Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sawdust in My Veins

Punxsutawney Phil said we’re up for six more weeks of winter, and California is definitely getting hit with winter’s wind, rain, and mudslides. The weather mavens say it’s another El Niño pattern, but I put more trust in Phil’s prognostication than in theirs.

In The Shop

FINALLY!  The Starnina Harp, which is loosely based on an altarpiece painting by Gherado Starnina (Italian-active, 1387-1413), in the Laurentian Chapel of the Certosa, a Cartusian monastery near Florence, is nearly done. Originally, around five Starnina Harpyears ago, I started on this piece as one of my Chapter House Series of instruments. I made all the parts, including a soundbox, and began carving a woman who I called Rapunzel. I planned to  have her hair curl all the way down the post almost to the base of the harp. Other projects kept taking up most of my time, and I never got around to completing the carving. About a year and a half ago, I decided to go a different route with the harp and redesigned my piece to the one depicted in the Starnina altarpiece. I built a new, coopered-style body, similar to others I’ve made, and just last week finally completed the carving and assembly. I now call my carved harp, “Diana, The Huntress,” since she looks kind of like a bow that’s pulled back. She just needs some tung oil finish and then stringing up and she’ll be done.

The year 2010 is my year of change. I’ve been working on musical instruments since 1972 and had an occasional foray into the period furniture/cabinetry realm up into the 1980s. I was 3-legged stool1-in shopbuilding early American pine furniture then, and now I’m studying  medieval European furniture to go with my early European instruments (Sound Sculptures). My first pieces are different styles of stools: two different three-legged stools and a trestle-style  stool. The first one completed is a three-legged stool that I originally intended to make only as an experiment. It turned out better than I imagined (shown in the two photos). It’s all salvaged poplar, urban forest wood that I was 3-legged stool1-in shop-detail given a couple of years ago. I cut it up and dried it for the last two years before using it. Poplar works fine as a furniture wood, but doesn’t turn well. It has a tendency to splinter. However, this stool polished up fine and will soon get a padded seat similar to those in the medieval period. By the way, three-legged stools were very popular (and depicted in many early paintings) because they were so stable on uneven plank or dirt floors.

Other Work

Close to being finished is my next Mountain dulcimer, “The White Lady”. I spent nearly three hours sanding the sides and back, working from course to super-fine sandpaper, until the wood had almost a mirror finish. Photos will be in the next blog entry.

Also, I’ve started cutting and shaping pieces for a custom Mountain dulcimer that was ordered, and will begin carving the head in a couple of weeks.

Other News

I’ll probably have to take a few days off soon, reluctantly, since I’ll be “going under the knife,” so to speak. This Friday I have to have a “procedure” to remove a small growth from my arm, and it will keep me from making very much sawdust for several days. The “sawdust in my veins” reference in the title means I’ll be leaking sawdust instead of making it. Oh well, if I can’t be in my studio shaping wood, then it’ll be a good time to catch up on my reading. (Current read: A Play of Treachery, by Margaret Frazer. It’s a good, medieval mystery page-turner, number 5 in a series.)

It’s been raining again. Onward… through the winter!

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