Friday, October 29, 2010
It's been slow going in the workshop lately but having a new baby is a good excuse. Here is homemade ukulele number three nearly all done except a final polish. This is back to the trusted cigar box body - this time a double tray but smaller face which in theory helps with the low tones. The neck is the same piece of recycled Kauri with the purple heart fretboard. So far sounds good - not as mellow as number 1 but even more twangy - it might settle down after a few plays.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I have the preserving bug right now. I've never canned anything before but in the past couple of months I've bottled everything in sight ... It started with Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam from our garden and that got me going, pickled garlic (quite mild straight from the jar) also from our garden, garlic sauce - garden again, rhubarb chutney - parent's garden, blueberry sauce (kind of like cranberry) with PYO blueberries from the very excellent Blueberry Farm up Akatarawa Valley, Hazel nut syrup, and dabbling in liqueurs with a hazelnut liqueur start up, and a blueberry liqueur in the works as well.
This has all been easy and fun so far and really tasty. The hardest bit was trying to find an actual book on preserving. There was very little around: theory A is that it's so basic, why bother telling anyone how to do it?; theory B - no one does it anymore, so no point in producing this type of cookbook.
Anyway I did find an excellent book from the 1980s - Digby Law's Pickle and Chutney Cookbook - which is a dumb name because it's far more comprehensive than pickles (not my favorite) and chutneys (yum). In fact pick any fruit or vegetable and go to the index and there will be some sauce or vinegar, relish etc to drop it into.
It's great to be weaning ourselves more sections in the supermarket - Paul Newman, you're going down next...
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
With coworkers in tow the bike blender got an outing at Wellington's annual celebration of bike commuting. I've been to this breakfast a few times over the years and it seems to be getting more popular and the number of freebies ever more excellent. Awesome. I've always found it the event little bit like going to church - a solidarity with the biking congregation, a bit of an uplifting ritual, but a bit humourless and polite as well. So it was great to be there with the blender to inject a bit of bike culture into the morning. There were heaps of people interested in how it all worked and impressed with the fun of it and the results. We gave away heaps of smoothies which many hard case cyclists simply mixed with their coffee or cereal.
For the record we blended up a straight blueberry banana smoothie with honey, yogurt and milk - really nice, a perfect biker's breakfast.
It was also neat to see Frocks on Bikes folk at the event and one frocker blended a smoothie, red heels and all. On leaving I found a Frocks on Bikes calling card in my riding glove with an instruction to pass it on - so that's pasted above as well.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Even Skiffle Music relies on a solid bass line - enter the tea chest bass. I've been thinking about ways to add some bottom end to all the treble-y instruments I've been getting into lately. Followers of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra or the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will notice that the bass is the only 'foreign instrument allowed in these groups.
Sourcing a tea chest was the hardest part of this project - they are by nature pretty flimsy - kind of the equivalent of those plywood cargo pallets that get smashed up. Like the cargo pallet, the tea chest has been largely replaced by plastic and other less resonant materials. So I was very lucky to find one from a friend, in pretty good shape and with some tea still floating around the cobwebs inside.
The construction was the easiest instrument making job so far - one broom handle, some pretty thick cord, a piece of dowel and a wooden rod - not quite a broom handle but close enough.
I followed this guys instructions and the whole thing took about 20 minutes (my tea chest is exactly the same as his! - strange). After a bit of playing with the cord length she was ready to go.
I have to say that the sound was much much better than I expected. I had spent some demoralising moments 'listening' to tea chest bass infused (note pun) music - basically it was impossible to hear behind the other instruments or sounded like a dull thud. Why would I want to make a tea chest bass that sounded no better than smacking cardboard? But I had an inkling that these instruments would be hard to record faithfully because of their low frequency range, and my tiny laptop speakers would not carry much bass at all.
It really does sound great, very booming but soft and thick, and loud enough to thicken a mix. You can kind of get some notes going as well which should improve with practice. And you don't need to look as uptight as me when you're playing it.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
First there was a ukulele, then someone made a ukulele that looked and sounded like a banjo - banjo-lele, then came the homemade version with a can of sorts - hence can-jo-lele.
Here is an early picture of my own go at a canjolele - tenor with a kauri neck and fancy former fancy biscuit tin hex body (top left in the photo). I wanted to try a tenor to give the podgy fingers a bit more fret space and it is a fair bit bigger than the concert size cigar box uke. The key design difference apart from the body type, is the neck running straight through the body to take string pressure of the flimsy tin. More to come on this one soon as I iron out some wrinkles with the sound.
Bike blenders are a bit of a party piece. Someone can roll up, set up the blender and get Margaritas going. To put this to the southern hemisphere test the bike blender was an addition to my cool (weather) evening birthday. The bike and Margarita ingredients, basic instructions and measurement tabs on the pitcher were all set up and guests really, really got into it - even the non-drinkers helped things along. Each Margarita was about a one minute pedal - pretty easy going and just as well. The first photo shows the fill lines for the mix (Cointreau & tequila mix, lime juice and ice).