Monument: Central Japan
Shiko Munakata (1903 – 1975)
Seen from above, the horse-shoe curve of the endclasp is reasonably straightforward; its just a matter of shaping it on the bending iron. But shaping the vertical plane is more complicated, because it has to keep twisting in order to accommodate the ever-changing vertical contours of the lute body. And just to complicate matters: where the bottom edge of the endclasp picks up the edge of each rib, I must smooth away the ridges.
Difficult, but not impossible. My next attempt, on the next lute, should be easier to navigate.
During the past year, our colony of Greenhood Orchids has expanded: we now have about ninety plants. They clearly like their sheltered home on the lee side of the Boatshed.
Greenhood Ground Orchids are endemic to Fleurieu Peninsula – but I doubt that they occur naturally so close to the ocean. Our Boatshed colony is probably unique, and much cherished.
From time to time the little orchids show their heads above the parapet….just as I do with my Boatshed commentaries. In that sense, I see them as kindred spirits…..
Here is the finest salvage yet – a magnificent length of timber, presumably washed away from the old Rapid Bay jetty. Recent storms have shaken the remaining structure; bits and pieces drift with the current which runs northwards – and these gifts from the ocean are delivered almost to our doorstep….a few hundred yards to the south, where the beach comes to an end.
The length measures 8 1/2 feet by 8 1/2 inches by 3 inches. I think it is what the trade calls ‘Australian Oak’ – which might mean Mountain Ash, or Alpine Ash, or Messmate Stringybark: they have similar characteristics.
No doubt the trees were cut from pristine forests way back, when our native forests seemed never-ending; when there was no notion of careful/selective harvesting and replanting.
All the more reason, now, to treat the driftwood with respect,and use it only for noble purposes. By that I mean: wooden boats, the best of which are surely the most beautiful examples of functional sculpture ever conceived.
I take all these gifts as an unequivocal Message. It is time we revived our boat-building skills, as far as they go, and look to the various castles in the air, inherited and otherwise.
Which is not to say my lute-making is forgotten. On the contrary – in the coming days I hope to glue the Endclasp to the Lute body. It has been a tricky job shaping the correct pattern; fining and refining and muddling through; getting a little bit anxious – but it’s the next and unavoidable step: it has to be taken, so I had better take it.
Winter storms are sweeping in, and there has been a massive shifting of sand. You can see (below) how the Full Moon tides and big waves are eroding the dunes on the western side: sand is dragged seawards, and the edge of the reef retreats accordingly.
For the moment we have a much wider beach.
The old Rapid Bay jetty to the south continues to disintegrate. I am out and about, salvaging what I can. My companions – the Pacific Gulls – drift overhead, intent on their own version of salvaging. It is their livelihood.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost: that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.
I keep Dad’s dream in mind as I do my beach-combing. He built his own castle in the air – his ‘envisioning’ of the Tancook Whaler. Indeed, he went further, by copying the relevant offsets – the heights, breadths and diagonals – onto a large piece of cardboard. The original Tancook Whaler is 41 feet long: too long for the Lady Bay budget, which is very short. But his sons have maintained the dream – and that is why we collect these great lengths of timber. They are gifts from the ocean.
It seems fitting that the old jetty, tethered so long to dry land, will sooner of later enjoy a hard-earned freedom….sailing across Yankalilla Bay by way of the Tancook Whaler: if you like, our deep-water inheritance….
More of that later.
I have been trying my hand at making a Lute Rose. My aim is to reach an acceptable level of competence before tackling the soundboard.
The Rose is a circular decoration in the soundboard, cut with a thin knife or scalpel. One or other decoration has no bearing on the quality of sound; it is simply a tradition.
This is a tricky and challenging business. Fortunately, I have my friend Tim Guster as Consultant. I visit his workshop from time to time, in search of advice or encouragement or comfort -as the case may be.
Tim is a master craftsman and luthier. You can see his work here:
I came away from my last visit armed with scraps of King William Pine and European Spruce. Both woods are suitable for soundboards; Spruce is the traditional material.
At the moment, however, I am experimenting with a scrap of Huon Pine, planed and scraped to one millimetre thickness. After the basic decoration is completed, I will use a tiny chisel to create the relief surface.
Not so easy.
I am hoping that practice does, indeed, make perfect – assuming, of course, the practice involves correct technique. Otherwise, I will be merely acquiring yet another bad habit….
The Luthier Planes (below), made of ebony, are a generous and thoughtful gift from my nieces and nephews. They were manufactured by a famous Chinese company, Mujingpang, and are of excellent quality.
Each plane has a particular function, defined by its shape.
The one with an almost vertical blade can be used on tricky grains, or to refine thicknesses. There are planes for flat, convex and concave surfaces – and finally, a plane with a blade as wide as the body or stock, for getting into edges and corners.
Ebony is an extremely hard and resilient wood. I have no doubt the planes, although tiny (about two inches long) will outlast me – and maintain their working lives for many generations….