Trail Tales Sierra Nevada activities and information Wed, 27 Jun 2012 17:34:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Building a Violin Day 7 Wed, 27 Jun 2012 17:34:02 +0000

It’s been a few days since my last post.  I actually worked on a few little odds and ends since the last post but nothing significant as I was waiting for my calipers to arrive so I could check the thickness of the strips I was trying to bend.  It turned out that my previous attempts had been on strips that were 3mm to 4mm thick rather than the 1mm to 1.25mm that I expect to be bending for the real violin ribs.  So, I planed one of the strips down a bit, to about 1.75mm and gave it another go.  The bending went much more smoothly!

I made a couple of other changes in my bending process also.  On the advice of many, from the internet, I heated my bending iron hot enough so that water didn’t just boil when it hit the iron but rather it beaded up and danced off the iron.  But, you don’t want the iron so hot that it scorches the wood so make sure and let the iron heat up for a good bit of time and test on a scrap piece of wood for scorching.

The other significant, though simple, change I made was to use a piece of parchment paper between my aluminum bending strap and the wood strip I’m bending.  This is done to protect the wood from being stained when it rubs against the aluminum.

As you can see in the picture and in the video, the results were good.  When I was done, I thought the fit was probably close to good enough to glue.  However, I discovered the next morning that either the curve had changed or the board had shrunk and it no longer fit tightly at both ends.  Next time, when I get done bending the strip, I’m going to try clamping it into the c-bout on the form over night to see if that helps.

One thing I learned along the way was to NOT try to use carpet tape to hold the strips down while planing.  I had read this recommendation on several forums but it didn’t work out well at all for me!  When I got the strips down to a little over 1.5mm thick, I found that the adhesive on the tape was just too strong and the strips would break as I tried to remove them from the tape.  Maybe there’s some brand that isn’t as permanent, but the standard double sided cloth carpet tape that I tried was a disaster… fortunately only on scrap wood!

Here’s today’s video.  Enjoy!

Building a Violin Day 6 Sat, 23 Jun 2012 00:45:34 +0000

Today was all about learning how to bend wood.  I need to pretty much know what I’m doing before I start trying to bend the real violin rib wood because there’s basically jut enough to do the violin without much room for mistakes or scrap.

So, I started the day by ripping off a few 20 inch thin strips of spruce from the long 2×4 I had to buy the other day.  These strips will also serve as stock for the rib linings that I’ll be cutting next week.  I had cut several different thicknesses of the strips and started out trying to bend the thickest of the bunch… why?  I have no idea, but it turned out to be a mistake.  Later, after many failed attempts, I cut a piece much closer to the thickness of the ribs.  I had some success when combining this thinner piece with a modified approach to the bending process.

The real breakthrough came when I got some advice from amateur luthiers  Kathy and Ray (THANK YOU!!!) who suggested:

  1. Use a cut down piece of aluminum flashing as a bending strap.
  2. Don’t wet the wood too much.

I also read in “The Art of Violin Making” that you should use a damp rag just to get some steam into the wood but that the actual bending should be done with wood against iron.

In the end, after about 6 hours and many intermediate failures, Success!  I managed to make a very tight bend without a single split or tare.

Here’s the video showing the whole process I went through today.  The right way is shown near the end.

FYI, I might consider buying one of the stainless steel straps sold by luthier tool shops to avoid the possible blemishes caused by the aluminum rubbing off on the wood.

Building a Violin Day 5 (sort of) Thu, 21 Jun 2012 17:53:32 +0000

Well, it is the 5th day since I started but I really didn’t do anything on the violin other than square up one edge on the form.  I did get the wood in though, as well as a few other things that I’ll need.

I spent a little time going over some of the things I’ve had to get for the project so far and covered them in this video.  You also get to be tortured by me struggling with some exercises on the E-String.

On the violin itself, I’m at a stand still for a couple days.  The next step is to get the rib stock down to about 1mm thick.  To do that, I’ll need a set of calipers which have been ordered and are due in on Monday.  In the mean time I’m going to practice bending wood and make some tools I’ll be needing.



