Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Could Really Care

This week was such a blur. It went so fast.

I got quit a bit done on my guitar.

Did a rough carve of the back and top braces.

This was gratifying work. More like crafting a sculpture than doing carpentry. It was amazing to hear the difference carving more wood made when you tapped the wood and held it up to yr ear. The back (darker coloured wood) in particular really sings. A tap produces a long bassy note.

The end of the week saw the sides being cut and bent. This is the side bending jig.

It works by applying pressure and heat to the moist wood. After sitting on the bending jig for at least a couple hours, it is clamped into the body mold.

I'm quickly realizing the extent jigs and specialized tools play into lutherie. There are corners that can be cut as far as special tools are concerned and I'm always sure to ask Arlen if there's a way around something. Usually there is.

I want to make sure this isn't something I'm going to do once and never again. I can see the expense of tooling up a shop being prohibitive to building without huge overhead. I have to figure out a way to build without going into debt.

I'm actually getting a tad afraid by how much I like the idea of making guitars for a living. I could really care about this. The idea of failing at something is so much more daunting whey you care. Got to do it right the first time.

I keep forgetting to ask the instructors how long it takes them to build a guitar from start to finish. I don't want to price my guitars so they're out of reach for average guys or girls like me, but I'll have to make a living.

An interesting note: it takes Gibson and Fender (the two big guitar manufacturers) 4.5 man hours and only 20 dollars in materials to building a 2 thousand dollar instrument. 100 percent markup. The Big Mac approach to business.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Big Wheels Keep on Turning

I've always found wood working to be an introspective time. Even when others are around it is necessary to crawl inside yrself to concentrate. For someone like me who's wheels are always spinning to begin with, this can be a bit much at times.

Yesterday, I caught myself stewing over something I have no control over and ultimately doesn't effect me. I had let it turn over in my head for a good half hour before realizing I was even doing it. On the other hand, like I talked about in a previous post, I can be swept away by a good thought. Also yesterday, sanding a brace I remembered a text message exchange Dik and I had the day before.

A Calgary haiku for you.
This rain has to stop / summer enjoyment on hold / cold, wet, and boring

That's a bummer man.

Grown men also cry

I let out a little chuckle at the memory and looked around the room to see if anyone noticed.

Today, as my head was deep inside the work at hand, this thought came.

When the person you love tells you they don't love you it would be easier if yr heart and mind could do what yr stomach does when you've eaten something bad. Vomit.

I don't love you....brrllahhh! Well, that was easy. On with my day.

Choosing the wrong person to love has messed with my heart. Trust will never come as easy.

I believe in endless love. I believe in my love. That's about it.

For now, I'll take the advice my dad gave when I told him I was dating my first girlfriend - don't be afraid to play the field.

He also said - keep yr pecker in yr pants.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brace yrself

Arlen says bracing is the most intensive part of building a guitar. Once this is done, I should breeze through much of the rest.

Today was spent sanding down the rosette and cutting and radiusing the braces for the top plate. Pretty fun stuff. Really.

It is a good feeling to know that my carpentry skills can cut it (no pun) with such detail oriented work. It's one thing to bang a house together, it's another to cut a notch in a brace that has to be accurate to 1/64th of an inch.

Shop talk

Another productive day. I'm ahead of schedule, in large part to one of the instructors (Arlen) who seems to have taken me under his wing. Though, he's the kind of guy who will give anyone attention if they make the effort. He took the one year Luthiers course 3 years ago and now he builds and teaches full time. For those of you who know Arlen from the Drum, picture his exact opposite and that's this guy. Small. Soft spoken. Well informed....just kidding. Both are rad dudes.

Apperently some of you are interested in the technical stuff I'm learning, so I'll do my best to document the process.

I started the day by gluing and tension clamping the back braces to a radius plate. A guitar has a slight bulge to it when you look at it from the side. The braces have to create this curve and in order for them to do their thing, the back of the guitar needs to be forced into shape. That's what this contraption does....

