Thursday, September 15, 2022

End of Summer Notes

September in Santa Cruz is usually sunny and warm. We did get a week of very nice warm weather that allowed me to barbeque several days, followed by a few days of early fog then pleasant afternoons.

Even though I’ve retired from “active duty”, I’m still occasionally tinkering in my studio, making a few small items for my Etsy shop. However, I am not taking on anymore restorations and repairs.

So, what am I doing now (besides some yardwork)? Writing. Getting published.

New Work

Yes, my new book is out. It is called Firebrand, and it’s my first full novel. Here is the synopsis:

Charles Blue had grown up in a middleclass neighborhood with no idea of his family background. His parents’ tragic and suspicious death by fire changed that.

A grandmother, a San Francisco fortune teller and part owner of the Mystic Eye Occult Shop, took Charles into her home and started to teach him about his hidden “abilities”. For 25 years, Charles barely accepted his powers, then friends began dying by fire.

He and his girlfriend Bell now had a reason for learning all they could about incantations and spells to combat a powerful, unknown adversary.

A Charles Blue Paranormal Mystery Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and worldwide online and through independent bookstores.

Hope you enjoy it!

Old Work

I’ve been writing since grade school. In college, I was an English major and took several writing courses. I won two awards for a couple of my stories and that triggered the need to continue writing, even while pursuing my craft… early American and medieval European stringed instruments and furniture.

Even before I retired, I published four other books. Here they are:

Onward Through the Fog

Eight short stories of drama, comedy, adventure, and reminiscence, and two mystery novelettes: “The Great Pearl Alley Caper", and “The Girl Next Door”. 

The short stories include a wannabe beatnik/hippie/punk, a frustrated writer, a lovesick coworker, a remembrance of childhood, and a peace-seeking individual in a not-too-peaceful situation.

 In the two novelettes, wine bars and bistros are meeting places for heroes and villains, for the workingman and bum, for loves won and lost, and for rising body counts.

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and

A Young Upstart

In 1977 I entered a period of my life where self-doubt and depression were nearly everyday occurrences. Not liking these attitudes, I began self-analysis using the Gestalt therapy teachings of Fritz Perls.

From 1977 to 1980 I hung out at the Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffeehouse at the Pruneyard Shopping Center in Campbell, California. It was in this wonderfully social environment that I began sketching hundreds of contour drawings of patrons and writing poetry and stream of consciousness meanderings. This book is a compilation of many of those works.

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and


On Guard in the General’s Chorus

Korea, 1967 and 1968. The Vietnam conflict was escalating. The cold war was raging. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. In Korea, the Navy ship USS Pueblo was captured, and over a dozen North Koreans tried to blow up the South Korean president.

And at Recreation Compound #1, barely two miles from the DMZ, forty touring Army musicians and singers attempted to keep sane through it all. Boo was a dollar a lid.

Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble


And here is the very first book I published:

The Mountain Dulcimer

This book is a guide for beginning dulcimer players in the joy of playing their instruments. After a short historical section, I explain the modes and how to tune your dulcimer to play in the different major and minor keys. Included are several classic folk songs. These are shown with musical notation showing the melody as well as tablature notation showing the dulcimer notes and/or rhythm.

Available through


As you can see, I’ve been busy writing for many years. Oh, and…

One More Thing

I’m currently working on book 2 of the Charles Blue Paranormal Mysteries. Here’s a peek:

The Last Family of Wizards

In 1990 Charles and Bell have had a month of calm enjoying the comfort of his Santa Cruz home while his San Francisco home is being remodeled after the 1989 earthquake.

Their calm is short lived when they agree to investigate the flash and disappearance of a young musician. This takes them to the gold rush town of Volcano, an area of mystery and danger.

A Charles Blue Paranormal Mystery #2 coming in 2023

To keep up on my books, me, and what’s up in the world of writing and publishing, check out my website,

That’s it in my writing world.

A Little Other News

I recently bit the bullet and picked up the new M2 Apple MacBook Air. It’s a lovely computer with a slightly larger screen and a super-fast CPU. It runs hundreds of times better than my older Intel-based MacBook Air. Oh, and thousands of times better than our 7-year-old HP desktop computer. My MacBook Air is my digital writing typewriter.

In the Studio

Just a quick note on studio work. I’ve been using up some scrap wood and tagua nuts to make buttons. To check them out, they are on my Etsy shop.

