Wednesday 23 May 2012

New-ish work

Hi friends--time for an update.  Much has happened in the shop since last I wrote--new lutes flew out the door to their new homes, a lute mold got made, and two more lutes are now well under way.  I have much to tell you about, and a long weekend in which to get started, so here goes.

First, two new 6 course lutes were finished in March.  One is a 9 rib model, for John Jamison, in Washington state; the other is an 11 rib model for Michael Stover, in Washington, D.C.  Both are versions of an early-to-mid 16th century lute, suitable for playing anything from early Italian repertoire (Dalza, Francesco, Capirola) to the music of Dowland--in other words, practically the whole of the 16th century.

 A few shots of the 9 rib...

The back is made of some highly figured  birdseye maple.
A detail shot of the treble bridge point (the bridge is of plum.)
And a couple of shots showing the neck and peg box.  The pegs are plum, the neck and fingerboard are pear wood, and the darker fingerboard edging is snakewood.

The rose is taken from a late-15th century painting by Giovanni Bellini.  Ray Nurse drew the pattern (Thanks again, Ray.)

And now some shots of the 11 rib:

The back is of curly maple.

The rose is a design after Gerle.

The lutes look very much alike, but there are some subtle differences. The 11 rib's body is a little shallower,  in response to the client's wish for a quick, bright-sounding lute with good projection (though I should also say that the 9 rib has excellent projection, a crisp attack and nice full tone).  The positions of the rose and bridge are a little lower on the 11 rib's belly too--a couple of design tweaks which, along with some slight modifications of the internal barring scheme, were also aimed at creating the sound that we were looking for.

Both of these lutes have a fingerboard that extends onto the soundboard, a feature that's often seen in paintings from the early 16th century and before.  There is a small controversy about whether what we see in those old paintings is actually the fingerboard, or simply some dark varnish or paint extending down from the fingerboard to protect the upper part of the soundboard.  A bit of an esoteric subject, perhaps, but hey, I'm a lute maker--I eat esoteric for breakfast.

(For those interested, the English lute maker David Van Edwards discusses the issue fully here.)

During the planning stage for his lute, Michael Stover sent me a photograph that he had taken on a trip to Italy some years before.  This photograph, of an early-16th century fresco in the Duomo in Urbino, shows a lute with what looks like a Gerle-type rose, and almost certainly a fingerboard that extends into the upper area of the soundboard.  It's a great looking design overall.  I've used it for both of these new lutes, and will use it as the basis for the design of my 6 course lutes from now on.

Photo: Michael Stover