Thursday, December 30, 2010

Five Grandchildren, Five Projects, And a Pile o' Wrapping Paper: Part 4

Bjorn is the only male in the current Grandchild Spectrum, and he's all boy. He loves trucks and machinery and airplanes and rockets.

With one sister and four female cousins, I thought control might be an issue I could address with a gift for him.

Enter Bjorn's Master Control. The deck is about 14 x 16 inches, and none of the controls really does anything--by design. This is all about imagination and making the sounds yourself and he's good at that.

A lot of this flotsam I had in the shop and a trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore filled out the requirements. The obscure, enigmatic labels were scrounged from a large manifold evidently used in the brewing process somehow. They ended up getting close to this mark: Bjorn's dad is the operations manager at a resort water park--lots of valves, buttons and gauges.

Power on, Sir! Let me check the dials before I invert the chromdulating dyschortler!

Five Grandchildren, Five Projects, And a Pile o' Wrapping Paper: Part 3

Maya, not present on The Day, collects Breyer horse books. And she needed a place to keep them. Just a bookcase, or bookbox, was hardly enough to justify her quests and her passion for this series.

I wouldn't call her a cowgirl, but I thought a little thematic stuff on the case would help make it special. And the top is big enough to rest her cowgirl hat, if she has a mind to get one.

Five Grandchildren, Five Projects, And a Pile o' Wrapping Paper: Part 2

Lily is a princess, and Walt Disney had nothing to do with it. He just provides context. So the princess gets a Magic Imagination Box.

The container itself is pine. The coffered lid and the feet are figured maple.
Centered on the top is a "gold" coin, set in epoxy resin. Likewise in the bottom is the Special Key, set in quincunx fashion along with four costume jewelry pieces. Sprinkled throughout are some freshwater pearls.

What will be in there...the name of a handsome prince? The cell phone number of a magician who knows where the key goes? Magic stones?

Five Grandchildren, Five Projects, And a Pile o' Wrapping Paper: Part 1

First a disclaimer: Somehow we got into the dress up box before the Christmas unwrapping with three of the grandchildren. You'll see what I mean in the pictures.

Youngest is Emily, 14 months, who got the little rocker. I decided it wasn't going to be an animal, so I was thinking it would be swoopy like a bobsled, but it ended up being a self portrait, or so I'm told by many who see me much more than I see myself in the mirror. The rocker is a tour of woods often found in the shop: Quartersawn oak, big leaf maple, walnut, mahogany, hard rock maple, fir, birch and alder.

Next in age is Juni, who is a climber, especially since she escaped her spica cast (see an earlier post on this blog). I thought, as a card carrying grandpa, I should just make it easier for her to get up onto high things! The stepstool is all solid stock juniper with a waterborne polyurethane finish. She likes the place to put things--her stuff--which then becomes off limits to her sister Lily.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ginner, Barker Bass #99, gets a Graphtech Ghost System

Ginner (see blog post Friday December 12, 2008), built in memory of my mother, had actually been originally intended to have a Ghost System from GraphTech. Now became the time, so the first task was to bore and counterbore a spot for a fourth pot on the face, likewise a small toggle switch. At the time, I didn't have a fourth pretty knob so I used a stock black one just to be sure everything worked.

The serious electronic work started with excavating a filled-in section under the bridge, which accommodates the leads from the individual pickups. Things really get interesting in the electronics cavity--see the images--but if one takes one's time it all makes sense.

The double battery box is a Barker trademark. Some preamps like 18 volts, most work on 9. If 9 is enough, then the second compartment holds a new battery--as handy as a spare could be. These batteries, according to GraphTech, should last 500 hours, but anecdotally that appears to be a bit optimistic.

So we're into testing at this point, refining perhaps, but all in all it's the same bass with a greater breadth of sonic choices. The dramatic makeovers are the purview of cheap television series. This is real world, hands on, down and dirty, mechanics which, though helpful as a musician's tool, still points you back to your hands.

It's all in the hands.

