As if I don’t already have enough to do I was recommended to solve the problem of figuring out how to wire and getting to work a set of six of these intercom-telephone units. They were intended to connect a household and are from 1910 – 1920. They weren’t difficult to wire up but they did not work very well so I updated their electronics to what the telephone company used from the 40′s thru the 70′s and they worked just fine, still retain their original look and the client was thrilled with the results. We’re surrounded with all these high tech people but it seems to be a dying art being able to figure out and repair antiquated technologies.
The big project is coming along. I like working on this project but I would like to finish it so I can concentrate on ukuleles again.
The good news is that the right door is done, the bad news is that it’s a two door car.
This is an automotive restoration project that I got involved in earlier this year. The French automobile maker Delahaye started production of this flamboyant sports touring car the 135M in 1935. Production stopped during the Nazi occupation in 1940 and resumed again in 1946. Delahaye continued to make this model up into 1954. This example is a 1947 and as was common with custom built coachwork cars of the era there is a deal of wooden framework under the aluminum and steel body panels. Oak was the wood that was used for its strength along with some European Beech chosen because it was able to be shaped well for some of the more intricate components.
My part of the project is to remake the wooden doors which were in pretty bad shape. There are a lot of technical requirements to making automobile doors. They have to be strong, they must hinge and latch accurately. They have to very closely mate with the front and rear fenders, the windows have to be in the right place and every single part of this project is a challenge. My years of automotive experience are very helpful in many of these technical aspects and my woodworking skills are being challenged in a way that ukulele making doesn’t necessitate.
I’m very glad to be part of this project as there are many other very talented artisans also involved in the restoration and it will be a very unique, unusual and beautiful l’auto when it is completed.
(note: only the top photo is of the actual car we are working on, the other images I found are generic)
Earlier this year I saw an exhibit at the Smithsonian museum of American History in Washington D.C.. In the exhibit was a recreation of an Alaxander Graham Bell audio experiment that helped him confirm that sound energy could be converted into another form of energy. Called a ‘phonautograph’ this insight helped lead Bell into creating the telephone and may have helped Edison with his phonograph project.
I wanted to recreate my own version of a phonautograph so I wrote to the exhibit coordiator and arranged to be able to examine the piece the next time I came to DC. So on my next trip I met with the exhibit coordinator. He was very helpful and friendly and not only did I get to examine it but we got to take it apart and discover its secrets. How often does one get to go into the Smithsonian museum and get to take an exhibit apart? It was a first for me too.
Anyone who has looked at digital recording on a computer has seen waveforms drawn electronically. Bell’s experiment drew these same waveforms mechanically. This Smithsonian museum’s recreated version uses a laser pointer as a light source which shines onto a small mirror. This mirror is attached to a diaphram. A speaking tube excites the diaphram causing the mirror to vibrate when the speaking tube is spoken into.
This wiggling lite beam is now reflected onto a six sided spinning mirror which is rotating on a slow spinning electric motor. The light hits each face of the spinning mirror in sucession and then is reflected onto a curved screen where it appears like the waveform you visually see on your computer.
The first mirror, moved by the diaphram moves vertically which draws the ‘Y’ axis of the image and the second mirror which is the rotating mirror spreads the light across the screen horitzonally drawing the ‘X’ axis of the image. This series of images I took should convey the idea of the mechanism. And of course, I have to build one. Why? Because it exists. And because someone at the Smithsonian took the time out to show me the mechanism and I can’t let that opportunity go to waste.
You know, she’s been interviewed a gadzillion times for her music but she’s never gotten to DJ a radio show. So I told her that the next time that she comes out we’d make a radio show together.
I DJ a regular afternoon show on our local raidio station under the air name of Scratchy Vinyl. As scheduling happens, Victoria wasn’t to be here during my regular time so I borrowed a show from another Kalx DJ. Many thanks to Bungalow Bill.
So yesterday, Victoria and I hosted a ‘regular’ music show on KALX 90.7 FM and just had fun spinning tunes chosen by the both of us. It wasn’t too hard to get her to play a couple of her own songs and perform some mouth trumpet as well.
We spun all kinds of records, new releases, old gems and yes we played recordings by other ukulele artists as well: Tippy Canoe, Bliss Blood & the Moonlighters, Craig Robertson, George Formby but no Tiny Tim. God bless Kalx radio.
A friend who is in the movie and TV production business along with his friend who is also in the business asked me if I’d be interested in making a ukulele building movie. Sure I said, so I cleaned up my shop, put on a fresh shirt, did some planning and four days of filming later we are now on the editing bench with the movie.
It is not intended to be an instructional film but rather a film which flows through the way I build instruments in my shop. There will be two cuts, a short one intended for You-Tube (where else?) and a longer one for other purposes.
