Project MusicRecital

Introduction

Every project comes from someone’s desire to accomplish a goal. My goal is to share the music that I enjoy playing for a small number of people at least every 3 months. I would play once a month if it were the same repertoire but for a different audience. MusicRecital is going to help me achieve this goal.

I am an amateur musician and I do this strictly for the joy of playing. I have played recitals to maybe 20-30 people on violin and was ecstatic about it! It provided an outlet for my music, I played well, and I recorded each performance. I don’t do this currently and I haven’t done it on the guitar ever. I have played in pop music bands 0608-recitalin the past but my desire now is to perform the music that I learn as solo’s and sometimes use an accompanist or backing tracks. This project is a personal goal I have to create a web application for myself and others across the globe to bring people together that want to hear their local amateur musicians perform regularly and provide a community of people around the recital so that this culture (common to the classical music world) can be adopted by folks that like all types of music. And, our amateurs can leave their secure bedrooms, groom themselves a little, dress appropriately, grab their instruments, meet new people, and play music for them. We will satisfy this need to perform the music that we learn.

I am not the only amateur musician that wants this. The MusicRecital web application will help because it’s about contacts and like-motivation.

I have played the guitar for 48 years and I have not experienced the same excitement I did when I played these recitals on the violin every 6 months. In a pop-rock band situation, the people are there to hear the band and many times that’s just background music in a bar or pub situation. During my recitals, the audience was listening to me. And, it was like an electric charge to hear them applaud at the end of my performance.

When I started violin lessons again several years ago I looked for the best violin teacher I could find in Cary, NC. I found her through one of my wife’s close friends. The teacher’s name is Cortney Combs Baker, PHD. She teaches Suzuki violin to young students and she is amazing on the violin herself.

I can play the violin for someone (untrained musically) and they might think I can play very well. I decided to take violin lessons at the time because I cannot play the violin like I do the guitar. I believe that I can play the guitar as good if not better than some professionals so I wasn’t looking for the same challenge on the guitar. On the violin, I am a sham. It’s a very difficult instrument and I needed serious help with foundational things I didn’t learn when I taught myself in my 20’s.

Cortney introduced me to the recital. I would always practice with dedication to achieve a good performance of my recital piece. When the recital was about to occur, I would be dressed up and wait nervously for my turn at the stage. I was, however the oldest Suzuki student there in this beautiful church and I would soon step on the stage by myself and perform a ridiculously difficult piece of music for everyday parents with kids that played music. It was a rush like none other!

There have been reasons why I have not performed my guitar music publicly in a long while and I’ll discuss this more in the background section to follow.

Background

This blog posting is stored under the Music/Homecoming category. I added this category, Homecoming because my quest to play music again is a homecoming of sorts. At 18 years of age, I decided to leave Gloucester, Virginia to pursue a college education in engineering. I was accepted by an art school and ame-recital music school, both of which I love to do. I chose the engineering college because I was sure that I could find a job as an engineer much easier than I could feed myself as a starving artist or unsigned musician. 34 years later, I wish that I had chosen music. But let me be clear. I would have starved to death playing in a local bar band. I would have gone to music school.

Fast-forward to today and I’m a Java software professional that’s going to write a world-wide web application where amateur musicians can let people in their community know that they want to play somewhere, for free, for pizza, or wine, or just some hard-needed applause.

Strategy

The MusicRecital web application will only be a success if other people help me make it a success. I don’t know who we need and for what purpose just yet. I do already have some interested folks but I first need to explain the strategy behind doing something like this. Networks of interested parties will be in the application based on their location. These networks of people can be music listeners, event hosts, music teachers, music performers, background accompanists, supporting musicians, venue owners, church directors, concert hosts, entertaining homeowners, etc. This list is long and every user will have a zipcode, county, state, or even country in common. The recital is defined by “the performance of a program of music, by solo-instrumentalist, a singer, or a small group of musicians.” That clearly could fit the performance of a band that tours America. The application should be able to scale to meet the demands of touring musicians as well as local amateurs. And, the membership base will never be exclusive to professionals.

