I’m forced off the road for a week waiting for parts to arrive for a mobile service appointment. Frustrating? Sure. It can be. Not having availability of something in todays world is a constant source of frustration. I would think that with the amount of Teslas being manufactured, having a well set up supply chain for parts would be a primary necessity, especially when they are as simple of parts as a wiring harness and charge port door. But once again my thought process doesn’t match up with reality and I need to wait for parts. Living in my car adds another layer of complexity to the situation as I am (usually) not in an area long enough for parts to be sent to. Knowing this, I had to find a place to stay to get the work done. Luckily, I had stopped at my parents house for the holidays and I could use that as a partial home base. Little did I know that my time waiting would be spent finding valuable life lessons in places I never would have expected to learn them.
A few years ago, my father retired and as most retirees find out, once they retire they need something to keep them busy. My fathers solution to this problem was to start playing the upright bass. A music college dropout turned business man, it wasn’t too much of a leap to get into this hobby and over time, he had built up a collection of beautiful old instruments. Interestingly, he then was faced with a problem that was quite similar to mine. His instruments were such a niche, that there were no tools or parts to repair them with. The only option was to hire a luthier to do any repairs, or at least that’s how it seemed.
The other option was to make tools for himself. It seemed as if he could do that, most of the work wasn’t actually that hard. The biggest challenge that we had, was figuring out how to reach inside and clamp pieces of wood inside an enclosed space with only an inch wide f-hole providing access. Inside, there were pieces of plywood that had dried up and needed replacing. Along with that, many of the instruments had had years worth of wear done to the fingerboards and needed refurbishing. As simple as these things seemed, at the same time it was a bit of a daunting task. Simply “figuring it out” didn’t seem like the best option to me and I was nervous that since we were inexperienced, we would ruin more than we would fix. But as the old saying goes, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”.
I wouldn’t call myself a bass player anymore, as I live in my car and don’t have an instrument, but from the age of 8, I have been fascinated with these instruments. Because of this, even thinking about refurbishing one got me excited. It seemed like such an artisan craft, in the true term of the word. Where would we start though?
With the easy stuff… cleaning, oiling and fingerboard refurbishment.
These tasks weren’t too difficult, mostly consisting of simply taking the strings off, greasing any gears and rubbing down the wood with our “Secret Sauce”, a concoction of juices and oils to keep the wood hydrated. The refurbishment would be another task though. One that would take a bit more finesse and care.
That process consisted of filling the grooves left by the strings in with superglue and then sanding away the excess. While sanding though, wood from the board would sand off as well which we did not want, so we had to find the perfect combination of sanding and refilling to keep the board intact. Rinse repeat, rinse repeat, over and over until the grooves were gone. The entire process amazed me. It was so simple yet so effective and one that I never would have thought of. The detail work was also a bit meditative, allowing my mind to focus and get lost from any troubles surrounding me. I couldn’t help but think that this was the true meaning of labor.
Moving on to the difficult task of gluing inside of the bass, we had to figure out how to hold the wood in place while the glue dried. We decided that a combination of clamps and magnets was going to be the best way. Never having had worked with magnets though, we had no clue what strength we should use. The next day or two was spent testing different ways to get magnets inside without them getting pulled to other metals and it seemed like we had come up with a solution. Anyone that has tried to experiment with things though knows that nothing ends up going as planned.
When we eventually, went for it, we only had a 10 minute window as the glue was going to dry speedily. We prepared our tools, practiced a few times and then commenced on the actual run.
We applied the glue and started setting clamps in place. Then I grabbed the first pair of magnets to place. They went in fine, and everything seemed like it was going to work smoothly. As we were placing the second set of magnets though, the force from the already placed pair was so powerful and unexpected, the magnets flew together with 60 lbs of pressure. The next thing I knew, my finger was being crushed beneath two pieces of metal.
This wasn’t the time to freak out though. The clock was ticking and soon the glue would be too dry for us to work on anything. We calmly grabbed another piece of metal to pry one of the magnets away and my finger was free. Time to try again. We quickly placed the magnets a bit further apart and started applying both heat and water to soften the glue up again. New clamps had to be placed quickly and within a few minutes it was all over, the only remnant was the adrenaline still rushing inside of our veins.
“And they never seem to make the tools that you need, pushing you to create on your own.”
Although this was a specific lesson I learned this week, I think it can be taken into many different aspects of life. Often, we are faced with a road block and we look towards others to see what can be done. What has been done before? How did other people solve this problem? What would they do? Is there a video that can show me?
Most of us tend to rely on paths that have been walked before opposed to creating our own. In doing so, we take away our own ability. We take away our own power. We take away our drive to create and make something new. It says “if this hasn’t been done before, or in a way that I can find out how, then it can’t be done.”
How sad of a perspective to live with.
Closest Supercharger Asheville NC 10mi
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