Daniel Joseph Betsill, luthier, et al
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
The pecan dulcimer is complete. On the left is my original "deGive" dulcimer which I used as a pattern for the new instrument. See this page for build log.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
After many months away from the workshop. . .some new dulcimers. I am making two identical instrumnets based on my "DeGive" pattern dulcimer out of pecan planks culled from one of my architectural projects. This pecan is from Texas and wound up as the paneled study in a house on Sea Island, Georgia.
I am doing something new in the way I carve the peghead. Usually in these 19th c. pattern instruments the pegbox is carved from a single, solid piece of wood. But since I am working with planks that are only about an inch thick I have to join two pieces together to get the desired shape. So i'm taking this opportunity to rout out the peg channed before seaming the two pieces together.
With the piece turned upside down on the router I'm shaping out the channel "blind" as it were. Constantly checking to see how close I am to my pencil shape.
Since the peghead is tapered but the cheeks want to remain a consistant thickness I am removing material on the inside seam befre joining the two halves.
With the tapering complete. One down 3 to go.
General view of the work including a Hummel-shaped dulcimer I'm making out of maple. My guitar project nearby stands ignored.
Friday, May 5, 2017
At long last some time in the worksop and a new posting. A friend of mine gave me the metal table top and i made a base inspired by the original which was in metal. The original had these tapering, curved legs which are easy enough to replicate in wood but I found that assembling it was the challenge as there are no square edges or right angles to effectivly clamp. The key was using lag bolts to pull the legs into the x-brace. Makes a nice little industrial nod to the original too. This is Killz to hide the pine knots. i'll paint it a bright color TBD. Below is the process of making the legs.
And below the making of the half-lap x-brace
Sometime in 2016
This is what I'm doing instead of working in the workshop. Working.
Sunday, July 17, 2015
Working on a walnut shelf with a built-up construction to get an overall 4" thickness without the weight of a solid piece of wood. First step: create distressed finish with mirror shine for new lead holder. Instant history.
The shelf and a similarly constructed backplate is the visual substrate for an antique decorative cast iron coal burning fireplace surround with an angled apron at top.
After resawing 4/4 walnut planks I'm having to make a 3-edged miter. This is not easy, especially when the long pieces warped after making the cut.
Friday, March 18, 2015
This is one of the first banjos I made which became a wall-hanger after I made some better instruments. But it's getting a second life with a new tailpiece. Although I made it with a 10" head I naïvely copied the fret pattern of an 11" instrument. Which put the bridge really close to the bottom of the head. Besides negativly impacting the sound it just looked bad. But I had the idea to fit it with a combination bridge/tailpiece which was found on some of the earliest gourd instruments. Not a feature that persisted into the manufactured-rim instruments of the post-Civil War but it's a folky nod to something a rural craftsman might do and this instrument is certainly folky. Also in the aesthetic department I'm making it a "moon shape" to echo the curves of the headstock. If it doesn't improve the sound at least it will look better hanging on the wall.
Surprisingly it doesn't sound any worse than when the tailpiece and bridge were separated. This instrument is never going to sound great due to other reasons, but at least now it looks cool.
Sunday, March 6, 2015
Workshop visits are so infrequent these days even the most mundane tasks get documented. Relocating my mini lathe has prompted me to level the bench top it sits on after many years of damage. Too wide to fit through the bench planer so it gets done the old fashiond way.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
It's getting harder to get in the workshop these days. Got about an hour in today and got the Honduran mahogany neck for a flamenco rough cut. and the Torres form waxed. This is the last of the "variegated" beeswax I made with van Dyke crystals from the cradle project.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Putting railroad spike 5th string capos on a couple of banjos. I used a 1/32" Dremel engraving bit to tap the holes. Found that putting them directly under the string was the way to go for minimal deflection. Just had to file down a bit to prevent buzzing.
The tavern sign is complete.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Progress on the tavern sign. All pieces are made and assembled. Just need to sand that bondo and get the primer on. See the furniture page for more progress photos.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Progress on the vihuela. See here for build log.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Progress on the vihuela and the sweetgum bowls are complete.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
After a long hiatus, work resumes. My drawing for a 12-string guitar in the spirit of an early blues instrument (but with the Torres body shape) and a set of bowls made from sweetgum from the property of a popular country artist now residing in Leiper's Fork, TN. Also just visible in the upper left of the drawing shot is the back pattern for the vihuella which I am finally starting.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
The Bolduc House cradle is complete! The only remaining piece to add is the actual hardware which we are having made by a blacksmith in Stone Mountain. I have painted black hardware-store hooks and eyes in place temporarily. I created a page for the project here.
