Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fiddle (IW#052)

The peg head with a friction peg.

I have been reading a book called "One Man's Trash," which a history of cigar box instruments.  The first, apparently, were fiddles, and the earliest image of one is from the Civil War (though it was published later).  Of course before people could make cigar box instruments there had to be cigar boxes, which did not really start to be used until 1811, which is one of the first mentions of a 100 count box of "Spanish Segars."  Not that people were not making their own instruments, rather that the first specifically cigar box instruments had to wait until there were boxes readily available.

There are a surprising (well, surprising to me, anyway) number of one-string cigar box fiddles mentioned over the years, starting in the Civil War and going right through to about World War I.  So clearly I needed to make a fiddle.  Now that I have a peg shaver I am off to the races, and was happy to be able to put this little box to use that i had come across.  It is too small for anything else, really, but perfect for this.

Here is what I am able to make it sound like, but I wish i had someone here who actually plays fiddle.  I am able to scrape some notes out of it, but I would be interested to see whether a fiddle player could get decent music out of it.  So no apologies for the lack of skill, but maybe more of a warning.  You get the idea though, the sound is tolerable:

Dainties Uke (IW#051)

I had two things I wanted to try with this one:  I had seen a photo of a guitar someone made with a table leg, and I like the turned look at the end, so I wanted to try that.  I also had recently seen Tim Anderson's tapered reamer and peg shaver and really wanted to give them a shot.  One of the things that has been bugging me has been that I work with all of this found stuff and then I buy cheap tuners from China.  That sure as heck isn't found, that's bought.  Cheating, in a way.  So I really want to make my own pegs, and this is the best way I know how.

So I tried to make a cookie tin banjo uke from a little tin from the flea market.  The turning on the table leg is a bit too narrow at the nut, so it does not really work in that sense, but the pegs and the tapered hole were a success.  So as a proof-of-concept exercise it worked, which I am pretty excited about.  It sounds ok, but I think I am going to disassemble it and put a different neck on it one of these days.  I like the table leg idea, it is just too skinny for four strings.  It could work for a three string job, thouh, so that might be next.  Here it is:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fabuloso Baritone Uke (IW#050)

Well, it has been some time since I put any photos up here, but that does not mean that I have not been working. 

I had been wanting a baritone uke for some time.  My mom had one (still does) when I was small, and she played it for us and we sang together, so I had been waxing nostalgic about it for a while.  This particular cigar box came into my hands, and I was really surprised by how good it sounds.  The top is solid cedar, and although it is a little thicker than a guitar or uke top should be, it really has quite a nice sound. 

Number 50 is going to be a real player, I can tell.  Took it to the uke jam this past weekend and it really held its own well.  And I like the baritone uke scale length.  It is just a bit shorter than a tenor guitar, but similar in most other ways, so very easy to play. And it says "Fabuloso" right on the front.  What more could you ask?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letter Box Uke (IW#49)

A friend gave me this box this summer, telling me that she used to keep letters in it.  It is one of these boxes that has 1/8" plywood as the lid, which makes it a pretty lively box.  Made a nice little uke.  I didn't make a video, though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Rehumanizer (IW#48)

A friend wanted me to make him an instrument that sounded "real dirty."  Well, no problem.  We are recording a version of the Police's not-so-much-of-a-hit "Re-Humanize Yourself" and he wanted something that sounded good and unclean.

This thing is a cross between a diddley bow and a lap steel.  I had been wanting to make another one of these ever since the Cacophatar, which was a great deal of fun to play and I have been missing, so I thought I would make another instrument similar to that.  This time it is three strings (tuned D A d) and has a resonator that is an old aluminum stock pot.  It sounds pretty great, and the work we have been doing on the recording has been fun.  I will post that as soon as we get it finalised.  In the mean time here is what it sounds like:

Queen of Hearts (IW#47)

Had a family of good friends come and visit recently.  The 11-year-old daughter has been learning ukulele, and and was noodling around on some of the instruments I have kicking around here.  I asked if she would like to make herself a slide guitar.  She jumped at the chance, and the best part was how much she wanted to do the work herself.  I had a scrap of red oak from some old church pews kicking around that was too small to use for a neck unless it was a two string instrument, which was fine with her.  Here she is working, first at the band saw:

Then we drilled out the head stock and joined the drill holes with a coping saw.  She flattened out the rough cut with a rasp:

After that it was on to shaping the neck, first with a spoke shave and then with rasps and finally sand paper :

She wanted the sound hole in the shape of a heart, so she drilled two holes and we joined them with the coping saw.
All in all it was a fun couple of hours, and she got to use a bunch of tools (under close supervision, never fear), and she went home with an instrument that she made.  Pretty cool.  We strung it up with three strings and tuned them to C G C.  Sounds pretty good:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

El Gato BluesMaster (IW#046)

There is this guy that it has been my good fortune to play music with off and on for the last ten years or so.  He is one of these guys that can play the hell out of anything he grabs, you could give him a folding chair and he could play the blues on it.

