Monthly Archives: May 2015

Plein Air Aftermath

After the Mothers Day paint in I didn’t do any art for a week, until today. This afternoon I went out to a national historic site, Fort Rodd Hill, and sketched in the warm sun for two hours. The painting board was 12″ x 16″ and I spent about 2 hours, which means I covered 96 sq. in. per hour. At the Mothers Day paint in event I worked on a 9″ x 12″ board for about 4 hours, covering 27 sq. in. per hour. So today I worked 3.55 times faster than last week, and I think the result was as good or better. They say ‘haste makes waste’ but I say sometimes it doesn’t pay to work too slowly. Procrastination also has benefits, too.

Fisgard Light from Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria

Fisgard Light from Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria – 96 sq in/hr

Mothers Day - 27 sq in/hr

Mothers Day – 27 sq in/hr

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50% Off Day

1939 Underwood Universal

1939 Underwood Universal

I have too many typewriters, but I still enjoy hunting for good ones in thrift shops. Last week I dropped into the local SA where they have been putting every interesting donation up for auction for the past several years. This has aroused my ire and whenever I return there I’m usually in a sour mood just from the mere thought of this outrageous money grab. After all, I always thought thrift shops were originally conceived as places for folks of limited budgets to acquire goods they need at less than retail prices. Am I wrong? However, on this occasion they have made me glad because they not only didn’t put this lovely machine up for auction, but it and all else in the store, was half price on that day. I grabbed it in glee, and while there picked up several other goodies at half price. I should say that the prices today are twice or more what they once were, so this merely made my purchases seem like the old prices, but still I was very pleased.

side view - Underwood Universal 1939

side view – Underwood Universal 1939

When I got it home and out on the table I tried it out and it worked fine. It has elite type, which is OK, but I suppose it would be too much to hope for something rare? Anyways, after the test I discovered that the rubber feet were falling apart and the table had been scratched by one of the rear feet. I fixed the table with a little more spray varnish, but how to fix the feet?

old rotted rubber feet and new raw material

old rotted rubber feet and new raw material

While browsing the dollar store I saw a package of 3 large size white rubber erasers – bingo! One dollar and a half poorer I arrive home with the goods, which were put aside until today. The basic repair is this: you carve, drill, cut the white rubber to match the shape of the rotten old piece, if you have that. Attach, adjust, etc. Type away. By the way, I discovered that you can super glue this white rubber to itself. Imagine the endless possibilities of white rubber eraser constructions!

Three new feet

Three new feet

One of the 4 old feet was in perfect shape, oddly enough, as if it was new old stock. The other three looked like they’d been barbecued.

close up of new foot

close up of new foot

The keys on this one are interesting, they look like they are glass covered but are in fact plastic engraved inserts within the old style metal rings.

lovely keys these are

lovely keys these are

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Dead Guitar Lives Again

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body with old thick finish removed

The repairs are complete, and the guitar went back home today. To my delight, it sounded better than I expected. I was amazed at how thick the old finish on the top was. I scraped it off with a plastic scraper after liberal applications of paint remover. In my opinion no guitar should have had this much lacquer on the top. I refinished it with french polish shellac, which is much much thinner, and if not subject to untoward abuse, superior to lacquer. We installed the pickup today and it had a very even and natural acoustic sound through my Roland Cube Monitor, which is a clean amp. Since the guitar had a bolt on neck, and the fingerboard extension fit tight to the soundboard, I didn’t use any glue in the final assembly. This means the guitar can be quickly disassembled and put into a carry on suitcase for air travel. My friend intends to modify a carry on bag for this. I’ll be interested to see how this works. Every musician who owns a fine instrument must sweat when they have to hand it over to the airline baggage handling department, wondering if it will arrive undamaged. Carrying it on board and stowing it overhead should be a lot less risky and stressful, in theory.

guitar with soundhole pickup installed

guitar with soundhole pickup installed

Restoring something of value and beauty is intense work but ultimately very satisfying when it works out well.

Reuben and the new axe

Reuben and the new axe

The old bridge was used after I filled the string grooves to gain a bit more height, but my friend is going to order a new bridge for it, complete with the ‘mustaches’. The original bridge did not have the correct amount of compensation (3.5mm) so it now sits crooked on the guitar. When the new bridge arrives then mustaches can be glued on to complete the correct look. Every gypsy has a mustache, no?

