Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
The first sign of Spring coming was noticing my wooden jack plane now has a twisted sole. Ah yes, the weather is changing!
I keep the humidity in my shop relatively stable by using a humidifier during Winter and a dehumidifier in the Summer. A hygrometer helps me tweak everything to keep the environment between 45%-50% humidity.
Humidity control is very important in many woodworking shops but it is critical when making musical instruments. The thin wood used in stringed instruments can warp or split easily with changes of environment. Some slight movement in a fingerboard can cause an instrument to become difficult to play.
By building instruments in a environment of 45%-50% humidity the final instrument will be fairly stable in more humid environments and won’t react too quickly to somewhat lower levels of humidity.
Still, it is important to use a humidifier if you live somewhere with low humidity or if the air in your home is very dry. You can keep the instrument in a case with an instrument humidifier or keep a room for your instruments at the proper humidity.
Some early signs of an instrument drying out are:
The ends of the frets feel sharp (the fingerboard has shrunk)
The action suddenly feels different (the fingerboard has moved)
Noticing buzzing on frets that wasn’t there a few days before (see above)
Humps, warps and other distortions in the top, back etc.
If caught early returning the instrument to proper humidity will soon reverse the problems. If the instrument is not returned to a proper environment damage can very likely occur. You’ll notice major warping, cracks, etc.
Now I am off to true the sole of my favorite wooden jack plane, check the humidity of my shop and get back to work!
When I was a teenager an older friend gave me a very helpful piece of advice.
He said, “You are a creative person and you may find that you don’t fit in mainstream culture. This can make you feel like there is something wrong with you, but really, it’s just that you are creative. You won’t necessarily be happy with the things that make other people happy. It may not be easy but you”ll find your way.”
This was some of the best advice I have ever received.
A common thread among the creative people I know is passion; a passion that drives them to prioritize that which they are passionate about.
Passion and creativity are not limited to music, crafts, art, etc.. The objects and objectives of passion are endless.
To follow passion one will make trade-offs.
The creative, passionate person will not feel alive unless they are expressing creativity and passion.
With all this comes a need for balance.
And there will be surprises.
And I think I already said something about trade-offs.
It’s all part of the adventure.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundred of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”
I have read a several books written by musicians, historians and mystics who have expressed that the origins of what is considered musical is based on principles found within the natural world.
One of the more interesting features of this book are the musical transcriptions of bird songs, the sounds of various animal, and the rhythm and tonal inflection of human speech.
I include a few of the transcriptions below.
“It will always prove to be true that when a person takes no heed of rhythm, whether he does right or wrong, good or evil, in either case a wrong rhythm will make him fail. For rhythm is not only a law to which nature is subjected, but it is something that maintains things as they are and gives things and beings the power to continue to live and to progress.”
Woodworker Qing made elaborately carved wooden bell stands.
When others saw the completed bell stands, they were startled and thought they must have been created by supernatural beings.
The Marquis of Lu saw one of them and asked: “What special art (artistic skill) do you have to be able to do this?”
He replied, “Your humble servant is merely an artisan. What special artistic ability could I have?
However, I do use one system.
When I’m about to create a bell stand, I’m careful not to expend too much of my vital energy, so I have to first settle my mind and heart in calmness.
For three days I prepare myself by giving up on any ideas of praise or rewards for my work.
The next five days I prepare by not being concerned whether my work will be criticized or considered to be not perfect enough.
Then for seven days I prepare myself by forgetting about the prescribed shapes of things including the shape of my own body. By that time I’ve lost all consideration as to what the royal court would demand of me, concentrate completely on my task, and outside influences just disappear.
Then I enter the mountain forests and observe the naturalness of the heavens. By seeing that all the shapes around me are complete of themselves, I can envision a completed bell stand. At that point I can actually start working with my hands, but not until then.
It’s because I use the heavens to fit perfectly with the heavens that some suspect my tools were used by spirits. That’s all there is to it!”