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I am pretty excited. I got a recent email from Jim Connolly of Santa Barbara. I made Jim a custom banjo and he just recorded an album called “Broadcasting Live” under the name “Toy Shop Ghost” and featuring his new banjo. Jim is a very interesting character, bassist, composer, piano tuner. His website is http://www.jimconnollymusic.com. Here is a link to sound cloud: https://soundcloud.com/james-connolly-4.

Cocobolo Banjo

Cocobolo Banjo

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Over the Mother’s Day weekend we had a great time playing at the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival! It sold out and was the most successful festival to date. The main headliner was Peter Rowan and he was fantastic! The festival has broadened the music venue to make room for groups to venture into old time and Americana numbers. Hopefully that has made it more accessible to a broader audience than strictly hardcore bluegrass.  It was fun and an honor for us to play there again. I have to mention Paul Knight ,who, besides playing outstanding bass for Peter Rowan, provided the most incredible sound ever!

playing our set on Saturday

playing our set on Saturday, R to L, Amber Cross, Stuart Mason, Gary Arcemont and myself.

sometimes they let me loose….

sometimes they let me loose….

It was quite a bit cooler at night this year, and that cut way down on the jamming, everyone was huddling in their camps. The upside was Amber Cross sold a ton of her custom flannel shirts! She sold many CDs and so did Stuart Mason, who also performed with his other group Little Black Train. They put on a hell of a show. As for me, I sold one of my banjos right after this set!  Here is a picture of the happy owner from Santa Barbara

Banjo pickin' Dr. Bob!

Banjo pickin’ Dr. Bob! (cut him some slack for the hat!)



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We had the stair treads and risers cut and fit today. They are going to look good.




The cats are beginning to feel at home….DSCN0183

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Wow!  I did not realize how long it has been since posting. All the interior cabinetry  and floors are completed. The fire sprinkler system is completed and alarmed. The electrical and lighting is all completed. We also completed the steel framing and aluminum decking. The front entry is done, and the driveway and all the approaches are repaved. We had a pre-final inspection, and there are only a few things to complete before we can occupy the structure. So here are some pics of all the latest work.

The deck. This was a big thing. All the planning and calculations and hoping we had ordered a sufficient amount of material. We had attached the ledgers prior to stuccoing the exterior. It was like building a big erector set (I may be dating myself there).

steel joists and ledger for 2nd floor

The  framing:

completed deck framing

Once that was done it was off to LA to pick up the decking material. Our choice was called TB-940 safe-t-grid from McNichols Co.  We wanted to minimize maintenance and also needed a minimum weight bearing capacity of 200lbs. per square foot for the second floor deck. Using steel box beams for joists and the aluminum deck we have a capacity of around 1000 lbs. per square foot. The shipping was very expensive so we borrowed a trailer and picked up the decking ourselves.

Aluminum decking strapped down and ready for the long ride home.

All the decking is pre-cut to fit your square footage of deck so there is basically no cut off or waste.

first floor deck

and second floor deck with cross-bracing:

These are the stair treads.

You can now see the reason for the weight bearing capacity, we moved a hot tub onto the upper deck. Once the stairs and guardrails are installed we can get final inspection. Yay!

In the meantime we also completed some other items:

We finished the front entry area by adding a step and using the left over pavers from the patio.

Front steps and pavers and a curved planter in front of the house

We repaved the driveway approach and patched all the cut outs in the driveway.

Approach and curbing.

Don’t mess with a woman and her steamroller!

And here are the completed bamboo floors:

So we are still busy every day with the final steps. There are a million small details that need completing as we go along and we are just a few weeks away from occupancy!

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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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Well, all completed with the exception of the front door entry as we are STILL waiting for the arrival of the front door!  But the stucco crew really got after it and got the rest of the house done in about 3 days! Here is the finished product.

Applying the color coat

Once they finished, they removed all the scaffolding and it looks nice and clean around the house for the first time in a long time!

Steps to nowhere. This is where the deck is going to go.

the guest bathroom in front!

We are going to put a glass awning over the door, that is what the hardware is for. We liked all the glass awnings we saw in Europe.

So we have the sheetrock mostly completed and we will be ready to plaster the inside very soon. We spent the day laying out the kitchen cabinets for installation soon. There is a little bit of light showing at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to get back to the banjo workshop! I have tons of new ideas based on some things I learned during this project.

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We have been working 7 days a week for several weeks now, and have literally had no extra time to post any updates until now. We are taking Sat. and Sun. off  this weekend, so I can post up progress. First of all, the house is all dried-in will all the doors installed except  the front door which is now long overdue. The two base stucco coats are completed on the outside, with the exception of two places where we needed to put doors. The electrical, and low-voltage is installed and completed. Plumbing is done and everything has passed inspection. We installed the sheetrock everywhere except the master bedroom and closet, because the tile setter is working in there. The stove chimney is installed and when it recently rained…..no leaks anywhere! So here are the updated pictures.

Looks more like a house now.....

They did a real good job around the windows and doors…

All the edges are rounded to run water away from the window

Same for the doors.

All exterior doors are steel, the hole to the left is a cat door....

We were able to use 3 doors that were seconds on the outside, two silver powder-coated  and they happened to have a blue powder-coated one that was an odd size. Luckily for us it fit the back entrance, so we had to have it!

Fortunately we share the same eclectic taste.

So with three silver doors and one blue door….when it came time for a steel utility room door, naturally we needed to powder-coat it as well. Ariane wanted a red door, and boy did we get a red door. We had it powder-coated candy apple red! It was a bear to install but it came out pretty nice!

Sorry the plank is in the way, but I was too lazy to move it for the picture.

With the house closed in, we started sheet rocking it to get it ready for plastering. I am not a big fan of sheet rocking it is dirty, dusty and a ton of overhead work…. but we did get it mostly done and it really makes the house look good inside.

Green boarding the guest bath....

Entry with art piece

still waiting for that front door….. to the left of this photo.

Living room


Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we installed the solar hot water collectors and ran all the feeds down to the utility room, installed a central vac system, acid stained the concrete floors and  insulated all the interior walls for sound before we sheet rocked.

My friend Kelly Cannon is a master tile setter and he is doing the bathrooms!  They are coming out beautiful!

master bathroom

The large tiles are really difficult to install correctly, not a job I would want to tackle.

Lastly, we added a patio area right off the decks, when we discovered the deck area was not large enough. Andy DeVillers and his crew did a fantastic job as always.

The pavers will allow water to drain through and water the trees.

We are going to use steel for the deck framing and aluminum planking.  Clay Newman, of Alaska Welding, is fabricating the steel posts and beams to support the decks. He fabricated the front entry steel. They will be powder-coated the same at the front entry. His work is outstanding and his vast experience really shows with the practical suggestions he makes as well as the meticulous preparation he does before fabricating.

So that is it for now.


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