A Jheronimus Bosch lute… pt. 3 – Ribs to spare

The reactions to this Jheronimus Bosch project have been overwhelming. Apparently more people are interested in this combination of art history and lutherie. Bosch is more popular than ever. The exhibition in the “Noordbrabants Museum” was completely sold out, with over 400.000 visitors in three months.

For those who missed it; the after the exhibition ended, the paintings travelled to the Prado in Madrid. This Tuesday an even larger exhibition will open there. One of the reasons to go there is to see “The Garden of Earthly Delights” which wasn’t lent to the Netherlands…

But let’s get back to building the lute. I still try to get it ready for the re-enactment event in Den Bosch next weekend. So I took the liberty to put in some overtime during the weekend. After the form was finished the back could be made upon it. A lute bowl is made of thin strips of wood, bent, shaped and glued together.

For this lute I wanted to try something different. To make the ribs out of reclaimed oak, a wood species often neglected by instrument makers. Why? Probably because we like to stick with the things we already know, proved by tradition. We make guitars with precious tropical hardwoods, and violins in maple and spruce. But a lot of these species are endangered and threatened with extinction.

LeonardoA few years ago two lutherie schools from Belgium and Finland started the “Leonardo Guitar Research Project“. In which they made guitars from various local woods and compared to their tropical counterparts by blind and non-blind tests. The results of the project can be found on their website.

The whole project emphasized for me the importance of being careful with our resources. Using them responsibly and minimalizing waste. Two ways I try to achieve this: by using reclaimed or repurposed woods when possible. And to minimalize the amount of waste the shop puts out, by looking for creative ways to give it a second purpose. Wood shavings go to the local chicken coop, wood scraps are turned into duckies and pieces that are too small or broken find their way into a wood stove. Unavoidable plastic packing gets re-used for small templates. Bone and hide glue leftovers are used as a basis for “levkas” or “gesso”, a ground for icon panels.

The oak ribs for this lute were sawn from a massive oak sidetable, of which I also made the “Dürer and Amman planes“, “Lutherie Vise”  and the “Petit Roubo” workbench. After cutting them from a block, ther are thicknessed to 1.5 mm, using a plane and card scrapers. The form of the ribs is cut out prior to bending.

Bending the ribs

The iron should be quite hot. Instead of measuring with a thermometer, we learned a simple trick at school. Just throw a drop of water on top of the iron. If it evaporates immediately it’s the right temperature. When it hovers on top as a small pearl of hot water, the temperature is too high. It’s quite hard to explain this, you just need try this for yourself. Here is a little video I made last week to show how it works.

I usually bend wood dry. But some species require some moisture to distribute the heat. Oak is one of those species. Another striking aspect is the smell when you put it to the iron. While maple has a distinctive smell of pancakes and caramel (probably due to the sugar content), oak smells like brewing beer. It reminds of the wort, during the mashing process… Just another useless fact you never wanted to know…

Joining the ribsWhen the ribs are bent it’s time to put them on the form. To join them they are shaped on a large jointer plane, put upside down in the bench vise. After which they are glued together.

While the glue dries the ribs are held together with pieces of masking tape. In earlier times this would probably have been done by means of paper strips with animal glue, or tacking the glue with a hot piece of iron. I have tried both methods, and they work fine, but in this day and age it’s more economical to use masking tape.

And after fitting 7 ribs to the form you end up with this…

image image

The blue white milk warmer is my glue pot. The yellow ball in the background of the right picture is made from the waste masking tape of many instruments…

The corpus is now ready to receive its end clasp…

This entry was posted in Documentary, History, Jheronimus Bosch Lute, Projects, Re-enactment, Think different, Tools, Uncategorized, Woodworking, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Jheronimus Bosch lute… pt. 3 – Ribs to spare

  1. rawlingsrod says:

    Not at all Bosch inspired, or even lute related, in fact this is way out there in right field but I thought you might find this of interest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4WJu6CHZ4s

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool! Thanks, I am always looking for movies like that 😀


      • rawlingsrod says:

        It’s not because I am not enjoying your Jheronimus Bosch series, it’s because I thought you might enjoy it and I just found it myself. And I didn’t know any other way to send it to you. I always enjoy your posts. They’re full of interesting tid-bits of information that otherwise might be lost, over looked or forgotten. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love seeing the approach other luthiers take to the craft. It’s very inspiring and often leads to new insights and discoveries. That’s what I started this blog for: to share creativity and information.

    I will probably use the movie in a post in the future.


  3. sieurjardins says:

    Thank you for your very interesting blog. How do you draw, cut and correctly size the ribs? DO you have any particular method you recommend? Thanks again!


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