About me

My photo
I began this blog in order to share my experiences learning instrument building from my dad, but along with those stories I look forward to sharing my memories of growing up with two busy, musically inclined parents as well as my current experiences stepping out on my own as a female luthier promoting environmental sustainability in her instruments while working to alter gender stereotypes in a male dominated field. If you'd like to use quotes from this blog for interviews or in your own work, please contact me first! (email is henderson.elizabethj@gmail.com)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Chapter

A package arrived at my house last night. I don't even think anyone knocked or rang the doorbell.  Harper never barked and neither Nick nor I heard anything so it was really a surprise when I saw a medium-sized box propped against the side of my house when I went to get something from my car. I scuttled back inside clutching my present with excited fingers and grinning from ear to ear. I was so excited about this package that Nick thought for sure it contained shoes, or perhaps a secret release John Mayer album. But no. Nick stood and watched as I slit the tape holding the contents of the Amazon box. Nestled between layers of bubble wrap was a Makita 3037FC Fixed Base router with LED light! Yeeeee! (Nick was looking at me like he was thinking, "What kind of nutpants did I marry...?" Though, he said he thought it was neat that I get excited about things like power tools as well as shoes and secret release John Mayer albums.)

It is the same router my dad has in his shop to route the spaces in pegheads and fingerboards into which sawed bits of pearl fit. And now I have one too!! The reason for this purchase is that I am going to try my hand at working from home for a couple of weeks. Starting tomorrow, I will periodically work in my friend's new workshop here in Asheville.

My friend Nate has recently made a similar decision as mine to quit his regularly-scheduled-paycheck job and instead pursue his passion for art. He built a pottery studio and wood shop on his family's property in Fairview and graciously invited me to share the space with him, so neither of us will get too lonely working on our prospective projects. I am excited to share a space with someone who is so talented in mediums in which I so very much am not. He does beautiful watercolors and makes ridiculously awesome pottery sculptures (such as bird houses and light fixtures). Hopefully I can teach him a little about ukulele building in return for a potting lesson or two!

While I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to purchase my own tools and work my way out of messes on my own, I am a little nervous to work in a new space without the safety net of my dad's expert eyes overseeing my work. However,  I think this is an important step to truly working on my own, and making my own instruments. Someday I won't be afforded the choice and will be forced to do every step without the crutch of my dad's keen observations. I suppose I might as well start removing the training wheels now.

My dad, as well as his helper Don. seem eager to help me with this transition. My dad ran around looking for things to send with me, helping me make patterns and thinking of small tools I might need. I had already ordered my router, and my dad tried to recall where he had put his extra bits. Don stopped by late one night and after I told him about ordering the router, he turned, rummaged in the corner for a minute and produced two bits. "Here, take these then. No wait, this one is better. Take it too." I added them to my growing pile of things. "Do you have a finishing sander?" I didn't think so, and he dug around in another drawer and handed me a brand new sander I never knew existed in there. "Are you sure my dad won't need that?" I asked. "Nah, he doesn't need it. He has 3 more just like it. You answered the phone today right? Then you earned it anyway." I added the sander to the pile too.

"Well, I will miss you." My dad said yesterday as I was preparing to leave the shop, a box overflowing with mahogany necks, ukulele sides, binding, and fret materials unwieldily clutched in my arms. Coming from a fella who doesn't often share such sentiments, I knew he meant it. I'll miss you too, Daddy.

I look forward to sharing my new adventures (or minor disasters) with you all! Thanks so much for reading and supporting me in this endeavor. It means more to me than you'll ever know!


  1. Elle,

    It's great to be able to follow your journey with these posts.

    My father was a carpenter and taught me a lot about wood, and at 52 I'm now on my second build (mandolin last year, 12-string now) - though I'm not prepared to take that big step of making a career change. Good on you!

    I've still got a lot to learn, I'm envious you have such a great set of mentors, I'm emboldened knowing that even you have what you might have what you call minor disasters. I figure if you aren't having these, you aren't pushing the learning curve hard enough.

    I've also been eyeing that very same sexy Makita router, that look on your face tells me it just might be worth it! ;-)

    Thanks for these posts, keep 'em coming...I'm sure they provide just as much to your readers as the reading does for you.


  2. Thanks so much Jim! It means a lot that people are reading it, and it's great to hear I am inspiring you, and hopefully others, to try your hand at woodworking (or any other type of art) by showing that the learning process takes time and breeds mistakes. Good luck with yours and if you sand your finger till it bleeds, just remember I did it first. And as unpleasant as that feels, you'll probably think twice next time you try to shape braces on the belt sander! :-)

  3. So, is there space in Rugby for a new apprentice? :p

  4. Ha. Well, I am not gone completely!