Early Guitars and Vihuela

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I have the GAL plans for the Baroque Guitar, and somewhere on their site or somewhere else it was mentioned that the top (and the back) used some type of cloth as the lining (Kerf) with about 18- Half-Inch (1cm)x 1/4 inch little bridges that attach the top to the sides. but the main lining was cloth and hide glue. I would like to go ahead and try this out, any one ever use this method?

Flaminco guitars use loose kerfed linings, each one is attached individually (x 100+) with hide glue so I don't see any issues with this method, just wondering if it is seen on older guitars or if a full lining is actually preferred or?....?

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Well, I've found some stuff called: Kojo paper, its Japanese and has apparently long fibers in it and is really strong. Everyone I have tried to talk to seems to go with a standard wood kerf lining design, which would be fine if that was historically accurate. I will be adding a 1/8th shim for a larger side binding, around the top, then using the paper and spruce bridges (per GAL plans Marie Antoinette Guitar). Should be an interesting sound. The GAL guitar plans do not use side binding, and that would tremendously effect the sound I would imagine.Paper, some spruce bridges, and less than 1/8 side to glue up to.

(Paper is apparently used in quite a few of these old guitars on the interiors, to and bottom).

I have this same plan though I have yet to build it, but I will offer as much as I know.  I see that the accompanying article for this plan is in book #2 or American Lutherie #19 back issue. You might want to pick up that back issue if not the entire book so you can read the accompanying article by the luthier who drew up those plans. I have been unable to put book #1 down since I got it. 

The little individual blocks of wood used for lining are called "tantelones" and are sometimes still used in classical guitar construction. There are basically three methods of increasing the gluing surface of the plates to the sides that I know of: Solid linings bent to match the sides, tantelones, and kerfed lining. Solid linings are preferred by some because they are reputed to add stiffness to the sides. Kerfed lining adds much less although reversing it is supposed to add more stiffness than the usual way of gluing it with the kerfs facing out.  Tantelones wouldn't add any stiffness, just gluing surface. I have read somewhere of linen cloth being used in early guitars for reinforcement and I think it has been used as a lining but I will defer to someone who knows better than I.

The only problem I can foresee with using cloth as a lining material is that you can only use it on either the back or the top, after that plate has been glued to the sides, but not both plates since you would not be able to apply it to the plate and side as you are closing the box.

Alexander Batov and Peter Forester come to mind as luthiers who have experience and knowledge in these guitars and I think they are both members here; if not they are on the lute group. If no one else answers this post you could try to send one of them a private message.

I also have a question: Where did you find the kojo paper? I did a google search but came up empty. Actually this post is the only relevant hit that I saw.

Good luck! I will be monitoring this thread for sure...

I have someone who knows about this from the GAL emailing about this so I might know more in a couple days. I can get Kojo paper at the local art supply store, it has cloth fibers in it. It was all over google. Maybe I looked up something under 'stongest paper'  or something. (nothing to do with lutheri) This is the video that gave me the 'aha' moment:


The reference was to the GAL guitar (google: (Marie Antoinette Guitar), article says it was lined with paper, although thinking about that, would it be paper or parchment? The plans also call for a  parchment strip ahead of the bridge. This was added to give the top some 'curve', apparently.

Again, the above video got me thinking about this. You'll see what I mean when you look at it. At the least I would not do solid on a Baroque, I would use this technique. Not really eagle claws, more like buck teeth =)! Well, Im willing to experiment on this first one.

Please share what you find out. I just renewed my GAL membership and I really value that organization. There is so much information that has been made available to the mere mortal as a result of their publications.

Also, check out Alexander Batov's article on the Belchior Dias:


I found that paper, but under the name "kozo", not kojo. It looks like my neighborhood art supply carries it which is good news. I bought some linen utility cloth that I have been using since I have not been able to find any paper that seemed strong enough. I still think cloth is stronger than any paper, but paper makes for a neater job and probably weighs less when it is said and done.

I think there is an issue with parchment as a reinforcement material. Too hygroscopic or shrinking too much or something - perhaps why it is used to impose a curve in the plate. Again hopefully someone more knowledgeable will rescue this thread.

