Monday, 7 March 2011

The Three Amigos

"The Three Amigos" refers to the batch of three lutes that I'm working on right now, though I can't say for sure that they are actual amigos.  I'm just assuming so, because I haven't heard any squabbling; during the day, at least, when I'm around, they appear to be on friendly enough terms... hanging around, one behind the other, patiently waiting for me to give them their shape...

The one nearest is (or will eventually become) a 13 course lute after Sebastian Schelle (in the Paris Conservatoire);

The one in the middle is an 11 course lute after Hans Frei (in the Warwick County Museum);

And the one farthest away, closest to the wall, is an 8 course lute after Magno Tieffenbrucher (C45, in the Vienna KHM).

I began putting these lutes together in the beginning of November, 2010.  The backs were finished before Christmas; the necks were fitted, shaped, veneered with ebony, then glued up to the body, in January.  (If you want to find out what I was up to in February, tune in for the next installment.)

Here's the Schelle.  It has 9 ribs of Indonesian rosewood, with holly spacers.  As you can see, this wood has a pretty spectacular streaking, which makes a nice match with the holly.  The neck is mahogany, with an ebony veneer; this makes the neck very strong, stable and lightweight.  (The light-coloured strip you see along the edge of the neck is just a piece of masking tape to protect the veneer edge from damage--and to protect my hands from the razor-sharp ebony when I'm handling the lute.)

Here is the 11 course Frei--the back has 11 ribs
of eastern hard curly maple.  This wood has a very lovely blond colour and an interesting curl, and I'm quite looking forward to bringing that out during the varnishing stage.

And here is the 8 course Tieffenbrucher.  This has 17 heartwood yew ribs, with holly spacers, and again, an ebony veneered neck.  I'm quite interested in this lute, because it's a new model I've wanted to develop for a long time.  It's a bit scaled-down from the original C45--I had originally made the mold for a 10 course lute that could be tuned in low-pitch g'.  This 8 course version will have a string length of 62.5 cm, so it can be tuned in modern-pitch g', and it will have 9 tied frets.

Here are three more views.   (Please disregard the bits of masking tape at the ends of the capping strips--they are merely part of the system used to check the angle of the neck, and eventually to set the action/ stringheight of the finished lute.)


  1. what did lutemakers do before the existence of masking tape?

  2. Somebody asked Ray Nurse that question once, and his answer was...apprentices!

  3. Travis, the blog is off to a great start. Very interesting stuff!