Friday, December 23. 2011
My build schedule next year is extremely limited because of the demands being placed on my time and energies by my participation in a new internet software startup. I currently have 2 slots open for 2012 delivery custom orders. I'm planning on delivering outstanding 2011 orders over the next several weeks.
Best wishes for a cheery holiday season and a good new year. Stay tuned !
Wednesday, February 23. 2011
Yes, its spring here in central Texas. Our winter consisted of a couple of freezing days earlier this month. Today its 78.
I have 3 tenor ukuleles and one custom guitar in progress right now. Two of the tenors are custom orders and the third will be available for sale later this month or early in March. I turned my workshop upside down and found one last set of California curly claro I didn't realize I'd tucked away and I'm building a spruce/claro 14 fret long scale model A3 tenor from it.
I opened my 2011 custom build list late last year and now have just one open slot left. The financial stresses which seem an unavoidable part of trying to support a family as a luthier have become tiresome and I'm in the process of turning my lutherie work back into a hobby. I'm going to spend quite a lot less time building and quite a lot more time working in my professional field as an independent contractor in software development, system administration, network engineering, software development project management, etc. My current interests are focused on the design and programming of massively scalable information systems , programming of GPU/HPC based financial trading systems, the design and implementation of wireless ad-hoc mesh networks and Android application development.
So if you've been thinking about ordering a custom tenor or classical guitar you might consider making a decision soon
I plan to summarize my experiences over the last few years as a working luthier in several future posts.
Thursday, December 30. 2010
Season's greetings ! After suffering through the tediously hot central Texas summer we're enjoying an extended spell of very nice weather. Today its 71, cloudy/blue and breezy.
I have just finished setting up a fabulous sounding deep body 14 fret long scale tenor in curly California claro and Swiss spruce. I'll have some photos soon. I'm installing the pickup and giving it a shine today.
After doing a casual inventory of wood around the workshop I realized that I had some nice material left over that was too small for use in sopranos but would make nice sopraninos ! In the spirit of waste not, want not I've designed a sopranino with a 290mm (~ 11.5") scale length in the general style of my current sopranos and have the first one (curly koa and spruce) in progress. I'll be offering it at a price slightly less than my current sopranos.
Also on the bench is an electric solid body tenor, a custom soprano in curly California claro and spruce and a custom rosewood/cedar nylon strung flat top acoustic jazz guitar with cutaway.
Best wishes for the new year. Stay tuned !
Monday, June 21. 2010
I've been watching our fennel plant so that i could document an example of one of the great mysteries and treasures of life, metamorphisis - in this case, of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Having denuded almost totally, but not completely, our fennel plant of flowers and tender branches, the monarch caterpillars suspend themselves in an inconspicuous place by a couple of fillaments of gossamer and go into a state of silent and motionless contemplation, preparation for their rebirth as a butterfly.
After a couple of days, they acquire an appearance remarkably like a fennel flower pod before it opens, or the sheath like part of the plant that covers the bifurcation of a fennel stalk, shown in the photo to the right. Clever fellows. In case you are wondering, the caterpillars left a few flower tops. These will go to seed and provide next year's food and shelter for the monarchs.
Footnote: apologies for the quality of the photos. I don't have a macro lens. These were shot with a Nikor 50mm 1.8, which has a minimum focusing distance of about 18".
Wednesday, September 9. 2009
Ok, my email system at chantus.com seems back to normal after firewalling out a number of IP addresses in the .ru, .po, .th, .sa and .br tlds.
I 've had a tagged message delivery agent, TMDA integrated with my local mail delivery mechanism for some time. The first time you send email to me at wpk at chantus.com, you'll get an automated reply asking you to confirm your email. Once you confirm, you are whitelisted and subsequent email is delivered normally.
After a long weekend working on the servers (yesterday was a holiday here in the US), i am glad to get back to lutherie. Sitting in one place for 12 hours at a time looking at a screen and wiggling the fingers gets old after a couple of days and lutherie provides the perfect balance. Today i'm going to inlay crown fingerboard markers on Minoru's tenor, make and inlay rosettes on several tops, graduate and brace several backs, and work on several necks, plus the usual tinkering on this and that.
