Bill Ooms - The Eighth Note archive

Friday 27 September 2013

Bill Ooms shares this extraordinary piece which was specially made for the recent AAW Symposium Harmony exhibition. It is a box made from pieces of African blackwood and holly, which holds a surprise in its interior

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What do you think of when you hear the word 'harmony'? That was the challenge for those invited to participate in the annual Professional Outreach Program (POP) exhibit of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW). As an amateur musician - I play classical guitar - I think of music. My thoughts went to the old McCartney/Wonder song with the phrase 'ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony'. A piano keyboard design would fit the theme perfectly. Eventually, I settled on the concept of using the head of a note to become a box with an attached stem.

The starting piece of African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) is first drilled at an angle to make a hole for the stem of the note. The block is then turned round and cut into two pieces - for the top and bottom of the box. The stem half is simply hollowed out and threaded.

The other half of the box was the greater challenge. The inner core had to be blackwood with a thin layer of holly (Ilex spp.) measuring 0.030in thick and a thin layer of blackwood measuring 0.020in thick. Two patterns are used when cutting the note: one for the white keys and one for the black keys. It took some trial and error to get it to look just right. I made a number of practice pieces on simple layered cylinders before I was ready to cut the pattern into the head of the note on the ornamental lathe. I then hollowed out that half of the note head, patterned the inside, and cut threads to match the stem half.

The note looked nice all by itself, but I realised it really needed to be suspended in the air. The staff is made with two vertical wooden dowels and five horizontal staff lines cut from brass rod, and all painted black. To hang the note on the staff I added a flag to the stem of the note, thus making it an eighth note, or quaver. I composed a simple two-part melody and printed it on parchment paper to cover a shaped piece of MDF.

Finally, I needed some surprise for inside the box. I bought a triplet of eighth notes made of sterling silver from a company that sells charms for bracelets. The tiny silver triplet waits within the box to surprise the person who opens it.

Making a piece like this takes a lot of trials to get everything just right. My brother said "if this is the eighth note, where are the first seven?" They are in my scrap box.

'The Eighth Note', African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) and holly (Ilex spp.), 150mm high x 150mm wide x 75mm dia. (PHOTOGRAPHS BY TIB SHAW/AAW)

Tegan Foley

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