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Old 07-09-2011, 07:46 AM
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Default What I did on my summer vacation...

You may have noticed that I didn't post much for two weeks, ending last weekend. I was fortunate enough to be on vacation - Sharon and I got 8 blissful days by ourselves at my parent's cabin ("The Shack") in the woods north of Toronto.

I had been very impressed and inspired by that Japanese video of the giant xylophone that played Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring in the woods, using a ball rolling down the xylophone to strike the keys:

YouTube - ‪Lights Out.Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,Touchwood SH-08C‬‏

So I decided to make my own in the woods around The Shack. I decided to limit myself to the tools available at the shack: axe, splitting maul, 2 wedges, small hammer, Japanese saw, 3/4" chisel, really crappy Mastercraft block plane, some nails, Japanese sharpening stones.

I decided to have it play a 7-note arpeggio that is our family's whistle, handed down from generation to generation (I'm at least the 3rd - maybe 4th generation). It's really helpful for finding people in crowds (we're short people). If you know solfeggio, the tune would go "soh soh soh mi mi mi doh".

The first issue was making some boards to support the keys, and some keys. I decided to make the boards by splitting a 4 foot cedar log. I used the axe, splitting maul, wedges and hammer to split the log in half, and then into quarters. Each quarter was triangular in cross section. I then took the two straightest quarters and flattened them into long boards by planing off the wide-end corners, and planing them to the same dimensions. That took about 2 days....

Here are the leftovers of the board making:



The leftover quarters are near the top of the picture.

I needed something to hold the wood while I worked it with the plane and chisel, so I improvised a work bench:



It was the stump - about 2.5 feet across - of an old cherry tree that had been cut down. I hammered big galvanized nails into it to act as bench dogs. It was quite liberating not worrying about ruining the surface of the bench! It worked really well. Way better than some expensive Roubo...

I made the keys out of a maple branch that I split lengthwise into half-rounds. I tuned them by cutting them to length, and tapping them with a stick to hear what note they were playing. They made a lovely "tock" sort-of sound.

I then cut a staircase pattern in the two support boards to take the keys. I was worried about how fast the ball would roll down the ramp, but I didn't have time (or the wood) to experiment much. I then mounted the two support boards between two small maple trees up the hill behind The Shack:



I mounted the keys by drilling holes through the keys into the supports (I forgot to mention that I had a set of drill bits and a big brace - the bits DID NOT fit in the brace. It was quite a challenge...). I then put a bamboo skewer through the hole into the support to hold the key steady. I could still resonate, but wouldn't fall off.



The top key has a little "V" cut into it to locate the ball at the start. I was stumped about what to play the keys with, until I saw a bunch of used golf balls at the village hardware store - 12 for $0.99. Good deal - I got 4.

I mounted the whole thing to the trees with 4 long nails, which I left sticking out of the boards. That allowed me to pull a nail out to give some adjustment to the height and angles of the boards. That way I could make sure that the ball rolled down the center. Sort of.

Okay. Here's a video of the whole thing. Sharon was rolling the ball, and it happened that she was in a bad mood at the time (we were about to leave - the end of our vacation, and I had made her walk up the hill in her Berkenstocks...), so the balls didn't get released quite as gently as one might have liked. But you can get an idea of what was supposed to happen...


The second ball is probably the best one.

My admiration for the gigantic Japanese xylophone kept growing. Controlling the ball speed requires some very precise angles, which I could not achieve.

I'll have to try again next summer...
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I don't have as many Festools as Fred. Or Marcou's, or Brese's, or Lie-Nielsen's, or Lee Valley's, or Blue Spruce's, or Harold and Saxon's, or...

Last edited by Poto; 07-09-2011 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 07-09-2011, 01:17 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Peter,

That was great. Next year you'll have to sneak a small plane along with you to fine tune the work you've already done. You're almost there. Of course, once you get this one done, we're going to expect more.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:17 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Peter,

Very cool, will you be able to leave it in place and add to it each vacation?

Quote:
Sharon was rolling the ball, and it happened that she was in a bad mood at the time (we were about to leave - the end of our vacation, and I had made her walk up the hill in her Berkenstocks...),
I think the real reason she was in a bad mood is that you didn't buy her a Sauer and Steiner plane. It's still not too late.

