Lie-Nielsen Handtools

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When it was time to shave boxwood bushings whisker-close on an 1880s pegbox, advice was sought.  Spending other people’s money has never been a problem for my circle of advisors.  All manner of chisel manufacturers were recommended.  I settled for a couple of used Buck Bros. chisels brought back to lovely health by a pro.

Months later, I learn craftsperson Jayne Henderson had visited a Maine manufacturer recommended by my acquaintances.  Even better, a hand tool demonstration at Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, will feature these Lie-Nielsen tools.  Perfect timing, as we want additional guidance on wood planes and sharpening techniques.

Lie-Nielsen sent their crack team of cabinet makers / salesmen to Philadelphia.  Examples, answers, explanations, it flowed with an easy pace.  Two items of immediate interest: use of a scraper, and sharpening a hand plane blade.

A scraper is a thin flat piece of steel with a sharply squared edge.  One can scrape the thinnest shavings of wood with such a tool.  The answer to my use question moved to sharpening the scraper, truing its edge.  A crowd quickly gathered as the representative covered the simple technique of producing the correct scraper edge.  Guess it was not only me wanting help!

In covering planes I might purchase for general use repairing instruments, it also came back to care of the blade.  The Lie-Nielsen honing guide is the nicest piece of sharpening equipment in the business.  After the demonstration plane had its blade sharpened, staff was removing hair-thin wisps of ribbon from a block of maple.  The wood was left mirror-smooth.  Amazing!

Their chisels?  $55 buys you the nicest wood chisel in the world.  The feel is heavenly, the machining impeccable, and the quality of the metal, unbeatable.

Luxury items or wood shop essentials?  Maybe both, but it’s a tool you’ll have the rest of your life.  I bought the scrapers.  Next big job, a Lie-Nielsen hand plane, a chisel, and sharpening tools are joining the bench!

American Style

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My favorite shoes

Good taste doesn’t cost a lot.  Great style never goes out of fashion.  Flashy is for other people.

A family friend I’d see at holidays and birthdays wore the same loafers year after year.  Plain, leather, hand-sewn.  From a respectable New England cordwainer.  His loafers developed the most wonderful patina, the soft leather fitting his stride and personality.  In the absence of a better word, they were best described as cool.  

He was of remarkable perspicacity.  A man everyone admired.  I tried to understand his cool disposition and viewpoints from the ground up.  Starting, naturally, with his taste in shoes.  His chosen manufacturer had skedaddled to foreign production, but Kenny Sherman had several options.

I balked at the price, Kenny danced a bit around the subject, but always came back to quality.  Now over eight years old, my Alden suede loafers, hand-sewn in New England, have proven to be the MOST comfortable shoes on the planet.  And value?  Even at today’s list price, divided by years owned, they’re cheap.

My depth of personality is still under review, but the concept stuck.  Well-made items last longer and provide far more enjoyment of ownership.  My kickers, closing in on a decade old?  Just getting broken in.  Cheers!

Juzek Peg Shaper

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One of the handiest items on my workbench is the Juzek peg shaper.  Nearly every violin in line exhibits peg issues.  An ill-fitted “emergency” peg, in place for decades, inexorably ruining the peg box due to ignorance, empty pockets, or economy.  Absent pegs.  No pegs.  Archaic peg hole taper.

With a peg shaper we’re able to fit a new set of pegs “from scratch” any time we choose.  Last week it almost didn’t happen, though.  What started as a routine shaving experience became a scraping.  Hardwood dust was produced with no significant reduction in peg diameter.

Upon advice from every point of the windrose, we’ve recently delved into the dark arts of metal sharpening.  Just as my forbearers scraped early bronze blades across stone, we remove the peg sharpener’s blade and scrape it across our new Gator Sharpening Stone.

Held at the manufacturer’s proscribed angle, eased by a 99.5% water mixture with natural lubricants added, a circular action was initiated.  Just like on an old Daniel Boone movie.  Three times we reinstall and test.  It works!  Also of import, we’ve learned the limitations of our small one-grit stone.  

Clyde’s Hardware Store, closing its doors forever, managed to save their last stone for me.  My first sharpening stone.  We’ll be adding to our collection in future articles, but for now, we achieve an adequate edge with the Gator.

Special thanks to Philadelphia luthier David Michie.  His customers, Academy Of Music, Curtis, and Kimmel Center musicians, bring him an endless array of stringed instruments for refurbishment and repair.  Cast-off violin pegs from these instruments soften our learning curve and now grace student violins across the Western Hemisphere.

Lancaster County Produce

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In the steel town of my parents’ childhood, life moved at a different pace.  Many people lacked a telephone.  Television was a new and rather worthless invention.  Texting?  The closest was telegraph and maybe a stock market ticker.  No “code words”?  LOL   🙂  Code words and phrases abounded, as old as the hills.  Maybe written by Moses herself.

Newlyweds jokingly said they ate a lot of apples,  referring to the Garden of Eden, Eve & Adam, and their newfound lust for apples.  But my dentist also promotes this perfect fruit, and he’s atheist.  Something about working the teeth, exercising the gum line?

Turning to his simple health advice decades ago, I’ve too decided the apple is a perfect fruit.  Portable, properly packaged, pennies a pound.  Maybe a bit more silver these days, but still a value.

Honeycrisps, newly picked, waft their scent from my fridge.  Pink Lady, Gala, Jonagold, all delectable.  Pick your favorite farmers market, find a grower, and select a few beauties of smooth unbruised skin.  Prepare for deliciousness.  Bonus:  Your sweetheart will find your close presence even tastier.  Maybe the serpent was on to something.  I’ll bet a good theologian can find reference to morning groping in the Bible, right after breakfast kisses.

