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Somewhere in (Keeping)Time

   by Donna Foster for Somewhere in Time (2015)

The following is an account of materials and methods used in creating each part of the project:
The Metronome
I began by sweet-talking my husband into cutting the basswood blocks into thin slices using his table saw. Then, back in the studio, I set about determining the most efficient way to use the basswood slices and Popsicle sticks to form the sides of the metronome. Once I had my design, I used a jeweler’s saw and coping saw to cut the tiny pieces that make up each face; gluing, fitting, re-cutting, sanding and finessing them together as I went. Since the thickness of my wood pieces varied somewhat, and to ensure the faces would be flat, I glued them upside down on a piece of glass. I then used a mitered length of 2x4 board and fine sandpaper to carefully miter the thin sides of the metronome. Next, I glued the sides together and varnished. I cut feet from the round dowel. I also used a tiny piece of another square stick to bridge the gap at the top of the metronome. Again, I used scrap wood to make the cap, drilling holes for the mouse’s wire legs and filling it with Styrofoam for extra support as the wires pass through the cap. It was glued on after the trumpet player was set and glued securely in place.
In the middle of this part of the project I decided to add a locking drawer for hiding tiny treasures, or as a bank. I glued together more of the leftover slices and when the wood ran out, I used the cardboard box for the sides and bottom. The locking device is a wire, first attached to the metronome arm, running under the drawer from front to back, ending with a bend that hooks under a piece of wood which is glued to the back panel of the metronome. When the arm (and banjo player) is on the left, the drawer is locked, and moving the arm to the right unlocks it. Foam sheet was used to line the drawer. Can you tell what letters are on the wire drawer pull?
I used some artistic license in this life-size replica of a metronome. Usually, the front edges would be notched out to accommodate the cover and the arm (made from a wood stick), but in an effort to preserve the Art Deco design on each side, I opted to bring out the front panel, about the width of a Popsicle stick. And since I didn’t make a cover anyway, the change isn’t obvious.
Another non-prototypical element of the metronome is the back plate tempo scale. Instead of the usual tempos, I substituted a jazz timeline, in keeping with my theme. I used the mat board for the plate and printed the timeline words on the heavy paper. Before gluing it on the metronome, I painted it with coffee to give it an aged, worn look.
It surprised me how far those two blocks of basswood and Popsicle sticks went. I thought the metronome sides alone would have used every piece, but I had so much left over, even after using a LOT of scraps. I didn’t even have to cut up the round wooden disc, preserving it as a nice base for my project after I finished photographing.

The Mice
First, I hammered flat, two lengths of the aluminum wire, which I then cut lengthwise into long, thin wires. These I used in the armature for the mice. I used the wooden barrel for the trumpet player’s torso and wood scraps for filler in the Premo Sculpey heads of each mouse. The other mouse bodies consisted of Styrofoam, cottonballs and pieces of foam sheet. I used the burlap as fur; the tread as whiskers; more Premo for the feet; foam sheet for the hands and bow ties; the canvas bag and thread to make clothing, and craft paint to finish them off.


Musical Instruments
The trumpet was my greatest challenge. It took four attempts before I hit on the best material to use. The precious scrap wood finally came to the rescue. I layered it, glued it, then took the trusty Dremel to it. Craft paint and varnish complete it. Next time, I’ll hire only mice who play stringed instruments.
The double bass began with a leftover slice of basswood. I then used several layers of the MysteryBuild cardboard box, using the same pattern. I combined my salvaged sawdust and wood glue to make filler for the edges of the cardboard, filling in all the little cardboard channels along the edges. The scroll, neck, bridge, tailpiece and tail spike are made from scrap wood. Once dry and sanded, all the pieces were glued, painted and varnished. The only thing left was the stringing. Creating this miniature was one of the most enjoyable parts of the project.
The banjo head is made of three layers of wood slices, with painted, burlap threads as brackets. The neck, tailpiece and bridge are made of more scrap wood. A leftover strip of the foam sheet was used to make the banjo strap. Thread, for stringing the banjo, is the finishing detail.

The broad set of possibilities that this year’s theme provided, made it difficult to settle on a plan. So I decided to first set three goals:
1) I wanted to give the theme a lighthearted twist.
2) I wanted the project to be a stand-alone sculpture, rather than a diorama.
3) I wanted to focus on craftsmanship and detail.
Then one day, while listening to music and tapping my foot, I knew what I was going to build, and I believe my project has satisfied my three requirements. A metronome tweaked the meaning, the mice musicians added whimsy, it’s a one-piece unit, and it certainly tested my woodworking skills (or the lack thereof!).
Once I got going, I found the thing evolving somewhat as I dealt with the challenges of the materials. As I was designing the metronome sides, I decided my drawing was reminiscent of the Art Deco style of the 1920’s. From there, the mice naturally became Dixieland jazz musicians.
At first I toyed with trying to make the metronome actually work, if only for a few repetitions, but after some research I decided it wasn’t feasible. And having a naughty little mouse hanging onto the arm made it impossible anyway.

I would like to add that the problem-solving and research of Art Deco, Dixieland music, woodworking, clock escapements and even 1920s fashions was an unexpected joy, as was my newfound appreciation of woodworking (and Duke Ellington). I’m eagerly anticipating what fun and challenges MysteryBuid 2016 holds in store

 


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