Lute making summer school
August 9th - 17th 2008

Workshop picture

The Workshop

This was the ninth 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 two, a medieval lute and a gittern. 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


2008 001.jpg (746 K) This year it’s a larger pile of wood as we’re making two instruments. From left to right: Derek Rose from Luxemburg, Thea Abbott our chef and mistress of ceremonies, Julien Stryjak from Strasburg, Erica Freers Martin from Switzerland, Luke Emmett from Bedford, Andrew Russell from Switzerland, David, Luciano Bernardi from Pavia, Italy and Kevin Feeney from Teddington .
2008-002.jpg (621 K) The delegate from Switzerland signs the declaration of peace watched by representatives from France and Luxemburg! Actually the label inside the lute, which was signed by all.
2008-003.jpg (704 K) Duo Pietrobono, Catherin Perrin and Jean-Paul Bazin, who gave the keynote concert on medieval lute and gittern in Dragon Hall on Thursday 14th during the week. A posed picture if ever I saw one!
2008-004.jpg (683 K) Fortunately one of the few really nice days was the Thursday of the concert when we were visited by makers, players and dignitaries. Seen here are Ian Harwood, (El Presidente) Edward Fitzgibbon and Lynda Sayce, Mike Lowe and, with his back to us, Bruce Brook.
2008-005.jpg (731 K) Luciano carving the outside of the gittern
2008-006.jpg (690 K) The weather was not kind to us this year! We only managed an alfresco meal on a few days. But, as you can just see, the work went on uninterrupted and mostly unaware of the downpour.
2008-007.jpg (712 K) The evening meals are not frugal affairs, note the bottles! Thea looking slightly blurred at the head of the table, is there a connection?
2008-008.jpg (718 K) Kevin and Luciano drilling out the pegbox on the gittern.
2008-009.jpg (667 K) Erica carving out the inside of the gittern. This was hard physical work and often provided a relief from the tension of working with the thin ribs of the lute.
2008-010.jpg (719 K) Ian Harwood, the Lute Society President, brought one of his first lutes to show us. Ian was one of the pioneers of the modern lute revival.
2008-011.jpg (746 K) David shows how the edge is trimmed after the soundboard is glued on, slightly nerve-wracking at first.
2008-012.jpg (717 K) Various parts of the multi-layered medieval lute rose.
2008-015.jpg (751 K) Erica gluing on one of the bars. Each of us glued on one of the bars.
2008-016.jpg (672 K) Luke cutting out the upper layer of the top rose. These lancet-shaped roses seem to have been fashionable in the 1480s.
2008-017.jpg (740 K) Erica starting to carve her version of the dragon’s head for the gittern.
2008-018.jpg (657 K) Julien working on one of the gittern rose layers, these were made out of soundboard wood and parchment.
2008-019.jpg (626 K) Rose carving was rather a communal activity this year as there were so many layers to each rose. Julien, Luke and Derek chew the fat and cut the wood.
2008-020.jpg (651 K) Luciano finishing off the edge of the gittern body.
2008-021.jpg (759 K) The first peg, after many hours of work!
2008-022.jpg (693 K) Luke framing the word Norwich in the lancet rose of the lute soundboard. Another digital photo in the making, there were over a thousand at the end!
2008-023.jpg (567 K) Gittern pegs, these are pretty crude affairs but based on many many paintings.and the two surviving gitterns as well.
2008-024.jpg (768 K) The last rib of the lute is glued on by person unknown under David’s eye. The last two ribs are the hardest to get right.
2008-025.jpg (700 K) Luciano’s photography was a feature of the week.
2008-026.jpg (745 K) Derek takes his turn at carving out the inside of the gittern. Note the gloves to protect the hands from grazing on the rough surface.
2008-027.jpg (789 K) Norwich is a very beautiful city. This shows the medieval Bishop’s Bridge over the river Wensum on Luciano’s walk from his B&B to the workshop.
2008-028.jpg (714 K) These multi-layer medieval roses really are a collaborative work.
2008-029.jpg (755 K) The carved dragon that gives Dragon Hall its name. and was the insppiration for our gittern head.
2008-030.jpg (742 K) Luke and Erica working on the bottom layer of the lute rose.
2008-031.jpg (739 K) More hard work by Erica. She is using the scorp, a carving tool with a curved blade.
2008-032.jpg (736 K) Julien works on the upper rose.
2008-033.jpg (730 K) Kevin fitting the second rib of the medieval lute. This is rebated into the neck in a flowing curve so it is slightly more difficult than a normal lute rib to fit.
2008-034.jpg (707 K) Kevin turning pegs, this can seem rather an isolated job. This year there were not so many pegs though.
2008-035.jpg (719 K) Julien about to glue on the fingerboard. These were made from 10,000 year old bog oak to be in keeping with the medieval possibilities. Ebony would have been VERY rare and yet several paintings (such as the Perra Sera altarpiece) show medieval lutes and gitterns with black fingerboards.
2008-036.jpg (734 K) Andrew carving his dramatic version of the dragon. Maybe the teeth were responsible for the injuries?
2008-037.jpg (755 K) Derek roughing out the basic shape of the gittern. This is essentially a simple instrument but it involves a lot of hard work.
