Snapshots from Phoenix

Hi everyone.  Have I mentioned that it is really hot in Phoenix right now?  It is really hot in Phoenix right now.  And now that July has kicked in, there is now humidity thanks to the monsoon storms.  I was told this place had dry heat.  I need a refund.

Nevertheless, the heat can’t keep me in – I refuse! Last weekend (4th of July weekend which was really long for us since we got Monday off as well (which to note is not an Arizona thing but rather a result of working 4 ten-hour days)) we did a little exploring and this weekend we did a little more.  I thought I’d share our adventures with you in a few snapshots.

Last weekend’s visit to the Antique Plaza in Mesa yielded a few results – some more vinyl for JT’s record collection and a cool copper printed map of Arizona for me.  There were some other items I didn’t want to leave behind . . .

MESA ANTIQUE PLAZA 1

MESA ANTIQUE PLAZA 2

The Antique Plaza was huge!  Some of the prices were right on, some were a little high and there was actually some MCM to be found (usually with the higher price tag).  We’ll be back.

We have a field mouse hiding in our house somewhere . . . I’m trying to catch him with peanut butter and love but the next step will be JT taking over the offensive and his methods are not so sweet.

MOUSE IN THE HOUSE

Friday night while JT was out doing a band audition I met the mouse and went to Home Depot for the traps.  The next morning found me back at the Depot for a lighting class and meet and greet with (now) local blogger Jenny Komenda from Little Green Notebook.  The actual class went a little sideways and no one else took photos so I grabbed this shot with furtive shame on my phone (that’s Jenny on the right in the green blouse).

LITTLE GREEN NOTEBOOK

Jenny was super sweet and ready to relax a little after finishing up the Domino Magazine photo shoot at her house.  I can’t even imagine!

And no, that isn’t me above with a half buzzed head but the heat has convinced me that less hair is the better option.   Here’s a quick in-the-salon before pic to show just how long (and kind of straggly) my hair had become.

LONG HAIR

And after!  So much better for the summer!

SHORTER HAIR

So today I took my new haircut out into the heat and JT and I visited Cosanti which is the residence and studios of Paolo Soleri.  JT described it as looking like the place where Luke Skywalker lives and while I don’t have a good frame of reference on  that, it was a unique place that had primitive and futuristic aspects all at the same time.

COSANT 3

Doesn’t that kind of look like a wooden spaceship came to land in the desert?  Steampunk kids take note, this place was started in the 1950s.

COSANTI 2 COSANTI 1

Also (random alert) there was a lot of olive trees among the vegetation and the site produces, bottles and sells its own olive oil.  Wowza.

OLIVES

I can’t wait to go up north and stay the night at Soleri’s larger experiment, Arcosanti.

What’s been going on with you guys?  Any tips for the heat?  Thank goodness my local grocery store carries a few flavors of coconut milk ice cream or I might have melted already.  Cheers – CT

(PS – More adventures to come – a day trip to Jerome and JT finds a new man chair.  Oooooh!)

Hot Crowd

Has anyone else noticed how Jimmy Fallon always comments that there is a “hot crowd” now that he’s on the Tonight Show?  And so the crowd cheers louder because he may be saying that they’re physically attractive but really he may be commenting on their general liveliness?  Well (to transition this thing over) we’re always a hot crowd here in Phoenix now that the days are mostly in the 100 to 100 degree range.  It’s like a long-standing joke on us (until September when we then laugh at the rest of the country).

We got up early a few weekends back to see if hiking was still feasible in this heat.  The Valley had a layer of smog when we were only 20 minutes in and not very high up the mountain.

THE VALLEY

The sun started baking us and we called it a little early to head back home, drink all the water we could find and generally lay about.

THE SUN

The heat means I open the doors to send the dogs out and in a few short minutes I see this out the back door . . .

HOT DOGS ON A PORCH

So we let them back in and then they generally lay about the place.  Like so (Sophie, who finally learned how to use pillows):

LAZY SOPHIE

And so:

LAZY PAIR

And so (a princess and the pea Shenanigan when I piled up the dog beds so our robot vacuum could be unleashed in the bedroom):

LAZY BOO

One benefit of the heat is a 50% discount offered to Arizona residents for visits to Taliesin West.  JT and I thought the first tour on Saturday morning (9am) might be nice and empty but it was packed instead.  So it was a little difficult to take pictures due to the throng of fellow architecture enthusiasts we were surrounded by.

