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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)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Making Progress

First, I want to thank so many of you for commenting, supporting, lifting me up when I was feeling a bit down the last time I wrote. While it wasn't my intention to solicit such kind words, I appreciate them more than you can know. After hearing so many stories from lady friends who have had similar experiences, I know the bigger issue of inequality won't resolve overnight, but I felt I wanted to address that it happens, however unintentionally, in more places than we care to see.

The past few weeks have felt like the opposite of the weeks prior. I have had visitors stop by the shop specifically to see me and what I am working, received Facebook messages from folks asking me my opinion on how they should attack certain guitar projects of their own, a good friend played one of my guitars at an incredible show she did with another great friend. Oh, and there was a little story on that that national NPR show, All Things Considered...

Walnut sisters
For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a batch of three guitars, numbered 39-41, which I know is ambitious but I want so badly to make instruments for everyone who wants one that I hope to step up production a little bit. If you were wondering, the three guitars are a koa OM-42, a Claro walnut 000-41, and a Black walnut 0-41. The system of doing three at a time has been working just fine so far but I have yet to get to the finishing stage. The sanding, spraying, and then sanding some more gets pretty tiring with just one, so I'll let you know how this turns out when I try to work on three. Perhaps I should try to find some sanding interns or something...Write this up: Seeking determined, detail oriented person with literally nothing better to do to than hand sand between seven (or more if you mess up) coats of finish on a batch of homemade guitars. It's harder than it looks, so must be attentive and able to learn. No pay, probably no school credit either...but I'll let you play with the mongoose that lives in the shop which is, in my opinion, a priceless experience. Only for a few minutes though because there is all that finish to sand.

My favorite part about these three guitars is that their owners asked me to cut intricate inlays for the fingerboards of each one. It required more difficult work and time, but I always enjoy coming up with new designs that compliment each of my customers. The owner of the Black walnut 0-41 I am working on sent me pictures of her favorite ceramic pieces featuring art nouveau vines and decoration along their bodies. I used the pictures to draw inspiration for a vine climbing the fingerboard.

As far as media coverage goes, it is difficult for me to grasp the reach of NPR's show All Things Considered. I listen most days, but that's just me, sitting in my corner making instruments. Audie Cornish is just telling me stories, right? Who would listen to one about me if I weren't there to hear? It was especially unnerving when several minutes after our story aired my phone was beeping and buzzing with messages of friends all over the country saying they heard it. In all honesty. I didn't hear it until the next day because the Roanoke station chose that time slot to work on their fund raising efforts. It was pretty overwhelming to know so many of my friends and family, not to mention the strangers I had never met, heard it but I had no idea how crazy I sounded.

The thing is, most news stories that I am in are really about my dad, where I just happen to be standing nearby. I was completely surprised and amazed to hear that story and especially to hear Vince Gill say such kind things about me and my instruments. (What?!!) I want to thank my friend and fellow Roanoke Catholic alum Desiré Moses for her excellent job of reporting (and for her skilled editing to make me sound less like an idiot than I actually do in real life). I honestly can't thank her enough for coming down from Roanoke and spending the afternoon at the shop with us.

So the guitar progress is on pause for a week because I am home working on a little ukulele, and then am headed to San Diego this weekend to attend the 2016 Fretboard Journal Summit. I am going to tell some stories of working with my dad and learning how to build guitars. I am also excited to visit with fellow builders, hopefully learn a thing or two, and most importantly, meet new friends. Come hang out and be my friend!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Girl in the Guitar Shop

So if I am being honest with you, the past couple of weeks haven't been the easiest. While I am so proud of my accomplishments and feel empowered in my job most days. every now and again, like the tendrils of gauzy green chemical vapor that seeps through the forest floor of Fern Gully, waves of doubt sometimes creep into my day. Typically it isn't terribly difficult to push aside and simply ignore my feelings when the Tuesday loafers treat me as though I don't matter. I cling to the knowledge that my dad does value my work and opinion and he has come to rely on me to help him out in the shop whether they see that or not. Every so often though, especially when the Tuesday crowd of old men rolls in, I don't really feel as though belong in my dad's shop. Not as an equal or a useful piece of the puzzle anyway. I am sure they don't mean it how it comes across, perhaps it is a generational thing or something, but a lot of times the shop visitors treat me as though I am either not there or just something to placate; "Aw how cute, the poor little girl want's to try to use a table saw."

