Harvest Festivals

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Under cover of darkness, a quarterly division of Earth’s orbit passed the dotted line.  We officially cross into the season of crunchy leaves and spiced cider.  Sleeping late on weekend mornings under cozy blankets.  Comfortable evenings with darkness falling appropriately early, without the Federal Government fiddling with our clocks.

The Autumnal Equinox has again arrived, more quickly this year then last.  My niece at seven laid out her hypothesis on this.  It involves percentage of time lived.  A year is longer when you are seven – 1/7th of your life.  A year is shorter, say, 1/50th of your life, a few decades later.

Never one to pass up a marketing opportunity, this first day of autumn brings the season of the harvest festival.  No matter that the Harvest Moon is weeks away.  A time of ripe apples, perfect root vegetables, and late season corn.  Steamy days of sterilizing jars, vats of vinegar, pickling everything edible.

Support the local economy.  Spend money at your local harvest festival.  Continue traditions thousands of years old.  Exercise your Neolithic Revolution DNA.  Consume extra calories for a good cause.  Heck, even eat like a panda if you want.  It only comes once a year.  🙂

Lie-Nielsen Bevel Edge Chisels

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Behind many ten minute successes lie hours of preparation.  According to my dentist during a little buffing after a $200 smear of white Bondo.  Lately, at the secretive Luthier Laboratories, pushing boundaries past conventional instrument repair, we’ve found those preparation-to-execution numbers to be a bit skewed.

In this case, hours and hours were spent converting this “Sold For Parts” French violin into a viable instrument.  As we near the final cavelletti, hands and clamps in piaffe and pirouette, this early 19th century Mirecourt nears a milestone.  Sound post and tone tap, the first in 120+ years we surmise (the repairs of 1886 were never completed).

At every step, to poke, prod, shave, raise, lower, scrape, and in general convince the parts to obey,  our Lie-Nielsen ⅜” chisel is there to assist.  An extension of my fingers but with enhanced fingernails.   A2 Tool Steel, hardened to Rockwell 60-62, cryogenically treated and double tempered.

Our mortised end block holds us up no longer.  After this Mirecourt skipped the entire last century, we’ll soon be having a conversation.  Talk about dropping out!  Welcome back!

 

Yosemite National Park

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A million, two million years ago, glaciers come and go.  Between the glaciers is a lake.  After the last set of glaciers depart a few thousand years ago, Miwok settle.  Yos s e’meti (Central Miwok) originally referred to the Indian tribe that lived in Yosemite Valley.  Yosemite means literally “those who kill”.Daniel E. Anderson 

Naturally, an Army composed of European settlers kick out the Native American rabble and take the Valley for their own.  From them, the Federal government seize control, give it to California, then eventually acquire it back.

Currently one of the most visited parks in the country, Yosemite Valley nearly reverted into a lake in 2006.  Ferguson Slide came within feet of burying the Merced River’s exit from the valley.  Nature is fragile that way.  When The Big One hits and San Francisco drops forty feet, California’s Central Valley may return to inland sea.  The Sierra Foothills will become beachfront property.

Appreciate it while you can.  As Louis Prima famously sang in 1949, Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Thank You Think)  🙂

Photos by Bill King, naturalist, explorer, and local guide

Violin Maker’s Plane

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Waiting for the “right job” to come up was taking forever.  I’d been wanting this compact manganese bronze hand plane upon first sight online, and began rationalizing the purchase as a ‘deserved’ luxury item after handling one at a Lie-Lielsen Hand Tool Event® a year ago.  

Opportunity came in the form of a mid-19th century French-made Sébastien Kloz violin.  She wanted a little nip and tuck fitting back into her old clothes.  With chisel and file, it could have been done.  But for precision, and in a far more civilized manner, she wants the Lie-Nielsen Violin Maker’s Plane.  Perfect results, as anticipated!  Depth of cut adjustment was exact and did not ‘creep’ after tightening.  You spend more for quality, but you get more satisfaction.  Long after the price tag is forgotten.

At about the same time, a Depression-era Antonio Stradivari copy  – probably a copy, but one never knows – came knocking for a bit of fingerboard thinning.  The Stanley Handyman again, at 9-1/4″, or the Lie-Nielsen 101, at 3-7/16″?  The USA-made vintage Stanley performs admirably but is a bit top-heavy and too big.  The Lie-Nielsen 101 finished the job with perfect control, but is a bit too small for shaping a 4/4 violin ebony fingerboard.  Maybe a Goldilocks Plane exists, juuuuust right.  The Lie-Nielsen 102?