Well, when I made the first BluesMaster it was obvious that he needed to own one.  So I began the hunt for the parts.  I also began trying to figure out what to paint the banjo head.  When we played together a bunch of years ago, he sometimes referred to himself as "Lovercat," so the black cat seemed like a good choice.

The fork tailpiece wraps around to the back.
It is not quite as loud as I was hoping it would be, but it has a pretty nice sound.  I drilled some holes in the top cake pan to let more sound out, and that helped a fair amount.  Getting the ratio of sizes right pan-to-pan is clearly pretty important in terms of projecting the sound forward instead of trapping it in the sound chamber.  The neck is a piece of maple that came out of the same board as the original BluesMaster, one that I had salvaged from a woodworker's shop when his roof collapsed and he went out of business.  The last time I used maple I only put a coat of oil on it, and I have noticed already that the steel strings are starting to stain it where I press them down.  So to try to keep the neck a little cleaner this one is lacquered. Not sure I am sold on that, though, it seems like too technical a finish for these instruments.  Should work, though.

Once again I used Corian for the bridge, I am starting to really like the results I get from it.  It is set up as a tenor banjo tuned Chicago style, DGBE.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pete Seeger Tenor (IW#045)

I have been getting a lot of mileage out of old number 38, the first Punch tenor.  The box is a good size, it sounds pretty good, it is a nice size.  So I went back to the smoke shop and asked if they had another of those boxes.  Took them a while to get one empty (something about cigars not selling as well.  A health risk, apparently.  Who knew?), but finally one came free and they called me.  About that time I found out that an old friend named Lance from New York had a connection to Pete Seeger and said that if I could get a box over there that Pete would sign it for me.  Holy jeebers.  Thanks to the USPS and Lance I ended up with a cigar box with Pete's autograph  so clearly had to make another tenor.

This one has been an interesting process.  Not only is it more fraught for me because I damn well better not screw it up, it is the first time I am building something I have built before, with the possibility of building it better.

That is Seeger's autograph below the bridge.
For a neck I got out some black locust that had been a tree in our backyard.  We took it down a couple of years ago and I had some of it sawn into lumber.  It is about ready to use, so I took a chunk of that.  I have never use black locust before, it is kind of stringy with an open grain.  Looks an awful lot like red oak, actually.  For a bridge I used a scrap of Corian, a countertop material.  I got that idea from my friend Steve Wishnevsky. He told me that Corian transfers the sound to the tone wood better than a lot of woods, so I have been using that.

All in all, it came out pretty well.  I have a new favorite instrument.  And if anyone wants the first Punch tenor (the one that is linked above) drop me a line.  I'm looking to sell it to a good home.  I can't play two of them.

It being autographed by Pete Seeger, I had to have the first song be a Seeger tune.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mountain Ukes (IW#'s 43 & 44)

I wrote a little while ago about a project making ukuleles.  These came, as I described before from an old piano we are dismantling in conjunction with a dance piece for a company called Dance Exchange.  I got enough scrap to make two ukes, which I have dubbed the "Mountain Ukes," as they are being made for that piece.

The tennon on the neck fits in to a mortice on the body for a secure joint.
This has been my first foray into making the sound chambers, and I tried a new method for setting the neck, which I stole from Joel Eckhaus, a very accomplished luthier who presented at the Furniture Society conference recently.  He has a tennon cut on the end of the neck which he bolts into a mortise in the body.  Very clever, so I stole it for these.  One of the limitations I have run into doing the "stick-through-a-box" method is that the sound hole can't be where you expect it to be:  the middle of the box.  if you put the sound holes on the sides (something that a lot of cigar box banjo makers do), it looks less "guitar-y" which in some cases is something I am trying to achieve.  So for these I tried it and by jeebers it worked!

