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.

Mars Spirit Rover

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Closing out 2017, you’d think we have a long-planned article filled with deep thinking and cute anecdotes.  Ha!  Barely able to keep up with dry winter skin and filling the constantly empty cat food bowl – where does he put it? – this week’s installment has taken Second Stage.

Following Andy Weir with a NASA Mars feature seemed appropriate.  Wow, that image from the Mars Spirit Rover (2004) reminds me of Northern Arizona.  How’d you like to drop your orbital vehicle keys out there?  Always something keeping us up from what is planned  ≈

Holiday cheer has slowed digestion, winter winds,  0˚F this very morning,  have stunted typing, and general life activities have crowded thinking.  A reoccurring theme, it is the little things which keep us from reaching our potential.  A drawerful of items rattling about,  a bucket of issues getting knocked over.  Likewise, the little things put us over our potential.  Matched socks.  A tidy refrigerator.  The sidewalk clear from snow.

As amazing as NASA landing a 180 kilogram (400 pound) ATV on the next planet over sounds, they dropped a bigger ride, five times heavier, less than a decade later.  ATB Prediction:  permanent inhabited Mars colony in 80 years.

Here’s to you, the special few,
We lift our mug of jasmine.
With steaming milk and honey too, 
A comfortable companion.

Naturally, we close out 2017 with some great music by Phish:   “Back On The Train” (2000)

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountain curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train

Now I’m gone and I’ll never look back again
I’m gone and I’ll never look back at all
You know I’ll never look back again
I turn my face into the howlin’ wind
It took me a long time to get back on the train

See my face in the town that’s flashing by
See me standing at the station in the rain
See me running there beside the car
I left it all behind, again I’ll travel far
It took me a long time to get back on the train

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountains curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train
It took me a long time to get back on the train
It took me a long time to get back on the train

The Martian ◊ andy weir

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‘Tis the season for thankfulness.  Everything speeds up, though.  We attend this, deliver than, check off our list, make the parties.  But the true spirit of the “holidays”?  Maybe it is to reflect . . . 

Last week a book on CD came into my possession.  I listen to these in my truck.  After the first few paragraphs, I anticipated travel time in the GMC like a dog hearing his leash.  The proverbial “old men” maneuvering their ancient Oldsmobiles at a trot pass me along the road as I carefully catch every traffic light.  The “travel” in “travel time” was never so enjoyable.

Yes, the writer is amazing.  Andy Weir hears this all the time so I need not repeat it.  I wonder if he imagined himself Mark Watney  ~  I’d bet Andy had to, but that will be another article.  Yeah, the upcoming interview, after his people and my people get our schedules in sync.  🙂

At first I did not realize – sorry Matt – this was the book made into a movie.  R. C. Bray NAILS narration so convincingly.  He becomes each of the characters and owns it so totally, you’d think he wrote it.  Our researchers memo’d me R.C.’s closest exposure to aeronautics is paper airplanes, so ghost writing rumors, begone!

Thinking I finally had something new to share with my nephew, I planned to introduce this fine novel to his young inquisitive mind.  Yes, the kid is brilliant, but I figure the book is mature enough that he’d have to read it by flashlight under the covers.  “Oh yeah, I read that a couple years ago.  Great book.  And we saw the movie too”.  Soccer ball deflated!  Where did this kid find the time to turn out so humble and pleasant?

Taking my nephew’s queue, I’ve secured the DVD.  I’ll repeat his experience.  I am not jealous of his youth or covet his upcoming opportunities, but do regret not noticing how quickly he has grown into a young man.  More reflection is in order.  After the movie.  Pass the popcorn, please.

Great movie!  Thanks Matt for your hard work!

The Winter Walk

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Our coffers are as bare as our drafts folder.  Not a farthing to be had for road trips, not a whiff of wit & wisdom nor waft of wistful words this week.  Perusing past articles, we remark again upon this comment from a reader:

Sometimes, amid the beautiful scenery and steady cadence of the horse’s steps and wagon wheels, we forget how the search began and discover pleasures unanticipated.

A budget trip in search of mid-December adventure, a tale of Americana, is undertaken.  We sample the afternoon stroll.  Take the pulse of The City.  Maybe some busking on the accordion.  Conduct a Smiles Count.  A lustrum back it was under 20%, so we have a baseline of sorts.  Well, it is a bit overcast.  Plus we’d have competition from the filming of Tuba Christmas.  Bah!

Onward through Rittenhouse Square in deep contemplation.  Winter brings greater enjoyment of Campbell’s Baked Beans.  We consider an article on this fine example of American entrepreneurship.  We could even do a tie-in with vegan, gluten-free … wait … the pork … oh, traces of wheat …  wow, look at that sodium!  But they sure are good, smothered in hot sauce!

Past the Square, a story continues to elude.  We’re late for Alma’s Christmas party.  Fresh-baked sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles.  Mmmmmmm.  Family and friends.  Happiness and love and forgiveness and compassion.  The “spirit of the holidays” has excellent characteristics which would work year around.  But not all of them, or my waistline would be *burp* light-years round.

Korky Flapper

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Winter weather brings winter water.  Reservoir water sitting out, like the porch cat’s water bowl.  Gets pert’ cold this time of year.  Freezes over, even.  What does that water do to plumbing system innards?  Not a whole lot, if you’ve got good materials.  One component you do not want failing?  The flapper inside your toilet tank.  The part that opens to let the toilet flush, and closes to let the tank refill.

In 1954 Korky invented the first toilet flapper.  This technology is still used today.  Their current reliability is so good, Korky warrants their premium product at 5 years.  Ten years for their double super premium ‘Ultra’ product line.

Last week my toilet flapper failed to drop over the flush valve.  It ‘stuck open’ and the tank tried to fill it self all night long.  After morning coffee, I didn’t hesitate.  Picking up a new radiator valve for Widow Baxter, I had Mike toss a couple of Korkys into the sack.  Replacement was fast and easy.  The old red Korky had an accumulation of minerals on it but the rubber was still pliable.  Yes, I probably could have cleaned and reinstalled it, but a few bucks for another lustrum or longer of reliability?  No brainer.

The Korky premium toilet tank flapper, made with chlorine resistant rubber.  This basic component of modern life has done as much to promote health, convenience, and conservation as refrigerated food.  Six Thumbs Up to Lavelle Industries of Burlington, Wisconsin!