Building a Violin Day 4 Wed, 20 Jun 2012 16:00:00 +0000

Today’s task was to cut to shape the corner and top and bottom blocks.  The first step was to plane the blocks to be flush with the violin building form.  Next, I transferred the pattern onto the blocks.  Once I’d neatened up the pattern using a french curve, I did the cutting on a band saw.  The last step, not seen in the video, was about two hours of sanding and checking to make sure that all the block edges were square with the bottom of the form.

If I ever do this again, I think I’ll try to keep the band saw a bit further from the cut line.  I’ll use small diameter sanding wheels on the drill press to get down to the final shape and by doing so, keep everything square as I go.

Here’s a video showing most of what I did.  Oh, and my apologies… I did not practice violin today so no tortuous background music 😉

Building a Violin Day 3 Tue, 19 Jun 2012 23:34:34 +0000

Today’s task should have been simple.  It should not have involved a trip to the lumber yard and another to the hardware store.  However, it turned out not to be simple and did indeed involve a trip the the lumber yard and another to the hardware store.  On the upside though, I ended up getting a really awesome back cutting saw and several clamps that were on sale.

Today was all about getting the form cut out and the corner and end blocks put in place… mission accomplished.  Check the video:

The trip to the lumber yard was required because it turned out that I didn’t have a piece of wood suitable for the corner blocks or end pieces.  So, for the lack of about 8 inches of wood I had to go buy a 16ft spruce 2×4.  Oh well, the “scrap will come in handy I’m sure!  At the lumber yard they cut the board in half for me using a very nice back cutting saw.  When I commented about it I was told that they sold them inside the office… They did indeed sell them, in fact, the sold one to me :-)

The trip to the hardware store was required because the clamps I had were either an inch too short or 4ft too long.  As it turned out, they were having a “Hot Deal” on the clamps I needed and have been wanting for a while anyway.  So, it all turned out for the best (with the possible exception of my wallet).

Cutting out the form went well.  The only thing that I’d give more thought to on a 2nd go around would be how to cut the slots for the corner blocks.  Cutting the slots with a 1/8 inch band saw made it impossible to achieve parallel, straight, or perpendicular cuts.  This along with difficulty cutting the blocks themselves using a table saw and miter saw took a lot more time than expected.  If I had it to do over again (Stradivarius part deux?) I might think about changing blades on the band saw and cutting the blocks and “entry” slots on the form with a much wider blade.

So, anyway, while it did take about twice as much time as expected (what doesn’t other than hot water in the microwave?) it’s done for the day.  Tomorrow, after the glue is dried, I’ll trim down the corner and end blocks, mark the pattern and cut out the last of the form.



Building a violin Day 2 Tue, 19 Jun 2012 00:38:37 +0000

Today started out with the plan being to cut out the inside mold for the violin.  It didn’t turn out that way.  After spending close to an hour installing the new 1/8 inch blade on the band saw and getting everything squared up I rough-cut out the form but didn’t go back and finish the job.  Instead, I spent an hour or so trying to figure out how to use my new sharpener to sharpen Plane Irons.  I managed to come up with a system that works better than doing it completely free hand, but still not close to perfect.  After just having bought the WorkSharp WS2000, I’m still hesitant to go out and spend a bunch more money on a different sharpening system so I’ll keep trying until I succeed, run out of patience, or run out of Plane Iron.

Before I did the rough cut of the mold,  I jury-rigged a dust collector system for the band saw using my shop-vac.  The system, as crude as it was, worked great!

The big success of the day was that I build a wood bending iron out of a stained glass soldering iron, a 3/4 ID thick walled brass riser, and a few other components.  It includes a dimmer switch which presumably will allow me to control the temperature, or at least the rate at which the Iron heats.

A lesser accomplishment, though still time consuming was purchase of all the parts I need for both the elastic band clamps for the bouts as well as the parts for 20 luthier clamps (more on that later).

Finally, today was a violin lesson day.

Here’s the video with me playing in the background to torture you 😉

Oh, by the way, I have a huge, infected, nasty looking blister from all the planing I did yesterday… I may have the mind of a carpenter, but I have the hands of an engineer.



Building a Violin Day 1 Mon, 18 Jun 2012 00:00:06 +0000

progress from day 1I got the bug and decided to try to build a violin.  I’ll be using “Violin Making An Illustrated Guide for the Amateur” by Bruce Ossman as a guide.

