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I had these DeArmond Hershey Bar pickups come into the shop for rewinding recently. These pose a couple of challenges – the covers are riveted to the pickup and the coil is wound around the magnet which is unsupported on top.
I am sure the proper rivets are commercially available but I wasn’t able to figure out where to get the proper ones. The world of rivets is more varied than one might expect. Considering how often I do this repair it was just easier to make them. I had some 3/16 nickel rod on hand it is not too difficult to machine them on the lathe.
To wind the coils I made a temporary support that was bolted onto the bobbin with cellophane tape in between. I was able to wax pot the coil to make it more solid before removing the support.
Just saying hello.
I had back surgery two weeks ago and recovery is going well. I now have two non-adjustable truss rods and some other hardware supporting my lower back.
I’m taking it easy, catching up on reading, watching some series and movies I would normally not have time for, gently exercising and occasionally feeling bored. I’m also reading a lot about lutherie and doing thought experiments about new designs, methods of work, and possibly some new instruments to make.
It will probably be two months or so before I can begin to do some work in the shop. Before surgery I did some of the rough work to prepare for the time I’ll be back at the bench again. In the photograph above is cherry, walnut, and curly ash resawn for some future dulcimers.
Full recovery will take up to a year but if all goes as planned I’ll able to work longer hours making dulcimers than I have for about 5 years. I look forward to that time! I love my job!
Everything about this plane says that it is a Type 6 (1888-1892). The plane body, cap iron, plane iron, lateral adjusting lever, all have the proper dates and lettering on them to make this a Type 6 plane, but the brass adjusting nut is a right handed thread, not left handed, which was used on Type 5 planes.
Rosewood knob has typical tool box dings and wear, but is in good shape; rosewood tote is not original to plane, it was salvaged from a broken Stanley No. 7 jointer plane, Type 11. There is about 80-85% of the japanning left on the body.
This plane belonged to my grandfather, Rufus Wilson (1881-1955), who was a carpenter and old time logger, and my mother told me that he owned this plane when they moved to their house near Mineral, California in 1940. I was given this plane in 1978 when I was 16 years old. I tuned up the plane in the early 1990's, the typical work of flattening the sole, the back of the iron, etc. I used this plane to make my first musical instruments. I set it aside about 15 years ago to keep as a collectors item, but I have decided to let it go to someone else. It is a great user plane! Please ask questions! I will not ship out of the United States, no international sales!
Stephen in his Salt Lake shop, 1978. Photo courtesy of George Stapleford.
Stephen's obituary can be found at this location -- http://www.premierfuneral.com/obituaries/Stephen-Shepherd/#!/Obituary
The text of his obituary --
Stephen Arden Shepherd
Stephen Shepherd, was born April 20, 1948 in Salt Lake City, UT, to Arden Warren and Vida Johnson Shepherd. He passed away January 24, 2018, a kind release from the debilitating effects of a stroke. He leaves a sister Merrily Runyan, Clovis, CA, and nieces and nephews.
Stephen Shepherd was a unique individual. Whether known as Stephen Shepherd the author, lecturer, and expert in 19th-Century Woodworking, or as “Tater”, the Mountain Man and adventurer, he influenced many people and sometimes irritated others with his infallible knowledge. Arguing historic technology with Stephen was frustrating and pointless – his knowledge was vast. And he shared that knowledge with anyone genuinely interested.
He was always building, repairing, tinkering and inventing, very often simply to see if he could do it – if it could even be done. Many of his friends are proud owners of a “Tater-made” item, from furniture to walking-sticks to quill pens. He shared his knowledge by writing four authoritative books on woodworking, and re-published two more “rescued” books of great value to historians of 19th-Century crafts.
For the most part he lived a 19th-Century life. Almost all his furniture and re-created items were made and restored using only hand tools. He had no power tools in his shop. His careful craftsmanship, restoration and renown finishing techniques, including gorgeous “painting and graining”, gained him world-wide recognition. His clients over the years included many wealthy collectors and The LDS Church Historic Collections.