-Rutager
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:54 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Thanks, Mike and Rutager. Yes, my vision had been to do one about 100 yards long. But it's clear from my work this year that I'd need to either go to power tools, or buy some lumber - it's just too slow making my own boards.

I'm not sure I'd be able to add to this one, Rutager. I didn't pay much attention to where the next tree was...

I think I'd do it slightly differently next time. I was noticing in the Japanese video that each step had a key, and then a ramp that the ball rolled on for a few inches. I think the ramp had some adjusters that controlled how long the ball would roll - that's how they regulated the speed of the ball drops. But to do that you'd need quite long boards - each step would be several inches wide. So again, I think using milled lumber would make life a lot easier.

But perhaps less fun.

Mike, I was thinking during the whole build how much I wished I had a few of the Sauer and Steiner planes. In fact the day after I finished the xylophone Konrad Sauer and his family came out to The Shack to visit and try it out (as well as fish in the pond, clean out a clogged kitchen drain, and generally have fun). Unfortunately he didn't leave a plane for me to smooth things out with...
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:37 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

That's what I call a vacation. I need something to do and it would be so refreshing to have so few choices in the tool department.

If you try it again first pick up a couple of bundles of cedar shingles on the way in. Pick up a small box of nails too. Also, stuff a block plane in a sock when you pack the suitcase.
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Old 07-09-2011, 04:30 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poto View Post

... Sharon was rolling the ball, and it happened that she was in a bad mood at the time (we were about to leave - the end of our vacation, and I had made her walk up the hill in her Berkenstocks...), so the balls didn't get released quite as gently as one might have liked.
Well done, Peter, very creative!

Apparently you haven't yet experienced a genuine bad mood. Had that been my wife, I would've been walking around for several days with the impression of a golf ball in the middle of my forehead.

.
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Old 07-09-2011, 05:01 PM
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Well done, Peter, very creative!

Apparently you haven't yet experienced a genuine bad mood. Had that been my wife, I would've been walking around for several days with the impression of a golf ball in the middle of my forehead.

.
Poor John.

You're right - the mood was more like "slightly testy". About the same as Sharon's mood this morning when I told her about mentioning her mood in that post...

Michael, one of the challenges I set myself was to not buy anything. I confess that I did buy the $39 block plane though. What a piece of crap. It was really instructive to try to use it after using nice planes from LV and BCTW. Astoundingly awful. The very thin blade could be sharpened, but didn't hold an edge. The lever cap wouldn't hold the blade securely. The adjuster was unadjustable. And the blade was so thin that it cut into your hand at the back when holding the plane.

I found out later that I got ripped off on the block plane: I bought it at Canadian Tire for $39. It was only $19 at Home Depot...

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Old 07-09-2011, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
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I found out later that I got ripped off on the block plane: I bought it at Canadian Tire for $39. It was only $19 at Home Depot...


I once found myself up in Cupertino working on a project and I had forgotten to bring a plane. I went to the Home Depot and bought a Buck Brothers block plane for $39.00, thinking it couldn't be THAT bad. I was wrong, it was such a piece of crap that I couldn't even use it. Yet they are still selling them!

However, I have found that it does a great job at holding the door open when needed. Highly recommended!

.
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Old 07-09-2011, 05:45 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poto View Post
You may have noticed that I didn't post much for two weeks, ending last weekend. I was fortunate enough to be on vacation - Sharon and I got 8 blissful days by ourselves at my parent's cabin ("The Shack") in the woods north of Toronto.

I had been very impressed and inspired by that Japanese video of the giant xylophone that played Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring in the woods, using a ball rolling down the xylophone to strike the keys:

YouTube - ‪Lights Out.Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,Touchwood SH-08C‬‏

So I decided to make my own in the woods around The Shack. I decided to limit myself to the tools available at the shack: axe, splitting maul, 2 wedges, small hammer, Japanese saw, 3/4" chisel, really crappy Mastercraft block plane, some nails, Japanese sharpening stones.

I decided to have it play a 7-note arpeggio that is our family's whistle, handed down from generation to generation (I'm at least the 3rd - maybe 4th generation). It's really helpful for finding people in crowds (we're short people). If you know solfeggio, the tune would go "soh soh soh mi mi mi doh".

