Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Well, it has been a prodigiously long time since I updated any pictures and much has happened.  Once the plastering was completed and the front door set, we took a little break and spent a month in France! We visited friends and relatives and bicycled all over the Loire Valley and in the south of France. It was fantastic to get away from work although I didn’t know how much we needed a break.  We rode along the Loire river through small villages on the way to Chenonceau and all the stress seemed to melt away. Oh, and did I mention that if you ride every day….then you can eat everything in sight!  Which is pretty much what we did.

Pastry in Chinon…..

Bike trail to Chenonceau

further south

When we returned, it was right back to work on the house. We set all the cabinets in the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms…

counters, hood and ’52 Wedgewood ready to go.

a larger oven and a dishwasher! (our first)

the bamboo butcher block in progress

laundry room

One thing we have always enjoyed are glass awnings. When I was growing up, many of the art deco buildings in Pasadena had glass awnings with the wired safety glass in them. On my first trip to France I was thrilled to see so many glass awnings and swore if I ever got the chance to build one I would. I was able to find some trick hardware from CR Laurance for a modern awning and we powder coated our roof panel lifting plates and attached them to the wall as anchor points. We had to use 9/16″ safety glass and it was tricky to get it up and in place, but we are really happy with the results.

This is our modern  glass awning. We chose blue glass, which  looks the best with our building.

We also installed all the cabinets in the bathrooms and the fixtures:

Floating cabinets and a vessel sink from China. The sink was a gift from Ariane’s good friend Marie who did a ceramics artist in residency there.

 sink interior

Bathroom with glass shower installed

Ariane and I are now busy laying the floors upstairs.

bamboo floor in closet

Almost finished with the master bedroom Most all of the electrical outlets are functional, all but a few of the lights are installed, and the sound system is working so we can listen to music in each room.

Our fabulous foyer light fixture, the moon of Meepzorp

A wall sconce made by Barry Frantz looks terrific.

We continue to plod along every day, trying to get out of our trailer before Christmas!

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We have been too busy to post any information up until now, so there is a whole lot of progress. Once the plates had been SDS screwed to the floor Andy and his crew came in and poured the concrete floor over the whole first floor. The weather was in the 100’s so we postponed the pour for a few days until it cooled off a bit and then set up lights and started pouring at 6:00 a.m. We made sure to tell all the neighbors in advance…..

pouring the floor and using the vibra-scree on the 3" plates.

This pour was a lot of concrete and a very exotic mix. Originally we were going to color the concrete, but Andy was concerned with efflorescence because of the mix so we decided to stain it later instead. Besides, the adding color to the mix would have added $1000 to the price of concrete.

Having a good concrete pumper is essential

All finished......

It might seem counter-intuitive to pour the finished floor before standing walls, but it was so much easier to pour and finish without the walls and we can try and protect the concrete with plywood. After a couple of days curing, we shot down 2×6 plates around the perimeter to set the SIPS panels on, and then stood the first panel.

Setting the first panel.

Make sure you mark the location and number of each panel on the bottom plate, along with locations of doors, windows etc. We also drilled each electrical chase down through the subfloor in case the electrician needs to route wire up from the sub floor.

First wall stacked and connected. Making the corner first braced the wall in two directions

We laid OSB down over the floor to protect the concrete from getting damaged.

We took marking paint and marked all the chases, red for electrical, and yellow for low voltage.

I thought that was a clever idea, except the electrician is red/green color blind!.. He said “why did you only mark one chase?” But after telling him they were all marked he could make them out. Next time use blue and  black I guess. I punched a cat door into through the wall by the doorway. So now it’s a matter of glueing in splines between the panels, setting them up and fitting and adjusting them as necessary, but it fits together pretty well.

The Queen of Green! All joints get 3/8" beads of special non-VOC mastic.

All the seams are shot in with 8d nails where there is a spline between panels. The top, sides, and bottom are recessed to receive, splines, headers or top plates, binding it all together.

Ariane shooting in the panel.

Don't piss this woman off!

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I finished carving the dowel stick and put on a brass ferrule, it is ready for the first coat of oil.

carved and smoothed to the final dimensions.