He dressed for most of his adult life in 19th-Century-style clothing, including when traveling to other states. In 1976, during the bicentennial re-tracing of the Domingues/Escalante journey to Utah, Stephen and companions met the party in the desert, dressed authentically as fur-traders. Their clothing and accoutrement authenticity far outshone that of the re-creators! For decades he attended Mountain Man rendezvous all over the west, and was always welcomed by everyone.
People loved Stephen Shepherd, and were proud to know him. Sometimes they were friends of Stephen, sometimes friends of Tater, some not even knowing they were one and the same! His cheerful demeanor, his willingness to laugh at society’s faults, and his dedication to his friends make the memory of Stephen “Tater” Shepherd precious to all of us who were close to him.
Per Stephen’s wishes, no services will be held, donations may be made to This Is the Place Heritage Park in his memory.
Stephen (left) and myself (right), Mill Creek Canyon, February 1975. We camped this way. We were much younger then.
George Stapleford (left) and Stephen (right) near Moab, Utah, March 1975. Better camping conditions, still cold.
L to R, myself, Stephen, LaMar Higbee, Taos, New Mexico, May 1975. Yet better camping conditions.
George, Stephen, and I, September 2016.
I have found one place, however, where inexpensive instruments, not bottom-of-the-bucket VSOs, are useful, and that is in the fractional violins that go out on rentals. Even then, I don't just pull them out of the box and send them on their way. Typically, new (real) violin strings, work over the pegs, adjust or replace the bridge. Throw the bow away, substitute in a Glasser or something similar that has a chance of surviving.
And my rentals are rent-to-own, so I move the kids up through various sizes as they grow. If the kids stick with it, the parents are well into paying for a decent full-size fiddle by the time the child has grown to that size, and has learned, through various mistakes, how to take care of a fiddle.
The other day, this poor 1/4-size violin came in, brand new, from a reputable supplier. The fingerboard was a ski-jump. I debated sending it back, but didn't want that hassle. I debated asking the supplier for a new fingerboard. That just seemed too demeaning to all of us. So I decided to waste more time.
Here's the old fingerboard --
And here is the new one --
After all my reading and work with Hardanger fiddle design, I started to get a little interested in the inlay process, something I haven't done much of. So I found a piece of bone, a cut-off from a guitar-nut blank, cut it quickly to a rough diamond shape, laid it out on the center of the fingerboard in a random spot, and started the inlay.
I didn't notice at the time, but I drifted a bit to one side during the inlay process, something to be on the look-out for if I do more of these things.
I also did a little bit of simple engraving, which is a bit crude, but I think it looks better than just the bone diamond.
Also cut a new bridge, installed new Prelude strings and a Wittner tailpiece. For a cheap little fiddle, it ought to work well for someone.
On a sad note, my long-time friend, Stephen Shepherd, passed away yesterday. He had suffered a stroke a few years back, and went from being a vital historic cabinetmaker and author to a semi-paralyzed invalid. Early on, it looked like he might come out of it. He didn't. When I visited him in Salt Lake this past Thanksgiving, he was basically bedridden and bored, starving himself to death.
I will miss him.
Here we are, the Three Musketeers, at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, in 1974. Stephen is center, I am to the left, and George Stapleford to the right.
I’ve taken some wood down from the attic and have been truing it up for resawing. I true up wood with hand planes. I get a good work out, make lots of shavings, and enjoy the smell of freshly planed wood.
It is easy to disassociate materials from their source. When eating a hamburger one usually does not think of the cow from which it came. The same thing can happen with wood; one can forget it was once part of a tree.
One of the reasons I enjoy working wood with hand tools is the sense intimacy with the timber I am working. Each piece of wood and process of working it is unique. As a luthier I feel I have a better understanding of the structural and acoustic potential of wood as I work it by hand.
The cherry billet in the photograph still has bark on what had been the outside of the tree. This piece comes from a board that was originally about 12 feet long, perfectly quartered, and rough sawn. I made a few cherry dulcimers from this board several years ago. This last remaining piece has a few flaws I need to work around but most likely there is enough for a dulcimer or two in there.
Don't miss out!
This sale will continue until Tuesday, March 20, 2018!
Go to Guitars Currently Available to see the latest inventory!