Monday, October 25, 2010

High Desert Swap Meet 2010 Part 2: The Roadster

Open Wheeled cars are the plunging neckline of the automotive world. Riskier than the alternative, Great looking in the mirror, and the fun really begins when they go out in public.

I love the curves on this car. It was an exquisitely executed dream, created, the sign says, by a man who lived only long enough to see it run. He died, leaving it to his widow, whose neighbor kindly finished the project and brought it along to the High Desert Swap Meet to sell. Whether it did is moot; what is important is the presence it brought.

You could lose yourself in the minute details under the hood; the no-nonsense dashboard, the era-perfect wire wheels.

But it's the curve of the body that's something so right. Organically flowing, each square centimeter knowing where next to be as the hand moves over it.

It started, it ran, it was like a dream that man shared with us all. Is it tragic that he died? Very likely; lives ending leave pain somewhere. But counter that with this indisputable triumph: He did it. He drew some sketches, he made some measurements, and he didn't stop to talk about it, he did it.

I fancy the word "someday" wasn't in his vocabulary.

If you don't share my twitterpation with the topographical undulations of this sensuous beauty, that's ok. But meditate upon the reality of this endeavor and balance that against all the barriers you have identified between you and an accomplishment long held and equally undone.

Let the neckline plunge. Something's gonna happen. Open that door and head out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hobo's Meditation by Jimmie Rodgers: Additional Verse

The Singing Brakeman: Jimmie Rodgers. A talented songwriter who died tragically of tuberculosis in the mid thirties. He was 35.

This song has been recorded by Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and the fabled distaff Trio: Ronstadt, Parton and Harris. Folksingers of all stripes have a fondness for it.

The original lyric:

written by Jimmie Rodgers
© 1933 Peer International Corp

Last night as I lay on the boxcar
Just waiting for a train to pass by
What will become of the hobo
Whenever his time comes to die

There's a Master up yonder in heaven
Got a place that we might call our home
Will we have to work for a living
Or can we continue to roam

Will there be any freight trains in heaven
Any boxcars in which we might hide
Will there be any tough cops or brakemen
Will they tell us that we cannot ride

Will the hobo chum with the rich man
Will we always have money to spare
Will they have respect for the hobo
In that land that lies hidden up there

Will there be any freight trains in heaven
Any boxcars in which we might hide
Will there be any tough cops or brakemen
Will they tell us that we cannot ride

Will the hobo chum with the rich man
Will we always have money to spare
Will they have respect for the hobo
In that land that lies hidden up there

The repeat of the last two stanzas lands heavy. Could there be more?

Bill in Alabama (user name) is a prolific poster at

"Our family performed this song with great success for many years, but we felt that it needed another verse; so, with apologies to Jimmie Rodgers, we came up with the following, sung as the final verse:"

In that sweet land that lies over yonder/ Does the warm summer sun always shine/ Will there be fences and watchdogs,/ And are the trains always on time?/
Are there orchards and gardens aplenty/ Where my friends will be waiting for me--/ Does God have a place for the wand'rer/ Where we'll be allowed to roam free?

Beautifully done.

Prior to discovering Bill's touching poetry, I humbly penned this:

When the last train rolls into glory / Will the rails be plated in gold?
When the passengers step to the platform / And all of their stories are told
Will we sit down at the same table / The rich and the poor every one?
Will we all see the Master in glory / In the place that shines bright as the sun.

What was a simple song now claims multiple authors and multiple forms, qualifying (to some yardsticks) as a folk song. Add a few verses of your own and well have an epic, right up there with Beowulf. Light the bonfire and pull up a log to sit on!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

High Desert Swap Meet 2010, Part 1: The Nash and the Model T


Mac and Lucille Clark lived across the street from us. Two daughters, Linda and Joan. Small, no, eentsy Montana town.
Mac was something of a genius, but not eccentric. His work ethic had him at the shop early and home late. He had a Nash.

