November 2004


President's corner

Next meeting

Last meeting




Last Meeting

President Craig Mineweaser opened our October meeting held at Kevin Fryer, Harpsichord maker's shop in San Francisco with announcements. Stan Booker our rafflemeister announced that the Bloodwood board would probably be raffled off that evening if enough tickets were sold. He also described the many door prizes that were donated by Rockler of Pleasanton. These were items left over from our September dinner event. Harold Patterson was next announcing that the 11/13 Toy Workshop would be held at Gene Wagg's shop in Albany. Details at the end of this column. He also passed out some articulated toys that have been made in previous workshops. In addition, the club received a $20 check from an individual who bought one of our wooden block sets. Next was the introduction of new member Bao Yuan Feng who was encouraged to come by Tony Fanning. He has made a bedroom set and is interested in learning more woodworking. Welcome Bao. Since Paul Reif our Mentor Chair was not at the meeting, Craig said that the program has been a success with 4 mentor/woodworker relationships so far. He asked if anyone was interested in participating as a mentor. Qualifications are patience and knowledge of some aspect of woodworking. Bruce Bell our Open Shops Chair announced that on 11/6 between 9 AM and 1 PM his shop will be open. He will demonstrate the use of the Miller Dowel fastening system that he uses making outdoor furniture. He will also be working on a stool. His shop is located at 1224 27th Avenue (between Irving & Lincoln Way) in San Francisco. He also announced that on 12/5, Arnie Champagne will have an open shop. At 9 AM he plans to talk about how to select and buy wood followed by a mortise/tenon demonstration and then there will be time for some hands on work. Craig reported that Dale Chorney our Answer Person Chair has reported little or no activity so the decision has been made to close this activity for the moment. Jay Perrine, Our Program Chair described the November and December program. The December meeting will bring Ashley Eriksmoen, a furniture builder and sculptress. Also, the December meeting will be a "dessert" meeting where members will bring a dessert of their choosing. Besides Ashley, Bill Henzel will show slides of our members' Rebuilding Together projects, our Toy Workshop work and Bill's house building in Eastern Europe. Jay Perrine gave away four thick solid wood panels. Robbie Fanning announced that the volunteer list has been filled for our Wood Show booth. Matter of fact, she also has a waiting list. Tony Fanning said that we would have three units at the show with Arnie Champagne and his workbench occupying one unit. John Schmidt will be demonstrating pen making. Robbie then putting on her Hospitality hat thanked Mark Ferraro for arranging refreshments this month and John Blackmore for doing the same for the November meeting.

Craig transmitted a message he received from a Dar Hay who is looking for a woodworker to make a small number of boxes followed later with a large order. He can be reached at Also a message from a Y Liao who needs a Green & Green dining room table but at a reasonable price. He can be reached at Arnie Champagne brought some containers of finishes which he gave away. Mark Rand described the Bay Area Furniture Art 2004 exhibit now at the Blue Room gallery until 11/28. There are 22 works by 19 artists one of whom is our own David Goldenberg. The Blue Room gallery is located at 2331 Mission Street (between 19th and 20th Sts). For more information contact Paul Mahder at or or at 415/282-8411. Bill Henzel thanked everyone for the great turnout and effort provided for the Rebuilding Together project at the Janet Pomeroy Center.

Craig then introduced Kevin Fryer, harpsichord maker who was our host and speaker for the evening. Craig mentioned that he and his wife own a Zucherman harpsichord built from a kit in 1967 or 68. It's smaller and plainer than the large harpsichords. By coincidence, Kevin had been a rep for the Zucherman kits.

Kevin began his harpsichords interests in 1984 when he was an agent for Zuchermann Harpsicords, Inc. In 1993 he began to build his own. He thanked Per Madsen, our fellow BAWA member, for the assistance he has provided over the years. Kevin began by demonstrating the tonal qualities of several woods and described how each is used in the instrument. Ebony is used for the keys, pear for the struts, Walnut for decorative trim, Basswood for structural members and Spruce from the Italian Alps for the tonewood, including the sound board. He bought several flitches of this wood in Milan. Before delving into the harpsichord, Kevin showed several related instruments: the broom-ci-chord, the pitch fork cello with sound box, and Cremona cello. He played each using a bow so we could hear the sound.