Picture the guitar being pushed into the bottom of a giant sphere with a radius of 20 feet. The wood that the white sticks are holding the back to is curved to simulate this. Once the sticks are removed the back will retain the curve.

Then, while that was drying, I started on the rosette. The decorative rings that surround the sound hole. I went for a simple and clean design. 3 ply ebony/alder/ebony.

First route the rosette cavity.

Then bend the slivers of wood stalk on the bending iron. Heat.

Finally, force all three layers into the cavity. Super Glue.

It will look even once it's sanded.

Tomorrow, I keep fighting the good fight.

The sun is going down. You know where to find me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The last few nights I've sat at the same spot on the beach at the same time, to watch the sun go down. Every night it's deferent. The sky. The tide. The life below and above.

My thoughts have been the same though. Distant and clear, like the mountain range on the mainland across the straight. The things I allow to get me down in the city seem so ridiculous.

All this watching and thinking.

Who won the game tonight anyways?

Lay some wood

Today, I started on the real work. I marked the body shape,

did a rough cutout,
and cut the braces for the back of the guitar.

Then we all went for some bbq at the head instructor's (Sigmund) house.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Here are some random pics from the weekend...

Walk on Grass

It may appear by the frequency of my posts that all I'm doing is sitting in front of the computer. Far from it. This has been great to reflect on my thoughts and experiences in a semi public forum though.

I went to the local Legion with a bunch of the guys from school last night. These are some great dudes. There's the feller from Iceland (Stenny) who's never seen Sigur Ros or Bjork. What?! He comes from a town of 5000 in the North. There are only five hundred thousand people on the whole island. That's like Calgary in 1982. He says everyone knows everyone. Actually played in marching band with the keyboard player from Sigur Ros. He's in the process of building a hollow body baritone guitar. Pretty sweet, hey Pete?

This is Stenny...

Tonight, I went to a local's house (Cory) to watch Ultimate Fighting Wrestling or whatever you call it. What a mess that is. His wife (Jess) made veggie lasagna.

To a prairie boy, the ocean is a mysterious thing. When the tide went out this morning it left on the shore giant sheets of seaweed that then dried to a crisp in the afternoon sun. I felt guilty walking on it because it was obvious that it was so full of life. Guess it's the same as walking on grass. Any of the locals watching me must have been scratching their heads because anytime I saw a new kind of sea veggie I'd pick it up, turn it over in my hands and smell it.

Watching the sunset tonight listening to Sigur Ros on my ipod, those sheets floated to the surface drawing bugs to feast...which brought the fish, small and nimble, by the hundreds skipping across the water just feet from shore. Seriously, there were hundreds (not exaggerating) plunging from beneath the water to sail through the air sometimes two to three feet before plunking below.

Adam just showed up at my door. We're trading songs with each other. Time to go.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Promise of the Future - The Burden of the Past

Just came back from a jog through the woods and along the shore line. Probably 4km. Feels pretty good to do that without coughing up a lung.

This is one of the few times in my life that I can say I'm exactly where I should be. I can feel it and I'm not going to let it get away before squeezing every ounce of life out of it.

Last summer when Grandfather Fire came over to the Island to play a show in Naniamo, standing on the deck of the Horseshoe Bay ferry, I had the intense feeling that I was going home. Many things have changed since then. I was looking forward to that feeling this time, but it never came.

The last few times I've left Calgary, a weight was lifted off my shoulders as if I could float. In the past, my home has been guilty of dragging me down.

This time, I was leaving town pulling the weight of all the great things I was leaving behind. dik, glimm, beerwolf, j-rod, my bro, mom, dad, rimmer, evan, j-bone, ben, k-dawg, ramin, adele, anna, chad, greg/molly, on and on and on (if yr name's not here, I love you almost as much as these people....:). Even work was hard to leave.

