Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Schreiner's Lute and Guitars -- Update

If you are wondering what has happened with the Checchucci guitar here is the latest view. I have made progress but it has been slowed by other commitments. I'll continue my reports on this instrument as I will soon have more time to concentrate on it.

The Koch theorbo (posts from Sept. 20 and April 19) was delivered earlier this month to the student baroque ensemble of Adlai Stevenson High School, located in a Chicago suburb. I believe it is important to promote Early Music particularly theorbo among young musicians so I was enthusiastic about being part of this project.

Much of my time the last few months has been taken up with repairs. I repair my own instruments and those by other makers that belong to my clients. Some of this work can be arranged in advance and I include it in my schedule. Others things arrive on short notice with tight deadlines. The owner of the first lute I want to show you contacted me in April. I was told it was from 1975 so I was looking forward to seeing it when it arrived last month.

The action had gotten far too high so I dis-assembled it and put it back together in proper alignment.

I like re-visiting my earlier work, not to see what I've done, not to be critical, but to see the story that belongs to each instrument. The bowl wood is Brazilian Rosewood. I found a plank of it at a neighbourhood lumber yard in East End Montreal around 1972 when I was living there. Wondering where there might be more I was sent to a warehouse in the suburbs. I found an aircraft hanger size building crammed floor to ceiling with the wood! The species is endangered and is now banned in international trade.

after Benedid 1783, Schreiner 2003
Other instruments unexpectedly develop problems and need to be looked after quickly. This photo arrived in an email Sunday night and the owner is now arranging to come to Toronto and to stay over while I fix it.

Unfortunately, some repairs that initially appear to be straight forward turn out to be nightmares.

 This is the neck block of a small theorbo with the neck and belly removed.  It is not one that I built but it belongs to one of my clients so I agreed to work on it.  I thought that only the neck joint had broken open, but it turned out that five of the eleven ribs of the bowl had, over time, come loose from the block. The lute had slowly folded up and become unplayable. While I worked on it one unwanted discovery led to another and what I scheduled as a simple repair -- wasn't!

Last month a lutenist who had recently moved to Ontario from Italy got in touch. The movers had damaged his archlute and he has a show scheduled for the middle of November.

The bowl was cracked through on the bass side of the end clasp leaving a jagged break and there was a nasty split in a soundboard. I removed the soundboard and carried out the repairs. I am just now touching up the varnish.

I still have two lutes waiting for my attention.
I have inserted knives to demonstrate the open joints
 One of my Kaiser theorbos (built 2000) was mistreated by baggage handlers on a flight to Charleston SC.  The neck joint popped which is fairly common and easy to fix. But the violence separated the soundboard tongue from the neck surface. They are both clean breaks but I will have to remove the soundboard in order to do the repair.

after Gerle, Schreiner 1996
 Good grief, how did this happen?

The rose is damaged but the broken parts will glue back without much trouble and the bridge is intact. The soundboard is a write-off. I'll salvage the rose and set it into a new soundboard.

 Also, I have gotten started on a special project. Toronto lutenist/guitarist Lucas Harris obtained an 1831 Giovanni Guadagnini guitar and I agreed to restore it. The work on this will go on for several more months. I am documenting everything so I will report on it in two or three posts when I am further along.

Next, I will finish the Checchucci guitar and in the coming months I'll finally get to work on new lutes; a couple of ten courses lutes, another Koch theorbo and a baroque guitar in A. That is the plan anyway.


  1. Replies
    1. Wishful thinking -- if only the horror was once a year.