Bubba • Bootjack California

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It never occurred to me that Bubba might have a Christian name or a last name.  Joseph Lang  And surely he’d live forever, collecting bits and pieces of people’s lives, arranging them in his store for resale.  The social hub of Bootjack California, Bubba’s establishment anchoring one end of Main Street.

joe bubba lang.jpegWhere else could one find a twelve-foot arch-back velour couch in infant yellow, deep enough to sleep comfortably without crowded elbows?  For $20?  Clark Gable probably napped on it, and here the couch ended, for a worn Jackson.

Shelving, kitchen ware, tools of a sort, clothes.  Bubba had everything you’d need to set up house.  Apartment clean outs, estate sales, competitor’s overstock, where ever he got it always seemed a mystery as Bubba talked into his beard.  But he knew how to stand firm on his price.

Bubba left this world in May 2018, the victim of a 2:00 AM hit-and-run. Merced California police have released little information about the accident.

Harvest Moon Festival

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Coverdale Farm Preserve of Delaware Nature Society in historic Greenville finally had their festival.  It must be October again!  The perfect excuse to view crowds milling about crafts and activities – from a distance.  A good hundred yards away, by the food trucks, is a covered sound stage.  Five bluegrass and Old-Time bands are scheduled.  Chair, book, snacks, ACTION!

Every group was great but I did notice a new face.  Harrisburg native Henry Koretzky brought his 1989 Crafters of Tennessee mandolin.  It sounded like a vintage Gibson mandolin – someone had even inlayed “The Gibson” into the headstock.  A parts mandolin, its wood reportedly sourced from Gibson itself.  The real story will never be known, having died with famous Dobro player and shop owner Tut Taylor.

For the traditional sounds of Appalachian old-time, bluegrass, and early country music, I now know where to find an expert.  As well as perfect contra dance music.  The Contra Rebels, with Barb Schmid on fiddle, Todd Clewell on banjo/fiddle/guitar, and Henry Koretzky on guitar/mandolin.

Special thanks to Tater Patch for performing one of my favorite tunes, Lazy John.

Another fantastic version of Lazy John is Roger Netherton’s 2016 rendition.

D’Addario Violin Strings

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The estate sale find looked somewhat like a violin.  Except it was a jumble of dusty components which fell further apart when its chin rest was removed.  Quick work for our handy Kershaw pocket knife.  A bit of practiced slip-n-snap, the last remaining parts released their failed hide glue after a century together.

Inked with fountain pen upon the inside top, E. Guthwaite of Leeds (England) left his repair mark in 1886.  The hive buzzed that I had a French 1850-1870 Mirecourt.  Gut strings plus patterns of grime from playing along with dust from laying tell us this violin may not have been functional since about 1920.

Back apart, repairs begin anew.  Its old glue is tacky, with a sharp, astringent smell.  It is picked and scraped out of a groove along the back’s perimeter.  The ribs are reattached with fresh Behlen Hide Glue.  The neck heel looks different than usual, sporting a culvertail joint at the heel.  Odd, even uncommon?  We carve an end block to receive the dovetail and are rewarded with extra tensile strength.  The top is an issue, but we’re making a player, not a museum piece.  Joined, cleated, glued, we’re almost done.  Fingerboard dressed, polished, reattached, nut corrected, saddle soaped, bridge finalized, and we find used but serviceable D’Addario Kaplan strings on our windowsill for testing.

Superb!  At a gig, Steve cannot put her down for a full four hours, grinning like a kid as the tone opens up.  Chance favors the fortunate and lucky, as its set-up receives raves – although he says it feels more German and Italian than French.  But there was so much immigration and resettling after Napoléon Bonaparte.

Now for the final bit of finish.  A wipe of varnish here, pegs to trim and polish, a composite tailpiece for student trial.  Off with our used tester strings.  We’re going with adult fare, a D’Addario Helicore H310 offering.  Without knowing what the final owner will want, we choose a dependable string far higher in quality than most students will get.  Two or three times more expensive than economy strings, maybe half the cost or a little more than strings a professional might favor.  We’ve taken the high road of serious string choice.  

Fit as a fiddle.  Her voice is back after a century of slumber.  D’Addario is doing the talking.

All D’Addario strings are designed, engineered and manufactured in the USA to the most stringent quality controls in the industry.D’Addario 

Harvest Festivals

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Under cover of darkness, a quarterly division of Earth’s orbit passed the dotted line.  We officially cross into the season of crunchy leaves and spiced cider.  Sleeping late on weekend mornings under cozy blankets.  Comfortable evenings with darkness falling appropriately early, without the Federal Government fiddling with our clocks.

