Brochure

Introduction

I have been making stringed instruments of one sort or another since 1985.
In 1990 a growing interest in early plucked instruments led me to West Dean college, near Chichester, where I trained under the direction of Martin Haycock. The course at West Dean is a three year apprenticeship scheme with the vast majority of course time spent ‘at the bench‘ working on instruments commissioned by paying customers. This system puts great emphasis on the set-up and playability of instruments as well as quality of craftsmanship. Emphasis is also placed on a knowledge of the history and evolution of the instruments concerned. The specialist techniques of repair and restoration are also covered.
After graduating from West Dean, I set up a workshop in Worcestershire making early plucked instruments, specialising in members of the lute family and early guitars.

Materials

A great deal of time is spent finding and preparing good quality timber for my instruments.
I will usually select woods that are historically relevant for the particular instrument. If the customer has a preference for particular woods to be used, this can be negotiated. This may, however, take longer and cost more than the list price.
The principal timber species used for the bodies of my instruments are: ash (rippled), sycamore / maple (rippled), Canadian rock maple (bird’s eye), yew, plum, cherry (European or American), walnut (black) and cypress. In addition to these, ebony, rosewood and snakewood can be used if required.
Fingerboards are usually in ebony for veneered instruments, or plum with ebony edges for plain instruments.
Bridges are plum or rock maple. These can be stained black or capped in ebony if preferred.
Pegs can be made from plum, boxwood, rock maple or ebony. Again the lighter woods can be stained black if required.
Please note: this list is intended as a guide only. Availability and suitability of preferred woods needs to be assessed at the time of order.
All soundboards are European spruce unless otherwise stated.

Finishes

Most instruments are varnished, in the traditional way, with a coloured varnish.
This process requires many coats and a lot of polishing! The ‘student‘ instruments are varnished with a clear modern synthetic varnish. Suitable woods can be finished in linseed oil and waxed. This produces a slight sheen. This finish especially suits dense woods such as cherry, plum and walnut, or oily woods, such as rosewood, where traditional varnishes are not suitable.

Design

My instruments are either based on a particular extant example or, more commonly, on a body of work of a particular maker or style / school.
Iconographic sources are also used, especially for early and more obscure instruments where little physical evidence is available. Some elements of design might be termed ‘cosmetic’; things like the particular design of the rose or how many stripes, if any, to have in the neck veneer. These items can be chosen to suit the customer's taste. The emphasis here is on producing something that is historically authentic whilst being practical for today’s musicians. I have written some brief notes on some of the models I have used for the more commonly requested instruments here: lute or guitar model notes.

I am also happy to make copies of specific instruments. I am continually adding to my collection of moulds and designs so this is not usually a problem. Obscure instruments that I feel will be ‘one offs’ may incur an extra charge to cover the extra time involved in making moulds etc. Prices on this kind of work can be quoted for on request.

Student lutes

Occasionally, customers ask me for a cheaper alternative instrument that would serve as an introduction to the lute.
I have designed my student lutes to fulfil this need. These are basic instruments with plain necks and pegboxes of beech or fruitwoods. They have no points, half-edging or other extra decoration. A clear, synthetic varnish is used, offering the protection required without the long drying times and difficulty of application of oil varnish. A simpler, but still authentic, rose design is used and backs are built of only nine ribs. In general, less time is spent on, what you might call, cosmetic considerations. These measures keep the price down. Top quality materials and construction methods are used throughout. There is no structural difference between these and my more expensive instruments. They are, however, not finished to the same standards. Roses, for example, are left a little rougher than I would normally like.

Repair work

I am happy to take on repair work to early plucked instruments.
This can range from regluing open joints or cracks to replacing soundboards, adding courses, revarnishing etc. I can give advice on the appropriate actions to take when a problem is suspected with an instrument. I can also deal with small maintainance issues like refrets and peg adjustments fairly promptly.

Prices

The price list (see link at the top of the page) gives guide prices for most instruments in my field.
This may be adjusted after the details of the instrument’s materials and decoration have been decided. The prices in the list assume no extra decoration, such as striped necks, inlaid hearts or fingerboard panels. The more usual decorative items are priced at the end of the list.
I can provide a written quote after the details of the instrument's design have been discussed and decided upon. Quotes for repairs are only made after the instrument has been visually assessed, and may be subject to change during the work. I update my pricelist annually.

Visits

I am happy to see visitors who may wish to discuss their requirements in person.
Potential customers are also welcome to try out any instruments I have at the time of a visit. I am based near Broadway, Worcestershire. Please phone me for directions and to arrange a mutually convenient time for the visit.

More details of specific lute family instruments here...
More details of specific guitar family instruments here...

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oliver@wadsworth-lutes.co.uk