Adventures in Lutherie

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Blog series by Dave Rutan updated 02-07-2018 06:48 PM 15 parts 31406 reads 33 comments total

Part 1: Dulcimer Nut and Bridge Replacement

10-29-2014 05:57 PM by Dave Rutan | 6 comments »

Over the summer my wife came home after visiting a former colleague and brought in an oldish mountain dulcimer. It had hung on the wall at her friend’s house and she was wondering if it could be made to play. I’m no expert, but I took a good look at it. It looked to be a genuine mountain dulcimer, not a mere decoration. A label inside says Geoffrey R. Johnson, NOVEMBER 1989. A Google search on that yielded nothing useful. The Nut was broken and the floating bridge was missing,...

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Part 2: Diving in Again: Mountain Dulcimer

11-07-2016 06:01 PM by Dave Rutan | 2 comments »

Heads up! It’s been a while since I built my wife’s 3 string mountain dulcimer. I’ve been promising to make a 4-string for several years. As I write this, I’ve already started cutting wood. I hope to have it done for Christmas. I’ll be posting a build series as well, chiefly because I want to translate it into Esperanto. I’ll have to make a hard case for it as well. ;-)

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Part 3: Oops! I'll use it somewhere

11-13-2016 03:04 AM by Dave Rutan | 1 comment »

While working on the dulcimer for my wife, I cut the fingerboard too short. It’s okay, I have plenty of wood and it was still just a stick with no real crafting invested in it. But figured I’d put it to good use. I cut the peg head into one end as ‘practice’ for the real thing. So now I have this fingerboard with a peg head cut into it. It’s too narrow for a cigar box guitar. Looking around the internet, I think I can use it to make a 4 string ‘teno...

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Part 4: Miter box for fretting

11-18-2016 08:27 PM by Dave Rutan | 0 comments »

[Above] Recently I had to cut fret slots on a fingerboard for a mountain dulcimer. I decided to build a miter box specifically for this. A standard miter box is too wide for this and the slot is a bit sloppy for my dovetail saw. I grabbed some scrap plywood which happened to have a decorative edge on it and screwed the two sides onto a bottom piece. This assembly was then screwed onto a wider base piece to allow me to clamp it in place. The whole thing has some weight to it as well, ...

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Part 5: Peg reamer and peg shaver

11-18-2016 08:41 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

[Above] Always trying to do things on the cheap, made a peg hole reamer using a rat tail file. I broke most of the tang off and inserted it into a hole drilled in a piece of flat steel. I glued it together using JB Weld and it’s held up so far with no problems. To use it I drill a pilot hole at 3/16 inch and ream it out to the largest diameter on the tapered file which 1/4 inch. You have to twist the reamer in the direction that will try to force it out of the hole, otherwise it...

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Part 6: And then some!

12-29-2016 10:38 PM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

There’s a good chance that I’ll be doing a lot more lutherie in the future. Through a connection my wife has as a music teacher, I’ll be apprenticed to a music store as a repairer of wooden instruments. I wouldn’t call this an absolutely done deal, but very likely at the least. I love the idea of having a unique job and this one could be fun as well. I gotta start binge watching all the guitar repair videos on Youtube. I haven’t met the owner yet, but he̵...

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Part 7: I'm an apprentice!

01-10-2017 08:40 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

I think today I could mark as when I entered an ‘apprenticeship’ as an ‘Orchestral Instrument Repair Technician’. I’m doing piecework as I learn, but the owner of the shop wants me to be stationed there eventually. It’s better for business. I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me. the better and faster I work, the more I get paid. I’m repairing student rental instruments, so they aren’t going to be ‘restored’ to showr...

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Part 8: Simple violin repair

01-11-2017 06:52 PM by Dave Rutan | 0 comments »

won’t make this a regular thing, but I wanted to post this first one. This is a 3/4 size violin with a beak in the tuning peg box. The break was clean and simple to fix with glue. Epoxy was used because the break line went Right through a tuning peg hole. One clamp held everything perfectly in place while the glue cured. Just reiterating that these are student rental instruments. The idea is o keep them playable. In this case the repair is nearly invisible, but this will not al...

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Part 9: How to rehair a bow

03-01-2017 05:23 PM by Dave Rutan | 1 comment »

You might not realize this, but all musical instruments occasionally need maintenance. Brass instruments may need a new spring in the valves, pianos might need new felt on the hammers, or a woodwind may need new cork on the stops covering the holes. For the string instruments probably the most frequent maintenance is rehairing of the bow. The horsehair actually wears out from use and an unused bow, kept in its case may succumb to an infection of bow bugs that break the hairs off. Part ...

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Part 10: Just a glue-up-du-jour

03-21-2017 07:17 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

This poor cello had a slit in its face and part of its top had separated from the ribs. Today I felt confident enough to try repairing it. It is curing until I get to work tomorrow.

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Part 11: Bench Puppy and Tiny Wedges

05-08-2017 07:57 PM by Dave Rutan | 0 comments »

I needed a place to use a chisel to cut small wedges out of maple for rehairing violin bows. The benchtop has a piece of carpet on it and I didn’t want to damage anything anyway. I made a small bench dog to give me something to push against and cut into without worry. It’s made with a scrap of oak that I had. The cleats are just glued on but are holding up fine. The wedge I msade is the small bit of wood with the dot on it just at the corner of the chisel. I believe itR...

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Part 12: A few shots from my day

06-13-2017 09:04 PM by Dave Rutan | 0 comments »

I’ve been going through the ‘bone pile’ in the shop, looking for specimens that I think I have the ability to repair. The best way to learn is to do, and since these were actually already in the scrap box, how could I possibly goof anything up? My boss once said to me that if I goof something up, we’ll just take it apart and fix it. These first two shots are of a 3/4 violin that had a missing corner on the upper left C bout. The top of violins is spruce, IE the same...

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Part 13: Bass-ic Clamps

07-28-2017 01:36 AM by Dave Rutan | 1 comment »

Lately at work I’ve had to venture upwards and do some work on Double Basses. It’s mostly been just restringing and such, but today I graduated again. Today I cut my first bass bridge. It was just a 3/4 size bridge, but it was still a bass bridge. The other thing was that I had to glue an open seam in the bottom of a 1/4 size bass. I discovered that my cello size spool clamps were too short and had to improvise as seen in the photo above. Below you see two of four ba...

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Part 14: Chipped cello edge

02-07-2018 12:22 AM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

Part of my job as an or hestral repair tech is to try and repair damage to the rental instruments. A chip like the one shown above is sort of dangerous since it presents a rough edge. This is repair though, not full museum restoration. In this case I took a piece of similar wood and cut it to fit in the gap, oversize. I carve the patch to match the level and shape of the missing piece as best that I can.Then I try my best to blend it in with the surrounding area. Sometimes I...

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Part 15: Methusela

02-07-2018 06:48 PM by Dave Rutan | 2 comments »

I resurrected this 1/2 size violin that I pulled from our bone pile. It just needed everything aside from the scroll, neck, fingerboard, and body. I scavenged parts from our used items, including a set of strings.

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