Building a pedal board

Update 08.06.2009

The support bars running from the aft L frame part to the front L frame part is finished – had to adjust a little here and there. I placed the frame on the floor and adjusted it so that everything was placed correctly. The next job will be to drill a few holes for wooden dowels, and the frame is ready for the sideboards.

I have glued seven of the thirteen sharps today – the rest will be glued tomorrow. Then all the pedals are ready for the last sanding before I break out the brush and the can of lacquer!

I started by drilling the holes in the pedals for the wooden dowels

I applied glue to the playing surface, which I also did with the naturals. That way, the glue gets exactly where it should, and not outside the playing surface area on the pedal – which means easier cleanup afterwards! Notice the “C#2” on the playing surface – you better mark all the parts so you know what goes where! Remember, all the pedals are different! I used the center marking tools on each playing surface which I mated to the individual pedal. I sorted the playing surfaces so that each group had the same form – I did not manage to form all the sharps exactly like each other, but I doubt anybody will notice – and it won’t matter anyway.

Here’s a shot of how an assembled sharp pedal looks like:

I used a single clamp to press the playing surface to the pedal during curing. This proved to be more than adequate:

Here’s a two images of all the sharp pedals, placed in the correct order:

The pedals looks like they are bent and warped, but that’s just because they rest on a pile of cutoffs, tools and other thingamabobs in the workbench. 

And finally a shot ca. directly above the sharps. The aft of the pedal was aligned in this image, so you can easily see the curvature on the sharps as well as the inverse curvature on the tip of the pedals. The sharps needs another coat of walnut/dark oak stain, and then they are ready for the lacquer

That’s it for today – Hopefully, I am writing in such a way that you can follow the progress – and hopefully, copy some of my ideas. Should you have any questions, just send me an email and I’ll give you the best answer I can.

I got an email from Alex, India, today. He asked me if it wouldn’t be a better idea to make the pedals from one single piece, and if the steel hinges won’t break due to metal fatigue.

By making the pedals in to parts, you will almost eliminate any twisting or warping of the pedals over time, as the wood dries, expand, contract and so on due to changes in humidity and temperature. In addition, should one of the playing surfaces be damaged, it is a LOT easier to replace the playing surface instead of making a new pedal. Should any of your pedals be out of alignment before you glue them, you can correct it by clamping two pedals on top of each other to a straight and level workbench. I experienced a few “bananas”, but all the pedals are now straight as a drill sergeant!

As for the hinges: I am considering swopping’em for thicker ones, but that is only because the ones I have now tends to bend easily. Should this be a problem I will exchange them for thicker ones – but I think they are good enough. Certainly not a big job to replace them, should I need to. The concern about breaking due to metal fatigue won’t be an issue for at least 20+ years. This pedal board will not be used as hard and as much as a “real” one in a church. Plus, the actual movement at the back is tiny. 70 cm forward, and the total movement will be just 18mm.

Onwards and upwards – at this point, I can see the end of this project clearly. A few weeks, and it should be finished…

Update 28.06.2009

Since the last update, I’ve cleaned up excess glue from all the pedals, sanded and given them the final shape. I’ve also done quite a lot of work on the frame – and I had a very good moment when I checked if the front and aft portion of the frame lined up center to center:

I placed the frame vertically so that the aft part could move freely from side to side. Then I placed a large square on top of it, checking if the center of the front and aft part lined up. This is the result:

It lined up within a millimeter! I am VERY pleased with this result, and it proves that working with accurate tools pays off in the end! If you apply metal-working accuracy to a wooden project, you can’t expect the end result to be 100% accurate – but you will get very close!

All I have to do is to fill in some gaps on the wooden thingy’s that runs from the aft to the front part of the frame, and the frame is ready for the side panels.

As for the pedals, I mentioned that I’ve sanded and shaped the pedals. I also “wet stained” them – this is a process that makes it much more easy to get a perfect finish in the end. I applied water with a sponge, making the wood grains raise from the surface (this happens when moisture is applied). The process goes as follows: Sand to a smooth surface (and hardwood will be VERY smooth, almost like metal!), apply water (do not soak), let dry. Repeat 1-2 times, and you are ready for the final finish (staining / lacquer).

In the image above, you can see that the leftmost pedal is drying up pretty quick. The sponge is not wet nor just moist. You should get a very thin “film” of water on the surface when doing this.

By wet-staining like this, you avoid a time-consuming job when adding lacquer The wood grains are “pre-raised”, so there should be very little sanding required after the first layer of lacquer And since water is free, you save on the amount of lacquer needed! If you do NOT wet-stain like this, you will have to sand off the first layer of lacquer almost completely to get a good finish without bumps.

I added the final coat of dark oak / walnut stain to the sharps after I glued the playing surfaces. By doing it this way, I got rid of some sanding marks from when I removed excess glue. I used masking tape to prevent the stain from messing up the finish of the pedals bottom piece. After a few coats of lacquer, the sharps are ready for installing the leather in the slots at the front, and they’re finished!

I decided to do a test to see if my ideas and calculations were correct in regards to the pedal action. I therefore mounted a steel dowel in the front frame part, mounted one pedal and added a spring to it to check how the pedal action will be.

I used a scrap piece of wood to mimic the toe board where the pedal will “rest” when not played.

In the picture above the pedal is depressed fully. The clearance between the spring and the “floor” is adequate, which was one of the primary concerns for this test. The spring is inserted 10mm below the top of the front frame part. This proved to give a very good “touch” on the pedal – not too firm, not too loose. I placed bits of leather under and over the tip of the pedal, and the rattling became much less audible. The planned 5mm felt should be perfect, I hope.

One week to go, and then I have summer vacation for 3 weeks. Hopefully the pedal board is finished by the end of the vacation! The testing of the pedal certainly gave me a solid kick in the rear to finish off this project. Can’t wait to play on the pedal board. I do not mean to brag about myself, but I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished here! I had no woodworking skills to speak of from before, but I’ve learned along the way. And hopefully proved that this is something that anybody could do, given access to a modest workshop and some tools. There’s a few things I would’ve done differently, but since this is plowing new grounds for me (and to some degree re-inventing the wheel), minor hiccups is accepted.