Saturday, 12 March 2011

My February

Ah, February, the longest, shortest, dreariest, happiest month.  How did you spend your February?  Were you on a beach in some sunny place, trying your best to forget the frozen misery back home?  Or did you bar the door, curl up by the fire and pluck your lute by the flickering light?

I must admit I did some of the latter in my February (though there was no actual fireplace involved--only the warmth and light of my lovely bride Julia).  In the lute shop, I carved.  I also planed, and sawed, and scraped, and drilled (and occasionally swept the floor); but mostly, I carved.

I selected three of my best soundboards, planed and scraped them to an appropriate thickness, and then in each of them I carved a rose.  Have a look.

This is the rose I carved for the 8 course lute.  Like all of the lute rose patterns I use, it's an historical pattern, and it's from an archlute of 1639 by Matteo Sellas.  (This version of the pattern was drawn by Ray Nurse).   I hadn't carved this pattern before, but I was eager to do it--I really like the balance of space and substance, and the combination of geometric and organic elements.

This is the rose for the 13 course Schelle lute.  It is not the pattern that appears on the original Paris Schelle (that rose is actually carved from a separate piece of pear wood, and then inset into the belly of the lute).  Instead, this rose is a version of the "knot of leonardo" pattern that appears--in different sizes, and with and without the decorative chip-carved border--on many surviving old instruments.

And here is the rose for the 11 course Warwick Frei.  This is the pattern from the original Frei lute, and it is one of a kind--the only surviving historical lute on which this rose pattern appears.  No wonder!  The small lace-or web-like elements are quite painstaking to cut.  Indeed, there's such a combination of different things going on in this pattern--large and small bits, vines, webs, fleurs-de-lis, geometric elements--that it's kind of amazing that the pattern 'works' at all.  And yet it does... To me, there's something in this rose that feels very old, very fundamental, even archetypal.  It brings a shiver.

Perhaps you can tell that I really, really enjoy carving a lute rose.  It's true.  However, like practically all the thousand-and-one jobs involved in making a lute, I am happy while I am doing it, but I am happy when it's done.  I can set the work aside, clear the bench, sharpen my tools, and go on to the next job.

The next job, as it turns out, is to make bridges.  The bridges for these lutes are all made of plum (my preferred wood for this piece of equipment), but each bridge is made in a separate style with its own distinct features.

The 8 course bridge is a design after Tieffenbrucher, dyed black with incised lines and branded with six-petalled flowers.
The 11 course design is from a lute by Vendelinus Tieffenbrucher, dyed black with incised lines and branded with eight-petalled flowers.  It will also have ebony tips added once it's glued to the soundboard.
And finally, the 13 course bridge is based on the bridge from the Paris Schelle--this one isn't dyed black, but has an ebony cap (and it will also have ebony tips).
So there, that's most of my February.  I also did plenty of other stuff (But Travis, I hear you exclaim, how much more can a single human being do in one month?), but that's the most spectacular.  Much work in building a lute is done behind the scenes and does not reveal itself until later.  All will be revealed in the fullness of time....

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Travis! What a bouquet of roses!! They are so incredibly different too. I'm not sure which one I like best but I think it might be one for the 11 course Warwick Frei. I am loving your BLOG Travis. And it is amazing now much you got done in February. Thanks for this window into your world.