Unfinished Business

What a lovely word "business" is: bees are busy, of course, and they are filled with "buzziness"; successful activity begets a noun: "How's business?"; busybodies are always active, although it's assumed they'd be better off minding their own business; and "business-like": now where did that come from?
And, here: "unfinished business". Active motion, interrupted and incomplete, like  a clock stopped but with a wound spring; a drop of oil, a nudge to the pendulum, a change of air perhaps, and tick-tock, tick-tock, busy again: springs uncoil, gears move, escapements escape, hands move, time passes again.

All this, because on a quiet and rainy Sunday afternoon I opened the door to what is euphemistically and rather pompously called "The Showroom" - a small room opening off the workshop where repairs and other small jobs patiently await their turn. (Perhaps "Waiting Room"  would be a better description.) Here's the view which greeted me:


So what is here? The usual suspects:  five chairs, all with broken bones, mostly legs, backs and arms; a nice little oak wall cupboard, and a corner cupoard, mahogany, with a curved door. This is sitting on top of a carved octagonal oak table which has a number of deep cracks in the top. There's also an arts-and-crafty oak sofa with serious joint problems, plus several small items that need fixing. In the background is a cut-down 18th.c. tall-boy, with replacement brasses and a flaking  finish of some hastily applied shellac.
What immediately caught my eye though, was the barely visible little quadrant of light wood sticking out from behind this same tall-boy, like a small ear. This is the unfinished business in question - not that there aren't many more examples, but this is a particularly bothersome one. (Probably rated number two on the all-time list of unfinished business. Still at the top of chart, where it's been since 1983, is the unfinished staircase in the house, up and down which we climb many times every day.) 

Almost out of sight (but not mind) the small ear belongs to the top of a double bass.

Here's the top in full view, along with other bits and pieces. Perhaps hauling all this stuff out will inspire me. (Well, it does in a way, but without any immediate result):


Visible in the foreground is the top, shaped and hollowed. There's still a little more wood to remove from the inside, but it's not something you'd want to rush......

In the background are the bending forms for the sides, which are technically known as the "bouts"; one has a curious little copper chimney poking out of the back, the remnant of a failed experiment involving a vacuum pump, rubber sealing strips and vinyl sheet. The bending forms are standing on the construction jig for the body of the bass.
All that's needed is some nicely figured maple saw-cut veneer for the sides, and two book-matched wedges to form the back of the instrument. These have proved to be remarkably elusive: occasionally something suitable is spotted by a scout, but inevitably it's not wide enough or thick enough or has the wrong grain or the wrong figure, and then it may not even be maple at all.
However, it's not the lack of wood that's the problem. It's the absence of  Edward, whose bass it is (was) intended to be, and who is also the other half of the bass-making duo. He's in Montreal, and to be honest it's entirely unrealistic to expect him to move back home  in order that we could finish it. Of course, I could go ahead without him, but that really wasn't the point, and besides, I don't play the bass; Edward, who is our son, does. On the other hand, although I'm probably immortal, in the event that I'm not I don't want these particular dusty remnants hiding in an empty workshop.......

Here's another picture, this time with the plans and the ironically titled book on how to do it all:  "So You Want To Make A Double Bass" (The lack of a question mark gives the title a slightly menacing tone. Perhaps it was intended to convey a bluff good humour) :


On our recent visit to Edinburgh to visit Norah, we spent an evening with her friends Johnny and Grant. Grant restores and makes harpsichords with meticulous and terrifying attention to detail and authenticity. He kindly gave me a copy of The Galpin Society Journal no. LXII  (April 2009), which consists almost entirely of his monograph on "The Single-Manual Italian Harpsichord in the Royal College of Music, London, Cat. No. 175: An Organological Analysis".

 The nautical rules of the road are clear on rights of way, and the relative duties of vessels that meet at sea. However, when a large and important vessel - a ferry, say, or a man-of-war*, meet a small and insignificant vessel (a pleasure boat, for example) in a narrow passage or restricted waters, then the rules change, and the dilettante must perforce cede to the real thing, whatever its position and course. 

This is altogether too large a topic to tack onto the end of these rather whimsical and not-altogether-serious reflections. To be continued in our next.

* A sign of over exposure to O'Brien. (Patrick, not Grant)