Now, even though I am on a roll of frustration, I am going to pause for a moment to make one constant exception. Even though he comes in crotchety every Tuesday, upset that his table is cluttered with junk, even though it always is, Herb Key is always kind to me. He comes in before everyone else to find me trying to get my work done before the crowd descends. He always takes extra time every week to share with me what guitar he is working on and how he plans to fix it. All he really needs to do it say, "I am doing a neck set on this old Gibson," when I ask what project he has for the day but he doesn't. He shows me the handmade tools he has finagled to make the job simpler for himself, explains in detail how he plans to execute his job, and shows me how to turn on the water steamer without burning myself. He always takes time from his job to share tidbits of Gibson trivia, neck reset tips, and little ideas to make repair work exciting. I appreciate very much that he always treats me with respect and kindness. That being said, not many other folks are in his same boat.

In case you were curious, here are a few of the things that have recently knocked me down: First, someone accidentally (I hope) burned the $200 worth of buffing pads I had just brought to the shop from Asheville. The guitar I was in the middle of fitting a top on was unceremoniously moved from its table and dumped in several locations with absolutely no care. (With the explanation when I returned from breakfast from my dad, "I moved the stuff with your name on it because I needed to sharpen my tools." I suppose if the guitar was stamped with Wayne Henderson's name he woudln't consider touching it) He also walked up when my dad was checking out a guitar that very clearly had my name inlaid on the headstock and said condescendingly, "Oh, Jayne, did you make that?" Next, a group of local luthiers and their friends visiting on a not so distant Tuesday treated me with as much regard and respect as they would a hangnail they had just removed and flicked away. Finally, a man stopped by the shop selling guitar sets and jacked up his prices to double their worth. I can only assume the reason is because he thought he could hoodwink a stupid little girl who doesn't know the going price for a warped set of slab-cut cherry wood.

After all that and a little bit more in a couple week span I had simply had enough. I felt deflated, like one of the tired wrinkled balloons we stuff into the sound holes of our guitars to block the inside bodies after seven coats of finish. I thought perhaps I should quit and find something else to do more suited to my educational background and gender. This story gets better though, I promise. I am finished complaining. Luckily I have an awesome cousin (more like sister) named Leah and she pulled into the shop parking lot just in time. She didn't have to try terribly hard to convince me to play hooky for the rest of the afternoon.

She drove us, along with two kayaks, some crinkly bags Doritos, and two chilled tallboys of Corona out to the bank of the Little River and shoved me, sitting in her yellow boat, out into the meandering water. (She let me have her comfy, easily maneuverable, creek boat similar to the ocean kayaks to which I am accustomed and she took her uncle's sit-on-top that she wasn't used to paddling. Side note: If you don't paddle, I feel the need to let you know that such an act is similar to offering me a Porsche while leaving her happily behind the wheel of a Yugo.) We floated down the river enjoying our snacks and laughing as we periodically spun, paddling helplessly, when our boats snagged over hidden rocks and branches rising a bit too high beneath the water's surface.

At one point Leah decided she wanted to get out and skip rocks. She slowly moved through the knee deep water searching the riverbed for flat round rocks ideal for skipping. After a few attempts she deemed 'bad' (they only skipped three or four times over the water...she is an expert, you see, expecting more like 15 skips per throw) she set out to catch minnows instead. "Look! There's one! Ooh there's a bunch! A whole school! Maybe they will just swim into my hands!" she squealed. "Yeah maybe," I halfheartedly answered, more interested in finding a shaded spot to park my kayak without having to submerge my clunky 12 year old Chacos into the dark river water. I looked over and watched her standing silently hunched waiting for an innocent minnow to swim unknowingly into her waiting trap. I managed to hook my boat to a bit of rock slightly less dappled with bird feces than the rest of its mass, dipped my toes into the crisp flowing water and watched her play. Floating in my spot that day I felt immensely more relaxed than I had the several weeks prior. While Leah patiently waited for her minnow, I thought about how lucky I was to have such a strong, smart, capable 'sister' to emulate. Sitting there on that river I reminisced of all the times she demonstrated to me that I can do whatever I want. She dressed as the pirate instead of the princess in dress-up when she was five, she played basketball and ran cross country instead of cheering for the boys who did. She plays guitar in the jam circles with the old men instead of sitting quietly alongside their wives.

