Part 1: Harvesting the tree
Part 2: Building the Harp
Part 3: Finishing Up

February 2005
February 2005
A big wind storm took most of this tree down. It is an English maple, or plane tree, probably planted in 1907 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Pemaquid colony.
White rot!
White rot!
You can see the figure in the wood at the break. You can also see that the trunk is mostly filled with white rot. It doesn't look like a good candidate. Besides, the limb on the ground is too small.
After surveying the tree in February and deciding it wasn't suitable we did a late spring tour down to Georgia and back. When we returned in April the tree had been cut and the top hauled away to a pile behind the old cemetery. The trunk was too big for the park to lift with their tractor. I decided I would try to split the trunk to see if there was any good wood.
The story continues...
May 2005
May 2005
Son Caleb is home from Califormia. As a professional raft guide he has developed a powerful physique. Handy for splitting logs!
Take this hammer...
Take this hammer...
I helped a little bit.
This is a BIG trunk
This is a BIG trunk
I could watch this kind of work for hours.
Ten minutes later
Ten minutes later
About ten minutes into the job. This is easy!
REJECT!
REJECT!
The tree has two hearts. It was a double trunk that grew together, so this first split was on a natural fault line. Half the tree is totally decayed - full of grubs and rootlets.
Maybe this one
Maybe this one
This piece looks like it might be OK. It's still too big to move.
Here we go again
Here we go again
We'll start with this crack.
Tough going
Tough going
It's a start.
When John Henry was a bitty baby...
When John Henry was a bitty baby...
Go, Caleb!
I'll take a turn
I'll take a turn
More wedges and gluts!
Let me show you how it's done
Let me show you how it's done
It's still hanging tough.
At last a crack!
At last a crack!
The grain around that big limb doesn't want to let go.
Do we have enough wedges?
Do we have enough wedges?
Let's open that crack some more
Improvise!
Improvise!
Our oak gluts are not holding up well
Still not apart
Still not apart
It just doesnt want to give up!
At last!
At last!
This split took over two hours.
A week later
A week later
The truck and crew from the Carpenter's Boatshop. Daughter Harmony is speaking with Bob Ives on the left.
The tractor can't pick it up...
The tractor can't pick it up...
But it can drag it!
But it can drag it!
How do we do this?
How do we do this?
Note the location.
Need help?
Need help?
Can anybody else get involved here?
Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick
This is the reconstructed tower of Fort Frederick, dating from about 1900.The plane tree stood in the parade ground near this tower.
There have been three forts on this site on John's Bay, named by John Smith of Jamestown (VA) fame. This area has been an important meeting place for several thousand years. The Wawanoc people used this peninsula as a hunting ground and there were plenty of oysters, lobster and other resources here.
European fishermen had a seasonal fishing station here, probably prior to 1600. The earliest date given for year round settlement here is 1607, the same year as the Jamestown and Popham colonies.
The site was abandoned twice due to various wars. It was rebuilt for the final time in 1729 by David Dunbar and several Scots-Irish families.
We'll just slide it in there
We'll just slide it in there
One end is up.
How good are the springs?
How good are the springs?
700 lbs of plane tree
700 lbs of plane tree
Don't get under it!
There's the ticket!
There's the ticket!
Easy does it...
Easy does it...
Watch you fingers!
Ready to go
Ready to go
The Carpenter's Boatshop is an unusual facility in Pemaquid. It is a boatbuilding ministry, based in part on the Shaker tradition and in part on the Celtic monastic tradition. Work is regarded as an expression of spirit. Apprentices are not paid, neither do they pay to be there.

The Carpenter's Boatshop is available for people from the larger community (like me) as well. I often avail myself of the thickness planer, jointer and ocasionally the ship saw. (Nobody knows how old this saw is: the company that made it went out of business in 1854!)

At the mill
At the mill
The boatshop has a Woodmizer bandsaw mill. They are good friends to have!
Leg Power!
Leg Power!
Jonathan Ives and I are pushing the log with our legs.
Watch your toes!
Watch your toes!
One, two, three...
One, two, three...
It's going to make a big thump.
There she goes!
There she goes!
On the Bed
On the Bed
...and it didn't fall off the other side!
View from the back
View from the back
Pretty knarly piece.
What a monster!
What a monster!
We were concerned that the building frame wasn't strong enough to use a lift.
Will this fit?
Will this fit?
Oops! Had to roll over
Oops! Had to roll over
The log was too wide for the saw frame. We had to roll it 90° for the first cut.
Better than a pit saw!
Better than a pit saw!
First cut
First cut
This one is a throw away.
Off cuts
Off cuts
We brought home all the planks generated in squaring up the billet. They are wedge shaped and I don't have a clue what I will do with them.
This one for the soundbox
This one for the soundbox
This block is still pretty heavy - all I want to move
The result
The result
Seems like a small pile considering how we started.
Curved piece for the pillar
Curved piece for the pillar
I found a curved limb in the pile of wood where the rangers cut up the top hamper of the tree.
A crotch for the neck
A crotch for the neck
This crotch is big enough for the neck - if it doesn't warp or split. All the wood is still wringing wet.
Still soaking wett and heavy
Still soaking wet and heavy
Another view
Another view
The big slabs rapidly checked in the sun. This wood is very hard to dry without checking. I kept all the pieces for the harp in a plastic bag which I turned inside out every 3 or 4 days. This slowed down the drying and kept the cracking down.

I had planned on hollowing out the soundbox during the summer but didn't find the time. By the time I got to it in September there was a large crack on one side of the box near the top. I drilled lengthwise down the crack and pinned it with a dowel, then filled the crack with fiber-reinforced WEST epoxy.

carving the soundbox
Carving the Soundbox
I took the block back over to the Carpenter's Boatshop and rough cut the box on the ship saw. I followed the curve that was shown in the drawings. This was a mistake. I found out later that the harp was built flat and the curve had developed over the 200 years or so that the instrument was strung
Carving the soundbox
More Carving
I got some practice with the adze, just the same
Carving the soundbox
Carving the soundbox top
Here I am after sawing off the curved top. The string rib is carved into the soundbox. I was advised by David Kortier to thin the top until I could flex it and then stop. (I didn't make it that thin.)
Hollowing the soundbox
Hollowing out
I started hollowing out the soundbox with a gouge, in the old fashioned way.
Hollowing the soundbox
A Faster Method
Notice the flat ledges inside the box. I dug out my Rotoplaner and hogged out as much wood as I could on the drill press.
Hollowing the soundbox
More Chips
The longer I worked on this, the harder the wood became. When it was wet, it cut like cheese. By the time I was done hollowing out it was getting so hard that files were about all that would cut it.
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