Chlorazone® rubber is Lavelle’s proprietary family of elastomeric formulations that is specifically designed to withstand chemicals found naturally in water or added to it by municipal treatment facilities. Introduced in 1990, it was the first chlorine-resistant material made available for plumbing applications.  Lavelle

SureFire Headlamps

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Four years ago we eagerly put the spotlight on one of America’s finest headlamps, a SureFire variable output LED model.  This same headlamp has delved into dank dripping sub-basements,  explored maze-like warrens of cells within former workhouses, and camped along a raging Gardner River atop the Wyoming-Montana border.  We’ve even inched upon glutes and blades in such cramped quarters, a pipe or two had to be removed.

The only thing my 2012 SureFire Minimus has NOT done is fail to work perfectly.  A few blinks tells me the SureFire CR123 battery is ending its usefulness.  Dial down the output and prepare to swap its single battery.

My 2012 model has endured such intense duty, I had to acquire a new elastic adjustable headband.  The up-down swivel is getting a little loose in its carriage but is not yet an issue.  Without a doubt, this flashlight is one of the most useful items in my tool satchel.  What could be better than the Surefire Minimus?  How about a second Surefire Minimus.

The opportunity appeared to acquire a copy gifted in 2013.  While mine has gone through boxes of batteries, this one has consumed only one.  50 hours runtime maximum on this Minimus.  Its knurled aluminum clean, deep into the checkering.  Headband virtually unused.  Battery compartment has that new equipment smell.

There’s no excuse to clearly see problems and issues now.  Surefire lights my way.

The SureFire Minimus Vision Variable-Output LED Headlamp has been upgraded, replaced by a headlamp with FOUR TIMES the output while achieving even better battery life.  HS2-MV-A-BK  surefire.com

Mill-Rose Abrasive Cloth

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Back in the day, working with top quality materials was normal, an everyday affair.  There was demand for the best, local supply houses stocked the best, tradespeople used the best.  Then came the wave of Big Box Home Centers.  Pennies, and soon dollars, were pinched off every job.  Available materials became more generic.  But in doing our best, doesn’t that start with the best tools and materials?

A renovation job was going south.  Repiping a bathroom from below, I discover grout or thinset (the sticky mortar in which one sets tiles) followed a copper water supply pipe through its floor penetration.  The mortar was attached rock solid to the copper.  Tight quarters for polishing copper preparatory to soldering, the proverbial & literal ‘rock and a hard place’.  My assistant went at it with his ‘standard quality’ scratch cloth, but halfway materials produce halfway results.  Time to break out the good stuff.

MILL-ROSE

Into my torch bag I retrieved a length of blue scratch cloth.  Waterproof, for what is plumbing if not dealing with water?  Linen-backed, giving this 120-J grit scratch cloth long-lasting flexibility.  The same cloth I’ve trusted for decades.  Mill-Rose.

When it’s time to take it all off, I reach for the world leader in abrasive scratch cloth.  Copper oxides are but a memory to this durable abrasive cloth.  Paint is pulverized.  The mortar on our copper?  Back into dust.  (Yes, I wear a respirator on every job!)  The ability to overcome any obstacle, that is where the quality of Mill-Rose shines.

Leave nothing to chance.  When it’s time to replenish supplies,  don’t take what is offered.  Ask your supply house for Mill-Rose.

 

 

Yuengling Traditional Lager

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Serendipity.  A silly word.  Pretentious in all its syllables.  Plumbers and purveyors of ice cream think of “dip wells”, where an ice cream scooper rests under a perpetual flow of water between customers.  The office staff had their ideas:  Pink Oxford, plaid pants.  Croquet on the south lawn with Buffy and Trevor”.  Whatever all that means.  Maybe its time for their tea and biscuits.

Our glorious local library, stocked with DVDs from world-wide TV series, recently acquired 800 Words of New Zealand fame.  The word serendipity came up.  With an actual definition (according to their editors). 

Serendipity is a word coined over 250 years ago by the English author Horace Walpole from the title of a fairytale in which the heroes were always making discoveries by accident.  –  George, 800 Words.  Season 2, Part I, Episode 4.

While taking a break from convoluted inter-cabinet quad coiling during the installation of a T&S Brass glass filler at a local college *hic* institution, I strolled the aisle between bar and beer merchandiser.  And upon the morning buffet table spied a new, most impressive wall clock.  “The kids broke the old one.  Brian just got this.  We have to hang it”, explains Bonnie.

A beautiful, brand new Yuengling neon wall clock manufactured in Perryopolis PA.  The same clock company featured last week.  The beer of my formative years.  No ATB article yet on tap.  Content drops onto my mental keyboard.  “Order up“,  I imagine Hanif calling through the kitchen window.

America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, of Pottsville PA, buys their promotional clocks in Perryopolis.  Yuengling Traditional Lager, elixir of the Gods, a perfect mate to pizza, pretzels, and stuffed Italian hoagies, immortalized upon a beautiful 20″ neon clock.  Logo expertly screened onto sheet aluminum.  Powder coat exterior finish.  Optical glass – will not “yellow” over time – secured to the bezel with industrial epoxy.  A real gem of a clock.  Magnificent craftsmanship.  The picky plumber finds not a single hair out-of-place.  SIX thumbs up to all!!!

What about this serendipity stuff?  I’ve almost forgotten myself.  It was having no piece completed for deadline, installing one American-made product, and seeing another which worked better for the article.  Sort of like desert to last week’s main course.  Discovered in a fine 5th generation restaurant.  Cheers!

Image Time • Perryopolis PA

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You never know what can be learned with eyes open to your surroundings.  So many people bury their faces toward sophisticated electronic gadgets.  Do they escape opportunities to exercise imagination?  Prepare for the future by exploring the past?

A typical service station waiting room appears the perfect nest of boredom.  Whip out “phones”, text furiously to important people, pace outside, shout into a line mic while gesturing animatedly.  Yes, you ARE important, you tell the world.  But maybe time waiting is time to think?  Introspection has its rewards.

Full circle was I rewarded recently by keeping the phone in its pocket.  With phoneless pacing at the tire shop I’m able to admire this handsome wall clock from all angles.  Smiles as its origin is discovered.  Right here in the Keystone State!  Pics are snapped and filed.  The thought of an article?  Not yet.

