Friday, November 25, 2011

To Be Is To Do, To Do Is To Be, and Do Be Do Be Do

I am now working on purfling for my second and third instruments. Before Thanksgiving break, which I am oh so thankful for, I finished grinding a blank to make my purfling pick and picked out part of the channel I cut. I felt it was a bit rough but Brian reassured me I was doing just fine. I just feel like I should be a lot better having done it before.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and Shawn and I went to two Thanksgiving meals. It's pretty safe to say I didn't feel like getting out of bed today and when I did, my roommate had cooked up a small turkey and made a belated Thanksgiving feast for herself and was happy to share. Wow, I have never eatin' so hardy in my life (and felt so sleepy and lazy). But here I am, the day after Thanksgiving, feeling like getting back to motion and getting some things done. Next weekend is busy busy. I have two functions I will be playing for. One is playing with an orchestra that is backing up a choir for their winter show and the other is to be background music for the Festival of Trees held every year in Manitowish Waters. That is the one I am not feeling very comfortable with.
That's about all for now folks! And like the characters in SAW would say....."cherish life". . . .and that I feel I do.  :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beetles and Beeswax

I don't believe I ever mentioned there are two students  going to school this year. Linda and I. Last year there were six of us which is just about capacity for the little shop. I am also living with Linda which has been working out nicely (last year I lived with two different students, not so nice).
I haven't written in a while but today it just felt like it was time, not me forcing myself like it's homework which I dread, no I was on the computer and thought oh I WANT to write on my blog :) Maybe it's because I have something to say. Many weeks ago something happened that I really wanted to remember and write about. Several weeks ago Brian was working in the shop and doing things that made me feel like I was living in the 1800s for the day (more so than what usually goes on). He was making varnish, sealent for the wood before varnish, and creating a natural pigment. I felt like it was 1812 as I was watching him boil bug bodies (to extract color; it is a type of small beetle that has shriveled and dried) and beeswax, literally very raw beeswax, straight out of the hive, with lots of particles and bee parts stuck in it. I was intrigued and asked him if he learned this at Chicago which is where he went to school, and he said no. He learned it on his own from doing some research. I thought what he was doing was great! It was like a long lost art! Especially with my generation, it is the norm to go to the store get exactly what you need, many times already prepared, but what Brian was doing was very different. And then I think about what we do everyday and get the same feeling. It is refreshing to create something so spectacular with raw materials. I rarely even cook that way! I like tortelinni with the meat and cheese already packed in each little bite! I discovered for me, what we do at school is humbling. This feeling has replaced the inexperience and frustration even though I have a long way to go and the things to do, make, try never end.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Finished joining all my plates a few weeks ago. Ran into one slight problem with the maple for the Amati. After running the boards over my jointer plane, making sure the edge was nice and square, and having the slightest gap in the center, I began preparing to glue them. Brian ran through the steps with me, and I practiced before gluing, because you have to be aware of the glue and how quickly it will begin to dry. So the first time I was brushing glue onto the plates Brian was standing over me saying, "move faster, work a little faster," you know just the norm for me, ha ha. So I brushed glue on to the plates and began rubbing them together, back and forth. This creates friction and the glue sets up. Eventually you can no longer move the plates. This process of rubbing the plates together takes less than a minute before the glue holds. Then we press the plates together for about a minute and check the joint to see if there are any gaps. Three out of four of my plates looked great. The one, there was a slight gap at the end which was partly due to the squirrely grain direction there. For this we wet the wood on both sides of the joint and ran a flame over it causing the wood to expand and maybe close the gap. After letting those dry the next big step was drawing and cutting out the outline of my violin top and back. Then I used the bow saw to saw them out. And then it was gouging time! This is just where I take a lot of wood off to create the rough shape of the arches on the outside of the plates.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Beginning of Year 2