The first issue was making some boards to support the keys, and some keys. I decided to make the boards by splitting a 4 foot cedar log. I used the axe, splitting maul, wedges and hammer to split the log in half, and then into quarters. Each quarter was triangular in cross section. I then took the two straightest quarters and flattened them into long boards by planing off the wide-end corners, and planing them to the same dimensions. That took about 2 days....

Here are the leftovers of the board making:



The leftover quarters are near the top of the picture.

I needed something to hold the wood while I worked it with the plane and chisel, so I improvised a work bench:



It was the stump - about 2.5 feet across - of an old cherry tree that had been cut down. I hammered big galvanized nails into it to act as bench dogs. It was quite liberating not worrying about ruining the surface of the bench! It worked really well. Way better than some expensive Roubo...

I made the keys out of a maple branch that I split lengthwise into half-rounds. I tuned them by cutting them to length, and tapping them with a stick to hear what note they were playing. They made a lovely "tock" sort-of sound.

I then cut a staircase pattern in the two support boards to take the keys. I was worried about how fast the ball would roll down the ramp, but I didn't have time (or the wood) to experiment much. I then mounted the two support boards between two small maple trees up the hill behind The Shack:



I mounted the keys by drilling holes through the keys into the supports (I forgot to mention that I had a set of drill bits and a big brace - the bits DID NOT fit in the brace. It was quite a challenge...). I then put a bamboo skewer through the hole into the support to hold the key steady. I could still resonate, but wouldn't fall off.



The top key has a little "V" cut into it to locate the ball at the start. I was stumped about what to play the keys with, until I saw a bunch of used golf balls at the village hardware store - 12 for $0.99. Good deal - I got 4.

I mounted the whole thing to the trees with 4 long nails, which I left sticking out of the boards. That allowed me to pull a nail out to give some adjustment to the height and angles of the boards. That way I could make sure that the ball rolled down the center. Sort of.

Okay. Here's a video of the whole thing. Sharon was rolling the ball, and it happened that she was in a bad mood at the time (we were about to leave - the end of our vacation, and I had made her walk up the hill in her Berkenstocks...), so the balls didn't get released quite as gently as one might have liked. But you can get an idea of what was supposed to happen...

YouTube - ‪TreeXylophone.MPG‬‏

The second ball is probably the best one.

My admiration for the gigantic Japanese xylophone kept growing. Controlling the ball speed requires some very precise angles, which I could not achieve.

I'll have to try again next summer...
Peter,

That was really awesome and so much better when I could see as well as hear it. It must have been a blast making that. Given what you just made you can now really imagine what it took for the giant Japanese job.

Fred
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Old 07-09-2011, 05:48 PM
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Default Re: What I did on my summer vacation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by joraft View Post
I once found myself up in Cupertino working on a project and I had forgotten to bring a plane. I went to the Home Depot and bought a Buck Brothers block plane for $39.00, thinking it couldn't be THAT bad. I was wrong, it was such a piece of crap that I couldn't even use it. Yet they are still selling them!

However, I have found that it does a great job at holding the door open when needed. Highly recommended!

.
John,

If I recall correctly you went out and bought some quite expensive blades for that Buck Brothers plane. It seemed that the blades made a huge difference. It also amazed you that Home Depot was selling those blades.

Fred
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Kapex, OF2200,Domino,TS 75, Trion PS 300, RO 150, RO 90, ETS 150/5, ETS 150/3, DTS 400, RS 400, LS 130, RS 2, Deltex 93, RAS 115, CT 33, CT 22, CT 26 CT Midi, OF 1400, MFK 700, C 12, LR 32 3, Shinex, MFT/3s, 3 MFT 1080s, WCR 1000, UG-KA-SET, 10 Sysports, 2 Walko's, Marcou's J20A, S20A, M12, S45, S55A, VSP 40, Brese 650-55J, Sauer & Steiner XSNo.4, SS Jointer, A5 Desert Ironwood and #4 Damascus, Knew Concepts 8 inch Fretsaw, Knew Concepts 5 inch Titanium Fretsaw, Hammer K3 48x48, Hammer A3 31
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