Archive for March, 2010

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

[That was the expanded title of the disappointing 1984 sequel to the classic, but strange "2001: A Space Odyssey," my favorite sci-fi movie as a kid in 1968. If you know anything about the original film, an alien rectangular object ends up outputting a high-pitched screeching noise. Well, here it is really 2010, and I made contact yesterday with a foreign rectangular object that showed up at my front door. However, it will take awhile before any screeching noises emanate from it. I do expect 2010 to be memorable year, due to this strange object's arrival. As Dave Bowman repeatedly says in 2010: "Something wonderful is going to happen." Except that I expect my actual 2010 will be more wonderful than the goofy sci-fi version of 2010, where Jupiter is turned into a small star, unidentified aliens oversee evolution, and everyone lives happily ever after.]

All that to say, my Hurdy Gurdy Crafters “Monarch” kit completed its 15-day odyssey from Michigan to Texas yesterday, apparently running the Postal Service gauntlet without mishap. No more fretting over whether it was lost in space, damaged by meteors, or stolen from off the front steps by aliens. Driving home from work last evening, I was relieved to spot it sitting in front of the door…


The kit was well packaged in very sturdy outer and inner boxes with styrofoam peanuts cushioning the inner box. The binder with the construction manual and the envelope containing the strings were packed outside the inner box…


Mel and Ann’s kits have a professional and attractive appearance…


The careful packing of the pieces in the box was also impressive, and must be a science of its own…


The pieces all seem to be very precisely made from quality materials using fine tools: clean and sharp edges, etc. For a detail-oriented person, it definitely passes initial inspection…


Various bags have labels listing their contents. Everything has the look of having been very well thought out and user-friendly. I haven’t totally emptied the box yet, nor completed the inventory, but I have been reading the manual, which has many color pictures illustrating each step in the process.

A recurring thought as I was browsing through the box was: “I can’t imagine Mel making all these complicated pieces.” The next thought was “I can’t imagine me putting them all together!” What have I gotten myself into? But I can’t think of making that giant leap, just taking one small step at a time.


Dremel discovery

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Yesterday [Saturday] was Home Hazardous Waste Collection Day here.  I rounded up a bunch of old paint cans and other containers of household chemicals collecting dust and rust in the garage. I need to do a bunch more straightening up, especially on the cluttered workbench to make room for hurdy-gurdy building.

In the process of cleaning up, I ran across a Dermel tool box my father-in-law had bought me a couple years ago, which I never have used. He got it at a yard sale, or something. It has various attachments and contraptions — I don’t know what all they do until I read the paperwork. This should really come in handy for working on the hurdy-gurdy, especially the carving, I should think.


I actually have 3 Dremel tools of various ages.  The oldest one has a rheostat that no longer works, but it still runs on the highest speed. This is fortunate, because I have a very useful router attachment that it fits in. The second one is a cordless which I charged yesterday, and it still works. Then there is the one in the tool box. All are different shapes.


My mother’s marquetry portrait

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Portrait after sanding

While waiting for the hurdy-gurdy kit, I’m completing a marquetry portrait of my mother, who died in October. The portrait is based on her early 1950s engagement photo. Last night I contact-cemented the veneer picture to the 3/4″-thick wood base, after veneering the four sides. Now I’m doing the sanding to get all the different veneers level and smooth before applying a finish. It is 8 3/8″ x 12.5″.

I will do one of my father from the same era. I hope to do some marquetry on the hurdy-gurdy as well.

Nine days so far on the kit.


Peg search update

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I talked to Mel Dorries of Hurdy Gurdy Crafters today, and after all his careful research, he recommends Brian Burns’ 945B planetary pegs, which are 9mm diameter viola size. These are made by Chuck Herin of  Pegheds.


#945B guitar peg illustration from Brian's site

After studying a traditional peg box profile, Mel doesn’t think different lengths are going to be necessary. [The problem we ran into is that the different lengths Brian has are not available in the same diameter.] I trust his expertise here, and intend to go with these.

The kit was mailed last Monday, but is still enroute.


It’s in the mail!

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I should mention that the anticipation is almost over, as Mel let me know that my Monarch kit was shipped yesterday [Monday] and should be here shortly.

The pegs will be shipped later. I’m not sure at this point what was settled on for those. The previous plan had been…

Two sizes —the long and short— are more readily available, so we are going to go that route.

…but it turned out those were discovered to also be two different diameters, and that wouldn’t be suitable.

Definitely no need for the pegs any time soon!


Costruzione di una ghironda

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Well, I gave some Spanish zanfona builders a little publicity, so here is an Italian site where someone built a guitar-shaped ghironda in 2006.

My Italian isn’t so good, but I enjoyed looking at the construction pictures!


National Accordion Convention

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The other day the local TV news channel had an accordion player on to highlight the 2010 National Accordion Convention which was in town this weekend. Checking into it, we found out that there was a concert Saturday evening which was open to the general public. Saturday was my birthday, and since I like accordion music, we decided to do something totally out of the ordinary and drive up to the north side of Dallas to check it out.

accordionThey opened with an accordion orchestra of approximately 50 pieces that did God Bless America, then the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. That was impressive. The orchestra disbanded, and then a married couple who used to perform at Branson, Missouri performed. Several single performers followed them. The next one, Bruce Gassman, was amazing with his electric accordion. The first thing he did was the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra. [A favorite movie of mine in 1968 when I was 14.] Then he went on to a great Star Wars medley. Next it was Beatles tunes and finally James Bond themes. He was worth the price of admission all by himself. Quite a showman. I was disappointed to not find anything more about him online — videos, CDs, etc. Everyone else was very impressive, too, though. Lightning fast finger work on the keys. And mostly not your normal polka music!

We found out that their convention is normally in Dallas, so we’ll need to watch for it again in the future. No, I’m not going to learn to play the accordion – too many buttons and keys. I’m sticking to the hurdy-gurdy.


Construcción de una Zanfona

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

That is Spanish for “Construction of a Hurdy-gurdy.” ‘Zanfona’ is related to ’symphonie,’ a name for the earliest hurdy-gurdies of the 12th and 13th centuries. Spain is one of the first places these instruments appeared.

All that to say, here is a video I found today with that title which shows some of the process of building a hurdy-gurdy…



Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I decided to get some nice geared tuners called Pegheds, which look like old-fashioned wooden pegs. I found a page on Neil Brook’s web site which discusses using them:

There were issues, however, when fitting them to the traditional carved head pegbox. The problem was that by design, pegs of different lengths are required if the buttons are to be an even height.

It may well be that only the chanterelle tuners need to be shorter so the pegs can be ordered as short, medium or long  depending on requirements.


Use of different size pegs, from Neil Brook's site

Since I am planning to carve a traditional pegbox, this site was an important discovery. It turns out that it is hard to locate the three sizes Neil refers to, though. Two sizes —the long and short— are more readily available, so we are going to go that route. Mel has kindly done a bunch of calling around for me regarding them, and I believe the ball is rolling again.


Hurdy-gurdy Girl

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

HurdyGurdyGirl-JulesRichommeWith all due respect to Georges de La Tour, I like Jules Richomme’s choice of a hurdy-gurdy player better. Both are excellent works of art, though, and two of my favorites. This one here I have only recently discovered, and consider it one of the nicest paintings featuring a hurdy-gurdy I have run across thus far.

By the way, my instrument should look a lot like this one, with a guitar-shaped body and carved peghead. I hope to also add similar trim inlay around the edge.