This application will be designed to initially help local musicians play their music for good food, gig networking, and simple applause. It could grow into a global music event planning and concert management tool. The web application will be prototyped before it’s put on KickStarter for funding. The application will be complex but the benefits of using it will best understood by seeing the application in use. The online web site will bring people together much quicker than word of mouth.

The strategy behind the MusicRecital project is to create an online web application that makes it easier for musicians to play their music where the currency is applause. This application needs to be created to also support a much higher level mission that’s discussed in the next section.

Mission

There are many amateur musicians around the globe and some already play for folks. Many do not and for various reasons. I wanted to form a string quartet when I was taking lessons. And, doing that as an amateur is almost impossible. It’s really no different than having two guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, and a standup bass over to your house on Saturday and making some fun noise. I spent lots of hours contacting people and trying to do this. When I finally found a cellist, he acted funny because he didn’t think I could play at all and didn’t want to drive to my house to try it. He wanted to form a quartet too but he was hesitant to even try playing with me. The orchestra community is very picky. And, finding a bunch to play bluegrass is much easier because they want to do it for fun and enjoyment. The cello player was already working a full-time job and was in 3 local orchestras. He wanted to do the quartet only if it were going to pay-off in the future, i.e. be his new form of employment.

I’m serious about my music too but I have a day job and while playing music for a living sounds good, it’s too late for me I think. But that cellist didn’t realize chamber music was written when the local musicians got together at someone’s home and just played good music. We are very lucky that the good one’s scored their pieces. I do believe that much more music was never written down.

BibiCisse1My mission is to change the perception of the recital to include other genres of music and build a global culture where teachers of all instruments do regular recitals for their students to share their work with the other students and the student’s family and friends. This culture doesn’t have to include only students and parents, it could be shared with anyone that likes that genre of music. The recital could have a Texas fiddle tune or even a Djembe drum solo. The choices for a music program are endless.

I want to also change the perception that amateur musicians are not as “good” as professionals. I really dislike this. I want amateur musicians to make more YouTube videos, upload more music, get out of their closets, stand up, and be proud of what they have accomplished as musicians. I knew a lady that was over 60 and taking violin lessons and she wouldn’t do the recital because she didn’t think she was good enough. If you wait around to be good enough, you’ll soon be dead. Your cat will have enjoyed the show. Do it. Do the recital.

Conclusion

This project, MusicRecital is going to be a difficult one. I need developers that want to work on an open-source Java web application. And, this is all volunteer at this point. If we get funded on KickStarter, I may contract for some development. We’ll do a KickStarter project for funding the hosting and technical aspects of all this. I’m also considering applying for non-profit status for the application source code development group and online community, but later forming a business to collect for professional subscriptions and continued hosting. Amateurs will receive a lifetime subscription to use to the services with base-level functionality. The development team would continue with the growth and scalability of the application and hence provide pro-accounts in the future.

I have it all in my head and it’s quite complex but I think there are ways for amateur or new professional musicians to play in the musical sandbox too. I’ll make this happen with your help. Interested in being a part this? Please contact me dlwhitehurst@me.com

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Achieving My Purpose – A Musical Homecoming

HasselhoffWho is the most famous or infamous person you have ever met? It’s not David Hasselhoff but I do like his first name. This question was from my daily journal software, Day-One, and started the following spillage for this blog post you are currently reading.

I’ll achieve my purpose when I’m loved by all. “Do you love me?” I constantly asked that question to the wife of my children and angel in Heaven now when we were together years ago. For many years I never understood the question for myself until today. I thought I was insecure and wasn’t sure that maybe she really didn’t love me sometimes. I now know that it was purely for affirmation. It solidified my uniqueness or the fact that “I am David Lee Whitehurst”. I want to be loved by everyone I meet. This is more of the classical Greek agape or brotherly love for each other. Something in the knowing that I’m loved keeps me going. Almost like really living life should feel like this. I am going to improve this need by playing music again publicly very soon. And, to do this I’m going to follow the prescription of Tommy Emmanuel with a few adjustments here and there.

I develop enterprise software for a living and we use patterns to help us be successful at what we do. Tommy Emmanuel should be a pattern for other guitarists that want to play music for a living.

