Varnishing the Bowl




Here is the bowl after a few coats of varnish. Yew is a very dense wood and doesn’t have the pores that hardwoods have; so finishing requires less coats. This is a homemade varnish that is all natural, which means NO chemicals. It is spirit based and applied with a french polish technique. After there are enough coats of varnish, the surface is polished to a luster with pumice.

Gluing On Wooden Frets



I measured out the placement for the 9th through 12th frets on the belly of the lute. These are made from ebony and planed down to about 1 mm thickness. First they are glued on and then I applied a few coats of wax for protection on the spruce belly. It is tricky to keep the spruce clean from any ebony dust contamination. A sharp scraper helps to keep dust to a minimum.

Fitting Pegs to Pegbox

lute pegs
Fitting pegs into pegbox

Fitting pegs into pegbox

After the pegs are shaped on the lathe, the round head must be shaped into a flat head so it can be easily turned. I use a reamer with a 1:30 taper for the peg holes. The taper makes the pegs stick enough into the pegbox so that the string won’t slip at full tension. It takes awhile to fit the pegs into the pegbox so that they turn freely without binding and stick out in an aesthetically pleasing way. After the pegs are finished completely, I polish the heads with a coating of beeswax.

Preparing the Bowl for Varnish


Burnished rib on left (one with reflection)

I have begun to prepare the bowl for varnishing. After scraping all the residual hide glue from joining the ribs, any irregular areas are sanded smooth. I burnish the wood with a very hard and smooth stone before applying any varnish. I show an example of what a burnished vs. non burnished rib looks like in the photo. The wood is pacific yew and it is very dense. It burnishes to a nice luster pretty quick.

Veneering the Neck and Pegbox



The neck is first shaped, then a thin layer of hardwood is veneered over it. I continued the design into the bottom of the pegbox shown in the last picture.  I used cocobolo, ebony and holly for the stripes.  The pegbox is still separate from the neck; I will drill, ream and fit all the tuning pegs into the pegbox before gluing these parts together.

Constructing the bowl of yew wood


The bowl is constructed on a solid wooden form and it looks like this on the inside when it first comes off the mold.


Next you attach hand-made paper between each joint so that it stays together!


The masking tape shown here is essential before the paper strips are glued on the inside. The green masking tape keeps the joints from splitting and ruining all of the work you put in! Shown at the bottom is a piece of wood connecting all the ribs together. This is called the cap, I chose a piece of yew with a good amount of sap wood for a nice look.

7-Course lute bridge creation


The renaissance lute bridge is a one piece, fully functional object. The Classical guitar bridge developed over time to have a slot cut into the top of it, and a bone “saddle” perfectly fitted into this slot. This was to aid adjustment to the height of the strings over the fretboard. A very complicated situation at first glance, but once you understand the rules and where you want to end up with your string height; it is not that difficult. You must build the lute bridge with all of this information already known, because of the difficulty in adjusting the string height on the bridge. The lute bridge design is very small and light to aid in the quick response of the instrument and to minimize unwanted sustain. The bridge I made here is constructed from swiss pear. After it is finished I coat it with a black stain and varnish over the stain to seal it. Below the finished bridge is the blank of swiss pear that it was made from.September 2014 022

Finishing of the rose for the 7-course renaissance lute


September 2014 018Here is the rose after all the cutting and carving is completed. Cutting out the design from the inside and carving the detail from the outside. I left this design without a border for a cleaner look. After the carving is finished, a light coat of varnish is applied to protect and seal the wood. Tiny support braces are glued to the underside, they are stained black so they do not distract from the rose itself.

miguel rodriguez design

guitar, miguel rodriguez

guitar march 006

this is a miguel rodriguez style guitar that I built in 2013. It has a Western cedar top, Indian rosewood back and sides, ebony fretboard, ziricote headplate, mahogany neck, and an Indian rosewood bridge. I used some old growth redwood for the braces inside the guitar. The scale is 650 mm. I wanted to build a guitar with more of a radius on the fretboard, so this was the first attempt. I like the radius, and most people who play it seem to like it. It is more dramatic than a traditional classical radius.