Orlando Lutes: Stephen Haddock 6c Refurbishment

Refurbishment of a 6c lute by Stephen Haddock

This 6 course lute made by Stephen Haddock in 1997 needed some work to bring it up to a good playable condition. The instrument seemed to have been subject to some previous unsympathetic repair work, and there were a number of aspects that needed resolution:

  • It had originally been made for a guitar player, who wanted increased string tension and a thicker soundboard than would normally be used. The instrument was therefore not as resonant and sweet as it could have been.
  • The soundboard had pulled up, resulting in an action that was much too low, with buzzing frets.
  • An unsympathetic repair had at some point added metal frets, cutting grooves into the fingerboard. These had been removed, but the grooves remained and these were covered in excessively thick gut frets.
  • The bridge had previously come off and had been repaired with synthetic glue, and possibly replaced.
  • The fingerboard and soundboard was covered in an orange stain, possibly to disguise previous repair work.
  • Pegs were sticking resulting in an instrument that was hard to keep in tune.

However the instrument was of a reasonable design, constructed of appropriate materials and much of the lute itself was still in good condition, and so was a good candidate instrument for refurbishment.

Below is a photo journal of our repair work:

The instrument as received - it looks like it needs a bit of a clean, due to the stain covering the fingerboard and soundboard.

Very thick gut frets covering the grooves left by previous metal frets

The thick frets being removed

Fingerboard once the gut frets had been removed - showing the crusted grooves for previous metal frets added to this instrument. A new fingerboard would be needed.

Top removed for revoicing, allowing the action to be fixed.

The design of its bridge was rather narrow without a chamfer/ramp on the rear edge. Together with the increased string tension this may have contributed to its previously coming off and being repaired. It may not be the original bridge.

Removing the bridge

Removing the fingerboard using a pallete knife and some gentle encouragement.

Original barring, showing a single treble bar and one bar between the bridge and rose bar.

Revoicing the soundboard by planing it to the correct thickness for a standard renaissance lute. It was nice to see the original spruce underneath the surface stain.

Soundboard after revoicing, and sanding

Prepared set of bars, reusing some of the originals

Glueing on the bars onto the soundboard using a go-bar system.

Some plumwood for the carving a new bridge.

Glueing the new bridge in place

New bridge in place, ready to receive its strings, and the top is back on.

New bone nut

New ebony fingerboard, prior to finishing

Instrument re-fretted and restrung.

The final instrument, ready to be played and cherished by its new owner. It now has a warm sweet sound, ideally suited for playing the early renaissance lute repertoire.

Contact us if you have a lute that needs refurbishing or some TLC.

See other examples of our refurbishment and setup and repair work.