Leaving town, I was spurred on by what lay ahead. The promise of the future. However, the burden of the past has always haunted me. Kept me from moving forward.

One of the things I learned through the dark months this winter was how devastating being stuck in the present can be. It was bad.

Well, the last couple weeks before I left, I was completely overwhelmed by how great life is. Just ask Pete or Marco. Sitting on the front stoop of 2617, my excitement could not be contained. I've come alive for the first time in five months.

Most of you know I'm an emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve and eyes and voice. I've often wished for that to go away. To not feel so much. However, I had an epiphany a couple months ago. I don't just feel and express sadness with intensity, at times I can hardly contain my enthusiasm or excitement. Liz once told me that she loved when I told stories about my friends because I got this sparkle to my eye. If I'm telling a story about something I think is funny, I can hardly wait to get to the end. It usually wrecks the punch line. Makes it sort of anti-climactic.

Being stuck in this moment feels pretty good.

Anyways, enough about me. What's yr deal?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gandalf the Great

I hadn't even gotten off my bike when a guy with long stringy hair, an unkept beard and the start of beer belly that will probably never leave walked up to me and with a frown that turned into a shit eating grin said, "Gandalf is broken, oh wait, your not a cop are you?" He holds out a long multi-coloured glass pipe with a cracked tip.

School is great. It doesn't seem right to call this school. There is nobody here who is doing it because it's what their parents want them to be doing. Unlike other schools I've been to, nobody is trying to impress anybody. There is very little ego involved from either student or teacher. We're basically all geeks.

I've been in class for two days and so far, I've drawn the plans for my guitar and glued the top and back plates together. It's modeled after a classic guitar called the Martin D-28 - a dreadnought style acoustic steel string.

Here are my drawrings....

Here is the top plate being braced, clamped and glued...(I promise not to geek out too much on the technical stuff, but at least I know my dad will enjoy reading about it.)

My room is next to the owner of Gandalf (Adam), a schizophrenic twenty something from Long Island, New York. He doesn't seem to show up to the school until after lunch. He told me today that he likes to get 12 hours of sleep because he wants to see what it feels like to be retired. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to retire.

Like the hotel in Revelstoke, there is no art in my suit, so last night Adam and I made some. His are the ones in blue ink. In his suit, he made a six foot high exploded diagram of a solar water purifyer / power generator scrawled on taped together ruled loose leaf paper.

Here's the view from my room. Sucks to be you....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Winter stays longer at high speed

May 20, 2008

What a day. Woke up in Revelstoke to a bike that won't start. Found a battery accross town through the rain. Rained all day until Hope. The Couquahala summit was so cold. The rain wanted to be snow.

Attaching your body in open air to a machine that can move along the earth and above mountains at ungodly speeds is pretty messed. Especially when the earth is wet and you can't feel your feet from the cold.

My bike's charging system is effed. Some background. I motorbike is like a car, it needs a steady source of electricity in order to operate properly. A car without an alternator will not get you very far. Similarily, a motorbike without a stader will get you only slightly farther. I'm traveling with a battery charger and any chance I get, I plug it in for a few minutes. The bike won't stall once it's started because the spark plugs don't actually use much electricity. However, using the ignition requires lots of power.

After a long cold day, I arrived in Vancouver on fumes, so I stopped to fill up at Petro Canada before heading to Shammy's. When I went to start it, the bike winced and went quiet. Nothing. I asked the attendant (Bilal) if he minded if I plugged it in for a bit, but there was no plug on the outside of the building. His cooworker (Tony) suggested taking the battery off the bike and bringing it into the store to charge. Good idea.

After setting up the charger, I poured myself a coffee to help warm up. My new friends wouldn't let me pay for it (don't they do weight inventory on stuff like that at big companies?), they said they were Vancouver's welcoming committee. They also shared some homemade brownies that one of their wives had made. The best was yet to come. Bilal made me some Red Indian tea with milk. So tasty. After trading stories about traveling Canada and trying to figure out the Calgreedy mentality, I figured the battery had been on the charger long enough and I was chomping at the bit to go visit with Shammy and friends, so I began to pack things up.