I’m a guitarist and I’ve looked up to a lot of guitarists over the years but Tommy Emmanuel is the absolute best at what he does. He gives guitar concerts, fills auditoriums, and theaters with crowds of people that sit there quietly and just enjoy his shows. And, he does this by himself. That’s amazing! It is amazing because he’s becoming wildly popular with my generation and folks that aren’t guitarists themselves. With most virtuoso guitarists, the audiences are mostly amateur guitarists that come to listen in awe of their heroes. With Tommy, it’s his secret sauce and that’s a combination of exceptional musical talent, awesome sounding equipment, veteran road experience, and intimate crowd connection. He’s the best period.

Tommy Emmanuel can claim expert level status for what he does. As a long-time amateur guitarist, I know that when another guitarist credits his level of playing to me, I can take his statement with a grain of salt until I actually hear him play. Tommy could say, “I am the best in the world.” and I would just agree. He has no need to embellish his words. And, for me, that truth hurts. I really do wish I could play that good.

I used to steer away from music or musicians that only made me want to get on stage with them. I chose not to play music when I was eighteen and go to college for engineering. And, for most of my life, I avoided beautiful music that I didn’t play myself, on my guitar, and inside my home. I’m a successful software professional today but I still want to play music for people. I also want to be famous. There, I said it. I hope my wife Patty is listening, she knew it all along. I always felt that playing music would place me in the hearts of lots of people for their lifetime. This way I could somehow be their friend for life. It’s no different than the long-term memory of a loved-one that’s passed many years ago. Music is touchy-feely for me. And, I want to be part of people’s memories and in their hearts. My name is David and that’s translated or means “Beloved”. Merriam-Webster defines this as dearly loved or dear to the heart. My purpose is to be loved by all.

I am practicing new songs, playing my guitar, and exercising my voice in preparation for my first Homecoming show I’ve yet to secure. I’m still looking for the affirmation so I’ll be out there soon enough to get a pat on the back, a smile from your seat, and hopefully a new friend. I would rather have friends than fans. Friends can love you. Fans just like you. And, I really do need to change my mother’s mind about “all my little Facebook girlfriends.” That’s the topic of a whole different discussion.

Keeping humming those melodies you love …

November 2014

Many stores now are stocked for Christmas shopping. For me, it isn’t Christmas or Christmas season until Thanksgiving is over. And, by Thankgiving, I mean giving thanks for all that we have. Any of us here in these United States need to do is cut on the radio or TV and we can immediately know that first, we live in the greatest country in the world. Secondly, we should be known by the rest of the world as humble people because of what we all have. Sadly, we are not. That should change. It will change for me.

I’m thankful for everything in my life. I’ve had a rough year but my wife and family are still intact. We still have a home. We still have transportation and we still have our pets. My kids are wavering between their childhood and being an adult but I’m sure that will work itself out soon.

We live our lives here on this earth among other people. I’m most thankful for all the people I know, love, or am involved with in some way or other. It’s the relationships we have with other people that define the quality of our lives.

My Life Just Changed 2014

One of my friends on Facebook asked “what are you two doing?” where she commented on a post I did sharing my weight loss with some secret weight-loss competitors. I decided that question is best answered with a blog posting.  Patty and I have had quite a ride this year 2014. We both keep a packed bag of clothes because we’ve been traveling so much. We have lost weight in the process of it all. And, we’ve had weight loss as our goal for a while now. This year we’re making it happen.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010 after my first wife Kim died. I’ve tried to eat right in the past but to no avail. It’s very difficult to eat healthy when everyone else in the same house is hooked on sugar, loving the microwave, and staying hydrated with soda. When Patty and I got married, she brought with her a history of baking.  And, she loves it. I measured her love for me in grams of confectionery sugar and cream cheese icing. We have all but shut down the bakery now.  And, it hurts.

We use Stevia now for a sweetner in small amounts. It’s a sugar that comes from a plant. Do be careful what you buy because some of it contains milk powder you don’t really need. Do not use any other artificial sweetners. They fool your body and still upset the natural balance of sugar in your blood and how it’s used by your body’s cells for energy. The best sugar for energy comes from fruit.