The cedar lids sound great, the very thin one out of the recycled shingles sounds brighter.  Overall, they are pretty great boxes and fun to play.  Not sure I want to get in the line of making whole instruments, though, even out of found materials.  There is too much temptation to start acting like an actual luthier without having the knowledge and skill set one needs to follow up on that.  And I really like that I was able to leave the original finish from the piano on the fingerboard, as an homage to the instrument that was, and that is living again in the new instrument.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Starr Hill Bluesmaster (IW#42)

Well, I have been trying to build a resonator guitar for a while now, but the last serious attempt failed (which is okay, of course.  You gotta try new stuff).  I think I have landed on a good one, though.

I have been building tenor guitars for a while, now, and have a few under my belt.  I like having four strings to play with, and the 23" scale seems to fit nicely with the size of a cigar box.  I have been playing mostly tenors lately, since that is what I have been making, and since my friend St Wish (who is a real damn luthier and makes real damn instruments) made me a tenor a few months ago.  I tune them Chicago style, so I am not playing them like a true tenor guitar, but that is only because I don't know how to play tenor guitar.

Fork for a tailpiece and bottle cap buzzers
Anyway, what we have here is a flea market brownie tin with a pie tin on top of it.  the tension of the strings is deforming the pie tin a little which messes with the intonation, but that seems to have stabilised for the most part.  And on my recent travels I had some Starr Hill beer, which is a brewery in Charlottesville, Virgina.  I gotta tell you, they make damn fine beer.  They also have real nice bottle caps, which became the inspiration for the decoration.  Not having decorated any of my instruments so far, I have to say it was a lot of fun.  And that the beer was good.  And that the bottle caps make a nice swampy buzzing sound when you play.  Here is what it sounds like:

Good-sounding little box, I think, and it makes me want to play the blues a lot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Branching Out (IW#'s 43 & 44)

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to take apart an old piano, which yielded a bunch of white pine veneered with what I think is rosewood.  It is a very old piano, what is left of it, and the rosewood veneer is really thick.  Concurrently, I seem to have a lot of friends that play uke, and as it seemed a shame to throw out any of the wood, and as all the pieces were small, making a pair of ukes out of the scrap is obviously the way to go.

While it has not been my intention to make this a "how-to" or process blog, I am wading through some new water for me, and I thought it might be useful to document some of the process here.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the pieces as they came off the piano, nor of them before I thicknessed them.  So the documentation picks up sort of mid-stream.  Being that white pine won't bend, I am making my own cigar boxes, in a way, and then I will make the boxes into instruments.  I am actually making these ukes from zero, which has never been the intention here at the Instrument Works, but it seems right for this pair.  And I sure have learned a lot about what I don't know about making instruments.

Here is the story so far, picking up after the pieces have been thicknessed and ripped to width:

Here are the parts for the two boxes.  I am mitering the corners so the veneer wraps.  I had contemplated finger joints like you see on cigar boxes, but this seemed to make more sense.

For the lids I salvaged some shingles form a house that is getting reshingled around the corner.  Turns out the old cedar was too fragile, even though I tried gluing up several pairs of shingles I only had one survive the trip through the planer.  The other top and the backs will be made from cedar siding scrap out of the same refuse pile.  They homeowner replaced the shingles with siding and left the off-cuts on the curb.  It is a little thicker (I am almost afraid it is too thick, but only time will tell).
Here they are home from the big shop and on my bench, ready for hand work.

Of course it is important to me that all of the parts come from the piano, so I laminated some up to make the necks.

the shingles, once they were planed down, were so skinny and delicate that I thought that some bracing might be in order.  I have never put bracing on a lid before, here's hoping this works.

Here are the heads getting glued on to the necks.  It is almost like I am making real instruments or something.

So there is a lot of faux luthery going on here, cobbled together out of what I remember from visits to actual luthier shops.  I hope these sound ok, I am sailing new waters here for sure.  More updates as I have time to post them

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beans 'n' Bourbon

Old friends had a big do in their barn this past weekend.  They really did it up all good and proper, with a stage and lights, a full bar with home-brewed beer and moonshine, and pots and pots of home-made beans.  We fed and drank and sang and danced it just felt like home.  There was a circus performer that flew in from Brazil, there were shadow puppets, there was burlesque.  There were a lot of great musicians, and they were even kind enough to let me play a bit.   I wanted to show a cross-section of what the Instrument Works has been producing, so I did a few songs on a bunch of different stuff.  Another friend was kind enough to video it, and I wanted to store them here.  Fair warning, some of the language is not church ready.

