Archive for August, 2018

Violin Making, Second Edition Revised and Expanded: An Illustrated Guide for the Amateur – by Bruce Ossman

I’ve developed a bit of a fascination with stringed instrument making. In my fantasy life, I am doing it. In reality, I have been reading about it. I would like to change my fantasy into reality and this book could help do that, at least as far as violin making is concerned.

When you think about making a violin (that is, if you ever think about making a violin), you think that it must be a very difficult thing to do, otherwise those old masters’ violins wouldn’t be selling for the fortunes that they are. But when you read a book like this, you realize that it might be easier than you thought. Well, if not easier, then at least possible.

As the title states, it is an illustrated guide for the amateur violin maker. The book breaks things down in such a way as to give the average woodworker a fighting chance at creating a real violin. The thing to keep in mind is that you are not going to create something equivalent to a professional violin the first time around, or at least it’s not likely. Accept this fact, approach the project with an open mind and a willingness to learn, make mistakes and correct mistakes, and you’ll wind up with at least a passable instrument. If all you want to do is to be able to say that you have made a violin, then voilà! You’ve done it! On the other hand, if you want to make another and another, then you have taken your first big step of making the first one.

If you expect a deep dive into making a violin, you won’t find it here. You will find everything you need to make your first violin. It is one man’s straight forward approach to accomplishing this, and I believe it will work. I can’t say for certain because I have not done it yet, but I am planning on it and this book will most likely be the basis for most of my building techniques. (Of course, being of the mind that you can never have too much information, I’ve also bought a few other books on making violins. Review of those to follow later.)

If you are interested, make sure you get the second edition of the book. There’s not a lot of difference, but it has been updated. Also, while you can make a violin entirely with hand tools, there are a few tools you may need to buy, and a bandsaw and drill press aren’t bad machines to have. You may also want to find other references for putting a finish on your violin, as this book doesn’t cover that subject in depth, though you will find it adequate for your first effort.

Finished 8/25/18

Old Time Banjo Craft: 5 String Open Back Banjo Making – by Robert Browder with Mac Traynham

This is a short book, less than fifty pages, and is more a rough guide to making an open back banjo than a definitive reference. The book is short on detailed illustrations or photographs and the organization leaves something to be desired, requiring you to go back in the book to review something you have already read in order to get an idea of what is currently being described.

Could you make a banjo using this book? Sure, but unless you are familiar with the process, I think you will find yourself scratching your head in a few places. Still, when you are making a musical instrument, it is always nice to have as many references as you can so that one may fill in where another is weak. To that end, this book is useful, though a bit overpriced, in my humble opinion.

Perhaps a more useful book would be Constructing a 5-String Banjo: A Complete Technical Guide, by Roger H. Siminoff. I even have a spare copy if you want to buy one off of me. I forgot I had a copy and bought another.

Finished 8/14/18

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling – by Anne Serling

The first thing to know about this book is that it is not a biography of Rod Serling. Rather, it is the story of the relationship between Rod Serling and his daughter, Anne, as she remembers it. Certainly there is much biographical material about Rod and Anne, but it is supporting material about their relationship, not the primary focus. That is not to denigrate the book in any way. It never purported to be an objective biography. Indeed, that’s what drew me into reading the book.

I read the first bits of the book using Amazon’s “Look Inside”feature and got caught up enough in it to want to read the whole thing. In part, this was because I could relate to her description of the grief she went through when her father died. While I did not suffer grief over the death of my father in the same way that the author did, grief is universal, and I could relate her story to other deaths I have had to deal with.

It is obvious that Anne and her father, Rod, were very close. A family of four, they seemed to pair off with her sister close to her mother, and Anne close to her father. It many ways, it almost seemed like an unhealthy attachment to her father. But hey, that’s just my impression, and I certainly don’t mean that there was anything improper about the relationship, just that her reaction to his death seems to reveal an emotional dependence that was a little too strong. I’ve never had a daughter, so maybe I just don’t understand the father/daughter dynamic.

I don’t know who I would recommend this book to. Perhaps to someone who has had a difficult time dealing with a death, or someone who just appreciates stories about relationships. It is well written and in many places you can really relate to the pain she is going through. It isn’t all about his death, though, so that shouldn’t be the whole point to reading the book. The author writes about much of her childhood, which appears to have been a pretty idyllic one at that. In truth, the book is more of an autobiography and perhaps should be read for that reason.

As I got into the book, I started to wonder if you could write a biography about just about anybody and make it interesting enough that someone would want to read it. Rod Serling certainly had a unique life, but then again, everyone has a unique life. I suppose, though, that it is the more famous among us that people want to know about, not us unknowns.

Well written and worth reading if the subject matter appeals to you. I am glad the author eventually came to grips with her grief. All deaths leave a mark that will forever endure. Eventually, though, we all must learn to accept and move on, as the author has done.

Finished 8/10/18

bookmark: the joy luck club

The Joy Luck Club: A Novel – by Amy Tan

I received a note that one of Amy Tan’s books was on sale on Amazon. It sounded interesting, but as I occasionally do, I decided that I would rather read her first book, or at least the first book that had been popular. In this case, it was The Joy Luck Club. Good thing I decided this, too, because my wife got the same note and bought the other book. By the way, I was somewhat shocked to see on the cover of the book I read, “25th Anniversary Edition,” and is actually older than that. Come on, really? It can’t be that long ago. I guess I am old.

Like many books written by and about people raised in different cultures, I am sure I missed some nuance to these stories. But even so, not only is it very interesting to learn about and vicariously experience a different culture, it also reveals the very common human nature of us all, regardless of culture.

China has a very long history with which I am passingly familiar from an academic perspective, but this book tells of more recent history as it directly affected the lives of the characters. I would wager that most Americans don’t know much about China at all, other than the stereotypes passed on through popular media. I wonder if this book was helpful in dispelling some of those stereotypes.

Like all good books, this book provided more than just a good story, it provided food for thought. We are all rather insular in our own little worlds. It is hard to have a perspective beyond our needs and wants, and harder for some than others. A book like this gives you an appreciation for the fact that you will never be able to fully understand a culture that you have not grown up in. It makes you question why you should think that you know what is the proper way for all people to live, based on just your own life experiences. Perhaps there is room for other norms of civilization. Am I just stuck in an American way of thinking, or should the principles of individual freedom be the universal standard for all? I’m afraid I can’t see it any other way. I do not find it possible that demands for self-sacrifice from others should supersede our own individual best interests. Still, perhaps there is wiggle room that can accommodate some cultural norms.

So before I get way off track here, let me say that I did enjoy this book. Not in the sense that the book was filled with only good things, but that in the end people survived and became more than perhaps even they thought they could, even if to all others they appear to be “normal” people. I guess we all have our stories, and these were some compelling stories of lives beyond my realm of experience.

Finished 8/4/18