We both have known how to eat right and we both describe it as God’s diet. We knew that bread was bad for you, especially bread made from bleached flour.  And, what I would call processed bread (store-bought) is terrible for you.  We still ate it.  When I eat white bread my blood glucose numbers go up and it usually takes 3-4 days to come down. The same thing happens with regular pasta.  White rice and white potatoes are not as bad, but still cause irregular levels for me.  I’ve eaten the bad carbohydrates and let the doctor try to keep me healthy by giving me new medicines.  I was shortly told that I would go on insulin next.  Insulin makes you fat and you’ll have a hard time convincing your doctor that you don’t need it anymore.  Some people cannot live without it. Type 1 diabetics have to inject insulin every day.

Type 2 diabetes has been said to be chronic as well as genetic.  I do not agree with these statements at all.  What that really says for me is that one is shoving about the same amount of garbage down their pie-hole as their parents did before they got genetic type 2 diabetes. You don’t catch type 2 diabetes, you create it.

Patty and I moved her mom from Maryland to Gloucester Point this summer. About the same time we were to move her mom, my dad committed suicide. We stayed at my dad’s house and with my brother-in-law and his family. We’ve been back and forth doing things to prepare my Dad’s house for the market and also doing inside work at her mom’s condo. When you’re overweight and you don’t feel good, it’s hard to take care of the things that need attention.  We’ve almost ignored our yard at home for 2 years and our new puppy has been in a kennel more than she’s been with us. 

We decided when things calmed down to stock the pantry and the refrigerators with only healthy food.  We also decided to compete with some family members to lose some weight. Whoever loses the most wins. The prize is rather controversial so I’ll leave that out.

How-To (Hard Part)

We started with the pantry. Here’s how we decided what we would NOT eat. Anything with high fructose corn syrup or corn sugar was out.  We got rid of anything that had sugar as an ingredient. The food corporations try to hide the sugar by using different and confusing terminology.  They are concerned about making money so they add sugar to 1) make it taste good and 2) to make you buy it again. They want you to be hooked on sugar.  Yes, it’s addictive.  It’s been proven it’s more addictive than heroin. No one has cared because we (almost everyone) regularly consume it and society doesn’t frown upon sugar junkies. It’s like the alcoholic that doesn’t have a problem with drinking as long as he has a drink. You have to rid yourself of processed foods with sugar. And, they call it sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, and it goes on and on. This site contains 57 names for sugar. They want your money and they don’t want you to associate brand loyalty with continued profit.

Next, we focused on preservatives and chemicals one can’t pronounce. I’m not going to list these here because I think it’s best to educate yourself about these ingredients. And, when you look them up yourself you find out about what they are and also how they can harm you. E.g. things like the sauces, dips, and dressings you buy pre-made (processed) are terrible for you. When they first started with the health-craze it was not about sugar it was about fat. The companies rushed to the boardroom to design new low-fat foods. I personally believe that the “low-fat” products are worse for you than things that are made from real foods, including natural cane sugar. Today, the bad guy is sugar because the research has shown that some fat is actually good for us. We threw away low-fat things in the house too.

We then threw away (we returned some to the store) all of the white wheat pasta and any white rice we had. And, don’t be fooled by whole wheat pasta because it’s bad for you too. It contains wheat-gluten and many people are allergic to it and don’t even know it. It can make you feel like you’ve been poisoned or have an upset stomach. When we feel bad sometimes we don’t know why. Even most shampoos have a chemical in it that’s horrible for your skin. It’s proven to irritate your skin but our bodies put up with it because we’ve been programmed to enjoy the wonderful smell and the rich lather. The bad chemical is sodium laureth sulphate and it’s what causes the nice lather. If the shampoo didn’t lather we wouldn’t like it and ultimately wouldn’t buy it. We have all eaten or used personal care products that have probably caused our bodies some negative reaction but our brain-washed intelligence overlooks it and focuses on the pleasure we experience from other senses.

The same spring-cleaning process was used on the refrigerators and freezers. We keep more frozen food in the old fridge outside in the garage. We freeze a lot of meat and vegetables. Almost everything in the refrigerator door got tossed. Most of the condiments, dressings, and other jarred products were removed.