Lancaster County has been shipping produce to Philadelphia since the mid-1700s.  Hands On The Earth Orchard from Lititz PA continues this tradition, weekly attending a Saturday farmers market along Walnut Street at Rittenhouse Square.

Native Americans, in what would become Pennsylvania, practiced agriculture for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. By the eleventh century, they had developed a high-yield system of slash and burn farming. Creating fields by clearing brush, and girdling and burning trees to let the sun reach the soil, they then planted beans, corn, and squash together – a method of planting that was advantageous to the crops and the people. Beans climbed up the cornstalks and fixed nitrogen in the soil that fertilized the corn and squash. The resulting network of roots and tendrils inhibited weed growth and helped to retain moisture in the soil. Beans, corn, and squash – better known to the Indians as the Three Sisters – provided a very nutritious diet that was high in amino acids, fiber, protein, and vitamins. http://explorepahistory.com

Gator Finishing • Fairborn Ohio

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All good things come to an end.  A proverb of glorious filler to any article!  🙂  Dropped into conversation to make the speaker sound insightful and connected.  A bumper guard which comes out on auto-pilot while trying to think up something more cogent.

Today it refers to a hardware store up the street, nearly within wrist-rocket range.  A 5 minute uphill huff on bicycle.  Clyde’s Home Supplies is closing.  While Sam Clyde doesn’t look it, he is 72, and feels every year.  I’m gently informed He may not look as old as he is as you’re gotten older?   Hmmmmm  ..  ciphering that one out, I think she is saying I’m getting older.

With his Ace Hardware store now offering 60% off, we’re stocking up.  Lots of plumbing and electrical fittings, sheets of sand paper.  And there, on a high shelf, the last sharpening stone they have.  Gator Finishing.  The same brand as the black oxide sandpaper I use.  Calling me.  It’s finally time to learn how to put an edge on my knife.

With a few old blades handy for ruination, I cannot do too much damage with such a small stone.  What I think will happen?  I’ll correct the edge on a chisel a few times, then go speak with the old guy from southern Italy.  More properly, I’ll stand mute, and catch every other word of his barrage.  Then invest in a larger stone.  Big things have small beginnings.

Micro Mesh Abrasive Pads

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The ideal violin neck is subjective.  It changes as you grow, develop, and mature.  Perfect today is old hat tomorrow.  The neck itself moves, as does the fingerboard.  Not as quickly as our tastes but more like a painting of a slow tortoise.

The fingerboard is shaped with a radius across it’s width.  The other direction, parallel with the strings, looks flat.  But it is actually curved.  String height is so low on a violin that without longitudinal concavity – the fingerboard’s scoop – vibrating strings would buzz against the fingerboard.

When a favored fiddler’s favorite fingerboard appeared beyond flat, clearly convex along its length, it was time to learn the art of the scoop.  After chipping up a few natty practice fingerboards, I tried a good one.  It was easier.  Quality wood shaves more cleanly.  “Scraping” of the fingerboard was performed.  Seemingly random, together the strokes produced a concave surface to the fingerboard.  Nearly flat along the high E edge.  Visually pronounced along the low G.  Gradations in between.  Finally, comparison of the newly scooped violin fingerboard with my Products Engineering Corporation straight edge.  Convex no more.  Just the right amount of concavity. 

After the scraping comes the sanding.  Dusty thirsty work with multiple grits of scratch cloth.  220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1,000.  The glossy finish I want?  The easy way is to dump sealer over it, a thick polymer coating.  But tradition prefers bare wood.  We scraped and sanded the old sealer off the fingerboard during the scooping.  The reshaped wood now prefers special attention.  The musician wants skin-smooth wood under their fingertips.  A natural shine is wanted.

Micro Mesh makes it easy.  With products developed for fine art restoration, our slat of century-old ebony is no challenge.  Working up through the colored grits, the wood begins gleaming at about 6,000 grit.  But do we stop?  No!  All the way to 12,000 grit, buffing like the best Park Avenue manicurist.  The wood shines!

We started using Micro Mesh Buffing Sticks a few years back, touching up a bit of mandolin here and there.  Then discovered an ebony violin nut can be made to shine.  After a few more fingerboard refurbishments, we’re sold on Micro Mesh.  Fingerboard sealers we’ll save for fretted instruments.  All of our fine stringed instrument fingerboards are going out the door bare wood shining.  Sparkling like Eve’s smile ≈≈≈

Health & Happiness

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A CAMPBELL’S SOUP ARTICLE planned this week had to be postponed.  The reference material was eaten before pictures could be taken.  We can report, in preview, sodium levels seem to be lower.  The tester was of the expired variety, not unknown in this house.  A bit tinny but warming with nighttime winds of -15˚ buffeting the windows.

The East Coast has been icebound for days.  We’re informed a heat wave is on its way.  Wind-chill temperatures are expected to soar into the balmy single digits by midday.  Commerce never ground to a complete halt, but was quieted for several revolutions.

Enforced lethargy is about to have its restrictive shell shattered.  After this last cup of java, it is time for severe weather gear.  A broken drain deep under a commercial kitchen floor is keeping Jerry from emptying his mop bucket.  Measure, estimate, sell.  With cast iron work on the horizon, we have another Charlotte article in the making.

Two national lotteries located winners this weekend.  Over a billion annuity dollars dispensed.  Yesterday’s Powerball drawing found a Merrimack NH winner.  Our first thought is of the Anheuser Busch brewery in Merrimack, now producing a delicious Bass Ale for domestic health and consumption.  Over the pond, our cousins report this effort to be passable. 

Two dollars get you balcony seating to dream of millions within a country-sized arena.  It doesn’t take much to feel a winner, though.  A roof, some clothes, a bit of vittles from time to time, someone who cares, and perhaps purpose for the ambitious.  And now, a kick out the door, please.  There’s money to be made.