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”

But what is this Perryopolis?  Surrounded by the finest Greek pizzerias outside Italy, I’m confident of the town’s origins.  WRONG!  Perryopolis was named for 28-year old Hero Of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry.  The town?  Laid out by George Washington himself, called New Boston at the time.  

Big SMILING thumbs up for making the finest marketing clocks, Image Time!  Continental / General Tire picked a winner!  Wow, more delicious history exposed.  Uncle Jerry worked at a beer distributor his whole life, bringing home plaster Rolling Rock displays and the occasional wall clock.  Bet the clocks were made by Image Time!

Behlen Behkol Solvent

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Whiskey is for drinking.  Water content is for fighting over.

When it’s time to booze up, we have many choices.  Clyde stocks gallons of generic hooch.  With adult-proof lid, can rust, and drippy spout, we may buy in desperation or ignorance but regret our choice.  Acquire in haste, repent in leisure.

We’re dabbling into the arcane world of spirit varnishes and stains.  After the tool sharpening guy from Southern Italy insulted me, it’s likely I’ve transcended the hobbyist.  Genuine need for solvent worthy of a professional spurs investigation.

Internet research brings to mind Fido chasing his tail.  More opinions than the autumn leaves we crunch across during an evening stroll.  To filter flow & clarify consumption, we contact National Finishes Expert Phillip Pritchard and confirm what we suspect.  Hunches are backed with facts.  Myths dispelled.  When it is time to get our Varnish On, there is only one choice.  The professional choice.  Behkol.

We ask Phillip the advantages of Behlen spirit solvent over 190 proof hooch or hardware store quality denatured alcohol, when working with spirit varnishes.  We cannot possibly paraphrase Phillip’s wisdom;  an excellent quote you will have! – ATB

190 PROOF HOOCH IS 95% ethanol and 5% water.  It is designed for drinking purposes, best enjoyed after applying your finish.  Off the shelf denatured alcohol, sold primarily as a cleaning solvent, is a high concentration of ethanol and enough denaturant to prevent human consumption.  Alcohol is hydroscopic and naturally draws water from the environment; in a general purpose cleaning solvent it should pose no harm but there’s no telling how much water it contains.  

Behlen Behkol Solvent also contains a high concentration of ethanol, but it’s carefully sourced and controlled for minimal water content.  The denaturant used is less toxic than other common choices.  We add a stabilizing solvent to provide a greater shelf life for your dissolved shellac.  All solvents used in Behkol are alcohols and are carefully selected for better shellac compatibility.  This does add cost to Behkol Solvent, but it is purposely formulated for use as a shellac solvent, eliminates solvent related issues and provides higher performance when finishing with shellac.  –  Phillip Pritchard

Hartz Flea Collars

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Some like a consistently predictable & conforming life.  With bouts on the wild side.  My porch cat is an example.  While bucolic autumn afternoons beneath the maple out front are his norm, he is up to something other times.  Despite an inflated show of chasing cats off his patch, there is evidence he may be hanging with the wrong crowd.  He wouldn’t be the first cat to take a trip under the fence.

When that happens, FTIs can follow.  The dreaded transmitted feline issues.  A rare case of fleas, it seems.  Rare, because he gets the liquid on his nape.  As a Russian Blue -he identifies as Ossetian- his thick fur offers protection.  In general, he keeps his snout clean.

But fleas there were.  Banished outside for a spell, I went on attack with 20 Mule Team Borax about his crate.  And collared his condition with the name everyone trusts.  Hartz.

Back to the laid-back loafer lifestyle, his significant belly swings with a little more amplitude.  Even more cool on block patrol.  A Hartz collar is a status symbol.  His prosperous look provides him envious stares, but his Hartz collar sends a message.  He’s got health care.

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.  

Perrigo

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Approaching autumn.  I can smell it, especially at night.  Falling leaves.  Campbell’s Tomato Soup & Premium Saltine Crackers.  The garden, finally tamed.  But now?  Still a roiling cacophony of God’s goodness.  Yet among pleasures of Eve & Adam evil does exist.  In the form of a nasty rash starting on my fingers, spreading to neck and knee.

Winds of Darwin set forth upon my acreage a new weed, lively, unpretentious, with hidden secrets.  Insects quickly grasped its unpleasantness.  To me, weeks would pass before lesson was learnt.

First, home remedies.  Smeared honey had a cooling effect but clothes stuck to my skin.  Ice wrapped in a towel?  Fantastic!  But I’d tend to drip across work orders, blueprints and such.  Next the family doctor who made, even with my limited dermatological knowledge, a misdiagnosis.  Finally, a true professional, identified by her age and demeanor – past retirement and I work because I can still work.

Past diagnoses tossed aside, adjacent issues dismissed, she prods me to discovery.  Yes, it must have been the garden.  The only constant in a variable schedule, weeded casually many times a month.  Doctor MacKay quickly determines the itching is driving me crazy.  Exhibit A:  Man goes to doctor without parental bidding.

A steroidal cream prescribed, purchased, and applied, my symptoms are on the wane.  The cream?  Manufactured in the Bronx by a multi-national corporation, Perrigo (not the flooring company).  A most interesting company with its roots in simple dry and wet goods capitalism.

In 1887 Luther Perrigo, the proprietor of a general store and apple-drying business, had the idea to package and distribute patented medicines and household items for country stores. Located in Allegan, Michigan, the L. Perrigo Company enjoyed steady growth and, by the early 1920s, Perrigo was exceeding the needs of its rural store customers throughout the Midwest.

Along the way, the company began leveraging the “private label” concept as a way to enhance customer loyalty. For no additional cost, Perrigo offered to imprint the individual store’s name on the labels of epsom salts, sweet oil, bay rum and dozens of other wet and dry goods stocked in general stores.  Perrigo History 

D’Addario Helicore Violin Strings

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Through a summer haze of bug bites, various skin infections and rashes, even intermittent sun poisoning despite the best efforts of La Roche-Posay, we’ve again dropped into the lap of another week.  Without a story.  But we are close.  Like this week, stringing newly acquired ½ and ¼ size fiddles.  The bench is littered with wrappings from D’Addario, their Helicore strings.  Nearly every fiddle refurbishment gets Helicores.