You see, Leah would never let those guys in the shop belittle her. She would never stand for that. I wish I were as strong as she. But I realize now that I am. I know how to do something not a ton of women can do; I know how to safely use a table saw; I know how to sharpen my pocket knife (and use it to pick the stain from beneath my fingernails); I know how to do a neckset; I know how to make a guitar. Now please read that last sentence again. Don't think I am saying I can do those things because my dad knows how to do those things. He taught me, yes, but I now know how to do them in my own right. Please treat me as though I do.

I made this guitar for my good friend Mac. 
Playing with my good buddy Mac and my hero, Leah.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Gah! How does time move so quickly?! I honestly thought perhaps I had missed a few weeks to write to you, but not this long...again. I feel like I have a pretty legitimate excuse this time though as I was finishing a 45 style guitar by myself while my dad was away teaching at a music camp. He was around long enough to show me some important steps, but the final steps were on my own. Let me just tell you, if inlaying all of that pearl sounded difficult, then you probably don't even want to know about the rest. But, I'm going to tell you anyway.

So the sparkly part is only a small aspect of what is needed to make a guitar adorned along all the edges of all surfaces of the body with thin strips of abalone shell. Since I went into it in detail in an earlier post I will only remind you that I used real, flat pieces of abalone that I painstakingly ran through a tiny table saw to make little strips and installed them with my tender fingers into the channels left by the removal of Teflon strips. Until now I hadn't fully grasped the difficulty of installing the Teflon.

On each side of the Teflon are three strips of wood veneer of varying thickness. I also wrote about attaching binding in a previous post so if you want to know more about that process, you can read about when I made a 42 style guitar here. The 45 process is a bit more involved since it requires adding the same pattern, well almost, to the edges of the sides and back, not just the top. The new pattern on the back and sides goes, from the edge facing in toward the body to the binding, white-black-Teflon-barely thicker black-white-black-binding. Getting that thicker black line set up is the worst part because it is such a small difference that I put it in absolutely positive that it is correct, then come time to scrape it down and it is flipped. Those are just the worst days.

So my dad showed me how to glue the wood veneer strips to the telfon before adding it to the guitar, since, as he well knows, doing each one separately is extremely difficult and time consuming. The teflon sheet with a small groove cut along its length sure doesn't look very intimidating and as my dad showed me I thought, well this is easy, go away so I can do it, I don't need help with this! Boy was I wrong. "You got your lines flipped." "There isn't enough glue-the lines aren't fully stuck together, that is going to give you a world of hurt when you're putting it on the guitar." "Watch out, that joint needs to be perfect or it is all you'll ever see." The warnings came in alarmingly quick succession after I took over the helm. After a while I wanted to throw that benign looking piece of plastic on the floor with moderate force and walk away. After quite a bit longer than I feel appropriate, I finished installing the Teflon around the lines. Then I had to glue those to the strip of ivoroid binding. Then I had to route a space in the side and, along with the purfling I made for the top and back, glue it to the edges.

Before all of that though, I had to figure out how to mire the joints around the end piece of ivoroid because on my dad's old Martin 0-45 that I was using as a template had angled joints on each side of the piece. How did they do that? I had to inlay the piece with the attached lines and Teflon before I cut the groove for the binding the binding so I couldn't do it all together, which would have made the task easier. After maybe 3 more hours than it typically takes to install an end piece, I finally got the joints mitred how I wanted, and fit the edge of my binding/purfling combo snuggly into them.  Now I fully understand why my dad has a ton of orders for a 45 and they go untouched or, if the customer is pushy, the bodies sit on the highest shelf where they go forgotten, or probably more like ignored.

1922 Martin 0-45. "Make yours look like that."

Joints are the worst

To take a break from the ridiculously tedious work I had been doing we hosted a Fourth of July party at my dad's house. Our friends Marci and Andy, who have stood as pillars of the community of Rugby for several years now, were the instigators of the shindig, and they invited everyone they knew to come watch a fireworks display shot off on the top of the hill across from the house. They surmised that the folks who couldn't get out of their house to attend the party could still see the show from their porch or window. They were probably right as I watched them open their trunk to $1300 worth of Tennessee fireworks. Next to the low riding car our friend Mac was firing up his patented Jimmy Buffet Margarita Machine....

