Stradivarius guitar plans

imageYou probably know the name Stradivari as the most famous violin maker that ever lived. But it is lesser known that the great master also made guitars.

Only five guitars survived to this day, in museums and private collections around the world. None of these are in their original state. They were altered and restored over time, which left them in various stages of decomposition.

To guitar makers they pose a problem: Three of the five originally had very long string lengths of 742 mm, making it too long for ‘normal’ baroque guitar tuning. Other builders often tackle this by shortening the neck or placing the bridge higher up on the body. But these are rather weak solutions. Both don’t deal with the proportions of the body, which was intended for the longer string length. It’s like shortening the neck of a viola in order to play it like a violin. Which will never sound the same.

A puzzle


The largest and smallest Stradivari forms together on the bench…

So I started to investigate the other clues left by Stradivari; his workshop materials. Tools, templates, forms, parts, etc. These are in museums in Cremona and Paris. While there was done extensive study after the violin and cello moulds, the materials for guitars are only described in a couple of publications.

To establish whether the forms in Cremona and Paris belonged to the same workshop I looked for cross-matches. Luckily one of the Paris guitar forms was later converted to a viola d’amore form, and the paper template for the same instrument is in the Cremona collection. I then tried the forms to the “Braccio da Fabbrica”, Cremona’s local unit of measurement used in Stradivari’s time. And while not found explicitly in the violin forms (according to Stewart Pollens), the design of the guitars proved to be riddled with it. It was like the pieces of a puzzle finally fell together.

Different sizes

Stradivari guitars

The Stradivari guitars: MS 750 (right standing), MM E.901.6 (front) with their cases.

The collection of guitar templates showed various different sizes. From extra small (ukulele-sized) to XXL (770 mm string length !) and everything in between. This is consistent with music from the era. Composers like Calvi and Foscarini describe guitars of various sizes in different keys.

HeaderIt’s also an explanation for the long string length of the “Sabionari-Giustiniani-Hil” guitars: it was intended for a lower tuning…

When looking at the Strad collection it soon became clear that the ‘normal’ E’-tuned guitar was made after template “img_5739MS no. 750″ in the Cremona Museum. So I set out on the journey to build the first reconstruction of this guitar.

This journey brought me to the most unexpected places; an article for American Lutherie and giving a presentation for the Guitar Consortium at the University of Cambridge and a variety of lectures all around…

Many players have tried the guitar and were pleasantly surprised by its weight and extreme resonance.

A set of plans

Over time other builders often asked me to publish the plans for the MS 750 guitar.
I intended to do so from the start of the project, but it took a while… Until now! The plans for the Stradivari guitar are ready and can be ordered from my PLANS-page.

Stradivari plan

The plans contain all measurements and templates you need to make your own guitar after the Stradivarius. It’s one of the lightest and most sophisticated guitars you will ever built.

Click here to order the plans directly.

Also take a look at the other plans I have on offer. They vary from a 19th century Panormo to fifties Danelectro’s and Harmony Stratotones…

More plans for the other Stradivari models are in preparation….


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Blueprint posters available!

Stratotone blueprintOver the years people often bought my guitar plans to hang as a poster in their homes.

But the large A0 prints are sometimes too big for the wall. People often asked me to bring out smaller poster versions of them. Until now this was impossible, but the new publisher gave me some new options.

So I’m proud to announce my new line of special blueprint posters.

Great for decorating your living room, hall, workshop, kitchen, toilet, garage, music chamber or man cave!

For now there are five models available:

  • Harmony Stratotone (H42, H44, H88)
  • Danelectro Pro 1
  • Danelectro Longhorn bass
  • Silvertone 1448 Amp-in-case guitar
  • Silvertone 1444 Dolphin Nose bass

These posters are A2-sized (42 x 59,4 cm) and have no measurement lines.

At just € 11,95 they are cheaper than the full size-plans.


Click here to see the posters

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One year in business!!!

Yes!!! One year has passed since I registered with the Dutch chamber of commerce and JAVACA LUTHIER  / The Dutch Luthier became an official company.

It has gone so fast that Facebook had to remind me. This is what I posted on my personal timeline…

Officially one year in… 😃

A year with great memories and activities.
Made instruments for some fantastic musicians and friends.
And met the most interesting people. 🤗

From a trip to Cambridge to re-enactment at Dutch castles and museums, attending concerts, lectures and teaching courses. 😎

I finally have a sense I’m in the right place, and am mighty thankful to everyone who travels along in this great journey…

I’ve started with the idea that there is no official businessplan (truned out I’m allergic to those), just a rough sketch: To go along making things (instruments and more), by chasing my vast array of curiosities and see where it takes me. Or like I wrote a year ago:

“An all-round craftsman involved with a broad range of activities; instrument building, repairs, restorations and maintenance. But also historical research, writing, publishing, guitar and lute plans, art, lectures, teaching as well as recreation and promotion of (historical) crafts(manship).”

