Six course lute in g'

Winter 2015.
Here you can follow the making of this instrument. I will try to update weekly as I progress, but there may be gaps if I am working on other things.

Part 1

I usually start an instrument by selecting a soundboard.
These are European spruce.
Once jointed and reduced to about 2.5mm thickness I choose a face side and plane and burnish a finished surface.

Next comes final thicknessing and the application of the rose design to the inside face.
sdb inside

Earlier prep work includes choosing and cutting timber for the back.
In this case I am using Black Walnut. The wood is bought as thick boards so I can re-saw it myself.
Ribs are sawn at 2mm to be finished at about 1.6mm.
Special narrow kerf bandsaw blades are used to help maximize the number of ribs I can get out of a given piece of wood.
The 'comb' and cramp arrangment helps keep the wood snug to the fence when sawing.


The sawn ribs are stacked for a few weeks to allow them to equalize to workshop conditions before use.


Part 2.

The solid mould on which I will make the back of this instrument. A neck block of lime is roughed out and lightly attached to the mould.
This is carved to continue the curves of the back.
The rib ends will be attached to this block and it will stay with the back when it is complete and removed from the mould.
A slip of paper within the joint between block and mould enables it to be broken without damaging the back structure.
A pencil line shows the position of the neck joint.

block carved

Meanwhile work continues on the rose.
The design is pierced from behind using a small chisel, specially made and shaped for the job.

carve 2

Part Three

Work continues on the Rose.
Here about half the tramlines and vines are roughed out...


Some of the tools I use for this work - all purpose made in the workshop from Silver Steel or GFS.
To cut cleanly in Spruce they need to be razor sharp and polished.


The paper backing tends to leave furry edges which will need cleaning up...


I finish the rose in several clean up passes. The first deals with the furry stuff on the back...


At this stage I usually stop and do something else for a while so I can take a final clean up pass with fresh eyes later on.
Time to start on the back of the instrument.
This shows my bench set up for making the back, with planing table on the left, bending iron in the centre and mould with a few ribs in place on the right.


Part 4

Finising the back:
The Planing table is just a flat surface with an upside down plane mounted in it.
The rib joint is be formed by planing the edge of a rib and offering it up to its neighbour already on the mould.
The other, 'free' edge of the rib can be shaped with reference to the flatness of the table.

When all the ribs are on the mould and the endclasp fitted, the joints are taped up ready for the removal of the back from the mould.
At this stage I also rough cut the neck joint on the block.

The moment of truth!
The back is lifted from the bottom end causing the paper to shear at the block/mould joint.

While the outside is still taped up, the inside is cleaned up and paper tapes are glued onto the joints.

After fitting an internal end lining and a base board, to hold the shape of the back, the rim cam be trimmed
so that the soundboard gluing surface is in a flat plane.
Here the internal lining is being glued. The base board is beneath and a block of quarter sawn cherry for the neck is to the right under the plane.
Two small blocks screwed to the neck block act as locators for the slanting neck/body joint.
The joint is made at this point before the neck is shaped.

The neck, in this case solid Cherry, is shaped and the joint is adjusted for correct action and alignment then glued.
neck glue

Part 5

Preparing the bridge. A piece of quarter sawn Plum is marked out, shaped and drilled.

Rough cut bars...

The first gluing session using 'Go Bars'  to hold the bars in place as the glue dries. The bars over the rose are blacked
to make them disappear when viewed from the front.

All bars in place including small reinforcements over the rose.

Bars shaped and trimmed. Once the bars have been shaped they are trimmed to length so that they hold the
body of the lute in shape when the soundboard is in place. Some small blocks, not yet attached, are used to
keep the lower bass quarter in shape.

Once the soundboard fits well, the bridge position can be marked and the bridge glued in place.
This is obviously an important joint so fresh glue and lots of clamping pressure are required!

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