Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Mark Day
  • Male
  • Lasalle, ON
  • Canada
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Mark Day's Friends

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Mark Day's Discussions

Jose' Miguel Moreno's vihuela
6 Replies

Started this discussion. Last reply by Manuel Morais Sep 27, 2011.

Fronimo or Django?
1 Reply

Started this discussion. Last reply by Valéry Sauvage Mar 24, 2011.

Homemade vihuela
2 Replies

Started this discussion. Last reply by Mark Day Aug 4, 2010.


Tales from Guerilla Lutherie!

Profile Information

About me:
I play guitar (electric), lute, and vihuela. I started playing guitar in 9th grade. My first guitar, which I still have and will never willingly part with, is a Fender Strat, right-handed, which I play upside down, ala Hendrix.
I got interested in early music after my sister came home from college with David Munro's "Instruments of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" album. I eventually purchased a cheap lute, and built a vihuela. Today, I hardly touch the Strat. My home-made vihuela is my primary instrument.

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Mark Day's Blog

Ovahuela update

I'm almost done with the "Ovahuela" so it's time to update this blog. This was a fun project. The nice thing about it was the freedom rebuilding an old klunker gives you. I was free to experiment and try things I normally wouldn't if I were building a "period" instrument from scratch.

A little background

I bought an old 1970's Ovation Applause from my sister for $50 about ten years or more ago. It was a 6 string (steel), approximately an "OM" shape. It had a…


Posted on January 24, 2012 at 16:30 — 2 Comments

Latest project: the Ovaute.

What to do with an old Applause Ovation 6-string with a godawful aluminum/resin neck and a plywood top? Rebuild it into a lute, or vihuela, of course!

I started by removing the plywood soundboard. Most luthiers that do repair work will tell you they hate Ovations. I can see why. Ovation uses all sorts of epoxies and other "space-age polymers" to glue their guitars together so taking them apart is not pretty. As I wasn't planning on saving the soundboard, I didn't care. I wore a…


Posted on September 5, 2011 at 17:08 — 2 Comments

Comment Wall (5 comments)

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At 16:44 on December 9, 2011, Florian Vorreiter said…
Thank you very much Mark! The short time I have spent in this early guitars and vihuela group has already been great for doing some research. I am looking forward to check in once a week and see what is happening.
At 16:43 on October 3, 2011, Steven Sorli said…

Hi Mark,  What is the confusion about the string calculator?  You can call me at 866-616-0675 or email: sorli@lautenwerk.com


At 20:18 on January 27, 2009, Mark Day said…
Cool! Thanks again Alexander! What a great tool for communication this group is! It sure makes research a lot easier!
At 18:35 on January 27, 2009, Alexander Batov said…
The lack of corner blocks in historical viols (and in some violins too) is not that uncommon and the building method(s) of such instruments is usually thought of as without using a mould. I don't use any either. My original 'dai Libri' model (http://www.vihuelademano.com/viola-da-mano/daiLibri.htm) has 58cm string length , and the other (http://www.vihuelademano.com/viola-da-mano/daiLibri_viola-da-mano_inG.htm) 56 cm. They can both be tuned in G (a' 440), it's a matter of your choice. The neck to body length proportions, as is seen on some iconographic representations, can differ quite considerably, so the neck can be long as to allow for 12 (if not more!?) tied-on frets. One such viola is depicted on the painting by Frencisco Venegas (c. 1582 - 1591) in Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz (Lisboa). Here again it's up to you how long the neck should be.

The body dimensions of my 58cm SL viola da mano are: body length 37.5cm, body width 12.5cm / 7.5cm / 10.6cm (bottom / middle / upper bouts). These are taken from my drawing (I no longer have the instrument with me) and represent the internal outline of the body so you'd need to add c.1-2mm to the figures to allow for the thickness of the sides.

I'm not sure that the difference in sound is so dramatic, just because of different body outline... From the early 19th century onwards guitar makers have made guitars with any possible (and impossible! :)) shape that one can only imagine. However, we are still stuck with the sort of shape that is traditionally associated with the guitar or, for that matter, vihuela. Good luck anyway!
At 19:13 on January 24, 2009, Alexander Batov said…
Hi Mark,

Yes, I did the plans myself. Well, strictly speaking they are more like quick sketches rather than proper plans, with the main aim to determine how long the neck should be in relation to the body (depending obviously on how many tied-on frets you want to have on your viola), bridge and rose positions (these can be shifted / re-adjusted according to your preferences and, in the end, can affect the sound to some degree) and, of course, to work out the necessary body size and its outline. The constructional principles are very much the same as in vihuelas, i.e. integrated whole-piece neck and neck block, two bars on the soundboard. The only difference here is in the C-shaped middle bouts of the body. I do not use any corner blocks on these, just linen re-enforcement strips from the inside. In a way, the whole body / neck construction here is very much the same as found in surviving 16th century Venetian viols by Antonio and Batista Ciciliano (and some others) as well as in French 17th century viols. So there are good enough reasons to believe that similar principles were applied to the plucked viola too (besides, they may well still being made and played at the time!).

Which particular dimensions do you want to know?


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