"Miraculous Achievements" down below)
An Odd assortment of Strange and Obscure Instruments
that may only find homes with Odd, Strange and Obscure
YOU may be one of them.
See what's currently available down below....
In order of appearance
from top to bottom:
Wooden West African Kora
Grecian Pedal Harp
Banjo in a Bag
The Mouse Fiddle
Wooden West African Kora
Back in 2002 I
received a grant from the Prairie Lakes Art
Council to build an experimental wooden West
African Gourd Harp.
It turned out OK, but there were a series of
design flaws, so it was
gradually dismantled and the parts used on other
projects. Well after 20 years of it sitting
around in several pieces, I fixed the
design flaws and finally got it all hammered
back together again.
The sides are made of
highly figured Walnut.
The neck is made of highly
hard Rock Maple.
The handles are made of
light colored Walnut.
The bridge and tail-piece
are made of highly figured hard Rock Maple.
There are 24 Classical Guitar strings.
The top and back is made of
are 2 steel rods embedded in the neck that runs the
entire distance of the interior from the tuners to the
tail block for added stability, and there is a brace
under the top, resting on the steel rods to prevent
the top from collapsing down from the pressure of the
This has probably caused a reduction of the sound
quality, so I'm going to have Scheitel's Music install
an electric pickup on the bridge so you can plug it in
and have it amplified.
The tuners are 2
sets of Classical Guitar tuners.
a tuning chart available on-line
(Just have to find it again)
I have no idea what the final price tag will be,
or when there will be a video/sound sample available.
I only strung it up a week ago, so it's still
settling in, and will require many more tunings before
it has stabilized.
I'm hoping to bring it in to Scheitels Music in
Mankato by next weekend, and there it will remain
until it has found a new home.
made by: Jacob Erat and Sons
A friend of mine bought this old Harp
from a lady that said "Get that old piece of furniture
out of here!" When he brought it to me, the sound
board had been ripped up by a set of metal strings
that were installed ages ago.
It appeared to have been seriously damaged for a very
I rebuilt the
sound board and installed a complete set of Vanderbilt
Classic Natural Gut strings. After I tightened the string pressure and
tuned it up everything seemed alright. It looked and sounded good.
However...After a while I began to
hear that sickening sound of wood creaking and
groaning. The soundboard still looked OK so I wasn't really sure what was happening. After
closer examination I soon realized that the entire
body was pulling up and away from the pedestal! I
quickly de-tuned the harp until there was almost no
string pressure remaining...but too late. The damage
had been done (Again!) I informed the owner that the
poor old Harp had indeed passed away (again) and that
it might possibly be restored enough to be a museum
piece or at the very least, a theatre stage prop. Sad
to say...It would Never be
(There was even a brief thought that it would be fed
into the fireplace!!!)
What caused the problem This
time was the fact that a couple thousand pounds of
string pressure was being held together by nothing
more than 4 old wooden dowel rods and a thin layer of
ancient crystallized glue. This was kind of like
expecting a 95 year old man to bench press a thousand
pounds up over his head! The poor old dried out bones
just couldn't take it.
I had put in so much time on
this project that I tried again and with a great deal
of difficulty I managed to get the body back into the
original grooves of the pedestal and heavily
reinforced it with metal brackets. I then tuned it up
only as far as to keep the pillar on the pedestal and
That is as far as I will ever go with! There may be a
possibility that this old Harp might yet be able to be
tuned up to full string pressure and played...but I
would Heavily recommend that the poor old thing be
permanently retired from performing and simply be
allowed to stand at attention and look good. (It
really does look good!)
So...the question is: Would
anyone like to have a nice old and rare collectible in
their home? All the time I was doing research on the
the origins of this thing I mistakenly believed the
carved inscription to read:
"J. Prat and
Of course I could find no information with that name
so I thought I hit a dead end...until I realized that
the outrageously intricately carved letters in the
"J. Erat and Sons..." !!! Then I began to
find some information: Apparently...Jacob
Erat was a harp builder in London who died in 1821.
His 2 sons took over the harp building business, so it
would seem we have an original built by the old man
which would put the construction date to before 1820!
The carved inscription reads:
J. Erat and Sons Patent 23 Berners
Street London 1499
This amazingly detailed carving of a
Lion, a crown and a Unicorn is only about 2 inches
across. The words in the top part read: HONI SOIT QUI MAI.
The words in the banner on the
bottom read: DIEU ET MON DROIT. I asked a friend of mine to translate and
this is what he came up with:
The inscription in part is actually two,
I perceive, and the 1st one is French, early modern or
late-mediaeval, take your pick.
Honi soit qui mal y pense:
'Shame to him who thinks it Evil.'
And the other also is the same, in
Dieu et mon droit: 'God and my
FREE to a good home!
(I'll help you carry it out
to your vehicle on the street, but I'm afraid that's
about as much additional time as I can put into this
The Harp currently resides in Madelia, Minnesota.
(South-central part of the state)
Banjo in a Bag
One afternoon one of
the guys from Music Mart called and said…“Uh, TJ, we
got something here for you to look at.” When I arrived
at the store I was handed a plastic bag with THIS
thing inside it. He said a lady with Blue Hair walked
in and asked if this could be put back together. It
was such a curious looking pile of wreckage that I
agreed…if only to find out what it had once been!
When I called the lady later that
day…she informed me that it had once belonged to a
long since deceased relative and that she had
remembered him playing it when she was very young. I’m
a chronic sucker for nostalgia…so I got right to it.
And…believe it or not… nearly every single tiny part
had been saved and was used again. I think the only
parts I had to add were the strings and the skin head.
It looks as if the poor old thing had spent at least
some time under water and then baked in an attic for
several decades. It’s a Banjo/Ukulele… and they were
pretty common around the turn of the (last) century.
I never met the Lady with the Blue
Hair…but later reports indicate that she was very
pleased with the results.
The Mouse Fiddle
A friend of mine
used to play this nice old Violin. It sounded pretty
good but certainly wasn’t a Stradivarius. And its
condition and tone did not improve when he
accidentally backed over it with his pick-up truck! He
brought it home to his shack in the country… put it up
on a shelf for the rest of the Winter and the next
Spring he donated it to me for the parts.
When I popped off the back…there inside was the
coziest little Mouse Nest…made of the finest English
Wool…for his old wool sweater had been next to the
Violin on the shelf and this Mouse had made out of it
quite possibly the warmest Mouse Nest in all of
You can still see the remains of tiny seeds that were
eaten. Tiny turds and urine are not visible…though
quite evident! And despite the fact that a little bit
of the F-hole had been nibbled on…the Violin was
easily repaired. And the following Autumn it’s new
owner didn’t mind at all the ever so slight “Mousy
Aroma” that wafted out of the sound holes…for the old
Violin actually sounded better after it had been Run
Over and Moused On!