Saturday, May 10, 2008

At our home, alongside the Monterey Bay, May is a month of opposites! The weather can be sunny, warm, and fragrant with the scent of flowers and blossoms one day, then foggy, cold, and windy, with only the scent of the heater and wood dust in my shop the next. I can be getting a lot of work done one day, then wondering where the time went and why I didn't seem to get anything done the next.

But in retrospect, I see a lot of new work on my walls and shelves.I completed four more mini-hog nose psalteries, so I have six to take to the Bellevue, San Francisco, and Sausalito shows later this summer.

I also completed another Germanic Rote, a lyre in the style of the 6th or 7th century one found in a warrior's grave somewhere in the Black Forest. It's of highly figured flamed maple (sometimes called tiger maple) and black walnut. The pegs are maple with doubled faces with square tops for a tuning key. I created a carved tuning key similar to ones used on old Saxon-style rotes. It also has two faces.

Because of the two faces on each peg and the tuning key, I call this piece "Janus". Janus was, in Roman mythology, the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. He was always shown with two faces.

I've only seen one example of the Black Forest rote in old books, and the actual one was reported destroyed when the museum was bombed on World War II. The Saxon style of rote, on the other hand, has been found in many burial mounds in England, from the 1800s up to the most recent, the Prittlewell rote found in 2001. You can see both styles of rote on my web site at

I have been carving quite a bit lately. Besides all the faces on
"Janus," I've been carving a lot of folk art pieces, mainly spoons and spurtles. These are all salvaged and scrap pieces of wood I can't use on musical instruments, but they are great for tasting and stirring implements. These are a few I just completed. There are around a dozen more on my workbench.
As you can see, even though I have days when I feel like nothing's getting done, things are getting done. Today, I voiced and put together five more pipes for my "Chapter House Portative Organ." I'm also getting ready to bend some wood for a new dulcimer, and carve more on my "Rebekulele," a combination of medieval rebec set up and played like a ukulele, an idea that came out of my fertile (some say rotting) mind last year.

Enough for now. It's late and I still need to play a little computer solitaire.

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