Tuesday, May 6, 2014

El Gato Dos (IW#072)

A while back I made a bluesmaster style banjo for one of the best musicians I know.  It accidentally wandered away form him, so I made him another one.  We used to call him "the Lovercat," so his banjo was "El Gato."  This new one, of course, is "El Gato Dos."  I used the same art work on it, which is a black cat that was a symbol of the IWW that I really like, and the bottle caps have jugs on them because he and I used to play in the Brooklyn Jugs together.  That was a real hoot.

Anyway, the neck is almost the last of the church pew oak that I had and the pie tin on the back is embossed "New England Pie Company,"  which is pretty good-looking.  It has a slightly mellower sound than the other bluesmasters, in part because the big can that is the head is heavier than what I have used before.  Still sounds pretty good, though.

Muerto Uke (IWW#071)

A very cool person in Virginia Beach is married to another very cool person who contacted me to make her a uke for this past Christmas.  She had gone to a party with her face painted like a Dia de los Muertos skull not too long before that, and she is a pretty rockin' human anyway, so it made sense to incorporate that.  I had this black cigar box that was begging to be used, but had not been sure who should get it.  It was one of those moments of a lot of things coming together beautifully, yielding the Muerto Uke.  The neck is a leg off of an old piano, which had a sort of Gothic profile when I cut it into the peg-head.  Sounds pretty good, too:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Plugging in

Well, well.  I see I have not posted here since last year!  Being that it is now March, that is a pretty major oversight.  It is not that I have not been making, rather that a couple of other projects have been keeping me occupied.  I have also been writing songs a bit more of late, and as I have been thinking about what to do with that my mind turned to recording.

Electronics are not really my thing, of course.  Nothing wrong with electronics (says the guy who is blogging on a lap top), I have just not ever really explored them.  But if I am going to record, I kind of want to see what the possibilities are for micing my vocals and getting an interesting sound.  In poking around, I found a couple of things like this and I was hooked.  It turns out to be pretty damn easy to do this, the big trick is just to use the speaker (in the ear piece not in the mouth piece) as the microphone itself.  There is a little resistor there that you apparently need to make this work right.

As I say, electronics are not really in my field of purview.  So below is my little can microphone, and it sounds pretty dirty, which feels just right.  I have another phone coming my way in a few days, and I think I might try just using the handset casing instead of the can, just to see how that works.

New horizons.  Fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Piano Dulcimer (IW#070)

This is by far the hardest thing I have built in a while.  The new owner said that he wanted a "walking stick dulcimer."  I had never heard of such a thing, so I did what any self-respecting researcher does int eh 21st centruy:  I googled it. Turns out it is a cane that is also a mountain lap dulcimer, which is a slightly weird combo.  So there are a series of problems that presented themselves:  structure is important, sound quality is important, and size is important.

It took a lot of monkeying around, and in the end it does not sound as good as I would like.  I was so worried about the structural thing that I sacrificed quality of sound.  It still makes a sound, but it is not as bright as I had hoped it would be.  Live and learn, I suppose.  There was some maple in the piano, so the bulk of the cane is made of that, with some mahogany running down the middle to add visual interest.  The maple had some flame to it, which is quite attractive.

Again, I do not play dulcimer, so forgive the clumsiness with the instrument.  I am pretty proud of this one, actually.

Piano Slide (IW#069)

This is a little three string slide based on the size of my very first instrument.  It is tuned D A D, and has a tenor guitar-ish scale.  Not a lot to say about it, it is a very playable little slide guitar.  I kept the action lower than I usually do for a slide so you can also finger the strings like a fretless banjo, which gives it a little more versatility.  Here it is:

Piano Uke (IW#67)

The second instrument from this group is a soprano ukulele.  I was only able to use one of the legs from the piano in this grouping, and here it is.  I used the leg as the neck for the instrument, and although it is a little funky it is totally playable and actually sounds pretty sweet.  I don't tend to do a central round sound hole because I tend to make "stick through" design instruments.  So there are two sound holes on either side of that stick.  I kept them lower and closer to the bridge because of the way that you strum a uke, you tend to do it up close to the neck and I did not want the player to get their finger caught in the sound holes.

Like the baritone that is also part of this group, the tail piece is a hinge from the ReStore and the bridge is from a sink drop from a solid surface counter top.  Here is how this one sounds:

Piano Baritone Ukulele (IW#066)

The first instrument in the Piano Family is a baritone uke.  Having built several of these, it was nice to start with something that is relatively familiar.  The future owner of this one asked for the angel wing design as the sound hole, which came out much more delicate than I was hoping for.  Is a bit fragile, owing to the grain pattern on the spruce.  The offset sound hole meant that there could be minimal bracing, which really helps the sound.

It is a pretty bright-sounding little box, though, and the action is pretty good.  I think that all of these will mature into a slightly fuller sound than they have right now.  The tailpiece is a hinge from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the bridge is solid surface countertop material.  The fingerboard is a piece of the veneer from the outside of the piano, so that it matches the outside of the box.

Here is what it sounds like: