Lute making summer school
August 4th - 12th 2007

Workshop picture

The Workshop

This was the eighth summer school we've run based on the idea of jointly making one lute in a week. The lute 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, a six course bass lute, an eleven course baroque lute, a seven course tenor lute and a 14 course liuto attiorbato. This year we were making a 6 course mandora. It is an opportunity to learn in practical terms how to make a lute and to take part in the different processes.

Click here to see all the pictures as a slideshow

001.jpg (245 K) The select band gathers behind the little pile of wood and bone that will make up a mandora. From left to right front row: César Abarca Villoldo from Valencia, Spain, Tim Southon from Norwich, Nick Southon from Norwich, Sterling Price from Salt Lake City, USA, back row: Michael Roche from London, Nick Gravestock from Ashby de la Zouch, Eric Franklin from Chippenham, Thea Abbott our chef and mistress of ceremonies and David.
01.jpg (259 K) The neckblock on the end of the mould is the very first thing to be carved to shape.
02.jpg (253 K) David demonstrates the technique for shaping the ribs
03.jpg (243 K) César following the method carefully.
05.jpg (252 K) Tim fitting the second rib.
06a.jpg (265 K) Sterling watches César bending a rib.
06c.jpg (237 K) Nick the younger fits a rib.
06d.jpg (236 K) An unknown hand paints hot glue into the rib joint. Each person fitted and glued at least one rib
07.jpg (258 K) The first of many visiting professional lutemakers, Philippe Mottet-Rio who has been on several of these lutemaking summer schools and now runs his own similar instrument making festival in Switzerland. It was nice to see him back here again.
07a.jpg (287 K) Another visitor from other years was Joy Gravestock who joined in with the musicmaking. Here she duets with Eric who introduced us all to the Northumbrian small pipes.
07b.jpg (261 K) César edge planes the soundboard prior to gluing them together.
08.jpg (253 K) Michael planes the resulting soundboard while Nick works on the treble rider.
10.jpg (259 K) Meanwhile Eric saws out the pierced pattern on the back of the pegbox.
10a.jpg (244 K) The resulting back panel is carved and then glued onto the pegbox frame. The paper will be cleaned off next. One of the great virtues of hot glue is the ease with which it can be cleaned up.
11a.jpg (250 K) Eric starts the rose cutting, again everyone had a go at cutting and carving the rose.
11c.jpg (237 K) Another unknown hand cuts the outer circle around the rose, it’s a right hand so it can’t be David’s.
12.jpg (242 K) Nick does further carving on the rose.
14.jpg (283 K) The finished rose. It looks very homogenous in spite of being the work of eight people.
Poster 07.jpg On Wednesday Lynda Sayce gave a recital of baroque lute and mandora music in the King of Hearts arts centre. This gave a wonderful insight into how the mandora fitted into the musical life of 18th century Germany..
15.jpg (287 K) The finished back has its inner endliner glued in. Here it is drying in the sun to speed things up. We were blessed with sunny weather almost throughtout the week.
15a.jpg (264 K) David pontificates!
15b.jpg (250 K) More important visitors: El Presidente of the Lute Society, Ian Harwood, and Stephen Gottlieb, the well-known English lutemaker, gaze at the industry.
15c.jpg (270 K) One of the highlights of the week was the visit by Chris Wilson, the famous luteplayer, who gave us all an impromptu concert of French music on his new Paul Thompson lute. It was a revelation how intelligible and moving this supposedly difficult music became in his hands. Lively and approachable too, not something one normally thinks of French baroque lute music.
15d.jpg (294 K) Chris and Ian
15e.jpg (252 K) The outer endclasp being postioned for gluing.
16.jpg (239 K) Things seem to be going well.
17.jpg (253 K) Michael and César look pleased with the progress. The completed shell of the mandora lies ready to fit the neck.
18.jpg (255 K) Nick glues on the second of the soundboard bars using the go-bar deck.
19.jpg (250 K) Nick the younger does likewise.