Just then a frenchmen came into the store and with his Cretienesque accent said, "hey budd-ee, I think your motorcycle just got fucked". What? I go outside and my bike is laying on it's side with the contents of one of my bags exploded all over the pavement. My first thought was that a raving pack of crackheads had ripped my bike apart looking to score. Bilal and Tony came running out of the store and ran to the street corner to see if they could see anyone fleeing.

After collecting myself and making sure my bike wasn't damaged, I ask frenchy what happened. He said a red car hit the back tire sending the bike bouncing. The driver got out, observed his handy work and then rushed back into his car and sped off. Correct, I know this because that's what the security footage shows. I asked frenchy why he didn't try to do something or at least attempt to get the licsence plate, he shrugged. Wow. To be honest, I'm more ticked at frenchy and the 3 other people gassing up who were too self involved to do anything. At least pretend it's sort of weird to see a bike get smashed to it's side.

Anyways, Bilal did his best to bring out the car's plates on the security footage, but no dice. Too blurry.

The impact of the car didn't cause much damage, just a pushed in rear fender. However, when the bike hit the ground the clutch lever snapped in two rendering it undriveable. I found a replacement lever at a shop on Commercial, swapped it out and was on my way by 1:30 this afternoon.

My mom was worried about me taking such an old bike on this trip, but it's led me into the paths of some interesting people so far.Bilal, me, Tony

I finally got to Shammy's at around 10 and shared a couple beers and stories with him, his housmate (Dave), and the guy who lives in the basement suite (Manderson). I always love hanging with Sham. He's one of the few who really get me. I find that my voice doesn't raise an octave when I'm trying to make a point...he gets it. Manderson and I outlasted everyone else talking about Love and an American aircraft carrier that was docked at Victoria that was so big it had a "bad neighborhood" that the Navy Police didn't go in. Police for the Army.

I've decided on a name for my Suzuki GS650. Bill, named after Bilal, the chair of my Vancity welcoming committee. Bill got me this far. He better get me home...

First Beginings, Last Endings.

May 19, 2008

I wish this hotel room had complimentary robes. Too much to ask, I know. There isn't even art on the wall. Last time Rich and I stayed here at the Gateway Inn we made our own art from tourist brochures and the phone book. This is Revelstoke, BC.

After working a ten hour day Sunday on 4 hours sleep for fuel, I got out of town at about two this afternoon. Endorfins. The first Forest Tate show on Saturday was great. Played to mostly Evan's friends. You could hear a pin drop (a good thing). People said nice things about the songs. Didn't stay for the other bands. The night was warm and not in that room.....

Sunday morning on my way home as the sun was coming up, I talked and walked with a homeless guy (Jason) from about 7th street until 10th along 17th ave. He wasn't high. Not for a few days. He said he was beat up a couple times that night and had a round shiner as proof. We talked and a thought that I've had for quit some time proved true perhaps. The only difference between me and many people without homes is that I have a safety net. People who care. My parents. My friends. Former Lovers...How are the choices I've made any different than the choices Jason has made. He told me no one loves him. Wow.

At 9th Street, I realized I didn't know this guys name, so I introduced myself and shook his hand. We were walking to Macs...I told him I'd buy him a juice. When I went to pay for the drinks I noticed my hand was dripping blood (Jason's blood, from the handshake?). Then I saw a cut on my finger. Where did the cut come from? Did I catch it on a fence...or on the purse strap of my friend I just said goodbye too?

My first thought was oh jeez, his blood is on this cut on my hand. Terrified. Blood doesn't flow inward it flows out I tell myself. He asks to stay at my house, I say no, it's too far. He's a good guy, I can tell. Of course the blood was my own, not his.