There are two kinds of instruments pictured here: those I have crafted and those that I purchased. I started making my own instruments at a time when those available for purchase were either too expensive or too inaccessible, or lacking in a certain je ne sais quoi that I craved but had only the dimmest sense of. Practical considerations included size, portability, and a uniqueness of sound and appearance: how to get the desired bandwith (fullness of sound) without resorting to electronic devices, and to have a compact enough set-up to get to gigs by bicycle, all while looking and feeling unlike what anyone else had? My process was far from methodical and pretty chaotic at first, and many of my early attempts at instrument making resulted in cool looking art objects, which, in the craft, can be synonymous with failure.
I managed to apprentice an ingenious instrument maker who specialized in working with green wood rescued from the mulching yard in New York's Central Park. I learned how to tune instruments while carving them, and eventually had acquired by building a number of the instruments had been unable or unwilling to buy. I made instruments loosely based upon traditional Persian and Afghan drums; managed to "invent" carved wooden Udus (Heart of Jesus); I cut, hammered and repurposed found objects into instruments to be played with the feet in order to extend my sonic range and capacity for playing polyrhythmically. Most importantly, I came to have a very different sensitivity to the materials themselves, and my hands, fingers and feet began to understand tuning and music-making in ways that they had never dreamed of. If it all sounds a bit mystical, it was- but mostly it was a lot of fun and I got some very nice instruments out of it.
I have immense respect for well-crafted instruments, whether mass-produced or hand-made. I use many of them and am very glad that I haven't had to make every damn thing myself. Expediency isn't the worst thing that ever happened.
Click on individual pictures for descriptions and samples of what the pictured items sound like.