Mariposa Slate • California

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cutting counterA YOUNG MAN WENT WEST.   He found the work scene different from back east.  Not so many taverns and restaurants, his typical clients.  But Mariam was opening Savoury’s, on Main Street in Mariposa, California.  Mariam wanted something different for her hostess station.  Her ears perked right up at the mention of custom stone work.  And she knew a local secret.

StoneCounter1Mariposa Flagstone Co/Yosemite Slate Quarry.  They had the goods.  And just the right piece, a monster leaning against a tree, waiting for the right pockets to come along and buy it.  The rest is history.  Dragged it home in the Ford, made a template, dry-cut the stone with a diamond wheel on a Craftsman grinder,  and dressed the edging. 

Savory’s moved down the block a few years later.  The stone was repurposed, as has happened since time immemorial.

jayne henderson • luthier

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A young child sat beneath the work bench.  She heard her dad humming, heard the scrape of a rasp across wood freshly released from clamps.  Smells of maple and walnut and rosewood and glue.  Shavings danced in the air, shimmering through beams of sun, dropping into her hideout like snow into a tree fort.  When people hear Wayne’s daughter is now a successful luthier, they might picture it all started like this . . . 

. . .  it is not what happened.  The real story?  More “21st century” involving exorbitant college debt, an environmental law degree, a way out of debt learning a skill her father could teach her.  In time, learning something about herself.  She liked working with wood, creating the instrument.  Hearing it sing at completion, having people find her efforts had value.  Enough value to pay college bills.  Enough for everything . . .

jayne henderson glues braces 3Watching Jayne work, it’s quickly apparent there is no “shadow” across her.  She’s working side by side with her dad, famous luthier Wayne Henderson.  If Jayne gets stuck, or has a question, sure is nice to have dad there to consult!  And maybe someone to point out the hard way will make a better instrument?

Jayne specializes in exactly what I want, a smaller guitar (with a short scale, please).  She uses premium materials.  Her teacher, the finest in America.  The shop, perfectly situated for consult with peers or to borrow a tool.  The wait time, two years, manageable – everybody gets in line.  Just like her dad, she makes every single component of the instrument herself, except the strings and tuners (are they next?).

“It sounds like a Henderson” – Doc Watson, December 14 2011

Yep, I could visit Acoustic Vibe and walk out with a Custom Shop Martin 000 or a beautiful Collings OM3 Short Scale.  Would the sound or the price or the guitar be any different?  I’d have a high-end guitar like a lot of other people.  Or I could order an EJ Henderson and have something special.  Love and patience and jokes and banter and memories;  years of combined knowledge and skills, all rolled up in an inanimate object that . . . lives.  Hey, if I can’t take delivery, after waiting two years, there is no pressure to buy.  There’s a line.  The next person will be offered the instrument.  Am I trying to talk myself into placing an order?

 Jayne Henderson links —>   Facebook     Blog     Retail

EmiSunshine with jayne henderson ukulele

EmiSunshine plays Jayne’s personal ukulele . . .  

Note from AmericanToolbox: We began reading Jayne’s blog, The Luthier’s Apprentice, after her ATB entry was written and edited down to what you see here.  We recommend her blog, which reads more like a history/diary. Start with the oldest.  Read a few entries every night.

Anasazi Stone Co • Scottsdale AZ

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arizona flagstone walkway jim sergovicARIZONA!  THE LAND OF milk and honey!  Grapefruit big as bowling balls right off the backyard tree in mid-winter!  The perfect time to visit friends & in-laws.  Doing a few jobs will make one more even more welcome.  And get you an invite back!

My friends, on a recent visit, told of a desire for a paved path to the back gate.  Sure, paver “stepping stones” are easy.  The home centers have shelves full of cast concrete fake stones.  But if I was to be involved, the job had to have a certain artistic flair.  Only real stone would work.

installing stone walkway jim sergovicA few phone calls later landed me the address of the premier Arizona supplier of pavers.  They own their own quarries and snap the stone on a secret proprietary press of which pictures are forbidden!  I ordered a dozen pieces 16″ x 24″ x 2″.  We chose buff/buckskin for the color.  A few days later, Anasazi dropped a pallet in my GMC Sierra.

This was a fun job.  Thirsty work, sure.  Two grapefruit per hour, I figure.  The stones weighed about 70 pounds (32 kg) each.  Raked the gravel down to desert floor, spaced the stones, leveled them around roots, avoided irrigation lines.  Put the gravel back.  Jiggled and jostled them a bit more the next day, trying to achieve a natural feng shui to the project.

Anasazi Stone Company.  Highly recommended!

Anasazi Stone and Tile Company located in Scottsdale Arizona and Tucson Arizona has a full inventory of Flagstone Pavers.

Flagstone is a sedimentary rock that is split into layers along bedding planes. Flagstone is usually a form of a sandstone composed of feldspar and quartz and is arenaceous in grain size (0.16mm – 2mm in diameter). The material that binds flagstone is usually composed of silica, calcite, or iron oxide. The rock color usually comes from these cementing materials. Typical flagstone colors are red, blue, and buff, though exotic colors exist.

Flagstone is quarried in places with bedded sedimentary rocks with fissile bedding planes. Examples include Arizona flagstone and Pennsylvania Bluestone. – Anasazi Stone

Acoustic Vibes • Tempe AZ

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jeff looker 1 acoustic vibes music january 2015

ANY TEENAGER WHO PLAYED an instrument probably hung out for hours in the local music stores.  Staring at a limited selection, they’d imagine how cool it would be to own such a store.  The business side is usually far from childhood fantasy.  Music stores are risky endeavors but there are occasional success stories.

