After the initial and rather humorous realization that Nik's shop is in Maine, not Massachusetts ("I'm in Brookline, I'll just drive up to Rockport tomorrow afternoon;" wait, what's this about the ME Tnpk - must be a typo...), and combined with having learned - coincidentally, the day before - of my dear friends Barb and Lee's imminent relocation from Maine to Washington state; also knowing that the impending Vineyard busy season would preclude any traveling until at least next January, I cleared my calendar for the 3 1/2-hour drive/two-day visit to Maine's mid-coast.
It was a wonderful couple of days. This violin maker's daughter found Nikos' shop fascinating - watching the process (and participating in the selection) of preparing the wood and bending the sides for my "gui-zouki" was worth the trip, alone. Playing tunes with Nik (along with being a skilled craftsman, Nik is also a fabulous musician, composer, and all-around great guy), attending a local trad session, and spending time with Barbara and Lee were also among the highlights of my visit. Just being in Maine was a treat - you see, even though I travel every week between Boston and the Vineyard, I never actually go anywhere - my commutes are simply from one bedroom to another, so it was fun breaking away from my well-worn path for a change, albeit briefly.
Nick's web site, here.
Nik on Facebook.
A bell-shaped cittern, in progress.
Preparing to thin-slice a piece of mahogany which will ultimately become the sides of my instrument.
A stash of spruce seasons in a sunny window.
Preparing the sound-box mold.
Moxie, the curious kitten, investigates.
Bending, fitting, and clamping along the way.
Both sides are now clamped onto the mold.
After a couple of days, the sides will be dry enough to remove from the mold. According to my most recent e-mail from Nik, the end blocks are now in.
Not only does Nik build beautiful instruments, he also plays them beautifully. Here, Nik plays his bell cittern, a full-bodied and rich-sounding instrument that also features outstanding action and play-ability. Nik is an entirely self-taught luthier and has made instruments for prominent musicians (and fellow Mainers) such as Paul Noel Stookey and Gordon Bok.
Lee and Barbara, over in Orland. I've known Barbara and Lee since I was ten years old. Lee, a boatman and woodworker, sent me home with a sweet little wooden model of a Galway hooker, a traditional Irish fishing boat, along with a much-admired (during previous visits) hand-made wooden bench.