Friday, September 30, 2011

Historic Preservation Work at Rocky Mountain National Park

In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it.

John Ruskin


My season is over at Rocky Mountain National Park, now I can catch up on blogging about some of the work that we did this summer.

One big project was re-siding a residence out in Wild Basin, it had once been a very small dude ranch known as "Deer Haven". The building we re-sided with cedar shingles was one of the rental cabins.

The main "lodge" was larger and not part of this summer's project. This is the south elevation of the cabin, my friends Tate and Chuck did the work on this side. We had to set up scaffolding to do this part. That is Tate on the scaffolding.

It was a little different to re-side with sawn tapered shingles then the hand split sugar pine shingles that were used on the historic Post Office at Yosemite National Park from last October to this past February. That is Greg coming down the ladder, he is one hell of a window "glazer"!

The north elevation (this is the side that I did!) is almost done in this photo, it was a happy day to complete this project! It was also a very fun project to work on, all of us-Bob, Chuck, Tate, Steve, James, Joe, Greg and I work on this cabin, it was a great team building work! Just this past week we all worked on building a solar shower stall unit at Moraine Park Campground, and then I ended up re-installing windows on the historic assistant superintendent's house in the housing area this week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gluing the Back on a Soprano Ukulele

Oral cultures have never developed the same capacity for self dissection and information retrieval that our society has. Instead they build holistic visions of the world and self where image and experience are intertwined. In many societies to separate image or sound from experience - its context - constitutes a violation of the natural order.

Allen Feldman, The Northern Fiddler, 1979



This little beauty is built just like a Torres guitar, it has an domed top. The neck and back block are "in plane" (to use a term from Eugene Clark) with each other, the doming of the top makes it look as if the neck is canted in towards the sound board. The bracing is a variation on one used by Yacobi. The lining blocks are glued in place using an awl to hold the block until the glue set. The lower transverse brace is slanted `a la` Santos Hernandez, this was also done on some early 19th century guitars. Why did I slant the bar? To find out if it makes a difference.


I shaved out the center of the back braces to reduce weight, this idea was borrowed from Jose Romanillos. Ten years ago I read an interview with Dave "Kawika" Hurd done by the staff of The American Luthier magazine, in where he stated that he treated a ukulele just like guitar, he applied the same construction principles. His ukes were well received and liked. Why not follow his example.


The last guitar that I made I glued the back on with using the solera, workboard, and the lower bout falls away from the line of the neck, which means that I might have to make a taller bridge for the guitar then I had originally planned. I don't think it will hurt the sound of the guitar, but with this little uke I didn't want to risk that problem. I used the work board to keep everything in the proper plane.


The Little Giant sawmill was owned and operated by the Diamond Match Company at Lyman Springs, California from the late 1940's until it was dismantled in the early 1960's. It was named after a mill that operated in the 1870's that was named for Stephen Douglass, the first "Little Giant". Lyman Springs was just 5 miles south of where I grew up, "the Little Giant", along with Brokeoff Mountain, were part of my young lexicon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Restoring a Craftsman Style Rocking Chair, Part 1

An unimaginative person can neither be reverent or kind.

John Ruskin


He told me about how it was to be a boy in 1910, in the mountains there in northeastern California, hunting, fishing, trapping first and then how he became an old school buckaroo before he submitted to alcohol. I sat in this rocker when I was a teenager there in my great uncle's house in Red Bluff, California listening to the stories that rolled from him. When he died this rocker went into the attic of the barn at our place in Paynes Creek and sat there for 20 years before my wife pulled it down and placed it in the house.

Now here in Colorado, I decided that my wife was right, it was time to restore this old rocker. It didn't creak when you sat in it, it was a little rough around the edges and gray from the break down of the lignin in the oak. I gently pulled on an arm which came up with no resistance...


Then I pulled a little on the post and the rail came away from the joint...


...then the whole chair fell apart on its own. From those years sitting in a barn attic the hide glue in all the joints failed from the moisture in the winter and the searing heat from the roof in the summer.

The first thing that I did was to use a card scraper to remove what was left of the patina and old finish to get back down to the original wood. That took several evenings after work to complete and then I attacked the old mortises and tenons to clean out the old glue and to make sure all joints fitted tight.

More on the restoration in Part 2!

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