Friday, July 31, 2009

Fibonacci Series, Simplicity, Green and the practicality of CD storage

Some stuff one can't throw away. A year or so ago I built a desk for Kevin Kubota, the photographer and he had discovered an unusual material which he wanted included in the design. It's a quarter inch thick, a translucent plastic-like material with patterned strips of bamboo embedded, and it is an environmentally respectful product. In the design exploration we discovered that the bamboo color echoed the sapwood tone of eastern walnut. (Often the sapwood of walnut is discarded, a notion that suited neither of us.)

So, desk completed, I ended up with a few small pieces of this material, which I have been hoarding. Then came the message (oooo-eee-oooo) to build a wall cabinet for storing CDs or DVDs or both. The overarching idea was simplicity, function, and unshowy craftsmanship.

Then I remembered the diagonal-cut doors I had included in a media cabinet for clients Gary and Tricia some years ago. About seven degrees, as I recalled, with apologies to Kevin Bacon.

Here's the result. Initial sketches explored the muntins (horizontal separators of panes) being aligned or being aligned but at right angles to the slanted stiles. Neither caused any friendly dashboard lights to come on. Because the left door is smaller at the bottom than at the top--a visually disturbing element--it seemed best to raise that muntin to give the doors equal weight.

The overall dimensions were driven by the Fibonacci series: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34, etc.
The math is easy--add the prior two numbers to get the next number. The implications are huge. For us with a small calculator and a ruler, we can learn that the ratio of one number to its neighbor tends to become the same as the series progresses. I think that's dumbfounding. My friend Dan, the graduate engineer, says it's reasonable.

The cabinet had no opinion, but seems to be happy at about 22 inches by about 32 inches.

On this very informative site about Fibonacci we learn that this realm is a "constantly expanding branch of number theory."

Meantime fiddling with these numbers makes a pleasantly-proportioned cabinet, would you not agree?

And yes, it is for sale, $395 plus shipping.

Addendum 8/10/09....And it is sold!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bookmatching and Equilibrium and Ed Goode's Six String Bass

Small pleasures: I will walk across the street to look closely at a car if the logos on the hubcaps line up. If I am waiting for a green arrow traffic light and the blinkers on the car in front are in synch with mine, I smile.

When the outside temperature and inside temperature aligned recently, I grabbed my camera (see image).

Bookmatching wood brings the same kind of delight to this instrument maker.

The process is simple: A board, thick enough to warrant getting sliced in two and narrow enough to fit in the larger bandsaw (7.5 inches) gets opened up to reveal mirror images. It's a traditional look on acoustic instruments, including the violin family and ranging through all the fretted instruments even into electrical ones.

How this came about is unclear but perhaps this explains: Resawing was the way to make larger boards into thinner ones (imagine apprentices working a pit saw) and, in the interest of speed, boards were arranged and glued edge to edge to make larger boards and put onto instruments. But some, by chance bookmatched, looked more interesting and pleasing than others, and thereupon became the gold standard.

Even resawn, the boards for Ed Goode's six string Barker Bass offer choices: They can be arranged A edge to A edge or B edge to B edge (see the drawn figure; select two boards for one type pattern, move over one board and look at the two boards for the alternative).

Then I look for how the pattern will appear on the body. The body's lower bout (widest portion) is the larger palette--it is not interrupted by pickups, bridge and controls. I like to see visual weight there, preferably about centered on each side.

In cabinet making, the rule for bookmatch is "cathedrals up" which means arches or arrows point vertically. Often on the Barker I look for an arrow down in the center so the long, triangular tailpiece sits roughly parallel to those lines. (You can see this illustrated in a pair of the boards in the sketch.)

It's a privilege to be making these decisions. As for Ed's bass, the rare curly fir pattern is so consistent throughout that finding a nice mirrored puff for the lower bout was the only decision required.

And that other picture, of the fence in the alley about four blocks from our house? Look closely--two are bookmatched!

Harmony and symmetry surround us, there for our delight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival: Meet CinderBlue

Through the graciousness of Jay Bowerman and his band, Quincy Street (of Bend, Oregon) we were invited to the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival last week to join them on stage for a few tunes during their gospel set on Sunday morning.

This is our third time out: Meet CinderBlue: Marlene Stevens, vocals; Jeff Stevens and Rex Gatton, guitars; Lee Barker, bass.

The venue: The lawn of the county courthouse. The Friday night-Sunday event includes name bluegrass acts, a local songwriter's contest--and the song must be about Wheeler County or the county seat, Fossil itself--a gospel scramble, area acts, wonderful food vendors, a car show (across town--two blocks away, that is) and the most attentive, relaxed and delightful crowd you could dream up. Bluegrass, unlike many genres, is multigenerational and it fosters that unashamedly. We had a great time.

Takeaway observations: (A) By far most bassplayers at this event were women. Ten to one, I'd say. (B) There are frighteningly talented children--and I mean single digits in some cases--on their way up, carrying the High Harmony, Acoustic Instrument flame forward through the ages. (C) Diana, who did the sound, was the most efficient and versatile boardmaster to come along in a while. (D) My anxieties about appearing onstage with a non-doghouse bass were for naught. I was not run out of town on an electric rail, and many folks in fact commented on how good the bass sounded. And a nearly equal number had seen the piece on Oregon Public Broadcasting and enjoyed connecting the loop via hearing the bass in person.

Bottom line: We're invited back next year. We wish it were tomorrow.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Fourth of July Parade in Redmond Oregon

It started last fall when the neighbor hit a root with his aging riding mower. "I can fix it," he said, and he's a resourceful guy. "You'll never find a new shaft for a 20 year old mower," I replied, and I won that one. I was doing figure eights in the driveway when Linda came home from work that day.

Months of effort later, with significant help from my friend JD who furnished the pressure tank and the wand and inspiration, we have the Parade Entry #64

Shooting water was always at the core of the endeavor. Shooting it surreptitiously came later.

The water exits the wand at about 7' from the ground, a few degrees from vertical, meaning it is heading forward. It goes up to about 16 feet then returns to ground about 21 feet downrange.

I can drive the tractor at walking speed, extend my hands sideways, palms up, in an, "I'm totally innocent" sort of gesture and nudge the trigger with my left shoulder and someone may get wet. If I go much faster than walking speed, I get wet, running into my own bullets as it were. Either outcome is good for a laugh.

It will be 90 degrees for the parade. I expect a hero ribbon, but it's more likely a certificate that says "participant."

Total cash outlay for the project--less than $100, including the $50 to get the busted mower in the first place.

My friend Chris has taken his tractor-type mower and made it into a 9 foot long dragster. Photos of that one later.

Time to line up. And try to find a place that's not behind the mounted posse. Or a float with a lot of water-soluble crepe paper.