Monday, February 14, 2011

Wood, Wood, and More Wood

After a month of gorgeous Spring-like weather, and watching the acacias (ah-choo) and plum trees bloom (nearly a month early), the rains returned today and will be with us all week as arctic storm after arctic storm are stacked up and heading to our Central California coast. Even though it has been a wet winter, officially California is still on drought alert and water restrictions will probably continue through the Summer. The rains are welcome.

The Wood Story

Two days ago, just before the clouds started arriving, I got a call from a fellow in Hollister who was getting rid of a lot of wood that had pretty much taken over his large workshop building. I expected just a bunch of scraps, but was pleasantly surprised to see large boards of many different types of woods lining walls and filling over a dozen plastic garbage bins. I arrived there probably ten minutes after one of my Santa Cruz Woodworkers buddies, and the two of us spent around two hours sorting New Woods2through the stash. The weather was warm, in the 80s, and we worked up a sweat hauling out material.

Anyway, I brought home several 6 and 7 foot long boards, actually cross section millings of parts of trees, and many, many 3 and 4 foot long pieces and a few shorts. I brought home some beautiful black and claro walnut, including a 7 foot long by nearly 2 foot wide section of a tree that would make a great “Nakashima" style desk, side table, or bench; a couple of long sections of yellow acacia; several pieces of teak; quite a bit of cocobolo from short pieces to 4 foot long 1 x 2s and 1 x 3s; and some mystery woods that I need to plane off a little to see what’s under the weathered, dusty surface. There are also several beautiful large burl cuts of walnut, some that looked like part of someone’s chair/bench making project. Quite a find.

Of course, the main problem with bringing home so much wood (my Jeep Cherokee was pretty full) was where to put it all. Yesterday I spent several hours rearranging my half of the garage to fit the wood on racks, in my wood bin, and along one wall so I’d still have room to work at my saws, jointer, and sanders. It worked. And, my wife can still park her Mini on her side of the garage. Now, what should I make out of that nice wood… (to be continued).

Restorations & Repairs

I just finished restoring a lovely antique concert zither for a fellow back in the Washington, D.C. area. It was made by Finished-H-ZitherFranz Schonfeld in Vienna around the end of the 19th century. All I was able to find out about Franz Schonfeld was a reference to a couple of German-language books listing him as an Austrian violin maker who worked from around 1890 to 1915. Schonfeld, or his shop, must have also made zithers, which were very popular in Austria, Hungary, and Germany at that time. I’ve read about other violin makers, mainly in Germany, who did the same thing. I also refinished/restored the case. I’ll be writing the repair log today and tomorrow and should have it posted on my web site next week.

Next on the bench is a large, more modern German-made chord zither. The label says it was made by the Rauner. I found two Rauner references: F. A. Rauner, East Berlin, whose main business was harmonicas and accordians, and Johan Rauner of Nuremberg, who was a violin and cello maker. F.A. Rauner’s company lasted until 1972, and Johan Rauner was working around the same time. I’m pretty sure Johan Rauner is the maker of this particular zither, since, as I mentioned about Schonfeld, violin makers are known to have also made zithers on the side. From the style of the label, this Rauner zither is probably from the 1960s or 1970s. I haven’t checked the inside for a date yet.

Also on the bench is a harpsichord lid refinishing job. A lady’s harpsichord just happened to be in the wrong place during a heavy rainstorm. It was under a skylight that began to leak, and the water put a large “white” area on the mahogany surface. I’ll be cleaning and refinishing it within the next week or so.

In The Studio

There’s a lot going on and a lot planned. I’ve milled and cut enough pieces to last me through the next six months. (No, I haven’t cut any of my “new” wood yet.) In the Wings-72This photo shows just a portion of works in progress and works waiting in the wings. In progress on my workbench, clockwise from the top, are two pairs of medieval-style candle holders, a symphony (early hurdy-gurdy), two walnut dulcimer heads and tailpieces awaiting more carving, and my second Pennsylvania German Scheitholdt (this one is poplar). On the far left is a stack of wood for a new Cantigas de Santa Maria project (more on that later), and in the center are some folk art spoons awaiting completion.

Other works in progress not in the photo include some pieces I’m carving and assembling for the upcoming Santa Cruz Woodworkers exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) starting July 30th. Preparations for the exhibit are coming along, and I’ll be writing more about it as the exhibition date gets closer. It will be an exciting gallery show!

Something else I’m working on is actually in my office, not in the workshop: I’m working on updating the design of my web site. I want to make it easier to navigate, with fewer pages and with a better user interface, and to make it much easier for me to update and maintain. I had several professional photos taken of my work from the last year, and need to show them off. I hope to have the new site up before the end of the month. (If I can find the time!)

That’s it for now. It’s late morning, it’s raining, and I’ve got to open the studio and start warming it up. Onward…