Thursday, August 20. 2009
I had a phone call from LMII today. They explained that they couldn't fill my recent order for nitrocellulous lacquer because their supplier, The Lawrence McFadden company, had ceased doing business. McFadden was an old Philadelphia family business who counted many American luthiers amongst their satisfied customers. RIP.
FWIW, Grizzly still has stock.
Sunday, August 16. 2009
I had today all figured out last night when i quit working around 11pm.
I'd take a quick trip to Lake Travis about 30 minutes outside of Austin first thing in the morning with my wife and dog to float some and stretch my eyes, get back into town before lunch and stop at Jersey Mikes for a #13 (Provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami and pepperoni) done Mike's Way (shredded lettuce, tomato, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper), start a new loaf of bread for the evening (3+ cups bread flour, 1 Tbs salt, 2 Tbs yeast, 1 1/2 cup water, 425F, 23 min.), and then work on the pineapple prototype for the rest of the afternoon (finish the neck, bend the sides, graduate the top and back).
Then maybe i'd BBQ something light on the smoker outside in the early evening after it cooled down a bit, and once it was dark pull up a few xterms on the desktop and work on the server i'm setting up for a few hours until i hit yet another temporary snag that forces me to again dig into the ins-and-outs of linux/unix networking in a virtualized xen/centos system: xenbr0, virbr0, arp, iproute2, iptables, tcpdump and so on and so forth. Its a typical schedule for me - i generally work 7 days a week, 12+ hours a day, timeshared between projects, interspersed with breaks of a few hours or a half day now and then, when it suits me. Mostly i like what i do, and so i do it most of my waking hours.
Well, not to make too long a story of it, i was standing in Mikes, all relaxed from a couple of hours on my Swimway spring float counting stratocumulus clouds all lined up in rows over the lake, watching the folks behind the counter make my sandwich when Deborah rushed in to excitedly inform me that STEAM was billowing out from under the hood of our Jeep Cherokee, followed shortly by our dog who, wondering what all the excitement was about, had jumped out of the car, followed Deborah into the deli, and started rushing around, obviously curious to find out what new tastes were in the offing.
I've mentioned here before that we've been having some severely hot weather. To tell the truth, its not bad as long as you are at most a couple of feet from the lake, a breeze is up, you have some swimming shorts on AND there are a few clouds in the sky. But it is better if you are actually IN the lake. I think we've had a pretty continuous run of days near, over or way over 100F (38C) for the last couple of months. We're also having a severe drought, apparently one of the worst ones ever in central Texas.
And I am standing outside on the black asphalt in the parking lot in front of Jersey Mike's in the middle of the day with a cold sub in my hand, the hood (bonnet to you Brits) on the Cherokee open, looking at a puddle of anti-freeze on the ground and what appears to be a radiator hose which has just done me the favor of giving up the ghost at a most auspicious moment. The sun is withering down unmercifully, the only shade cast down the sidewalk in patches by the architectural details on the front of the stores in this north Austin stripmall.
That's when i knew i had gotten lucky !
This could have happened to me on one of my occassional road trips through the old South West out to California. Say Sunday night 50 miles east of El Paso, the savage dusty streets of nearby war torn Ciudad Juarez across the river ahead. Anyone my age has already had a flat in the middle of the night on IH10 with the lights of Casa Grande twinkling distantly in the dark sky, lug nuts too tight to turn by hand. Or run out of gas 80 miles from Salt Lake City in the winter or replaced a clutch in a De Tomaso Pantera in the parking lot of a hotel in Carmel California on the weekend of the Monterey Historics.
Replace a Jeep radiator hose in a parking lot a few miles from home ? No Problem !
I'm back in the workshop now. Its 4pm. Life's little challenges make us stronger and wiser. Time to get the camera out, get on with the pineapple project and take some photos while there is light left. It'll be tcpdump, iptables, arp and iproute2 later this evening, after some pecan smoked Meyer's Elgin sausage, fresh homemade bread and a couple of Shiner bocks in chilled glasses.
Stay tuned !
Thursday, May 7. 2009
Here are a few quick photos taken around the workshop today. I'm trying out some postprocessing techniques to make the best of unstaged snapshot type photography using the DSLR. Its an indoor environment with a mix of incandescent and natural light so a tripod is required and white balance issues are present. I need to develop a camera white balance preset that works here in my workshop.