Imagine a recipe for a great ranch salad dressing. The ingredients: vegetable oil (first ingredient), water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk with natural flavors?, dried garlic, onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid?, xanthan gum?, modified food starch?, monosodium glutamate (msg, knew that one. Makes anything taste better and migraine sufferers to have an attack), artificial flavors?, disodium phosphate?, sorbic acid?,calcium disodium EDTA (for strong bones and teeth), disodium inosinate?, disodium guanylate? (more salt) and then the recipe says contains: egg, milk, and soy. It’s noted that it’s also gluten free. Where would one get those ingredients if one wanted to whip up a super tasty ranch dressing for his family? And, why would the cook that recorded the recipe want to tell you a second time it was gluten-free and contains egg, milk, and soy (God’s food)? This recipe is for Hidden Valley brand “Original Ranch” dressing. Millions of people have had it and we’ve have had it in our house too. I love it as much as I do Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. You might as well toss the soup too.

This process is not easy. You won’t want to waste anything. You have spent good money on these items and you have eaten these things for most of your life. The Campbell’s soup thing really bothered me. Our situation is a little more painful than it has to be. My overweight 18 year old son is not genetically skinny like I was and he still feels the need to keep his pie-hole filled with good old American corporate food and soda. He does, however eat our healthy dinners with us most of the time. That’s a big plus.

How-To (Easy Part)

The easy part is getting over the chemical withdrawals and breaking old habits, cravings, and addictions. I labeled this as easy because I want to alter your mind and brainwash you into doing the right things for your health. Every time you get ready to put something in your mouth (pie-hole if that has more emphasis for you), ask yourself is this good for me? Remember that you still need to educate yourself on what’s really good or bad for you. Don’t let the Corn Growers Association educate you on the differences between cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup. And, remember that our brains work with fuzzy logic so addiction, family habits, culture, and advertising play a big part in this so-called education. You have to want to learn about what you are putting in yourself or on yourself.

I’ll give you a scenario for me after dinner last night. Neither Patty nor I felt like making anything for dinner and Patty wasn’t hungry. I was so hungry I could have eaten 2 of those trademarked Cinnabons® coated in crystal clear confectionery sugar icing. I saw hot dogs in the refrigerator and we had those Martin potato buns in the bread basket. I could have had a frozen pizza we had in the freezer outside but I actually came up with healthy choice and it was quick. I reheated leftover wild rice blended with some kind of nutty seeds from Trader Joes and I cut fresh tomatoes to put in it. I also added some black olives. Now, the black olives are questionable but the tomatoes and rice blend were not. I was still hungry late before I went to bed so I had an apple. I know that the Trader Joe wild rice blend does not affect my sugar levels as long as I eat a small portion. I had made a good decision in my preparation of something quick and nutritious. I wasn’t just satisfying a desire to eat something I craved. I was creative and made something smart.

We now buy those plastic tubs of spinach and kale at Sam’s Club. We use the spinach for salads now and many times we add pulled chicken, sometimes beef, or boiled shrimp to a salad and that’s the only dish we eat. We generally use apple, dried cherries, cranberries, almonds, or pecans with our salads. We’ve also started using roasted flax seeds as a garnish. The flax seeds taste very similar to sesame seeds but they are high in Omega-3.

One day for lunch a week ago, I made Patty and I a plate that contained spinach, apples, cheese, olives, grapes, chicken, tomato, and flax seeds. I organized the items on the plate instead of mixing things. It was a great lunch because it looked appealing and there were many flavors to enjoy. And we did not have to drown everything in creamy salad dressing. We are now using balsamic dressings to add flavor when we make salads that are plain or may only be spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, or whatever we have on hand.

We make either make our dressings or buy ones that we know are not loaded with oil and are healthy.  My mom gave us a blueberry balsamic in a bottle about the size of those tiny sample liquor bottles. It was the best light dressing we’ve ever had. We are now going to order it from the company in Maine where my mom purchased it. It’s called Maine’ly Drizzle. My point with the salad dressing is to completely rid yourself of store bought dressings (grocery store ones).  You can pay the price for the yuppie variety at the gourmet market or just make your own.  I personally like vinegar and good olive oil. Try out new spices and experiment. We sometimes coat salads with lime juice.

