In a world of mass production, much of it in workshop facade so you think you're getting something with some artisan craftsmanship in it (sort of like fake craft brew, I call it "getting fauxked"), I'd like to share with you the finishing department here at the Wingfeather Workshop. Every Birdsong, Shortbass, D'Aquila, Hy5 and Texas Lap Steel gets its silky glowing finish right here.
You were expecting a room? With big fans and a crew in masks? Racks and racks of product hanging in all colors? Not exactly.
I like natural wood and our "finishing department" is a bench. It belonged to my uncle Pat, and I remember it as a kid from the basement of my aunt and uncle's house in Everett, MA. As life changes chapters, and some say so does the soul, the new life of this old bench... you're lookin' at it.
As you can see, the finishing department is at full capacity - what a wonderful glorious sight. Not everybody makes it, that's a sad reality. Life, business, you name it - we do our best and try our hardest, but none of it is any guarantee to see tomorrow. All one can do is while you're doing, try to stack the odds more with you than against you. Birdsong has been fueled by heart and soul (and lots of sweat) since 2004!
The shelf under the finishing bench top holds finished bodies waiting on necks. Here F51, C326, E004 and an inventory "High C" Hy5 5-string wait patiently. Hanging above are 8 bodies (Shortbass 0503, C327, C333, F55, C330, Shortbass 0504, C335 and Shortbass 0622) and 4 necks (F51, C326, C335 and E004) (by the way, build pictures for these and all of this week's work are/is on the Current Builds page)... all either done or one coat away.
Buffed and dressed between coats, Shortbasses get 2 or 3 coats, Birdsongs a few more. All hand-rubbed by yours truly, Nutty Professor and Master of Ceremonies. And this is a ceremony- to me this is where the wood comes back to life. I rub each coat of oil blend into every piece of wood by hand. I mean not even any gloves. I take whichever special recipe I'm using, squirt it onto the piece and rub it in 'til it's warm. I feel the pores under my fingers and its curves in my hands. Probably the most intimate moment of the build - and definitely a channeling and transfer of energy. By working these instruments into being the way I do, including finishing the way that was handed down to me, I understand I am giving each one a little bit of my life; its energy, its slowly diminishing vitality (hey, I can still run circles and kick ass, but time is time and I'm into my second half of this game), its legacy. That all should go in with the craft.
It's the blend of oils (further modified recipes based on an old time furniture finish), the hand application, and (I believe) the intent and devotion in the act in the moment that results in the soft lustre of what comes across our benches and out of our workshop. Some of these finishes are coming out extra special because it's 90 degrees out in the shop (finishing is the last step before they get joined with their necks and "come in" to assembly). The oil is already warm and ready.
The sticks that hold the bodies during finishing also have a lot of meaning to them, whether they date from the early years and have seen and held SO MANY of your basses, or they are some of the ones literally cut from salvaged scraps of a mentor's workshop to find their new purpose and meaning in ours.
And only the most meaningful of cloth is used to wipe and buff... beloved t-shirts full of good times, this is their final act. Yes, Scott's old daishikis? Last stop for them was the finishing department. They too leave this world (or at least their current form and chapter) with a final ripple of service.
Everything here - the tools, the oils, the hands, and the hearts behind them - all gather to serve music, its tools, and ultimately you and your music... so you may serve it to others and they may be served in some way by it.
Blessings to all and thanks for your time!
~Your humble servant,
Listening to: Grateful Dead Fillmore East 2-11-69 ~ John Lee Hooker Blues Is My Favourite Colour ~ Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band Safe As Milk ~ Scolohofo (Scofield Lovano Holland Foster) oh!