Thursday, April 12, 2018

"Having lost all sense of direction, we were able to double our speed."

My first totally handmade viola, I've been wanting to make one for some time.  Never could settle on an outline.  Made a form for a Stradivari viola in 2005.  Even got ribs on it.  Then unhappy with the corners.  It languished. 

I like the Brescian violas.  Primitive in a classy way, often with a deep, dark sound.  So, made another form based on a Strad magazine poster.  Got ribs on it, birds-eye maple, which rippled and warped so badly I took them off and threw them in the fireplace.

This year, decided to just follow the pattern in Strobel's book "Viola Making."  It's smaller than I wanted, but there were details to follow.  And I've learned it's better to just make the darn thing, see how it turns out, make the next one better, based on what one learns from the previous.  Besides, the resulting first instrument isn't as bad, or as good, as one feared or hoped.  That's life.  Who the heck do you think you are, anyway?  Some sort of genius?  Well, you're not.  Get back to work.

Strobel's pattern had fine f-holes.  But I didn't want them.  I wanted some del Gesu type f-holes.  Guarneri del Gesu didn't make violas.  I do have a workable pattern for a violin f-hole, so scaled it up to viola size.  Dreams of using the computer to do this quickly didn't pan out, so I sat down with paper, pencil, eraser, straight edges, French curve, protractor.  Eraser, did I mention eraser?  My eraser got a good workout, but I finally came up with something that I thought looked reasonable to me, and the correct size.  I think.  Onward!

So, to lay it out on the viola top, and then start plunging holes in.
With the pilot holes in place, cut the terminal holes, then start sawing out.  I stayed well within the lines, as I have mistakenly pushed this top too far along before cutting the f-holes.  It's near final graduations and quite thin for this sort of work. 

With the stems sawed, time to resort to the knife.  This is it for the day.  Nearly there.  Will look at it again tomorrow with fresh eyes.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Carving and Playing

 After working for what seemed like days to get the maple back plate hollowed out and graduated, starting on the spruce is always surprising.  Very easy to cut by comparison.  Within about 15 minutes, down to the point where the big thumb plane can be used, very gratifying to run out long shavings.  Makes life good.

And speaking of good, we've had the chance to play at some spectacular spots in this past week.  Tim's place (Purple Sage Farms) for rehearsal on Thursday night. New lambs and a surprise new calf.  Sunset still visible at rehearsal time due to the changing day length and the recent switch to (or is it from?) Day Light Saving Time. 
We attended an English Country Dance ball in La Grande on Saturday, and a musicians' workshop Sunday morning, as students.  The workshop was held at one of the local member's home, and has a million-dollar view.
One does not live by music, dance, and views alone.  We also ate lunch, twice, at a new Brew Pub in La Grande.  Side A.  Good spot.  Tasty flatbread pizza, and a good array of beer choices.  Their Swedish Compass Winter Warmer, with a touch of anise, was certainly worth a repeat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

End of Skiing, for us, this season

Always nice to get out into the mountains.  We work with harvested wood, at the bench, inside, so really worth seeing the trees outside, in the wild.
We've been going to Ponderosa State Park, near McCall, Idaho, for many years now, both in the snow and not.  Beautiful wildflowers to be seen in the Spring.  But we really like it in the snow.

This little aspen grove is one of my favorite places.
We've been cross-country skiing here a few times this season.  Late start to the snow this year, and it looks like it's fading fast.  Snowed the night before, but the trees were shedding it in big plops during the late morning and early afternoon.
Freezing at night, above freezing during the day.
The lake is still frozen over, but barely.  Not too many folks willing to risk being out there now.  It's off in the distance, middle right, in this photo.
We skied up the penninsula a ways, climbing at the end, and stopped for a lunch on the skis.  Hot tea, rye bread, and brunost.
Given our schedule for the next few weeks, we won't get out again until next Winter.  Sad and something to look forward to at the same time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hardanger plate hollowing

Flipped the Hardanger plates over, started hollowing.  Mostly done now.  Details to finish up. Edgework I do after the plates are glued to the ribs.  Gives me a chance to not have clamp damage.  Seems that no matter how careful I am, I always bang one or two of the clamps against the edge, then have to spend time restoring it.  So now I leave a little more meat around the edges.
One does not live by fiddles alone, certainly.  There is also bread.  Here's a double batch of sourdough after fermenting some 12 hours or so.
Standard Fiesta-ware coffee cup for scale. 

Dump out the fermented dough, break it up into two parts, form loaves.  I have one rising basket, so one goes in there, the other on a floured towel.

Up on top the refrigerator for a second rise.
And after baking --
A friend of mine, Jan B, is decluttering, gave me a copy of a bread book, "World Sourdoughs from Antiquity".  I recall the book coming out in the 1980s, was tempted, but didn't have the money or need at the time, I suppose.  Anyway, I used my Sahti starter to make a couple "Malt Beer Bread" loaves, the recipe from this work.  I mostly followed it.  Seemed to work fine.
Interesting to note that the book was printed in Cascade, Idaho, which is a town between here and McCall, where we went skiing, as reported in the last post.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Nordic skiing at Ponderosa

Finally some decent snowfall this year in the mountains, with cold temperatures.  We again got out for a day of cross-country skiing at Ponderosa State Park near McCall, Idaho.  Pretty day, with heavy snow flurries in between blue sky & sunshine.  And vise versa.

My lovely bride double-poling on a downward slope.

 Yours truly, taking photos with my fancy phone-machine.

After a few hours of a good workout in the woods, back to McCall for a couple beers and food at Salmon River Brewing.  Payette Lake is frozen over -- it wasn't in January -- and here you can see the frozen-over Lake, with blue skies and a snow flurry in the distance.

With McCall enjoying the snow cover.  Good day.  Back to the bench.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Hardanger f-holes

Following Salve HÃ¥kedal's on-line tutorial, I am tryng to carve Hardanger f-holes.  He has placed a fair number of nice photos there, but even so, I am having a hard time understanding some details of the geometry.  So the carving is painfully slow.  Cut a bit away.  Look at it.  Look at Salve's photos.  Turn the top around.  Look again.  Cut a little more away.  Curse under my breath.  Look.  Cut.  And so on.

The overlapping stems make it tough to carve.  Slice a bit away with a knife.  I have a bent knife which is actually fairly useful in some of the tight spots.  I may still have too much overlap; perhaps the under portion is still too far inwards.  That, however, can be remedied later, whereas if I cut too much away too soon, very hard to put back together.

I think they are finally starting to take shape. Being the first Hardanger I've attempted, I have so many, many things I don't know, every step is a learning experience.  A slow learning experience.

Of course I'm doing this because I'm interested in the music.  One thing I recently discovered, much to my surprise, is that the Norwegian state/public broadcasting, NRK, has an iPhone app where I can stream the Norwegian stations.  They seem to have a very nice folk music station.  Check it out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tool marks

Purfling installed on 4 plates (2 fronts, 2 backs) and now working down the arching.  Here is a spruce viola top.  Parallel gouge marks from the rough arching.  Smaller (aka smoother) tool marks around the purfling now, smoothing out the perimeter.  Starting to take the gouge marks along the spine out with finger planes. Then onto scrapers.  Then onto horsetail.  Smaller shavings with each successive tool.