Product Review

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.

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.  

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.  

La Roche-Posay

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It sounds French.  Men may think it a type of wine.  Women, all-knowing, recognize the name from medical professional’s offices.   Sounds logical but not quite the truth.

Originally sold only within dermatologist and plastic surgeon’s offices, the best sunscreens in the world went retail ten years ago.  L’Oréal USA does not advertise La Roche-Posay.  High consumer report ratings and doctor recommendations have helped establish favorable market share.  But possibly the most important factor in this product line’s success?  Quality.

After “borrowing” a tube of La Roche Posay from a client while in the field, I note its comfort and protection.  After days of use, my usual daily burn is absent.  Once discovered, I became a quick convert.

We asked Mary, customer service majordomo and chief marketing strategist at L’Oréal USA, “What is the company known for?”  (paraphrased)  Quality.  R&D.  We take pride in the research and development we put into all of our products.  Diversity of product.  We’re the largest cosmetic company in world, and we make a product for all price points.  From personal experience, I’ve noted economy sunscreen stings, even causing a rash.  The cost of quality?  I don’t notice it.

Mary leaks a secret.  Calls to customer care are roughly split, 50/50.  Women and men both want to care for their skin.  Guess men like product as much as women. 🙂

Crest vs Colgate

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Bang bang, you’re dead.
Brush your teeth and go to bed.
Camp song

Children’s songs of folklore try to instill regular habits.  Giving thanks before meals.  The avoidance of blinding a friend in game.  Within fifty variations among a dozen generations, this camp song has reenforced, “Brush yer teeth.”  The cost of underbrushing.  Perils of over-brushing.

Good habits as kids carry over to good habits as adults.  Same for product.  Within the dental products aisle of our local market stretch options so vast one may forget that for which they came, blinded by the glamour of choice.

Artisanal, homeopathic, organic, PETA-approved … some linger in this aisle, confused, dreamy, excited, like a cat in a strange garret.  Sexual delights anticipated, amplified by their newly pearlescent teeth and licorice anisette breath.  Blind to marketing gimmicks, they buy the sizzle, brushing with false hope.  “Grandma’s Special Recipe” toothpaste at three times the price but without the drop of turpentine she concealed as her secret ingredient.

Back to basic.  Back to trust every time for me.  Crest as a kid, Crest now.  The name ‘Crest‘ means  “Research. Development. Testing. Quality.”  Not a garage concoction tubed, boxed, and sold out of a station wagon by Felix and his cousin, but a real product developed by professionals, extensively tested, with impeccable quality control.

Sometimes I’ll buy Colgate.  Same trust.  Do I lean towards one?  Sure, but either is fine.  In all my decades as a shopper, I’ve only bought a different paste once.  It’s still in its box in the cellar, half full, the properties unneeded.

Don’t forget to floss.

Most domestic consumption Crest is made in Greensboro, North Carolina.  My last tube of Colgate was made in Morristown Tennessee.  Occasionally you’ll get a tube of Crest manufactured in Nuacalpan, Mexico, differentiated by a foil seal beneath the cap. Colgate also has manufacturing in Mexico.  Both manufacturers sell primarily domestic production within the ‘States.