The Molds - The Fiberglass Solution
Well, in my quest to go into serpent production I had come to an impasse. After a year and a half of toil, the CNC machine that I had built was not going to work. I had hours invested in AutoCAD drawings and it seemed like a shame to abandon that work. I decided to use my original design to produce plug molds for each half of the Kaiser Serpent. I decided to use male molds of the serpent's bore onto which I would lay up each half of my serpent. This means that the inside dimensions of my serpent are accurate no matter how much material I lay onto the molds. I was worried about my serpent playing accurately and using female molds based on the outer dimension of the serpent would be too risky. As for using a material other than wood, David Harding had already proven that molding in resin could yield a good serpent. At this time, the Early Music Shop in England has taken over making the Harding serpents with their prices starting at about $1080 before tax. It is not clear however that the Harding serpents use any type of reinforcement. They may be molded entirely of resin like a plastic clarinet body.
To begin making my molds I had a good friend who owns a CNC plasma table to make two outlines of the serpent bore using the drawings I had already completed. These were rendered in 11 gauge steel and were the base plates for the molds. I turned several tapered spindles on my lathe that contained a craft paper joint on the axis. This paper joint allowed me to divide the spindle into two identical halves when it was removed from the lathe. I used my jointer to remove the thickness of the 11 gauge steel for the bottom of each half and then I sliced the spindles into ribs which I glued on the metal base plates. The gaps between slices were filled with Bondo and glazing putty. When they were smooth, they were painted with lacquer.
Mold work in progress, notice the ribs on the mold in the background. It kind of looks like a snake skeleton, doesn't it.
Above: The molds mounted, finished, lacquered, coated with release agent and waiting for lay-up.