TALIESIN

The tour was interesting, the sun was hot and I enjoyed nosing around.  As this was Wright’s winter home, he left a lot of the structures open with only canvas as a covering for a few years until his wife convinced him to go with glass.

I found a handsome man on the tour …

HANDSOME MAN

A sculpture I liked . . .

SCULPTURE BACK

Oh, you wanted me to turn around? (Picture fail)

SCULPTURE FRONT

A picture of a picture (heading into the dinner theatre area – what don’t you have your architecture students/servants put on a dinner theatre for you on your winter vacation?)

PICTURE IN A PICTURE

(Sidenote: I didn’t realize my hair was getting so long . . .)

TALIESIN 2

The view towards McDowell Mountain.  You can definitely see where Wright got his inspiration!  Time to get back inside and away from the sun’s burning rays!  Cheers – CT

 

 

Shelves Solved

After my moaning and groaning back in January about not having a good shelf solution for the weird, awkward cabinet-less corner of our rental kitchen, I pretty much promptly went out and solved our problem and then fully neglected to blog about it. Here’s what we were dealing with – a strange space that wasn’t doing much good.

HOLE IN THE KITCHEN We tried living with the rolling cart island from our old kitchen as a countertop extension for awhile.  Not too bad but the lower shelf was broken during the move and so it’s not so functional anymore for storage. KITCHEN FOR A WHILE 2 We’ve actually tried a few other things out in the kitchen – like the tulip table when we very first moved in (hard to believe that was six months ago!). KITCHEN AT MOVE IN It filled the little corner well and was a nice place for breakfast but ultimately it was needed for the dining room. Next we tried  the “beer pong” dining room table that also once lived in our old house. KITCHEN FOR A WHILE It felt a little too low to the ground and didn’t offer any storage either.

But now with a little help from Ikea and a little Frankensteining of our furniture, we now have a layout that’s working pretty well.  First the Ikea part: NEW CABINET This guy (the Fabrikor)  has been holding our meager liquor supply for a few months now and has blended in well with the kitchen.  And literally, that’s why I picked it, to blend in well.  I really hate our bland beige yellow wall color but this house is a rental and I just can’t bring myself to paint the whole slam-damn thing.  So this beige-y tan metal cabinet is a great chameleon with the wall and calls less attention to the dingy paint color than a nice fresh white cabinet would.  And since it’s all metal, when we move on to our next house, I’ll just spray paint that baby and leave the beige behind. CONTENTS Having glass on the front and sides is great right next to the window.  It fills the space but still lets a lot of light through.

Now on to the Frankensteining – we took the base from the metal rolling cart and married it up with the wood top from our old, old, old dining table. CORNER NOW Yep, that’s an extra and ginormous bag of dog food hanging out there.  Sorry Pope, we have dogs not kids.  Now the table/cart is a much better size and scale.  I’ve been on the lookout for a few barstools to add around it too but no rush. CLOSE UP JT picked out the poster actually but I rather like it for our crazy vegan kitchen. So that’s what’s been happening in our kitchen.  What about yours?  I caught LizardMan checking the kitchen out too the other day.  He’s cute and I like the blue streaks on his belly but I hope he just keeps checking things out from the outside the house . . . . LIZARD MAN

Pine Barncaster Build Part 3

I gotta say, I had a lot of fun doing my first nitro spray. I started by picking up 3 cans of Behlen nitrocellulose musical instrument lacquer online. You really have to order this stuff- no store around the corner is going to carry it.

Nitro!

Nitrocellulose Lacquer was used early on by Fender, Gibson and all the other bastards making guitars back in the 50′s and 60′s. Basically each spray treatment ‘melts’ into the previous layer, forming a kind of crunchy candy shell (think M&M’s) as opposed to polyurethane, where each spray forms it’s own layer (think Gobstoppers).

Anyway- in order to use it, you gotta warm it up in hot tap water. Otherwise it will spatter and fart out big globs (which as it turns out it might do anyway).

