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Bison Designs • Longmont, Colorado

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bison designs 1 jsergovicMy nylon hiking shorts suffered for years.  The right belt was lacking.  Sure, Orion Leather makes a great belt, thick & durable.  Too heavy for my hiking needs.  A belt for my REI shorts would have to be lightweight.  Nylon was the answer.

As a kid, we had drawers of one-size-fits-all fabric belts with compression & slip buckles.  Try finding one as an adult.  Made in the USA.

And it has been here all along.  Amazingly reasonable.  Available in dozens of designs.  And, it turns out, just the right width.  30mm is perfect for my hiking shorts.

Bison Designs – The Right Belt

Located within an online auction site looking unused, purchased and delivered for a reasonable price, I’m now a believer in Bison Designs products.

Then I found their Bison Designs website.  What fantastic products!  Wow, they have so many choices!  A paycheck-sized multi-belt order is upon the horizon.

Brian Kelleghan, the man behind Bison Designs, returned my call a few minutes ago.  I wanted a pithy quote on what his contribution to American industry meant to him.  We talked . . . and we talked . . . for over 75 minutes, and would have kept talking but for obligations.  An amazing two pages of notes later, there are so many take-aways that a separate article on Brian is necessary.  Give me a few months.  For now, we’ll keep it simple.

What is Bison Designs?  His American Dream.  Success.  Everything Brian wanted as a kid.  Making a few belts behind the Climbing Desk at REI turned into a 1000+ unit order.  Design and innovation led to millions of belts a year being marketed and sold.  Brian says “I don’t sell belts, carabiners, chalk balls . . . I sell designs.”  True. Brian’s designs are great.  But his final, manufactured product is just as outstanding.  –   publisher

brian kelleghan – first to bring pictorial webbing to the world

Alden Unlined Flexwelt Loafers

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alden shoes jserg photographer 1SUMMER TWILIGHT WALKS!  Fresh cut grass and kids playing.  Steaks sizzling and popping over hot charcoal.  Dawn ’till dusk, dirty and barefoot.  Shoes?  Only on Sunday.

Speaking of shoes, did we mention how cheap I am regarding footwear?  We discussed Alden Cordovan Loafers when my favorite $120 dress shoes fell apart after only a year.  Long conversations with Kenny over leather, insoles, lining, vamps, and welts produced one firm conviction.  The cheapest shoe is the best shoe.  He then opened Sherman Brother’s inventory to my perusal.

Wow, what nice material!  Hey, these are absolutely the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.  But Kenny, did you notice the price?  $400?  $600?

Who doesn’t love a great salesman!  Kenny Sherman brought it all down to my level.  You buy a shoe that is designed and manufactured to last years after it becomes your “favorite”.  Instead of falling apart, it is just getting started.  After three-to-five years, your cost is identical to an average shoe.  Another year or so, and you’re MAKING MONEY!  And when something fails, this shoe can be recrafted.  SOLD!

After Kenny hooked me with superior dress shoes, he appealed to my vanity.  “Jim, you seem the type of guy who likes wearing loafers without socks”.  Yup, quietly wealthy.  Tennis camp, dinner at the Club.  That’s me.  Who doesn’t like the feel of leather against skin?  I invested in my first pair of Alden Unlined Flexwelt Loafers.

These are, literally, the closest thing to going barefoot.  Your foot will sing the praises of superior American craftsmanship.  New England at it’s finest!  Easily surpasses their chowder!  Skin soft suede.  It is no wonder a Special Order of these takes months to get.  Asia’s appetite for quality American shoes is voracious.

If you want a three season (four, in some locations) shoe comfortable as a fine leather glove, visit Kenny.  Or someone with his passion.  Get your feet accurately measured.  Slip into a pair of America’s finest summer shoe.   Alden’s Suede Unlined Flexwelt Loafers!

Socks?  We don’t need no stinkin’ socks!

Novus – Plastic Polish

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novus 2 front  novus 2 backSATURDAY AFTERNOONS IN SUMMER we meet within the Arc Of Delaware at The Creamery.  High octane triple-digit milk fat ice cream, fresh from their cows.  A huge oak tree, where generations of bluegrass musicians have come to flat-pick their favorite guitars.  When lucky, there might be a bass, Dobro, fiddle, & mandolin.  If Doc is there, leave your music stand in your vehicle;  a sight of one in a “Bluegrass Circle” can drive him to sputtering apoplexy.

Hugh had been dissatisfied with mandolin pickers in attendance.  Unaccountably, he preferred my scratching noises on an occasionally borrowed mandolin.  For the last couple of years, he has suggested I buy a mandolin and make it my preferred instrument.