To keep the finish 100% natural I'm using Van Dyke crystals (ground walnut husks) and a beeswax mixture I put together with turpentine and Rottenstone and some of the stain mixed in. This was such a pleasant experience making my own finishes and not having noxious fumes that I think I will start using this finish on my instruments.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Much mortise and tennoning later the frame is assembled on the cradle project. We're one month away from baby arrival!
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Progress on the Bolduc House Cradle. The original appears to have some sort of tack securring each intersection on the basket. The original probably had its rails mortised to slide the staves through, unlike my version that has the rails built up out of pieces (the laminations also visible in this shot before I cleaned them up). So my tack is doing double duty by keeping the stave from sliding out but I'm using a brass tack that's just a little longer than the assembly so I can crimp it down on the inside face to ensure that the pieces never pull apart. The head embedded on the outside face makes a nice detail. God is in the details.
If French colonials had tightbond and 3" drywall screws, would they use them? I think yes.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Progress on the Bolduc House Cradle. Test fitting the ribs to the rails.
The continuing story of my un-treadle lathe. This time I've had to clamp the tailstock outside the bed to get the 42" length I need for this piece.
Beginning to turn the posts of the frame. Kind of an unfortunate place for a knot. I could go back to the lumber store and get another piece. But if I was doing this in the wilderness of pre-Louisiana Purchase colonial France I would probably not want to go out and cut down another tree. We'll call this a beauty mark.
While cutting strips for the fillets of the cradle basket I came across some insect holes that were perfectly spaced apart. Carpenter ants?
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Progress on the Bolduc House Cradle. Each rail is mortised into the end panels
A layup of the ribs and rails
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Progress on the Bolduc House Cradle. Both foot assemblies are now complete. This is a fit-up of the basket with two thin layers of quartersawn white oak making the hoops sandwiched between two rail pieces with a fillet.
Bending two strips of quartersawn oak over a form to make one of the ribs.
Friday, July 18, 2014
The Arts and Crafts end tables are complete. Off to Missouri! See furniture page for project details
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Cutting the braces for the Arts and Crafts end tables. It's wasteful but I'm cutting the grain at a 45 for maximum strength.
One of the two tables is complete and 'in the white'
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Turning the bun feet for the French colonial cradle. One down, three to go! Turning two at a time. I'll finish the head profile and do the final sanding after both are roughed out when I can worry less about deflection. I'll round the corners of the flats off the lathe.
Wednesday, June 19, 2014
My drawing of a cradle found at the Bolduc House in St. Genevieve, Missouri. Below, a photo of the room in which the cradle resides.
Most of the original crib is white oak, however the posts are some kind of closed-grain wood like cherry. I found some 3" thick cherry at Carlton McClendon which had its own story: hand adz marks. Who knows how old this is or where it came from, but it's old.
Tweaking the shape of the end panels.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Progress on the Arts and Crafts end tables. The brackets are attached with biscuits.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Progress on the Arts and Crafts end tables. This shot doesn't look much different from the last one but more parts are finished and the first table is actually being glued up.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
The Vargueno is complete.
Monday,May 26, 2014
My new home office requires a desk. I finally have a reason to make one of these Spanish Renaissance chest-desks. The front panel folds down to be the writing surface and interior is usually filled with a warren of highly decorated drawers. My interior will be open to fill with monitor and tower. The base is greatly simplified, opposed to the barley twist turnings and carvings of the originals. This is another one of my patented 2x4-made-in-a-day projects.
The rails of the base are profiled and tapped for dowels that will hold the columns in place.
Shortcut tip: drill out the corners of the mortise to help prevent splits when chiseling the mortise square.
The base getting a test fit before glue-up. each tenon will be pinned with a 1/4" dowel
The down-and-dirty way to make a flat panel assembly: run the grooves on the table saw, stopping short of each end so as not to expose the cut on the ends, then using a biscuit. The joint can be further reinforced by tapping a small dowel through each end of the biscuit like a pinned tenon.
Thursday,May 8, 2014
Beginning a sign for my Aunt's property in South Georgia. Inspired by 18th c. stagecoach tavern signs with a lettering style popular in the 1940's when the schoolhouse was built.