Today, I got done getting the form pieces down to dimension, got all the holes drilled, and the form pattern transferred onto the wood.  Tomorrow, I plan to use the band saw to cut out the form.

Here’s a video showing what I got done today and how I did it.  Be prepared though… It also features me playing in the background.  I’m still a beginner so it ain’t pretty.


]]> 0
Knights Ferry Loop Sun, 03 Apr 2011 01:59:00 +0000

This route makes a loop through a lot of wide open ranch land in North Eastern Stanislaus County and takes you along the Stanislaus River between  the town of Knights Ferry, and Kerr Park.

Junction of Milton and Sonora Roads

Start at Junction of Milton and Sonora Roads

Parking spots at the start

Parking on Sonora Rd

While we could start this loop from anywhere along its course, and one could make a good argument for starting and ending in the community of Knights Ferry, we’re going to start at the junction of Milton Rd and Sonora Road (‘A’ on the map).  We get there by turning South off of Highway four onto Milton Road and driving about three and a half miles.  There’s a wide gravel shoulder on Sonora Road at the junction big enough for a few cars to park.

We’re going to do the loop clockwise for no particular reason.  I’ve seen people do it counterclockwise also.  So, we are going to head straight down Sonora Road.  This first leg is the easiest to follow as we’re going to just stay on Sonora Road for almost the next 12 miles until we go through the town of Knights Ferry to the Stanislaus Recreation Area / Picnic area just outside of town.

Cattle Country On Sonora Road

Cattle Country On Sonora Road

Most of Sonora Road goes through cattle country with wide expansive views, and in the spring time lush green low rolling hills for as far as you can see.  You won’t have to look hard for the cattle, they’re everywhere along this stretch of road.  If you keep your eyes open though you might catch a family or two of groundhogs along the way.  In the first 8 miles, we climb about 140 feet to just under 300 feet in elevation.  We then drop down by about 60 feet in the next third of a mile and bounce back up 123 feet in less than three quarters of a mile.  Now into the course a little over 9 miles, we are at the highest point we’ll see today at about 358 feet in elevation.  After reaching this peak (loosely defined), we descend about 120 feet in a little over a mile.  Now, just under ten and a third miles into the course, we reach the junction of Sonora Road and Orange Blossom Road.  If you wanted to shorten the loop by a few miles you could turn right on Orange Blossom Road, but then you would also miss out on seeing the quaint community of Knghts Ferry which we’ll be coming to shortly

Knights Ferry Sign

Welcome To Knights Ferry

At the junction with Orange Blossom, we turned left at the stop sign to stay on Sonora Road and regain about 60 feet over the next two thirds of a mile.  At just under 11 miles into the the course, we begin our descent into the Stanislaus river basin and the community of Knights Ferry.  This descent is only about 128 feet over a half mile.

If you don’t care to stop or slow down on your ride, you could just turn right at Cemetery Street (‘C’ on the map), just before you come into “down town” Knights Ferry (also loosely defined).  However, it’s worth taking the short ride through town and maybe taking a short break at the Knights Ferry Stanislaus River Recreation Area just on the other side of town (‘B’ on the map).   There are porta-potties, and a picnic area at the recreation area and according to a sign we saw there, they apparently also have drinking water though I did not take the time to scout it out.

We’ve come just under twelve miles when we reach the Recreation Area just outside Knights Ferry.  By turning around and heading back the way we came, we could cut the total distance down by about 14 miles, to about 24 miles.  However, we’re going to continue on the loop.

Cemetery Road

Steep but Short

From the recreation area, we retrace our route back about a half mile, through town, to Cemetery Road (‘C’ on the map) and turn left up the short steep hill.  On Cemetery, we gain about 140 feet in under a third of a mile.  We’re going to turn at the first left onto Frymire Road (‘D’ on the map).  However, you might want to take a short detour continuing on the now flat Cemetery road keeping your eyes open to the left.  You just might spot the Camel or Zeedonk (Zeebra + Donkey = odd) or some other exotic creature that call this ranch home.  This also gives you a little break before we climb a little more on Frymire.

If you wanted, you could just continue a bit more on Cemetery road and then turn left on Morrision.  We’re going to turn from Cemetary onto Frymier though and after a short assent and a gradual decent, we’ll catch up with Morrison after about 1.7 miles.

