Building a pedal board

Update 31.05.2009

While the pedals get their playing surfaces glued on, I’ve continued work on the sharps and the frame. I can only glue two pedals at the same time, so naturally it will take some time since the glue have a 24-hour curing time. I am using a PVC glue that expands slightly during curing so that any gaps will be filled, resulting in a very strong bond. As a bonus, all the pedals will be completely straight because I clamp them to the workbench which is straight. This takes care of any uneven pieces that could result in bent or misshaped pedals.

I’m using clamps spaced evenly throughout the pedal. These clamps can produce up to 150 kg’s (330 lbs) of pressure force. More than adequate for such a job! I end each work-session with gluing two new pedals, so that I can use the workbench for other jobs during the time it takes for all the pedals to be glued.

I’ve also shaped, sanded and painted the sharps:

I bought some more ramin planks, and will get them adjusted and dimensioned so that I can make the last sharps.

Construction of the frame has commenced too. I’ve cut the curved front- and back pieces to their correct length, with the correct angle on the cut to match the angle of the side panels. I have abandoned the idea of a “steel ladder” and opt for a solution with two wood beams running along the gap between pedals EEE and FFF, and E and F (E and F in the lowermost and uppermost octave). This solution won’t interfere with the springs underneath the neighboring pedals, and will have a pleasant visual appearance too. I plan to add a board underneath each curved frame part, creating an L shape. This board will help keeping the pedal board straight, in addition to creating a perfect base for some rubber pads as floor protection. All in all, this should make for a very solid and reliable construction.

I placed the CCC, EE and G pedal on the frame to check for alignment and correct spacing between the front and aft curved frame piece. Notice that the CCC pedal has its playing surface mounted.

The wood beams and the curved frame pieces have “interlocking” cutouts, creating a very rigid bond when they’re mounted onto each other. The back frame piece., however, won’t have a cutout. Instead, it will rest in the cutouts on the wood beams. This will result in a downward slope on the pedals from the back to the front, which is essential to get the correct height difference between the naturals and the sharps when you’re playing.

As soon as I’ve got the newly bought ramin planks adjusted and made ready for use (and the oak side- and back panels are bought), the work on the frame should get a real leap forward. I’ve also spotted some material for the toe boards. I was thinking about using plywood, but wasn’t too thrilled about that since the edges would get an unwanted layer-look. I’ll investigate more on that.

Getting the correct width on the frame was a real milestone for me – finally, I could picture the end result! A great motivation for sure! And as I’ve stated many times over: visualizing along the way is essential – both for avoiding errors and to get a motivation boost.

As a personal side note, I can only recommend a project like this! It gives great pleasure watching the work of your own hands and mind come to life before you. I get a very good feeling when I see that my ideas and solutions is proven right – and I love the fact that I am learning woodworking along the way. I started out on this project with just basic skills – skills that almost everyone should have, given they’ve ever touched a hammer or a piece of sanding paper! Of course I have an advantage in some areas, since I’ve worked in a furniture shop for many, many years. Therefore I have some knowledge about which type of joints I should use for different areas, and some knowledge about wood (albeit very limited).

Nobody should be scared of doing something like this. If you set your mind, will and motivation to it, there’s very little you can’t do. In some cases, one might not have access to a workshop like I do – but that only means that you will have to create the drawings so that you can get someone to make all the parts for you. The assembly and the finishing is something you can do in your living-room (especially with the water based products available today).

Do not get me wrong – there’s NOTHING wrong with ordering plug-and-play products from Classic organworks or similar companies, and there is nothing wrong with their products. But think about the rewarding feeling you can have, playing some Bach, Vierne or Purcell on a pedal board you’ve made with your own hands!

Update 06.06.2009

I’ve done a decent amount of work today! I started by sanding the sharps for the final coat of brown varnish, and drilled holes for wooden dowels similar to the playing surfaces on the naturals.

I did a fair amount of work on the frame too. I decided to add a board underneath the front and aft curved piece in order to accomplish more sideways stability, gaining height above the floor and something to mount rubber or felt pads to for floor protection. This solution turned out great! The front and aft parts are now L-shaped. I installed wood dowels to give more strength to the joint – and the dowels will make sure the curved piece and the plank underneath line up perfectly when they are glued together. I also used the miter saw to cut the angled ends on the boards:

This tool is great for cutting exact angles. Just remember to secure the saw to the workbench, and to secure the wood to the saw. One hand clamps are fantastic tools! I use them all the time. Be sure to buy good quality ones, since the cheap products often doesn’t give you enough pressure – and they wear out fast.

As you can see: a very clean cut. You won’t have to do a lot of filing and sanding here…

Here’s an image of the aft part, showing the dowels:

I placed the dowels so that they do not interfere with the screws that hold the pedals. For the front piece, I stayed away from the areas where the steel guide pins will be fitted. I thought it would be a bad idea placing a wood dowel so that it would collide with any screw or guide pin – those better be mounted in uniform wood.

And in the image above, the aft L-shaped frame part is completed. I haven’t glued them together yet – I will only do that after I’ve finished off the frame parts. There’s always a modification or adjustment needed…

At this point, I needed to check whether my assumptions were correct. I therefore placed the frame parts on the floor and adjusted them so that they lined up perfectly:

As you can see, there’s two wooden beams running from the front to the aft portion. These beams are inserted into slots in the front curved piece, and will be secured by wood dowels, screws and glue. When the side panels are mounted, the frame will be very sturdy – I doubt there will be any sideways “play” in it!

Here’s a cross-section drawing of this setup:

And then I placed all the pedals on the frame to check how things are coming together:

Do I have to tell you that this was a remarkable milestone for me,
and that I was like a kid in a candy store?

The curvature is clearly visible.

In the above image, the radiation is very clear. Also note the slots in the front of each pedal.

Finally, you can clearly spot the L-shaped frame parts.

Folks, let me remind you how this pile of wood did look like before I started working:

I think I’ve earned the right to be very proud of myself at this point! I started with nothing but some measurements, some tools and what you see in the image above. I did not have any woodworking skills apart from the very basic – I knew how to use a file, how to drill a hole…

The feeling of accomplishment is great! The thing that matters most, however, is that my father is proud of me and what I’ve done. To get his approval – not in so many words, but there was no doubt when I looked at him while he studied the contrapment in the images above – means a lot to me! Dad, this is for you: If I become only half the man you are, I have done well!
At this point I probably should say that I also knows that he, deep inside, would like to have something similar!  Well – he now knows how to do it! 

Another milestone was reached just before I ended today’s work – I glued the LAST NATURALS!

19 naturals ready for the final sanding and adjusting! The sharps will be glued next, but they should take less time since I will be able to glue more than two at once.

The next on my list is to finish off the frame, cutting the steel guide pins and drilling their holes in the front frame part. After I’ve mounted everything together one more time, I am ready for the most boring part: varnishing and getting the desired finish. I’m also looking for some thin oak for the toe boards.