The main plate had a previous life as a a door I made out of butt-joined 2x6s. It was rustic, so I'm planing out the mis-aligned seams. The bottom rail is drawn out on a surfaced 2x6.
Bondo: the woodworker's friend. Seams and tearout are are filled. I'm taking every precaution to make it weatherproof. There's a reason signs these days are made out of plastic.
Sunday,May 4, 2014
A general view of work on two Arts-and -Crafts bedside tables for my friends Billy and Cecillia. They have to be finished before the baby arrives. I don't know how I'm going to get these to St. Louis.
A better picture of the candle stand, AKA Shannon's bedside table.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Work on the candlestand is complete. Two atmospheric evening shots in-situ. The top box wound up being taller which made the legs shorter than drawn to keep the piece at 30". And I went with the turtle instead of the bird.
Fitting the dovetalis. Ryobi product placement.
Tuesday,April 22, 2014
A Williamsburg-inspired candle stand in progress. David Byrne looks on.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
A spalted sweetgum bowl. One of a pair made from a client's homesite in Serenbe, Georgia.
Monday, March 3, 2014
An end table design with arts-and-crafts and chinese mashup style.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Turning a coat rack base. See furniture page for more process photos
Monday, January 27, 2014
The Kay Kraft is "restored". I'll call this a refurbishment since the aim was not to take it back to factory but celebrate the years of use and make it playable again. I'm still going to replace the missing bits of purfling on the soundhole and horn. Hanging with my Kay Kraft mandolin.
My pickguard is mahogany but ebonized and then rubbed out a bit. Hides the worst of the damage easily.
The frets were so badly indented on the second string 1st and 3rd position that the recrowning didn't help. But this shot shows an experiment filling in the indentation with superglue. Worked pretty good. Sure beats pulling the frets. Looks so natural, only my luthier knows!
Thursday, January 23, 2014
New year's resolution: fix this Kay Kraft. I have had this instrument for 20 years. I saw a big ol' picutre of Patterson Hood from Drive-By-Truckers in this month's Garden and Gun sporting a Kay Kraft just like mine. . except his clearly is playable. Looks pretty cool! Wish I had one! Wait, I do have one. I got this for probably about $75 from Lark in the Morning when I was in college just on sight of the tiny black and white picture in their catalog. Never seen a body shape like that before. Had to have it. It was listed in 'fair' condition. What it had was a completely shot fingerboard, a freaking BULLET hole and a hack wood-putty patch job. On top of that the top was worn through TO THE LININGS on about 2 inches of the upper bout. I discovered this only after peeling back about ten layers of dark varnish. Long story short, it went on the wall.
It was missing most of the fretboard binding which I replaced easily enough and am now - 20 years later - trimming. This shot also shows the sorry state of the frets. I think I'm going to leave the finger grooves in the rosewood and just recrown the frets. That wood is so brittle that pulling the frets I might as well replace the entire fingerboard. It's worth trying to keep for the playing history and historic frets.
The body. . .well. . .not attractive. There was a time when I though, my God, how am I going to cut out that damage and patch in a new square? It appears stable though - thanks to all the gloop inside the body - so I think a nice big pick guard is what is needed here. I may even leave the partial stripping look to tell the story. Just need to replace that soundhole binding. Note wing nut and sliding dovetail neck attachment that facilitated easy neck angle adjustment on these instruments.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
A couple of items finally photographed form earlier this year: a painting of Florence and a dining table for my Cousin's new house. Which is now 2 years old.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
My first resonator banjo is complete. See this page for project log and scroll down to "From Start to Finish: A Bluegrass Banjo".
Monday, December 16, 2013
Parts of the banjo are finished with a faded blonde shellac finish.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Trimming the peghead of the banjo with kinfe and files. See this page for project log.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Turning the back of the bluegrass banjo. See this page for project log.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Having to lower the rails on my un-treadle lathe to accommodate the 13" diameter backplate for the banjo commission.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
A set of Stockhausen slit drums ares complete.
Monday, October 28, 2013
The tenor cittern is complete.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Progress on the Stockhausen slit drums. The top plate is routed, shaped, then the slot sawn to create the two 'tongues'.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
The beginnings of a set of Stockhausen slit drums: planks of 4/4 sapele. The top board is planed.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Attaching the fingerboard of the tenor cittern.
