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7-course Renaissance lute with Pegheads, pickups, and Kingham case. $5500.00 plus shipping.
The body of this lute is based on the instrument by Laux Maler (Prague National Museum No. 655), 11 ribs. I scaled it down exactly 24mm all around in order to make it work with eight frets on the neck and four on the soundboard. My idea was to increase the soundboard area a bit over the typical Venere lute design. Maler's lutes were a bit more elongated in the body, which provided a longer vibrating soundboard.
I have built Gerle, Heiber, Venere, Tieffenbrucker, Hoffman, and many other designs over the last 45 years, but I really wanted to discover the advantages of the long, tear-drop shape. Laux Maler worked between 1518 and 1552 in Bologna. He was considered the greatest maker of lutes in his day. He worked in partnership with his son Sigismund, and like most other luthiers working in Italy, was of German origin.
Interested parties may contact me at: earlymusic at fuse dot net.
Body less than half round and eleongted in the Frei, Maler styles. Most old lutes were slightly shallower than half round, with the exception of a few lutes that were actually deeper than half round. The result of the elongated soundboard is a more resonant instrument. I wanted to understand the advantages of a more elongated lute body and the result was this amazing instrument.
Eleven ribs of English Yew (Taxus baccata)1 separated by 10 fillets of white American Holly (Ilex opaca - the whitest wood known). The neck and pegbox are veneered with ebony, which is left unfinished in order to prevent "sticking" when sliding the thumb up and down the neck.
String length 60cm. String spacing at the bridge and nut is typical: 15mm between centers at the bridge and 12mm between centers at the nut. The action on this lute is quite low. The soundboard is dished about 3mm in the area of the rose to provide more clearance for the fingers of the right hand. This is also typical of the better lutes being built today. Aquila nylgut strings.
The seventh course is tensioned for E. That way, it can be dropped down to an F or pulled up to a D and still sound good. This makes the instrument useful for all lute music up to and through Dowland. And the pegheads make it quick and easy to change the tuning. I've always preferred the pure tone of a 6 or 7-course lute for the earlier repertoire. Once you've heard Milano on a 6 or 7-c. lute, you will never go back to your 10-course for this music!
The strap button is actually a 1/4" endpin jack which accomodates a 1/4" plug. I placed two 1-inch disc piezo pick-ups inside the lute, near the bridge. This seems to be getting more and more common as musicians demand a discrete way of attaching a pickup to their lute. Personally, my group the Noyse Merchants has found it invaluable when playing in noisy venues.
Pegheads have planetary gears hidden inside the pegs, giving a 1/4 tuning ratio. They are no heavier than wooden pegs, and even on the closest inspection look like wooden pegs. The heads are actually ebony and the shafts are a combination of delrin and aluminum. They make the lute SO much easier to tune! Some of the top players, including Ronn McFarlane, are using Pegheads on all their lutes. (Ronn also has a pick-up in his lute.) These add $30.00 per peg, but are included in the price I am asking for this lute. Nut of bleached bone. Tied gut frets.
Rosette carved by hand -- not by a laser. So many luthiers are using a laser for fast production and mechanically perfect rosettes. I prefer to spend a few extra hours to carve all of my rosettes by hand. I believe it gives the instrument more value in addition to being far more artistic and aethetically pleasing by showing "the hand of the maker".
The soundboard was cut from a log of fine-grained German white spruce, also called Norway spruce (Picea abies) that I found many years ago. This is the species that instrument makers in Italy have used for 400 years for soundboards. Old growth spruce is becoming extremely scarce and on my last trip to Italy, I was unable to find any of the old growth wood with lines of 25 or more per inch. Picea abies is the favorite soundboard wood of the top violin makers in Europe today, and I suspect they've snapped up what's left of it. I have enough left for about a dozen instruments.
Brand new Kingham case. These cases are currently costing me $650.00 for a Renaissance lute. The case is included in the asking price. Black outer skin, lined in dark blue plush. Still the finest lute case on the market. Incredibly light and strong. Strap lugs on the case - you provide your own strap.
1. Among the hardest of all softwood species, Yew is certainly unique. Its density and working characteristics are more like a hardwood than a softwood, yet its tight, fine grain and smooth texture give it a lustrous finish. Yew’s greatest claim to fame is its mechanical properties -- despite its strength and density, Yew has an incredibly low and disproportionate modulus of elasticity at only 1,320,000 lbf/in2 (9,100 MPa). This means Yew is extremely flexible, yet strong, making it ideally suited for use in archery bows. As we all know, Yew was the wood of choice for English longbows in medieval warfare, as well as lutes in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
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