mandolin strata

mandolin parts and ideas at Big Muddy Mandolins

I spent a great couple of hours with Mike Dulak of Big Muddy Mandolins. Mike’s been making instruments for years, and is the largest industry in Rocheport. I caught him in the middle of moving his shop, so things were a little chaotic. The above pile of part-finished, discarded or otherwise parts summed up the state of the workshop as I saw it. And yes, that is a uke body.

Mike’s really refined his workflow. He’s built a nifty broach to cut all the string slots in a nut in one swipe. He has a fretting jig that cuts all the slots in one pass (hey, mandolin fretboards are quite short). But to make up for that, he shapes heel necks by hand using a rasp and sandpaper.

I’m really glad I visited, and makes my mandolin a little bit more special to know who made it, and see where it was made.

mandolin madness

Lack of recent posts have been almost entirely due to this:

It’s a Big Muddy flat top mandolin, hand made in Missouri with a lovely Adirondack spruce top.

I really like the portability of the mandolin. I didn’t think I’d like the tiny scale (hey, its entire fretboard is only as long as 6 of my banjo frets), but it’s pretty comfortable. Way more so than a ukulele.


Can I just say that the road from Busch to Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the most gratuitously wiggly route I’ve ever driven?

Our route down from Kansas City was longer than I thought; place not blind trust in GPS routing, especially when you’re close to the edge of the maps you’ve uploaded. Due to one wrong turn on my part, we ended up in Overland Park, KS — rather than being on Hwy 71 all the way south. In future, I shall upload all the maps I need, plus all the states/provinces surrounding, so you don’t get that terra incognita/here be dragons feeling of falling off the edge of your wee scrolly map.

a bit better than before

I just ran the fuel numbers for our recent grand trip to Missouri. For 4380km in a Honda Civic DX, we used about 292 litres of fuel. That works out to be 6.7l/100km (or 42.3 / 35.3 UK / US mpg). That’s not quite as good as I’d hoped; I’ll put it down to driving a little fast on very chunky snow tyres.

At least it’s better than last time

ack bleah

I picked up a pack of Wrigley’s Doublemint Kona Creme Coffee Flavored (as they say) Gum in Missouri last week. I strongly advise that you don’t.

To use the crude but apt expression coined by Jay Primeau to describe a badly-mixed Kahlua cocktail, it tastes like coffee flavoured ass. While chewing, it causes the gorge to rise (I think it’s the slightly minty edge of the gum base), and has an aftertaste akin to latte barf.

Canada’s own Thrills Gum may still taste like soap (as it says on the package, and they’re not lying), but this is just … eww.

gone fishin’

Dave Raine said he’d take us to dinner at a fishing store. Woo, we thought; hot dogs and soda while he dug for bait. Ths isn’t the case when the fishing shop is the HQ of Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO. They have a fantastic restaurant, complete with cordon bleu chef. Who knew?

(and who knew that I’d end up with a fishing rod from there, either?)

the fascinating names of the American Civil War, and other Jesse James related items

I’ve just finished reading Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, by T. J. Stiles. A fascinating book, it describes the Missouri/Kansas border of the 1860s-1870s with the same level of horror as 1990s Kosova/Kosovo.

I know the area well. Catherine grew up in Liberty, and her mother still lives on Franklin Street, the site of the 1866 raid on the Clay County Savings Association by a gang including Arch Clement and the James brothers. The James family made their home in Kearney, the town which used to have my favourite diner, Clem’s Café.

After the civil war, veterans returned home with their weapons, and used them to settle old scores. Stiles makes the point that carrying handguns was rare before the war, so this is a possible root of the US’s gun crime problem.

But what struck me most was the amazing names that cropped up in the book: Adelbart Ames, Delos T. Bligh, Schuyler Colfax, Alvis Dagley, W. L. Earthman, Aber Gilstrap, Odon Guitar, Nimrod L. Long, Zerelda Mimms, Sidney G. Sandusky (who, coincidentally, built the house in Liberty that Catherine grew up in), Theodrick Snuffer, Flourney Yancey, and my favourite, Greenup Bird. You just don’t get names like that any more. These are solid names, they’ll see a lifetime through.

Whistle-stop across Missouri

Just back from a busy but enjoyable trip to (and across) Missouri. Approximate timeline:

  • arrived in Liberty on the 24th, then immediately went to Catherine’s grandmother’s house in Lee’s Summit for Christmas dinner. If I can fix a turkey dinner with Parker House Rolls and all the trimmings when I’m 92, I’ll be doing pretty well.
  • took the train from Independence to Kirkwood to visit Joe & Katie, Catherine’s brother and sister-in-law.
  • stayed in ye olde cheesye Cheshire Inn in St Louis, which is a hilariously fakey (but pretty good) “old” hotel.
  • took Amtrak back to Independence.
  • did the necessary shopping rounds in Liberty: LaMar’s Donuts, clothes shopping at Feldman’s Farm & Home (aka The Feed Store), and browsing books at By The Book on the square.
  • had lunch at the incomparable Englewood Café in Independence.
  • went to see Carlyle’s art exhibit downtown, which turned more into performance art, as the gallery was closed.
  • hung out with Catherine’s high-school friends in Westport, and had the importance (and usefulness) of dry “bible highlighters” explained to me by Carl. Then we ate at the Jerusalem Café.

… and now we’re home.