Starting off with the original canjo.  I have decided that I like to play it with a slide.  Makes for more seamless changes between the notes:

Next was the 10 Mile Banjo.  I love this tune that I learned off of a Mississppi Fred McDowell record.

Then the Punch Tenor.  I love this little guitar.  Fun to play and sounds good too.  And I love this Malvina Reynolds tune, too.  I have been playing it a lot lately.

Next up was another old song, I think I learned it from the Memphis Jug Band, but it might have been Gus Cannon.  We used to play it with the Brooklyn Jugs.  "You May Leave."  Good tune.

The last instrument was the banjo uke.  As you can see, I have re-worked it pretty substantially, adding a pie-tin resonator and frets up half the neck.  This is another one that I love playing, it has a real punch to it, it's really loud.  And little.  The tune is "Bring it With You," another old jug band tune.

I finished up with a tune of mine, written when I worked in Red Hook Brooklyn.  I used to love playing this to Brooklynites.  Been a while since I have been in front of any.  This was always a good song to play to a room full of pretty drunk people, which luckily was what we had here.  It was a good way to go out.

All in all a great time.  A real hoot.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fairbanks Syringe Uke (IW#41)

I wanted to try my hand at a fretted uke.  The only one I had made heretofore was when I retrofitted this uke with frets.  It plays pretty well, and that along with the tenor guitars I have made have demystified the fret-setting process.  So I set about making a uke with a box that I got at the flea market.  It had been a syringe box that someone had decoupaged a couple of magazine photos to.  I think they are covered with shellac, and a pretty heavy coat at that, so my sense is that the photos were applied quite a while ago.  The box held a "Fairbanks Syringe, and the label on the inside is so cool that I almost tried to remove it and put it on the outside.  In the end, though, I chose to just photodocument it.  Here is what it looks like:

The frets came out well (the neck is red oak salvaged from a pallet, juts like the slide guitar that is IW#40).  I made the choice to make a "0 fret," which makes the placement of the nut less critical.  It works pretty well, well enough that I am ready to move on to other ukes that I have boxes for. 

The lid of the box is plywood, so it is not a very bright sounding uke.  Here is what it sounds like:

Slide guitar (IW#40)

I just got back from playing a great show in Maine in my friends' barn, called Beans and Bourbon.  I'll post videos soon.  I knew there might be folks there that might want some found-object instruments, so I made a couple to take with me.  One of them is essentially the same as the very first instrument I built, which I have taken to calling the Ten Mile Banjo.  This is the one I played at the Kennedy Center with Dance Exchange.

I learned something with this one:  I tried using a bolt for the bridge, but it made for a very muted sound.  I have seen several cigar box guitars ("cbg's" in the lingo of those who write about them on the internet) with a bolt as the bridge, but those have been electric.  When they are acoustic it is a pretty bad choice.  So I made a wooden one (oak, though I like pitch pine or maple better for bridges) and the difference in the sound was impressive.  It sounds pretty good.  I strung it with heavier strings than I did the 10 mile banjo, thinking that might make it louder, but it is about the same.

Here is what it sounds like:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jewelry Box Tenor (IW#039)

Well, my first instrument back on the horse after the residency is this nice little tenor.  The body is a beech jewelry box from the flea market.  It has a lid that is 1/8" plywood, and is actually a nice little box.  It is a little twangy, but it sounds pretty good.

I tried a new thing for the head, which I like a lot.  It is a little fancy, maybe, but I wanted to try something different than just the rough end of the plank I use for a neck.  The tuners are out of the scavenge box.  Not sure where they come from, actually, but they are pretty old.  And the tailpiece is one of the Oneidaware fish forks that I got a handful of at the flea market.  I have been really pleased with the fork-as-tailpiece thing, it lends a nice quality to the tail end of the guitar.

Here's how it sounds:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Getting from Here to There

I have been getting a lot of mileage out of showing these instruments to folks.  I often fine that I need to take the same four or five instrument out at the same time.  I had been throwing them all in a bag and trying to be careful, but it turns out that is not a particularly safe way to transport them.  So I built a case, which has been more successful.  I originally bought a nice old suitcase at the flea market, but it proved too small for the tenor and the 10 Mile Banjo (which is soon to be seen at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C.), so I set out to build a case.

A place for everything and everything in its place.
I broke out the gold leaf, something I had not done in a long time.