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Resurrecting a Dead Guitar

soundboard with braces removed

soundboard with braces removed

I’ve been rebuilding a guitar this past week.  It sounded very dull and the owner wanted me to fix it. I removed the neck, then the top, and discovered the problem: the top had little or no arching. Since this is a Selmer style guitar, it is supposed to be arched to the tune of around 10mm across the lower bout. This one was dead flat with the strings on. When I removed the braces it was clear they had only a tiny arch in them.

original brace after removal

original brace after removal

Below, for comparison, an arched piece of wood with the correct amount of curvature.

Selmer style main brace is curved like this

Selmer style main brace is curved like this

I made all new braces and reduced some in height to make the top lighter and more flexible.

top with new bracing

top with new bracing and binding around the edges

Then I added 4 ply purfling and an outer binding of ebony. This way I could glue the complete top back onto the body without having to worry about all the bindings and how to make them fit. All that was required was to get the ribs to line up with the outside edge of the new top. Easier said than done, since the geometry had changed. However, it worked well enough.

gluing the newly repaired top back on

gluing the newly repaired top back on

While I had the neck off I reshaped it and changed the frets. I also had to adjust the neck angle and the neck joint itself, since it now has a tilt it didn’t have before.

testing the angle of the upper face brace

testing the angle of the upper face brace

Now the top is on and the neck has been refretted, refitted, recarved and refinished. The next step is to refinish the top and then on to final assembly. However, I did assemble and play it already. Happy to report it now sounds more like a Selmer .

neck done, body in process for a refinished top

neck done, body in process for a refinished top

I shellacked the inside of the box while it was open, as well as the underside of the top, since Selmers were made that way. It may add a little something to the reverberation. Any additional sound that can be squeezed out of this guitar will be welcomed.

shellacked box

shellacked box

 

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Plein Air Mothers Day Paint In

the final warm up sketch

the final warm up sketch

I got one good sketching day in last week before the big day Sunday, Mothers Day. I sat in a glade of trees on the grounds of the oldest school in the Province of BC – the Academy of the Sisters of St. Ann. The sister came here via Cape Horn to found schools and also the first hospital, which was across the street from the grounds of the school. The city has surrounded the grounds on three sides but the south side gives onto the park. Now it’s an oasis even more than ever, as huge modern towers full of condos and hotel rooms have sprouted up all over. As I finished up an old fellow suddenly appeared on the rock wall in front of me, puffing on a smoke – then I quickly sketched him in and he was gone. I think the human interest makes the sketch.

Today was the paint in, and we arrived early and got a good start. We didn’t stray very far from the starting point, finding a quiet parking lot where we spent four peaceful but intense hours doing our artwork. Before I finished I decided the sketch needed human interest, so I added a street person pushing a shopping cart across the parking lot. Then we started to clean up, and I no sooner stood up from my stool than a street person came along pushing a shopping cart. It’s a common enough sight, but I was still blown away by this happening right after I made up just such a person, as if the painting had summoned them from wherever they were going and compelled them to cross in front of us just as in the sketch.

Victoria City Hall from the parking lot across the street

Victoria City Hall from the parking lot across the street

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Plein Air Countdown T-8

Yesterday I hit the road again, this time with my watercolour box in the pack. When I arrived at my destination, known only to my subconscious until I got there and looking out at the scene declared this to be the spot, I decided to use the watercolours, seeing as how I had them with me. This sounds like logic working here, but I assure you it wasn’t, simply randomness. Anyway, I settled down on my collapsible stool with the paint box on my lap, having dispensed with the tripod stand as being too much equipment, and proceeded to do two sketches. They are contiguous, the clue being the scrawny tree in each. The cruise ship season has begun, and there was an immense boat across the water at the dock. I’ll probably never set foot on one of these things, but they do make for good sketch subject matter.

seaview sketch 1

seaview sketch 1

seaview sketch 2

seaview sketch 2

A word on my paints: I’ve tried every available watercolour paint medium, from tubes to pans, and I have to say the best I’ve found is a fairly cheap German set of 24 round pans, called Angora. This set is half the price of the cheapest 12 half pan box of Cotman paints, which my testing proves are certainly no better paint. They cover well enough, and it’s easy to mix and blend colour right on the paint pods themselves. When some paints in the previous set ran out it was cheaper to buy an entire new box than try to fill the spaces with paint from tubes. The price of three tubes of watercolour paint is equal to this box of 24 colours.

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