What’s With The Butter Knife?
If you’ve ever taken the neck off of your Riverbend Instruments ukulele, you may have noticed a butter knife with a signature and date next to it and wondered what a butter knife has to do with electric ukuleles. Several years ago I was playing music with my friend John as a folk/bluegrass duo known as These go to Eleven (5 strings on a banjo + 6 strings on a guitar = 11). Getting ready for a practice session, John mentioned that he needed to grab his axe and without much thought I replied that I would get my butter knife – because I like to “jam.” The Riverbend butter knife was born.
These go to Eleven didn’t last very long as a duo, but later that year, John and I got the bug to start building instruments. John’s grandfather had built several Mountain Dulcimers with one of his best friends so it seemed like a fitting place to start. We spent about 6 months learning to mill wood, bend sides, and create tight glue joints. There were moments of frustration and joy as we did our best to teach ourselves the art of luthiery, not to mention plenty of good beer and conversation in John’s garage once the power tools were turned off.
After several build sessions on weekend mornings or after work, our dulcimers were close to being finished. That offhanded comment was still in my mind so I started referring to my nearly completed new instrument as a butter knife that was nearly ready to jam. My background is in jewelry design, so I decided that a sterling silver butter knife would be a fine inlay on my first instrument. With a scrap of walnut and some leftover silver from a jewelry project I inlayed a small sterling silver butter knife on the heel cap for my dulcimer. John just rolled his eyes.
When I started Joyner instruments, I knew that I wanted to incorporate the idea of a butter knife as a way to keep my instruments light and fun, but it just didn’t feel right as a logo for the company. Instead it has become a mark of quality and authenticity, branded onto an instrument with my signature and a date of completion. For me, the butter knife is a way to stay connected with my intentions of creating fun instruments that serve a purpose and allow people to get together and “jam.”