It is an interesting video. He sure makes up a huge batch of hide glue for only using it on the soundboard. I don't get why he poured it all out on the wax paper either. It's also interesting that he would use kerfed lining on the back but tantelones on the top. I'm sure he has a good reason, I just don't understand it. Again, maybe someone can enlighten us.

I googled Marie Antoinette guitar and the only relevant hit is from Larry Brown's website. He is on the lute group and maybe here too. He is also a past GAL contributor and will answer email questions too.

Well, your probably right about the cloth. That would probably be better. He uses Hide Glue and Tantalons on the top to make it looser. The back is standard kerfed lining and bottle glue. (So standard kerfed lining on tops makes them stiffer).-Hense the aha moment! Flaminco guitars are a bit louder than classicals).  Maybe he freezes the glue that he doesn't use, as he only uses it for tops? So it will melt faster when flat. I thought he was nuts, but actually the tantalons are probably faster than making kerf, when my kerf sled-machine is down anyway. Hasn't been working properly last time I tried it.

Any pics of the interiors? There is a good one up here of an Italian guitar top made from X-rays of an original.

He uses Hide Glue and Tantalons on the top to make it looser.

Hmmm. I'm not about to second guess someone who has obviously been at it a lot longer than I have, but I don't see the correlation. If anything hide glue is "stiffer" in that there is absolutely no plasticity to it once it dries. It is hard as glass. If anything AR and PVA glues, which are plastic resins are more subject to things like cold creep and are not quite as hard as hide, but that is probably splitting hairs. The tantelones are also larger, as blocks go than the blocks that make up his kerfed lining, but maybe the spacing between creates the looseness that he is after. With instruments like lutes and ouds there is no lining used so the subsequent gluing surface is miniscule compared to that of a guitar. This is something that really seems to shock guitar builders. Even William Cumpiano, a very well respected luthier showed a restoration of a lute on his website where he glued in a kerfed lining to "increase the gluing surface".

That's why you will read a lot of advice from luthiers who specialize in early instruments warning not to impose too many modern techniques when building period instruments. When the lute revival began in the mid 20th Century the early attempts at building lutes often resulted in heavy instruments that sounded more like guitars because modern luthiers assumed they knew better than the old guys. That type of thinking is pretty much gone today thanks to the work of guys like Lundberg and Van Edwards among others who have written about lute construction.

When it comes to early guitar/vihuela construction there is less formal information out there, but thanks to Batov and Barber and Harris, and their respective websites, we certainly have more information than they did when they started.

Again too I have to recommend the GAL There is a good article in the "Big Red Book of Luthery Vol.1" on vihuela construction.

Thank God for these great luthiers who have been kind enough to share their research with hacks like me!

Yes, hide glue is stiffer, so it resonates more, as compared to the so called 'rubbery' pva's which would impede the sound, so to speak I guess. Like tapping a rosewood against tapping mahogany. One is bright, one is a dull thud.

The top is the most important, which is why he is using it there. Back gets PVA, this is debated alot in the steel string world also which is where I'm coming from.

  The Marie Antoinette guitar has only the thin sides , tantalons, and cloth for support (because it can be way more vigorously played than lutes I'm guessing). That's why I want to try to use what is historical, rather than just go with kerf lining. Except for the side binding, which requires on my part to install another 1/8 inch wood strip around the perimeter, which is like a kerfless lining at this point.

I may have to get that Big read book again, yes, you can just go through those for days in a trance.

Anyway, seeing that video got me out of the blinders of using standard kerf lining for the top. Not sure how I will handle the back. Im thinking 1/8 solid lining at this point, and using a 15' dish so its between a flatback and a round. Not historical, but neither is my use of woods either.

Do you have facebook? I found someone with shots if the interior of Marie's I think, but it requires facebook login, which is against my religion.

