Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The right tool for the job

The first power tool I really learned to use was a bandsaw, since my first extended experience with power tools was when I learned to build stringed instruments in college. Maybe a Dremel tool was first, now that I think of it, but the fact is that bandsaws are essential to luthiery because they can make cuts like the ones above, where I started making the maple cap for the gourd banjo I'm working on.

This is a nice old cast iron bandsaw that my friend Wayne found in his barn and sold to me when he was cleaning out old stuff before he moved. I thought it was rusty and possibly hopeless, and it sat in my basement for five years until I needed to make a curved cut in rosewood for a guitar bridge, and I discovered that it was just very, very dirty, but the bearings were greased and the motor still worked great. Mechanically it looked a bit vintage but still it was a very solid tool. The blade was even sharp. But I recall that when I was cutting the little part, it seemed to heat up a lot and burned the wood. I finished that part by hand and (odd for me) put the experience out of my mind, until last month when I tried to cut out the banjo spine. The blade was really smoking and not really cutting at all, so I found other ways to make the spine and determined that I must get a new blade.

It was when I got on the Internet to find a new blade that I found out that the 78.5" length of the blade of this saw is associated with meat-cutting bandsaws. Oh, so that blade was sharp, it was just designed to cut frozen meat, not maple. The mechanism is precisely the same, however, and now that I have a sharp new wood-cutting bandsaw blade I can at last get some work done with this thing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Asters and gallardia in bloom...I have always been surprised how the prairie blooms well into the fall. Younger plants whose parents bloomed in July throw out some impressive color in Indian summer here.

Elsewhere in the prairie, I am planting many, many divots of (so far) lupine and sticky geranium. Many species yet to go. Mainly I am planting in the southeast part of the property. This is where a fire from the east burned about half of the entire property, back in 1997 or so. I somehow took this as the call to plant native grass all through the area, but I was overwhelmed by the weeds that exploded along with the grass. Over the last six years, I have been very aggressive about taking the invasive species out, and I was surprised this year as it became clear that I had cleared it pretty well, and grass I planted last year has started to fill in very nicely, after most of what I had put in the first time years ago had been lost along with the weeds. Time to start putting in prairie plants!

This is looking in a vaguely southwest direction...the dirt area in front of that ponderosa pine has received a lot of the seed varieties I have planted this year, including early spring flowers, like deliphinium and blue-eyed Mary that I wanted to try seeding in summer, soon after their seeds were mature in nature. This entire area (as well as the acre or so behind me and to either side of this image) will be getting more native grasses soon as well, but currently is getting hundreds of little divots with 2-3 seeds in each one. After the geraniums I will start in on Rocky Mountain sunflower. And paintbrush, and cinquefoil, and...