All of the lumber and hardware was stuff that I already had on hand.  The sides are the bottoms of some drawers that I repaired, the beadboard had been shelves in our basement when we moved in.  And it fits perfectly in the trunk of my car.

There is a can screwed in to the side to hold picks and slides and kazoos, and a spot that either accommodate the Miss Syracuse Uke or my cigar box full of harmonicas.  This show is ready to go on the road!

An Assortment of Shakers

Though my focus here at the Instrument Works is on stringed instruments, tonight at the gallery opening (you know about the gallery opening right?  And you're coming right?  Okay, good.  Glad to hear it.) part of the event will involve getting the audience to be a part of the festivities.  To that end some friends made some bean shakers in soda cans, and I made a small assortment of bottle-cap shakers.

I especially like the tambourine in the middle, made from the top of a cookie tin. The bottle caps at the top are real loud, it should be fun for someone to play tonight.  I think it will be a hoot.  See you there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rehearsal time

On Thursday we present the installation, so this morning four students and I met to try to figure out how to play these things.  Luckily one of them is a composition major, and two of the others are guitar players, so it went pretty well.  We were able to approach the whole project organically, and we ended up with a sweet little ditty, named, of course, "Staircase in the Key of D."  On Thursday we will be presenting the piece twice, once for someone who will be filming and taping us, and then again for anyone that shows up to watch.  So, you know, if you are in Syracuse, come watch.  Should be weird.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

This post is not about a guitar.

Just a quick post with a really fun short video about improvised instruments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Residency installation

Yesterday morning, a beautiful sunny morning and almost 60 degrees, we installed the pieces at 601 Tully.  It was pretty amazing to step back at the end and to see them all on the wall, to see all of this work finally in the home that I have been trying to get them to for the last month.

On April 5th at 7pm we will present the piece, played by myself and four friends.  Then I will play a few of my other instruments.  After that we will pass out five gallon buckets and bottle cap shakers to everyone and make a little noise, which should be fun.  After that SyraUke, the semi-monthly anti-virtuosic come-one-come-all ukulele jam session, will play a few songs, after which anyone who brings something to play is welcome to do so.  Should be a real hoot.

The pieces sound great in the stairwell.  I am really looking forward to hearing them all go at once.  In the mean time, here is a short video of the install:

Special thanks to Michelle and Katie for helping me get the pieces up and for taking the photos.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Final piece for residency

The last piece for my residency is done.  I have had this old guitar for quite a while.  I don't play it as it was never a particularly nice guitar to begin with, and it has been falling apart lately.  The top is deformed and is delaminating from the sides and the neck is like holding a baseball bat anyway.  As soon as I started thinking about this residency I knew the body of this guitar would be the centerpiece.

The thing about making a decision like that is that it tends to make the project heavier.  With more riding on this particular part of the installation, I have been avoiding working on it until the very end.  Now that we are down to the wire (the opening is next week) I knew the time had come.

As I wrote in the last post, I had an instrument in the bass register, one in the standard guitar register, and two that are higher yet, so this one I tuned as a baritone guitar (more or less).  It is pretty low, and should sit nicely between the bass and the guitar.

Here is what it sounds like:

I have had a lot of fun exploring possibilities with these five pieces.  It has been a nice break making things that are only barely playable and trying out some new things no matter how weird.  Being done, though, is also nice, and I am looking forward to making a regular old uke or two, and maybe a tenor guitar.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Four String Slide

For this residency I have made a two-string, a three string, and a six string instrument, so I thought I would try to fill in the hole.  I also have a bass scale length, a guitar scale length, and a tenor guitar scale length, so it made sense to me to try out a mandolin scale length this time.  I have been trying to keep in mind that these are all going to be heard together in a particular space, so it is important that they complement each other.  It is starting to look like they will all be tuned to an open D and be mostly played with a variety of slides, so having them live in different registers will make a difference at the end.

Probably the only time they will all be played at the same time will be at the opening on April 5th.  Thereafter the intention is that they will be strummed as people ascend and descend the staircase that the will be installed in, so keeping them all in an open tuning as much as possible will mean that the song that is heard will sound right.

I gave some thought to making an actual mandolin, and to stringing this one with four courses, or pairs of strings, but in the end it didn't seem to be as important as just having the strings tuned where they are.  There is just one piece left, now, and the clock is really ticking.  I need to start installing these pieces pretty soon so that I can start to compose (with help, I hope) the piece that will be played on them.

