Lute making summer school
July 26th - Aug 3rd 2003

Workshop picture

The Workshop

This was the fifth 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, a 14 course theorbo and a six course bass lute. This year we were making an eleven course baroque 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!
01.jpg (160 K) The select band gathers behind the little pile of wood that will make up an 11 course lute. From left to right: Francesco Contò from Italy, Gernot Hilger from Germany, Julian Behr from Switzerland, Jay McDonald from Florida, David, Diann Flanagan from New York. Not in the picture is Loek Hillege from Netherlands who arrived later, and Thea Abbott our wonderful chef and mistress of ceremonies.
02.jpg (42 K) Straight to work! Jay carves the neckblock and checks the fairness of the curve.
03.jpg (43 K) Francesco plans the layout of the ribs and how the wood grain will run across the finished lute back.
04.jpg (160 K) When Loek arrives the course can really start. Gernot cracks open the bubbly and Thea passes Loek a glass, a fitting template for the week.
05.jpg (36 K) Jay concentrates on fitting the first rib to the mould.
06.jpg (47 K) Everyone planed and fitted at least one rib, here Francesco glues up one of his.
07.jpg (49 K) Loek gluing up the penultimate rib. Already the sellotape is much in evidence.
08.jpg (43 K) Jay bending a rib, slightly diagonal to give the necessary twist. The model chosen was the Cocho from Copenhagen, not the easiest shape to work on.
09.jpg (57 K) Francesco at the start of the bridge-making process. Like most of the lute, it was made from plumwood.
10.jpg (49 K) David demonstrates advanced sellotape technique!
11.jpg (38 K) Julian gluing a rib late in the day.
12.jpg (50 K) After dark and Diann and David are still working on the nearly finished back.
13.jpg (62 K) Lunchtime! We ate extremely well throughout the week
15.jpg (47 K) Even though we were working quite hard in the workshop. there was a lot of lute-playing during the week
16.jpg (42 K) Loek turning pegs. We made all the pegs and the little bone buttons on the heads by freehand turning on a simple lathe.
16a.jpg (40 K) Diann also did quite a lot of the turning. The mask is a good idea with exotic woods like cocobolo and of course the deadly British cowbone.
17.jpg (44 K) A nice set of finished pegs and only four rejects.
19.jpg (53 K) By chance there was a completed 11 course lute in the house nearly identical to the one we were building, so many people tried out what the result of all their work would sound like.
20.jpg (50 K) Rose cutting is not as hard as it looks and everyone had the chance to find this out for themselves! Here Loek does some of the initial cutting.
21.jpg (40 K) Followed by Diann.
22.jpg (40 K) And Francesco.
23.jpg (52 K) Diann glues in the endliner to the completed shell, real progress is being made.
24.jpg (45 K) Jay trims the shell down to level.
25.jpg (45 K) Who would guess that Loek had just become a father!
38.jpg (46 K) Jay visited the local harpsichord maker Alan Gotto who kindly showed him his huge range of instruments.
39.jpg (52 K) On Wednesday we were visited by Malcolm Prior and Martin Bowers, two English lutemakers.
40.jpg (52 K) Martin supervising Gernot’s dolphin carving from a safe distance.
41.jpg (21 K) The little treble rider dolphin, carved by Gernot after an original by Schelle, became rather the mascot of the course.
42.jpg (36 K) Here it is in its final position.
26.jpg (58 K) There was occasionally time to go into the city but most days this was as close as we got.

Click here to continue to part two of the report.

Report on 1999 summer schoolReport on 2000 summer school
Report on 2001 summer schoolReport on 2002 summer school
Report on 2005 summer schoolReport on 2006 summer school