Juzek Bridge Jig

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With a bridge firmly grasped in my hand and a small rectangle of 220 grit scratch cloth carefully laid on the supine violin, I move a delicate piece of carved maple upon the paper, sanding the feet into the curved shape of the violin top.  Sometimes one foot wants a little more off than the other.  I compensate.  Tradition says the rear is to be 90˚ to the top.  The front appears pitched, as it is cut to 87˚.  Christmas Day we worked upon a beautiful mid-1960s German violin set up by a Reading shop.  Their luthier’s trademark?  He set up the right angled side forward.  A second bridge in the case from the same shop was identically cut.  Further reading indicates bridge orientation has no bearing on sound though tradition (and superstition) reign.

We work in fractions of a millimeter.  Fairly precise work.  Five seconds, about one distracted thought away from disaster.  No speakerphone calls, please.  Cello bridges, there is more room for error.  But getting the bridge shaped to sit plumb on the cello top?  A bit more work.

After doing a few by eye, I lust for an edge.  A third hand.  A bridge jig.  When the right job came in, we turned, naturally, to Juzek, the American manufacturer of fine luthier tools.  Off to the Performing Arts high school for summer session with a dozen cellos.  Juzek again turns out a valedictorian performance.  Our cello bridge feet come out square and plumb.  Quite the time saver!

That other tool?  A leg spreader.  Not used with violin bridges but for the cello bridge, quite necessary.  The leg spreader simulates what happens to the cello bridge when the pressure of the strings are upon it.

Manual Woodworkers & Weavers

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SINCE 1932, if you can visualize it, they can make it.  When the Frank Lloyd Wright organization wanted to reproduce their Waterlilies Art Glass as a tapestry throw, they turned to MWW, Inc.  You’d think custom woven would be expensive?  This is what MWW does, they do it efficiently, beautifully, and the product ends up priced to be bought, not languish on bookstore shelves.  From Hendersonville, North Carolina, MWW brings textile, home decor, and gift solutions throughout America and across the globe!


Vintage Surefire Flashlight

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It does not take much to become ‘vintage’.  Happened to me, in fact.  🙂  But my flashlight is only a decade old, I nearly react!

When purchased, it was the latest & greatest; LED was just coming out.  Dozens of batteries later, my E2E is now on its third lamp assembly.  An “outdated” incandescent bulb.  No, there is no LED we can retrofit into your Executive E2E flashlight.  But when it comes to indestructible, Surefire got it right.  This flashlight is first in, last out, in drenching, freezing, and steaming conditions.  Vibration, drops, dust, nothing stops it from extricating me from the really fine mess I’m invariably in.

Its two CR123 batteries provide decent runtime.  I often prefer intermittent light via its tail cap switch, stretching battery life (at the expense of bulb life?).  This flashlight compliments my LED headlamp.  And a backup LED lamp, the Titan, on a lanyard.  All Surefire.  Because when crawling into the unknown, you must have reliability and ruggedness.  Tools you can count on.  Surefire.

Taliesin West

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So much information in 90 minutes.  I was not taking notes.  It was more like watching a movie.  The life of a visionary.  His home, workspace, thoughts, time.

There are no pictures on the walls.  A smile from our guide.  Yes, Mr. Wright thought the architecture, the wall itself, was art enough.  Expansion, contraction.  Counterpoint.  Music in geometry.  6th Century poet.  Welsh ancestors.  So much information, flowing like water.

Frank Lloyd Wright practiced his trade up until his last year (d.1959), leaving several projects to his apprentices.  Five of those apprentices still live onsite in dorms built when Taliesin West (pronounced “Tally-essen”) was the western hub of Mr. Wright’s practice.  This is where he worked six months a year.  Where everyone lived.  If you take a 2-week or 2-month course of study at the School of Architecture at Taliesin, this is where you will live.  Heck, go full boat.  The comprehensive program towards a professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch).  Have a family?  No problem.  Onsite apartments for the husband (or wife) and kids are available.

I took the basic Insights Tour.  The first tour of their new 8:45am time slot on a Friday.  A perfect May day in the desert.  Bees enjoying the spray from tumbling water.  A heck of an informed, passionate tour guide.  The eastern horizon dropping below the sun, just as Mr. Wright saw it.  The surrounding few hundred acres looks just as it did in FLW’s time.  Beyond, much new construction.  Viewing the Papago Mountains and Camelback, power lines obstruct our view.  What would Frank have said?  He did say, actually.

