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Yesterday, I boxed up the hilt and the electronics and overnighted them to Rhode Island.  I have been a stupid hamster on a wheel for days and days and days.  I decided to contract my friend Deanna at Vader’s Vault to do a pro install for this time.  I hate to admit defeat but I simply don’t have ability to figure out the electronics and I don’t have anyone onsite who can help me there.  Some of them tried and they were ALL wrong.  I am feeling frustrated, to say the least.

The silver lining is that Deanna will be adding Flash on Clash functionality to my soundboard, which has only become available for the Petit Cruton in the last couple of weeks.  She will be constructing a custom inner chassis for the the electronics as well.  I believe, actually, that seeing how the pros do it will be very beneficial to me in the long run.

I haven’t quite decided which option I will use to fix the one messed up setting.  I think I would rather just plug the hole and camouflage it rather then trying to jury rig a new setting.

I went yesterday to the local hardware store and bought a length of PVC to fashion the inner chassis that holds the electronics.  I also got a small can of paint for the touch up work which ultimately proved to be the WRONG kind (latex).  I did a test run with one of the kill keys and sure enough, this morning the paint scratched right off with my fingernail.  Missy said I could try model paint or rustoleum.  I looked on the web and a set of 8 colors of model enamel paint is like 12 bucks after shipping.  I will probably try that route first.  I did manage to get a color match at the hardware store so it wasn’t a complete waste.   I probably will have to mix the enamel paint with black to make it a little darker but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I did receive good news this morning from Micheal about the soundboard.  He said he moved the resistor leg to the correct location and the board now works just fine.  He said he was going to fix it and ship it back at no charge to me because he overlooked the issue on my diagram.  That is a very generous thing for him to do.  He said it should get put in the mail tomorrow.

I am continuing the quest of tying up all the little loose ends……

I have spent the last 3 days setting stone after stone after stone.  I am pleased to report that I have successfully set 45 stones out of a total of 54 required.  Only one decided to act completely contrary.  However, Bill and Glenn have already come up with multiple ways to fix that one, so I am not freaking out about it at all.  If all goes well, I should be completely done with the fabrication part of the hilt TOMORROW!!!!!!!  That, I must say, brings a smile to my face.  There are a few touching up sort of things to be done, but I am nearly to the “install the electronics and I am finished” phase!

I spent most of Friday cleaning up my bench and condensing my two benches down into one.  That took most of the day.  I included before and after pics for both benches.  Of course, now I am having trouble finding things because they are not in the place I am used to looking for them.

I did one more practice setting today, just to be sure of myself.  Then I started on the hilt itself.  I am delighted to report that I got 10 stones set today, out of 56 total (I think that is right….I have the scrollwork set up for the next stone and I don’t want to take it out of the vise).  The 10th stone got a little cranky but I managed to keep my composure and figure out a way to take care of it.  It’s still not quite as pretty as I would like, but it is in there.  That is a situation where a laser welder would have been worth its weight in solid gold!

I think I might be able to get 12 to 14 stones set a day.  That means I am looking at between 4 and 5 days of setting.  Also, I heard back from the guy about the soundboard and he said I had, in fact, soldered one of the legs of the resistor to the wrong pad.  He said he would test it to be sure and ship it back to me.  I’m not sure how much money it will be yet.  I think he charges a fee of some sort just to look at a board on his bench.  We will see.

A new student named Ian started today.  He seems to be off to a good start, from what I can tell…..

I spent a day cleaning up the scroll work and putting a nice polish on it in preparation for setting the stones.  It looks rather nice all shiny.  I spent today doing a few practice stones to make sure when I start setting tomorrow on the hilt that I have my game on.  I initially tried a thin piece of brass that turned out to be harder than diamond impregnated steel (or maybe it just seemed that way).  That was not very successful due in part to the stones sticking out the bottom and getting messed up accidentally.  I was just free handing the piece.  I didn’t have it shellac’ed down or anything.  I attempted to pour a brass ingot today which was only partly successful.  I think part of the problem was I had to make do with at casting crucible and not a pouring crucible.  Anyway, I did get a piece that was big enough to be useful and after 4 tries, I finally re-acquired my bead setting mojo.  Tomorrow, I will be working on the hilt stones.  I did send off the soundboard for repair on Tuesday.  Hopefully it won’t take too long…..

I have been working on plugging those stupid holes for several days now.  I finally got 8 discs to fit the 8 holes.  I even laid them out in order to minimize potential screw-upability.  That, unfortunately, was merely delayed and NOT minimized.  However, I did get all the discs in place.  Several of them magically decided to NOT FIT RIGHT.  So I have spent ALL of today trying to fix the holes and seams and pits.  Since the scroll work is tubular, it is VERY difficult to get the solder to flow right.  I have tried and tried and tried.  Some of the patches look OK, but is painfully obvious which ones do not.  In all fairness, I will be re-drilling holes through the patched areas, but I am concerned that it will look bad despite that.  The scroll work does fit fairly snugly now, which is a good thing.  But it isn’t snug enough to leave off the screws.