At the junction of Frymire and Morrison (‘E’ on the map), we’ve now come about 14.4 miles from the start.  We’re going to go left on Morrison, heading due West for a while before it turns North just before the intersection with Orange Blossom Road.  We’re only on Morrison on a shallow descent for just over eight tenths of a mile.  Since getting on Frymire, we’ve been following the course of the Stanislaus River pretty closely and will continue to do so for several miles to come.  There are several river access recreation areas along the way similar to the one outside Knights Ferry.

At the junction of Frymire and Orange Blossom Road (‘F’ on the map) we turn left and continue to follow the course of the Stanislaus river for about nine tenths of a mile before turning right, up Horseshoe Road (‘G’ on the map).  We could skip this little detour and continue on Orange Blossom, but the extra couple miles helps get us a bit closer to 4o miles total (actually 38.2).  So, we take the easy 2.4 mile “horseshoe” and find ourselves back to Orange Blossom road (‘H’ on the map) where we’ll turn right and continue once more to follow the course of the Stanislaus River.  At this junction, we’ve come just over 18.5 miles from the beginning.

Orange Blossom Recreation Area

Orange Blossom Recreation Area

Back on Orange Blossom now, we continue 2.5 miles until we come to Rodden Road.  We continue to follow the Stanislaus by turning Right on Rodden Road (‘I’ on the map).  Just off to our left we’ll see the rather large and inviting “Orange Blossom Recreation Area”, yet another river access park.

We continue on Rodden Road, staying along the northern bank of the Stanislaus River for a little over 2.9 miles.  At this point, almost 24 miles into our journey, Rodden takes an uphill turn toward the North, and away from the river bed.  After another half mile, Rodden Road turns back generally Westward.  We continue on Rodden Road for about 1.4 miles where it ends at a T-junction with Twenty Eight Mile Road (‘J’ on the map).  We’re now about 28.8 miles from the beginning.

We’re going to turn right on Twenty Eight Mile Road which starts out heading us due North.  A little over 2.8 miles on Twenty Eight Mile Road, we come to the cross street, Dorsey Road, and the beginning of the Woodward Reservoir Stanislaus County Park which will be on our left as we cross over Dorsey.  We continue on Twenty Eight Mile Road which soon begins to take turns to the East, North East, North, West, etc, as it skirts the boundary of the Reservoir.

About three miles from crossing over Dorsey, we come to a junction with Eastman Road (‘K’ on the map).  From here, Twenty Eight Mile Road continues on straight, to the North, and would get us back to the beginning more quickly, but it also turns into a dirt road here.  So we’re going to take Easman Road West, to the left.

Eastman Road, like Twenty Eight Mile Road, skirts the reservoir park boundary, but on the Northern edge.  We follow Eastman generally Westward for about 2.2 miles where it ends at a T-junction with Twenty Six Mile Road (‘L’ on the map).  We’ve now come a little over thirty three and a third miles from the start.  We take Twenty Six Mile Road, right, to the North.  About 2 miles after we join Twenty Six Mile Road, the road name changes (though there is no sign that I saw) to East Sonora Road (‘M’ on the map).  From here, the road turns toward the East and in another 1.9 miles, takes us back to the junction of Sonora Road and Milton Road where we started (‘A’ on the map).

I have yet to personally ride this route on my bicycle, but other than the short steep climb up Cemetery road, the climbs seemed relatively gentle.  The traffic was light to non-existent for most of the route with the exception of “down town” Knights Ferry and the stretch of Twenty Six Mile Road and East Sonora Road, but even those  did not seem too dicey.

If you’ve ridden the route, or if you catch any mistakes I’ve made in this description, please feel free to leave your comments!


]]> 0
Hello Trail Tales Wed, 22 Dec 2010 23:05:05 +0000

Just a short update on the status of things… Since you’re reading this it means you’ve found us at our new location.  Make sure and update your bookmarks / rss links etc to our new address.


]]> 0
Bull Run Lake Trail Wed, 08 Sep 2010 00:30:21 +0000

The trail to Bull Run Lake can be difficult depending on what kind of shape you’re in and how much water is flowing in the streams you have to cross, but the lake is beautiful and a great place to camp.

