Building a pedal board

Update 20.07.2009

I’ve started work on the bench while I let some ideas mature – plus, I really needed a break from the pedal board!

But – some work has been done! The front toe board is glued and turned out great. I used a lot more clamps, but still got a few gaps. Which proves that bending wood should be done by bending over a form, not into. Oh well, one learns…

Here’s an image of the three strips of oak I used for the toe boards:

These are 5mm thick, which means that the toe boards will be 15mm thick – about the same as the side panels. Should be more than strong enough!

I also mounted all the dowel pins – the inner frame is now completed!

Now I need to mount some felt and some big wooden dowels. I will screw the toe board to the wooden dowels to secure it in place. There will be some felt underneath the toe board as well, which should dampen the noise from the pedals very good.

I still need to do the final sanding on the pedals, and then finish them with clear lacquer. I keep putting that job off for some reason… 

Be sure to check out the organ bench I’m building as well!

Update 24.07.2009

The main focus now is to complete the bench, but I haven’t forgotten the pedal board! I added the first coat of clear lacquer to the sharps. I’m going to let the first coat harden thoroughly before I scrape and sand the surface in order to get a perfect finish. Here’s my high-tech jig for drying pedals:

Note the inverse curvature? That is essential for the drying process, since… Nah, just kidding. I simply used some scrap material – namely the cutout part of my toe board jig. I slammed a lot of nails into it and clamped it to a shelf in the workshop. I then added the lacquer with a VERY fine brush, and hung the pedals to dry. Simple and effective!

Update 07.08.2009

I haven’t done much on the pedal board lately. The bench has taken most of my time. But today I started on a job I’ve dreaded: the first coat of lacquer to the naturals! Not because it is difficult or anything – I just hate brushes!

Only 6 more to go. I am going to apply two coats on every side of each pedal, and then add 4-5 coats on the playing surfaces – should be adequate for the wear the pedals will get over the years.

I got to play on the organ in the local church, and I can assure you that I’m a LOT more relaxed about the pedal board! The organ’s pedal board had a lot of lateral “play”, but I did not notice it when I played it. I also found that the pressure from my springs will be about perfect!

Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store during those 90 minutes! This weekend will be spent on the organ bench – only the bench I’m talking about stands in front of a 42 stop Jemlich organ!

Update 15.08.2009

I’ve worked on the pedal board frame as well as I’ve added the final coat of clear lacquer to the pedals except for the playing surface of the sharps. The naturals now have 4 coats of clear lacquer. I will use very fine grit sanding paper to remove any errors, and then apply a last coat. I then will buff the playing surfaces with furniture polish to make them resistant to dirt – and to make them a bit slippery.

I’ve applied two coats to the sharp pedals (not the playing surfaces). The playing surfaces will be sanded due to some runs in the first coat of lacquer. Then I will add three coats (4 in total) and buff the playing surfaces with polish. The only thing left on the pedals are the holes for the springs underneath, the leather in the slot at the tips – and the magnets that will work the reed switches.

Back to the frame. It is constructed from solid oak boards. The boards is made of a lot of small pieces of oak that are glued together. This type of material is very form-stable, and won’t be malformed over the years. And as a bonus: they are really cheap!

I realized earlier that I forgot to make the aft curved frame piece high enough to accommodate for the “play” in the pedals (18mm / .078″ by AGO standards). I solved that by mounting two pieces of wood under the part:

I will add floor protecting felt to the pieces. I am also considering mounting height-adjustable feet, and the pieces of wood would be an ideal place for that.

I forgot to take pictures of the parts while I was making them, but they are pretty straight-forward to create.

I first made the side pieces. I marked the positions for the L-shaped frame pieces, drilled holes and screwed the panels to the frame. I then marked where the pedals would rest when fully depressed. The top edge of the side panels are slightly higher than the joint between the pedal and the playing surface.

As you can see, I’ve added a “step” in the side panel. The step is placed at the aft edge of the outermost sharps, in order to extend the circle that the playing surfaces of the sharps create. I also removed some material at the end where the aft curved heelboard will be mounted. All the cuts except the curved “step” and the area I removed for the heelboard, was done with the router, a straight-bit and a straight-edge. That creates VERY smooth cuts! Check the organ bench page to see how it’s done. I used a pull-saw to remove material for the heelboard. I then smoothed the edge with files and sanding paper.

And here’s the great part: After I made the first panel (remember: I smoothed all the edges close to the final result), i traced the outline from the first panel on the second panel board. I then used the band saw to remove the excess material, while keeping the cut about 1mm (.039″) from the line. I then clamped the two boards firmly to the workbench, and used a copying bit in the router to trim away the excess material. A light sanding, and the two panels are now identical! I love my plunge router!

I used a trimming plane to shape the aft edge on both side panels so that the edges lined up with the aft curved frame piece. I then cut another solid oak board to length and drilled then screwed the aft panel to the side panels. I traced the curve from the aft curved frame piece onto the aft panel, removed the panel and cut the curve in it (by keeping away from the line slightly).

Tip of the day: If you don’t own a oscillating spindle sander, buy a sanding wheel and mount it in your drill press. Adjust the table on the drill press so that it almost touches the sanding wheel. Clamp the vacuum hose to the “exhaust” side, and you’ve got yourself a spindle sander! And you will have perfect control over the work piece, sanding away the last material.

I then grabbed the plane and used it to adjust the square edges of the aft panel to the ~22.5° side panels. A light sanding, and the frame now looks awesome!

The next job is to cut the curve in the toe- and heelboard, so that they follow the radius of the playing surfaces of the pedals. Not an easy job, and I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to do it in order to get a good result. But I have some ideas…

Here’s a couple of images of the pedal board with the panels mounted:

(relax, that’s just some spilled paint. No crimes committed here!)

The construction ideas I had for the frame proved to work as planned. The side panels and the support “beams” keeps the whole thing very sturdy – there’s no sideways play in it. Pretty sure it is solid enough. In fact, it is way too rigidly constructed – but at least that means that it won’t fall apart! Shouldn’t be a problem popping it into a real pipe organ in a church (except for the pedals, as they aren’t constructed for tracker-organs).

A view from the front. The curve in the aft panel is clearly visible.

As you can see, I’ve extended the side panels forward of the inner frame. The panels extend about 12cm (4.724″). I am not sure if that’s the final length. I might reduce the “overhang” a bit later on, should it be necessary.

The idea is that I will make a box at the front to house the electronics. In addition, the box will be used as a mounting place for the crescendo and swell pedals. I am planning to build a console too, so the box will eventually be hidden. But who knows what the future brings – I decided to make the pedal board standalone should I ever need to use it without the console (like THAT’S an option I am ready to discuss…).

All in all I am pleased with the work done today. I am really looking forward to applying stain and lacquer to the panels. That will certainly be VERY nice! Oak looks good (and smells good, by the way) whether you stain it or you add clear lacquer to it. Depending on your taste, I recommend using at least a very lightly colored varnish (a hint of yellow or white) before adding lacquer. That will “pop the grain”, or bring out the lines and shapes in the wood. Some might not like that, but to me – that’s really what using wood is all about! If I want a plain surface, I use wood with the least amount of grains and lines – or I paint the thing!

The main focus now is to keep calm and not rush anything! There’s not much left to do before the pedal board is finished, but I am going to keep and to improve the level of craftsmanship till the end. I’ve spent about 6 months worth of work (I had a two month long “break” from the project in february-march), and now is NOT the time to start rushing. Besides, I’ve got a LOT of work to do before my own, self-made digital pipe organ console is finished. Good thing I can play the pedal board in the meantime…