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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lute Bridge

I've been making a bridge for the lute. It turns out that these are quite complicated affairs - deeper and fatter at the bass side, with some fiddly 'scrolls' and undercuts. While it's being made, the bridge is best supported in a special jig which I had to make first. I scratched my head over how to make the right profile for the jig (I certainly don't have any router bits that would fit the bill) and then I remembered the trenching plane that used to belong to my Dad, and before this my Grandfather! It did a great job - who needs electric routers!

The bridge can now be glued to the belly (with hide glue) prior to tap tuning.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cittern Ready for Shipping

Here is the cittern ready for shipping in its custom crate. Fingers crossed that no one drives a forklift over it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cittern Soundfile

Here is quick recording of the cittern. All the courses from open to the 21st fret, followed by a bit of messing about - my playing skills do leave a lot to be desired!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Mystery Instrument

I've had some interest in my Cittern, so I tuned it up to pitch to check it over. The bottom course was a bit 'growly', and I have found that the action is a little too low, so I have made a start on fixing this by adjusting the bridge feet a bit. Everything else seems in good order so I just need to find a good way to ship it safely, and to confirm that the potential new owner is willing to go ahead.

All the bars on the lute are now glued in place and I have made a start at trimming them to exact length. On the lute they play an important role in the structure of the whole instrument (which doesn't have any lining) as well as the tone, so this has got to be accurate.

Finally, I have started work on a mystery instrument. I can't reveal what it is because it will be a present for someone, but so far I have prepared some cherry wood for the back and sides, and made the belly. Here is a photo of pieces for the rosette inlay in preparation on a template I turned on my lathe.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Inexpensive Bindings

A while ago I bought some binding from Stew Mac. I was really happy with the results, but I thought it was an expensive option at £3.60 a meter (plus shipping and tax!) so I decided to make some of my own. I started by preparing a piece of sycamore about 60cm long by 5cm by 0.5cm. I cut a couple of bits of black stained veneer and one of unstained sycamore (5cm by 60 cm) and laminated a sandwich using Titebond glue. When the glue had set I planed one edge true and then used a small bandsaw to slice off 3mm . I then planed the newly sawed edge of the 'sandwich'  true again and bandsawed off another slice. In the end I had a pile of bindings each with one good face and one rough sawn one. These went through the drum sander to finish them down to 2mm thick and ...voila!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The bars

I have now started gluing on the bars. These add strength to the belly (which is less than 2mm thick) but also allow it to be 'tuned'. By reducing the thickness and shape of the bars, the stiffness of particular parts of the belly can be changed which will alter the tone and loudness of the instrument. There isn't room to clamp these all at once, so I am doing them a few at a time. I found that putting a small piece of veneer under the middle of the caul (the bit of wood that spreads the clamping pressure) I could get the middle of the bar to stick down properly (I could see the glue squeeze out). You can also see in the photo (most of) the rosette template which I decided not to remove, as I thought it would strengthen the delicate wood a bit.

I took the  dimensions for the bars from the plans, and they looked tall and narrow, compared to what I was expecting. I recently read an interesting article  written by David Hurd (of left-brained lutherie fame) and it seems that the stiffness of a bar is directly proportional to its width, but proportional to the cube of the height. So tall thin bars can be stiff without being too heavy (which would dampen the resonance of the belly).

Sunday, January 06, 2013


I joined the two halves of the belly and thicknessed it down to about 1.8mm. The area for the rosette was then scraped down from the inside to a thickness of around 1mm. The photo shows the lute rosette after the initial cutting out. The paper pattern was glued to the inside and the fragments were cut out with a scalpel. The next step will be to carve the relief (to give an intertwined appearance) and to chip carve a ring around the outside. Once all this is done I can mark out the final size of the belly and get on with finishing the bowl!