My summer was wonderful, but now it's back to school. Getting back, I started right in to working on my Amati and Strad model rib assemblies. I did some filing and sanding. One file we use in this process is a crosscut file or what I remember it as....a bird's tongue file. When sanding, we begin by sanding with 100 grit, the ribs and the lining. Then we wet everywhere we sanded to raise the grain, let it dry, and sand again with a finer grit. We do this a few times before finalizing the corners. One thing we work toward is symmetry. Then we set the rib assemblies aside for a while to start working on the plates.
                  Plate preparation begins by using a rip saw to saw the plates apart, then planing. Last year I did all my flattening with a block plane. This year thanks to Brian keeping a close eye on ebay, I bought from him a bench or smooth plane. It is a number 4 plane so it is bigger than my block plane. It is not brand new but it's in pretty good shape, so I began using that to flatten plates= the process went faster. Last year since I was just working on one instrument I had to flatten two sets of plates, this year I did four. So by the end I was able to flatten the last one in half an hour :) what a relief. One thing I learned that can be pretty important to look for is run-out, mostly in the spruce. Back in the day the wood was split instead of sawn, so they didn't have to worry about it so much. But now since everything is sawn, the saw doesn't necessarily parallel the grain. That is how I understood it anyway. When we get wood it is often much thicker than we need to make up for the fact it might not be cut with the grain and so we can adjust it with planing. To say the least, I am beginning to look at wood very differently. It is really amazing. There is a lot more to learn about different woods than one would think.
          I also got some experience using oil stones and what I believe are Arkansas stones. I have Japanese stones, because it was what Brian suggest we buy, but Japanese stones are softer than these other two kinds. I am still struggling with sharpening. I believe I ended up regrinding my jointer plane blade three times before I was done, because I would quickly round the edge to the point where sharpening became close to about aggravating. I have also began getting my all wood jointer plane ready to start planing my plates. Which is also a very meticulous process, one that Brian says not even a machine could handle.
                 Oh and to my mom......Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Oh to Summer

Today was my last day at school. Now starts a whole new summer adventure! I ended with working on my two rib assemblies, Amati and Strad. All my ribs are bent and on, and the lining is almost fisnished, just have to do a little sanding. I will be going back for a couple days to get my jointer plane built, which we make out of wood except the blade and a screw of course. Overall this school year was really good and good for me too. Boy it really tested my dedication and patience at the beginning of the year, but I have made it this far at the least. I am ending this year with anticipation for the next!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Continuation of Something Great ;)

My bridge is done! The next thing I had to do after block planing the taper was work on the feet. It reminded me of working on the bass bar. It has to fit just right! Then we worked on the top and getting the string height correct; oh and string spacing, first establishing the correct positon of the G and E strings. After it was done, we put some varnish on it to keep it nice. I got to play with the new bridge on this weekend....oh and I took all of the fine tuners off except the E. My tailpiece is about 30gs lighter now, ha. Working on my bridge, I had to keep up with my school work also which meant not eating much of a lunch last week. But hey, you give and take.
I am still working on my Strad and Amati model violins. I am finishing my blocks to get ready to bend the rest of the ribs, which means I have been making the C-bout ribs and corner blocks come to a nice point. Ah this fiddle already is looking good. I didn't mess up on the corners like my first fiddle. It looks much more normal and elegant than my first.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring break has ended, well it ended a while ago actually, but I am just now writing again school I am on rib assembly two and three. I will work on these two at the same time until they are to the point of my first and then continue all of them from there with knecks etc. Overall my spring break was great.
Today I started working on fitting a bridge for the fiddle I play now. I recently got a pickup and knew it was about time for a new bridge also, so I bought some from Taylor USA and today Brian finally let me begin. I just began working on the back side of the bridge and planed two flats, one that tapers to the top of the bridge, it was easy going too which was nice. I don't know how long before I get to put the new bridge on, but I am definitely looking forward to it.

We have moved on to reading The Violin-Makers of the Guarneri Family (1626-1762). It is good, interesting for the most part and a little easier to read than the Strad book from last semester.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

work work and PARTY!

Ok so I believe I left off with graduating the maple.......well, my first violin body is finished :) and I am very happy. What we do now is put it away and start two more at the same time. Then when all three are done it is scroll, kneck, and varnish time :). Right now, all I have been working on is making my own forms and templates a painstaking, necessary evil. I have two templates and almost two forms completed after filing on them for the better part of two weeks. I have an Amati and a I believe the year was 1710 Strad.

Well I have some good and bad news on the music seen. I have been playing with a fellow musician lately by the name of Scott Kirby, and I have never loved music this much before. I remember the first time playing with him I was sooo in to it that I was messing myself up. And all he does is play music literally. It is great and I have been playing every Saturday night with him at Otto's in downtown Minocqua. Well I was leaving the gig yesterday when some very drunk guys hit my car. I was still parked! Farther down the road, it sounded like they wrecked pretty bad too. I keep telling people, this is what I get for playing at bars. Total idiots!

And now on a more positive note. I am going to be playing with Scott and the band for the title of band of Wisconsin. I am excited! But it also means I need to hurry up and carve a bridge for my fiddle and set-up a pickup.

So school is going great. Oh almost forgot. We threw Brian, our teacher, a surprise party at school on his birthday and who is the mastermind you of course! It was great, a total hit. Of course Brian is too humble to tell us when his birthday is cause it's no big deal and all, but of course I found out ;) and interestingly enough, he had a dentist appointment on this day of his So first I quietly told a fellow student of mine, Linda. And then came the plan of attack (or surprise). All in all a complete success. And let me tell ya....we really decked out the shop, streamers, balloons, the works. And for dessert, cupcakes.
Do I have some pictures to show you......which will be on facebook......