1) The back is ready to be glued on a cedar and maple classical guitar. I use hot hide glue on my backs and on my binding and purfling to make removal of the back easier. The plantilla is taken from a 1931 Santos Hernandez guitar in the collection of an acquaintance. The bracing is a Torres/Santos pattern with a lower diagonal cross brace taken from the practice of Fleta and others.
2) The back is on. Its held in place with tape while the glue dries. The gluepot is on the right. Some binding and purfling, finish sanding, a fingerboard and a bridge and we'll be in good shape !
3) A 2001 Fujihiro calendar hangs on the wall. It features a nice collection of photos of Japanese gardens. Fujihiro makes traditional style Japanese wood chisels (nomi). That is a Delta 50-760 dust extractor hooked up my Performax 16-32 drum sander in the foreground.
Wednesday, March 4. 2009
Juglans hindsii, a new species of walnut tree, was discovered in northern California by the English botanist Richard Hinds in the mid-19th century. The first substantial stands were found in the valley of Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County, the banks of the Sacramento River, particularly at Walnut Grove, and the Wooden Valley east of Napa. Known as 'claro' walnut, it is the most colorful and one of the most rare of all walnuts.
Now that i've laid up some Honduras mahogany, koa and spruce for the coming year, i've bought in this nice 9/4 billet of claro. It is wide enough for one piece tenor backs with room to spare, but the high curl almost demands bookmatching. It was cut in 1993 and has been air drying for 15 years. Stay tuned for one or two R&D instruments later this year from this billet of claro, teamed up with some Adirondack spruce or California redwood soundboards.
Monday, February 16. 2009
Swietenia Macrophylla, commonly known by luthiers as Honduras Mahogany, has been the wood of choice for the necks of plucked string instruments like the guitar and ukulele for many years. Varying in color from golden to deep red brown it darkens naturally with age, eventually acquiring a beautiful glowing natural patina. The best quality Honduras mahogany has a moderately high stiffness/weight ratio, is buttery smooth to carve, is very stable and finishes well - all qualities which recommend it for necks. It has also been used most notably by Martin for the bodies of their series 17 guitars like this vintage 1944 0-17, this vintage 1940 00-17 and the D-17. Martin also used Honduras mahogany for their venerated ukuleles. However, current Martin 'mahogany' guitars like their 000-15 are as likely to be sapele, a faux mahogany from Africa, as Honduras mahogany.
Some populations of Swietenia Macrophylla were listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Appendix II and III during the last decade or so. Last week I went out to buy some 10/4 (lumberyard speak for 10 * 1/4" or 2 1/2" thick) planks for ukulele necks and found it unexpectedly unavailable at a couple of the merchants I normally buy from. I saw a lot of African mahogany, a lot of sipo mahogany and some low quality genuine mahogany which looked like it had been rejected by a furniture manufacturer, but very little good musical instrument quality genuine mahogany. I eventually located some nice 10/4 planks of Honduras at almost twice the price i was paying last year. At the end of the day I was suffering from *serious sticker shock*. I'm going to buy more when i can afford it.
Monday, January 26. 2009
Allergies in Central Texas are nothing to sneeze at. Austin has been called "The Allergy Capital of the World" by locals for years.
On the edge of the Texas Hill Country, with its vast rolling arid landscape of cedar and Ashe Juniper, Austin is tortured with waves of cedar pollen at this time of year and anyone who has lived here for more than 10 or 15 years, long enough to become sensitized to the allergens, knows it. I'm as big a strapping lad as the next guy and never had a problem hiking through a dust storm with a 65 pound pack on my back, but this year the pollen has been vicious. Most long term Austin residents were walking around sniffling, skin crawling, trying to tear their eyeballs out last week. Check out this Austin seasonal allergy forecast.
This month, I'm upgrading the air quality in my home and home workroom. After doing some research on the net, i decided to install a true HEPA air purifier in the living room, install a new air filter system in my workroom and upgrade my dust collection system.
I picked up a Honeywell 50250 for the living room and a new 24x24 super-allergen-grade furnace filter ($25) for the house. You can spend a lot of money on HEPA air purifiers, but this one is affordable and excellent value. It was $169 at Home Depot. After running it for a day or two its a very different world. Highly recommended !