I still have a few larger unfinished pieces, like a teardrop dulcimer, a medieval stool, and several turned and carved boxes and lids. Like I mentioned above, I’m just occasionally tinkering in my studio… not spending 4 to 6 hours a day in there anymore. But whenever anything gets finished, you’ll see it on my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Time to Retire

Dulcimer number oneOver fifty years ago, in 1970, I made my first dulcimer. It was a simple solid-body electric dulcimer made from a trashed, cheap Japanese electric guitar. I pulled the frets off the guitars neck to use for dulcimer frets. The electronics, pickup, volume and tone controls, and tuning gears also came from the guitar. The body was a piece of 3/4” plywood, shaped like a standard hourglass dulcimer, and painted white. It worked great, and I even used it on stage when our group, Throckmorton, played a rock version of “Shady Grove”. I still have it hanging on my studio wall.

Since then I’ve made over 500 instruments, furniture pieces (medieval and modern), sculptures, and wood turnings. I’ve taught wood carving at Cabrillo College, and I’ve taught wood turning, wood carving, luthiery and general woodworking in my studio and shop for twenty years. For the last twenty-five years, I’ve been restoring antique and vintage stringed instruments. I became the go-to person in North America for zither repairs, both concert style and chord zithers. I’ve restored many dulcimers, ukuleles, guitars, and even autoharps.

From 2001 to 2016 I exhibited at craft shows and arts festivals across the country, at one point attending six shows a year. I was juried into many American Craft Council shows, starting out in Charlotte, North Carolina, with three years in the ACC flagship show in Baltimore, and too many to count in ACC San Francisco. There was the Bellevue Art Museum show in Washington state for three years, six or seven years in the Scottsdale Arts Festival in Arizona, and a few years each at the King’s Mountain Art Fair and the Sausalito Arts Fair.

I’m tired. After all that, it’s time for me to retire. Well, about time to retire.

New Work

MbirasI still have my Etsy shop, and the last two years have been very good. To keep it fresh, I will still make an occasional small instrument, furniture piece, or sculpture.

Since December, I’ve made three Mbiras (thumb pianos), two large ones and one mini. Also, one of the Mbiras (left in photo)  is electric with an internal pickup. It also has a volume control knob.

The electric one is salvaged cocobolo with a maple sound hole rosette. The mini is purpleheart with maple binding. The one on the right in the photo has a salvaged cocobolo back, wenge (pronounced whengay) sides, and spruce top. The little hammers are for tapping the tines for tuning. These three mbira’s are available on Etsy.

NotersAt the end of 2021, my stock of dulcimer noters was down to one. This last week I finally started carving some more. These are the newest ones.

The one on the left is salvaged cherry. The middle one is salvaged black walnut. The one on the right is salvaged white oak. These are also available on Etsy.

Be sure to check out Etsy for all my original pieces. Shipping is free.


On The Workbench 

I am currently working on my last two restorations, zithers I had promised to do late last year. The concert zither on the left is an Anton Kiendl zither from around 1899. This is the second of two identical Anton Kiendl zithers I’ve restored for the same customer. The chord zither on the right is a Phonoharp Model 2. When I’ve finished restoring it, it will have five chords and fifteen doubled strings. This zither had a very scaly “alligator” surface, large cracks on the back, and the frame was coming apart. I had to remove the back to make all repairs.  Fink and Kip Zithers

Last November I was commissioned to make a custom dulcimer cane. This is my last commission. Like the last time I was commissioned, I’m making a second one to sell on Etsy. These are numbers 5 and 6.They both have maple bodies with a decorative piece of black walnut on the back. Dulcimer canesThe fingerboards, handle, and “foot” are black walnut.

My dulcimer canes are based on an 1845 original from Mirecourt, France. The original was a four-string guitar. I adapted the design as a Mountain dulcimer. All the dulcimer canes I’ve made have been very popular.

The unfinished dulcimer cane (top in photo) will be available on Etsy when completed.


Retirement doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and watch television all the time. No, I will be using my time writing more. I’ve actually been a writer since grade school, and when I was working in the private sector, I was a technical writer. I’ve been published in several magazines and trade journals and published four books so far. Lately, I just finished another novel (still in edit mode) and started another. More news about this coming in future blogs.

For now, it’s time to finish up these last restorations and instruments then celebrate with a glass of vino!