Thursday, October 15, 2009

Polymer Clay Uke Prototype

Here's a first go at unifying my love of all things small, Ukulele's and polymer clay. A miniature uke which will probably become a badge (I can't bring myself to say broach). Not a bad little number about 2.5 inches. Looks a little cartoonish which I like. Note the wood grain finish on the body and the nylon looking strings. Frets were a bit tricky but overall I think it's a good start. I learned about 10 things to do differently next time so that's success.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cigar Box Ukulele

Over the last year I've been getting back to playing guitar and have thought about making some simple instruments from wood. It was while surfing for home made instruments that I came across the world of the cigar box ukulele and the related cigar box guitar, cookie tin banjo etc... These folk instruments have been traditionally made by those lacking money or, I guess, access to the 'real' thing but in recent times they have become something of a craft object and all round cool instrument.

I decided to give it a go and make myself a cigar box uke from scratch. Because I did not know anything about making instruments, let alone the finer points of being a luthier and not having tools, the construction was fairly gradual. First I looked through the web and Wellington library for some simple instructions. I got three sets of plans and they all suggested different ideas which was good at my stage of understanding. Next Charity set me up with two cigar boxes from Moore Wilsons. I visited Alister's Music and got some great advice about getting the measurements right and they sent me on to Weta Guitars in Newtown who were really helpful in explaining the basics of fretting, and kitting me out with some Jarrah for the fretboard.

I decided on a Kauri neck and sourced that from Capital City timber on Thorndon Quay. Getting the bridge, nut and tuning pegs from Alister's completed the basic parts needed (Oh yeah - I got a bit of pine to strengthen the box).

I should point out that I did not know what any of the above words meant two months ago so please don't be intimidated by stuff like bridge and fret.

I had to source some tools as I went but the only specialist tool I purchased was a fretting saw from iconic USA luthier supplier Stewart MacDonald. I totally recommend this tool.

I also ordered a heap of ukulele fret wire from Australian Luthiers Suppliers. I don't think there is a luthier supply store as such in N Z

Friends and contacts were crucial, especially Jeff and his excellent bandsawing of the neck and John for his precision drilling of the neck joint.

As the photos show, the finished instrument is stunning (to me anyway) to look at and I'm happy to report that it plays really well too - a bit more twangy and light than the other ukuleles I've played. I'm definitely going to make some more and keep trying new ideas and designs. Down the track I want to build some sort of banjo and mandolin as well. I'm not sure if I will have a go at a hand made body.

I am really interested to know if there are any cigar box instrument makers out there in Wellington or further afield or even people wanting to give it a go. I can't believe that in the Ukulele capital of New Zealand there aren't a few DIY cigar box luthiers out there! Meanwhile my next project is a patch up of a $3 ukulele found at the tip shop.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blending in

One of the questions I get about the blender is along the lines of "is this a gimic?; are you actually going to use this as a legit appliance?" I'm happy to report that so far the blender has become part of the appliance scene in the Stuart household. So far there have been afternoon smoothies and grinding peanuts for a satay sauce. In summer when outdoor dining and cool foods become more the go, I'm expecting even more every day use. The blender has turned out to be really

One of the great things has been taking friends at the house 'out the back for a blend'. It's just fun and I think most of the neighbours like living next to someone who is a bit eccentric.

The blender is a lot quicker to set up than I thought which is making it realistic to pop out to the shed for a few revs.

On the drawing board for the blender are some shared lunches, street party and birthday party margaritas

Friday, July 24, 2009

This way up

Micah and I had a wonderful afternoon (what is it about the bike blender that brings out the winter sun?) hosting dedicated cyclist Simon Morton of National Radio's this way up show, making an afternoon tea of salsa, hummus and Lassi - all beautiful again. There is a podcast of the blending session at their website.

The show also featured an interview with Tamara Dean who has published a book about the potential of human power including bike power: the human powered home.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blending up a storm

A great blending day! We gave the bike blender and food processor a good work out on cole slaw, beetroot hummus and salsa. All washed down with a mint lassi. It performed really great and everything tasted and looked fantastic as you can see above.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birth of the smoothie revolution

This site is a hitching post for thoughts and projects aimed at making my thinking and actions less straight and more round(ed). For starters that means a bike blender . 

Here are some opening clips of the bike blender getting set up and in action for its inaugural smoothies (berries, banana, milk), which were pretty flash for the middle of winter. All said the blender works great even on the lower revs of the mountain bike. The smoothies were nicely thick without being too chunky and I really think the taste could be superior to an in the wall blender. Can anyone argue against me that non-electric smoothies taste better?