Bluett Brothers Violins

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Upon some of the oldest farm roads in the United States I head deep into Lancaster County.  Not for corn or melons.  Nor have I crossed the Susquehanna for grain or whiskey.

It all started in March while visiting Wintergrass, the Wilmington Delaware Bluegrass Festival.  A fella had a mandolin of pure line.  Shapely neck and smooth body.  Her voice!  Golden, well articulated, clear, and rich.  Sharp when required.  Clearly an effort from one of the best finishing schools!

Off we went to see where she was born, meet her parents.  The York Pennsylvania studio of Bluett Brothers Violins.  Chris Bluett (blu•ETTE) proudly shows me around his latest, a clean F-body mandolin with intricate headstock, the violin in progress,  a few guitars from earlier years there for a visit.

Chris has been making instruments his entire adult life.  It takes more than skill and an understanding supportive wife.  It takes dedication and respect for the craft.  Born into every instrument.  A tradition he proudly supports through an active apprentice program.  Chris Bluett, carrying the torch.

D’Addario Kaplan Violin Strings

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While visiting York Pennsylvania luthier Chris Bluett (blu•ETTE), a gent comes into the luthiery with a violin in a paper bag.  For sale.  Chris makes and sells violins but does not buy unless made by him.  The B-Team steps forward.  I offer a slim stack of dollars for the shabby fiddle, and walk away a hopeful man.

Tight unblemished top grain, casual adherence to scroll symmetry above the box, and matching pegs caught my eye.  As I clamp down on refurbishment, it got better and better.  Decades of grime gently removed, Behlen hide glue restoring separated back and top, this gem exposed promising pedigree.  Labeled without origin, the top was definitely a better tonewood.

Over a century ago with excellent materials, a craftsperson put this violin together with attention where it matters.  Ready again for strings, I consult the foremost authority.  With D’Addario Orchestral Strings CSR on speed dial, we come to the same conclusion.  Premium strings for this promising centenarian. 

D’Addario Kaplan strings are selected.  They feel good in the hand, as I string the violin.  Almost silky, with superior peg end windings.  Stretching “break-in” was minimal.  The tone?  Phenomenal!  After Steve Fields gets used to the slightly different scale length of my set-up, his smile is never far as he runs through his favorites.  If I ever get this violin back from him, I may remove the D’Addario Kaplan Vivo set and try the D’Addario Kaplan Amo set.  Can’t wait!

http://www.orchestral.daddario.com

Badger Balm

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A gift received four years ago sat unused for months.  Need finally arose over a bracing chapped winter.  This balm was found to be superior.  An all-natural salve with pleasant wintergreen finish restored what nature took.  

Before the tin was reduced to a few smears of Badger Balm along the bottom, my restored hands had intersourced * a vendor with reasonable shipping fees.  I’m BACK IN THE BALM again!

That split nail growing from a perpetually cracked cuticle?  Finally, some relief after a couple months of consistent application.  Sub-epidermal exposure through fingertip calluses?  Stick with Badger Balm, and relief will come.  A must have through the winter and all year around!

Bill, what makes it so good?  Our philosophy flows from the ground up. We believe in using botanical ingredients that are grown in healthy soil and processed simply without the use of chemicals. Ingredients like these are filled with life force. They make for better products, for healthier people, and for a healthier planet. Badger Bill Whyte, CEO & Head Badger


*  locate materials or labor via the Internet

Harry’s Shave Cream

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Our publishing deadline is here once again.  More quickly this time around.  As life becomes busier, hectic, and committed, options to slow down remain elusive.  But one ritual can transport you for a few minutes:  the morning shave.

A Barbasol man from ‘way back, gifted shave product traditionally sat unused.  Tried once or twice, they usually seemed gooey or thick.  Turns out I was not reading the directions.  Premium shaving products contains more conditioners  to position your beard and protect the skin.  Unlike the much lighter Barbasol.