Get creative with your dinners and have fun doing it. We came up with the recipe for a really good dinner made from shrimp, pineapple, and tomatoes. Everything was made from scratch. We chopped a whole pineapple into bits for a salsa with sweet peppers, tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, and coriander. Some of the tomatoes were used to make a caprese salad with fresh mozarella, and fresh basil.  We used italian seasoning on the salad.  And, I put some Old Bay on my boiled shrimp.  This dinner was fantastic and it wasn’t unhealthy. Try to watch the salt. It’s not good for you in excess. And, if you are cooking with real food, there’s no salt unless you add it.

You should also reduce your portion sizes.  Your brain needs to tell you to eat less.  You have to make a conscious decision to lose weight. You now have to ask yourself, “do I really need more or want more?” The answer is always that you want more. Just say no to that food drug. Everything we eat is mind-altering.  We eat and our stomach tells the brain we are full. I don’t understand what our brain is thinking when we eat too much. I think it’s because we’ve stretched our stomachs and when it shrinks you get the benefit of being full sooner.

Conclusions

To simplify all this you really have 5 things to seriously think about. I’ll bullet them here in order of precedence:

  • Educate yourself to what’s really bad for you
  • Throw out all the bad food in your house
  • Stock your house with real food
  • Get creative, develop new dishes, meals, or meal plans
  • Eat smaller portions and less carbohydrates (absolutely no bread if you are diabetic)

I’ve also highlighted the two questions you need to ask yourself every time you put something in your mouth and with each consecutive bite:

  • What are you putting in your mouth and will it harm me today, tomorrow, or 10 years from now?
  • Do I need another bite or do I just want another bite?

I embellished the questions here just a little for emphasis because it’s very important that you realize what your brain is telling you. When your body performs an operation there’s not much logic behind the brain’s decision to tell your arm to bring that poison berry up to your mouth and drop it in. You have to make a conscious decision before you actually eat it. You will question, “is that berry safe for me to eat before I put it in my mouth?”. You won’t eat it because your brain immediately goes to what your parents drilled into your head, “Do not eat those poke berries, they will make you sick.” You may not know of this particular plant but you were probably taught not to eat anything you find outside. That’s a much better warning for children. My point here is that you were warned, and if your hand plucked the berry you still will not eat it because your brain told you it was poison or not good.

Let’s switch gears now and pick an ice-cold Mountain Dew from the refrigerated case at your local convenience store. I love Mountain Dew. I was taught by the advertising that Mountain Dew is good. I’ve had lots of it and I agree with their assertion, “Mountain Dew is good”. Really, Mountain Dew is NOT good. The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A couple of years ago, the Corn Refiners Association via http://sweetsurprise.com was all over TV trying to convince the public that it’s just like real sugar. HFCS is not the same as natural sugar. It doesn’t get to be HFCS naturally. It can’t be found in nature (God’s place). It is found in corporate places. It’s cheaper than cane sugar so companies don’t want to use cane sugar. In the 70’s president Nixon and the goverment subsidized the farmers to grow corn and then the supply was in excess. They complained to the government because they couldn’t sell it all. They sell it all now because president Nixon allowed a Japanese scientist to patent HFCS in the US. The rest is history. My post here is to convince you pay more attention to the food that you consume. You’re programmed daily by companies to use bad logic when you make decisions that affect your own health and safety. I guess I want to shake everyone and tell them “wake up!”. My logic on not eating the poison berry is just as strong (I think) as the one that says have that good ole’ Mountain Dew. Treat yourself. Think about it.

Making Dreams Come True

As a child growing up in Virginia, all I ever wanted to do was play guitar. When the time came to make a decision about college, I had been playing in bands locally since I was about 15. If I had decided to study music in college, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the education. I played pop, country, and rock music in my teens with a band, but I also played classical guitar and took jazz lessons. I was accepted by Pittsburg Art Institute to study art. I was accepted by a virtually unknown music school in Texas (I forget the name). And, I was accepted at Old Dominion University. I chose an engineering path at Old Dominion University.

