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A Walk in the Forest

Once upon a time there was a boy who lived beside a forest that was dark and smelled of skunk cabbage and was crawling with slugs that were a foot long and covered with sticky slime. This didn’t stop the boy from going into the forest because he was curious and wanted to know what was beyond the trees down the path that started where his own yard ended.

One day when his mother was busy with house cleaning, the boy took his brother who was smaller than him and they went into the forest a few steps and there they stopped to look back at their house. Then they looked down the path into the forest and back at the house again and then down the path again and they wondered what they should do. They walked back to the beginning of the path and looked at the house to see if their mother was watching. She told them to stay out of the forest but they thought that it would be alright if they just stood at the edge of it for a while and looked. So they stood and looked into the forest and wished they could go in and find out what was there amongst the tall trees where the sun hardly touched the ground because of all the leaves.

While they were looking an owl glided past their heads and silently beat it wings as it flew off down the path and into the forest. That was impossible to ignore and they started walking quickly down the path into the trees hoping to see the owl again, forgetting that they weren’t allowed to go into the forest. When they had walked for a while they saw the owl high up in a tree sitting on a big branch preening its feathers with its beak. They stood at the bottom of the tree and looked up at the owl. The owl stopped preening and stared at them.

Who who, it said, who who who.

Who are you, said the boy and his brother said it too, who are you?

The owl didn’t answer, just saying who who again, and looking at the boys with its large dark eyes that blinked slowly. Then the owl swivelled its head completely around so the boys could only see the back of it.

The boys walked around to the opposite side of the tree and looked up at the owl again noticing that the owl’s feet were now going the wrong way.

Look at his feet, they’re backwards, said the boy to his brother who laughed.

Then the owl swivelled its head back to the other side and once again they were looking at the back of the owl. They walked to the front of the owl and saw that now its feet were forwards and not backwards. Then the owl closed its eyes and went to sleep.

Let’s go home said the little brother, I’m hungry.

They looked for the path but when they found it they couldn’t remember which way to go because they were confused by the owl’s head going this way and that way. They tried to remember what the owl looked like when they first saw it but it was impossible to say which way the owl’s feet were supposed to go. When they looked up at the owl again it had turned its head around which made them even more confused.

I want to go home, said the little brother, I’m hungry. Then he started to cry.

Don’t cry, said the boy, I need you to help me think.

The boy went back to the path and looked up at the sky. He saw the sun and remembered that the earth turned on its axis once every day, which made the sun come up and go down, even though the sun never really moved. The boy remembered that when they had entered the forest the sun had been in their eyes. The boy had a brand new wrist watch which he got for a birthday present and he knew how to tell what time it was. Looking at his watch he saw that it was still morning so he knew the sun was still getting higher in the sky.

If the sun was in our eyes when we walked into the forest, he said, we should have the sun on our backs to go home.

They stood on the path with the sun at their backs and ran as fast as they could all the way home, where they had milk and cookies and drew pictures of owls.

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Filed under Birds, Books and Short Stories, Children's stories, Painting, Uncategorized, Wildlife

One Page Typed

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September 6, 2021 · 7:49 pm

Back to Folk Singing

49 years ago I bought the guitar of my dreams, a brand new Martin D35. In those days I was in love with Gordon Lightfoot songs, the Beatles of course, and all that music that sounded great on a big flat top guitar.

My late friend Bob Wylie strumming my D35 c. 1977

But the years passed and so did my taste in music, so 24 years ago I sold the D35 and moved on to jazz. However, the circle of life comes around like the seasons and so I recently decided it was high time I had a big “folk” guitar again. The Martin dreadnought, or D type guitar is the most copied guitar in the world, because it is like a battle ship that fears no man or woman. But it is big, a bit too big for me now that my shoulder and arm can’t take long hours of being draped over a huge guitar. I checked around and found the next best thing – a Taylor Grand Auditorium. This guitar has a narrow waist that allows it to sit lower and thus is less painful on the strumming arm. It was designed to compete with the Dreadnoughts, and by and large it can, although it’s a little smaller. The D size guitars are very large and in the opinion of many guitarists the 000 Martin is the acme of flat tops. While I tend to agree, I had already built one of those many years ago, and I wanted something different. Hence the latest guitar – my version of a Taylor Grand Auditorium, complete with the “all new, improved V bracing”.

Here is my latest guitar, #37, successor to my long gone D35, which I expect is still out in the world being strummed somewhere.

The famous C chord, beloved of folkies everywhere!

Taylor is converting their guitars to this v shaped bracing system, away from traditional x braced tops. They claim to have invented it, but it’s been around a long time in one form or another. I just copied their design however, figuring they had already done all the testing for me. I played a few examples and while they were no better than some of their x braced guitars, it seemed like an adventure to try a new design. I already made several ukuleles with v braces and I knew they sounded really good, better than the fan braced ones I had made before.

The guitar sounds great for folk music, no good at all for jazz, which is how it should be. I already have a dozen jazz guitars!

V braced top, a la Taylor. They patented this. Didn’t stop me.