Of the nearby power lines, which so disturbed Wright that he wrote to President Truman requesting that they be placed underground. When Truman refused, saying it would create a precedent, Wright replied: “I have been creating precedents all my life.” – from an article by Thomas Swick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 

Thirstystone Coasters

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The ubiquitous beverage coaster.  Tossed with abandon as kids, set liberally about the newlywed’s new furniture.  Their use tends to lose urgency as my go-to table begins taking on the characteristics of my wooden floor.

In climates with near-zero atmospheric humidity to condense, yonder glass of iced sun tea with mint still rests upon a handsome coaster.  Decorative, maybe protecting … something.  Maybe from habit?

Made in the Southwest, cores of solid sandstone are cut to discs of this absorbent rock.  Then shaped and polished.  Natural cork backing and any logo or design you choose.  Painted and packaged in Gainesville, Texas.  

The perfect gift.  An unopened boxed set discovered at an out-of-the-way thrift store?  Definite collector’s item.  Stock up!  You’ll be retiring in style!

Sweet Springs, Missouri

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Smiles   Horses thudding along the old Pony Express from Socorro.  Northward I roll to happy honking horns and wide Kansas smiles.  Inching my velocity up to the speed limit, a Man Of Purpose, intent on beating dusk.  To the joy of traffic backed up behind me.  But there was so much to see!  Miles and miles of prairie, cattle, wheat, everything!

Monarch Highway   Motoring southward, I recall grasslands preserved for butterflies and the generous Kansas rest stop welcome, “Camping Permitted”.  This would be a rare planned stop amid our freewheeling northward meander in search of “what was”.  Road & wind are our only influences.  Stretching out for sleep fits in there as well.

The horizon has yanked itself up above the sun but the birds don’t know it yet. With plenty of light, we roll to a far spot, change into night duds (jeans, fleece top, bandana), and off to a soft spot under the trees.  Only a couple of rough blankets and a cushion, but it is heaven!  Dozing off to darkening skies, birds chirping … fading … fading … And wake up at first light, a solid unbroken eight hours of sleep!  Far better than any motel room, and 100% cheaper!  Where’s the tip jar?  We owe nature a fat one for lulling us with her perfect Kansas breezes!

The sun rises faster   Barely an hour into our morning I notice the Missouri sun seems awfully high in the sky.  Time zones aside, surrounded by farmland, I can see why a farmer gets up so early.  It is work from sun-up until sun-down; gotta leverage every minute.

The sun also reminds me of another issue:  hunger and thirst.  Sweet Springs is the first exit after I think of caffeine, so we take it.  Eschewing service station coffee, we delve southward and find Downtown.  Wow!  Jackpot!  Sweet Springs, platted in 1838.  We park by the Old City Hall c.1891 and smell food.  Right up the block, a business for all occasions.  The de facto City Hall, maybe?  🙂

Sausage, milk, flour, butter   Sausage gravy on biscuits made from scratch every day is a favorite, Parrish tells me.  A perfect start.  Last Chance Saloon is regular stop from here on out!

Individual Time   Grudgingly we re-enter the Interstate.  Missouri rolls by.  Windows down, crops and soil smell familiar.  Long walks amid barns and fields as a kid.  Driving Down The Highway.  Without radio, plenty of time to think.  New ideas.  Hmmmmm  Individual time:  I decide when I want it to be 5am, Noon, 9pm, whatever.  My clock is my own and computers figure out how to mesh my life with the world.  New songs.  New plans for new trips.  Missouri farmland smells like childhood.  Innocence.  Imagination.

 

Desert Botanical Garden

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What visit to the Southwest would be complete without soaking in native flora and fauna?  Whenever within earshot of the Papago Mountains, I motor into the adjacent Desert Botanical Gardens.  An early morning visit in late May sees perfect Phoenix weather ~ 80˚ with single digit humidity.  Past 10am, past 90˚ … Water Sunscreen Hat – Protect Thy Skin.  Dusk, 98˚ and 6% humidity. The Garden is Eden for members-only.

With thousands of plant species and individual plants totaling many times that (scientific records are kept on all of the thousands of individual plants), DBG is a destination botanical garden.  While we love lulling beneath the pines of The Arboretum At Flagstaff, DBG is a scholar’s garden, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (1983).

Viewing Garden images from the 1950s, one remarks how much it looks the same today.  A great vision, born in the 1930s, preserved and expanded by countless individuals with a passion to conserve the beautiful desert environment.