When I espied this beauty at the HDSM, I was lurched back to that Norman Rockwell childhood and the Clarks' blue Nash. In it, you lifted the shift knob toward your face to engage the starter. Clever. That way, you could never start it in gear because the switch wouldn't work if the stick weren't in neutral.

The owner of this Nash had some brags: "First car ever designed in a wind tunnel," he proclaimed. He started it up; it purred. "Look at that exhaust manifold, cast right into the block!" That took some reflection. It seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure why it didn't become typical. Some expansion/contraction issues, I suspect.

Then there was the cluster of Model Ts.

Tack, or was it Spike, Van Cleve had a Model T, open touring car. He couldn't afford tires for it so he drove it on the streets of Big Timber on its rims. But it ran! Though the word is overused, the T is an icon. Not just of transportation in the United States, but also of manufacturing. A cursory study of the T will take you many directions: society, class, moguls, money, power, innovation, politics, labor, diversification, and on.

There are always questions when you come upon vintage or unusual vehicles (And there will be several more HDSM interrogatory-laden posts on this blog as time goes on) but this one is unusual:

"Why so cheap?"

These cars appeared to be in running condition. They looked original, not gussied up to some level of perfection simply not achieved in the first decate of the 20th century. One sign said $6500. Another, $6000. I found the owner, posed the question.

A genuine look of sadness crossed his face. He paused, looked down, then looked me in the eye: "I think it's because these younger people aren't interested in finding out about these cars."

Any color, as long as its black. The color of mourning.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Friends of Joel Thomas, Barker Bassist, rally to help him fight ALS

Here's a link the site which not only describes how his local community is stepping up, but also provides an easy way for you to help. That link is at the bottom of the page, in the center:

Support Joel Thomas

(Let the slide show play and you'll see Joel with his Barker.)

You can click for the modern system, or mail a check.

The more you get to know Joel and about Joel, the larger this opportunity looms.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How about this for your birthday, honey?

Swift and McCormick, metal recyclers. It's an interesting place. Unused (scrap) metal from manufactories is deposited here; the company leaves a bin at your site and picks it up when it's full. The stuff is sorted, baled, and sold. Locals who have metal stuff around bring it here, get paid for it, and have that good feeling they didn't throw it into the landfill.

And then there's retail buyers. Visit, pick, weigh, pay and leave. She was excited. It was a moderate, beautiful Saturday morning.

A month ago I had got my hands on a unique piece and intended to buy it but mistakenly left it in, literally, the dust. I described that scenario to Linda, with emphasis on my disappointment. "One in a million chance of finding it," I muttered, somewhat bitterly.

Minutes later she was walking toward me, swinging it in her hand, look of smug delight on her lovely face. It's the D-handle looking gizmo in the image of the loot in the back of the pickup.

Her find was the cast piece, probably for the top of a gate, which includes two ravens. This will be a stunning addition to the Steampunk/Poe teen section of the library, once she paints it.

Oh, and back to the D-handle thingy. I suspect it will be vaguely familiar to you but, out of context, not easily identifiable. Leave a comment with a hint towards your guess. We'll all be wondering, and it will be more wonder-ful if no one just out and out says it. (note: somewhere in this text there is a clue; not in this paragraph.)

But perhaps you'll not have time for such games, being on your way to Swift and McCormick for a day of Unbridled Birthday Joy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Barker Brio #16

It seems like more of these have been made than just 16, but here it is, the numerical empirical truth.

We thought it would be the Ford Falcon of Barker Basses, an allusion which holds well if you're old enough to remember those years.

The Falcon popped onto the automotive stage amidst schools of lethal dorsal fins, doors which rattled even when you were the first to drive on a newly paved street, and ginormous power plants stuffed into marshmallow-inspired chassis equipped with power steering which ranged more than all the nomadic tribes of the world combined.

It was smaller. It was trimmer. It was simpler. It was modest. Cute, even, and quickly adopted by our car-crazy culture. It outsold its competition which was the Chevy Corvair (the rear engine was just too, um, German) and the Plymouth Valiant (whose little tailfins were vaguely reminiscent of a 13 year old girl's first sweater).