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bass Bar and other Events

Today I just about finished my bass bar, the last step being sanding with 220 grit sand paper. Oh looking through my notes I see one very important and exciting step I neglected to mention (this is why I need to write more). . .graduating the inside of my top plate. It was quick for me and fun, but the guys are still ahead of me. We were given different thicknesses that we used fingerplanes to get to. They were rough dimensions. As I reached these dimensions Brian began to explain what we were looking for. After all, all wood is a little the order of importance I was told is 1)Flexibility 2)Weight 3)Taptones. He explained the different ways to check the flexibility also. Flexing the plate with the grain, across the grain, and diagonally. Now I know there are people out there that put great importance to taptones and although I know relatively little about the Carlene Huthchins method, I don't doubt there is truth there. It is just interesting how very diverse making can be and the importance people put on each step. Anyway, so we don't go crazy with taptones, but I have to say Brian justifies it quite well. Here's something I thought was interesting. Brian said you have to be careful of making the area below the f-holes too thin, because it can produce wolf tones if you do. As I began to take my plate thinner and thinner Brian was able to deduce that my wood is dense and therefore a little stiff. My rough dimensions from edge to center started out at 2.8mm, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, and 3.2 below the f-holes. I ended after scraping with my final dimensions being 2.3, 2.6, and 3 in center. Brian gives us ranges of thicknesses for almost everything we do. It really all depends on the wood. After I finished my graduation of the top plate, its weight was 68.2g and I had a taptone of an E at the edge and Dflat at the center. Which is close to an octave which is good. So this whole process took me about half as much time as the boys and I began feeling better....
                Then since we left the wings of the f-holes attached to do the graduating, I went back and completely finished the f-holes. Then began bass bar placement. I first cut, shaped, and glued the cleats. One very handy tool we use in fitting the bass bar is soft white chalk. This way we can scoot the bass bar on the plate after rubbing the chalk on the plate and see where the bar is touching the plate already and where to cut more. The point with the bass bar is to create a little tension on the ends. To test this you hold the ends of the bar down and you should be able to either see or feel the f-hole wing just above it move up. This is sort of your tension gauge. You also want the bar to roll from one end to the other nicely, no bumps or flat spots or points where it rocks like a teeter-totter. So after the bar was glued, I removed the cleats and began shaping it. At one point while graduating the spruce and after weighing and taptuning it Brian said, "Wow you are building a race car here Tess, I don't know if you can handle it." You know what I said..."Oh yes I can."
           On another note, I took my fiddle in today to glue a seem for the second time. This dry weather is rough. My roommate either wants me to move out or he is thinking he might, and I am still uncertain what I want to do with my life....You know I had a thought today. I had a great weekend this past weekend, approaching the best weekend I have ever had. It was fun. But for me, life is about a little more than just having fun. I think that was important for me to realize because you hear people talking about wanting to be happy or living a happy life. You are happy when you are having fun right? But the fun can't last forever, and when it ends, what is left? The trick is to be very happy at something that makes you a lot of money :)
               Today I also began graduating my maple after taking it of the rib assembly and form....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

F- Holes. . .

Yes recently I finished cutting out my f-holes, a very enjoyable process as long as you put out of your mind messing up....I went through the whole, arduous process of f-hole placement, mensur being brought up again and driven into our brains as a ratio. More specifically of neck to stop length; the ratio being 2:3.Knowing this and knowing that the stop length is 19.5cm; we are able to deduce the neck length which is then 13cm. Love the math! To make sure the f-holes were carved wide enough to fit a sound post we used a sort of sound post dummy that is 7mm wide. We were also told the different distances between the upper eyes for different makers: that of Strad being 41mm, Amati being 40mm, and Brian's teacher and Guarneri being 42mm, which is what we are using. 
So after penciling out my f-holes, I was told they have character. Take that as you wish. My whole instrument is full of character :)  For sawing out the f-holes before knifing we use a deep throated fret saw, drilling holes first to insert the blade. The next big step for me is making the bass bar. The very last thing I did on Friday was the fluting on the f-holes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back at it again. Break was wonderful, and I am already making plans for the next one in March. I have to say, getting back to school was nice. Right away I made another scraper for detail work on the instrument. Oh and I'm going to try to post some pictures of the fiddle either here or on facebook or both....My birthday is coming up on Saturday as some of you have already posted me Happy Birthday messages. Thank you...I am missing a great time this month at the Western Hills festival in Oklahoma. You guys better not have too much fun without me!

On Friday I finished putting a second coat of shellac on the f-hole knife handle. It is beautiful, might I add. This week was both really great and really frustrating, but I am learning lots of course.
I just called a lady about playing for an hour apiece on Friday and Saturday this week. It is a no-pay gig, but that's okay. I still can do my share of charity.