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.





3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this piece, Elle. Have fun in Spain.

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  2. have fun on your vacation Elle. But I got a feeling that your work is fun too and that is about as good as it gets!

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