This morning with fresh blade, Harry’s Shave Cream brought me, for a few minutes, into a decadent salon.  Natural oils pop with mildly astringent nose, along with conditioners which assist in Zamboni-smooth blade action across my weathered face.  Harry’s CSR will not share their formula secrets except to list ingredients.  Research as I may, the specific plant or tree oil which brings me to reorder Harry’s remains elusive. Unlike a perfect shave, which is now within my grasp.

The whole picture, via Harry’s SMT (social media team):  Thanks so much for your interest in our products! To give you the whole picture: our blades and cartridges are engineered and manufactured in Germany using Swedish steel, our handles are made in China, and our shaving cream is developed at a really cool lab in New Jersey. Every Harry’s item is uniquely designed and produced, but we hope you’ll love them all equally.

Harry’s shipping boxes are of particular genius.  Perfectly sized, sturdy, reusable.  I turn’em inside out and load them up!  Next project?  Take an unpurposed  box, unfold it flat, and have my nieces draw on it.  Then reassemble.  Voilà, first of the Harry’s Collectable Boxes.  You will not know which edition you receive until your order arrives, with instructions:  Kindly unpack your Harry’s premium shave gear for later use. Unfold this box to flat.  Reassemble inside out.  Fill your new Harry’s ART SERIES container with multi-generational treasures and enjoy!

Trader Joe’s Navel Oranges

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Weekly shopping would not be complete without a stop at our local Trader Joe’s.  Once a novelty, this grocery store chain has become a must-visit for specifics.  Why?  As with our Coffee Filter article, Price, quality, and consistency … When something works, why look for anything better?

Joe’s navel oranges.  Consistent size, fresh and juicy, and a good price.  The four-pound bag is $4 on the East Coast but $3 in Phoenix … guess they are coming from California this time of year.

The serving size is misleading, though.  One orange?  Really?

Free Offer:  When Trader Joe’s drops the $3.99 and prices bagged oranges on the even dollar, we’ll give them a banner ad for a year!

3M Personal Safety Division

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La sécurité n’est pas un accident.

I gear up for another season with that famous French proverb ringing in my ears.  Safety is not an accident.  Eye protection?  Check!  Uxex for me.  Ears?  Hoppes plugs are always within reach and used, even if drilling only one or two holes in concrete.  Lungs?  As they say, when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. 

After several apprentice seasons struggling with disposal breathing masks, I took advice from safety experts at Graingers.  North/Honeywell or 3M are the usual offerings when safety is your top concern.  Decades later, I have and use both brands.  Honeywell for light dust and all day comfort, and the 3M “half-mask” for more involved irritants.

The 3M™ Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6000 Series.  Interchangeable cartridges for protection within different contaminants.  While this unit will not provide oxygen, with the right cartridges, muriatic acid can be handled safely in a well-ventilated area.  With the pictured P100 Particulate Filters, I’m protected against anything the typical construction site stirs up.

Healthy body, healthy mind, restful sleep.

Oatey Pipe Thread Sealant

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Decades ago while hand-threading five stories of 1″ steel pipe, a gas company employee shared a great product with me.  His fancy blue pipe dope to apply to pipe threads before screwing everything together.  Back in those days, I used grey pipe dope, or more often, white dope with teflon.  The blue stuff?  An expensive specialty item.

That gas company guy said they used only the blue stuff.  It was the best.  Pipes never leaked.  You did not have to tighten pipe like Hercules to get a good seal.  After my gifted can was empty, I bought another.  Two decades later I still buy the same pipe dope, Oatey MEGALOC.  Sometimes an even stronger product, Oatey Block, for larger or irregular pipe as well as specialty applications.  Made in the USA for professional plumbers worldwide.

MADE IN USA / HECHO EN EE.UU.

Even if you are not a professional, just a guy who knows a lot about pipes, do yourself a favor.  Get an edge on every project.  The upper hand on potential issues.  Oatey MEGALOC and BLOCK, their Blue Wonders.

MEGALOC cleans up with water.  BLOCK requires isopropyl alcohol.