Warm it up

Warm it up

The plan I developed was to spray 9-12 coats, 2-3 coats a day, 1-2 hours apart. From what I have read, this allows the layers to melt into each other. I would hold the guitar flat, spraying about 1ft from the body with the can at a slight angle. I started and ended each spray away from the body, doing a cross-hatch pattern on the front and back. Look up Will Kelly on Youtube for more details (I did).

Spray!

Once it cured for about 14 days, I wet-sanded it using 800-2500 grit sandpaper, to get it smooth and shiny. I wet the sandpaper and the body down with a detergent/water mix.  Again, Look up Will Kelly’s videos. They really helped me out.

sandpaper

The end result was absolutely awesome. I love it. Just look at this monster.

Lacquered

 

Not sure these pics do it justice:

Barncaster 009

I even brought it in the house and put it under sexy lighting to show the ridiculous colors:

Barncaster 011

Close up of the ‘big red spot’

Barncaster 012

Next up, I’m gonna show you how I relic’d all the brand new shiny parts using melt-your-face-acid…so stay tuned…

Barncaster 007

 

Pine Barncaster Build part 2

Let me start by saying that I know there’s steps you have to take in order to seal in sap so it doesn’t mess with stain or paint. I’m not going to do that. I simply don’t care. Is this a mistake? Yeah probably. But, in the end I’m building it for myself as my Merle Travis machine, so as long as it doesn’t explode, I don’t care about discoloration or whatever.

Barncaster

That being said, I do care about how the guitar looks overall, and am critically concerned as to how I would like to stain it. I already decided it will get a clear coat of nitrocellulose lacquer, so picking out the stain will be critical. What I am interested in is enhancing all of the natural colors and features, while, if possible, making it “pop” even more.

One option is going with a kind of driftwood, bleached-out effect, which should pronounce the dark coloring more heavily. To get this, I mixed ebony and natural stain together at a 1:6 ration (respectively). Here’s a pic of the little stain guys and my bigger mixing bucket:

Stain

The result on my pine test board is pretty great, as the mixture really penetrates the grain brings out the hidden features well:

Ebony/natural 1:6 ratio

The other option I landed on is just going with a straight natural stain. I did this for my first guitar build, and it adds a slight “yellowing” to the grain. While it overall darkens the pine, it doesn’t necessarily show any kind of hidden details:

Natural stain

So after much hem-hawing, pissing and moaning I decided to go with CT’s advice, and apply the 1/6 ebony/natural mix. Here’s the results:

Barncaster fully stained front

This worked perfectly, as the ebony really penetrated all the cracks and imperfections, and even brought out a few features that were otherwise invisible.

Barncaster side stained

I’m also glad that this mix didn’t mask the dark features.

Barncaster back stained

When we were living back in St. Louis, it would literally take at least 7-10 days for stain to fully penetrate my guitar bodies, given the heavy mid-west humidity. Here in Arizona that process cuts down to about 2-3 days, which is awesome.

Part 3 will cover my first attempt at a nitrocellulose spray lacquer finish. Wish me luck…

Nitro

Pine Barncaster Build part 1

Moving 1500 miles cross country has proved tough for CT and myself, what with leaving family and friends, starting new jobs, and learning to live in a place that seems to be trying to kill you for several months out of the year.

So….guess what….I chose to reward myself with a new guitar building project! As of late, I have been fascinated with the recent revival of pinewood guitar bodies. Bill Kirchen (think “Hot Rod Lincoln”) recently posted an interview on YouTube, showing off his pine telecaster built by Carmine Street Guitars in New York. The sound and look absolutely killed me. Carmine Street actually builds these guitars out of 200 year old pine lumber, reclaimed from New York city buildings. I certainly can’t think of a better way to recycle.

When I hit Ebay looking for a body, it became clear to me that I needed to make a choice- do I get a piece of perfectly figured wood, or find something with more personality? I decided to go with a body filled with knots, worm holes and discoloration. A Barncaster.

Barncaster body front

So I picked this body up off Ebay from a very reputable builder. When it arrived, I was nearly speechless. Painfully cool. The colors are simply unbelievable. If you hold it up to the light, the corners glow amber from the un-cured sap.

