Friday, October 29, 2021

Finding your way- Monkeys, Typewriters and the complete works of Shakespeare

If you haven't already heard it, there's a saying, "If you put a bunch of monkeys in a room with a typewriter, they will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare."

This phenomenon has actually got a name- it's called the Infinite Monkey Theorem

I know what you're thinking, here we go again with the obtuse references.  Land the plane, Bill... what does this have to do with luthierie?

Sometimes, as an instrument maker working alone, you feel like you're finding your way along, but your journey is beset with obstacles, mistakes, do overs.  What this ultimately means is (hopefully) improvement.  You learn what works but many times by learning what NOT to do.  The important thing is the end product that leaves the shop is up to snuff and everyone is happy.

But, for me there's always that nagging feeling that there's improvement to be had somewhere.  It could just be in the process and how it can be improved.  I'm not doing mass-production but if there's a more efficient way to do something, I'm open to it. 

Compared to guitar and violin makers, lute makers are a very rare breed,- schools are rare as are other in-person methods of learning.  Aside from the ultra-rare apprenticeship, it's impossible to completely circumvent the process of trial and error, especially when starting out.  A period discovery ensues where one finds that what seems to work for some, may not work for others.   For instance, I think of one maker's method of fitting ribs to build the back of a lute- which is completely different to other makers' methods- which is different than the method I have become comfortable with.

As stated before, I am very grateful to those who have been so helpful to give me advice.  I will say that however helpful in unlocking the secrets of lute making, all the advice in the world can't give you the tactile experience of what doing fine work feels like with your hands.  For example, I've asked myself-

How much pressure to use with that chisel?

What does the consistency of the hide glue need to feel like for that given operation?

How much should I thin that varnish?



Not yet... I'm still typing.