While competitors put “student quality” strings on their fiddles, Helicores have proven, again and again, to product better tones, making my efforts so much more satisfying.  The thrilling grin of a teacher giving feedback on a fiddle unplayed for decades, the student who buys or borrows the instrument, even myself, largely untrained.  

Constant improvement, meticulous attention to quality, a true value despite their cost.  It’s D’Addario for me.  Mandolin, guitar, violin, even Pete’s bouzouki wears D’Addario.

Helicore violin strings are crafted with a multi-stranded steel core, resulting in optimal playability while producing a clear, warm tone. The smaller string diameter provides quick bow response. Premium quality materials combined with skilled workmanship produces strings known for excellent pitch stability and longevity. D’Addario

McCormick Extracts

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Just a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down ~ ~ Sometimes it is just a pinch of this or a dash of that which makes all the difference.  My world-famous griddlecakes?  A single drop of almond extract per batter batch.  A pot of hot chocolate?  A drop of vanilla.

That is nearly the limit and extent of my extracts knowledge.  There was a third box of Schilling extract up in the cabinet corner, saved from great-grandmothers’ kitchen.  Never opened, never used.  The box dated 1976, our Bicentennial.

Of no use?  Hardly.  When a friend developed a bit of seasonal lip infection, she reminded me of the extract and asked to use it.  What for?  Sippin’?  There’s plenty of snake-bite juice in the cupboard.

I learn extract of peppermint is preferred by many professionals to resolve topical skin issues, especially near and in the mouth!  Even better, it is not a homeopathic cure, but real world medicine.  A quick web search reveals an exhausting list of ailments and issues helped by mint oils.  I find mint tea the perfect digestif after gastronomic overindulgence.  Especially following a triple helping of my galaxy-famous gluten-and-egg-free griddlecakes!

A. Schilling & Company was an American foodstuffs company founded in San Francisco, California, in 1881 by August Schilling and George F. Volkmann, a pair 27 year-old Bremen, Germany emigres.  It dealt in coffee, tea, baking powder, extracts, and spices and was acquired by McCormick & Company in 1946 and merged into its business as its Western Division.  McCormick continued to use the Schilling name until the 1990s, with the last product containers marked as Schilling produced in 2002.wiki

Old Fiddlers’ Picnic

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Old fiddlers … young fiddlers … everything in between.  Add a gazillion guitars and banjos, a heap o’ mandolins, a few upright basses and dobros.  Let’em loose within a shaded grove up the hill from the Main Stage.  That’s the Old Fiddlers’ Picnic.  Now in its 89th year, it was old even when my folks were courting teenagers from a nearby mill town.

Aside from the stage, no one is in charge.  No one is there to drink or fight.  There are no genre turf wars.  Just a peaceful gathering of people without anything to prove.  Playing for fun, sharing their gifts, enjoying the company of old friends.

Because Sunday’s Picnic was Saturday’s rain date, several acts cancelled.  Naturally I was roped into performing.  With only Hugh’s mandolin and nothing planned, it was the perfect opportunity to fail spectacularly.  Hugh’s Collings MT2 is *showing its age* (stage whisper).  The frets are getting low, and while she sings a tune better than most, it takes a lot of effort to put her in the mood.

Fortunately I ran into Glenn McNemar of Kennet Square.  Glenn both maintains the local mandolarium while making mandolins full-time, and brought a fresh build with him.  Not six weeks old, proud of fret, soft in demeanor but unconsciously vivacious, his mandolin was the star of my time slot.

Five hours of playing, bug bitten, dehydrated, sore, hungry, I again enjoy one of the finest small music festivals in America.  Just like the one next weekend in a county park near you.

Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a related genre of country music. Influenced by the music of Appalachia, bluegrass has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish and English traditional music, and was also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements. – wiki

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.

Gerber Covert Folder

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It is the perfect tool.  Large enough to achieve firm grip. Slim enough to carry everywhere.  Safe enough not to collapse into your fingers when the cutting gets tough.  The Gerber Covert Folder.

Based on the classic Applegate-Fairbairn fixed knife, the Covert is a 3/4 scale, pocket clip version of the Gerber original Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder.  Gerber

When my niece says, “Why do you always carry a knife”?,  she forgets she’s never asked,  “Why don’t you have your knife?”.  As the most important invention ever developed (along with its derivatives),  everyday living would be far different without the sharpened blade.  Walking down your steps (the saw and lathe) to breakfast cereal (scythe) in your stone house (the chisel), a free American (the sword) may think little of the knife’s importance.

Several times a day as a tradesperson I reach for my Gerber to resolve an issue.  Expand my view.  Nudge or persuade the reluctant in a manner my finger cannot.  Whether tight quarters or dangerously jagged obstructions, the Gerber has a way of poking its business end into the issue,  demanding quarter.  Recalcitrant material usually gives way.  Uncle!

It is the perfect tool.  And the perfect gift.

There’s always a ⅜” x 8″ Craftsman slotted screwdriver and Estwing hammer should more persuasion be wanted …

Nalgene N-Gen

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Sticking with the current theme of cooling off, hydration is the topic.  As natural as a glass of clean iced water on a hot summer day.  “You can’t take it with you” does not apply.

Everywhere I go, my Nalgene is in tow.  Fast rotation in the ‘fridge, or tepid tap, either does what the body cannot:  add water to the machine.  With current mid-summer weather, it is more important than ever to replenish this life-giving juice and basis of all chemical reaction in the body, water.

30OZ N-GEN  With three bottles in use, I’m usually well fixed.  But summer gift-giving approaches.   What to present a 14-year-old man-boy on his birthday?  Something cool and electronic?  An airplane model?  Swatch watch?  My call goes into the void, and echoes back, “An American-made water bottle”.  Nalgene, naturally.

Like potato chips, batting practice, or lýtkový řízek, I cannot stop at one.  I buy five.  Still free deliver on any order over $10.  For these gifts, a thin stack  of currency is traded.

At unwrapping, I learn my nephew recently acquired a new water bottle, but six is better!  With five from which to choose, he favors a match to his Swatch  (Accessorizing already?  No wonder the chicks dig him.  Smart lad.)  With plenty to share, his sister and cousins are ecstatic.  The cost of teaching generosity?  Priceless.