For the record: cypress top, cypress braces, African mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, ebony bridge. Tuners are Gotoh 510, 1:21, the smoothest damn tuners on earth and worth every cent of the hundred bucks they cost. Strings are D’Addario EJ15 phosphor bronze, extra light. Even with extra light strings this thing is loud. I might up the gauge when I change strings, but the trade off is more volume for more work, and I have lazy old fingers.

Body is 16″ x 20″ x 4 5/8″ deep, same as Martin D. The nut is 1 11/16″, exactly the same as my old D35, as is the bridge. Scale length 25.5″, just a tad longer than Martin’s 25.4″ scale, so it feels like a D35 in my hands. Now to go practice “Did She Mention My Name”. Today’s pop music is so banal and crappy it’s not worth listening to, so thank heavens we have Gordon Lightfoot, who is still alive! He should have got the Nobel Prize, not Bob Zimmerman… the worst performer I have ever seen. But BZ wrote some good songs. I may play one of those later.

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Filed under Guitars, Music, Uncategorized

One Week Guitar Project

Guitar #36 – made in a week!

This year has been crazy, but it did allow me to make more guitars than I ever did before. Thus I built #36 one week ago, in 7 days. It began with an idea about how I could use an old pickup. This pickup is a Seymour Duncan Jazz Humbucker I bought over a decade ago and rarely used. I had it on an old beater electric but didn’t like the sound of it on that, so it ended up in my box of parts for many years.

Recently I got it out and decided to mess with it by breaking off the legs so I could stick it right onto the soundboard of my latest Corona guitars, which have a space at the end of the neck deep enough for that to work. It sounded very good, but it just didn’t quite fit, so I puzzled over what I might do with it. Then I remembered an old guitar neck I got cheap at a thrift store some time past. It was a Fender style bolt on neck a bit thicker than the depth of my Corona neck extension, so the pickup would fit there with room to spare. I just needed a way to install it, since it now had no legs.

I hit on the idea of attaching it to the end of the neck with a bracket, like the Johnny Smith pickups on various archtop guitars. I got a metal pickup cover and soldered onto that a brass bracket, then stuck the legless pickup inside the metal casing and soldered it in place. I had a suspended pickup and all I needed was a guitar body on which to install it.

A suspended humbucker

I had lots of miscellaneous wood around, including a nice torrified Englemann spruce top, narrow walnut pieces for ribs, and an old guitar back with a hole in it. All this was perfect to construct a hollow body electric guitar from, so I immediately got to work.

I didn’t worry about the extra thick top of over 4mm since the idea was basically an electric guitar. However, after I glued the braces on it had a very decent tap tone. I put the ribs and top together and prepped the holes for the two pots and the output jack, then attached the back. The top gave out an even better tone when the box was assembled, so I decided not to cut a sound hole or f-holes in the top until I heard how it sounded. After all, there was a decent sized hole in the back already.

Repurposed back plate and hole to provide access for controls.

I had to modify the headstock to take 3 + 3 tuners, since that was all I had to work with and I don’t like the 6 in line ones much anyhow. I did this and installed the tuners and screws to act as posts for the strings in order to prevent the sideways pull of the strings from yanking the nut out of line. This was ugly but free and worked fine. The tuners were a nice set of Grovers acquired free from my sister. Thanks Val!

Modified headstock for 3 + 3 tuners

So, I got it all assembled and wonder of wonders, it sounds great without a hole in the top. Imagine my shock! Despite the thick soundboard and lack of hole, this thing is loud and sounds a lot like a carved archtop with the strong attack you want in jazz. The pickup is great too and deserves the reputation it has for not only jazz but most any type of electric guitar music you can name.

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Tour du Mont Blanc

Three years ago I started training to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, aka the TMB. Every year since then I get nostalgic about that and start hoping that I will get the chance to return to the Alps and wander about from refuge to refuge. So far that hasn’t happened. This past year has been a write off for the world of course, so there was no hope to go to Europe let alone sleep in a refuge full of people who might have Covid 19. This summer it might be possible, if I could get up the nerve to go. However, someone will be doing the TMB and I hope they have a great time. If anyone is interested I wrote a book about my hike, which I have announced her before and am going to do so again, because I added a page to the blog called Tour du Mont Blanc, where I have posted a slice of the book to give you an better idea of what it is about. It’s under the heading above called Tour du Mont Blanc.

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Filed under Books, Great Hikes, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel, Uncategorized

The Old Man and the Typewriters

Ernest Hemingway at the typewriter

I recently read A Farewell to Arms. My wife’s book club was reading it so I decided to get myself a copy and see if I would enjoy the book. I read The Sun Also Rises once and didn’t like it all that much, so I was hoping this one would be better. It was better, much better. In comparison, The Sun Also Rises is hardly worthy of attention, and yet it got Hemingway lots of that. So who knows how this works. While doing the inevitable internet searches to see what the world had to say about A Farewell to Arms I stumbled across a number of supposed facts about Hemingway’s various typewriters, of which he had many. There were some facts that seemed reliable and a great number of what were obvious errors about Hemingway and the typewriters. I had to laugh at one comment stating he typed so hard he wore out his typewriters! If he wore them out, how come his first typewriter, a Corona folder, is still around and works?

