Friday, July 30, 2010

The fog comes on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

- Carl Sandburg

Well, the cat’s been here nearly every morning for the month of July, sometimes moving on for an hour in the afternoon, but often not. Analogies aside, it’s been a darn foggy month.

On the Workbench…

New Autoharp-nearly done-72Last month one day I was gazing through some of my older plans and drawings and came across the very first plan offered by the Guild of American Luthiers, and one that I purchased from them  more than twenty years ago. The plan is of an early 20th century Oscar Schmidt 12-chord autoharp that was based on the 1895-1899 Model 73 by Zimmermann Autoharps of Dolgeville, New York. I always intended to build one, but was intimidated at the time by the complexity of the piece. Several years ago I built an autoharp kit and got to know the instrument inside and out, but then put the idea of making one from scratch out of my mind… until now. I spent hours researching the history and construction of the autoharp and located suppliers for all the various parts. Today it will be done. It’s all strung up and tuned. All that’s left is to trim the thick felt on the chord bars so they can actually play chords. When it’s finished, I’ll record a sound clip for my web site (

Recently I found an original 1895-1899 Zimmermann Autoharp on an auction web site that was listed Zimmermann-autoharp-72as “in bad shape, good for parts”. Well, no one was bidding on it, and I thought I could use it  as for not only parts, but to study. I bid $8.00 and got it. I was extremely surprised when it came and found it to be in pretty good shape. There were no cracks, all the seams were intact, and all the decals and labels were in place. In fact, the decorative decal on the soundboard is the first one used—an ornate picture of a gryphon. It can be easily restored. The only things missing were a few strings and nine of the buttons on the chord bars. Needless to say, I’m excited about getting this historical instrument, the very first manufactured 12-chord Model 73 autoharp. It is virtually identical to the Oscar Schmidt Model 73 still being made today.

There’s a lot more work going on at my work bench, and it mostly involves carving. As you can see Carvings at 72in the photo, my chess pieces are coming along fine. The bishops are nearly done and the knights are roughed out. After over a year of hard work, the chess board and pieces are almost done. Also on my bench are a lot of spoons. After the number of sales last year, my stock got pretty depleted. Just a few weeks ago, I realized I had very few “smaller” items for the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco. I’ve finished 12, and I have around 12 more to complete in the next two weeks. For the spoons, I also needed spoon racks. I had a few in stock already, but I made four more for all the new spoons.

Other items still in process: Portative organ (finally got good bellows leather and ready to finish the bellows), box trestle table (ready to carve), trestle stool (carving in process), and I recently started on another Mountain dulcimer, made almost entirely from salvaged white oak. Stay tuned!

Upcoming Shows

Ron setting up 2009-72The American Craft Council Show in San Francisco, at Fort Mason in the Festival and Herbst Pavilions, is only two weeks away. I’ll   be in the Festival Pavilion in b0oth 812. Show dates and times are Friday, August 13 (10-8--new extended hours), Saturday, August 14 (10-6), and Sunday, August 15 (10-5). Hope to see you there! (The photo is from last year’s show.)


The Santa Cruz Open Studios Art Tour is, as always, the first three weekends in October. This is my 10th year as an exhibiting artist, and it’s the 25th year (ta-da) for the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour.  Go the the above link for more information on the event. The Open Studios preview exhibit opens at the Santa Cruz Art League on September 25th with a “meet the artists” reception Sunday, September 26th, from 3 to 6pm.

And Finally…

The Davenport Gallery show, “Wood is Good”, ends August 1st. If you missed the show, you can still see my work in San Francisco at the American Craft Council Show. The Santa Cruz Woodworkers exhibit in the Rittenhouse Building is still going on. I’ll be removing a couple of my pieces to take to the SF show, but I’ll replace them with something else. (Don’t know what yet.) If you’re in downtown Santa Cruz, either at the movies, bookstores, or restaurants, take a look in the Rittenhouse Building windows and enjoy the work of the Santa Cruz Woodworkers.

Onward through the… cat feet?

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