Monday, May 24, 2010

Tour of California… Wood

It’s been an interesting and busy week for me and Ron Cook Studios. The big news for our seaside community of Santa Cruz was the return of the Amgen Tour of California bike race. For theTour-of-Cal-SC second year, Santa Cruz hosted the finish of the third stage. The  race route came down one of the streets a few blocks from me as it turned on West Cliff Drive heading to the Beach Boardwalk finish line. I took a little time off from work to watch Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, et al speed past us on a sharp turn by the ocean. Exciting race on a beautiful day.


My Mountain dulcimer commission, “Avery”, is in its final stage. I put on the last coat of tung oil Saturday and letting it cure a few days before applying the polish. It will be done this week before my wife and I head to the Sierras for a Memorial Day (and my wife’s birthday) weekend.

Another commission I’m getting started on is a series of five hand-carved boxwood spoons for a lady I met a couple of years ago at the Baltimore American Craft Council Show. She purchased a set of spoons for herself then, and after her 100+ year old 8-foot high  boxwood hedge fell during a fierce storm last winter, contacted me to ask  if boxwood would make good spoons. Boxwood, being a very dense wood that, in England, was used for woodwind instruments, is, of course, very good for strong spoons—and good for detailed carving. I’ve roughed out the spoons, but I need to let the wood dry a month or so before carving, since it’s still a little “green” (damp).

A couple of months ago I found a company back East that, among other things, manufactures acrylic covers for exhibits. They’ll make them as big or small as you need. I decided to try them out New-acrylic-cover for chess to make a cover for the chessboard and chess pieces I’m working on. It arrived finally and looks great. It will protect the board and pieces from dust, and it will deter people from moving the pieces (or pocketing them) when on display at shows or galleries. By the way, I’m finishing up carving the queens and have the bishops and knights all roughed out and ready for fine carving. It’ll be a few more months before they’re done, but they’re looking good.

Another “aside” from musical instruments: I’ve been working on some medieval furniture to display with the chess set and some of my medieval instruments, and just finished all the hand-cut Box-trestle-table-72mortise and tenon joints for a box trestle table. For the first time, for me, I also hand cut dovetails for the box portion of the table. The picture shows the base and a portion of the top set up in a dry-fit test. White oak is a little hard to work with on my first dovetail attempt, since it splinters easily, but I was able to cut some nice tight-fitting joints.

On the antique/collectable instrument repair front, I’m just about ready to start restringing a 1909 Schwarzer concert zither I’ve been restoring this past month. It’s coming along nicely, and will be playable again when I’m done. Another customer should be sending her 1960-1970 family Mountain dulcimer to me soon for a fret re-fitting and “tune-up.”

I love working on old instruments (besides making new ones) and getting them to make music again. If you have an antique or vintage stringed instrument, whether a family heirloom or a newly purchased item, that’s in need of restoration or repair, contact me for a free estimate. (When contacting me, please include photo images of the instrument with close-ups of areas needing work.)

Well, May is starting to wind down, and my wife and I look forward to a little time off in the Sierras this next 3-day weekend.

Onward through the fog…

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