There are a lot of parties at my dad's house, but this one was really special to me. There weren't droves of people I didn't know giving me 'why are you here' looks when I am walking by without an instrument in my hand. The attendees were friends I see separately all the time when I am out running or down at the store. I wave to Sarah as she passes by to carry the mail, and Howard as he mows Evelyn's lawn across the street. I greet my great Uncle Rex as I go pick raspberries at my Granny's house. I haven't seen everyone collectively in years though. It seemed like all of Rugby came out to celebrate with us. It was heartwarming and so exciting to me to see so many folks from my childhood and to see that their lives had progressed happily, so many introducing me to their growing families and grandchildren.

A gaggle of kids ran past me playing a game I didn't recognize. "Do you remember when that was us?" my cousin Lauren asked me. Boy do I. I remember we would gather a big group of kids, seeking out the ones standing bored by their parents sides, and play hide and seek tag, do gymnastics in the grass, one-upping each other until we couldn't. We would sometimes sneak over to the big old barn next door after telling stories of it being haunted. Occasionally, depending on the season and which party, some friends and I would take a sheet out to the hayfield and smush some of the tall grass down so we felt secluded (even though we were still mere feet from people sitting in circles playing music) and just stare up at the stars. "Look! That star is moving!" my friend Taylor said. "Well it's an airplane," I countered. "No, it's a star and it is really moving!" "Oh yeah...hm." "I was just messing with you, we learned in psychology about conforming and because I told you that star is moving you legitimately think it is." "But it is!" I insisted. I am not sure why I remember that conversation so vividly, but many nights when the sky is Rugby so bright I can see the Milky Way I think of that time he said that. And I think I can see a moving star. Fine, psychology, you win. I miss the days of feeling like we were part of an exclusive club, nobody could touch us and we were just in our own bubble of friendship, having more fun than anyone at the real party.

It is interesting to think of time passing, considering everyone there at that party. I went from feeling too young to hang out with the cook kids, to being the cool kids, to being too cool for anything but hiding in my room, to joining the party and hanging out with the adults. Maybe someday I will be able to watch my kids progress the same way. I hope so.

It wouldn't be a Wayne Henderson party without guitars...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Henderson in Spain

So fair warning, this one isn't going to be about guitars. Or my Granny. Or my dad. I am going to tell you about my adventure to Spain because I figure if you read the last post you might be curious as to how my time out of the shop went. The only thing though is that the guitar plays a role perhaps equivalent to the Apothecary who sold Romeo his poison in Romeo and Juliet. He was quite pivotal in the grand scheme of things but really he only had a few lines.

I stuffed my Apothecary in the overhead bin and off across the Atlantic we took. After lugging him in his bulky black case through three airports, onto two planes, and into a taxi, we arrived in Costa Adeje, a small beach town to the south of the Canarian island of Tenerife. After instructing the driver, in the limited Spanish I retained from four years in high school, to drop us at a hotel nearby my friend's apartment (lucky for me, hotel is the same), we were left on the side of a busy one way street packed on each side with people dressed in beachwear ambling by on scooters, bright hotels, shops filled with nicknacks, and restaurants boasting their offerings on huge multilingual menus accompanied by pictures. After taking in the view I wasn't quite sure what I had gotten us into.

Sunset from our first night in Tenerife
A quick traveling tip: if you stay awake for the 30 hours it takes to travel to a new place and wait to sleep until it is appropriate where you are you'll go to bed and sleep for 12 hours and wake up with no jet lag. Maybe that is just something I do, and being exhausted isn't the most fun, but it has worked for me so far! I mean, I couldn't tell you what we did that first night in town. I know we found the beach (not too difficult at 100 meters from our front door) and a beautiful promenade showcasing the sun descending over the water where we passed more never-ending restaurants selling the same food (I assume it was the same, evidenced by the signs out front with the same stock photo of a steak, a wood fired pizza, and a shrimp cocktail) each place differentiating themselves by only slightly different decor and name. Little Italy was adjacent to Bob's American Grill which sat next to The Fun Pub. After working on the other side of the cruise ship/tourism industry for several seasons in Alaska, such artificial looking storefront-type places and people heartily peddling boat excursions tend to give me hives. I was sure though that if we made a little extra effort we would be able to find the behind-the-scenes real experience of Tenerife.