There are lists and lists of typewriters he is alleged to have owned. Several are well documented, for example the Corona his first wife gave him for his birthday when he was 21 or so. Steve Soboroff owns Hemingway’s 3 bank Underwood, unless he sold it without informing me. I also saw photos of Ernest using a Noiseless Underwood, which I think qualifies as solid evidence for that one. Then there is the last one, the Halda, which seems to have solid provenance and which was allegedly sold at auction a few years ago. There are photos of Hem with a Royal with chrome trim around the hood too.

To fill out this list of Hemingway’s alleged typewriters we have a Royal P, as well as a Corona 4, plus various other Royals. While reading through all this a funny thought began to occur to me. I had a feeling that I own every one of Hemingway’s typewriters, or at least a close relative of same. I began to dig through the piles in the basement and discovered that indeed I do have a reasonable facsimile of every typewriter Hemingway is reported to have owned (that I know of).

Hemingway’s Halda
My Halda
Hemingway with his Noiseless Underwood
My Noiseless (Underwood and Remington models were the same machine made by Remington)
Hemingway’s Underwood 3 bank
My Underwood 3 bank
Hemingway’s Royal in Key West
My Royal Commander
Hemingway’s Underwood 4 bank at Key West
My Underwood 4 bank (one of several similar)
Another Hemingway Royal
My Royal Arrow
Hemingway’s first typewriter – Corona – in Cuba
My Corona 3 folder

I could not find any photos of Hemingway’s Royal P Portable, but here is mine.

My Royal P

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Filed under Books, Typewriters, Uncategorized, Writing

Facit-nation

1961 Facit

During my recent book writing I tested many typewriters here and came to the conclusion that the Facit and Halda typewriters were becoming my first choices. I was consequently thrilled last week when I unexpectedly came across another 1961 Facit, with larger type than the others. I found in the case a few typed sheets with several versions of a creation legend. Whoever owned this must have given up on writing, which is too bad, but good luck for me!

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Filed under Books and Short Stories, Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Uncategorized, Writing

The Old Corona 2C

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Filed under Poetry, Technology, Typewriters, Uncategorized

A Fine Month is April

Goslings in the park

I like April, especially this year. I got my vaccine last Friday. Found a very good typewriter too, a 1963 Smith Corona Clipper which is in fact a Sterling for those of you who understand these things (Series 5A that is). This one has elite type, and best of all it scans to OCR almost perfectly. That can be a problem if you write a lot on typewriters and wish to scan and edit. I completed my 12th novel last week, 60,000 words typed and scanned and edited. Some of the scans were atrociously poor, others worked well. I try to use a variety of my collection of typewriters, so results vary when scanning. The benefit of smaller type is that you can write more on a line before having to return the carriage, which interrupts the flow. Less interruptions are desirable to keep the words flowing.

’63 Clipper in pale blue

Now that I have finished this book and also the latest guitar, I think I’ll take a break and do something else for a while. Maybe write some more poems. Here’s one from last night. I typed it, then scanned it and edited the text, then printed it and scanned it to a JPEG!

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Filed under Poetry, Typefaces, Typewriters, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Writing

Guitar #35

Recently finished this guitar. Maple body, cypress top. Hand rubbed French polished sunburst finish, somewhat like the bass I made before this. The yellow stain is made from turmeric in alcohol and the red brown colour is Dark Brown leather dye, which works on wood. I used that on the entire maple body and neck. This guitar is a full depth body of 4″ with x braced top like my previous Corona models. Previous models of this design were 3″ deep, so this one has a bit more low end. As part of this experiment this top has less arch, and I used cedar for the braces to see how that might effect the tone. Conclusion – it worked out very well. It’s loud and bright but more mellow than my normally arched tops. This one is perhaps the best of the bunch of Coronas, due to the balance between attack and sustain. It certainly holds its own in a jam and is not at all nasal, although real loud!

Strung it with Martin 80/20 light strings, to my ear the closest thing to Argentines at far less cost. 80/20 bronze alloy (4:1 copper to tin) is thousands of years old and the same stuff they make church bells of etc, so the magic formula hasn’t changed over time. I made the head-stock joint lower down on the neck this time, which I think I now prefer the look of. With a 2 way truss rod I can dial the neck from flat to whatever relief I want. The neck is on the fat side, a bit larger than usual but I like the feel of that too, as it is substantial and will be very stable, especially being hard maple. The fingerboard is extra thick as well, which contributes to the overall stability. With zero tension on the truss rod, the neck has a bit of relief. I dropped that to a tiny bit for now, but it is very easy to tweak it either way.

The bridge is Japanese, and rosewood this time as opposed to ebony on my previous ones. Rosewood is better to work with than ebony, which is brittle as heck. I had to cut it down a bit since they come too tall for this design.

Tailpiece is gold plated steel. I made the wood insert for it as they come without one. Hard to argue with the low price of stuff from China, and it’s really not bad looking. The brass ones cost almost 10 times the price !

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