So far it hasn’t disappointed me.

(story continues after the pictures)



After a burn/bore-out at 25, I had a severe depression following me for the next 5 years. A sense of belongingness overwhelmed me. Why did everything I tried end up a mess? And why did every job I took eventually become a large drone of boredom? Why didn’t I get along with colleagues? Why did I always seem to get in conflict with managers? Why can’t I work in (hierarchical) groups? And how could I find a place where all my interests and skills would find a good home?

After various therapies and research I learned to live with two personal peculiarities; A combination of giftedness (high IQ) and (I learned later) a mild form of Asperger. Up to now I always had suppressed this and tried to ‘act normal’, often biting my tongue in the process. Trying to avoid stepping on others toes.
Following social norms to stick to one activity and forsake all others. After much internal conflict and fights with the Dutch social services (who time and time again tried to break me down), I finally found the strength to step out of the corporate rat race and follow my own path.

Find people I like to work with and who appreciate the things I do. People I can learn from, with whom I can interact on various levels and subjects. From professors and academics to people without much education but a lot of wisdom. Musicians, luthiers, archaeologists, re-enactors, craftspeople, artists, actors, teachers. Many of them becoming great friends in the process.

The scope of my activities has become even wider. Looking back, I noticed that one of the red lines in my life was to combine various fields and interests. Especially when they are considered opposites: Technology and arts, history and future, head (theory) and hands (practice).

As you perhaps know I’m not much interested in money. Just enough to cover the basic necessities of life in the Netherlands; food, shelter, health insurance, mobility. The only real luxuries Sandra and I like are books… For the rest we like to make do with materials and goods we find and materials we salvage.

To me value is something that can be expressed in more ways than money. So volunteer work for the community is also a part of the activities. In various non-profits, like keeping the antique fire engine alive, practical help at the local museum, making and maintaining a Little Free Library,  reenactment and organizing events.

As said, I am very thankful to everyone who joined and supported me in this journey. Friends, customers, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Thanks for all your help, commissions, repairs, restorations, ideas, plans, advice, jokes etc.
I hope we can continue and expand this in the future. As you know, you’re always welcome to come by for a cup of coffee and entertaining tales.

Let’s keep up the good work!


–  Jan van Cappelle –
The Dutch Luthier

Javaca Workshop


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Carving along…

As you know I am always on the lookout for inspiration. This can literally be found anywhere: nature, books, movies, etc. But works by other craftsmen and -women often prove to be the best examples.

The Dutch Wagon at de “Kastelentocht” in Doorn

Like this “Boerenwagen” (Farmers-wagon) encountered at an event in my hometown. It was made by Toon Wortel, from Eemnes (about 30 km from here). He is one of the few wagon makers and wheelwrights left in the Netherlands. Toon has been making new and restoring old wagons for over 55 years. I have known him for a couple of years now, and can surely say he is a craftsman of which there aren’t many alive anymore; combining an enormous amount of knowledge of wood- and metalworking, with a passion for historical wagons and a great love for horses.

As can be seen in this short movie. Unfortunately only in Dutch without subtitles, but the images are largely self-explanatory. (And it’s a great opportunity to get acquainted with the Dutch language…)

The intricate woodcarvings on this wagon are typical for 19th century Dutch Wagons. Often owned by rich farmers, who used them to show off their wealth.

The Sellas Theorbo

When making bespoke instruments, I always ask the customer for something personal they would like to include in the instrument. A piece of material that has some special meaning to them, decoration that fits both the player as the instrument.

For Jannemieke’s theorbo after the Brussels’ Sellas I was looking for something special to do with the decoration. All pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I saw Toon’s wagon. The floral and leave patterns reminded me of the little leaves in the Sellas rose and on the ends of the bridge…

At the Zotte Zaterdag I asked Jannemieke what she thought of the pictures and wether she would like something in this style on the back of the neck extension. We agreed on a sort of ‘tree of life’ pattern in the style of the wagon decorations.

I first drew a meandering line on the back of the neck, as the stem of the tree. Then leaves and flowers were added, modelled after the wagon examples.

After the sketch was ready I put the neck aside for a couple of days, but sometimes looked at it and made some quick corrections. A week later I was satisfied, the final shapes were drawn in red pencil…

…and carving could start.

I think the back of the neck extension is a great canvas for some decorations. Especially because it doesn’t immediately catch the eye of the public at a concert. But it gives a nice visual surprise when the player walks away or changes instrument. I like it when instruments contain some pieces you don’t encounter at first glance.

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What is a Theorbo, Really?

I get a lot of questions about theorbos lately. They range from “is that a real instrument” to “what’s the best season to harvest sheep guts”, and all varieties in between.

