Dec 31, 2012

Boys' Day Out

I work with a lady who occasionally brings her 8-year-old son, Evan, to work.  Today, Evan and I took off for lunch and a visit to my hot rod project.  He got a real kick out of the Shady Boys, the shop, and the car.

Dec 30, 2012

Did you ever see...

...the innards of a Kindle?  I saw this for the first time as I changed the battery in my beloved Kindle.  Mary Ann gave it to me a couple of years ago for Christmas and I was really lukewarm about the whole notion of electronic "books."  Since then, I have grown to love it.  It's in my briefcase all the time.  But finally about a week ago it died.  I found a Web site - - that sells replacement batteries along with the tools needed to install them.  And they provide a video instruction for every model of the Kindle.  One week later and we're back in business!  Ain't technology wonderful???

Dec 29, 2012

Banjo Boys, Chapter 3...

Today Monty came up to cut fret grooves in our "Dynaflow" banjo necks.  Clint is taking a well-earned vacation with Sarah over in Asheville, so there were only two banjo boys present and accounted for.  
Fret cross-section
During the last couple of weeks, I had built a miter box to guide the blade of my fret-cutting saw.  The saw has a couple of features that make it special.  The "kerf" or width of the blade is such that the tang of a banjo fret will fit tightly into the slot that it cuts.  Also, the saw has a device that limits how deeply into the wood it can cut.  You don't want to cut much past the depth of the fret tang.  Monty and I measured, marked, and cut each fret groove very carefully, since the position of these frets will determine the accurate intonation of the finished instruments.  Here are the results:

Dec 19, 2012

Dec 8, 2012

Banjo Boys, Chapter 2...

Monty Love and Clint Rankin -- 2 of the Banjo Boys -- Measure twice, cut once.
Back on November 22 I started the story of the Banjo Boys.  Today was our first official get-together to actually build anything.  Clint and Monty showed up right on time at 9:00 AM, ready to work.  I had already moved my table saw outside to minimize the amount of sawdust we would create inside the shop.  I also had my new band saw at the ready, along with my 6" belt sander.

Bob and Monty cutting a board
I had a 60-something inch long maple board that was 2 inches thick.  It was a clear gorgeous piece of hard rock maple that I have had for at least 20 years.  It needed no further seasoning.  It was about 6 inches wide, so if we cut it in half lengthwise and transversely, we'd have four perfect blanks for banjo necks.  We managed to get that far with all our digits still intact.
Clint setting up clamps
The next step was to determine how far we could angle the headstock (where the tuning pegs go) without running out of wood.  Most banjos seem to have about a 15-degree slope, and that worked out well with the thickness of wood we had to work with.  We then used my jointer (a tool I respect profoundly since it removed part of a finger a few years back) to ensure that the fretboard surface and peghead surfaces were both flat for gluing.  We also had to glue "wings on the headstock area to make it wide enough for the design we intend to use.  Each of us will end up with a slightly different banjo purely based on choices we'll make along the way -- design of the headstock, veneer material for the fretboard and peghead, mother-of-pearl inlay design, hardware choices, color of stain, etc.

We next applied the 1/4 inch thick fretboard veneer, gluing and clamping it carefully.  We amazed ourselves at how much glue can ooze out of a joint as it gets clamped, and how many ways there are to get that glue all over one's self.  After we glued the fretboard, we came in the house for a really fine lunch.  Mary Ann outdid herself with a wonderful hearty soup, Santa Fe soup, made with ground turkey, Rotel tomatoes and corn and chili seasoning.  We had that along with tortilla chips and salsa.  She followed this up with fresh (still warm) pumpkin bread for dessert.  Thanks, Mary Ann.  You helped make this a very special day. The food was perfect and the four of us also enjoyed Clint's wonderful stories about his genealogical research.

The walnut veneer on the headstock
After lunch we began on the veneer for the headstock.  Of course, every piece of wood we touched required two or three cuts and sandings,  We oozed a lot more glue as well.  Clint is using ebony that he acquired on eBay, whereas Monty and I decided upon a beautiful piece of walnut that I had saved many years ago.  I think it's going to look especially nice when the fretboard has some pearl inlay in it and is darkened by an oil finish.

We finished up and cleaned up the shop and were done by 5:00 PM.
The fruits of today's labor

Dec 3, 2012

Small World...

My humble 1932 Plymouth
In 1998 when I drove in the Great American Race for the first time, I borrowed the precision speedometer I needed to be competitive.  A few weeks before the rally I contacted the precision speedometer company to tell them to ship my instrument.  They advised me that they had forgotten about my order. the plant was being relocated, and all the parts for my speedometer were packed in boxes en-route to the new location.  I was devastated    Then I remembered that I had met a gentleman a few months earlier who had driven a 1927 Chrysler in an earlier Great Race.  His name was Robert Bentley, a Huntsville veterinarian.  I called him and he loaned me the much-needed instrument, saving the day.   

Last Sunday, I decided to drive my 1932 Plymouth down to Hazel Green, Alabama, to pick up lunch.  The car needs to be exercised every so often, and it was a perfect day.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a gorgeous 1941 Cadillac convertible sedan.

Dr. Bentley's beautiful 1941 Cadillac
I recognized it immediately as one of Bob Bentley's cars.  I parked next to it.  People coming into the restaurant must have thought there was a mini-convention.  Dr. Bentley and I had a nice chat and then went our separate ways.

What are the odds for such a chance encounter???