Monday f*ckups

Well, there is a moment in a luthier’s life when you step back and realize;

Holy hell, I’ve cut the scroll of my Trumpet Marine on the wrong side of the head….

Yep, that happened to me today and I didn’t see it until one side of the scroll was finished. A real and major mistake, or fuckup as even most guitar makers in the Netherlands tend to call it (as you can see, we’re slowly incorporating the most kind and effective words of the English language into our own).

What to do next? Well, like with other mistakes (Brexit or Donald Trump) the easiest way is simply to look the other way and pretend that’s the way it is supposed to be… Or better; try to do something creative to it and in the end turn it into something good.

To be continued…

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After completion of a large intensive project (like the Schelle theorbo), I need some time to recuperate. Cleaning up the shop and clearing my head…

For the latter I often make something outside of my normal range, to explore. Like the Minion Press, Viking Lyre and tools. One of my luthier friends uses to call these the “Desperate Projects”. Projects only for the sake of the project; cool but no chance to sell it.

Today I couldn’t help myself and started two projects…

This is the basis for a copy of the “Theorbencister”. A large brass-strung cittern/lute hybrid, shaped like a lyre.

Two originals are kept in the museums of Vienna and Bologna. It is thought that they were made as a playable stage prop for Monteverdi’s opera Orpheo.

The other project is the ultimate way to evacuate a concert hall…

A small (130 cm) Tromba Marina (also Trumpet Marine, Nonnengeige or Trumscheit) after medieval model. Later these instruments were made larger, up to 210 cm (!). A bowed instrument, with the sound of a natural trumpet…

It will primarily be used for demonstrations and the annoyance and aggravation of fellow re-enactors…

I based this model on illustrations by Hans Memling, although it is a simple, 1 string version. This way I can also use it as a monochord for lectures.

Both instruments will be made of left over scraps and parts.

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Guitar makers –> Unite!

Only a few days to go to the largest guitar makers gathering in the Netherlands: the Guitar Builders Meeting…

It’s a (bi)annual event, started by some hobby builders from the Dutch Gitaarnet-forum. Ten years later it has become one of the largest guitar events in the  Netherlands.

The meeting is welcome to everyone interested in guitars and instrument making. Beginners and veterans, hobbyists and professionals, young, old rich and poor. Everybody is invited to show their work, have a drink, discuss and learn from one and other. 

There is also a market where you can find everything you need to make your own guitar: parts, tools, forms, plans, lacquer, books, glue wood, strings, pickups, etc. But also various guitar making courses that will present themselves.

Beside the gathering and market there are also little concerts and lectures by various guitar makers. This year I will deliver my lecture on the Stradivari guitar (15.00h), for those who have missed it at Cambridge…

The meeting will be held at the Essenburcht, in Kootwijkerbroek; 10-17h

I hope to meet you there!

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The Holy Grail

One of my lutherie teachers always said that instrument makers are always in search of the Holy Grail

Well, last week I found one while making a theorbo…


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The Guitar in Tudor London

 Over the last four years Christopher Page has been the professor of music at Gresham College. His lectures have had multiple subjects from medieval polyphonic music to… The GUITAR!

A very good thing about the Gresham lectures is their accessability. Attendance is free for everyone, and afterwards they are available online. 

In April of this year I had the good fortune to meet mr. Page during the meeting of the Cambridge Guitar Consortium at Sidney Sussex College. He then announced this series of Gresham lectures about the early guitar in England. Or as the title of this series says: “For Courtesan, Queen and Gallant: The Guitar in England from Henry VIII to Samuel Pepys”.

One of the things I like about the lectures (and lecturer) is that they are all but dull. Mr. Page has a razor sharp kind of humor and wit,  very pleasantly combined with the beautiful use of a wide English vocabulary. 

He applies both in his lectures and publications, keeping them interesting and readable. In my experience most historical publications find their best use relieving insomnia, rather than being read for their intellectual merits, especially when professors read them in front of a class. Not so with these lectures.

I am looking forward to the rest of these series

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The sound of an original 17th century guitar…

There is something magic in hearing an original baroque guitar or lute being played. Especially because most of them aren’t playable anymore, but resting in collections.