I'm upgrading my old Jet 650 dust collector to a Delta 50-760. The Jet 650 was ok but it had a hard time moving enough air at a high enough static vacuum to really work with my Jet 18" bandsaw. However, it was pretty effective on my Performax drum sander, which has a very good dust hood. The 650 also had a little issue with the 30 micron bag and the cloth bag collector. The Delta 50-760 moves twice as much air at higher static vacuums, has a 1 micron filter bag and a plastic collector bag. It has received what appears to be 'best in class' reviews from users and the woodworking press. It costs about $360 at Amazon. If you've joined the Amazon Prime program, second day shipping is free.
30 microns, 1 micron ? There is an interesting chart on the relative particle sizes of air contaminants half way down this page at air-purifier-power.com.
I'm not a big fan of bag filters, even 1 micron ones, so i'm upgrading the Delta 50-760 with a 35A series cartridge filter conversion kit from Wynn Environmental in Warwick, PA. Check out their information on the filtration efficiency of cartridges made using their 80/20 blend, based on the ASHRAE 52.2 test standard. Here are notes on the 50-760 cartridge filter conversion using the Wynn kit.
Here is some good general info on dust collector cartridge conversions. Obviously, its best to stop any fine particulate pollution at the source.
Finally, i've added a Jet 1000B air filter system to my workroom. Anything that gets by the Wynn equipped 50-760 stops here. It has an electrostatic prefilter, a washable main filter, 3 speeds, a remote and a timer function. On high speed, this can change the air in my workroom in less than 5 minutes. On low, its nice and quiet and keeps the air quality where it should be. Its $329 at your local Woodcraft store.
Better air quality, better comfort, better productivity, better health. Total cost: around $1000, or about a dollar a day over the next 5 years.
Friday, January 16. 2009
My youngest son is finishing his last full year at the University of Texas this year. How time flies !
Inscribed on the main building at UT Austin is the motto:
"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
Always apt, and particularly appropriate now during this time of change.
Saturday, November 29. 2008
Wednesday, September 24. 2008
That was a long hot summer ... now that autumn is here we're down to a week or two of days in the low 90s then maybe we'll get some decent weather in October ... there is a reason why water rights are such a big deal in Texas.
Here is a shot or two of a new R&D piece - a L. Nunes style soprano in Rio rosewood and California redwood with paua abalone top purfling. I also have a very nice Midi tenor almost finished and a number of custom tenors and a couple of other R&D pieces in the works. I want to write a few notes now that we're approaching the end of the year. In one, i hope to summarize progress with the ukulele project i started a couple three years ago.
Sunday, June 29. 2008
I was given an old hollow body guitar by a neighbor who collects Gibson and PRS guitars. He moved recently and gifted me with an unwanted instrument. I'm not sure what it is, though i have an idea. It was originally purchased on ebay in 2000 from a LA seller. It was offered as being likely one of the 1970's era Gibson L5 copies made by several different Japanese companies, most notably Ibanez. From the meager info i've gleaned on the net, apparently these instruments became known as 'lawsuit guitars' because Gibson either threatened or actually did sue to stop their manufacture and sale. Although this instruments looks to be in very good condition, there are signs of wear and discoloration that suggest it might actually be 30 or more years old. There are no serial numbers stamped on the back of the headstock and no labels inside the guitar. Each pickup has a 'Pat Applied For' sticker on the back but no other manufacturers identification. The neck is straight, the controls and pickups work. The frets and the darkened (stained?) rosewood fingerboard show some wear in the area near the nut but are otherwise pretty good. The fingerboard inlays look like they are some kind of cellulose acetate product designed to imitate mother of pearl and are intact but show some shrinking. The finish on the headstock shows crazing but otherwise the finish is excellent with a few chips and scuffs typical of a guitar of this age that has seen some use as a player. The fingerboard binding shows some cracking from age and a section on the treble side has been repaired at some time prior to 2000. The scale length is 25 1/2", the nut is about 1 11/16 and the body is 17" wide. The instrument is very playable and has nice sustain and a sweet, round and articulate tone.
I'd like to identify the manufacturer and approximate date of build. Here are some larger photos of the quarter view, body, back, side, pickup, tailpiece, tuners, and headstock. The top is spruce faced ply. The neck is glued in and is maple. Its some kind of Gibson L5 copy, by whom and when i do not yet know. Drop me an email please if you have a clue.
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