Tag: frame

Premier Xylophone Repair (part 2) (Job no: 1281)

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With the new, simplified trolley built in part one and away being painted, I turned my attentions to repairing the note bed of this Premier Xylophone. Obviously it is a good excuse to get out my longest clamps!


What I didn’t say in the video is that the pegs were originally glued in with a clear silicon. I have seen this technique used before, and really don’t understand why. If you have used it to seal around window panes, bath panels, or the kitchen sink, you will understand that the real reasons are that it is really cheap, comes in a well designed tube so that it can get into awkward corners and stays wet in that tube for a long time. This is useful in a factory, it means that the lid can be left off overnight without the glue spoiling.

However what I don’t understand, and maybe I need to mull it over more, is why silicon sealant would be used to secure a structural joint. Surely the very same attributes that make it perfect for bathrooms – water-resistant, flexible, gap filling and slow cure, make it the worst choice for musical instrument manufacture, furthermore it will absorb vibrations and deaden resonance. Did I mention that it is gap filling and you can leave the lid off overnight?

The problem for me of course is that I have to remove all the silicon goo because nothing else will stick to it.

I do use synthetic glues, they are great in the right place, easy to use, easy to clean off the excess, good shelf life, etc. But more and more I choose to use animal glue, after all it has all the same attributes whilst using it and it is exceptionally strong. It is not water-resistant, but that means it is easy to un-glue something, so for me the only down side is that it takes longer to use. Even then it only takes longer if you forget to warm it up before you need it and have to wait; what a disaster you have to make a cup of tea.

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Premier Xylophone Completion (part 2) (Job No: 1291)

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There is not very much left to do on this Premier xylophone since the vast majority of the work was modifying the metal trolley which was shown in part one. As with most instruments, finishing (by which I mean applying a finish, paint, varnish, polish, etc) happens towards the end of the process. I suppose it is like decorating a room in your house, there is a lot of preparatory work then the final coat goes on and everything comes together.

However unlike decorating, applying a finish to an instrument is not finishing an instrument. The final process is what is setting it up. On a xylophone this is straight forward, simply a matter tweaking note pegs, whereas on a timpani the set up is most of the job, the repair often being a minor element.

Along with tweaking note pegs there is invariably some fragging to be done, some cleaning, and checking the bits I haven’t looked at, in this case the resonators. Making sure the instrument works properly and is ready to be returned to the customer.


Bell Frame (part two) (Job No: 1241)

The beginning of this post is 1241: Bell Frame (pt 1) which covers most of the work that was done.  Whilst the metal work was away being powder coated, the board was finished and varnished.  What I end up with, is a whole pile of bits to be reassembled on various instruments.

I was asked about the strength of the hinge and the boards flexing under body weight in a comment on (part one).  The main bar around which the whole step rotates supports the front edge of the forward board, and there is a steel brace to support the outer edge of that forward step.

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The new extension board has braces running across the width of the board both fore and aft.  These braces also provide the pivot points around which the legs rotate.

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Below is a short video showing how it all works.



Bell Frame (part one) (Job No: 1241)

This is a height adjustable bell frame with an integral step that I made a couple of years ago. The concept was brought to me by a musician for me to design and realise. It has come back to have a modification made.

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The problem is the depth of the step; the playing position is too close to the bells. The only practical solution is for me to replace the solid board with two halves that open out like a book.

Now that I am satisfied that it will work, and more importantly, will solve the problem, I need to make some legs. Unfortunately I will need four legs so that it is a free standing unit; I don’t like the idea of standing on something with two legs and relying on the hinges to hold the other end.

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Above shows the four legs made, and work has begun on the diagonal braces.

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The new step made and tested – I jump on it as hard as I can.

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Like all of my frames, I make them as simple to use as possible. One wing screw needs to be undone to fold the legs in.

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The same wing screw now goes back, and holds the whole assembly in place for transportation.

The story continues in 1241: Bell Frame (pt 2)

1″ Chime Frame (Job No: 1224)

Many, many years ago, just after leaving college and whilst working for Impact Percussion, I made a couple of their frames for 1″ chimes.