Our first full day on the island we decided to take a hike. The closest mountain I found from perusing Google Earth sat about four miles east adjacent to a town called Los Cristianos. We decided to walk there instead of finding a cab because I didn't want to whiz past an experience were there one to be had along the way. We hoped that we could find something suitable for breakfast on the walk that wasn't the "Traditional English Breakfast" pictured in each restaurant we passed. For some reason, the times I have traveled to Europe previously I made a habit of eating croissants for breakfast. I don't eat them often at home, but if they are around when I am exploring somewhere new I will go for it. Croissants are ridiculously filling for how small and airy they are (I assume it's all that butter, but let's not think about it) not to mention delicious (again, that butter). Lucky for me there were  bins of freshly baked bread and pastries offered in almost every HiperDino, which at first we thought were sketchy gas stations on just about every corner, but most turned out to be really nice grocery stores.

After walking through the bustling marina of Los Cristianos and past more tourist attractions, restaurants, and beach clubs, we arrived at the base of Montaña de Guaza where its tall rocky cliffs jutted into the sapphire colored ocean. We found a trail leading up the side and set out to explore the quiet, unpopulated mountainside. Because the island was formed by volcanic activity, the terrain changed quite dramatically whereas our Blue Ridge mountains, which were formed by glaciers and plate movement are a bit more calm and rolling.When we arrived at the top of the first bald we were surprised by the dusty arid terrain, where the rocks clinked under our feet, a sound similar to champagne glasses following a toast. Having expected a more dense sound, I bent down to examine a rock and noticed it was pocked with holes throughout its surface like a sponge. I think it was the first time I saw pumice in its natural habitat, not resting on a shelf of someone's shower waiting to scrub the excess skin from their feet. I was also amazed to see evidence of abandoned towns dotting the landscape. The area had been terraced and landscaped with rows of rock walls while an old irrigation system ran along our path toward some dilapidated buildings. After exploring the mountainside a while longer and being careful to steer clear of the huge outcropping of cacti near our path we decided to head back toward the ocean. On our walk back down the mountain we stopped and sampled the local San Miguel beer that was offered at every beach front restaurant. I am not the hugest fan of beer (don't tell anyone in Asheville or I will get kicked out) but after walking eight or so miles under a hot sun, that one euro pint of beer was one of the most refreshing beverages I have ever had. 

So we rented a car. I thought because the island is so large and seeing the non tourist parts would 
require transportation other than our feet and motor coaches that it would be a good idea. Boy was I wrong. I mean, not really, but it was not the cake walk I had expected. They drive on the right side of the road so I figured we would be fine. Also, I feel like I can understand enough Spanish to read road signs but it turns out that was just not enough. Turns out Google does not work as well on an island off the coast of Africa as it does buzzing around a city in the US because our GPS would often give us a specific direction while the screen depicted a different instruction. We spent a good deal of time practicing U-turns on busy Spanish highways and making multiple circles on the map. The other thing that Google didn't really mention before we set off on an adventure into the hills away from the main tourist drag that the majority of the streets are single lane but two-way and are incredibly steep.

We stopped to have lunch at a place called Otelo, which boasted the best Canarian style fried chicken on the island, but in order to get there we had to fight our way up the steepest hill I think our little car has ever tried to ascend. (That is until later) Once there though, the view was incredibly beautiful, nestled into a craggy mountainside overlooking Costa Adeje and the ocean beyond. As promised, the chicken was delicious. It was served with the traditional dish of wrinkled potatoes which are salty boiled potatoes which were originally cooked with sea water. After our big lunch we thought we were strong enough to go search for some wine as we had heard there were great wineries on Tenerife. 

View from our lunch spot on the deck of Otelo

We entered the address for a winery in our GPS and set off on more turn-arounds and multiple trips around the roundabouts. We eventually kind of got there, but not before several wrong turns and missing one winery by so far that we arrived after they closed so we had to go on to the next one. I thought choosing the straightest path that Google offered on the GPS instead of her suggested route riddle with switchbacks would be a good idea for us. Boy was I wrong. After thirty minutes of clutching the armrests with white knuckled hands and sitting tipped back in my seat in the manner of a dentists chair, we slowly made our way up the single lane road through a town called La Escalona, each if its roads becoming narrower and more steep the higher we ascended. It is the second to last town on the way toward Mount Teide, the 10,000ft high volcano by which Tenerife was created. I was just waiting for a huge motor coach filled with tourists to come barreling down the road ahead of us and knock us into oblivion as had almost happened earlier, but on a regular mostly flat road. As we inched higher and higher in our poor little Volkswagen Up! I wondered who in the world lived in this town and what in the heck did they do there? 

