Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas


I build classical guitars, but really want to build a baroque guitar and a vihuela. If anyone can point me in the direction of resource materials for building these instruments I would appreciate it.

I have ordered the 1641 Voboam plans from the Ashmolean and have Robert Lundberg's lute book. Just wondering if there is any more information out there that would prove useful.


Jason Wolverton

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I wrote a very short article - 17thc, Guitar Woodwork, FoMRHI comm 825, July 1987 which still has some information. Send me or the editor a snail-mail address if you'd like a photocopy. Alexander Batov's website has excellent material on roses which completely supersedes me - its about ten years since I stopped building guitars to concentrate on citterns. There are or were also drawings of the Strad and perhaps their Sellas at Oxford. Royal College of Music, London has a (Jean?) Voboam and the Diaz drawings. The Paris Conservatoire - now part of the musee de Musique - had another Voboam drawing, and the very fine Italian by "G.C.". The museum in Edinburgh has a drawing of a Sellas and Anon (French?). There is another Sellas drawing in Germany (Nurnberg?). And there are probably others around by now. Many luthiers 20+ years ago had a copy of Stephen Murphy's drawing of another Paris Jean Voboam (1690), now known to have been shortened to 64 cm. sl. during the 19th c., but still a nice instrument for a modern guitarist's 2nd.
Elena, mentioned before on this site, in Italy, makes excellent and very reasonable roses if necessary.
Find me via the Lute Society website.
In addition to what Peter has suggested (by the way, thanks, Peter, for the nice words about my on-line publication on roses!) about baroque guitars, I wrote a brief reply on the question of 'where to find plans for a vihuela' or something like that for American Lutherie (number 88, winter 2006, p.66). If you don't have this number do let me know (through this or my web site) and I can perhaps help you with it.

Just briefly, you can design your own vihuela following the lines of construction of the baroque guitar (17th century French, late 18th century Spanish examples have some common features with the surviving vihuelas): neck, peg head and neck block in one piece, with slots in the heel to insert the sides, neck to peg head angle at c. 13 - 14 degrees; two-piece flat back; soundboard with two bars; slotted bridge. Starting with the string length of your choice, make sure that the neck is long enough for 9 or 10 (which is better) frets, with the front edge of the bridge at about 80 mm from the bottom edge of the body (or a bit further for a larger c. 66 - 68cm SL instrument). Depending on what sort of spacing you want on the bridge and nut (see the recent exchange about it on this forum) will give you neck widths at the nut and body join. So there is no need for any comprehensive drawing, just a quick sketch would be fine from which you can work out all the necessary measurements.

If, however, you want to invest some time in a more complicated, fluted-back vihuela construction, the plans are available from the Cite de la Musique Paris (an anonymous vihuela Inv. No E.0748, also known as 'Chambure') and Royal College of Music London (the Dias 1581 vihuela). The 'Chambure' drawing is fine, the 'Dias' has quite a number of mistakes (which are all detailed and explained in my on-line article here: http://www.vihuelademano.com/vgcrossroads.htm).

Thanks to everyone for the great information. I'll be building the 1641 Voboam from the Ashmolean to get me going down the road. The vihuela will follow. Looking forward to a new challenge.
There are a lot of pictures of a Voboam and Stradivari on the site of the Shrine to Music museum, S. Dakota.
Lundbergs book is my second bible, it has a lot of information.

I find the site of Barber and Harris very useful.
Currently i´m working on a little baroque guitar after Voboam.


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