A new year is upon us! It looks to be a very memorable one, what with the political environment and its potential outcome. The shock of last November lingers, but… we must keep a positive attitude and strive to help make our lives better… or at least status quo!
Through it all, I am still creating and planning to create artwork, teach, and plan for future shows and events.
In The Studio
I have been very busy in my studio and shop working on new instruments, folk art, furniture (mainly for the home), and sculptural pieces.
As for instruments, I completed several new psalteries and another Germanic rote.The small trapezoidal psaltery on the left is my second steel-string version of a larger one in an image in the Spanish illuminated manuscript, Cantigas de Santa Maria. It has a salvaged Douglas fir top, salvaged oak back, salvaged purpleheart bindings, and maple frame and bridges.. The mini hognose psaltery on the right is my small version of those that were popular in Europe as early as the 1100s. It is salvaged black walnut on top and back, cherry frame, and maple bindings and bridges.
Below is my new full-size hognose psaltery. It has cherry top and back, maple frame, black walnut bridges and soundhole roses, and purpleheart bindings. This one is based on a psaltery depicted in an alterpiece painting by Hans Memling in the 15th century.
All instruments of this style are related to Persian/Moorish/Arabic instruments that date from Biblical times.
Several years ago, during a lull between shows, I cut out and fabricated tops and backs to nearly a dozen instruments, setting them aside until I needed them. Last year while cleaning my studio and sorting my stash of woods, I came across all the cut out pieces. I decided it was time to take these pieces and start using them. These three psalteries are the first from my stash.
As I was completing these, I was also working on another mini Germanic rote (lyre) out of cherry and with an apple top. The highly figured apple, which I’ve used on several mini rotes, makes a striking instrument.
All the lyres I make are based on instruments discovered in burial mounds and archeological sites in England and Central Europe. The mini rotes are approximately 3/4 sized versions of the larger ones I make. All my mini psalteries and rotes are very portable and popular with renaissance fair attendees as well as reenactment groups like the SCA.
Currently on my workbench is a full-size hurdy gurdy that is based on one in the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg. It’s considered to be of the Baroque period of the 1700. My version is koa, cherry and purpleheart, with maple bracing. I recently completed the keys and fit them in the new key box. I have already turned the wheel, but I still need to fit all the mechanics together before glueing the top and key box on.
Besides the new instruments, I took a little time to make a new bench for our bedroom. We had no low seating to put on our shoes, so I used the last piece of black walnut of the huge pieces I used on our counter, mantel, and coffee table. I scooped out a seat and made a trestle style base. This last piece of walnut had a large crack in it, so I inserted a butterfly, a la George Nakashima, filled voids with turquoise epoxy resin, and finished it with several coats of tung oil. It’s now a nice, low, comfortable place to put on socks and shoes.
The specialty lumber yard I frequent, Jackel Enterprises in Watsonville, had a big inventory reduction sale in December. I popped in the first day of the sale and picked up some nice claro walnut, black walnut, urban forest elm (from San Jose State University), and a little more cherry. With my current stash and these new woods, I should have enough to last me the rest of my life.
Some other pieces I worked on to complete before 2016 ended were a pair of vessels. The largest actually started out as a different project that turned out bad. I repurposed the coopered cocobolo section as a large lidded bowl with a tagua head on the handle. I think it turned out rather well.
Usually, I turn bowls on my lathe. I had a piece of scrap black walnut that had an interesting, odd shape. I decided to carve it. I did turn the insides and the lid, but not the outside of the piece. Again, I carved a tagua nut for the handle.
The last year was busy for me in the instrument restoration field. I had zithers, both concert and chorded, and ukuleles. I’m currently working on a 100+ year old German violin.
I also started working on some zithers and autoharps from my own collection. I do plan on selling these once they’re restored. I recently finished an 1885-1890 Zimmermann autoharp, model 2 3/4. It had a couple of small cracks, and all the chord buttons were missing. Here’s the result of my restoration:
I have one more Zimmermann autoharp to restore, as well as several “gadget” zithers, like a Marxolin and Ukulin.
I work on my own during the lulls between restoration jobs.
Do you have an antique stringed instrument that’s very special to you? A family heirloom? A collection piece? I have openings in 2017 for you! To see the types of instruments I’ve worked on, check out my Repair Logs on my web site at http://www.roncookstudios.com/ron-cook-studios-repair-logs.html.
Yes, I’m still teaching. I have one student at my studio, and I am scheduled this Spring to teach hand carving at the Cabrillo College Extension courses. More to come on that later.
The last show I was in was the 12 x 12 (x12) exhibit at the Cabrillo College Gallery. My one piece sold right away, which was exciting, and I also won 3rd place in the voting for favorite pieces. Fun!
Well, time to return to the studio and make more sawdust!
That’s all for now. Once again, Happy New Year!