A perfect example?  Jeff Looker, architect.  Pondering transitional career options to pad out retirement, he bought a half dozen guitars direct from  Santa Cruz Guitar Company, becoming their sole Phoenix distributor.  Into his orbit came other brands, notably C. F. Martin & Company.  Business acumen developed running an upscale architectural firm definitely had a place operating a top-tier acoustic instrument shop.  Acoustic Vibes Music arguably has the finest and largest selection of high-grade acoustic instruments in the country.

Looking for a Martin 000 14-fret acoustic guitar?  Local shops don’t carry this model.  On my last visit Jeff had two stock copies and four from the famed Martin Custom Shop.  Four custom Martin 000 guitars with jeff looker 2 acoustic vibes music january 2015
list prices pushing $7,000!  Jeff picks the options he would like to see, and nine months later, voilá!  One-of-a-kind guitars are delivered to his store!

On my last visit there were 450 guitars in stock, 80% in this upper range or higher.  When you want a great-looking, great-sounding guitar, and don’t want to wait ten years for Wayne Henderson to build you one, book a flight to this Destination Guitar Shop.  Forget the budget.  Buy a guitar you’ll have forever.

Acoustic Vibes Music Inc

Bánh mì • Vietnamese Hoagie

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A NEW SHOP OPENED ACROSS the street.  Windows boarded up, a Grand Opening sign none-the-less said, “Come on in!”.  After several weeks of derelict appearance, with flashing sign still proclaiming “OPEN”, I finally relented to curiosity.

Half the shelves were empty.  The floor, cracked.  The prepared food selection?  Sold out today, sorry.  Nothing?  They can still make sandwiches.  Recognizing the Vietnamese Hoagie from Chinatown shops, I pointed to a #3.  Spicy, please.

800px-Bánh_mì_xíu_mại-meatball-sandwichEven thought this was a Sunday, the baguette had just-from-the-oven crusty flakes.  The green stuff, garden fresh.  Meat flavorful and satisfying.  Mine was pork, sliced.  Along with a heaping of fresh cucumber slices, cilantro, pickled carrots, spicy chili sauce, and stuff I couldn’t identify.  No use asking the owner.  Her English?  Practically non-existent.  But her shop nails it perfectly with an authentic Vietnamese sandwich.

Be adventurous.  Small shops like these are now all over America.  Pictures of the sandwiches, accompanied with the name of the meat and a number, adorn their walls.  Four bucks or maybe $4.50 in the bigger cities, will get you an excellent Bánh mì • Vietnamese Hoagie.

Orion Leather

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$_57-1SURE, IT’S JUST A BELT.  Nothing to get excited about.  Is it more?  Well, yes.  How often do we buy a belt?  Good ones last for a dozen years or more.  Dress belts, padded and stitched, might lose their mojo from heavy use.  But a work belt, all leather, dyed clear through?  That should hold up until it stretches too long, you gain/lose too much weight, or you die.

When I decided I’d had enough with a sloppy belt, I cinched the problem with a quick internet search.  Found Orion, a USA manufacturer.  Double-checked the belt pedigree, and got a quick response:  Yes, the belts are all made in USA.  We make every single one ourselves in Myrtle Beach, SC.  The regular-priced belts are actually made to order.  Auction-style listed belts are that much cheaper, is because those are the belts that customers have purchased, and returned to us, usually to exchange for a different size or style.  Thanks,
Natalia.  I placed bids on four belts and scored two of them, for less than half price!  Yes, they look BRAND NEW!

 Made In USA 1 1/2″ Havana Bridle Leather Belt With Double Hole Return Size 38 $20.75

 Made from heavy native steer hides and drum dyed for deep, consistent colors with waxes and tallows. Hot stuffed with just the right amount of “spew” on the grain and flesh to have that English feel.

Thanks, Orion!  You are the “Go-To” company for USA-made leather wear!

Morton Salt

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morton-full-size CONTINUITY IS A GOOD thing.  Visiting the supermarket, finding the same brands one sees as a kid, ties past with present.  Your parents trusted it, you trust it, your kids will (maybe?) trust it.  I always reach for the Morton.  When it rains, it pours refers to the anti-caking formula Morton uses.   Modern climate-controlled homes may have made the motto obsolete.  But I always reach for the blue cardboard cylinder when it’s time to fill the shaker or add that all-important ½ teaspoon to the muffin recipe.

47384-roasted-unsalted-sunflower-seedsIn a pinch, when I require salt immediately for ice removal on the front stoop, there is the store brand.  Which I’ve used in muffins with no ill-effects.  But the blue cardboard container of Morton is always my first choice for chili and muffins.  Salt is essential to open up flavors in both savory and sweet dishes.  But have Americans been led astray?  Taught that excessive salt itself it a good flavor?  You can spot these brainwashed Spawn of Advertisements.  They salt without first tasting their food.  And are usually overweight.

It’s easier than you think to reduce salt.  Just cut back.  Add other flavors instead.  Buy unsalted nuts on your next trip to Trader Joe, pour some in a jar, and add a pinch of salt.  After a few tries, you’ll notice a better-tasting snack.  And you’ll be on the road to better health.