I will be back at it tomorrow…..

Yesterday was a pretty good day.  I continued my quest to get the switch box in mechanical working order.  I did finally get a pair of switches adjusted to fit in the space allowed.  For the aux switch (the round green one), I used one of the switches with a plunger that I filed down to the right height.  For the main switch, one of the standard button switches did just fine.  Now they click and the actuators move back and forth in response to pressure from the finger.  The main switch is a little wonky still.  I had to adjust the guide walls and one of them I took out entirely.  I may have to mess with that some more.

Today, I tried to fix the soundboard.  That was a resounding failure.  I got the resistor in place and NOW, I don’t even get the boot sound.  Apparently there is more wrong that we had hoped.  I guess I will be mailing it off to get repaired by a professional.  That’s likely to run about 50 bucks plus shipping, but it’s better than buying a brand new one.

Next I started preparations to begin the stone setting process and, surprise, surprise, surprise….MURPHY reared his @#$%$%#$ head ONCE AGAIN.  I cut through the solder joints in the scrollwork and filed both sides of the former joint down to where the tube fit fairly snug against the aluminum.  THEN I discovered that the holes in the border section that the screws are supposed to go through no longer match the holes in the aluminum that have threads tapped inside.  My head was about to explode at that point and someone mentioned that I should have bound the scrollwork originally with steel wire.  Of course originally, the aluminum mandrel that I was making use of was ONE size and the tube that got powdercoated had been turned down further, making it a COMPLETELY different size.

I settled on trying to plug the holes with brass circles that will have to be soldered in place.  I finally decided to call it a night, when, after 45 minutes of messing with the first brass circle, I still couldn’t get it to fit right.  I’ll be back at it in the morning….

I finished up the round hole in the switchbox this morning and had the rectangular hole finished by lunch.  That was all well and good, until Glenn pointed out that I would need guide “boxes” on the underside of the switchbox to insure that the switch assemblies go up and down and NOT side to side.  I am happy to report, however, that I succeeded in fabricating the round tube for that purpose and I actually used the two brass brackets I had originally made for the brass bezel which ultimately got scrapped.  Furthermore, on top of that (Dun, dun, DUN DUN!!!  Don’t love ya anyway!!!), I got them all soldered down to the bottom of the switchbox with only minimal frustration.  I did make the round one too tall on purpose.  In fact it needs to be about 2/3’s of the height it is now, which means, I guess, that I will have to take a burr and remove material.  It’s actually right at the height of the plate right now.  The actual switch is recessed just slightly by the groove in the emitter piece, but not enough.  I shall be busy working on that tomorrow.  Hopefully I will have the entire switchbox assembly in working order by the end of tomorrow afternoon…..

Also, Tom, the electronics guy that came out and looked at my soundboard with me, stopped by today.  He had a bag of 100 ohm resistors and he gave them to me.  I thought that was very nice of him!

I had much better luck constructing bezel assemblies in sterling.  I soldered the detent on the outside of the rectangular bezel without any problems.  The round bezel was short enough that it doesn’t require that detent.  I did have a little trouble with the corners of the rectangle, so Glenn suggested I take a saw blade and run it down a little to help the 2 sides converge easier.  That worked pretty well.  I did some layout work today and started drilling out the hole for the round one.  I thought I had burrs big enough for the hole necessary (which is about 6 and a half millimeters) but alas, either that burr is MIA or my memory is even shoddier than normal today.  I used a smaller round burr to carefully widen the edges of the hole.  It’s very close to fitting, but not quite there yet.

Another 3 days of banging my head repeatedly against the top of my bench…..
I spent Monday and Tuesday trying to fabricate a bezel mount for the amethyst.  After multiple tries I finally got a box out of it.  Somehow, a 6 mm high box (off the base plate) is NOT high enough to effectively hold a 4 mm high stone.  That must be some weird goldsmith math.  I also spent hours trying to figure out the seat that goes inside.  I tried brackets.  I tried an oval.  I tried a funny looking oval-ish thing.  I could NOT get the stone to sit flat, no matter what I did.

Missy recommended starting over in silver because it is easier to work with.  She also recommend going even thinner on the bezel wall.  So I rolled out some of my silver sheet to about 25 gauge.  It took me all day today, but I think I finally have the basic box put together.  I ended up soldering a second seat in the walled portion before I soldered that assembly to a piece of sheet.  I am gonna have to put some kind of extra detent wall on the outside of the bezel to restrict its upward movement.  I reckon I will be doing that tomorrow, plus working on the other bezel assembly.