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I have been asked to make something similar.  This is a good opportunity for me to revisit the whole concept, and make it how it should have been made in the first instance.

There are fundamental design issues that are easy to address, and repairs that I have had to make to the other frame’s components that I can just make properly in the first instance.  However there is one issue that really needs to dramatically change.

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The way the bells hang over the bar makes them difficult to play without hitting the bar.  Pretty obvious really, another example of a schoolboy error, and an example of just why I had to set up by myself all those years ago.  When working for a boss, they have to be pleased first, before the customer.  Working for myself, besides my own job satisfaction, ultimately it is my customers who have to pleased.

So, the first stage is to get drawing to see how much room I have to play with, then make a mock up to see if my ideas work.

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On my larger frames, where I have more room between bells, I used replaceable bell hangers because they are prone to be damaged and are difficult (therefore expensive) to repair.  The gap between the bells are too narrow on this frame, so I am having to use the more traditional hook.  These hooks enable the bells to sit higher than the bar to solve the main complaint.

There are differences to my approach however.  Everyone else goes down the path of least resistance, and just uses a flat bit of metal to mount the hooks on.  The problem is that they bend very easily, which causes all sorts of problems.  I have used right angled metal to give rigidity in both planes, however due to the space restrictions I have scalloped out a section around the bell.

Now I know the design will work, I can start making all the components.

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Premier Glockenspiel (part 3) (Job No: 1226)

This post continues from 1226: Premier Glock (part 2) and started in 1226: Premier Glock (part 1)

The base board gets a fresh coat of black, whilst the frame has its third coat of varnish.
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The whole lot is then glued and screwed together.
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Now I cut the new felt, gather all the note pegs I will need and re-assemble the whole glockenspiel.
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Above is a picture of the instrument back in its case.  I am very pleased with the end result.  Notice the extra note on the accidentals – this is a high E flat I made in 1220: Glockenspiel Notes

Premier Glockenspiel (part 1) (Job No: 1226)

These Premier glockenspiels, like most percussion instruments, are let down by the frame they sit on.  The problem is money.  The manufacturers need to make a profit, because everyone wants a pay rise, whereas the musician wants the best deal possible.  So how do you make a glockenspiel cheap?  You screw your suppliers, and then throw it together as cheaply as possible using a minimum wage workforce.  Only then can the upper managers get new BMW’s.

So when Paul the Porter starts to move the glock around, everything starts to self destruct.

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As can be seen in the diagram above, the weight of the glockenspiel note bars, which are steel, tears the note rail off the base board.

So this is the first thing I look out for when overhauling a glock.

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There are also pins that are missing, but I will get rid of them anyway.

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In the photo above, daylight is visible under the note rail, so I need take it off and see if it can be repaired.  Although the holes for the note pegs had been filled with matchsticks, and there were a lot more holes than needed.  So the likelihood is that I will have to replace them with new note rails.

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As can be seen above, the note rails are beyond repair,  one split trying to remove it from the base.

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In the above picture, I have zoomed in to show the collection of ironmongery holding the note rails to the base.  A pathetic of upholstery and panel pins, with a few of those square twisted nails that were impossible to get out (the reason why I snapped a rail).  Regardless of the type of nail used, the note rail still lifted – this is because nails are exactly the wrong thing to resist a torsional force.  This really obvious; how does a claw hammer work, or pry bar, pincers, etc etc, in fact every tool for removing nails demonstrates where nails are least effective.

Furthermore, because the note rails were made of such low grade softwood, they split really easily, and because the wood is soft, any hole in them will just enlarge.  The replacements I made were out of Oak.

The project continues in 1226: Premier Glock (part 2)

Tam Tam frames (Job No: 1203)

I was asked to make a pair of tam tam frames, so after going to the venue to measure the instruments and the environment where they are to be used (stage risers, door width, etc) I’m ready to start.

The design they want is really simple, two big square frames on wheels, so first I cut all the material to make two big squares.

