Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Goings on.... Current Projects

A very busy year at work in conjunction with some TOP SECRET happenings in the Bandura Making world have conspired to not allow me the time to update this site in a while.  Luckily, time has finally freed up a bit.

As you recall, the last instrument I finished was a prototype for the instrument I'm building for a friend, Yuri Petlura.   That instrument came out quite nicely and I'm very happy that I decided to build a proto before going on to the real instrument with the re-tune mechanisms.  The only thing I wasn't too happy about was the scroll which was the best I've done to date but, it was still a little sloppy (click any pic to enlarge):

Carving a scroll is hard and it's harder than it looks!  Since I made that one, I found this site from an experienced cello maker that describes how to make a violin type scroll:  I'm not going to document my steps too much as I'm not nearly as good at is as that guy.

The scroll is something that's very distinctive and I'd also like to come up with something that makes my instruments instantly identifiable just from the scroll which I think I've done and I'll get to that in a moment.

Current Projects:

My kids are rapidly approaching bandura lesson age so I'm going to need a couple of child sized instruments.  I also owe Yuri his instrument so, my current projects are to build two child sized banduras and Yuri's instrument.   Because carving the scroll is so hard, I decided to make the scrolls on the kiddie instruments the same as what I plan on Yuri's so that I could get some more practice in carving.  Using the techniques I learned from the website above, I managed to make what I think are my finest hand carved scrolls yet:

As you can see, I changed the traditional design enough that I'm pretty happy that it's a design that looks quite unique and modern but not so over the top that it's ridiculous.

As I mentioned, carving scrolls is a difficult process that takes years to master.  It's difficult enough that the thought of carving a scroll is stressful enough to keep me out of the shop.  It's one of the longest single steps in the creation of an instrument.  If only there was a way to make this process easier and faster that wouldn't compromise the look of the instrument?  Would using an easier method that looks the same detract from the instruments value?

Re-Tune Mechanism

One of the long standing issues with banduras is the ability to play in multiple keys. Almost since the beginning, bandura makers have been working on coming up with a simple method of re-tuning individual strings quickly to allow players to change keys quickly.  Most of these attempts have been failures but, there are a few that work too, but they're still rather sketchy.

I'll go into greater detail in another post but, there are two basic kinds of bandura:  The Kyiv Style and the Kharkiv Style.  Yuri's bandura will be of the Kyiv style and luckily for me, there is a working mechanism that I was able to purchase:

This mechanism lives at the top of the instrument, the shemstok.  By flipping a lever, you can change e.g. all the Fs to F#s with a single movement.  Below are a couple of pictures showing how this works.  The string is threaded through the hook which shortens the string and increases the tension a little bit:

In this photo, all of the mechanisms are "Off" and all of the hooks are up.

In this photo, I've flipped the top lever which lowered the highest hook thereby shortening the string.

This mechanism works fairly well but still requires a lot of setup time and fiddling through the life of the instrument.  This may be something that's insurmountable though.  Pedal Harps, the kind they use in orchestras, also have a re-tune mechanism and they too have to be regulated once a year or so.

The other problem with this mechanism is that although it is available, I got it from Ukraine and they can be somewhat unreliable in terms of delivery.   This mechanism is also un-usable on a Kharkiv style instrument because of the tuning pegs being on top and the mechanism being in a straight line.

I've been pondering the idea of a re-tune mechanism for years and even made a few prototypes and I finally think I've come up with something that would work on a Kharkiv instrument.  As usual though, the devil is in the details - it would require hundreds of precisely drilled holes and very tight tolerances held on every part to get it to work.  Even then, I won't really know until I try.   Do I want to spend all that time drawing up plans and making templates for something that might work?  If only there were a way....

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