Nalgene.  Made in the USA, stylish, sleek, and affordable.

THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC

Woodside Farm Creamery

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A FAMOUS WRITER ONCE told me, “You always want to have a couple of stories in your back pocket.  You don’t want to be out with your buddies, everyone savoring their own delicious tale, and come up empty”.  Same goes true for money.  This weekend, however, I came up blank.  Pocket lint.  88˚ and triple-digit humidity boils the brain.  Creative juices squeezed out, my skull resembles an original Denis Papin steam digester,  c. 1679.

When it is time to cool off, to bring about brain freeze,  most iced drinks can satisfy.  Though isn’t life about enhancements.  Ice cream, please.  If we are going to consume sugar calories, why not make it the best ice cream this side of the Monongahela River!  To the source we travel.  With carriage and four-in-hand, back in time we clatter, through Delaware’s Arc to the 1700s farm of the Mitchell family.

With milk-fat levels approaching my cholesterol numbers, this is real ice cream.  It sits upon the tongue, infusing smiles and euphoria.  Where kids can be kids, clocks slow, and the bluegrass circle plays on. Under the big oak tree, mature even in colonial times.  We eat our treasure, cows looking on.  Children’s laughter sets the beat, as faithful renditions of Doc Watson’s honest clarity measure time.

Farm fresh ice cream  ~  Worth the trip!

Bradford White

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From far back, I’ve heard the brand Bradford White repeated daily.  Plumbing distributor purchases.  Installations.  Pre-internet, the boss tracking down warranty information.  Visiting BWC’s distribution warehouse.  

Home Center mania pushed into the contractor supply business, selling cheaper and more expensive water heaters.  No qualifications required to buy, install or repair.  What could possibly go wrong?  Ask yourself that the next time you hear of a residence completely obliterated in a gas explosion.

It is Bradford White for me.  Manufactured with superior components.  The best controls in the industry with readily available parts.  All-brass drain valves.  Sturdy packaging.  Integrated piezo igniters, which means no more matches.  Fantastic performance, strong warranties, and world-class support.

Bradford White makes products for the professional.  You won’t find our water heaters, boilers or tanks at the local retail center where unsafe, corner-cutting installations frequently occur to save a few dollars. – BWC

Headquartered up the road, Pennsylvania is proud to host Bradford White‘s corporate offices in Ambler.  Manufactured in our heartland,  Middleville Michigan produces the final product.  Excellent distribution.  Any size, any feature, it is only hours or perhaps a day or two away.  Professional engineering and manufacturing for the plumbing professional.

Ettore Squeegee

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Almost three decades ago this young pup was called upon to clean some windows.  An idea blossomed to do my cleaning the way professionals do theirs – with professional-quality implements and techniques.  Storefront windows are large expanses of glass.  A large squeegee was wanted.

Within a dedicated commercial cleaning supplies company, choices were examined.  Brass components seemed best.  I chose an 18″ model which looked fully serviceable.  Sleek, elegant, well-balanced.  Excellent duty this squeegee did.  After proper scrubbing a streak-free glass surface was obtained.

Eventually I left the storefront.  The squeegee tagged along, to be rediscovered years later.  A glass shower enclosure wanted a professionally cleaned look.  The squeegee worked before, so I tried it again.  Time had not been kind to the rubber insert.  Back to the same supply company, where they sold insert by the foot.

Not knowing any better, I took what they sold.  Which was ill-fitting, poorly formulated, immediately left streaks, and quickly began leaving black smudges.  Lets be clear.  The OEM insert lasted years of light use and performed perfectly.  The replacement never gave satisfaction.  Research was in order.

Originally purchased was the Cadillac of squeegees, an Ettore, produced by the leader in such products.  An American Dream story of manufacturing.  Immigrant has invention then is spurned by manufacturers and vendors.  Immigrant markets invention, becomes successful, dominates the market long after patent runs out.  Initially balance and design won converts.  But the streak-free glass … what was that about?  The secret rubber formula of the squeegee insert!

Back to OEM I go.  For about the SAME cost as a cheap import squeegee insert, I buy a genuine Ettore insert.  My 18″ Ettore is back to full function.  A perfect product.

Buy a flute and you own a flute. Buy a professional squeegee and you’re a professional window washer.   Abraham Lincoln, 1853

Fiebing’s Saddle Soap

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Rehabbing old properties sounds glamorous but it’s dirty business.  Smacking everything apart and returning it to rights makes of mess of clothes and boots.  Clothes go into the Maytag.  The boots?  Special care is required.  Like we learn in the Army, you gotta take care of your feet.  That means taking care of your boots.  When the dust settles, I return my boots to factory specification.  A good cleaning, then boot oil.

For cleaning,  I continue a family tradition, trusting the same company my great-grandfather trusted with his farrier business.  Since 1895, the Fiebing Company has been manufacturing high quality Horse Care, Shoe Care and Leather Care products in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. – Fiebing

First a strong hose to remove mud and concrete dust, blood and sweat.  An old kitchen pad rubbed about in dampened Fiebing’s Saddle Soap gives me a hearty lather for sturdy scrubbing.  After a good rinse and a day for the leather to dry, its time to hydrate.  

Red Wing Boot Oil came with the Red Wing boots.  It sat for years as earlier boots crumbled into tatters.  Finally Redfern explained to me in simple terms I could remember. “You’ve got to keep the leather oiled”.  My current #1 pair of Red Wings are over a decade old, factory-resoled once.  The #2 pair, still almost dressy, six months.

Alternate days gets alternate boots.  They both get the same care. Keep’em clean with soap and water, and when the dirt becomes embedded, Fiebing’s Saddle Soap then a good boot oil.

Más Taco

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I’ll be back – With hopeful yet prophetic words I grudgingly exit the best taco joint west of the Mississippi almost three years ago.  But back I am!  Coming off weeks of backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park, this gem was the stuff of daily cravings.  Homeward bound, Más Taco is my first destination over Beartooth Pass within tiny Red Lodge, Montana.  The restaurant is just as I left it.

Famous for having the finest chow outside Yellowstone Northeast Entrance miles away, Mike has not let fortune go to his head.  His passion is still fly fishing.  Off-river, Más Taco gets his full attention.  Many of the same people help Mike turn out plate after plate of 100% fresh ingredients blended into a perfect meal.  Always an artful presentation.  And chaos?  Seven people working full bore in a galley kitchen.  It was like my recent trip under polar ice aboard Nautilus (upcoming article, of course).  Except for plenty of fresh air and sunshine.  On a plate.  Nature at its finest.

General Tire

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Four harsh Pennsylvania winters have come and gone.  My truck tires started to feel like I would after buried in ice and snow several months a year.  Stiff & brittle.  OEM tires on American trucks are not performance tires, they’re work tires.  And work they did, perfectly, for four years and 50,000 miles.

I’d been researching tires for the past 18 months.  With 5/16″ remaining tread and even wear, my rubber is fine on dry pavement.  But the desert deluge and spring snowstorm?  Anything can be encountered within our duties maintaining this American products online resource.

Narrowing the field is easier than expected.  Noise and traction ratings were studied.  Forums consulted.  Experts queried.  My truck’s OEM tire, General Tire’s Grabber HTS,  is better than ever.  General manufactures worldwide but my Grabbers are domestic production, Mount Vernon, Illinois.  There’s even a new Grabber HTS60 manufactured in Sumter, South Carolina.

We went with OEM.  Our local Continental dealer gave us great pricing on a new set, mounted and balanced.  Immediately thereafter we embarked on a 6,000 mile adventure.  Two-lane highways preferred.  Through New Mexico deserts, a Wyoming snow and ice storm, and wind-swept plains of Montana and South Dakota.  Perfect traction and quiet.  Six Thumbs Up experience!

Surefire

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Dave Holland said, “Go ahead and fish in the (Yellowstone) River”.  Fishing permit lacking.  His parcel abutted the old Gardiner / Mammoth pump house, he owned the pump house, and the pump house deed ran to the middle of the river.  Fish & Game could pound sand, he declared.  Sounds like he was looking for a showdown.  Which never happened.

Dave is hooking another worm with Curt.  Time moves forward.  Again I find myself along the 45th Parallel, at Mammoth Hot Springs campground.  Better equipped, this time.  Spoiled, even.  

Spoiled with the best headlamp in the world, the Surefire variable output LED.  Guaranteed forever, practically indestructible.  With a bulb life of several generations, this fine bit of engineering and craftsmanship has never failed.

Elk give me more room.  Coyotes run from Man With Third Eye Glowing. A vintage copy of Dostoyevsky can be enjoyed long after ‘quiet time’ is enacted.  A spattering of rain, wind in the trees, the distant Gardner River, and my reliable Surefire.

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.

Bass Ale

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MERRIMACK, NEW HAMPSHIRE  is home to a smaller of the dozen Anheuser-Busch breweries.  With their world-touring Budweiser Clydesdale team also in residence, you’d think the town has its share of glory.  But within the dizzying array of acquisitions and mergers, AB InBev ended up with one of the United Kingdom’s best exports, Bass Ale.

For the American market, Bass Ale, once the best-selling beer in the world, is made in this country.  AB InBev have pledged funding to support the Bass brand in America, and since June 2012, Bass has been brewed in Merrimack, New Hampshire at 5% ABV for the American market. – wiki

Long one of our favorite imports, Bass, a smooth bitter English ale, was a bit out of reach.  But as a domestic, this niche beer with the oldest registered trademark in the world is now as affordable as a mass-produced choice!  Great decision by Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Make it where they drink it.  A global company reacting locally!

Bonus trivia:  Budweiser Clydesdales began their stomp in 1933 to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition.

Boylan Bottling

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boylan bottling logoWhen I come off trail, nothing kicks the dust out of my throat like an icy cold refreshing root beer.  Not high fructose sugar water hawked by corporate America.  The real thing.  Boylan’s root beer has it all – flavor and kick.

A rich sassafras flavor derived from cinnamon, sweet birch, vanilla, and wintergreen oil. – Boylan

As Saba’s Jerry Hill famously taught us, hand-crafted is nearly as good as it gets.  Boylan’s, with cane sugar and natural flavors, handcrafted since 1891, is the pinnacle of our highly competitive American soda market.

After knocking back a bottle or two, I had to know their secret.  Was it ginger?  Where did the tang come from?  Boylan Bottling was characteristically silent.  I tried multiple departments, running through all the extensions of their telephone system.  No one would share their secrets.  

“The ingredients are on the label”, Samantha sweetly explained.  Yeah, I could be as nice with an unlimited supply of Boylans for private consumption.  Rumors abound.  Unconfirmed reports mention the addition of anise and that master spice, black pepper …

Barkeep, get me a Sarsaparilla!

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alcoholics anonymous

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SINCE ANCIENT TIMES  grain and fruit have been allowed to ferment into alcohol.  Fermentation is the process in which yeast breaks down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Whether your pleasure is okolehao, scotch, or makgeolli, every culture has a drink to cure ills, relax nerves, mark occasions, and calm stomachs.

When things get a little too calm, alcohol works the other way.  So it seems.  Then there’s the “Thank God it’s Friday” excuse to consume mass quantities.

After all commercial exaltation is exhausted and peer pressure ignored, an acceptable vintage port by a crackling fire with a nice book is probably good for the mind, body, and soul.  But when this (almost) all-natural beverage becomes a destructive force?  Who do you call?

Since the 1930s Americans have turned to Alcoholics Anonymous.  An approach to manage an addiction through abstinence.  Now an international fellowship, membership is one of America’s more constructive exports.

Surrounded by creative types all day, every day, we see eight sides of the issue.  In the end, one phrase sounds more true than all the others.  Sobriety brings clarity.

Nelson Wood Shims

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In today’s iPhone age most forget simple tools which make our lives comfortable.  Lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, screw.  Archimedes got it.  A few millennium before him with these simple tools Pyramids were build.  Two+ million years ago stone scraping tools, precursor to the wedge, were made and used before humans were around to criticize its design.

Banging pipes within a wall had me turn to this tool invented before humans roamed the land.  With a wedge of wood I cured a sick installation, relieving stress and worry from countless users of this plumbing system.  A simple shim of wood inserted between pipe and metal stud eliminated an issue which existed for decades.  I made sure to “reconfigure pipe within wall” when no one was looking.  Can’t share all my trade secrets.