Scott Landis, The Workshop Book, 1991
I am in the middle of making two classical guitars, one is a close copy of a 1926 Domingo Esteso, the other one a close copy of Andres Segovia's famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar. The Esteso style has a 640mm string length on a body smaller than the Ramirez style, almost three quarters of an inch shorter, and the Ramirez is fairly textbook, meaning that from the outside it looks like a 1912 Ramirez guitar. The inside is braced a little differently than the original, but the "fan" pattern of bracing was in use in the Ramirez shop at the time.
In all of this chaos of scraping down bindings, glueing on fret boards, making bridges, etc., I realized that I needed to rehabilitate my chisel-tool rack. There were chisels and pliers on the floor of the studio because there was no place to put them, a problem that needed a remedy.
The original rack was patterned after a French tool rack that was popular a few years ago, it worked but my tool collection had grown. You can read about the old rack elsewhere in this blog.
My solution to the problem was to add an extra rack on the bottom of the backing board.
Now back together, and back in the Middle School orchestra room:
I glued the pieces, those that made sense to look after, back together. Bushed the C and A pegholes, installed internal crossgrain cleats in the pegbox across the C and A peghole locations. Added a chunk of curly maple on the treble side, where it was missing and badly splintered. I didn't spend too much time with color-matching, it was a functional school repair that I probably underbid -- but, as in my previous post, the back and ribs were nicely done. Worth saving, I thought.
This viola should serve for several more years, barring too rough of use. Or dropping. Can't warranty against dropping.
I was having so much fun looking through Brian Derber's new Violin Making book, trying familiar things in different ways, that I forgot I was making a Hardanger fiddle and not a regular violin. I woke up one morning on the weekend, suddenly thinking about those different, overlapping Hardanger f-holes, how high they were, when, dang! I have been arching the middle section as normal. I quickly laid out the ff's and determined that I had, for me, gone too far. Maybe someone who had made Hardangers before could see there was enough wood left, maybe not. For me, I needed a fresh start.
So, I joined another set of spruce halves on Monday. On Tuesday, flattened the inner surface, then traced the outline, sawed it out, cleaned it up a bit and took down the edges, leaving the piece nice and fat in the center.
The new top is at top in this photo, the previous version below, with typical f-holes drawn in place. I can salvage that top for a new fiddle. The overhang is still a little wide, and if I'm careful with the corner blocks, using the same mould, I should be in good shape, even a little ahead on that one.
Wednesday, I pondered over the Hardanger holes, using a few resources I've gathered up. Not much really on the placement of the holes themselves, so I did the best I could, closed my eyes, and plunged a few holes.
Today, Thursday, I started cutting wood around the arc of the stems. Trying to follow Salve Håkedal's nicely illustrated tutorial.
We took advantage of free introductory classes in cross-country skiing offered at Ponderosa State Park near McCall, Idaho. Splendid instruction, and, after years of snowshoeing, nice to be able to slide about. We did ok on the classic cross-country class, fell a few times during the skate-ski class, and got up just as often.
My wife doing the no-pole shuffle --
She got a very brief video of me not falling down.
A light snow amount so far this year. Usually Payette Lake is frozen over, and we're out walking on it in our snowshoes, other folks out there ice-fishing. Not so this year. Hoping for more snow and cold temperatures to come soon.
This is a violin top I made a couple years ago. It was on a Guarneri del Gesu inspired violin I was making, and in the spirit of Paganini's del Gesu, "il Cannone", I left the plates thick. An experiment.
As I was carving it, I uncovered a small branch in the lower bout, treble side. Very frustrating to find it at that point in the process. I did learn to look for the tell-tale sign, the cross-section of a branch on the outer edge.
Flustered but not defeated, I continued carving, being careful around the rapidly changing grain. I managed to get under it, without much distortion to the arching. The weird grain was still there, and I grew to like it somewhat. It did bother me, wondering what sort of sonic impact it would have.
So then I went on. Here it is at the point in time we'll call "X" with my Brothers Amati plate underneath. I like to build two at a time.