Last week this short video was placed online…

Taro Takeuchi is one of the most remarkable players I know. He combines his musical virtuosity with an enormous amount of historical knowledge. But his playing style feels very natural, never dogmatic (as some players tend to get). I’ve had te privilege to meet mr. Takeuchi earlier this year, and even hear him play my Strad reconstruction and hear his comments.

The guitar is attributed to Matteo Sellas and will come to auction on the 23rd. For details see the site of Bromptons Auctions.

There are also a couple of other interesting instruments going on sale that day. Like this slope shouldered guitar by J.G. Stauffer

Or this wonderful Spanish romantic guitar by Juan Perfumo (thought to be the teacher of Antonio de Torres).

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A long post about a large neck

It has been quite a while since I posted an update on the Schelle theorbo. Let’s just say that the focus has been on building instead of writing. Long days and many events.

Integral part of the theorbo is its large neck. Without this you wouldn’t have a theorbo, but a big bass lute. In fact, some theorbo’s we now have in museums started their lives as bass lutes and were later rebuilt.

In an earlier post I mentioned the Mondrian inlays. They have been placed at the back of the neck.

Another feature that had to be made is the upper pegbox (having the possibility to tune your basses can be convenient). Compared to upper pegboxes of other theorbos, the Schelle example is quite narrow.
It has been suggested that this upper part of the neck doesn’t originally belong to this theorbo, and that it can be a later addition. Hence the unusual hinge in the neck (also a later addition, possibly after a neck fracture) and appearance of two different wood species for the neck.

Despite being narrow, the pegbox is shaped rather elegantly. Suggestions have been made that it looks like the neck of a swan or the scroll of a violin. No matter what it reminds you of, it is like a little wooden sculpture: an exciting piece to carve.

It all starts with a solid block of maple, this gets cut, carved, glued, carved, filed, scraped, sanded, carved, scraped, etc. until it has the right shape. A lot of time is involved with looking, visualizing, touching and feeling the object.

Making the neck extension and pegbox is one of those moments when you as a woodworker are in a constant conversation with the material. Again, simply cut away everything that doesn’t belong to the theorbo. In various stages and a well-thought order. You carve away as much material as possible, without compromising the strength, but to get the end of the neck as light as possible. Like a diet; every gram lost is (ac)counted and celebrated for.

The “Stamp”

The front of the upper pegbox is a place where some decoration can be placed. Historical examples show everything, from geometrical patterns to texts, to nothing at all. I like it when an instrument ‘speaks’, has a motto of some sorts, or at least a name. It is a long tradition, we find for example at church bells and harpsichords (like the Ruckers from Antwerp). Or for example texts musicians themselves write on their instruments. Woodie Guthrie’s guitar read “This Machine Kills Facists” and Pete Seeger’s banjo tops paid homage to this with “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender”.

Early on in the process Punto and I concluded that the latter should be included in this instrument as well. For a couple of reasons:

  1. We like to pay homage to Pete Seeger and his philosophy. Bringing people of all ranks, faith, walks of life and nationalities together through the power of music. It’s a universal language, that goes beyond borders and walls.
  2. The message is still viable, maybe now even more than when Seeger was still alive. Look at the current political climate in the world. Hate and violence are everywhere and even cultivated by presidents and other world leaders.
  3. We refuse to give up hope and believe that small things – like art – can make a difference in the world. It starts with normal people, like you and me, making a choice not to be violent, but choose for peace. To add something positive to the world instead of breaking it down.
  4. Music, arts and culture only exist through sharing with others. Nobody has the monopoly on  a culture. “Chauvinism” and feelings of cultural superiority might seem a the way to preserve it, but in the end it is only counterproductive. Not sharing or communicating, is the easiest way choke a culture to death.
  5. It’s a message we like to spread to other people and generations.

So the text was engraved on a little bone plate, and glued to the face of the upper pegbox.

Folding the neck

After this was completed, the hinge system could be installed.