20.jpg (251 K) As does Sterling.....
21.jpg (243 K) César......
22.jpg (255 K) Eric.....
23.jpg (258 K) and Tim. The only one missing is Michael, who had to leave from time to time for an ongoing family crisis
25.jpg (219 K) One of the benefits of the fine weather was that we could often eat out of doors in the courtyard...
25a.jpg (235 K) and listen to lutemusic as it might have been heard years ago.
26b.jpg (234 K) Back to work trimming the bar ends to fit inside the shell of the back.
26c.jpg (264 K) César glues the pegbox into the rebate on the end of the neck.
26d.jpg (248 K) The completed soundboard alongside the completed back, neck and pegbox.
26e.jpg (242 K) Just the bridge needed before it can all go together. It was largely made by Eric who has carved it out of plumwood in the particular shape so typical of mandoras. This is one of the mysteries of the mandora, why did such an idiosyncratic shape emerge over so wide an area of lutemaking in such a short time?
27.jpg (247 K) Similarly the endclasp design is typical of mandoras and unusual for other lutes, even of the period.
28.jpg (266 K) Before finally gluing on the soundboard comes the label! The roll of honour for those who have made this instrument.
30.jpg (199 K) César tightening the clamp which holds the fingerboard onto the narrow and highly curved neck, which is also typical of mandoras.
32.jpg (259 K) Everyone had a go at the skill of trimming the edge of the soundboard with a chisel.
32a.jpg (218 K) Eric turned a very nice end button out of a piece of bone.
33.jpg (224 K) More al-fresco evening meals, right at the end can be seen Malcolm Prior, another of our visiting professional lutemakers.
35.jpg (250 K) Some wonderful luteplaying by Sterling on his Burkholzer lute built by John Butterfield and made all the more atmospheric by the twilight setting. John came on last year’s summer workshop and his lute was a great hit with all who saw and heard it.
36.jpg (262 K) Another visitor throughout was Lorenz Schmid, an artist from Luzern, who had been on several lutemaking courses run by David in Switzerland. Here he also plays the Burkholzer lute. Later in the week Lorenz led some woodblock carving and printmaking using the varnish we cooked up during the week.
37.jpg (288 K) Here is the start of the varnish making, cooking up some pinetree resin David and Thea had collected several years ago in Southern Spain.......
39.jpg (314 K) and boiling it until it reached 320 degrees C. Never do this indoors folks! (note the fire extinguisher nearby and the leather gloves)
38.jpg (340 K) Linseed oil is added and cooked it further until the setting point is reached. The resulting varnish had a very nice colour and dried overnight even without ultra-violet light, really most successful.
41a.jpg (270 K) Peg turning was not such a chore this year with only 11 pegs on a six course mandora.
42.jpg (245 K) Nick drills the ends of the pegs to take the little bone pips.
42a.jpg (303 K) And Eric finishes the heads of the pegs while in the background David stirs the varnish while Sterling plays lute in the consevatory and César listens.
43.jpg (261 K) Eric fits the pegs to the pegbox by reaming out the holes. (This must be out of sequence as the pegbox is already on the lute!)
45.jpg (265 K) The finished mandora, just needing frets and strings.
46.jpg (268 K) Sterling gives the completed mandora its first outing playing a mandora suite kindly sent to us by Martyn Hodgson. I hadn’t thought we would get as far as this and had not prepared, so thank you Martyn for sending it so quickly.
74.jpg (288 K) It seemed only fair that everyone should pose with the finished instrument! Here it is César.
75.jpg (296 K) Nick........
76.jpg (282 K) Michael....
78.jpg (275 K) Nick the younger......
79.jpg (273 K) Tim.......
81.jpg (272 K) And finally, the end result of a wonderful week’s work! We had a great time.

Slideshow version

Report on 1999 summer schoolReport on 2000 summer school
Report on 2001 summer schoolReport on 2002 summer school
Report on 2003 summer schoolReport on 2005 summer school
Report on 2006 summer schoolNext year’s summer school