Advice on lute building

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
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muirtan
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Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:36 pm

Hi, I was given a lute kit for christmas and my husband and I have built it, he doing all the woodworking and me the finishing off fixing frets etc. After 2 weeks of being tuned the bridge came off ( I must add when he was attaching the bridge as the instructions said he thought the tension would be too much and it might not hold). So he reattached it this time using superglue as this was the strongest glue we could think of. A couple of weeks later and I am tuning it and again the bridge has come off again. Any ideas of what to do?

Thanks for your help.The lute does have a good sound so don't want to just use it as an ornament.

Scot Tremblay
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by Scot Tremblay » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:55 pm

Sounds like the string tension is too high. Lutes should have a string tension of about half what a guitar would, some players like less. Superglue is a very strong glue for certain applications but not a good one for this. Should use something like Titebond Original or hot hide glue. Be sure the old glue is totally cleaned off before applying new glue.

Bridges and pegboxes to be reglued are probably the most common lute repairs.
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muirtan
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:21 pm

Hi Scott thanks, the first glue we used was titebond original. I used the strings which came with the kit and used an electronic tuner to tune and the tunings used in the kit details. If I'd tuned an octave lower then the string would be too loose and not sound if you get what I mean. After the first time I was concerned that maybe I was an octave out. The string packet just has the string number and thickness on it.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:38 pm

Superglue is an awful glue to use for this sort of thing. You have effectively put a 'seal' on the underside of the bridge and the footprint of the soundboard. You either have to scrape to good wood or get the acetone out, maybe do both.
After doing this check how flat the underside of the bridge (and soundboard) is. Frequently bridges will go convex or concave after applying glue. You need to get the two surfaces mating absolutely perfectly, without having to apply much pressure. light finger pressure is all that is required. Don't use sandpaper if you can help it, a very sharp scraper is better. It's all too easy to round things over with sandpaper.
You can do this 'repair' without clamps but using hot Hide glue. It is necessary to be familiar with that type of glue though. You will need to size the bridge and soundboard first, that tends to give a stronger joint.
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muirtan
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:45 pm

Hi Michael the superglue was used in desparation! We've never used hide glue we intially just used what was recommended in the kit ie Titebond.

Am I correct in thinking you think the problem lies in the underside of the bridge and the soundboard not being completely flat?

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Michael.N.
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:52 pm

No idea but it's always a good candidate and certainly worth checking. If the soundboard isn't flat you either have to make it flat or make the bridge fit a wonky soundboard. You can do that by chalk fitting it. Fine taylors chalk is better than the usual school chalk.
If titebond is all you have, use that. You will probably have to clamp with titebond. That may (or may not) involve removing or releasing the soundboard.
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muirtan
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:09 pm

Thanks Michael we'll check it out I think before he weighted the bridge whilst it was drying.

At the moment I'm just getting ideas and then I think we'll step back before trying to re glue it.

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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by simonm » Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:31 pm

I changed the way I used hot hide/bone glue after looking at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh-On-44yT0. Michael Thames explains how he does bridges in a number of videos. For me the turning point was how it puts the glue on starting at 2:30 in this video. Video 1 in the series is also very useful.

For hot glue in general the first step is to read Frank Ford's website:
http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier ... eglue.html
http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier ... glue1.html (make sure to click on "more" after you have read this page. )

I have only done one lute and that was a long time ago. I used a "rubbed" hot glue joint. I can't remember if there was any clamping at all involved.

While I tend to use the hot hide glue designation, mine is frequently bone rather than hide but I don't think it really makes much of a difference.

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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by OldPotter » Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:00 pm

Hi Muirtan
could you describe exactly how the bridge and sound board were prepared for gluing? Did the bridge just pop off cleanly?

I think I might be tempted to make a broader bridge. Hide glue is nice and more forgiving than it sounds, humans have been using it a long time and they have almost always been only human.

I was pleased to read that the lute had a good sound, I regularly look at those kits and the harp kits...... Also very disappointed that the bridge had come off too.

I had a feeling that there was a lute builder near to you??
"When I was younger, I could remember almost everything, whether it happened or not." Mark Twain

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muirtan
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:55 pm

Hi old potter, the first time some ( thin sliver) of the soundboard was still glued to the bridge. I'm not sure how he prepared but would have followed the kit instructions. He's been woodworking for over 40 years but just making cuboards/childrens toys etc as a hobby so not a complete novice. He's also very fussy regarding attention to detail.

David van Edwards is in Norwich so we could pay him a visit but was just thinking it would be good to work it through on our own.

simonm thanks for the links we'll have a look at those.

OldPotter
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by OldPotter » Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:55 am

He's been woodworking for over 40 years but just making cuboards/childrens toys etc as a hobby so not a complete novice. He's also very fussy regarding attention to detail.
And most importantly he's actually built a lute, which deserves a bravo at least. I just wonder if now is a good time to ask someone who can hold the bridge in his hand?
"When I was younger, I could remember almost everything, whether it happened or not." Mark Twain

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Michael.N.
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:25 am

muirtan wrote:Hi old potter, the first time some ( thin sliver) of the soundboard was still glued to the bridge. I'm not sure how he prepared but would have followed the kit instructions. He's been woodworking for over 40 years but just making cuboards/childrens toys etc as a hobby so not a complete novice. He's also very fussy regarding attention to detail.

David van Edwards is in Norwich so we could pay him a visit but was just thinking it would be good to work it through on our own.

simonm thanks for the links we'll have a look at those.
You are supposed to very carefully remove those little slithers and reglue them back in their respective positions on the soundboard. Tedious but that's how a top notch repair is done. Using superglue will only make that kind of thing more difficult.
I know the method that Van Edwards uses to reglue bridges. He uses Hide glue and finger pressure, light finger pressure applied for a few minutes. You have to be careful using that technique shown in the video. If you apply glue like that, to the underside of the bridge, you will likely distort that bridge. Try it on a scrap piece of wood that has similar dimensions. Then check how flat that wood is (both directions) after the glue has dried.
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muirtan
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by muirtan » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:10 am

Thanks Michael I don't know but doubt he glued the little slivers back on. Thanks we'll have to look through all the info we've been given and decide if we should go and see David. He gave a talk to my guitar circle a few months ago and did say to call in and visit if we wanted to, don't think he meant call in with broken lute though!

Many thanks to you all.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Advice on lute building

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:30 am

I think he should just call in. In fact if David is still doing the evening courses why doesn't he attend and build one from scratch? Last time I looked (a few years back) it was extremely cheap compared to other similar private instrument making courses. He has a real wealth of knowledge and experience. It should be taken advantage of! It's practically on your doorstep. I've heard of people flying 3,000+ miles to attend such courses.
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