Buck Bros. Woodworking Tools

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I’d seen it before.  The guy on a PBS woodworking show.  30 minutes of fantasy.  How easily shavings magically fall from his project.  Was he carving balsa wood?

When finally I tried it, complete disaster.  Chunks of wood removed.  Deep divots.  Chisel following grain instead of my will.  I accept the truth.  Repressed for years,  it is time to face fact.  My chisels are not sharp enough.

I had been putting this off even longer than learning the art of flossing back molars.  Yet it was not a girlfriends’ insistence this time.  An older woman’s beckoning desires had me considering the sharper edge.

This old violin wants her bushing pegs trimmed close.  Flush close.  Pink skin on a chilly autumn morning close.  But leave the surrounding wood intact.  A visit with the old guy from Southern Italy is more than helpful.

Antonio eyes my chisel suspiciously.  It looks remarkably like a combination spackle knife, pry bar, hole punch, and packing iron.  Respectfully he does not toss it into the rubbish bin, but brushing it aside, places a newspaper-wrapped parcel upon the counter.  Lunch?

Here is a sharp chisel.  This is what you need, he tells me with many extra syllables.  Wow, is this refurbished chisel sharp!  Back at the table, boxwood bushing pegs are conquered.  Slicing against the grain, wafer-thin shavings appear.  Translucent, they remind me of ginger root prepared for tea.  Only thinner.  

The following week, taking my new chisel back for consultation, Antonio animatedly launches into a general attack upon all tradespeople.  I am lumped into “all tradespeople”.  A satisfying classification.  I am one of many, using the tool wrong.  Backwards.  Upside down.  With no formal training, I accept the professional sharpener’s compliment.  We’ve made it to the big time.

Manhasset Specialty

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he man big voiceOur gift of services was excitedly bid higher and higher at the annual ATB Charity Ball.  Privately we speculate what the winner(s) would choose for us.  3rd shift dog kennel cleaning at the animal rescue?  Working a busy birthday at Lawrence Latimer Lewis’s Llama Laughhouz?

More exciting, it turns out.  Record and host an audio book!  Far harder than it sounds.  Because everything we do at ATB, we do for posterity.  One thing which made it easy, made us look like pros?  Our old music stand.

The same music stand which drove Doc to sputtering apoplexy within the bluegrass circle is again pressed into venerable service.  Requisitioned, delivered, dusted, it is looking new.  Recording gear set up.  Microphones checked.  Red light in 90 seconds.  Producer to the Blue Room.

Everything went wrong.  Even the words on the pages kept jumping all about, but that was probably from laughing.  The constant, perfect performer?  My music stand.  The same kind we used in school.  Only this one was never tossed without ceremony into the back of a yellow school bus.  Still looking chipper but older than my favorite loafers.

The employee-owned Manhasset could make this stand a little less perfect.  Instead they make a multigenerational product, valued, cherished, remembered.  The statistics of romance and yes, marriage, between high school stand-mates are overwhelming.  99.9% of the time, love blossomed behind a Manhasset.  

Ceramic Source ◊ USA Mugs

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The recent package from International Violin included a surprise.  Only one thing could be more useful than a larger table.  What did Denny Wise include?

The timely delivery of a D’Addario & Co. promotional mug.  As with everything they do, even their mugs are of screamingly good quality.  I extract the mug from packaging and pour out my order of small luthier parts, cleverly included inside the cup.  Upon the bottom of the cup, a welcome sight:  The Stars & Bars circled by the name Ceramic Source.

Usually I see the D’Addario logo about once a week, stringing up a fresh victim upon the table.  It’ll be every day now.  And every evening washing up, the Ceramic Source logo. Thumbs up!

Hey, didn’t Ceramic Source also do the mugs for Old City Coffee?

Zona Razor Saws

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The 1860s violin had a rough life.  Through celebration and funeral,  joy and woe,  work and pleasure,  countless songs found voice.  Probably a trade instrument, sold to one of the trade musicians who supplied background, accompaniment, and main attractions before radio.

First to a right-handed player and later to a southpaw, a well-penciled calendar kept this fiddle busy for decades.  At some point, perhaps in the 1920s, the peg box could take no more abuse.  Donated to a church, and into a closet it rested, used as backup to the backup.

Neighborhoods change.  The church moved.  At their giant rummage sale this gem made its way onto a long folding table covered with relics.  Purchased and sold yet again, changing hands from New England into the Keystone was a welcome destiny.  This time not to play second fiddle.  She is getting the full spa treatment!

Everything looks wrong for this wandering minstrel, but she has backbone and spunk.  Incense wafts from the f-holes, Alma Pané informs me.  Hmmmmm!  Mystery solved?  As I ream the peg holes to round, the intriguing smell released from its wood finally explained ~ ~

She’s getting peg hole bushings.  I ream the peg holes back to round, insert and glue fitted boxwood peg hole bushings into the holes, and cut them flush with the peg box.  Then the bushings get drilled and reamed for new pegs.  A lovely experience for any fiddle, the excitement of momentarily returning to life as a violin!  But those protrusions of extra bushing are not going to surrender placement without a fight.

