“The Beast”

It’s going rather well at the shop. Getting in a work flow I haven’t had in years. Nice projects and great things to come.

Large pattern MS. 374 from the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona.

Large pattern MS. 374 from the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona.

One of the projects taken up again is “The Beast” a reconstruction of the largest Stradivari guitar. The only thing that remains is a paper template kept at the Cremona museum. With a string length of 767 mm it’s even larger than the five surviving Stradivari guitars. Most baroque guitar experts I’ve consulted after these forms said that it is way too large to work with. Some even said that he probably never made a guitar after this form (just like they said about the smallest model in the Paris museum).

But thinking from the perspective of a builder this is strange. You don’t make forms and templates you don’t use, do you? Yes, they can be quite decorative. With a somewhat ‘rustic’ or ‘industrial’ appearance they will be a nice addition to any hipster loft… But I’m quite sure Stradivari didn’t have a subscription to “Elle Decoration”, “Interior Design” or even “Molly Makes”, even though he was far ahead of his time. Besides that his surviving forms show that he was quite frugal with his materials. He repaired broken forms and reshaped one of the guitar forms to make a viola d’amore. Also even the small form in the Paris museum shows traces of use.

I do think this guitar had a purpose in its time. It could have been a true bass-guitar. If this is the case perhaps we can give Stradivari the credit for making the earliest five-string(pair) bass we know..?

The largest and smallest Stradivari forms together...

The largest and smallest Stradivari forms together…

The building process of a Stradivari guitar is very close to violin making. Two blocks are attached to the form, after which the sides are bent and glued to them.


One thing is really strange about this guitar. For a baroque guitar it is just enormous. The body is even larger than a normal sized classical guitar. But I get the scary feeling that it is growing. Every time I turn my back or walk out of the shop. It just seems to get larger every time… Nice start for paranoia…

A comparison of size; the Strad body and a normal sized dreadnought...

A comparison of size; the Strad body and a normal sized dreadnought…

img_5583The headstock is veneered with oak, darkened with a solution of vinegar and iron oxide. A fellow guitar maker who walked into the shop last week even mistook it for wengé.

Making this Strad is one of my side projects. One of the things I do in-between other jobs. Mostly out of research and curiosity. So it will take a while before it’s finished (unless someone wants to order it off-course)…

However, it’s very exciting to bring these old forms and patterns back to life. Wonder what the ‘old man’ himself would have said about it…

This entry was posted in History, Research, Think different, Uncategorized, Woodworking, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “The Beast”

  1. Peter Michel says:

    Hey ,when you can spend the time …do it ! I am curious tho hear it. I want to build a shortscale oversized acoustic bass guitar myself. I am thinking about a 3 stringer for calypso music.


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