Renaissance lutes
Baroque lutes
Chitarroni & theorbos
Restoration & repair

Materials & decoration

Stringing & pitch
Pricing & conditions
Getting to the workshop































One of the most appealing features of historical lutes is the great variety of resonant materials used. The Fugger inventory of 1580 lists lutes of ivory, Indian cane, ebony, cypress, brazil wood, yellow and red maple, sandalwood, yew, whalebone and guaiac wood. This list can be easily be lengthened, with rosewood, snakewood, plum, birdseye maple, figured ash and others. I use a number of these still, but my staples are figured maple and yew, both producing instruments with slightly different warmth of tone. Harder woods, ebony and rosewoods for instance, are used where a particularly penetrating sound is wanted. Soundboards of lutes were always of spruce or pine, of a stiff and close grained character, enabling them to be very thin, and my own soundboards are similar.

maple cut into ribs

Fillets of contrasting materials were frequently used between lute ribs, and one very characteristic back material, yew, was often used for narrow ribbed backs, with its lighter sapwood, the outer part of the tree, as a decorative contrast to the darker heartwood. This style occurs towards the end of the 16C, quite possibly because the demise of the longbow around this time meant that yew became more easily available a nice example of swords being turned into ploughshares. Yew was used also for wide ribbed lutes, and I use it for both of these styles.

a striped yew back

Figured maple, both flamed and the harder birdseye, make excellent lute backs, for anything from 9 to 17 ribbed lutes. For higher numbers if ribs, I prefer yew. One can also use alternating rib materials to spectacular effect.

I tend to use the more graphic linear styles of decoration for renaissance lutes, with contrasting lines of bone, ebony and snakewood, say, or panels of contrasting woods, rather than marquetry perhaps a consequence of my architectural training. But I do like to have fun with baroque lutes, using my own designs of fretted and carved panels in plum or pearwood, occasionally with gilded details, to decorate pegboxes. I like to leave fingerboards plain, as the strings interfere with any linear decoration.

Long necked lutes archlutes and chitarroni offer much scope for decoration, and I use appropriate schemes of stripes, lines and panels of contrasting woods.

Pegs are plainly very important to the luteplayer, and I take great care to make sure they function smoothly. There are many designs of peghead, and a number of suitable materials, although I use mainly hard plum or rosewood, both sometimes stained black, and occasionally boxwood.

decorated pegbox 

The soundhole of the lute, the rose, is a beautiful feature of the instrument, and I make sure this is really finely made in an appropriate style, even on quite modest instruments. These were sometimes gilded on old instruments, and I like to occasionally use touches of gilding on details.

cutting a triple rose

I use richly coloured varnishes on my instruments, usually now my workshop made varnishes coloured with my own lake pigments. These are mostly a warm red-brown on pale woods and a little lighter on yew. I have also used a rich golden-yellow on some 6c lutes, following the style of that lovely instrument in Holbein’s Ambassadors portrait.

varnish samples

All these matters are of course discussed with customers in detail on ordering.