Our “Music Makers” show at the Oakland International Airport has been a great success, we’ve gotten few sales but great feedback on the display of ukuleles and guitars.
The museum has a dozen great photos of the exhibit which can be viewed online at< http://museumca.org/node/765/photos>
A few years ago a well known local guitar maker Ervin Somogyi was presented the opportunity to curate a show in a downtown Berkely exhibit space and he bamboozled a handful of us other builders into creating a display on hand built guitars and ukuleles. (There’s pictures of it on the Pohaku website in “my other stuff’ section.)
It was such a nice show we shopped it around to other venues. I approached the Oakland Museum of California about it with the Oakland International Airport in mind as the museum tends to their exhibits. The person in charge of these outside exhibits said yes, it is a fine exhibit and we’d love to have it in the Airport, in the future.
Three years later the museum gets back to me and says, ‘”we’re ready”. So I bamboozled some help and we hustled and have put a beautiful show together which opened today (December the 18th, 2009) in the Oakland Airport. The show will be up until April the 6th, 2010 and is divided into three sections.
The section which I curated is located in the first terminal before the security check-point and in these display cases I have presented the four members of the ukulele family, depicted an overview of the ukulele building process, and have created a historical ukulele time line with an emphasis on the instruments exposure on the mainland. There are instruments, sheet music and ephemera reinforcing the ukulele’s story.
In the second section of the display fellow curators and builders Ervin Somogyi and Louis Santer have re-created (and re-invented) the previous guitar exhibit. The premise of this section is that guitars aren’t just built in factories but they are also built by people like us. The show overviews the process of hand building guitars.
In the final section are a pair of museum quality exhibit cases housing ten gorgeous hand made guitars we were able to borrow from some of California’s finest builders. We were able to offer an alarmed display case, armed guards and insurance which made it relatively easy to convince builders to loan us instruments. There are also some mighty fine ukuleles in the case as you could well imagine!
The museum promises good photography of the exhibition and I’ll post that as soon as I get it. Cherie Newell and Kaoru Kitagawa (and crew) are the museum people who worked on and did such a fine job with this display.
Helping me with the ukulele display was Stephen Becker, Sandor Nagyszalanczy, Gittings Duncan and Tony Graziano.
Larry Robinson, Addam Stark, Luthiers Mercantile and Allied Luthiere contributed to the guitar display curated by Ervin Somogyi and Louis Santer.
And thanks for instrument loans from Monica Esparza, Kathy Wingert, Michihero Matsuda, Fred Carlson, Harry Fleishman, Michael Hemken, Howard Klepper, John Mello, Chris Morimoto & Dimitri Tenev.
I left Berkeley headed to Boston in the beginning of May. My dad lives in Lexington, Mass and this was my spring checking up on him trip. Instead of buying a plane ticket I thought that I’d drive and turn the journey into a five week adventure. I have this nice new convertible roadster I needed to check out more thoroughly and thought that I’d take this opportunity to visit all those people who live in between in those odd places I would normally never go to. So I made this a friend, family and fellow ukulele people road trip.
Heading north out of California my first visit was with Ray Kraut; a guitar builder who used to work in my area krautguitars.com and with Amy Crehore the ukulele painter both of them living in Eugene, Oregon. If you’re unfamiliar with her fantastic painted ukulele art check them out on her website at amycrehore.com. She also has designed the classic ‘Tickler Ukulele’ screen printed shirt that’s also available on her site
A bit further north, up in Portland I visited a friend who I used to work with and play in a band with on Oahu, Hawaii. He still has his Pohaku ukulele and it looks pretty good. From Portland I followed along the Columbia Riverheaded east and entered the Rockies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I stayed overnight in the quaint old mining town of Wallace, Idaho in the heart of the northern Rockies.
Its mining country up there and the expression goes ‘If it’s not grown, it’s mined’, a simple expression that I found profound. I continued thru the Rocky Mountains in Montana where I worked my way north where there are still dinosaurs and there were no leaves on the trees although it was mid May.
I got to tour B-52 Bombers in Minot, North Dakota and then I stayed the night on the east border of ND in Grand Forks where there is an excellent University of North Dakota campus.
In the land of ten thousand lakes I only counted about four hundred and eleven of them along US-2 in Minnesota. In the eastern part of the state lush birch forests appeared and then encountering Lake Superior in Duluth I preceded north around the lake entering Canada through Thunder Bay where a passport was required. What’s that all about?
The trip around the lake all the way to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada was another of the trips highlights. Talking with Canadians I discovered that they actually like us Americans again, at least for the time being. I can’t imagine that sentiment lasting for too long. They never like us. I stayed on Canadian roads all the way to Montreal which was one of the worst cities I’d ever driven through. Bad traffic and their signs aren’t even in English. What’s that all about?