When it was time to shim, I turned to Clyde.  He in turn points me to the rear of his store, where both loafer and curmudgeon gather around a re-screening table for coffee and lies.  Just past these antiquarians lies a trove of shimming choices.  Six flavors of Nelson Wood Shims.  Today, a thin package will satisfy my needs.  Plus a few extra for the toolbox.

A Slant of Light • jeffrey lent

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jeffrey-lent-by-geoff-hansenAisle L.  Always a joy.  Two years have passed.  People browsed, flirted, exchanged glances.  Plans made, advances ignored.  There is always love in Aisle L of our local library.  Requited, engaged, spurned, savored.

Since my last visit Jeffery Lent has published another book.  Mr Lent is a time traveler.  He closes his eyes, fiddles with levers and dials in his imagination, arrives at his destination and time, then opens his senses to new surroundings.  And writes.  Beautifully.  We see, smell, and hear small town America a century ago.  Before automobiles, electricity, or telephone.

The Lenten tornado of imagination plucks me from my routine and drops me within his world.  Late 1860s in rural New York.  Small town courthouse.  Country lanes. Hard farm work.  Simple murder, anything but simple.  You are not reading.  You’re an observer, tagging along, wondering what will happen over yonder hill?

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Mohawk Leather Protector

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mohawk-finishing-products-leather-protector-wipes-aWhen you buy well made items and take care of them, they will typically last.  A mid-1990s leather jacket makes good example.  Lands End, expert stitching, made in Korea, a solid product.  I had to have one!  At $157, the most expensive article of clothing I’d bought to date!  Who would have known I’d still have it?  Glad I ordered a size larger!

After two+ decades my coat remains perfectly serviceable.  Garnering accolades from all, the well-worn leather garment has been a solid investment.  Life, however, is not without maintenance.  A button resecured.  Pete expertly replaced pocket linings ~ I scratch my head over his magic.  The leather?  Dry here, cracked there, discolored in areas.

I tried a few reconditioning products.  Foam had its chance.  Expensive and uneven.  A couple of years later, liquid spray.  Well, that was a mess.  Oversaturated, gummy, plus the spray gets everywhere!

mohawk-finishing-products-leather-protector-wipes-bPete inadvertently provides the solution.  I repaired his bouzouki and was most happy with Behlen’s nitrocellulose spray finish used on the instrument top.  An American Toolbox article ensued.  Behlen parent company Mohawk became aware.  Their social media guru reached out with thanks and offers of sponsorship and product.  Banner ad?  Sure!  Product?  You bet.

I chose products for which I had use.  Mohawk dropped them on my doorstep.  No strings, no expectations, no editorial review.  Except badgering from their legal eagle, who wants me to stress I received FREE PRODUCT FROM MOHAWK.  A subtle reminder I pass on to you.

Mohawk leather products come different ways.  Leather Protector Wipes are chosen.  At this point, keep it clean and let it age.  The protector is delivered via pre-moistened towelettes.  Easy to apply, good coverage, nice smell.  Perfect amount of wetness.  Very neatly done, Mohawk!  

Wow, WHO KNEW the leather was so filthy!  My jacket gratefully sheds misapplied waxes, dirt, grime, and oils.  Absorbs the Magic Mohawk dose of goodness.  I’m GENUINELY pleased with the reborn look and feel of the leather.  Maybe I’ll wear it one more time this season.  Soon my beloved coat shall pass to the next generation.  My nephew will look so cool in it!

By popular request, a few words about Pete the tailor:  

Pete the tailor has been a friendly acquaintance for years.  The first time?  Bringing in a treasured garment for repair, I politely ignore his “No new customers, please” sign.  We share bonds of musicianship and craftspeople.  I fixed an old guitar his kids trashed, two hours on a $5 guitar.  He was ecstatic.  He’s Greek, from Greece, and owned a genuine bouzouki bought in the home country decades ago.  I was asked to fix his treasured bouzouki after years of hinting and delay.

So Pete, he finally let me give it the old college try.  Unlike college, I did finish the bouzouki.  With its cracked top requiring a new lacquered finish, I tried a  nitrocellulose spray made by Behlen.  Parent company Mohawk came into my orbit while I spread the word on social media.  Then came more product after, actually, I wrote a second materials-related piece, Behlen Hide Glue.  Then came Buffer’s Polish, Fingerboard Oil , and now, the leather conditioner.

ATB’s coveted “Six Thumbs Up” is proudly bestowed upon Mohawk. pete-havertown-tailor-bouzouki

Mainline Plumbing Products

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ml2l2155-drawing“Jed, gimmie two toilet seats, elongated, open front, less lid.  Please.”, I tell the shuffling counterman at our venerable plumbing supply.  He reaches under the counter and PRESTO there appears before me one of America’s finest.  All plastic, ADA compliant, stainless nuts and lock washers, ready for my 9/16″ hollow shaft nut driver to bring it all home.

Nothing says “I love you” to a new toilet like a new toilet seat.  Some customers want a newish old seat swapped onto a new toilet.  I am not a “seat jockey”, but I keep that to myself.  Easier to explain of buggered threads, damaged hinge, unsanitary practices, or if all else fails, It’s on the bill already.  I can leave it here for later if you like. 

With features I want and an American flag on the box, I know I’m installing a great product as well as keeping our economy rolling.  For an item which gets as much use as this, buy the best.  Mainline. 

mainline-toilet-seat-ml2l2155-specifications

Sudal’s Scottsdale

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jim sudal jserg 01His world is clay. But to us, he is rock.  Rock Star of the pottery world Jim Sudal continues to amaze.  While other artists rest at their benches, content to watch understudies handle production and reproduction, Jim continues to design and produce.

Careless for my own safety, I venture another visit.  Pushing into hordes ten deep, from screaming jumping teenagers to powdered octogenarians, I secure two tables for local friends.  Perfect for the patio, outside or in.

A few wall tiles completes my purchasing experience.  There is something for everyone.  It is always a pleasure giving my hard-earned money to Jim.  Because he earns it!

Jim Sudal Ceramic Design   7037 E 1st Ave  Scottsdale

Gibson Acoustic Guitars

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There is always a story behind the story.  Smells of clean sweat and grass at twilight on the ball field.  Echoes of Widow Baxter next door reciting her daily Rosary.  Seeing the bent man uptown most days as he stops to gaze wistfully at an old mansion just off Main Street.