Whether through generosity or impatience, this summer on a Sunday afternoon he invited me over  to pick a few tunes.  His home?  A 1920s farmhouse deep in woods, filled with cats, surrounded by semi-tame woodland creatures who ate from Hugh’s bounty.  His mandolin?  A Collings MT2.  His offer?  Hugh would loan me his mandolin for six months;  give me a chance to know a high end – $3800 – instrument.

“Collings.  It’s not a name, it’s a sound.”

Tychem Coveralls with HoodnBootsIt looked like his MT-2 had sat in a corner for years.  Layers of dirt, dust, cat hair carefully impacted between its double strings.  Nitrocellulose finish, originally gloss, now a hazy matte.  I was surprised the District Attorney had not yet preferred criminal charges.  It was, at minimum, reckless endangerment of an acoustic instrument.  Hugh got lucky.  This would have gone Federal, with EPA in hazmat suits.  Ugg!  The deluxe hardshell case by TKL may have been manger and nursery for kittens.

collings mt2 headstockDecontamination began almost immediately.  Strings, bridge, truss rod cover, and tailpiece were all removed.  Warm soapy water prepared,  a soft cloth, dipped then thoroughly wrung, was gently applied to all surfaces.  The fingerboard was grimiest;  my cleaning solution was replaced twice.  Next, deep cleaning of its nitrocellulose finish.  Acetone?  TOO STRONG!  Naphtha  (lighter fluid)?  Humm . . .  to a point.  But hazing and fine scratches remained.

An email to Collings customer service was promptly answered!  “We use Novus 2 to remove years of dulling and build-up on our nitro finishes.”  A quick hobby store purchase, and in no time, that milky haze buffed right out!  Wow, the red maple sides and back shine like new!   Next time the strings are off, I’ll do its select Adirondack spruce top and ebony peghead overlay.  Can’t wait!

Corningware Cornflower Percolator

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CorningWare Cornflower designAs a kid, our family lived with Dad’s father.  Life was a steady routine.  Every day before sun-up, Grandfather would go to the basement and bang around with the boiler.  An old coal thing.  He resisted change.  Grandpa said coal produced intense heat, and his gravity boiler was a superior design because it functioned without electricity.  All lost upon a seven-year old.

I would get up when the 6:05 pulled into town, as she gently tooted her horn at a highway crossing.  One morning, she didn’t.  Neither were trucks heard on a highway half mile away.  In our kitchen, a percolator bubbled on his gas range.  Beyond the windows, nothing but white.  Snow as far as the eye could see.  Any shrub under four feet was hidden.

“No school today, Jimmy.  All factories are closed.  Train not running.  Highway blocked.”  His world paused because power lines into our valley collapsed under almost five feet of snow.

His house was warm;  grownups had their coffee;  I played games for three days.  A hundred times a day Grandfather extolled the virtues of a home which can survive without electricity.  Reliance on fancy kitchen gadgets signaled a return to Roman idolatry, it seemed.

A dozen years ago Grandpa’s coffee maker came into my possession.  I kept it for nostalgia only, relying instead on my Technivorm.  But while visiting, Jack spied the distinctive Blue Cornflower percolator, and insisted we brew a pot.  He demonstrated, I learned.  And became a believer.

Nothing beats freshly percolated coffee.  Gently bubbling water dripping through coarse grounds.  You do not want to rush it, but will know when it is “done”.  By the smell and color.06Stookey-Obit-master675

Over 750 million items of CorningWare have been produced since S. Donald Stookey discovered Pyroceram.  Next time you poke around a garage sale, look for Joseph Baum’s Cornflower design.  Make an offer on a vintage percolator.  You’ll be set when snowstorms or massive solar flares shut down the power grid. ◊◊◊.  When you want to impress a date.  Whenever a superior cup of coffee is desired or required. 

CorningWare P-119 ◊◊◊ Campfire or gas range-top required. Hunter-gatherer skills encouraged.

American Made • Acoustic Guitars

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Vacation comes both to the worthy and contemptible.  While ability to produce this week’s article exists, deeply rooted summer lethargy blooms upon my imagination.  But all is not lost.  An opportunity for a roundup of recent posts presents itself.  A perfect time to spotlight American-made acoustic instruments!

A FEW WORDS ABOUT my favorite luthiers (more later this year!)

jayne henderson • luthier

wayne henderson ◊ luthier

Reviews of instruments from Jeff Looker’s Acoustic Vibes Music:

Bourgeois Guitars ◊ Lewiston, Maine

Collings OM3 ◊ Austin, Texas

Bedell Guitars ◊ Bend, Oregon

Weber Bitterroot Mandolin

Deering Vega® SENATOR Banjo

Acoustic Vibes • Tempe AZ

Just thought I’d mention these . . . 

Mid-1990s Guild Guitars

Vintage Peavey T-25 Electric Guitar