Saturday, April 14, 2012

a particular sort of thing

 It is a particular gift to have someone invest in you, and this little harp project has involved a lovely bit of that. Despite my urgings and my research, the clients for this harp- who could have so easily sourced a cheaply produced imported harp- chose instead to pay more for something built especially with them in mind. They trusted me with their story and have trusted me also with their money, to come up with a unique object that will add something to their lives in a way that a product simply couldn't. This is increasingly rare.

Most people have been fooled into believing that simply having stuff is the same as valuing it. That getting a new thing will be as satisfying as keeping one that is good in and of itself. Things don't cut it. We live to be connected to stories. We need to feel connected to our needs, not just indulged in them. This isn't necessarily a spiritual need, in my opinion it is a genetic truth that is ignored by those who wish simply to treat us as markets.

So to have someone ask you to make a beautiful thing, capable of nurturing more than just their physical needs is the most important of missions to undertake, and I do so gratefully.

The other side of this is what happened when I researched my mission, and got in touch with a person who seemed to have  complimentary values to mine. A bit like the first email I shared with 'Doryman', my contact with Rick at Sligo harps made me feel connected with a generous spirit whose enthusiasm was shared in up-sized lashings, and that mutual respect was the only currency required in the transactions that followed. This is worth bottling. It runs completely counter to current 'best-practice' in business. Rick has put so much technical experience out there for free, and he gave me even more simply on the strength of his enjoyment of this blog. How much money would we need to earn to gain the sort of satisfaction that comes from that? I wouldn't bother even trying.

Anyway, I haven't been very good at expressing these quite subtle things lately, and I thought I should see if I could squeeze out a few of the sentiments that used to come a bit more fluently than they have for the last few months.

The pics relate to my fabricating a Western Red Cedar soundboard- that has cross grain structure, and is 1/8 of an inch thick at the treble end and 1/4 of an inch at the bass end, and if you thought the sound-box back was vulnerable you should pick this little treasure up and see it wobble helplessly about.

The other pic shows my roughing out of a rebate to take four laminations of bent hardwood that will reinforce the most vulnerable part of the neck- it is most likely to break along the shortest grain, so the laminations will give plenty of long-grain strength where it is most needed. These harp strings do generate big stresses.


  1. I had this same feeling a while back, Rob. It had something to do with anticipating what you would say next and being spot-on.

    Being rich in spirit does not pay the bills - which may be the biggest crime humans perpetuate on themselves.


  2. It is certainly easier to share experience when you don't spend every waking hour trying to put food on the table...

  3. My smile is so wide as I read your blog post.

    YOU have attracted these people into your life Dad because it is what you put "out there" and it is just so wonderful to read about!

    From a personal perspective, Dad you have taught me so well. You are so right, it is one thing to HAVE stuff but to value it is another. A recent and small example are those horse brushes I had kept for over 28 years (and no I am not a hoarder). I could have chucked them, they are easily replaced right?

    I think I learnt early that it is not the sum of the "things" one had, but the character within that was most important. You and mum have always taught us the value in honoring the process, in a good attitude, in how much we tried verses getting the "A" and in honesty and integrity. Not only have you taught us these things, but you have both lead by example consistently over the years. It is not hard to want to be around you both. I love your company and feel so rich as a result!

    1. Some people are seekers, but most are not. The glow from those rare individuals is visible for thousands of miles. You have the courage to speak from the heart, which you apparently learned from caring parents, though I feel it's a trait we teach ourselves.


    2. How lovely!

      Can I say that I very much appreciate your kind, encouraging and very insightful words Michael.

      I really enjoy reading your comments on here and am glad that dad has such a good friend in you.

      Courage to speak from the heart is only a choice we make after all and I am happy to make it. However, it feels wonderful for that choice to be acknowledged.

      Thank you!

      Warm regards,

  4. Rob

    I found this site because of your boat building and visit regularly because I admire your writing and spirit, particularly in regard to designing and making.

    Speaking of which, as an addicted steel string player, how is the OM playing going?


  5. How nice of you to comment Kym- I very much appreciate your generous feed-back.
    But what follows is a bit of a confession....I still play (or try to play) the steel string OM, but I've also bought a cheap electric so that I can practice for longer without wearing grooves into my fingers! I'm trying to become more skilled on harmonised scales, and felt the need to learn some bar chords, which meant I found progress very slow until I played an electric and found that the low string tension made time on the fingerboard so much less demanding of my 59 year old fingers!
    I find bar chords on the OM positively painful in the supporting thumb. I have strong hands from making things, but they are set in their ways and some ligaments do their best to resist any shape change...
    There are things I'll always do more easily on the OM- the neck width is easier for open chords, and it has a wonderful sound......but I confess that the electric has been bags of fun too. Beginning to learn to play so late in life, and having to rearrange my brain so much leads me to be a bit restless in finding easier or less painful paths to progress.
    Please keep in touch

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