So I finished both of them, strung them up. The Brothers Amati I liked. The del Gesu I hated. Give it a couple weeks to stretch and compress. Still hated it. No volume, unpleasant tone. Ok, it was an experiment, heavy plates. And there was that weird branch grain. Maybe it was to blame. So I pulled the top and thinned it down. Put it back together. Now it was louder, but still an unpleasant tone. Matters were worse.
Took it to a show in Portland, Oregon. Folks played it. Other makers played it. Most didn't mind it too much, but generally a polite bunch. It didn't sell, but not many violins sell there in a good year.
Moved the soundpost around a bit. Made a new soundpost. Still hated it.
I pulled the top again. Thinned the top more. Thinned the back. Put it together and strung it up. Now it was even louder, still hated the tone. Nasal, maybe, though with a head cold or bad allergy. Bad diction. Like listening to someone with a loud, sloppy voice, telling boring, long-winded stories.
Was it the branch grain? Nothing I did seemed to help.
Took it to Weiser. Folks played it. Some were complimentary. It didn't sell. Not much did that year at Weiser, either. Still, I hated it.
Brad Holst, a fellow violin repairer from Medford, Oregon, was there, had put a few of his violins on the table at my temporary shop at the Weiser Fiddle Contest. He said: "What's the spacing between your upper eyes?" 42 mm, I answered. "Hmm, " he said. "I'd be curious to see what it measures to."
So I pulled out a tape measure, and it came out at 39 mm.
Back to "X" point in time. I laid-out the terminal holes incorrectly on that plate. Distracted by the branch, perhaps. Well, shoot. I kept the fiddle around for a couple months after that, then finally said "no" to myself. I wouldn't sell something like that. Pulled the top off, made a new one.
I still am not crazy about the tone with the new top, but I don't hate it now. I could even play it for a few weeks and maybe learn how to handle it.
I thought about keeping the old top, with its too-close eyes, in the shop as a reminder of my mistake. Then, I realized, I make new mistakes every day, so don't need some reminder hanging on the wall. I'd rather have something nice to look at.
Last night's contra band rehearsal was at my place, a cold night, snow on the ground, so we had a nice fire in the fireplace, and cleared out some old debris, including not just that top, but a top from an old factory fiddle that had been badly cracked and put back together with Gorilla (TM) Glue. That was not my repair. I tried to clean it up and put it back together, but it was too far gone, and frankly not that good of a top to begin with. So I made a new one for that old fiddle, strung it up, and it sold within a week.
Here's the old top, also on its way to the afterlife.
Life goes on. Things are created, exist for a while, then are gone, elements to be recycled into something else. Here's a photo of some bread I pulled out of the oven while writing this blog post.
When I first converted a small bedroom into a workshop my wife Cynthia referred to it as “Doug’s playroom.” She’s right. I have spent many happy hours there.
Loving what you do doesn’t mean there will not be moments of challenge and/or frustration. That’s how life tends to go but if passion fuels the journey you keep on going.
I’m working on a few dulcimers at the moment. Two will be strung and set up next week. In the photograph is a dulcimer that probably won’t be completed before I have back surgery in a few weeks. I’m doing the “heavy lifting” now so I can do the less physically demanding work on the dulcimer when I am able to start working again.
I’ll also be resawing some beautiful cherry, walnut, curly ash, cedar, and cypress for future dulcimers.
Deep Winter has finally come to Central Michigan. Sap has gone to the roots and birds constantly visit the feeder during daylight. Deer and the occasional rabbit leave tracks in the snow outside the house. Cold weather and snow bring quiet to this small piece of the world. I’m happy.
Not my idea, probably an old one at that, but simple and effective. An adjustable marking gauge you can make in a few moments. Good for putting that running dent in the wood, something to cut to. The little screwhead lets allows you to get into the curves, which is nice at this point in the making.
Handy little adjustment tool, too.
Not to the final borders yet, but looking more like fiddles. A little spit on the end-grain of the spruce sure can make cutting easier. Plus, cutting spruce just smells like Christmas. Not sure what the maple smell reminds me of, but I like cutting the edges on the maple. Smooth and buttery.
Trying to snow outside my door now. Will warm up some nice drink and relax for the evening. Enjoy your holidays.