Dec 30, 2013

Future Work...

Over the last year, I've spent quite a bit of time in Corpus Christi, Texas.  I've been working with a wonderful team of hard-working people from my company, Camber Corporation, and equally-dedicated personnel from the Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.  The hard work has paid off, as described in this video:

I think I know where I'll be working over the next several months...
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Dec 29, 2013

The Quest for Perfection...

Last week I went out to Dan Shady's shop and he had my banjo out on a workbench.  We had finally acquired the square nuts that he wanted to braze to the backs of my spoon-hooks so that we could insert screws into the nuts to tighten the tension hoop, thus stretching the clear plastic head.  From this angle, the banjo looks fantastic!

Unfortunately, on the other side of the banjo, there are three empty brackets.  Dan indicated that there were differences between some of the hooks and he didn't feel right about having unlike hooks on such a beautiful instrument.  So I did what any red-blooded American banjo builder would do -- I got on eBay and found some more World War II-vintage Navy spoons.  I could only find two with the "USN" imprint, but I found two plain ones.  I'll make hooks out of all four and once they're finished I'll put the two plain spoons adjacent to the neck attachment.  Everything will be symmetrical.  Here are the new "hook-blanks."

Dec 28, 2013

Good Eats...

The Weber "Bullet" Smoker
A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers (who happens to be a competitive barbecue chef) walked by my office with two huge beef briskets sealed in plastic.  I asked if he and his dad (the other member of the cooking team) were about to enter a competition.  He informewd me that these briskets were for Christmas presents.  He and his father were going to cook them that weekend and give their friends individual packages of beautifully cooked meat.  I've been thinking of brisket ever since.

Yesterday, Mary Ann and I stopped at Star Market in Huntsville and picked up a 13.5 lb. choice brisket which has been on the smoker for about 6 hours so far today.  It has 4 or 5 more to go, but it already looks pretty darn good.

Dec 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to All...

From our house to yours, best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.  The following video from King's College captures the spirit of the season far more eloquently than I could hope to do...

Dec 24, 2013

Extra Special Tree...

This year, Mary Ann found some exquisite glass icicles to adorn our Christmas tree.  Combined with the pinpoint lights, I think it's one of the prettiest trees I can remember.

Dec 8, 2013

Banjo Boys - Chapter 27

Clint bundles up to shape his rim on the router table outside
I had been on a business trip and got home late Friday night.  Clint suggested that we not meet for breakfast, but rather, that he would bring breakfast up to the shop so we could spend more time on building our banjos.  He arrived with biscuits and coffee around 8:20 AM.  It was a very cold, blustery day, but the rains had apparently passed.  I had moved Winston (the '32 Plymouth) outside, so we could work inside the garage with the big door closed.  It worked pretty well.  Upstairs, we lit off the kerosene heater and within an hour, it was toasty warm.
Zoey inspects the heater
We had several goals today.  Clint wanted to finish gluing his rosewood on the edge of the maple rim.  He also needed to cut or sand it down to the surface level of the maple rim and then cut the angled bevel to form a "knife edge" along the outer edge of the rosewood where the leather head bends at a right angle toward the tensioning hoops.  Clint also hoped to get his last inlay placed in the hollow area created by the ogive cut we made last time.  He also thought he might have time to cut the outer profile of the peghead.

I was less ambitious.  I hoped to sand, dye, and oil my rim, 
Clint does his last inlay
since I already had finished shaping and smoothing my rosewood edge.  I also thought I might get a chance to further shape the back of the neck -- a tedious, slow, handcrafting process.

Clint finishes up his rim
Clint began by routing the relief for his last inlay and gluing it in place.  He then glued and clamped the eight pieces of Honduran rosewood that will form his "tone ring" along the top surface of the maple rim.  We ran into a slight glitch at this point.  Apparently, he had two sets of eight pie cut pieces and they were not quite the same thickness.  He glued some pieces from each set, so now the top surface of the glued rim was not all at the same height.  The solution was to run the entire rim through the thickness sander several times, removing a few thousandths of an inch each time, until we had a flat, continuous surface.  Then, Clint was able to sand the inside surface flush with the maple rim and run it on the router table to form the tone ring knife edge.  He then could sand everything smooth.

After he finished the rim, he clearly marked the profile of his peghead and cut it out on the bandsaw, followed by lots of detailed sanding to clean it up.
I finished sanding my rim and applied the tobacco brown dye that would bring out the beautiful curly maple grain.  Then I applied the first of many coats of Tung Oil.  I was really happy with the results.

I decided it was too late in the day to start on the neck and besides. the Auburn-Missouri game was about to start which would decide the SEC championship...