And then, over the years, per American Car custom, it slowly got bigger, fancier, and, surprise! more expensive.

Right now the Barker Brio is exactly as designed, and at the same price.
It is simple--Pbass pickups, volume and tone controls.
It is sleek.
It has a humility about it--unpretentiousness perhaps, springing from the alder used exclusively in the body.
It is lighter weight than its more sophisticated sibling, the B1.

And just as much fun to play.

The bright spot is that making instruments one at a time allows the maker to be in touch with the parts and bring them to a singular purpose with his own experience and intention.

The dim part is about sales. It would be very helpful for all aspects of the business if more were marching toward the boxup table and the door.

Meantime, you can still get a Barker Bass with a serial number in the teens!

Ponder that moment that your grandchildren are proudly standing next to the carpeted, oddly shaped table and the Antiques Roadshow appraisers are clustered about, cooing and oohing about this extremely rare example of the early Barker instruments. "The value would be half this if you'd had it refinished!"

After the filming is over, they'll tote the bass out to the parking lot, put it in the back of their Falcon Ranchero and ease into traffic.

Life is good.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

CinderBlue at the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival 2010

"Back in time" works as a tag line for this Festival. You hardly see a cell phone. And get this: People stake out their territory with their lawn chairs (I think we call them "event chairs" now) on Thursday or whenever they arrive, and leave them there for the duration. If you show up and find some vacant chairs, have a seat. When the owner comes 'round, you'll get a polite tap on the shoulder.

No fences, no gate volunteers, no hand stamps. Just a pleasant lawn shaded by elegant deciduous trees and the stately but modest Wheeler County Courthouse. Good food vendors, a couple of very impressive luthiers including Jayson Bowerman. Plenty of camping up by the fairgrounds. Sit and listen.

Last year we were invited by the host and founder, Jay Bowerman, to sit in with his group Quincy Street for a few gospel tunes, chronicled here.

This year we were asked to do the whole gospel show on Sunday morning.

A lot of the music you will hear there is pure. Period. But other stuff pushes out the boundaries gently in this way and that, making for delightful variety without losing the roots connection.

Add in a gospel scramble, workshops, a well-produced melodrama by the Fossil Theater Players and you'll be hard pressed to find a reason to get farther than earshot from the stage.

And one more word about this event. The philosophical underpinnings include a commitment to area bands. No big national acts are recruited or booked--It is July 4 weekend, and this is truly music of the people, by the people and for the people. And the music is good. Great Northern Planes. Misty River. And more.

Keep track here. And note the list of sponsors at the bottom of that page. Without them, and you know the rest.

Thank you Jay, Teresa, Carol, and many others for the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival.

So you don't need to be struck by lightning while eating a cheese sandwich in sight of a Norman Rockwell painting to get it. It's Back in Time and you're there, 100%.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Barker Bass Brio Bonus; Simon Goulding

Just as your ears can filter out extraneous sounds such as teenagers conversing in the back of the van, or the inane news staff chitchat on local TV which invades the waiting room where you have other things on your mind, so can the eye be so focused that it misses what otherwise might be obvious.

In bringing two Brio bodies to the finish stage, I concentrate on every little mark in the wood, every little corner, every curve. Parts I see; the whole, not.

Hence the delight when these two went into the finish room for their first subcoat of oil. (This brings out color and grain contrast that just aren't present with a clear coat over the raw wood. It might be the visual equivalent of a really good preamp taking a really good signal and making it deeper, thicker, richer.)

A grain figure pattern emerged on one of the basses. This is not a Shroud of Turin kind of moment, just one that provoked a delighted smile and a sprint to get the camera to try to capture an interim look at what will become, I think, the defining elegance of this particular instrument.

The Brio does not own the high ground of elegance of the family of Barker Basses. That is B1five territory, well flagged currently by #95, now owned by Simon Goulding of the UK.