I’ve put a lot of research into this, but decided to make it just like the Schelle example. I have seen elaborate systems by other contemporary makers, hinging both to the front and back. But decided to put Occams Razor to work. It is great to design and make double locking hinge systems, but for what purpose? With the hinge on the back of the neck, the string tension will keep the neck in place. No need for locks, or extra pegs. All these parts can get lost or break. Besides, when the neck folds forwards it still needs a strange custom designed case with a bump in the middle.

I know this hinge looks quite modern. Because it is. It’s polished steel, made for yachts. I found it at a local hardware store, while all other things were either to small or not strong enough. It is very different from the original fleur-de-lis design, but fits rather nice with the Mondrian inlays.

The lower pegbox is decorated with a little carving at the top and point on the right side of the neck.

Paint it black

Veneering the neck would make the instrument more expensive. And the German Dm-theorbos we found all have painted, rather than veneered necks. We suspect that they were made as “player-instruments” with few decorations (unlike the very rich swan neck lutes from the same era). Only the necessary was done. One of them (by Rudolph Höss, not to be confused with prominent Nazi and war criminal Rudolf Hess) has an upper pegbox carved in the form of a lion (like Stainer violins) but this only seems to have been done to give the appearance of a more expensive instrument (when played in an orchestra and viewed from a distance).

I have chosen to keep the inside of the pegboxes clean, just for the looks. Maybe the edges of the neck extension will be scraped clean, to reveal its chamfer and highlight the outline.

The first part of the neck was glued to the body on wednesday. In folded state the instrument measures 135 cm. Still quite long, but easier to move than the full two metres. Especially when your main mode of transportation is public transport…

Yes, my shop needs a good cleaning up, it more and more looks like a hamster cage. I will when the theorbo is finished…







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Upcoming events

Sometimes a #luthierlife is like a travelling circus. My agenda has been rather full, especially with (re-enactment-)events. I thought it would be nice to share some of them.

~ . ~

This upcoming weekend you can find me on Saturday 14th at the “Zotte Zaterdag” market in Gouda.

An event around one of the few Dutch renaissance men: Desiderius Erasmus.

Entrance free, open from 10-17 h.

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Sunday 15th I’m at the “Open Dag Hout” in the Hanzehal in Zutphen.

A large event involving all kinds of woodworking.

I hope to bring the Schelle theorbo here…

Visit between 10 and 17 h.

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October 22, you can find me at the “Vikingenspektakel“, Huis van Hilde in Castricum (11-17 h).

*At this event I will only bring the early medieval Lyres.


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At the 4th of November the Dutch Guitar Builders Meeting; the largest annual guitar makers convention in the Netherlands.

This year it will be held in at the Essenburcht in Kootwijkerbroek.

I will be there with a stand and give a lecture about the Stradivari guitar and research.

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November 11 and 12 the Minion Press will be demonstrated at the “Boekkunst Beurs” in the Pieterskerk in Leiden.

This is in collaboration with our friends of De Papieren Eenhoorn, who will give workshops in medieval bookbinding techniques.


~ . ~


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Applying some pressure

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Two weeks ago Sandra and I again were guests at the annual Market of Hernen Castle. This time I brought the Minion Press, instead of the usual instruments. We stood next to our friends of the Paper Unicorn, a group … Continue reading

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Is het een olie of is het een lak?

Schaamteloos gejat van Richard Vermeulen… 😃

MEUBELUNIEK gaat het maken!

Dat is een vraag die ik ook best regelmatig voor de kiezen krijg. Een beetje moe van die vraag, vergeef me de bedrijfsmoeheid die af en toe een beetje begint op te spelen, beantwoord ik die vraag dan weleens een beetje pesterig met de tegen vraag:  ‘Wat is dan toch het verschil tussen een olie en een lak’?

Laten we even terug gaan in die tijd. De tijd dat de zorg voor het milieu nog ‘onnodig’ was en roken gezond. De tijd dat de schilder nog gewoon zijn eigen lakken maakte. Met simpele ingrediënten als lijnolie, damarhars, sandarac en colofonium. En als ie lakverf wilde maken dan kwam daar nog een dosis pigment bij. Maar wacht eens….zei ik nou ‘lijnolie’? Jazeker zei ik dat. Een deel van de traditionele LAK bestond uit OLIE! De olie was de verdunner van de gebruikte harsen die er in opgelost waren en om de…

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