Just to complete the set of blog articles on things I have made of bamboo, this one on an incense burner.
I sometimes burn incense to create an atmosphere and I needed a burner to stop the ash from falling all over the place. I had salvaged some lengths of bamboo that someone else had discarded & I felt they lent themselves to this little project. Some of the Joss Sticks I have are quite long and they are best burned in a holder at an angle to the vertical so that their ash falls into a suitable collection tray. So I cut a 500mm piece of the bamboo and split it in the length to form the collection tray. The burner needed to stand on a stable base and I considered ways of creating that. I could have attached small feet under my half-tube of bamboo or I could have just sanded down the underside of the bamboo to create a flat base to rest on. Flattening the bottom was an appealing approach but it would have taken too much wood off the underside and left it flimsy. Eventually I decided to use a shorter section of the same bamboo and glue and rivet that onto the actual burner. With a lick of varnish it looked sort of arty and the short under-piece could be sanded to provide the necessary flat support surface. So here are views of my incense burner from above and from the side. It goes well with my chanter quiver and music stand that I have described in previous articles.
In an earlier blog article I described the bamboo quiver I made to carry my Bagpipe practice chanter around. Well, after that I still had some bamboo left over, so I decided to make myself a music stand on a similar theme. Actually I didn’t quite make the whole thing.
I happened to have an old paraffin torch lying around. One of these decorative devices one plants in the ground to create atmosphere when having people round for a braai. (South African word for barbecue). it is basically a piece of bamboo about a metre and a half in length. The upper end is split into a number of thin fingers which are then bound around a metal paraffin torch to create a pleasant flickering orange light. I tossed the burner away and also the binding ties that kept the upper fingers cupped around the burner. I then turned the thing upside-down so that the fingers became legs on which the bamboo could stand on a hard surface. To give it some stability, I put a wooden spacer in between the fingers and pulled that up to splay the fingers into a reasonably wide base. I then made a wooden collar that could slide up and down the pole and I put a threaded thumbscrew into that so I could lock it at various heights on the pole so that a musician can sit or stand whilst using the stand. I then cut slivers of bamboo and screwed them together to make the actual sheet music support. This support frame swivels on the wooden collar that slides on the upright, allowing the user to tilt the music support frame to a convenient angle. The music frame only has one screw per joint and the thing is carefully measured, so it can fold up quite small if required for transportation. In this picture of it folded, it has a terry clip for mounting it. But this was later replaced by the wooded collar and thumbscrew
I mentioned higher up. The tall upright in the middle is supposed to look like a musical note (crotchet) but it has a practical purpose too. It is a counter balance to offset the weight of the frame below and make the whole assembly more stable. The head of the crotchet leans to the right because the frame is mounted off to the left of the upright pole and the crotchet shape of the counterbalance helps to distribute the weight properly. The support frame itself is also designed to resemble a # musical sharp note. At the base of the frame, I have fashioned a shelf to support the sheet music and it has three little bamboo fingers pivoted on its front edge to retain the music.
All in all it is probably more arty than practical but it does work if one is careful with it. I have also recently acquired a neat little book-light that clips onto the top of the upright pole and lights the sheet music very effectively in a darkened room.
So when I started to learn to play the bagpipes, the first thing I had to purchase was a practice chanter. The full set of bagpipes uses a hide or synthetic bag to provide a steady flow of air through the chanter and the drones. The drones are the three pipes that rest on the pipers shoulder and they just make different bass notes to support the chanter. The chanter itself though is the pipe with finger holes in it that makes the notes of the tune. Here is a photo of yours truly taken by my bagpipe teacher when I went for a lesson with my new pipes. There is a reed in the chanter that vibrates when a stream of air from the bag passes over and through it. But here’s the thing. A bagpipe chanter makes a heck of a loud sound (so,me would say noise), and so do the drones. If you practiced playing them in your apartment, some neighbour would sooner or later shoot you. So in modern times, the practice chanter was developed. It is similar to the actual chanter, but the reed is made of plastic and is relatively un-noisy. There is no bag so the air to sound the practice chanter is provided directly by the player blowing down a blow stick which is connected directly to the practice chanter.
So having set the scene, let’s get back to the title of this blog article, i.e. ‘Bamboos and boxes’.
Any musical instrument should be protected for transportation and since I had some bamboo lying around, I sawed off a length and used it to make a carrying case for my practice chanter. The cap and strap are made of leather. I thought it was quite arty looking and would be a convenient way of carrying the chanter around. Here is a picture of what I called ‘The Quiver’. It worked O.K. but it is quite a long and bulky object and I realised after a while that it was not very practical. So I made a container of a different design for the chanter. It is a little foam lined, hinged box with cutouts in the foam to cushion the chanter.
To transport the chanter in this box, one unplugs the blowstick from the lower part and stows them side by side. The reed has to be removed too because it would be too vulnerable if it was left protruding from the playing tube. The reed and also a couple of spare reeds get popped into a small plastic pill box with a desiccant to keep the reeds moisture free. Practice chanter reeds are made of plastic and don’t work well when wet. Real chanter reeds are made of special Indian reed and they have to be moist if they are to be coaxed into making any sounds at all.