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Friday, April 28, 2017

Bonsai: Restyling a fallen tree

This tree was one of my grandfather's favourites- it started out as the winner of the annual club Style of the Year competition in 1997. It was later exhibited at an international exhibition in Pretoria in 2003. Since I inherited it last year, I've been nervous to do too much work on it. I shortened some of the very obviously out of proportion branches, and lifted it out of the pot to rake out the roots and introduce a little fresh soil underneath. I also attempted an approach graft to try and get some lower growth as the tree had gotten very leggy over the years. Here it is today:


In preparation for a demo I'm doing at my club in September, I spent a bit of time mocking up some virtual options. In all cases I've rotated the main stem over closer to the horizontal and looked at either a long shallow bowl or a freeform slab. Finding a pot this size in a style I want will be anotehr story, but it's a few years away from a final pot- I want to get it into a deeper training pot next season so that it can grow with a bit if vigour.

Option 1: tidying up some of the stems/branches, jinning back or removing one or two others and then refining the foliage a bit
Option 2: some additional jinning, removal of excess branches and styling of foliage into more 'traditional' horizontal pads
 Option 3: Drastic shorting and removal of stem, lots of jin on what's left, a little bit of  refining with what's left. I think this goes too far but sometimes looking at an extreme option is a good way to understand what's possible and what works.
Option 4: Similar to option 2: some jins, thinning out of unnecessary branches, some additional growth.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Infrared KonTiki

 When the rain stopped on Sunday, I pulled out my Infrared camera and got a few shots of the Scout rafts on the water at Arrowe Park for KonTiki 2016.







Friday, May 13, 2016

Fitting a pickup in a Yamaha GL1 Guitalele

I was given a Yamaha Guitalele for Christmas in 2014 (because my wife is awesome like that), and I've been using it as a fun guitar for use at home and on camp. I'm looking at playing it at church, but to do that I need a pickup. Having looked around, I rejected the locally available generic piezo pickup options, and ordered a Fishman Isys system on eBay, because Fishman provide a completely system with great installation instructions including templates for all the cutouts, and a pre-wired pickup.


The system has three components- the pickup, the preamp, and the battery box and output jack. The preamp is intended to be installed on a flat surface, while the battery box has a slightly curved face. I started by printing the cutout template, checking the preamp fitted the template, then finding a relatively flat spot on the bass side of the lower bout to install it. Using a Dremel with a cutting wheel, and a set of jeweler's files, I cut the cutout to the template shape, then checked the fit of the preamp, filing the shape to fit.

Next was the battery box, with a more complex cutout. At the same time, I marked the pop for the screw holes, which I then drilled plot holes for. Meranti is brittle and tends to split of you attempt,to drive a screw without a pilot hole.

Next up is the under-saddle piezo transducer, which is installed after drilling a 2.5mm hole off to one side of the bridge, then passing it up from inside the body.


The saddle then needs to be lowered by 1.6mm- I marked off the height on both ends of the saddle, then sanded the base down until it reached the right height. All that remains is to assemble and string up.

All in all, it went smoothly, and the Guitalele sounds great acoustically and plugged in. Unfortunately,there is an occasional buzz, which might be my poor skills in setting the saddle. The Fishman set is design for a full-sized guitar, so there is a lot of loose cable rattling around inside the body, which might be also contributing to the buzz. I will probably shorten and re-solder these cables.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fretless pickup mule

After a long break, I picked up the parts of my fretless project bass and moved towards completion this weekend. First step was to mount all the hardware on the neck, and test it out on my existing Squier James Johnston bass while I was busy.  
After that, I mounted the neck and bridge onto a piece of scrap timber, ready to experiment with pickup placement. Leo Fender used a rig like this to place the Precision, Jazz and Stingray pickups, finding the right spot by trial and error. I will use his positions as a starting point, using this useful graphic as a starting point:


 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Owl House

 The Owl House is a museum in Nieu Bethesda, an isolated town in the Karoo. This house was converted into an artwork by Helen Martins, working with a number of assistants, notably Koos Malgas. A long trip down a dusty road is worthwhile for the sight of this extraordinary house and garden. Some of my IR photographs from the trip are here.
The camel train looking towards the East
A traveller pointing to the East


Cat at entrance to the Camel Yard

A figure, said to represent Miss Helen, looking East
Giraffe Necks


Multiple exposure collage of all IR photographs I took at the Owl House