Barncaster body side

Check out the blue/green coloring, and the details of the fibers.

Barncaster colors

The spot that you see is an almost translucent, hard sap

This spot is almost pure sap!

This spot is almost pure sap!

The character continues on the back of the guitar. Notice the rear-loading cavity.

Barncaster back

This guitar is absolutely gorgeous to me. I am a true believer that it’s our imperfections and limitations that make us unique and interesting, and that same thing can be said for guitars, or really anything we choose to create. Follow me unto the desert and join me in the worship of cactus as we await the spaceships.

For the past few days, I have been sanding this sucker down, starting with 220 grit, and ending up with 400 grit for finishing. I even bought a can of compressed air to blow the sanding dust out of all the cracks and worm holes.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I struggle with what stain to use, and make my first attempt at a nitrocellulose lacquer spray-finish!

 

A belated recap

It’s been a few weeks now since the Modern Phoenix hosted annual Home Tour.  This year the focus was Arcadia which is an area JT and I are interested in (among others) for when we finally buck up and buy a house here in the desert.  My pictures are not that great, there was a ton of people and it made it hard to get a whole room photographed without having at least five randos in it.  Modern Phoenix had a “Gauntlet” challenge and gave out a prize to one lucky dude who visited all the sites (we didn’t make it to all of them – I’m a dawdler and like to really look at everything).  They have his photos on their Facebook site here.

So here’s a quick look at some of my (crummy) photos —  this amazing barrel-vaulted kitchen overlooking a sunken living room is one of the few residential works that architect Paolo Soleri designed.  It was pretty amazing.

SOLERI 1

Soleri even designed the mailbox.  Like I said, pretty amazing.

SOLERI 2

This is from a meticulously curated bachelor pad.  His place was an awesome use of 800 sf.

BACH PAD

This is the bachelor’s front hang-out area.   Move over kitty, I wouldn’t mind lounging here either.

RELAXING

This next house was owned by the people who own Modern Manor, a furniture store in the Melrose area that you never want to leave.  Their house was pretty much like that too.  I briefly googled around, hoping for a home tour somewhere but to no avail.  This place was too packed on the inside to get any photos but it was to die for (as is the store).

MODERN MANOR

We drove into one of the last stops and I was reminded of St. Louis and the Ridgewood neighborhood where I had dreamed of owning a home one day.

REMINDS ME OF RIDGEWOOD

One of the Ridgewood-esque homes had its own MCM play house in the backyard.  There were two houses on the tour on this little U-shape street and it looked like all the homeowners in the whole neighborhood were either architects or designers.  I was ready to move in.  There is definitely real estate stalking in my future.

MCM PLAY HOUSE

This great office space was also an architect’s home and it was so peaceful and serene (the pool in the backyard always seems to impart a sense of calm.)

ARCHITECTS OFFICE

This one’s for you Nick Armadillo – a Nelson clock collector.  Like heavy-duty – they were all over the house.  And based on the neighborhood the house was in, I would hazard a guess that they are all originals.

CLOCKS

Because the sun is such a prominent part of everyone’s lives here in Phoenix, solutions for dealing with its burning rays are always welcome.  This house had a great outdoor space with canopies that can be rotated to help cope with the sun at different angles.  Pretty ingenious.

SUN SHADE

A fun part of the tour was they had classic cars parked at almost every house that matched the vintage of the house.  Plus look at that container garden in the background . . . yum.

RETRO CARS

I saved the best for last – an Al Beadle house so high up on Camelback Mountain that you would be living amongst all the celebrities and athletes that call the Valley home (or at least their vacation home).

ME AND BEADLE

The house is currently gutted and they were showing plans to turn it into a little bit of a monster with large additions out the back but look at this MCM beauty . . .

BEADLE AT CAMELHEAD

That is literally the camel’s head of Camelback Mountain in the back left of the photo.  All in all I can’t come up with a better adjective than amazing.  It was so awesome to get to peek into all of these homes – some we could maybe afford one day and others that are clearly the stuff that lottery dreams are made of.  JT ventured a comment that we might have a home worthy of the tour someday.  I hope he’s right.

Cheers – CT