The Autumnal Equinox has again arrived, more quickly this year then last.  My niece at seven laid out her hypothesis on this.  It involves percentage of time lived.  A year is longer when you are seven – 1/7th of your life.  A year is shorter, say, 1/50th of your life, a few decades later.

Never one to pass up a marketing opportunity, this first day of autumn brings the season of the harvest festival.  No matter that the Harvest Moon is weeks away.  A time of ripe apples, perfect root vegetables, and late season corn.  Steamy days of sterilizing jars, vats of vinegar, pickling everything edible.

Support the local economy.  Spend money at your local harvest festival.  Continue traditions thousands of years old.  Exercise your Neolithic Revolution DNA.  Consume extra calories for a good cause.  Heck, even eat like a panda if you want.  It only comes once a year.  🙂

Lie-Nielsen Bevel Edge Chisels

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Behind many ten minute successes lie hours of preparation.  According to my dentist during a little buffing after a $200 smear of white Bondo.  Lately, at the secretive Luthier Laboratories, pushing boundaries past conventional instrument repair, we’ve found those preparation-to-execution numbers to be a bit skewed.

In this case, hours and hours were spent converting this “Sold For Parts” French violin into a viable instrument.  As we near the final cavelletti, hands and clamps in piaffe and pirouette, this early 19th century Mirecourt nears a milestone.  Sound post and tone tap, the first in 120+ years we surmise (the repairs of 1886 were never completed).

At every step, to poke, prod, shave, raise, lower, scrape, and in general convince the parts to obey,  our Lie-Nielsen ⅜” chisel is there to assist.  An extension of my fingers but with enhanced fingernails.   A2 Tool Steel, hardened to Rockwell 60-62, cryogenically treated and double tempered.

Our mortised end block holds us up no longer.  After this Mirecourt skipped the entire last century, we’ll soon be having a conversation.  Talk about dropping out!  Welcome back!

 

Yosemite National Park

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A million, two million years ago, glaciers come and go.  Between the glaciers is a lake.  After the last set of glaciers depart a few thousand years ago, Miwok settle.  Yos s e’meti (Central Miwok) originally referred to the Indian tribe that lived in Yosemite Valley.  Yosemite means literally “those who kill”.Daniel E. Anderson 

Naturally, an Army composed of European settlers kick out the Native American rabble and take the Valley for their own.  From them, the Federal government seize control, give it to California, then eventually acquire it back.

Currently one of the most visited parks in the country, Yosemite Valley nearly reverted into a lake in 2006.  Ferguson Slide came within feet of burying the Merced River’s exit from the valley.  Nature is fragile that way.  When The Big One hits and San Francisco drops forty feet, California’s Central Valley may return to inland sea.  The Sierra Foothills will become beachfront property.

Appreciate it while you can.  As Louis Prima famously sang in 1949, Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Thank You Think)  🙂

Photos by Bill King, naturalist, explorer, and local guide

Violin Maker’s Plane

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Waiting for the “right job” to come up was taking forever.  I’d been wanting this compact manganese bronze hand plane upon first sight online, and began rationalizing the purchase as a ‘deserved’ luxury item after handling one at a Lie-Lielsen Hand Tool Event® a year ago.  

Opportunity came in the form of a mid-19th century French-made Sébastien Kloz violin.  She wanted a little nip and tuck fitting back into her old clothes.  With chisel and file, it could have been done.  But for precision, and in a far more civilized manner, she wants the Lie-Nielsen Violin Maker’s Plane.  Perfect results, as anticipated!  Depth of cut adjustment was exact and did not ‘creep’ after tightening.  You spend more for quality, but you get more satisfaction.  Long after the price tag is forgotten.

At about the same time, a Depression-era Antonio Stradivari copy  – probably a copy, but one never knows – came knocking for a bit of fingerboard thinning.  The Stanley Handyman again, at 9-1/4″, or the Lie-Nielsen 101, at 3-7/16″?  The USA-made vintage Stanley performs admirably but is a bit top-heavy and too big.  The Lie-Nielsen 101 finished the job with perfect control, but is a bit too small for shaping a 4/4 violin ebony fingerboard.  Maybe a Goldilocks Plane exists, juuuuust right.  The Lie-Nielsen 102?

Where the Lie-Nielsen came through with presidential prowess?  Cutting a tiny bevel along the edges of the fingerboard.  I forgot to put them in when the nut and strings were off, but the 101 is perfectly suited for close, delicate work.  Since the nut was already glued, a gentle swipe with my Lie-Nielsen scraper seamlessly finished up the last bit of bevel.