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Washboard Addition. . .

Anyone who read this old post on my washboard renovation project, will recall that I was looking for an additional bell/chime/noisy thing to add to the right hand side of the frame and balance out the two existing bells on the left side.

Lo and behold, just round the corner from my house, I found the following lying in the road – I think it’s a small cycle bell, but it may be a metal cover from an engine bolt? Whatever, it’s just the right size and makes a pleasingly different bell sound from the existing two. A quick clean, a coat of black spray paint and voilà:

Found bell

Found bell

And here it is, screwed into place (there is a small rubber pad between the frame and the bell itself to just help it ring out when struck):

New bell added in place

New bell added in place

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Here’s some shots of my newly renovated washboard – when you compare it to the original, I hope I’ve made it better and not simply ruined a true antique. I decided to make any amendments to the piece as in-keeping as possible, using galvanised bits of metal where appropriate (rather than brass or copper, say) and keeping to one additional colour of black for the strap and add-ons.

After rubbing down the wooden frame, I gave it a couple of coats of Danish Oil – the wood proved to be a really nice colour under all that dirt and mold! The frame is pretty rotten in places unfortunately, but should hold together given careful use.

I also scrubbed down the metal washboard itself with some wire wool and soap. Again, it came up looking pretty good once a lot of the corrosion had been removed. It’s a bit dented, and has even corroded right thought in a few tiny spots, but again I think it will hold up ok in it’s new usage.

Completed washboard renovation, pre-addition of thimbles

Completed washboard renovation, pre-addition of thimbles

I decided not to replace the curved struts on the back – the board is clearly not going to get as much pressure from simply being played as an instrument compared to its original role. I also decided not to replace the thin piece of wood that used to sit behind the uppermost parts of the frame – it didn’t seem to serve much purpose and was so rotten I’d have had to had made a new one that may not have matched the overall look too well?

I added a strap (made from a very old belt of mine – never throw anything away!) held in place by between galvanised crimping plates, screwed into place.

Close up of strap fixings

Close up of strap fixings

For added interest whilst playing, I’ve added two bells (both sprayed black) on to one of the sides – one from an old alarm clock and one from a bicycle bell. Such additions to washboards seem common (having done some internet research) and I’m looking out for something else for the other side – any suggestions? (I’ll paint the screw heads black too at one point – I realise from the photo how rubbish they currently look!).

Additional bells

Additional bells

Finally, I bought four metal thimbles from an excellent local sewing shop (I asked if anyone had ever been in to purchase thimbles for this purpose and both assistants looked pretty perplexed!). I bought two size 18s and two 17s to fit my different sized fingers – did you know thimbles came in ‘sizes’, because I sure didn’t!? I’ve added four pieces of dowel to the inside of the upper strut so the thimbles can be slipped into place when the board is not being played.

Close-up of the thimbles

Close-up of the thimbles

Completed washboard renovation, thimbles in place

Completed washboard renovation, thimbles in place

All in all I’m really pleased with the final outcome – now I just need to learn how to play it!! Not being a percussionist of any sort, I luckily have some friends who play in Cajun bands who I am hoping will give me a few pointers!? I’ll also aim to record it / use it in a piece of music soon so will post up the results asap…

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