Building a pedal board

But enough talk: Here’s the fruit of almost a years worth of work, splinters, glue, dust, sneezing, sore hands, blisters, stained fingers… In short, here’s the pedal board:

And here’s two images of how the pedal board looks when placed under the organ bench (yes, the bench is faced the wrong way, but that’s because it is faced the keyboards! The pedal board will go on the other side when the electronics are mounted!)

Now I have to find the best way to mount the electronics, and the pedal board is finished. Next up will be adding swell/crescendo pedals and some toe pistons.

Man, I hope I haven’t forgotten how to play pedals! 

Update 15.11.2009 – FINISHED!

Finally, the big moment arrived yesterday! I got to play my self-built pedal board! What a moment that was!

But let’s see the final steps. I glued the magnets to the tip of each pedal with epoxy (hardens in 15 minutes). I used a piece of tape to hold the magnet in place while the epoxy was hardening – and it helped keeping my fingers away from the sticky epoxy! The magnets are pretty strong, so they wanted to “jump” on to the steel dowel. The tape helped, plus I checked the magnets regularly and pushed them down if needed. A couple of minutes, and the epoxy had hardened enough so that the magnets stayed in place.

Then the big question: how to mount the reed switches? I’ve tossed and turned my brain for ideas on the simplest way to do so, but eventually I decided to use a proven method that I found at the forums – a simple piece of wood with holes drilled near the edge for the reed switches and some hot glue (using a glue gun with melting glue).

I initially mounted the piece of wood, then positioned each switch within the hole so that I got consistent “speaking point” on all the pedals. I then glued the switches in place with the glue gun. I squeezed a little glue into each hole, then added a nice blob of glue underneath. I also filled the holes on top so that the switches won’t move at all. Tip: drill the holes first, then use a table sander to make the wood as thin as you can (about 1mm from the edge of the holes should do nicely – thinner than that, and you might damage the wall in the hole). Some of the pedals was a bit longer than the rest, but I solved that by removing some material on the switch holders. In the picture above, the wooden holder is actually thicker beneath the curved frame piece since the pedals are a bit too long. If you make your own pedal board, make sure that all the pedal tips are even at the front.

I then mounted the mpc32xr card from (now replaced with the smaller mpc32xrs) to the thick foot support using screws. I also made four small wooden standoffs to hold the card off the surface. You’ll notice a black wire going under the card. I couldn’t find any power adapters with the correct tip, so I had to hard-wire the adapter to the board. Not an ideal solution, but it works just great. There are three contact points for the power plug on the card. If you need to hard-wire it, you’ll better use a multimeter to determine which contacts you should use (polarity doesn’t matter since this card can use AC as well as DC, and it fixes the polarity internally). On the mpc32xr card I have, the two contacts that sits opposite each other are the two needed. The one nearest the edge of the card and the one right next to it is connected to each other (you can actually trace the leads on the board).

And here’s an image showing the card and the reed switches in place:

I still need to fasten the wire with zip-ties, and I also need to make the back covers. I also found that the G1 needs a little tweaking since the magnet are a bit too high, which results in the note stopping if you press the pedal down hard. There’s a “sweet spot” on the switches if you move the magnet up and down the switch where the switch deactivates. Perhaps using longer magnets would fix this issue? I do not know. With the supplied magnets, the “speaking range” of each pedal is somewhat limited. It doesn’t matter that much, but could possibly be a problem on fast pedal passages. Time will show.

And now for the grand finale – the current setup I have! But first, let us take a moment and look at the original setup:

That was a pretty okay setup that proved to work just beautifully, but of course I was pretty limited by the computer, and the upper keyboard was WAY too high.

A year has passed, the computer is exchanged with a 8 gigabyte, dual core thing with three big organs. The keyboards are gone too, exchanged with a keyboard stack with three M-Audio Keystation 61 ES. The chair is placed back at the dining table where it belongs, and my self-built organ bench has taken its place. And finally – the pedal board has been put to good use. I also used a big desk to place everything on. During this winter I will plan my console, which will replace the desk.

This, ladies and gentlemen, fellow keyboard boxers and Hauptwerkians, is how my setup looks today, November 15th 2009:

A decent music stand is on its way, and the desk needs to be about 10 cm higher – but for now, I’m going to play all the organ pieces I haven’t played in a LONG time! In the image above, the Haverhill Old Independent Church Binns organ is loaded, and the score is Prière Ă   Notre-Dame by LĂ©on Böellmann. Perhaps a CavaillĂ©-Coll organ is better suited for that piece? No problem at all! I do have a CavaillĂ©-Coll organ ready on the computer!

A BIG thank you to all the nice comments, emails and help I’ve got from all my friends around the world that have followed this project. You all are a part of this, and your contributions has made a life-long dream come to life! A special thank you goes to Brett Milan and his associates, for creating Hauptwerk. Without this remarkable software, my dream would perhaps never been a reality.

And with that, I am finished with the pedal board. It feels GOOD! The next task will be planning the console. The goal is to end up with something that looks decent enough to be placed in the living room. I think I’ve got a very good start!

Do you dream of having a pipe organ you can play whenever you want? Now you know how you can do that without spending a LOT of money! If I could do this, you can too! I didn’t know diddly-squat about woodworking (apart from a few basic skills everybody learns at school, at least here in Norway). But I’ve learned along the way, and I’ve invested in cheap, but good quality tools. I also found that using as high precision as possible and not rushing anything (building the pedal board took a year, but I haven’t worked excessively…) result in good quality. And – I’ve been way too pessimistic about the durability of my work. This thing could go into a church any day!

I try to stay humble about this, but… MAN, I AM PROUD OF MYSELF! Look at what I’ve done!

Now start your own project! But remember to share your work with the world. A hobby tastes best when shared!*

*In Norway we actually have a chocolate bar called Hobby. But the chocolate tastes best when you eat it alone! 

PS: I am in NO way a skilled craftsman. But I have imagination and the will to do this. By using the time I need and don’t rush anything, there is no reason why the end product shouldn’t look like a professional job. I spend a lot of time doing research and planning, and I try out concepts and ideas where I can to save money and labor. A good advice is to talk to professionals whenever you run into a snag. How to keep bolts from coming loose? Talk to someone that sells nuts and bolts to professionals (the answer was a Lock-Tite product). Which glue to use? Talk to someone that works in related fields, or someone that has a “woodworking hobby”.

There is no reason why ANYBODY couldn’t do anything they set their mind to if they are willing to invest time, labor and money into it. The limitations of mankind lie in every souls mind. And Mythbusters at the Discovery channel has proven that old dogs CAN learn new tricks… 🙂