Every guitar tells a story.  One glance at an old guitar speaks volumes.  Years later, a don-everly-j-200few strums can recall times past.  Adolescence.  High school.  Slow afternoons at the feed depot.  Waiting for an infant’s birth, dropping your guitar by the fence to run inside at the newborn’s first cry.

Even before high school, I knew my cousin’s Gibson was special.  It sounded better than guitars on the records he played.  Jeff claimed he bought his guitar from Keith Richards;  Aunt Joan said it was her father’s guitar.

The clocks’ century hand has now completed a quick four decade sweep.  I find myself before a WALL of Gibsons!  At the finest music store this side of Planet Earth,  Acoustic Vibes Music.  Some of these sound exactly like Jeff’s guitar.  But that was years and years ago …. How did Gibson make a new guitar sound like an old guitar?  Investigation time!

Repeated visits to AVM, I enter Room Gibson and sample each of twenty-two on display.  A plush Cadillac with the sleeper screaming motor, the soft cowboy crooner, a punchy piece that looks 80 years old … and sounds it!  The Vintage series Gibsons receive a proprietary Thermo Cured top – well worth 25% more.  No doubt, Gibson has made an amazing return to top-flight build quality from near bankruptcy in the 1980s.

elvis-presley-1959-gibson-j-200After playing all these guitars, to which do I return?  An unlikely mating for a man convinced a smaller-bodied short scale acoustic would be his one and only guitar love.  The Super Jumbo body of the SJ-200 is a perfect fit, with curves in all the right places.  The SJ-200 Vintage has the tone I can grow old with.

The SJ-200, like all my favorite artists played from the ’40s to now.  Now with a premium Vintage top.  The Adirondack red spruce top is Thermally Aged giving the look and sound of a seasoned SJ-200.  The SJ-200 Vintage is my pick!

Tight body, no doubt.  In the silent Gibson Room, I can feel the guitar coming to tune via harmonics between adjacent strings. As tones oscillate closer toward unison, Gibson build quality becomes unmistakable.  Solid guitar, solid tone. With sound so clear, so crisp and exact, you’ll think you’re in a studio atop two million in equipment, recording your next Platinum Record.  The one that should have been.

Ray Whitley went to Gibson in 1937.  He asked Gibson to create their biggest acoustic guitar.  It was given the name Super Jumbo or J-200.

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Gallagher Guitar

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james-king-1958-2016Wartrace, Tennessee  Stephen Gallagher’s 2002 GMC Duramax ignored the horse trailer behind it.  368,000 miles, and just getting started.  Another customer delivery for Mr Gallagher.  Grandson of J.W. Gallagher and heir to a guitar-making dynasty, Stephen splits his time between family, horses, pushing livestock with Waylon, and building some of this country’s finest guitars.

J.W. Gallagher, with only a 7th grade education, was the smartest man in the country.  When the Army gave him an intelligence test in the 1930s his result was so high the Army gave it to him again.  J.W. scored perfect the second time.  He went on to spend his military hitch learning everything he could about everything.  Engines, construction, woodworking, machinery, everything.

Slingerland, the percussion company, asked J.W. to set up a guitar production line in 1963.  J.W. had a history of reproducing any bit of woodwork necessary;  he promptly cut a dreadnought in half to figure it out.  J.W. soon applied a second element, that of physics – sound and vibration.  He went on to build his own line of acoustic guitars.

gallagher-headstock-by-kathryn-butlerJ.W. Gallagher never intended to own a large guitar-making concern.  Family lore has it that 1,000 units was his goal;  he had so many other interests, he once plainly told a customer a special order guitar was not done because there was a river full of fish nearby just waiting to get caught.

But continue and prosper it did!  The famous Doc Watson received a Gallagher early on;  in 1974, Doc made a request for a different shaped neck.  The result is a guitar named after him, and a Gallagher best seller.

What brought on my new fascination with Gallagher guitars?  After spying an image of James King on the D’Addario twitter feed, I ask the bluegrass circle of his attractive guitar.  Turns out, Gallagher guitars have been nearby all my life, as close as my turntable and stack of Doc Watson records!  I had to find one of these guitars …

We visit the finest music store west of our Atlantic seaboard, the inimitable Acoustic Vibes Music.   Jeff Looker has two Gallagher guitars in stock, including a Doc Watson model.  Over several visits I become acquainted.  First impressions?  Very solid.  Durable.  Not a dainty boutique guitar;  rather, built for tone, year after year.  Decades of on-the-road touring?  This is the guitar you want.  Reminded me of an old Gibson I played years ago … 

gallagher-guitar-by-kathryn-butlerA guitar of persuasive warmth, the Gallagher is a picker’s delight.  A clear, mellow bass, uncluttered of unpure tone, accompanying a punchy upper end.  As J.W. Gallagher’s website puts it, you get a deep bottom end perfect for playing those hard G runs.  Which I love  ❤  to do!  From Tyler Grant, flat picker extraordinaire, the Gallagher is a perfect country guitar … not pop country, but an old country blues.

I begin with a typical bluegrass rhythm, an alternating bass in front of a strum.  With clear full  tone, the room disappears, I’m on stage, the Gallagher is doing all the talking.

“Gallagher is a builder in the great tradition of independent luthiers, that were way ahead of their time. Before Taylor and Collings and Santa Cruz hit the map, Gallagher was building guitars that rivaled the mainstays of Gibson and Martin. Notables such as Doc Watson were early adopters of the Gallagher “mojo” that still provides an appealing choice for guitarists around the world.”  –  Jeff Looker

With little keeping me from a custom Gallagher order, I email 3rd generation Stephen Gallagher to enquire, “Can you make a 000 short scale Doc Watson model?”  I’m surprised to get a call back so quickly, not about the order, but with additional information for this article.  Thanks, Stephen!

A few tidbits:  On the headstock is a stylized “G” for Gallagher?   That Olde English G came from the Shelby Times Gazette newspaper … pre-internet.  The Gallagher headstock design is called a French Curve.  J.W. was looking for something original.  This simple design spied on an obituary spawned another weekly installment of American Toolbox!