Monday, June 22, 2009

Making Sawdust

There are times when I feel I make more sawdust than crafts. That may be true or not, but I do fill up the dust filters and containers every once in a while. At least I use it for compost.

The Summer Solstice is here, and the weather is almost Summer-like. It’s been in the 70’s off and on for a few days, a little windy, and dry. Actually, it’s good weather for putting finishes on instruments, which I started doing on the new Hans Memling psaltery.


Just yesterday I did the last step of assembly on the Memling: gluing the bridges. This is a time-consuming process due to the amount of preparation. I first have to place the bridges and temporarily clamp them, then use painter’s tape to mask the areas next to the bridges so glue won’t smear or leak on to the soft redwood top. A small bit of glue on the redwood would show as a light spot when the finish is applied. Today, with the glue set and the weather so nice, I did a final light sanding and cleaning and started applying tung oil. I’ll put on 3 or 4 coats, then it will be ready to polish, put on the pins and pegs, string it up, and play away.

On the other side of the shop (actually, a few feet to the left), I’m working on Barbara Allen, my new black walnut Mountain dulcimer. It’s another hour-glass shaped instrument in the style of the J. Edward Thomas dulcimer I saw at the Smithsonian many years ago. However, this one is a little larger than my other designs. The larger size allows for a little more volume.

Last week I steam bent the dulcimer sides and clamped them in Bending form-72one of my bending forms for a few days. While the wood was drying, I built a new assembly form for the larger dulcimer size out of old MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). When I finished it, I transferred the sides from the bending form to the assembly form. Within two days,

Glue kerf strips-72 I prepped and glued the head and tailpiece to the sides and started gluing in the kerf strips (lining on the side edges that add gluing surface for the top and back).

Meanwhile, instead of watching the glue dry, I started cutting wood (making more sawdust) for several new mini hognose Mini-hognose-frames72 psalteries. Up to last year, I had several in stock, but after the 2008 show season, I had none. They are popular and easy to play, so it’s time to make some more. Seven more.

The “Chapter House Portative Organ” is now on the back burner for a short time until I can obtain some leather felt custom made specifically for the tracking systems on organ pipes. While I’m waiting, I’ll finish up the Memling psaltery and “Barbara Allen.”

No fog outside right now, but onward through it anyway.




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hans Memling is alive and well…

Uh… well he was 500 years ago. I’m referring to my Hans Memling inspired hog nose psaltery, which is number 3 in a series of three. Hans Memling painted a very detailed altar piece called “Angels Making Music”, in which many of the heavenly winged-ones are playing a lot of the instruments of the time, including a very graceful hog nose psaltery. The first one I Working on Memling3_edited-1created several years ago and was sold to someone who fell in  love with its design and harp-like tone. I started numbers 2 and 3 earlier this year at the same time, but got side-tracked on to other projects after completing number 2. Well, I’m back to carving again, and finally finished the rosettes for number 3 and glued then onto the soundboard. It should be ready to finish and string up in a few more weeks.

Another pair of projects that have been sitting on my bench for an eternity (actually, a couple of months), are two more  Mountain dulcimers, one black walnut and one figured maple. Head carvingsI’ve had the head carvings for both at about 75% completion for months and today started working on them again. (I’ve had too many ideas for new works lately, and it’s kept me from continuing on my older projects.) I hope to have these two dulcimers finished by August.

Meanwhile, back at my organ…. I mean my Chapter House portative organ. This is one of those projects that’s kept me from working on the pieces I mentioned above, because I’ve done so much research and planning on it. It’s actually coming along Organ sides ready to carve nicely, though, with all the pipes done as well as the pipe (wind) chest. I’ve cut and shaped the side pieces and laid them out with a Gothic design, so now they’re ready for my carving tools. I’ve also cut and shaped all the keys and the pallet pieces, which are the internal workings that control the air flow to the pipes. Whew! Lot’s of pieces.

Well, once again, onward through the fog. (It’s actually rather nice out right now, but the fog will be back in the morning.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Put that in your pipe…

Fog, fog, and more fog. It’s been cool, breezy, and there’s been very little sun for over a week. Time for a change.

Well, there are changes in the shop. Projects are proceeding, little by little,and they do seem to be getting done. I’ve finished all the Pipes in processnew pipes for my Chapter House Portative Organ and voiced them so they all have a nice, recorder-like sound. They still need to be tuned yet, and that will take a little time. Next I need to make the keys and all the interior mechanics. That has to be done just right so no air escapes and only goes through the pipes. Then there’s the bellows. I have several pieces of thin leather for the bellows, but I still need to come up with an efficient design. I have some reference material that shows how to build bellows, but they’re more for the larger organs than Rosettes in processsmall portable ones.

My second Memling Hog Nose Psaltery is kind of on the back burner, while I’m working on the organ, but I am finishing up the pierced rosettes that I’ll soon mount behind the soundholes.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Sam Maloof. I was fortunate to have met this very friendly, wonderful man at the Sam Maloof-April-2005Good Wood show, April of 2005, at the Pasadena Museum of  California Art. Sam was a juror for the show and had accepted one of my mandolins to be on display. I took this picture of Sam as he was trying out a chair made from a roll of newspapers and some twigs. (He actually said it was comfortable.)

We will all miss him.



…and onward through the fog.