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       Other Stuff:
    (And "Miraculous Achievements" down below)
    An Odd assortment of Strange and Obscure Instruments that may only find homes with Odd, Strange and Obscure Eccentric People!
    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, s
    o 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 figured
    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 Western Cedar.

    There 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 strings.

    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.

    There is 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.


    Grecian Pedal Harp
         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 long time!

    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 playable again. (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 Sons". 
    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 pin-block read:
       "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 French:

            Dieu et mon droit: 'God and my right.' 
             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 project)

    The Harp currently resides in Madelia, Minnesota.
    (South-central part of the state)


                     Miraculous Achievements!!!

    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.   


    Weird Stuff:

    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 Southern Minnesota!

    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!




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