For June, 1973

Apprentice Organ Builder

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Ross King Fort Worth Texas

More than ironic how this grounding in pipe organs gave me a great basis for understanding synthesizers later on.

I had word-working in my genes (from my dad’s furniture factory), electronics in my hands, and golden ears—a lucky find for Ross despite my resentment of sanding and finishing. I enjoyed the live-and-let-live attitude of the admittedly more enlightened college towns we predominantly serviced. And Highland Park-which probably had the best instrument I saw. And which was crafted by Ross’s own mentor Otto Hoffman.

Ross was surprised that after another apprentice left on Friday, on Monday there were relatively no tools left in Otto’s shop. Not theft; everything on glorious display was the failed apprentice’s. Among the lessons inherited: get your methods down to a minimum of regular tools. Specialty instruments rarely pay off; only if they support significant production. If they invite dependency, breakage becomes intangibly costly through disruption.

One day I had filed and sanded a new pipe rank perfectly—so that each pipe could easily slide out but not wiggle. I went to lunch and brought Ross back to survey my proud work; probably half the pipes would not budge from the humidity-reactive ply. He could only laugh and reconsider his design tradeoff for this imminent delivery. With no time to age the wood, we re-drilled everything and used felt, trebling the cost.

Driving under ionic green sky; listening to a minute’s worth of plastic rain debris from a lightning strike on the neighboring franchise. After a summer of facing the challenges of Texas humidity on wood, and of its temperature upon tuning, I gave it up in favor of starting Philosophy as a Junior at UCSC in September.

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