We finally made it up to the winery, but it took a while for my blood pressure to normalize after the ride. We looked back from where we came and the clouds obscured our view of the ocean. Walking quietly with Nick through the evenly spaced rows of grape vines I have never felt to insignificant. We stood on the edge of a field on the side of a mountain on an island in the middle of the ocean. The feeling reminded me of an exercise my seventh grade teacher had us practice once. She told us to imagine ourselves sitting in our chairs. Consider where they were in this room. Where the room was in the school. The school in the town. The town in the state. The state in the country. The country in the world. The world in the universe. It was a humbling practice to think of yourself as such a small aspect of everything. It is always nice to have a reminder that we are part of something so big it is almost impossible to fathom. I am thankful for to have had this experience and enjoyed taking the time to really appreciate it.

At the bodega we were led into a tiny room set up with glasses and a bar on top of which stood gleaming bottles. No one else was there so we chatted with Frank, our pourer, and sampled the majority of the wines offered at the winery. They have a surprisingly wide distribution, producing thousands of bottles per year. Following the tasting and purchases of a few bottles, Frank scribbled a map on a Bodega Reverón napkin to a delicatessen in Los Cristianos which he said was his favorite spot for food on the island. A deli? Really? We promised to look it up when we got back to civilization. After winding back down the mountain, turns out Google was right, the two-lane road with switchbacks (that ended up making the mountain seem way less steep) was a much safer and easier choice, we set out to find the deli. After a long while of searching where my phone claimed the store was, we finally found it on a little side road a block from the address. (Frank's map consisted of a square, two straight lines and a wobbly arrow.) We decided to try a sampler of freshly cut ham that and a few slices of cheeses that had been made on the island. I like fancy food, but I will say that my favorite dinner while we were on vacation was the cutting board spread of ham, cheese, baguette and bowls of mojo, my new favorite traditional Canarian dipping sauce, while sitting on our little terrace drinking the rosé we got from that mountain. 

After several days of extra walking we managed to explore bits of the island that were off the beaten path and we ended up finding some incredible adventures along the way. I am so thankful to my new friend Tommy for his hospitality and for waiting three years for one of my guitars. I am also thankful that my job allows me to meet so many great people and explore and learn in so many more ways than just building guitars. 

Me with my new friend Tommy as we were leaving and he was arriving home. 
Now it is back to reality. This coming weekend is my dad's annual music festival at Grayson Highlands State Park. Please stop by and see me (and some awesome bands and a guitar competition) if you can! All proceeds from the festival go to scholarships for kids hoping to learn to play. 

My favorite beach, Playa Del Duque
On a walk

The waves were pretty serious

Playa de Güímar


Sunset from Costa Adeje

Black sand beach near La Caleta

My favorite town, La Caleta

La Caleta

La Caleta and Costa Adeje in the distance

Paella in Madrid

Friday, May 20, 2016

Scrapes and Scratches

Can't wait to finish up this tenor uke! 
One thing about working half the time in Rubgy is that there is another part of my time spent at home in Asheville typically performing the less physically demanding aspects of my job. I do have a little sander and I do still occasionally cut myself or file my fingernails when I am doing inlay work but generally I focus on the business side rather than the actual guitar and ukulele making. The thing I like about this set up is that it leaves room to wear open toed shoes, put on a dress, primp, and paint my nails. Though sometimes the nail polish is also functional. Not in the way that I make up when my dad protests as he sees it and I tell him that it makes my fingers easier to see so I keep them out of the table saw, which he appreciates, but to camouflage black super glue and stubborn stain stuck underneath. In the case of this week it is covering a now very sensitive flat spot made by the sander. When I look at it though I don't see pain or frustration, but I do see a beautiful ukulele that I thought needed a straighter neck angle so I sat the whole thing on the sander. Just like the time I sanded almost through the top of one fingernail when I let a neck slip as I shaped its heel, I will probably think twice before sitting my ukulele on the coarse grit sander.

I get an odd pleasure from bringing home little scrapes and scratches on my body. I typically walk in my door with marks on my arms from carrying wood planks around, or a sanded fingernail or two that needs evening up with clippers, or this particular time, a thick scab on by leg from when I moved a pattern and a hefty plank of maple I hadn't noticed leaning agains it tipped in my direction and accosted my shin bone. These minor afflictions to my body serve as evidence that I have done done something useful with my time and I like that.