One tip I learned is to use a razor blade like a card scraper for delicate smoothing. (Thanks to Frank Ford of Gryphon Music for that tip).

dowel with razor blade "card scraper", simple and cheap.

The neck is starting to take it’s final shaping. I use this simple jig to check alignment and to keep everything straight when putting the neck and dowel stick together.

aligning the neck to the pot

The first inlay work is done and the fret slots are cut in the fingerboard. The triskeles at the 3rd, 5th and 10th.

fretted and inlaid fingerboard

I finished the peghead shaping and I really like the shape the customer wanted and I am going to offer it as an option. I will get some pics up soon as I start the final shaping of the neck.

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I had the pleasure of visiting with Colin Vance of Vance Banjos, last Tuesday when he played music at the Steynberg Gallery. Colin was backing up Mark Growden on the fiddle and is currently doing a tour with him. I had met Colin briefly at the Portland Old Time Music Gathering where he was displaying some of his fine banjos. I would rank Colin up in the top three of west coast builders, along with Jason Romero and Brooks Matsen. Colin does beautiful work with an artistic flair. These three set the standard mighty  high! Hopefully he can stop in for a visit if he gets this way again and sit in with us playing at the Kilt!

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On a bit of vacation, so no posts. I have a couple of orders to fill when I get back and I stocked up on some great maple and I am looking forward to building the new banjos. Until then….. it is time to surf!

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One of the processes I enjoy the most is turning the pot, especially when my chisels are nice and sharp and clean shavings are flying off! One thing that can be nerve-wracking however, is chucking up a banjo pot securely. Anyone who has ever had a piece come off the lathe at speed can tell you how dangerous and often painful it can be. I still have pieces of wood stuck in the ceiling of my shop from a few years ago when a pot came off and shattered. It cost me a drive to the emergency room to get sutures in my nose and upper lip….ouch. It happened so fast, one second I was turning, and then bam! I reeled back and my face was numb! I had to feel to see if my front teeth were still there as I couldn’t feel a thing. I was wearing safety glasses, but if I had been wearing my full face guard I might have just gotten away with just a bloody nose. Now I wear it a full face shield no matter what I am turning. Kind of a long introduction to some photos of a set of false jaws I made yesterday to chuck the banjo pots. I used 3/4″ MDF. It came out quite nice and really grips the pot.


Here is how it grips the pot.


And here is the finished product. 


A big part of this process is making stuff to help you make stuff, which is quite enjoyable in itself.

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I was in SF this weekend and one of the places I wanted to go was Smith and Fong, who are the distributors of Plyboo. Plyboo is plywood and products made from bamboo laminations. I am interested in trying out this material for making a banjo…or is that a bamjo? I am not sure it will have the tonal quality needed, but it is kinda cool and they make some beautiful products, so I got some architectural samples of Plyboo, and now I think I will order some and see how well it works in the construction of an instrument. I am pretty sure there are plenty of people with the same idea, so be on the lookout for bamboo banjos in the future. It would be nice if such a renewable product could be used for banjos. Perhaps a blend of tonewoods and bamboo might be the answer, we’ll see……

Some plyboo products, 3/4" laminate and 2mm, 1mm and .6mm veneers

This might look pretty nice with a hardwood stringer down the middle of the neck.

we'll see how well this 2mm veneer can be formed.

Interesting huh????

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One of the best resources I have stumbled across is the website of Frank Ford of Gryphon Musical Instruments of Palo Alto. His website is a treasure trove of tips, info, how-to’s, tool ideas, the list goes on and on and I feel it is a must for luthiers, but also of great interest to anyone who likes to do things for his or herself, especially if you are a tool geek. Frank does incredible repairs and set ups on just about any stringed instrument, but he also makes some of the most interesting and clever tools to assist in making or repairing. Many of his techniques are adaptable to a multitude of jobs,  and if you are into toolmaking you can always seem to find something that is useful. I do not know how many times I have been stuck for a technique and found  something on his site that I have been able to apply in my shop!  go to…   www.frets.com

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