2008-038.jpg (764 K) Erica looking worried about sawing the rebate in the pegbox.
2008-039.jpg (749 K) Derek shaping a peg taper.
2008-040.jpg (517 K) The lute pegs are much more refined and typical of illustrations of the period.
2008-041.jpg (515 K) Erica and Julien.
2008-042.jpg (621 K) Julien putting the finishing touches to the pegbox - neck joint
2008-043.jpg (616 K) Martin Bowers was one of our visitors, here talking to Kevin’s wife,
2008-044.jpg (734 K) This year’s concert was given by Duo Pietrobono from France in the medieval Dragon Hall, it was of medieval music from the same period as the hall and on the same two instrument types as we were making. It brought the whole week into focus.
2008-045.jpg (740 K) An al fresco meal on one of the few fine weather days.
2008-045a.jpg (740 K) One of the many visitors was Alan Gotto the well-known Norwich harpsichord maker.
2008-046.jpg (695 K) Technology has moved on since the first of our summer schools. We now have WiFi broadband for people to use. Maybe as a result much less attention was paid to the library of books.
2008-047.jpg (716 K) Luke cleans up the lute with warm water under the eye of Julien.
2008-048.jpg (726 K) Andrew fits a rib.
2008-049.jpg (750 K) Kevin’s cunning scheme for measuring the depth of the gittern.
2008-050.jpg (699 K) More work onthe bottom layer of the lute rose, now with parchment detailing.
2008-051.jpg (763 K) Derek bends the inner endliner, this is quite a thick piece of wood for dry bending but just possible with care.
2008-052.jpg (699 K) Trimming the ends of the bars on the lute soundboard.
2008-053.jpg (649 K) Checking the resonance response on the finished lute soundboard before adding the rose.
2008-054.jpg (753 K) One of the evening dinners that were possible outside.
2008-055.jpg (741 K) Andrew finishing a peg on the lathe.
2008-056.jpg (768 K) Everyone carved a dragon head and the best was chosen by vote to be completed and added to the finished gittern.
2008-057.jpg (719 K) Cutting the pegbox on the gittern was a joint effort with Luciano and David each following the lines on his own side.
2008-058.jpg (745 K) Early roughing out work on the gittern. We used a Microplane blade in a hacksaw frame which was very effective but the old makers would probably have used a large draw-knife or spokeshave.
2008-059.jpg (747 K) There was a lot of feeling involved in deciding the final shape of the gittern, a very sensuous process.
2008-060.jpg (720 K) Collaborative discussion formed a very enjoyable part of the week.
2008-061.jpg (566 K) The finished lute at the end of the week but before varnish.
2008-062.jpg (513 K) Checking the resonance on the finished lute.
2008-063.jpg (610 K) Ditto the gittern. Everyone was feeling pleased that we’d completed both instruments in the week.
2008-064.jpg (570 K) If only there were strings!
2008-065.jpg (556 K) Julien’s was the chosen head. He took it back to Strasbourg to finish off and later it arrived back in Norwich by post to be glued in place.
2008-066.jpg (577 K) A week or so later, both instruments finished and a coat or two of varnish on the lute.
2008-067.jpg (517 K) The two shapes complement each other very well and compare very well with the Pera Sera painting we were taking as a model.
2008-068.jpg (579 K) .Lynda and Edward Fitzgibbon brought their own lute and gittern pair and gaves us all an impromptu duet to show what the final result might sound like.
2008-069.jpg (625 K) Peter Forrester and Michael Lowe were welcome visitors during the summer school. It was good for everyone to be able to meet such important makers for future networking.
2008-070.jpg (683 K) veryone signed the label, including Thea, without whose cooking the week would not have been nearly so enjoyable.
2008-071.jpg (665 K) The finished lute seemed to fall under the hand nicely and promises well.
2008-072.jpg (686 K) Sellotape is an essential element in the construction process, alas! It seems clear that the original makers used a kind of spot-welding technique using glued paper as described in Thomas Mace’s Musick’s Monument (1676) but most people use tape nowadays, especially on open moulds.
2008-073.jpg (670 K) Cutting the hole for the gittern rose. It’s a huge hole both in the original and all the pictures of the period so it effectively limits the acoustic part of the soundboard to th more or less circular area below the rose.
2008-074.jpg (698 K) The second of the two bars is glued onto the gittern soundboard.
2008-075.jpg (777 K) And finally, the end result of a wonderful week’s work! We had a great time.
david.jpg (817 K) At the handover to the Lute Society David clutches his list of people to thank. (thanks to Luke for taking these pictures)
kevin1.jpg (768 K) Kevin pointing out the way to Bruce Brook who is the keeper of the hire instruments for the Lute Society..
kevin2.jpg (768 K) Kevin holding the lute.
lute.jpg (545 K) The lute itself at the handover, the wood came up beautifully with the varnish.
lynda.jpg (920 K) Lynda Sayce played a bit on each instrument to welcome them to the Lute Society.

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 schoolReport on 2007 summer school
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