Of course, I hope never to procure a lasting injury any more serious than the tiny scar on my right middle finger from when it came into the line of fire of my hand powered, millimeter-wide jeweler's saw blade. I do make absolutely sure to keep my hands free from direct contact with any motorized saws. I wish I could still ask my dad to make the cuts I need on the table saw or slice me a set from a large board of walnut with the re-saw, but I am proud that I can now do it myself. I do however respect the saws and quite literally each time before I turn any of them on I take a minute to be thankful for the use of my fingers and consider what would happen if one or two got tangled up in the blade. Before I push that green button to bring the machine roaring to life I find the orange safety handle gathering dust on the shelf, as I am the only who uses it, to ensure that my hands are always far from the moving blade. I also find it important to consider where my hands will be in correlation to the blade as I push the wood through. Anyway that is just a side rant. My point is simply to respect the machinery and be careful of the big saws!

Now that I have been working on my own without feeling the need to ask my dad to help with the big saw cuts it really makes me happy to be able to be helpful to him for a change. He gives so much of his time so freely. Not just to me, but he stops what he is doing and provides his full attention any time a visitor stops in or when the phone rings, which it does almost constantly throughout the day. For some reason or another, he has agreed to make ten guitars before his festival next month. Some for payment to the bands coming to play, one for a raffle to be held on the day of the festival and some for folks traveling from far distances that, last winter when the task wasn't imminent, he agreed to finish in time for their visit to Rugby.

My dad always says that he asks me to do his inlay work because he has done it long enough that he is tired of it and I am still young and eager so he asks me. I am pretty sure, though, that his least favorite part of the job is finish work. The way we finish our guitars is to spray seven or eight layers of catalyzed varnish onto the bodies and necks and sand them flat between each coat. The work is time consuming, dusty, loud, and smelly so I can understand why he'd prefer not to have to do it. Lucky for him, on top of the inlay I feel privileged to get to cut for his instruments, I don't mind finish work and was more than happy to be asked to help get these guitars done in time. I just tied on my purple apron, strapped on my respirator mask, slipped on my ear protection and got to it. Not the most glamorous job but I do have pink filters on my mask.

So many guitars to finish, so little time! 
After finishing my own guitar that I am delivering to the Canary Islands later today, I sprayed and sanded all of the finish on three of his guitars and added layers to the ones he had sprayed. It feels really nice to feel useful and to be able to give him something after so many years of only being able to take. We also spent the majority of last week in the shop alone. Few visitors, other than Tuesdays, no gigs to go play, just time to focus on a common goal and be able to have that elusive relationship that I have wished for for years, where my presence is needed rather than tolerated. It isn't just that I want him to give me something but that I get to give too. So perhaps that is why those little nicks and scrapes are important to me. There is evidence that I hung out with my dad and we both enjoyed it.

# 36, Black walnut
I mentioned going to Spain later today. As the culmination of my time at home my husband and I are headed out to the Canary Islands to deliver the Black walnut OM-28 I just finished. I am not sure why, but the ones that go the farthest are the ones that sound the best. I wish I could keep this one to show what a local wood guitar can sound like because the wood that makes up this guitar absolutely couldn't wait to become a musical instrument. It might also have something to do with the fact that I did this one completely on my own, no checking, no trading inlay for a neck set, no direction other than my own judgement and my own decisions. I do want to share that as I (carefully) ran the neck through the table saw to cut the dovetail, never has one come out so cleanly that it fit into the body exactly how I wanted it to. Other than when I cut the dovetail for Doc's guitar, for which I had help, I have never achieved such a feat. I typically have to measure, rasp, sand, whittle, and measure some more to get the joint to fit how it is supposed to. Anyway I just wanted you to know that because it felt like a week where I saw progress, which I feel is something to stop and appreciate. Like when you practice a new skill and it is horribly difficult for the first long while and you don't see much change and it doesn't feel like anything is happening but one day you can just do it? That is what this felt like. I know it won't be a regular occurrence, but I am so thankful it happened this time.

So off we go to Spain! I will see you in a week and can't wait to tell you about our trip. My nails are painted (not just to cover up that flat spot), the ugly dark scab has finally detached itself from my shin so I am ready to wear dresses. I can't wait to get back into the shop and make more evidence that I have a job I absolutely love, but for now, vacation.

It's always good to make sure you have a good tester around.