes to fill that space as well. A door, anĂ‚ open shelf for scores… I am going ot place the amplifier in there somewhere, and I would love to suspend a pair of speakers from the roof of the console, behind some pipes in the center of the top. I can then route the trompete en chamade through those speakers!

Here’s the concept for the top part of the console:

That’s all for this weekend – I am going to relax. Perhaps learn a new piece on the organ?

Update 25. September 2010

I’ve worked on the “stop jambs” lately. I started by cutting some plywood to the correct dimensions and shape, then I made some edgebanding out of an old pedal blank. Never throw anything away…

The edgebanding is shaped like a square Z, as shown in the image below. The rabbet on the right side will support the front panel. I am considering to mount a wider piece in order to get a wider rabbet, but that’s something for later on.

As you can see, I used blue tape as clamps. But I needed to get this tight since the joint will be visible. So I slammed the two long clamps I own on the bench:

A day later, the edgebanding was part of the panel and I could try the thing in the console:

And here’s the two panels testfitted:

I’m pretty satisfied with the result! The touchscreen will be hung on the front panel. I will reinforce the panels with strips of solid wood glued to the backside in order to keep the plywood straight. I haven’t decided how I’m going to fasten the front panels yet. The inner panels (on eacth side of the keyboards, not the angled front panel) is inserted into the dado I made earlier and screwed to the top frame.

I had to see how the console will look with the pipes in place. Here goes:

I am going to cut the pipes just below the upper edge of the frame. Cruel, but I have to.

How’s that for motivation???

Ideally, the opening for the pipes would’ve been extended downwards, but that would have complicated the build, and the symmetry of the console would perhaps be poorer.

And here’s the current status of the build:

Still a lot of work left, but it looks very good! And this thing is big! I can’t wait to get it into my livingroom! It’s going to look awesome.

Progress is kind of slow, but I do not want to loose my motivation and let the project become a beast of duty rather than a great way to spend my spare time. Fortunately, I can play organ using the current setup. The progress is also slowed down because the workshop is very small, and I spend a lot of time setting up tools. I would love to have a dedicated workshop with space for a permanent setup of all the machines. But I manage.

Update 20. October 2010

Screwing up. That phrase could mean a lot of things, but fortunately in this case – I mean it literally. I cut a sheet of plywood to shape and made a back wall for the console. Before, it was kind of wobbly and there was no straight angles between the different parts what so ever. Boy, did that change!

I predrilled, countersunk and screwed 60 – sixty! – screws in order to secure the back wall solidly to the console. That proved to be “enough”! The back panel is screwed to the sidewalls, the keyboard bed and the top frame. Here’s an image showing some details:

I marked the plywood with a centerline following the frame behind it. I then used the compass with a pencil mounted in it to mark the screw locations. Drill, countersink and screw. Repeat 59 more times…

I’ve stated in the Hauptwerk forums that I’m very happy that the images I take hides my mistakes to some degree. Oh, well! In the image above, a couple of mistakes is pretty obvious. I had my mind elsewhere and marked the centerline too low. Don’t ask me how I did that, ’cause I don’t know! Then you’ve probably already noticed that the nearest parts of the frame doesn’t quite “add up”. There’s a piece of wood missingĂ‚ on the horizontal frame piece, and the lowest vertical piece is slightly offset from the back edge of the horizontal one. That really bugs me, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Luckily, that part of the console will stand against a wall and never be shown. Hide your mistakes!

Anyway. I routed a 45 degree bevel on the edge of the backwall in order to make it less visible from the sides:

It’s about a month since the last update, but that’s just because I doubt that images of drying varnish is of any interest. I’ve added two coats of clear, semi-gloss waterbased varnish to all the “inside” surfaces. I’m going to do the outside last because of the risk of damaging the finish when I’m working on the project. I’ve also constructed a small frame / platformĂ‚ on which I’ve placed the console. The garage floor was anything but straight and true, and I needed a flat surface so that all the angles would be 90 degrees. Worked just great!

I’ve worked on the “stop jambs” as well, and the “keyboard compartment” is almost finished. Here’s how the side wall is mounted:

The “jamb room”:

The speakers will be placed on a platform at the back of the “jamb room”. I am also considering a drawer at the bottom of the “stop jamb” for a computer keyboard – sometimes I’m going to need one, and I do not want a wireless keyboard for that – that’s just another problem waiting to happen: no batteries left when I really need it!

Here’s how the inside of the “keyboard room” looks like:

The vertical piece of wood is just screwed to the back wall and the jamb wall. There’s one on the other side as well, and the music stand will be mounted to those two “pillars”.

And a little overview of the console as it stands today:

Now the difficult tasks lies ahead. The front of the stop jambs will be angled, and I have to find a way to mount the front pieces so that they can hold a touchscreen without any problems. And it need to look decent too…

And that’s all for now. I am working on the project at least once a week, but I have to admit that it is hard to keep the motivation up. On the other hand, looking at the console without looking for errors or obstacles makes me feel proud and happy. Not to mention when my father calls me “der orgelbauer”. You can’t put a price on that!

Update 2020:

Since I’ve moved to another part of the country, the console project is dead for now. I left the pieces behind when I moved – I did not have the space for them in the moving van.

But things are looking good: a new workshop is coming to life in the (former) garage in our house, and I have felled a HUGE oak which will be sawn into planks. In a couple of years, when the lumber is dried enough, I can start over on a new console built entirely from oak. I’ve learned a lot more about woodworking in the meantime, so I expect a better result than what I would’ve gotten before.

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