Pegs in the making for the tenor cittern. I've learned to avoid tailstock pressure whenever possible. So I rough turn only between centers then cut the top waste off to hold the head end in a chuck while I turn the shaft, then flip it around to turn the head. Complicated, but less split pegs.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
The lyre is complete. See this page for build log.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Fret dressing on the cittern in progress. The nearest fret is finished with a domed polish. The next frets still have a bur from leveling. On citterns, the lower the fret , the better the intonation. Especially when the fingerboard is not scalloped.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Beginning a commission for a closed-back banjo. See this page for build log. Scroll down to 'A Bluegrass Banjo'.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Progress on the Sutton Hoo lyre. See this page for build log
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Where cittern fretboards come from: a block of Swiss Pearwood.
I've finally made a little miter box for my fretwork.
The tenor cittern has the top on and the fretgoard is resting in place, fretting in progress.
The lyre yoke is attached and trimmed. A block of wood awaits to be turned into a bridge
Attaching the facing pieces to the yoke in plane with the soundboard
The table spars are attached to the tenor cittern. This is the highest tension I have put on one of these instruments: an octave mandolin tuning in 5ths, so these are some beefy bars.
Monday, August 5, 2013
I bought this tool to draw entasis on column shafts for my day job. But it works great for cittern brace arch drawing too!
The lyre gets the yoke attached with a slotted joint. The cut of the wood is not very attractive so I think I'm going to laminate some quartersawn facing in the opposite direction in the same plane as the soundboard grain.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The DeGive dulcimer fretboard is glued to the top with staple frets in place.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Work in progress: The lyre is ready to have the yoke attached; The tenor cittern has the top rough cut and is waiting on the top spar to be shaped and set in place; The DeGive dulcimer is ready for its top and fretboard.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
The current DeGive Dulcimer: a detail of the end block showing a couple of vestigial nail holes.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Work commences on my replica of the Sutton Hoo Lyre, made from the DeGive House wood. See this page for build log.
The neck and back are attached to the rib and I can do the final shaping of the heel of the tenor cittern. This shot helps to show the scale of the instrument against the baroque guitar body to the right. The baroque guitar body which will someday be an instrument but for the past five years has been a filing cabinet.
Tuesday, July 2,2013
Carving the heel of the tenor cittern
Thursday, June 27, 2013
The Heaven's Door is back in my workshop to correct some damage done by the great GSU Music School Flood of 2011 and I'm taking the opportunity to revisit the panel hanging method. This is now the third iteration of the system to hold the heavy plates at the nodes without dampening the resonance. The first method was with swaged wire rope that proved to be overengineered and warped the frame when the instrument contracted in a dry interior. The second method was a less elegant tensioned fiber rope setup which was difficult to adjust and relied on twine to hold the plates back to the frame at each seam. This new idea is much simpler, with sticks running along the nodes of the plates and screws tapped through them directly into the plates. The Door has really come full circle; because the original German Door used bolts at the back of the plates to hold them to the frame. The German design, however, fixed the bolts at the four corners of the plates and ignored the acoustic advantage of holding the plate at the fundamental node. My fix points tap into dowels, which I filled in at the previous rope holes at the node locations. Just two screws set about 2 1/2" down from the top of each plate lets them 'hang' and resonate freely, separated from the stick by felt pads. This system means no tensioning of a 'through rope' and holds the plates in place without the need for adjustment. If only I had thought of this in 2005.
Don't cross the streams, Ray! ! ! On a cittern it's possible to have a continuous rib rather than two that's typical on a guitar. The disadvantage is you wind up having to warp it in the process. Which then gets creativly corrected. Venkman, shorten your stream, I don't want my face burned off. See this page for more images
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Laying up the cherry and maple staves of the back of the tenor cittern.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Work on a tenor cittern commences. I'm making the neck shorter for an octave mandolin tuning.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
A celtic mandola I slipped in for myself between commissions. It's walnut with Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and peghead veneer. I wanted an instrument that would be at home in the 19th c. so I used friction pegs and brass frets.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
The symphonia is complete! See here for project log.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
A day off for bowlturning. See here for project log and scroll down to 'A Beechwood Bowl.'