I re-entered the U.S. with its english freeway signs on the Vermont side of lake Champlain where I visited with Kevin Crossett, aka Guitar Sam in Montpelier.
Besides running a brick & mortar music store in downtown Montpelier and having an online business www.guitarsam.com Kevin builds a very fair ukulele in his spare time in his basement shop selling them under the name of Kepasa Ukuleles He too owns a Pohaku ukulele which wasn’t too shabby either. Kevin joined us a few days later down in Boston where Craig Robertson hosted another Ukulele Noir event at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Just outside Boston is where my dad and brother live. My wife Lyn flew in to join us for a week.
At the Ukulele Noir show Greg Hawkes the keyboard player for the 70′s band the Cars performed on ukulele as well as Craig Roberson, jazz ukulele player Mark Occhionero and the Lowell, Massachusets band Melvern Taylor and the Fabulous Meltones. Greg Hawkes and Craig Robertson both have new CD releases out of their ukulele music available on CD baby.
From Boston I went down to Manhattan for the weekend, took in a few city sights, went to the MOMA where I hadn’t realized that Andy Warhol offered so many brands of Campbells Soup. I was also inspired by a guitar-like sculpture of Picasso’s. I imagine you’ll be seeing a ukulele version of this coming out of the Pohaku studio soon.
I had brunch in Brooklyn with Bliss Blood and a handful of her friends
Later that day I got to see Bliss and the Moonlighters perform in Brooklyn. They had just returned from a German tour and they also have a release out on their new label, World Sound Records .
And wouldn’t you know it, my latest fave performer Hot Time Harv was in the audience at the show. We met up, he sang me a few songs and we had some good laughs together. Check out his latest release, Hot Time Harves Roller Coaster of Thrills.
From NYC I headed a little further south and stayed overnight in Annapolis Md. with a cousin who lives and fishes on Chesapeake Bay before visiting with another ukulele maker, who also lives in Annapolis on the bay.
I stopped in on David Means and talked ukulele shop with him for a bit. He has his nice set up in his basement and David makes some really fine instruments. See them at Glyph Ukulele.com.
Staying in DC with cousin Jay I visited the new(ish) Smithsonian Air & Space museum out by Dulles Airport which is the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center
I spent a couple of days playing tourist down around the mall in our nation’s capitol. The Smithsonian American Folk Art Museum is always one of my favorites and we found some pretty giant exhibits at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn gallery too.
It was nice to see some of the changes that have recently have occurred in DC.
I did lunch at the White House
Saying goodbye to my many Cousins and Aunties in the DC area I turned my car west again and started steering back toward California. After a nice ride thru the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachians and passing a giant guitar which lets you know that you’re in Tennessee I happened upon Morrisville, Tennessee which looked like a good place to spend the night. The downtown was blocked off for a street party, car show and barbecue.
The town had a unusual two story downtown.
My next visit was at the Museum of Noisy Children outside of Nashville near Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Estate.
Heading further west I found myself in the buckle of the Bible Belt.
I have a nephew who is the Chief of Police in a small central Missouri town whom I stayed with next. We got to shoot guns and explore a cave at the Lake of the Ozarks but we didn’t get to shoot any criminals.
The Weather Channel’s Vortex II Storm Chasing crew caught up with me in western Kansas and since these guys mission was to chase tornadoes I thought it perhaps best to head off in the opposite direction from which they were headed in.
I passed thru Denver and then thru that lovely stretch of the Colorado Rockies
And continued west into rugged and dry Utah
I got to see an old high school buddy whom I hadn’t seen in years outside of Provo. He doesn’t play ukulele. And then after spending one more marvelous night in beautiful Winnemucca, Nevada where I didn’t loose a dime gambling it was homeward bound for me. A little over eight thousand miles in a little under five weeks.
Now I am back home and if the ukulele that I am building you is a little behind this is my excuse.
Thursday night here in Berkeley we had a nice three band show with each act utilizing the ukulele in their music set.
We had our local favorites Five Cent Coffee who bill themselves as a neo-skiffle junkyard blues band. The band members are Smitty “Spitshine” Delecroix on vocals & ukulele , Doodles LaRue on Vocals Washboard, Melodeon & a 17 1/2 lb. chain. And Slick Macoy was on the baddass bass and even sang a song in the beautiful flowery language of Germany.
Tippy Canoe also performed, she’s another local favorite and a major hub of some of our Bay Area ukulele scene (and she plays a Pohaku!)
And from Southern California we had Mme. Pamita join us. The good Madame combines mystical Tarot fortune telling (which required audience participation) seamlessly interspersed with her music which was mostly her vocals accompanied with ukulele. Madame Pamita recorded a CD last September & she did her recording in New York on an 1898 Wax Cylinder Phonograph. How Retro can a recording get?