Building a pedal board

Update 19.08.2009

I’ve worked on the toe- / heelboards today. I traced the arc that follows the pedals by using the same technique I used when I marked where the playing surfaces should be mounted on the pedals. I used the same tool, but drilled two new holes some distance from the ones already made in the tool. I then placed three pedals (C1, E2 and G3) at their locations, and used them to align the tool. I then placed the toe board and the heelboard on the frame, and traced a line by swinging the tool from side to side. Simple and easy!

I then used the band saw to cut away the excess material, then used my impromptu spindle sander (the drill press with a sanding wheel mounted) to get the final shape. VERY smooth and accurate!

To cut the width, I used a flush trim saw and a file. By holding the saw flat against the sides of the frame while the curved heelboard was clamped in place, I made the cut flush with the sides. I will use the same technique when I’m cutting the toe board tomorrow.

I accidentally cut too much material from the frame where the heelboard will be mounted, but that can easily be solved by a strip of oak glued in place. Once the finish is applied, nobody will notice.

In order to check my measurements and to see how everything fit together, it was time for another “dry assembly”. Success!!!

For each pedal I placed in the pedal board, my grin just got bigger and bigger! This looks AWESOME!

The color on the pedals are just great – the Ramin wood is beautiful with clear lacquer on it!

*Note: Ramin is actually an endangered wood. I did not know that when I bought it, but I won’t be using any more Ramin if I can avoid it. Sadly there aren’t many hardwood dealers here in Norway, so I’ll have to use what ever I can get. I will try to avoid using endangered wood species in the future.

Here’s a shot of the heelboard, and the area where I cut away too much material. Oh well, the bench will cover it up anyway…

Note the grain pattern in the heelboard. I chose that particular board to be the top one. Always plan such things in advance, once the glue is set there’s no turning back…

And finally, a shot of the front area. Note that since there’s no springs under the pedals, they are fully depressed in the image. Once the springs are mounted, they will rest higher in the frame. Can’t wait to see how the frame will look once I get some stain on it. Bet it will be gorgeous!

Update 01.11.2009

It’s been quite a while since the last update on this part of the project. In the meantime, I’ve finished the key stack and the organ bench. I decided to put the pedal board on hold for a while for several reasons. Firstly, I was kind of fed up with the pedal board and had discovered a few snags that I needed to figure out. I was also fed up with having three keyboards stacked on top of each other – the topmost kept sliding down when I played. And I needed a higher seat to play comfortably. Thus – I made the key stack and the organ bench.

While I was working on the bench and the key stack, I did some work on the pedal board. I didn’t take images of everything I did, since I mainly trimmed and shaped various parts to fit.

I made some L-shaped blocks for mounting the curved toe board to the frame. The blocks are fastened with a wooden dowel and a screw. The dowel goes into the frame much like the steel dowel pins. I did not glue the block to the frame since I did want to be able to alter the design should I need to at a later stage. In retrospect, that proved to be unnecessary.

Here’s a close-up of one block and how the curved toe board is mounted.

And that’s pretty much how the pedal board was left since the summer. But the work has continued!

I needed to complete the toe board and add a “step” to the frame so that I can rest my feet there – it makes playing the third manual much more comfortable amongst other things. I cut a thick oak plank to length, then routed a groove for a curved panel board to fill the gap between the plank and the curved toe board. I used the leftover piece of Ramin wood from when I made the curved frame pieces (never throw away cutoffs until you KNOW you don’t need it!). Another purpose for the foot rest is that it adds support to the curved toe board, which will hold the combined force from all the pedal being pressed up by the springs. In addition to the forces involved when the pedals slam up and down during playing.

I fastened the curved board to the oak plank with wooden dowels and glue. Before I glued the pieces together, I did a dry-assembly, marked the curve from the curved toe board on the ramin board. I then sanded the board to shape. Fits like a glove!

Here’s a picture of the foot support and how it’s going to be mounted. I screwed two scrap pieces from the pedals (the tips I cut off) to the frame and then simply screwed the foot support to the two pieces. Simple and effective! I’ll add an image of that later on.

I also routed a curved profile to the foot support. It covers two goals: it looks nice and the edge won’t be sharp to the feet (I do not play with shoes all the time…). Plus – a curve on the edge prevents the edge from being damaged or splintered during use.

I then whipped out the stain and stained the frame one coat. I still need to add another coat to get the color and coverage I want, then I’ll add a few coats of clear lacquer.

Time for another dry-assembly in order to see that everything turns out the way I wanted. Here’s an image of the whole frame assembled:

An image of the foot support/toe board:

Underneath the foot rest there’s now a little “room” where the electronics will be mounted. I also need to mount felt under the curved toe board and on the curved frame piece so that the pedals don’t make a lot of noise. I also need to mount leather in the slots at the tip of the pedals. I will do that at a very late stage – the workshop is not exactly very clean. Dust and wood chips everywhere, despite my best efforts to vacuum and clean… 

Here’s an image of the middle pedals. Note that I’ve mounted the springs underneath C2-F2. I needed to check how the pedal action will be. Turned out great – the resistance is perfect and there’s literally no lateral play in the pedals! When the leather is added, they will be very stable sideways. I also discovered that the springs makes much noise, so I need to address that.