Here's a slice of his bio:

After winning the performing arts school music prize on 2 consecutive years, Simon started working as a pro session musician at the age of 16 and has performed, toured & recorded with many top artists in the world including The Bee Gees, Joe Longthorne, Freddie Starr, Engelbert Humperdinck, Peter Kay, Ronan Keating, David Essex, Tony Christie, The London Community Gospel Choir, The Drifters, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Cannon & Ball, Peter Grant, The Nolans, Billy Pearce, Dutch Vocalist Rene Froger, Alan Stewart, The Memphis Belle Orchestra, The Kings Of Swing Orchestra, The Nelson Riddle Tribute Orchestra, The Salsa meets Jazz Collective, Jovenes Clasicos Del Son, Gary Boyle, Tony Oxley, Gary Potter to name but a few. He has performed at new launches for BMW and Mercedes Benz. Add in performances at The M.E.N. Arena (20 sellout nights, over 400,000 people in Manchester UK). Ronnie Scott's Club (London UK), The London Palladium (UK), Las Vegas (USA) and Havana (Cuba), Budapest (Hungary), The Kourion Amphitheatre (Cyprus), Dubai, Abu Dhabi (Ferrari World F1 Grand Prix) plus many more. I am involved with many many different bands live and in the studio. Album Credits include, Simon Goulding “Familia”. Jazzology "Jazzology", Marty Franklins "Kajambu", Munch Manship "12 Pearls", Freddie Starr "Not fade away", Joe Longthorne "Joe's Back", "In Paradise", "Live at the London Palladium" “Sings to the Gods” DVD & Video credits include: Joe Longthorne "Joe's back", "Live in paradise","Live at the London Palladium", “Sings to the gods-live in Cyprus”. TV: "Heaven & Earth UK BBC1".


Simon Goulding = busy bassist.

Like the beautiful grain pattern in the Brio, Simon was there all along. I just hadn't noticed him. Now we've found a bass that fits in his hands and, we hope, his heart.

The Brio is still anticipating such a home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sam Maloof Rocker, Charles Brock,and Coy, Part 3

Coy got to unveil his rocking chair at the monthly meeting of the Central Oregon Woodworkers, a genial fellowship of craftspeople of all stripes--turners, carvers, generalists, a model maker and restorer, and serious hobbyists. And George, who is so difficult to categorize that we'll have to see a separate blog post after we visit his shop.

It was a riveting moment. All or close to all of these people know a Maloof chair when they see one, though few had heard of Charles Brock or were aware that you could buy digital/print coaching for the construction of one of these works of art. Coy got to share some of his journey, both holding tools and allowing his mind to explore this manifestation of Sam Maloof and his spirit.

In stark and fascinating contrast was a table full of bones--all the parts of my Maloof project were there, but not a single one was attached to another. Next step is the cutting of angles on the headrest, drilling for the spindles, and dry fitting with the back legs temporarily attached to the seat. Oh, the seat, it needs to be shaped too; now it's a rugged landscape of pieces roughed on the bandsaw and far from looking like an inviting place to plunk oneself.

Attendants who are well acquainted with what it takes to get a foursquare piece of wood to become curvilinear and graceful could get a grasp of the hours it would take to go from the relatively easy part of cutting parts to a template to the sinuous sight of the front leg flowing into the arm rest, or the back leg sprouting from the rocker and leafing at the seat, the arm rest and the headrest.

And those rockers! The contrasting maple stacked just so with the walnut. The ebony plugs at the front and back legs. Note the artistic use of sapwood (the white) in the spindles and the seat.

Congratulations, Coy. It's a beauty.

And he wants to build another one.

A newcomer to the group last night was Hans Emmons, who builds and restores models. From his web site I lifted this quotation from Beryl Markham, the 20th century aviatrix who made history as the first person to fly the Atlantic solo from east to west:

"No human pursuit achieves dignity until it can be called work, and when you can experience a physical loneliness for the tools of your trade, you see that other things - the experiments, the irrelevant vocations, the vanities you used to hold – were false to you."