So I was relieved to find a short YouTube clip in which theorbist (yes, it’s a religion) Marcus Strand answers all questions you may have about the world of fallic bass lutes…

Thanks Marcus for this enlightening and insightful talk…

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The Mechanical Joke Maker…

This is absolutely genius;

The combination of visual humor and mechanics is beautiful. No real idea other than making people wonder and bringing a smile to their face…

Sometimes it can be a powerful antidote to the sadness and cruelty of the big news of the day. As a little point of light, a sort of refuge for the soul.


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Small Sellas update

I’ve been busy with a variety of projects, from making two theorbos and viking chests (more on that later) to designing a baroque lute, moving a museum and making plans for a rope walk…

But first an update on the theorbo for Jannemieke. The shell is finished up to a point that the paper linings can be glued in.

The neck extention is quite different compared to the Schelle instrument. Where the scroll om the schelle is rather narrow and long, the Sellas is schort but wide.

I do enjoy cutting these pegboxes, it’s a very elegant shape, almost like a violin scroll. A functional sculpture on the end of the neck. A combination of strength (it has to withstand the tension of 8 bass strings) and weight reduction. It’s literally a balancing act.

The long neck extension is made of a very light but stong piece of oak, while the pegbox is made of maple. On the frond of the extention is a piece of very nice quartersawn maple veneer, salvaged from Jannemieke’s first guitar.

Next update: shaping the neck and carving some vines…

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A change of plans

Harmony Stratotone

Over the years it has become quite well known that I draw instrument plans. Lutes, guitars and even the legendary Harmony Stratotones.

Many of these have found their way to the workbenches of fellow luthiers all over the world. I have posted them to the most obscure and interesting adresses you might imagine.

PanormoBut this comes to an end… 

Don’t worry, but I stop to do the handling and postage myself. From now on the printing and distribution is taken over by a third party, saving time and money.

The plans will get even better, as the quality of paper improves. Printed on 140 grams paper (instead of the normal 80 g), and you can choose between gloss or matte finish. They will also be shipped rolled up in a tube. So no ugly folds anymore.

You can even hang them as a poster in your living room!

So if you want to make your own Lute, Danelectro, Harmony or Panormo: look no further…

Visit my new and improved plan catalog here!

More plans are in preparation. So stay tuned for new stuff…

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The twisted sounds of the Tromba Marina

Some weeks ago I posted a blog about the tromba marina project. One of the freewheelin‘ projects I allow myself after completing a large project. The tromba marina was finished the same week, but I forgot to post pictures.

As you could read in the “Monday Fuckups” blog, I did make an unfortunate mistake by cutting the scroll on the wrong side of the head. But as with all mistakes; it doesn’t matter that you make them, but rather how you deal with them.

So to cover it up I decided to turn it into something creative…

The loud, annoying, harsh and vile sound of the Trumpet Marine somehow always remind me of the political speeches of the current American potus. As you probably know, I am a great admirer of him, and even invited him to come over and make a guitar together. A nice way to put those little hands to work. “No words but deeds” is a well known Dutch saying…

Strangely I never heard any reaction from him to that letter. I can imagine he is far too busy to answer a letter of a Dutch instrument maker. It’s a though job, especially when outside of golfing you also have to deal with making America Great Again (whatever that means).

But we can fairly say that he is succeeding in that mission. America is becoming one of the greatest mockeries of the world. Here in Europe we find that words start to fail to express our sadness, disgust and fears about the way this elephant is behaving in the china cupboard.

The creationists are right about one thing when they believe evolution doesn’t necessarily bring the most intelligent, sophisticated and civilized life forms… But on the positive side, it does give people a chance to read the works of Machiavelli, Rand, Hitler and Arendt again and see their practical application. Perhaps I should add Orwell to the list as well?


But all kidding aside. A lot of my friends asked me to make a little video with sound samples of the Trumpet Marina (or Trumpet Mar-A-Lago as some called it).

As for your reactions: you are (still) free to feel what you like and express those feelings in writing. But please act according to your age and intellectual powers. I always try to address people at their own level. Over the last weeks I have seen some of the most hilarious and childish reactions to some photos of this instrument. Trump followers/believers who acted like the little precious snowflakes they accuse others of being. Some very serious cases of butthurt. I suspect a “great man” like The Donald can stand a little scrutiny? Or have we suddenly all been transported to the United States of North Korea, and is it forbidden to joke about, or comment the Great Leader? 
You are not required to like or celebrate this blog or its writer. And I guess you have come here out of your own free will. So if you don’t like it; don’t read or watch my page. If you do like it and my work, be sure to subscribe and like this page on facebook. But if it offends you there is a little button in the upper right corner of your computer screen that will solve your problem. But please don’t make a fool of yourself, one in the white house is more than enough for now…
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The Dollhouses of Death (that changed forensic science).

Ok, I already liked dollhouses and dioramas, but this is a whole other league…

In the fourties Frances Glessner Lee built dollhouses replicating crime scenes. These instruments were used for training of forensic scientists and police. And now – 70 years later – they still serve that purpose!

Talk about making something durable…

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