If you look closely on the curved panel I made from Ramin wood, you’ll notice a lot of shading and color differences. Happened by accident, but turned out great! Ramin is a very “clean” wood, especially compared to the highly figured oak. When I applied the varnish, I needed to thin the varnish in order to get it to spread evenly. I grabbed a bottle and discovered too late that it was Acetone, not White Spirit. The stain can be thinned with White Spirit. Not Acetone! The result, however, was a nice and textured surface on the Ramin wood, which otherwise would have been very plain. Now it looks like it’s supposed to be like that.

Just like champagne – discovered by an accident!

And finally – the pedal board mounted! Note that C2-F2 is higher than the rest of the pedals due to the mounted springs. Can’t wait to get the pedal board home! It looks gorgeous!

It’s been a long road; a year has passed and a LOT of hours has been spent in the workshop. Take another look at the image above, and compare to the initial plan I had:

There’s not much work left to do on the pedal board now. What a relief!!! As soon as I get it home and have played my setup for a while, I’ll start planning my console. I’ll spend the winter playing and planning, then I’ll start building the console next summer.

I also need to make a few “cover pieces” to hide some mistakes here and there. Why not cover a mistake with a decorative piece? Cheating a little can be nice in some cases…

will rest higher in the frame. Can’t wait to see how the frame will look once I get some stain on it. Bet it will be gorgeous!

Update 03.11.2009

I’ve applied the last coat of brown varnish, and this weekend I’ll apply the clear lacquer. I also made a “compartment” at the front of the frame to house the electronics.

Here’s an image of how I fastened the foot rest to the frame:

The small piece of wood is screwed to the foot rest, then I drilled holes through the frame and the small wood piece. I counter-sunk the holes in the frame and screwed two screws from the outside. I used the same method to fasten a plywood sheet that I cut to size to form the “floor” in the compartment.

I screwed the plywood to two of the toe board supports. The middle toe board support was too low, so I cut away some material in the plywood sheet to make room for the middle support. I also used the router to make a groove for a long support thingy at the center. I plan to mount some fibre board to cover the back of the compartment once the electronics is installed:

The inside of the fibre board will be lined with some asphalt sheets I have from an old computer case modification (I used the asphalt sheets to stop the side panels in the case from rattling around). The asphalt sheets have tape on one side – very easy to install.

I haven’t decided on a method for mounting the electronics yet. I need to be able to adjust each reed switch in order to get the exact “speaking point”, which should be when the pedal is pressed half way down.

Not much work left! And boy do the pedal board weigh a lot! I haven’t weighed it yet, but it must be 50-60 kilos (110-132 pounds)! I could barely lift it up on the work bench when all the pedals was installed. Ah, well – that means it won’t move around when I play Bach’s Pedal exercitium…

Update 08.11.2009

Two coats of clear lacquer, and the pedal board is ready for the final assembly!

I started by adding felt strips to the curved frame pieces at the front. I used a special tool for making holes for the dowel pins. I first cut the felt strips to correct length, then I placed the tool on top of the first dowel pin. I then could position the felt strip accurately sideways. The holes was cut at the center of the strip, since I cut the strips to the same width as the curved frame piece. I then put the felt piece on the dowel pin, then placed the tool on the next pin so that I got the exact spacing. This turned out to be a very fast and accurate method.

I then applied contact cement to the felt strips and the frame using a plastic knife.

When the glue stops being sticky, it is ready. I slid the strip down the dowel pins, and pressed it in place. It is important to keep the strip level with the contact surface before the two glued surfaces comes in contact with each other. I then pressed the felt thoroughly to the frame, making sure that the whole strip had full contact. When the glue has hardened, the strip won’t come off easily!

I then proceeded with the pedals. I found that 5mm felt wasn’t enough to make the pedal board as silent as possible, so I added small felt pads on both sides of the pedal. That resulted in a very quiet operation, although a pedal board won’t be dead silent!

I abandoned the idea of using leather in the slots in the tip of each pedal. I cut the slots too narrow for this to work, and I also found that the resistance might be too big. And since there’s very little lateral play in the pedals anyway, I decided to opt for another route. I simply lined the inside of the slots with fabric from an old pair of jeans! The fabric is VERY resistant to wear. And since there’s a little room on each side of the dowels now, the fabric should last a long time.

I cut strips with the same width as the pedals are high, then inserted the fabric in the slots as shown in the image above. That gave me the length for each pedal. I then applied contact cement to the fabric strips and the inside of the slot. By holding the two ends of the strips with one hand, I could utilize the plastic knife to insert the fabric fully into the slot without making contact with the sides of the slot. I then pushed the fabric on to the sides of the slot and used the plastic knife to press the fabric thoroughly to each side of the slot.

I then trimmed the excess fabric, and glued some felt pads on the tip of the pedals:

This proved to be adequate for silent operation. However, if I could have gotten hold of some thicker felt, that would’ve been the best solution. Anyway, this method works too…

Here’s a shot of the felt pads “in use”:

I then mounted the pedal springs. I had pre-drilled holes in each pedal and in the frame piece, using a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the piano wire I used to make the springs. I used a hammer to jam the wire into the holes, and they won’t come out unless i want them to!

I also mounted a felt strip under the heelboard, which press down on the pedals ever so slightly. This quiet the operation as well as stops the pedals from making contact with the heelboard.

You can also spot the screws used to fasten the pedals.

And that’s it! Apart from the back cover, the magnets and the electronics, the pedal board is now finished! I have to figure out the best solution for mounting the reed contacts, so I’ll have to play around with that a bit. I also need to glue one magnet to the tip of each pedal, and make the covers for the back. I also need to mount some felt underneath the pedal board, but I need to find out if that’s enough to dampen the noise of the pedals when they slam up and down.