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Which were welded together, the pile of offcuts in the photo above were used as little braces to add strength and rigidity to the corners of what are two very big free standing square frames.  Everything I make is guaranteed for the rest of my life; these subtle additions to designs is how and why I have the confidence to do that.

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There are subtleties that no one will ever see; the bottom of the square is stronger than the top, which is in turn stronger than the sides, this keeps the weight down, without losing structural integrity where it is needed.

The tam tams have to hang from something, and they have varying diameters and cord lengths, so I make more hooks to hang them from,

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and weld them into place.

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The last part of fabrication is to make the subframe that has the wheels, and clean it all up.  Then it drop them down to the powder coaters.

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Invariably, when I get stuff back from the powder coaters, then the rebuilding of the instrument starts which can be a lengthy process.  It is a nice break therefore to get frames back that just need the casters bolted on, and they are ready for delivery.  Job done.

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Vintage Premier Xylo (part 2 of 2) (Job No: 1188)

The first part of this blob post is Vintage Premier Xylo (part 1)

After the note bed is completed, I make the frame that the instrument sits on.

The first thing I do is make the top and bottom transoms, which are either end of the legs.  The top transom is a known length as it is defined by the note bed, the only decision to make is where to put the hinges.

The bottom transoms have the casters attached.  I make these 10mm longer than the upper transoms at the low end of the xylo, so they are 5mm wider than the instrument on either side.  This is so that it is the very bottom of the instrument that hits a wall or is a positive contact point for tying into a van.  This is also when I calculate the caster swing, and the bottom bar fixing points, and decide on the width of the high end legs.

After the bottom transoms and fixings points are made, I can join them by adding the bottom bar because I already know the length of the instrument.  The only decisions is where to weld the bottom bar in the horizontal plane, front to back.

The leg length is a matter of mathematics – I have been told how high the customer wants the instrument, so I make it to the correct height.

So now I have a note bed, two sets of legs and a bar for the bottom, in other words a complete square, I can assemble the instrument, and put in a brace to keep it square.  Depending on the instrument, I use one or two braces.

All the metal work can now be sent off to be powder coated.

In the interim, I finish the note bed, by putting in the note pegs.
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And the original badge.
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Once all the bits are back from painting, I clean everything, and put it all together and put the notes on.  Below you can see the figure in the end boards.
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Finally below is the finished xylophone.
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Vintage Premier Xylo (part 1 of 2) (Job No: 1188)

It is always nice to receive a pile of bits and asked to turn it into a usable instrument.

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The xylo is actually complete, including the frame, however requirements and expectations have moved on somewhat since this was made.

The first thing I need to do is get the note bed repaired.  All the joints are loose, and it looks horrible, so I will disassemble it down to components, and strip the finish off.

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In the first image, it can be seen that the notes originally sat on felt strips with the note cord running along the outside of separation pins.  This is rubbish, it’s going to be really noisy, so I will substitute the pins for note pegs which means drilling bigger holes.

The consequence of this is that the rails need to be moved further apart, because the note cord now runs down the centre of the note rails as opposed to the outside edges.  The benefit is that the instrument will be that little bit wider, which is no bad thing.

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Above you can see new end blocks between the note rails which have been glued and pegged in place.  I don’t often use nails or screws when making a frame.

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Zooming in on the photo, it can be seen that the note rails are a bit arbitrary in length. There are several reasons, but essentially it is because it was made wrong in the first instance  I have tried to reach the best positioning of the notes, so they run parallel to the ends.  The ends need to be parallel so I can make the base frame square.

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Underneath all the clamps, I have added onto the outside of the instrument a spacer and and end plates.  The end plates will make it look nice, and protect the notes, and cover the top of the legs.  The spacer is just another bit of wood (the offcut from the board after the end plates were cut out), but it will give me something to work with when I make the base frame.
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I mixed up some stain to colour the end plates to somewhere near the colour of the note bars, so that the instrument will hang together aesthetically.  It will also bring out the figure in the wood.  It is now ready to be varnished whilst I make the base frame.

The second half of this project in in Premier Vintage Xylo (part 2)