From the Stanislaus Meadow parking area just off of Highway 4, it’s almost exactly 4 miles to the lake.  You can cut up to a half mile off of that if you drive in on the dirt road to the official trail head.  However, there are some pretty rutted sections of that dirt road that I would not want to take without elevated ground clearance and maybe four wheel drive.

Stanislause Meadow Trail Head Sign

Stanislaus Meadow Trail Head

I parked in the large parking area, about four miles East of Lake Alpine on the South side of Highway 4, and walked the dirt road into the official Stanislaus Meadow Trail Head.  The parking area is at about 7900 feet elevation.  It was a pleasant walk and I wanted to get some video footage anyway.  From the parking area I followed the road for about 0.55 miles to the well signed Stanislaus Meadow Trail Head.

There are no facilities at the parking lot or trail head so plan ahead.  Make sure and bring plenty of water for the hike.

Near the trail head is a junction with the Emigrant Trail that will take you to Mosquito Lakes in one direction and to Lake Alpine in the other.  On some topo maps the trail to Lake Alpine is shown, but the trail to Mosquito Lakes is not.  There is another trail junction further up toward Bull Run Lake that also goes to Mosquito Lakes and some people make a loop out of it.

From the Stanislaus Meadow Trail Head, we travel mostly South down a gentle slope for a little more than a half mile to the signed boundary of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness Area.  Remember that motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed in the Wilderness Area.

Continuing mostly South from the Wilderness Area Boundary, or path begins to steepen it’s descent.  This steeper South bound part of the trail continues for a little over six tenths of a mile until we reach a crossing near the headwaters of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River, about 1.7 miles from the parking area.  When I did this hike in early September the river was dry.  However, earlier in the season when the snow is still melting, this crossing can be challenging.  There are several places where people or horses have chosen to cross depending on the rate of flow.  This is the low point of our hike at about 7440 feet.

From the crossing of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River, we begin to climb gently in a Southeasterly direction for about four tenths of a mile where we come to another stream crossing.  Again, when I did the hike this stream bed was also dry but it would not have been just a few short weeks earlier.

From the stream crossing at about 2.1 miles from the parking area, we turn toward the North East, and begin to climb more steeply.  In another six tenths of a mile, or about 2.7 miles from the beginning, we come to the trail junction I mentioned at the beginning of this article.  If we continue North East at this point we can go to Heizer Lake or further on to Mosquito Lakes and Highway 4.  Today though we are going to Bull Run Lake so we take the right fork of the trail which now takes us toward the South East.

For about then next four tenths of a mile our path is nearly level… it won’t stay that way.  At about 3.1 miles from the beginning we start one of the steepest inclines of the hike.  Going steeply up hill we travel first to the South East, then East, then South for a bit less than half a mile where we come to a short level stretch and a small pond on our right.  I know my first reaction upon reaching this pond was great disappointment having mistakenly concluded that this was my destination… luckily the person I was hiking with knew better.

From the pond it’s only another four tenths of a mile (all up hill) until we reach Bull Run Lake at about 8360 feet elevation.  The lake is fairly large and has quite a few great camping spots pretty much all around its perimeter. Being a relatively short hike and a beautiful location, it is a very popular spot for weekend day hikers and back packers.

The hike into Bull Run Lake is easier that the hike to Wheeler Lake.  They both have lots of good camping spots.  One big difference between the two is that the scenery going to Wheeler Lake is very volcanic in nature whereas the hike into Bull Run Lake is like a lot of the Sierras… Granite, Granite, Granite.  In fact, there are some stretches of the trail where you pretty much have to rely on the rock ducks (small cairns) and tree blazes (examples shown in the video) along with map and compass and GPS if you’re lucky.

I hiked this trail on one of the busiest weekends of the year, Labor Day weekend.  I saw lots of people on the trail, some who looked like they were prepared, others who did not.  There are some steep sections, exposed sections, gravely sections, and depending on the time of year, some significant stream crossings.  Bring plenty of water, good hiking shoes, and stay within your abilities.

Bull Run Lake Trail elevation profile

Elevation Profile

I hope you get the chance to enjoy this hike to Bull Run Lake!

]]> 3