Lute making summer school
July 27th - Aug 4th 2002

Workshop picture

The Workshop

This was the fourth summer school we've run based on the idea of jointly making one lute in a week that is then donated to the Lute Society for use as a hire instrument. In the past we have made a six course renaissance lute, a 13 course ‘swan-neck’ German baroque lute, and a 14 course theorbo. This year we were making a six course renaissance bass lute. It is an opportunity to learn in practical terms how to make a lute and to take part in all the different processes.

The aim was also to have a nice time!
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The raw materials of a summer school. Not shown are the bottles of wine and the mountains of food! From left to right, Nick Gravestock from England, Ivan Bradley from England, Gernot Hilger from Germany, David and Thea, Francesco Conto from Italy and Philippe Mottet-Rio from Switzerland. In front, on the slate table, are all the bits of wood necessary to make the bass lute.
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Philippe fitting one of the first ribs. We made the back of plumwood with hornbeam strips between each rib.
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Lute-maker as brain surgeon, Ivan starting to cut the rose in the newly planed soundboard. This is the second day. On the first day we had carved the neckblock, fitted the first rib and jointed the front.
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Gernot examines the veneer of the pegbox back with a critical eye.
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Francesco turning some of the boxwood pegs on the lathe.
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Gernot drilling the pegbox with pilot holes. Note the special double vision glasses.
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Nick taking his turn at cutting the rose. The finished rose looked very consistent in spite of the many hands, which is a tribute to everyone.
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Gernot takes a break. We were blessed with almost continuous sunshine and good weather throughout the week. Here, as you can see, we have no prejudices against guitars and other riff-raff!
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Even five string banjos!
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Philippe edge-planing the last rib, watched by Francesco.
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Now it’s Francesco’s turn to cut his section of the rose.
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David holding forth about something!
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Philippe fitting another rib. In spite of appearances, Philippe did do other parts besides the ribs!
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Nick scraping the inside of the finished shell preparatory to fitting the lining tapes. The wooden cramps are holding the inner liner which has just been glued in.
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The inner liner has been fitted and Francesco is gluing in some of the tapes. This messy job was shared equally and everyone glued at least one tape, including Thea.
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El Presidente!

Ian Harwood was one of several important visitors to the summer school. Here he is inspecting progress with a critical eye.
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Chris Wilson also came on a visit and played an impromptu concert of ton ravissant baroque music in the sitting room.
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Lynda Sayce paid us a visit too and tried out the big Goldt theorbo which was awaiting shipment to the USA.
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The weather was so good we ate in the courtyard on most evenings. Here, after the wine had flowed, we are clearly in a mellow mood.
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This was the surprise of the course. Philippe brought a large firework by air from Switzerland in his luggage and it passed through all the security checks from Basle!! It made a long and impressive display. It would have been even more impressive inside the aircraft.
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The neck has just been glued on. The seven little wooden cramps are holding some adjustment to the endclasp.
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The lute now has its pegbox glued on and is ready for the front to go on.
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In fact the weather was so hot in the middle of the day everyone sought the shade. Can this be England?
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There was a lot of discussion of lute matters and people used the library extensively.
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Gernot and Philippe working in the sunshine on some guitar duets by Sor.
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Nearly finished! Gernot is trimming the edge of the soundboard level with the ribs before the protective edging goes on.
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Ivan is trimming the ends of the pegs to length. Everyone had a go at peg turning, and, although you can see some variation in the finished pegs, they all work well.
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Being an early renaissance peg design the heads had to be carved by hand. Here Francesco is carving his peg-heads.
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More comparing notes. The opportunity to go into matters in some depth was an important part of the week.
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Ivan prepares the boxwood edging strips before they are bent to fit the soundboard.
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Towards the end it was necessary to do several things at once if we were to finish on time. Francesco is fitting the soundboard edging while Gernot fits the edging to the endclasp.
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Finished at last! We managed to put a top and bottom course on and Philippe even taped some little wooden frets in meantone temperament so that a few notes could be played in sequence. I had been worried about the wood of the front, but in fact the lute sounded really well.
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Gernot also couldn’t resist playing it. We didn’t string it up completely because it still needed varnishing and all the strings would have had to come off again.
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Group Portrait with Lady, to quote Heinrich Böll! Francesco holds the finished lute in the evening sunshine of the last day. Nick had to leave before this. We even experimented with colouring varnish with the pollen from the lily here, but alas, although it was like iridescent gold for 24 hours, it faded to nothing after everyone had gone home. The summer school memories have lasted much better!

The whole enterprise seems to have been a great success, so much so that we are currently making plans to do it again next summer, this time maybe making an 11 course lute.

If you are interested in being part of next year's exhausting extravaganza, please send me an

and I'll put you on the mailing list for further details.

Report on 1999 summer schoolReport on 2000 summer school
Report on 2001 summer schoolReport on 2003 summer school
Report on 2005 summer schoolReport on 2006 summer school