I didn’t think that I could make a living playing guitar. And, my self-confidence was not there. Also, my dad told me that he saw me traveling the United States in a Volkswagen bus and busking for tips. I had a dream to play guitar and I put it out of my mind then.

35 years later, I still have the dream and I’ve decided to make it come true. I am planning on a solo acoustic guitar show in 2015. My plans are to play about once a month locally at first. I would love to play in my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. Currently I’m arranging songs for finger-style guitar and writing some original material. I’m working on getting all of my equipment together too. I’ll let everyone know when I do my first show.

A Trip to the Lumber Mill

My dream is to make furniture in North Carolina. For now, I’d prefer to do commissioned work for clients in Virginia and North Carolina. I could probably work for South Carolina too. I just don’t know anyone in South Carolina yet. I would also like to use local wood that is available and reasonably priced. Today, I made a trip to my local lumber mill and picked up sassafras for secondary wood and cherry for primary. The sassafras was only $2.50 a board foot and it’s plentiful. I’m using it for a table commission for the drawer carcass. This sassafras was clear and very pretty. I might be making something soon from the sassafras and actually using it as a primary source for some furniture.

Since I’ve renewed my interest in woodworking I’ve learned a great deal about making things from wood. My youngest boy works at Home Depot but it’s not the place for select lumber. Also, select lumber is milled for you and it’s picked over so you need to get there when the stocking level is up and pick over it yourself. I won’t even tell you what I paid for Poplar for drawer carcasses in the past. If you want to build something fine, and need anything better than a 2×4 stud for material, find a small lumber mill resource.

Today, I learned how my new friend at the lumber mill quickly calculates board-footage and ultimately a price to me for my needs. He used a lumber measuring stick, probably hickory, with a steel catch on the end. This stick had 3 scales on top of each other on both sides. E.g. the middle one on one side was for an 8 foot board. He placed the steel catch on the side of the board and essentially measured 5-1/2 for the board’s width. This meant that this board’s volume of wood was 5-1/2 board feet of sassafras and at $2.50 a board ft. the board would cost $13.75. This is more awesome than you the reader can imagine because 8 feet of a clear, straight, useable, truly 1-1/4″ board gives me goosebumps. Yes, it needs re-sawing but this was a beautiful board for $13.75.

IMG_2019When you find the lumber mill and someone you trust, you can get wood easily and at a fair price. With a knowledge of how the mill-worker calculates price you can buy what you need and usually have wood left over for other projects. It’s confusing at first because you may know that something you will be making takes 10 board feet and that means absolutely nothing to you when you are considering it’s layout, milling, preparation, and assembly. You will see the piece or it’s conception and then go blank at the woodpile. I’m still learning all this but I think a trusted lumber mill guy or girl is what you need.

I’ve purchased wood from two lumber mills now. One was was in Virginia and the man knew me as a child (cub scouts) and the other is here in Wake Forest, North Carolina. My guy here runs a medium sized operation north of Raleigh and for me, it’s easiest to just get a set monetary amount of wood that will cover my current needs and leave me extra material when I’m done cutting what I need. The trust part and a little knowledge go a long way. I trust my guy and like him very much. He’s a family man and he’s more than fair on price. I go with a set limit on cash and just get as much wood as I can buy. If I had unlimited funds and a pickup truck, I’d overstock my shop. Find yourself a lumber resource and befriend him or her.

A Beautiful Little Shaker Table

IMG_1576Tonight I applied the first finish coat of amber shellac on my new little Shaker end table. I am so pleased with this table. I made this one using 2×4 pine scraps from a workbench that I had recently built. I also used the best material from a 3/4″ shelving board. The drawer is made from a rough cut piece of cedar that I had in the shop.

The table plans were in a magazine article I found online, however the same table and dimensions are in the book “How to Build Shaker Furniture” by Tho. Moser. The article recommended using rabbet joints for the entire drawer. I did a half-blind dovetail on the drawer front and rabbets on the other pieces. The legs are tapered to 5/8″. And, to add to the design of this table, the underside of the top is beveled about 1-1/2″ around the entire piece.