Interest in the harpsichord reached its zenith in the 17th Century, after having been popular for over 300 years. In the 18th Century, the piano began its ascendancy, one that continues to this day. However, in the mid 20th Century, the harpsichord began to be rediscovered. Early reconstructions tried to lead harpsichords in the tradition of the piano, a trend now abandoned in favor of making current models just as the early Franco-Flemish models were made. While it is common to think of the harpsichord as a lesser cousin to the piano, it is in fact a very different instrument. It is not a percussion instrument as is the piano that has strings under 60,000 pounds of tension. The harpsichord is closer to the guitar and lute. It is a plucked string instrument, using strings under only 1800 pounds of tension. Kevin described the harpsichord as a instrument with an wooden, organic personality, varying from instrument to instrument. The inside of the sound box is decorated with block print paper since the old time craftsmen belonged to the Printers Guild. Kevin makes his own blocks and ink. The sound board has a botanical painting in the tradition of the Flemish School. The rose in the soundboard does not affect sound, but is rather a signature/ decoration.

The instrument takes as little as 20 minutes to tune. Kevin makes two harpsichords each year, ranging in price from $30,000 to $50,000 each. He is booked for the next five years. Frequently he takes instruments into recording studios, most recently at Skywalker Ranch in Marin. Another important source of revenues for his business is repairs. He only takes repairs that interest him. In the construction of the harpsichord, Kevin uses natural wood and few modern materials. His equipment includes a table saw, planer, jointer and router. He leaves no machine marks on the parts because he uses hand planes and cabinet scrapers. He sometimes uses Engleman Spruce from Montana in the sound board. The sound board is crowned during glue-up. The thickness of the soundboard is not uniform, being thicker under the bridge producing bass tones, and thinner for treble tones. Usually the grain of the sound board runs its full length, however, he is experimenting with diagonal grain on the current instrument he is making. The Go-Bar-Deck is used to assemble the box and fix the sound board. He uses mostly hide glues. Some plastic is used in the bar that plucks the strings. The BAWA members were given the opportunity to examine a finished instrument in for repairs, and to see the newest instrument under construction.

Show and Tell was next. John Schmidt showed yet another design for his Galileo thermometers. He used Bloodwood and used a Legacy milling machine to carve one of the vertical supports. He tried different designs before he found a design that he liked. Another innovation was to use 6-32 threaded inserts inside the vertical support and use a screw in the base and top plate to hold the support in place.

Dave Heim was next and talked about a class in plane making he took in Phil Lowe's shop near Boston. His plane was made from Coco Bola and he used the Shepherd Tool Co. kit. Arnie Champagne is making planes for Don Naples who is planning to put them into kit form. Arnie brought some irons that he has purchased at garage sales for as little as $4. Some are of cast steel. He also showed a child's airplane rocker that he built 20 years ago. He is now refurbishing it for the next generation of children. Arnie also mentioned that he has Shaker box molds of various sizes. Contact him about them. Bruce Woods did have three nesting Shaker boxes. He used ¼ sawn Cherry and wets the wood then steam bends them in a deep fat fryer. By trial and error, he found that he has to work fast before they cool and they will only bend in one way or they crack. He asked for advice on how to use milk paint and there were some advice given. Yeung Chan pointed an error in my reporting of his plane making from last month. I wrote that he adhered the base with double stick tape which is incorrect. He glues that piece and uses the tape for attaching the handle to the body of the plane. My apologies, Yeung. He once again proved that small is good showing a small dovetailed Mahogany box containing an elegantly machined and crafted bull nose bronze hand plane. A raffle was held for the Bloodwood board and the lucky winner was Neal Didriksen. There were many offers to help him carry it to his car which he emphatically refused. Another satisfying meeting ended with many woodworkers already constructing their own harpsichords in their minds.

TOY WORKSHOP AT GENE WAGG'S on 11/13, 9 AM-4 PM, 825 Santa Fe Ave. Albany 510/527-5805.

Using I-80 either from the Bay Bridge or I-880 travel towards Sacramento and take the Albany/Buchanan exit. Stay on Buchanan which turns into Marin at San Pablo. Staying on Marin, Santa Fe is about a mile beyond San Pablo. Turn left and go 1 block. Gene's home and shop is on the right in the middle of the block. For further information contact Harold Patterson or 650/349-7753.

John Blackmore & Mark Rand