Where the Lie-Nielsen came through with presidential prowess?  Cutting a tiny bevel along the edges of the fingerboard.  I forgot to put them in when the nut and strings were off, but the 101 is perfectly suited for close, delicate work.  Since the nut was already glued, a gentle swipe with my Lie-Nielsen scraper seamlessly finished up the last bit of bevel.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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With inflamed shoulders and wrists, hobbling upon bug-bitten ankles, we  conclude an excellent late-summer pickin’ session under the old oak tree.  The creamery crowds seem more appreciative in the evenings;  we played for them far past sundown.  A time of crickets, moonglow, and private ice cream consumption.

With a return drive through miles of farmland, missing dinner (and lunch!) is no joke.  As usual, a sack meal awaits in the truck.  One Honeycrisp (Malus pumila) apple, some multi-grain sourdough bread, and a nice wedge of cheese, sliced off our chunk of Beecher’s.

My tailgate sack dinner in the dark becomes a top hat affair.  With the complexity and punch of Beecher’s, every mouthful is the pleasure of a banquet.  

Cheese is one of the better discoveries in history.  Big business makes it by the ten-ton.  But real cheese?  A whole new ball game.  Like the first time I tasted carrots fresh from the soil or spring water from the hill.  Hearing true silence of a New Mexico desert.  Artisan-made cheese opens the senses to another reality.

Trader Joe’s giant open-air merchandiser is a great way to explore cheeses.  That’s where the Beecher’s Flagship was discovered – great job on the labeling and logo!

We’d been thinking of a cheese article for some time.  Peter Sallis, voice of Wallace and Gromit, passed in June.  This famous claymation series opened our eyes to varieties and passions associated with cheeses.  We wanted to note his contributions to society.  The English take their cheese seriously!  When we come up with an angle, we’ll have more about  Peter.

For now, a message from Kurt Beecher Dammeier:  By starting with fresh, pure milk from local farms and applying the traditional methods used by cheese makers for thousands of years, our cheeses are free of artificial ingredients making them just as delicious as the milk they are made from. – Beecher’s

All Summer Long

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Summers come and summers go.  The Rockdale Boys made it to our local county park.  Debbie Durant never sounded finer.  The Zona saw continues trimming violin bushing pegs closer than a dime.  A pile of late 19th century built-in drawers junked near Penn campus?  We grabbed a stack of drawer bottoms.

John-Anthony dropped off his 1935 Bacon & Day Silver Bell plectrum banjo for peg fitting and an ebony buff.  John is a true trade musician, performing swing music of 1920s and 1930s on a period instrument.  Solo.

A mid-19th century Mirecourt violin made the table.  In a box.  In six or seven pieces.  We may get it back together without forgetting any of the parts.

More USA-made Juzek tools are en route.  A cello peg hole reamer and peg shaver.  We’ll be ready for the next onslaught of performing arts high school cellos.  Five sound posts, eight bridges, and all two dozen of the instruments seem to have something wrong with the pegs.

Fresh hide glue, alignment and clamping, a bit of planing and scraping, the occasional epoxy wood filler, listening to the Beach Boys wind up my summer with their summer hits.  Written when Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro were dancing their can-can across the northern Caribbean.

Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world . . . 

After the failed U.S. attempt to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba with the Bay of Pigs invasion, and while the Kennedy administration planned Operation Mongoose, in July 1962 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev reached a secret agreement with Cuban premier Fidel Castro to place Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt.  – Office of the Historian

Daylight Savings Time

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Sunrise has galloped to 6:08AM while sunset drops to a milestone, 8:00pm straight.  Squeezed from both directions, the “Fall Back” date of November 4th will find my home well stocked with teas, crackers, and fine hardback novels.  Peaceful nighttime activities, reading early in bed, will come an hour sooner, thanks to Benny F.

While Benjamin floated the idea via a witty “letter” to the Journal of Paris in 1784, it had been around far far longer.  My ancestors were whipped into the fields as the first mistle thrush and woodlark began their songs (about 4am, barely time for a cup of ale and a crust).  Even the Egyptians knew the best time for dragging 30 ton stone blocks were the hours before the sun was a cubit above the Bolbitinic.

We’re having a cool morning.  Seasonal sunlight changes have increased my appetite, as Mo’Nature suggests I bank carbs and fats.  I shall be mindful over the next four months not to take her message too closely to heart *munch munch burp*

Why do the changes not follow autumnal & vernal equinoctes?  The Naval Observatory sets the dates.  Something to do with a vigorous party schedule?  The Veep’, our “man of letters” and regular contributor to ATB, will know.  His residence is on the Navel Observatory grounds, and he knows everybody.  Stay tuned for an update!