Lute General Questions

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
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tateharmann
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Lute General Questions

Post by tateharmann » Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:20 pm

I'm hoping someone here can enlighten me with regard to questions that I have been pondering lately about the lute:

1.) How in the world does the bridge get glued on? I've done it on guitars and its fairly easy but you have a flat opposing surface to leverage the clamping. The opposing surface of a lute is a bowl...obviously lol.

2.) Are lutes really such 'low' tension instruments? Take a 10c lute, for example. Assuming a single high string would add up to 19 strings...do they really add up to a total tension less than the guitar's 6 strings? And how does a bridge with such a tiny footprint not rip off the instrument under such tension.

I guess what got me thinking about this was what I read in some album notes of a Nigel North recording:
For this recording the lute was tuned in F at A415, using the 17th century method of tuning the top string as high as it will go before breaking.
This is from his 1998 recording of Robert Dowland's Variete of Lute Lessons played on a 9c lute.
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Ryeman
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:27 pm

When I made lutes many years ago I always glued the bridge on before gluing the front on, which of course make the job a lot easier.
Regarding string tension, I went for about 2.75kg. per string. So a 10 course lute would have a total tension of about 46kg.
Lute bridges have a small footprint, as you say. I just measured the bridge on one of my 10 course lutes. It has a gluing area of about 1500 square millimetres. A Classical guitar has a bridge area of about 5000 square millimetres, I think. Not sure what the string tension is on a typical classical guitar. Someone else will have to answer that, but I am guessing at about 100 lb, which is close to 46kg, i.e. about the same as a 10 course lute.
So how can a lute bridge, with just over a quarter of the gluing area of a guitar bridge, stay on? All I can say is that I made over a hundred lutes, and as far as I know, not one came off. I glued them on woth Cascamite, by the way. Not very authentic, but there you go! Not sure if the Cascamite available today is as good as it was in the 1970s, but that's another question.

Alan

Ryeman
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:32 pm

I should have added that lute strings are closer to the front, at the bridge, than guitar strings. So this will reduce the torque.

Alan

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by RobMacKillop » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:34 pm

Nigel North is my favourite lute player, but I raised an eyebrow at that quotation. Isn't it a little too convenient that the string tuned to exactly F at 415? And how did he know it would break at 416?

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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:46 pm

You can glue the bridge on with light finger pressure. No need for clamps. Just position it and hold it there for several minutes. To be safe I usually try to hold it in position for 5 minutes, even that can seem like an eternity. It works with hide glue, doubt that will work with Cascamite though.
As far as the footprint is concerned. Yes, it is very small. I think that most guitar makers would be confused as to how it stays on given the total tension and that small footprint. That's the advantage of making a range of instruments, it gives a different experience and it informs. It gives you a far better idea of just how far you can push things.
A classical guitar will have a tension of around 40 - 43 Kg but obviously depends on gauge. A 13 course will have a significantly higher string tension than a modern classical guitar.
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Ryeman
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:03 pm

Michael.N. wrote: A classical guitar will have a tension of around 40 - 43 Kg but obviously depends on gauge. A 13 course will have a significantly higher string tension than a modern classical guitar.
But then again, a 13 course lute has a longer bridge than a 10 course lute, and therefore a bigger gluing area...

Alan

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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:23 pm

Still quite a bit smaller than a classical guitar though.
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Ryeman
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Ryeman » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:35 pm

Yes, even when you take the lower string height into account, it seems that the classical guitar bridge does benefit from a much bigger footprint.
Michael, I seem to remember you posting that the classical guitar bridge could - safely - have a smaller footprint.

Alan

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tateharmann
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by tateharmann » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:44 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:Nigel North is my favourite lute player, but I raised an eyebrow at that quotation. Isn't it a little too convenient that the string tuned to exactly F at 415? And how did he know it would break at 416?
Those were my thoughts exactly. There's some other eyebrow raising bits in that booklet if you can get your hands on it.
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tateharmann
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by tateharmann » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:46 pm

Michael.N. wrote:You can glue the bridge on with light finger pressure. No need for clamps. Just position it and hold it there for several minutes. To be safe I usually try to hold it in position for 5 minutes, even that can seem like an eternity.
Seriously? Is that how they did it way back when?? Crazy!
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tateharmann
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by tateharmann » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:47 pm

Ryeman wrote:When I made lutes many years ago I always glued the bridge on before gluing the front on, which of course make the job a lot easier.
Regarding string tension, I went for about 2.75kg. per string.
Good info, makes a lot of sense :)
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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:52 pm

Ryeman wrote:Yes, even when you take the lower string height into account, it seems that the classical guitar bridge does benefit from a much bigger footprint.
Michael, I seem to remember you posting that the classical guitar bridge could - safely - have a smaller footprint.

Alan
I've done one with roughly 3/4 size, perhaps a little less. Certainly less depth back to front and not as long. It must be still holding because the chap who has it recently contacted me for a Lacote style guitar and he hasn't mentioned loose bridges. So it's held for 3 years. I used to do quite a bit of repair work and bridges that had come off (or what were in the process of coming off) were fairly common, both classical and steel string. So it's not as though the large footprint made them cast iron certainties to stay on. Most had been glued with PVA though. I did notice that big drops in humidity seemed to up the failure rate a little. Probably a combination of string tension and the wood movement of bridge/soundboard having it's effect.
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RobMacKillop
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by RobMacKillop » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:54 pm

Historically it seems to have been about 2.75kg for all strings, including the first. But most makers today make it 3.5 for the first string, I believe.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:01 pm

tateharmann wrote:
Michael.N. wrote:You can glue the bridge on with light finger pressure. No need for clamps. Just position it and hold it there for several minutes. To be safe I usually try to hold it in position for 5 minutes, even that can seem like an eternity.
Seriously? Is that how they did it way back when?? Crazy!
No idea how they did it originally. Probably glued it on as Ryeman states.
I got the idea from the lute maker David Van Edwards. It seemed like it wouldn't work but he's obviously been gluing bridges that way for a mighty long time. This was more that 10 years ago. I think I rigged up a test piece and cranked up the tension. It held so I started to glue romantic guitar bridges on using that method. It doesn't work so well for Torres style instruments because there's just too much flex in the soundboard, it's easy to flatten the dome with finger pressure and without the use of a caul. As far as I'm aware I've had one single bridge come off. That's because the guitar went to SW Colorado, otherwise known as guitar graveyard. The low humidity did for it.
Historicalguitars.

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Lute General Questions

Post by RobMacKillop » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:36 pm

And the guy it happened to is a Skype student of mine. He wasn't happy, especially as I had recommended you. I think he got it repaired locally. Was it the humidity that was totally to blame, or the fact that the bridge should have been put on differently?

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