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Progress on the symphonia. See here for project log.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Some recent activity with Stockhausen's Heaven's Door. See the Instruments page for project description. The Door was set to be performed at Lincoln Center in NYC yesterday, but unfortunatly Hurricane Sandy put the skids on and the door is headed back to Atlanta unplayed. A reschedule is in the works. In the mean time, WABE did this article on the piece:
Saturday, July 21, 2012
I am beginning my research on the 16th c. vihuela de mano for a commission. I've always wanted to make one of these instruments, having danced around them chronologically with my study of the pre-renaissance vielles, the chitarra battente and the baroque guitar. On the page I have created I will compile my research of the three surviving documented examples, a survey of the iconography and of the revival instruments. Click here.
Workshop in a closet.
Online Chap Book:
did the Countenance Divine
I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.
-Henry David Thoreau
Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.
- J.R.R Tolkien, from the Lord of the Rings
Live with the gods. And he does live with the gods who constantly shows to them that his own soul is satisfied with its daimon, that portion of himself that Zeus has given to every man to be his guardian and guide and that his soul does all that the daimon wishes. And this is every man's understanding and reason.
And there the sunset skies unseald, Like lands he never knew, /Beyond to-morrows battle-field /Lay open out of view /To ride into.
-D.G. Rossetti, from The Staff and Script
from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,/ Their sober wishes never learn'd
Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
He slept thus until late morning, while the pillows arranged themselves into a large flat plain on which his now quieter sleep would wander. On these white roads, he slowly returned to his senses, to daylight, to reality - and at last he opened his eyes as does a sleeping passenger when the train stops at a station.
-Bruno Schultz, from The Cinnamon Shops
Deus Mysterium tremendum et fascinans.
Are you angry with him whose armpits stink? Are you angry with him whose mouth smells foul? What good does this anger do you? He has such a mouth, he has such armpits: it is necessary that such an emination must come from such things. But the man has reason, it will be said, and he is able, if he takes pains, to discover wherein he offends. . .there is no need of anger, the stuff of tragic actors and whores.
Green aisles of Pullman cars/ Soothe me like trees/ Woven in old tapestries/ I love to watch the stars/ Remote above the earth/ In watery light,/ while in the lower berth./ I whirl through the night.
-William Rose Benet
With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.
full streams feed on flower of rushes, /Ripe grasses trammel a traveling
foot, /The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes/
Both music and dance are voices of the way.
know, I have so little to say here this evening, /but theres so
many things that have been said over and over again /that need to be said
/again and again. /And, its too small a planetit grows smaller
all the time in terms of travel time. /We are becoming one family. /We
share each others technology and culture and poetry and philosophy.
/And we have to begin to think of ourselves as a family. /We have to begin
to enjoy the difference in the human family /like we enjoy the differences
in a garden of flowers. /And theres a race onand the real
race and the real ideological conflict is between those universalists
who want to think in terms of mankind /and those reversions to barbarity
and tribalism, /who are still hung up in ancient, anachronistic hatreds
/like we see in Ulster, like we see in Israel, Palestine. /That we can
see in so many parts of the world. /Without some system of law /were
lost. /And we cant have a system of law without a sense of community.
/And we cant have a sense of community without the underpinning
of recognition of ourselves as parts of one family. /And theres
very little time left to muster /this broader vision against the ancient,
conditioned reflexes and psychoses of mankind and his homicidal tendencies.
/But either we learn to live together, /or we die together. /Is it necessaryis
it necessary to have to repeat /after 2,000 years all the things you people
read in Sunday school?! /Howhow absent-minded/how forgetful!
--I.F. Stone, collected from "A Maverick's View of the Nation and the World" (1983) by composer Scott Johnson for "How it Happens"
The richest of men is not more fortunate than he that has enough for the day, unless his good fortune attend him to the grave and he finish his life in honour. Many wealthy men are fortunate, whilst many of only moderate riches are blessed by fortune. The wealthier but less fortunate man is indeed better furnished with means to gratify his passions and to bear the blow of a great calamity. But if the other is less able to do these two things, his happy life saves him from the need to do them.
-Solon to Croesus, Herodotus (I, 32)
For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place and the like.
Here I am deaf and dumb. When I walk through the streets I see every person in his shop employed about something. One makes shoes, another hats, a third sells cloth and everyone lives by his labor. I say to myself, which of all these things can you do? Not one. I can make a bow or an arrow, catch fish, kill game, and go to war, but none of these is of any use here. . .I should be a piece of furniture, useless to my nation, useless to the whites, and useless to myself.
- Little Turtle on his visit to Philadelphia, 1797