Build your own Renaissance Lute!
Feedback and addenda
This was the page for people doing the renaissance lute course, but because so many of the questions that arise apply equally to both renaissance and baroque lute making I have decided to amalgamate the two help/feedback pages. This one is now not being added to and you should click here to see the new joint page. This new page has all the content from here as well so you can just bookmark the new page.
I have a rose-sized piece of spruce that Im using to practice cutting the rose. After gluing the paper to the back, I noticed that it was warping. Not too surprising, since wetting the one side makes it expand on the wet side. I thought that it would flatten out as it dried, but it went the other way, and is now curved in the other direction, concave on the paper side. Its bowed about 4mm. Is this going to be a problem when I cut the rose on the real soundboard? Hope this makes sense!
Yes, thats quite a normal reaction but annoying. Its hard to predict and allow for since it turns on how much the paper expands when soaked in glue, relative to the amount the wood expands. In your case the paper expanded more. You could try getting some different paper, I find watercolour 100% rag paper the best, get it from an art supply shop. Expensive but you dont need much.
The glue itself shrinks considerably as it dries so the less glue you leave in the paper/wood joint the better, so do get a roller and use it to squeeze out as much as possible while gluing the paper on.
However all is not lost, even on your test piece. Make up about 10 or 12 sticks, square section rods of wood about 6mm x 6mm x 300mm and cover these with sellotape to prevent adhesion. Then place half of them equally spaced apart on the bench, damp both sides of your wood and paper assembly, place on top of the sticks then place the other sticks exactly over the first ones so the wood/paper is sandwiched between them. Them put a large piece of wood over the whole lot and press down with a heavy weight to hold the workpiece flat. Allow this to dry for about 24 hours and the curvature should have reduced or gone. You can repeat the procedure if necessary.
If you have the same problem with the real soundboard the same technique works well.
Let me know how you get on.
After many attempts to make ebony strips to put between the ribs I gave up on it - they kept cracking during the bending process and it was hard to get them really smooth. It was kind of disappointing and finally depressing, so I stopped for a while. I did learn that when you say 'sharpen your tools often' you REALLY mean to sharpen tools often, so maybe not all was lost, but still! Today i felt inspired to try something else. I changed to rosewood and changed the technique to make them, I made a simple drawbar - and finally : success! I just made my first bent strip, perfectly shaped without problem. Great! On to the next step.
Very sensible, ebony is much more brittle than rosewood which really bends quite nicely.
I think it might be an idea to alert people to using rosewood if like you they have problems with ebony. In fact some ebony is much more tractable than others and I reckon I can now tell which is which by looking at it carefully. There is a sort of gritty quality to the surface of the brittle stuff whereas the good bending stuff looks smoother. There may even be a sub-species involved.
For the moment I'll put this exchange up on the help-pages
I have had a couple of enquiries about methods for taking glue joints apart if something has gone wrong or for alterations of any sort. This made me realise that I had not covered this aspect of lutemaking properly in the course.
I give the general principles first, followed by specific methods for regluing soundboard bar ends.
Briefly the need is to get moisture into the joint followed by heat. The moisture takes a long time to migrate through wood so the best way is to put wet tissue along the joint edges and to seal this from evaporation by applying cling-film over everything. Then you need to leave it for a long time, overnight for thin joints and two or three days for large joints, re-applying water as necessary. After the glue has been rehydrated you can start to apply heat, iron and damp cloth will easily release thin joints. Something major like a neck joint will probably need a thin table knife repeatedly dipped in hot water and worked in slowly. You can also apply steam to the knife as you work but this needs tubing and a source of steam, I have adapted an old Teasmade kettle! Difficult and takes time but can be done. Dont skimp on the time re-hydrating though.
My problem is that, having glued on the soundboard last winter, I noticed yesterday that on the treble side about half way down, there's a bit of give when I press down on the soundboard. It also makes a slight cracking noise and I suspect that one or more of the bars in that area has come unglued. If this is the case, do I just accept it, or is this likely to cause structural problems when the strings are on? Is it even possible to remove the soundboard for re-gluing, or perhaps just a the affected portion? I know this is standard practice with violins, but as the glue used for lutes is stronger, as I understand it, this makes for complications in lute restoration.
Thanks for your help
New string sizes for nylon/carbon option on the renaissance lute
Several of the "carbon" string sizes have recently been discontinued and so this set of sizes has been revised to take account of the changes. This means that the tensions are not precisely the same as for gut and Nylgut; in practice the differences are negligible.
For these strings email
Hi David , Dear Eric,
Hi David , Dear Eric,
Particularly if the figure is nearly at right-angles to the rib this will give the effect you describe of having been cut from one piece of wood. Someone earlier in the course raised the question of the difficulties of choosing wood from among the many square billets primarily intended for turners. These are often a very useful source of lute ribs in interesting timbers but the needs of turners are not the same as lute-makers and so I thought you might like to consider the options.
Someone earlier in the course raised the question of the difficulties of choosing wood from among the many square billets primarily intended for turners. These are often a very useful source of lute ribs in interesting timbers but the needs of turners are not the same as lute-makers and so I thought you might like to consider the options.
If you look through the whole stock you may find some pieces from a larger tree or from further out, where the grain will be more of a piece.
However there is no structural reason not to use this sort of wood. Lutes were made with rib wood in all directions of grain, it's not important at all, either structurally or tonally. The only question is appearance, if you take the slices in order across the lute back the changes will occur gradually and may well look fine. Lay them out on the bench to see. I know you're mostly worried about what to choose in the sawmill and really there isn't much guidance to offer except to say look at both sides of the block and compare the appearance and try to imagine a gradual change from one to the other and decide whether you can live with that.
From this it follows that if you have the chance to buy a whole plank, you will get the most useful wood from the central plank that runs right through the centre of the tree.
However this layout is actively avoided by most sawmills since these boxed heart planks, as they are known in the UK, are less useful for the furniture making trades who comprise the most influential customers. More often than not the sawmill will try to cut straight down the centre of the log and you will get planks either side of the centre thus:
In these cases there is only a central section of the plank which can be fully quartersawn and it is anyway rather close to the heart of the tree and thus has rings of rather a small radius.
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