Just in time, I discover Zona and their lovely razor saws.  With this precision blade I’m able to safely cut within a couple hundredths of the peg box.  Far less wood to slice away with my chisel.  Papa always said, “Stick with what you’re good at”.  I’m better at cutting wood than shaving wood, so there you go!

1860 nears completion.  With D’Addario 4/4 Helicore Low Tension strings, 1860 will again be kicking up the hootenanny and serenading lovers, young and old.

Oatey Epoxy Putty

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What is a tube of epoxy doing on the luthier’s table?  Life is not all work, a swirl of fiddles and prima balalaikas.  Hobbies are also important, like plumbing and wall-papering.

Recently the emergency call went out from Francis Salon.  Inexplicably a rinse hose at their shampoo station periodically sprays into the room!  A mystery worthy of Star Trek but sorted out soon enough.  Of more intriguing interest is a blow dryer headed for the rubbish bin.  Dropped on its tail, backbone smashed, its destiny the American cure.  Throw it out and buy another.

In the business of fixing anything, the dryer is rescued and queued for table service.  Bill’s centenarian violin shipped, an 1860s trade violin pushed aside, the fractured Francis Salon blow dryer takes its eager place.  The same temporary cure to a cast iron rain pipe last year becomes a permanent cure for Alma Pané.  A piece of Oatey two part epoxy is sliced off the roll, kneaded for a minute within nitrile-clad hands, then pushed into the hair dryer’s fractured handle.  In minutes the epoxy cures, becoming harder than the plastic grip, a chemical Forever Bond.

Payment via Greek salad fresh from Alma’s garden settles nicely in my belly.  I’m wondering how to record this on my accounting ledger as gratuity is accepted.  At least I’ll be presentable at the IRS audit, with trim hair and shaven neck.  

Juzek Luthier Tools

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LITTLE DEER ISLE, MAINE  Generational downsizing had Jeff moving fiddles.  In the right place, I acquired a Johann Baptist Schweitzer Copy of 1813 in rare good condition.  Down the Eastern Seaboard the Baptist (bap•TEEST) was shipped.  To Pennsylvania for mild refurbishment, strings, set-up, then further south to William in Georgia.  Its stop-over proved to be more than a quick pat on the back.  The pegbox was wonky.  

While this instrument may have been made for 1:20 taper pegs, someone had later used modern 1:30 taper pegs.  The new standard has provided superior tuning performance and pegbox health since its inception about 1900.  This narrower peg, however, will not fit simply by “shoving it in as hard as you can”.

In a fog, flummoxed by ratios and angles, we turn to two of the best luthiers and mathematicians in the world for answers.  The question, “What’s the difference?”

From Ontario: Basic trigonometry gives tan(angle)=rise/run. The angle is then inverse tan(rise/run), which gives an angle of 87.14 degrees. The compliment is 2.86 degrees. Thus, your 1:20 reamer is 2.86 degrees. – Charles Tauber

Not to be outdone, we’re gifted the link to a “Taper & Angle Calculation” program from a reader in Tatamagouche, the village in Nova Scotia.  A 1:30 taper is scarcely larger, 3.33%

Closer examination reveals it is no big deal.  With existing peg hole damage, it’s not even six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other.   We’re saved the expense, for now, of an imported Old World specialty reamer.  Bill is still waiting in Georgia; lead time leaps forward.  My domestic Juzek 1:30 tapered reamer with three straight cutting flutes works perfectly.  The Juzek peg shaver (USA production with some imported parts) produces both blisters and perfect pegs.  A little pool cue chalk on the peg surfaces, along with D’Addario Kaplan Amo strings, completes the job.

Steve Fields played the finished restoration at Woodside Creamery Farm yesterday.  He pronounces the effort, “Perfect!”  Another All-Smiles-Day!

Texting, American Style

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ATB ORBITAL VEHICLE  –  We decide to postpone reentry due to Hurricane Irma.  Friends far below evacuate or hunker down.  Decisions made for better or worse.  Thirst for news has the internet chunking and stuttering.  Texting seems most reliable.

As do people the world over, Americans love their phones.  Big or small.  Full service or voice and text only.  The younger generation are the ones with faces buried into phone screens. Overlooked are the more -ahem- mature among us.  We love our phones as well.  Texting has hit an all-time popularity among those sending affectionate notes to one another all day and night.  And no one does it like the older generation.  Because we have a secret.

Instead of looking for the next hookup, we cultivate trust and harvest love with our chosen.  It’s a maturity thing, kids.  Coming soon to you in a few years.

Initialisms are the future.  When you see an octogenarian walking through the park, smiling, looking starry-eyed at her phone, her guy probably just texted NKNC  (Neck kisses and caresses).  Maybe it is a hookup.  You are never too old.  More probably, a long-term relationship based on respect and trust.