Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Retro Instant Vintage Barker B1 Bass

Mr Holly enjoyed looking at my wall of Barker Bass Mistakes.  Bass bodies that didn't make the grade.  That failed just late enough that they look done but never were.  Some that got assembled, and played, and then up and failed, for any of several reasons:  finish, material, unequal expansion of woody cells (splitting and cracking, in layperson language) or something I cannot remember. 

He picked out one and asked if I could make a bass out of that.  "Sure!"   There was nothing of failure about this bass body.  It must have been excluded from the line on a whim.  He sensed the quality apparently.

We worked out a price and a schedule and a down payment and I gathered parts.

So much is the same.  Sonically, the instrument has not changed since the beginning.  Esthetically, however, it has changed more than a teenager gone from home for a year of college 4000 miles away. 

Assembling this instrument for Mr. Holly has been a nostalgic journey.  I have come to appreciate how many little things are different, slightly or emphatically, from serial #1 (which you see hanging in the background).  Here is a picture of the first sounds that came from this rare birdseye pine bass:

Royal Thumpety, Batman!  Sounds great!  EMG pickups, which I'd had in stock but never used, have a nice, crisp sound with plenty of underneath.  The strings are LaBella Super Steps, which look odd on the bridge but  respond nicely and predictably.

And finally the formal portrait, having received the tailpiece, the monogram, the truss rod cover and the final buff.

And some closeups of this amazing piece of wood.

It looks like it was built 7 years ago or so, but no.  It's a New Retro Instant Vintage Barker B1 Bass, ready for some serious playing on Mr. Holly's porch.  Hand me that cord!  Plug in that amplifier!  Somebody count it off!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Juniper. It's ubiquitous, it's thirsty and it makes many folks sneeze. Quite a tree, actually, especially if you admire survivors. I wouldn't say that we Central Oregonians are polarized by them.

In April the allergy prone would like to send a massive taser jolt through the desert so not one more grain of pollen would present itself. The rest of the time, ho hum. Until you talk about water conservation. How thirsty are they? There are multiple examples these days of ranchers selectively thinning the trees and finding, within a year, that springs that had dried up have returned.

According to Bruce Hemenway, "on average then, a 10 foot tall juniper tree will consume between 40 and 70 gallons of water a day." Left on their own they'll spread to about 50 trees per acre, he says. If they average 25 feet tall, then the water consumption, trees alone, not other vegetation, would be 5000 to 8750 gallons of water per day, every day of the year.

But there can be great beauty in the wood. I found and squirreled away two pieces which were clearly from the same tree and one day they spoke: front of a bass. That was several months ago. Patrick, New York State, has purchased this Barker Brio. It is a stunning beauty and sounds very clean and punchy. I could own that bass, but Patrick does.

One strives, as a luthier (or, as I prefer, instrument maker) to incorporate some standardization in production so that "the sound" of your instrument is predictable in all of them. Sure, there are surprises, but every now and then all the measurements come out right and the result is a bass that sings. This one makes a visual statement as compelling as its voice. One of a kind.

Congratulations Patrick!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Let's Stirrup Some Memories

County fair, theme above. What you're seeing here is my entry in the open class, Crafts, Woodworking, Other not listed above, Theme.

I got a first place and a smiley sticker on my tag. Prior years I have done various kinds of things, including furniture, but I've never tackled the theme before. All the metal parts, leather and shoe last were purchased at the scrap yard, thrift stores and garage sales. The indexing pins are brass. I thought that showed a certain level of style.

The bicycle part was inspired by recently seeing a picture of Linda C. and her sister Joanie, who lived across the street when we were kids. Joanie is developmentally disabled. She's a delightful person. She learned to ride a bike along with the rest of us, and would ride by on the street and let go of the handlebars with one hand and say, "Look at this!" We would clap or yell. Good for Joanie. A nice memory.

County fairs should be like that. A way to step back in time, to engage in conversations, to get past the "howyadoingfine" empty ritual and really talk. It's amazing what we'll share in a context like that, people milling about, cotton candy in Present Arms routines, kids asking dad for another string of tickets for the rides, hormonally oozing adolescents running in loose packs, talking loudly and jumping.

Conversations. The lady who canned the pickles. The kid who made the transformer out of sugar cubes. The commercial exhibitor who encourages you to lie down on the memory foam. (It didn't help--I can't remember his name.)

And there, perhaps oddly, was the city water department. Their goal, I would guess, was to increase awareness of our storm water system and our water treatment facility. We listened, enthralled, for fifteen or twenty minutes, asking questions, responding in amazement. The city appears to be doing a great job at the task, and I'd attribute that to the manager, with whom we were speaking. He was absolutely and thoroughly enthusiastic about his subject. Whodathunkit.

Lots of memories, hard to unstir.