I have a "fake" facebook account only for times like this. I had a friend send me a link to pictures from a film I worked on in a past life that required a facebook account to see them so I created one with a fake name. Facebook is against my religion too. This site, the lute ning and the mimf are the only social network I do. I also have a blog here and at the lute site where I document my builds - such as they are. I'm still a student luthier with a long way to go, but it is my passion which is why you see me on here and the other two forums I mentioned. I'm a dedicated desciple of the free sharing of knowledge about all things musical and love these sites.

Ok, this guy has 91 pictures on his site can you see if its there?


I think that Alexander and others have looked inside more 17th c. guitars than myself now.  I made almost entirely Voboam copies, and some time ago.  Working on the basis of what I believed to be original; the sides/back joint was reinforced with only cloth - 1/2" cotton tape cut into approximately 1/2" lengths - which I placed roughly every 1" or so, according to the amount of strain that I considered that area would have.  Scraps of cloth seem to have been used originally, and rather more sparsely.  The belly has two or three bars to which I added around a dozen small positioning/reinforcing bars/blocks (photo on my page) - also used on original instruments.  This was working with 0.9 - 1.0 mm ebony sides and 3.0 - 3.5 mm yew backs, spruce or pine bellies.  I never had any problems that I know of, but did later cheat slightly with a lining along the belly joint consisting of a 1/4 - 3/8" strip of ordinary sycamore veneer, which built this edge up to approx. 1.5 mm.  This would of course be a normal thickness for a lute which could carry many more strings.  Most of the force pulling the sound-board off the ribs is taken by the end-block.  I use only hot animal glue, which is diluted to about 1/3 glue for the tapes to be soaked in.  The joint is reinforced externally with sello/scotch tape until the cloth is dry.  Linen would be stronger than cotton, both are stronger than alternatives, and linen is not always available.  For joints in the back I reinforce similarly with paper - too much cloth can attract dust - using a high quality water-colour paper.  Will try out Kojo which I didn't know of.  Bombé backs usually have four or five transverse parchment strips with paper between individual strakes/planks.  I imagine that the complete papering sometimes seen is either a later repair or a quicker and cheaper alternative.

I checked out the pictures he posted. Unfortunately the Marie Antoinette is not among them. I've heard of Tom Ribbecke. It looks like he does a lot of archtop building. Looks like nice stuff.


You are one of the pro's I was hoping would join in and shed some light for us. Thank you!

So in using cloth reinforcement on the top, do you presumably attach it first, then lay in the glue soaked cloth, then close the box using a wood lining for the back?

I have been using nothing but hot animal glue in everything I've cobbled together so far and as I say to others anxiously contemplating taking the hide plunge; if I can do it, anyone can.

Here is an online supplier of handmade paper:


Again, they are based here in the States so shipping may be cost-prohibitive to our friends across the oceans, but it might be worth checking out anyway. as you can see on this page they have the Japanese kozo stuff, cotton, silk and of course the ever popular elephant dung paper! I think I might get some of that. At least then I can blame the paper if my lute turns out crappy ;)

Strength of the paper depends upon the length of the fibre, linen being the usual longest, so I'd forget elephant dung unless of course the elephants are feeding exclusively on flax!

I've always built the other way round.  The 1690 Jean Voboam (it seems to have been shortened, but used to be a nice model for an insistent modern guitar player), the 1676 Alexandre, and another by each in private hands which I was able to measure. all have the belly and end block at a right angle as seen from the side.  This suggested to me that they used an inside mould, like a lute at the same period.  Hence the back is glued to the sides before the belly.  It would be possible to use an outside mould, and I have done so, but more difficult, especially considering the neck/side joint.  That used by the Sellas family makes a solid mould essential.  (Think I put a photo on my page?).

So, back on first with a cloth lining between sides and back.  Added veneer lining at sides/belly to enlarge gluing surface to about 1.5 mm. 

I've looked at my copy of the so-called Marie Antoinette drawing, and note that it is drawn with the angle between back and belly averaged out at the end-block.  Try to check this with a photo - there is probably one on the M de M website.  This is one that I never measured.  

"So-called", because it has no provision for a neck strap.  It does have provision for the gut loops which gentlemen players could hook onto jacket buttons etc.  But not ladies!  So Marie Antoinette could never have played this one seriously.


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