Here is what the fourth part of the installation sounds like:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More residency work

Things have been progressing pretty nicely with the artist's residency.  It has been interesting to step outside of the idea that I should build "real" instruments, and I have had a chance to explore the intersection of √¶sthetics and sound.  When I am making instruments I feel a certain amount of (self-imposed) pressure to make a recognisable and tunable instrument, something that some one who plays guitar or a similar instrument would be able to play.  Success is measured by doing just that, by being able to hand it to someone and have them pick it or strum a chord.

This is different.

This is about activating a room, a stairwell.  It is about creating a series of objects that will sound good in the space and that will sound good together.  I am writing a song with these found objects as I make them, and having made two instruments that are nominally in the same register as a guitar, it seemed like it was time to make something lower.  One of the problems I have been running in to is that guitar strings come at a specific length, and that if I want to make a bass I need something longer.  Then I was at SyraUke this past weekend playing washtub bass, which we have strung with a weed-wacker cord.  So there it is.

Below are three videos.  The first is an alternate way to play the first instrument:

This one is the second instrument, a 3 string slide:

And here is the bass.  Apologies for not being a bass player, but here is what it sounds like:

This is really shaping up to be weird.  I like it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Things are really getting weird

This is the staircase I am going to music-i-fy
I wrote already about the residency I am doing at 601 Tully.    I have moved in and started working, and it is a real blast.  I am going to music-i-fy a stairwell with found objects, and the start has been promising.

The general idea is that on April 5th there is going to be some kind of music event, and my hope is that we can get a bunch of folk into the stairwell to plink away at what I get on the walls and we can make some  semblance of music.  After this we'll all take found-object stuff and wail away for a while.  Mark your calendars, whatever happens it'll be odd.  

I was originally going to make five single string instruments and mount them on the wall, tuned maybe to an open chord so that they could be played simultaneously and fill the stairwell with sound, but the more I messed around in the stairwell the more I realised that just wouldn't be enough.  So I started to noodle about a little, and things just got strange.  Then this ended up on my bench:

I had been getting so very formal with the instruments I had been making that it was a great joy to just play and explore a little bit.  I learned a lot, and the whole time I was working I had a smile on my face.  What a great time.  When I finally got it strung up and strummed it I laughed out loud.

Here is what it ended up looking like and what is sounds like at the moment:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pretty good process video

Here is another fellow making a guitar.  I like the shaved-stick quality of the neck, as well as the "microphone" pick-up.  Maybe this will be a new exploration for me.  In the mean time, the video is worth the 9 minutes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Punch Tenor (IW#38)

Well, this is my favorite one yet.  You know how some times you make something and step back and think "well, that is pretty darn good?" This is one of those.  Also this is the first successful fret job I have done, which actually makes it easier to play.  This has become my go-to instrument, lately.  Fun to play, and it has a nice mellow sound.  Not very loud, but sitting in my chair in the living room and noodling around on this thing is a real pleasure.

It also has a couple of fun details, like the fork tailpiece, which I have done a couple of times and think looks really cool.  I strung it with banjo strings because they have a loop in the end which I can put on the fork tine.  Also nice is that the sound hole is cut where the logo was on the box top means that the word "Punch" is situated really nicely.  This is my first bolt-on neck, which I think I will eschew in the future, but other than that it is a really nice playable instrument.  And the frets, though fussy, have proven to not be insurmountable.  So maybe I will do some more of them.

Here is what she sounds like:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


There is this great community center here called 601 Tully that is a combination gallery/cafe/meeting space/classroom.  It is pretty remarkable and has been created out of the ether in a building that was to be demolished by a pretty remarkable person named Marion Wilson.  One of my furniture design classes helped out a little with the cafe area, which is how I got to know her and the project.

Among the things that are part of the programming is the possibility for artist residencies, and Marion asked me if SCFOIW would be interested in doing one.  The answer, of course, was "yes!"  I started to move in yesterday, and am hoping to begin working there next week.  Part of my time will be spent making a part of the building "playable" using found objects, and I am really excited to get to work on it.  This will be the biggest cigar box banjo yet!  The culmination will be a recording of a group of people playing the building, and the installation/intervention that I make there will be a permanent part of the collection of the gallery.

I moved my back-up bench into the space and was asked to put up a poster that described what I do, which looks like this:

Looking forward to getting started!