14th Century Citole Day 4

Here it is, day 4.  Thorsday.  OK, so it was supposed to be Thorsday, but it is actually Sunday.  I guess I am going to start numbering the pages by actual work-days on the citole, not on calendar days.

As you learned on day 3, rebec #1 required some reworking, integrating improvements that I had learned on rebec #2.  So I worked Thursday and Friday on the rebec refit, so that it could be done by Friday evening.

The red-grained Carpathian Spruce came in on Friday.  This is supposed to be the most ideal soundboard material for small to mid bodied instruments without lots of bracing - it is the toughest of the spruces in lateral flex resistance - in other words you can bridge an 8 inch body with the soundboard with only 1 soundbrace and not worry about crushing it under the bridge.

Saturday was a big demo at my daughter's school, a rainy day but I took all the parts and my finished instruments and crossbows and stuff and we did a pretty good demo until about 3 pm.  My mother showed up without a lot of advanced notice, bringing a whole oversized trailer of firewood to us (yeah) for free (YEAH), and after unloading and stacking wood and making dinner and such, I passed out in the recliner and woke up at 3 am, just in time to move to bed and sleep till time to go to church (no, not till time to get ready for church, but time to leave for church.).  On the way back to church to get my daughters from catechism, a lady rear-ended my van (only cosmetic damage, but a delay) and so the workday got started very late.

Here are the steps I have been working on so far today.  It is a good day, lots getting done, and it actually paves the way to get this thing done in the next couple of days.

First order of business - thin the floor of the soundbox to less than 1/4 inch.  Since I had already hogged out the majority of the material with the forstner bit, it was a matter of using small planes, scrapers, and a very sharp narrow chisel to get the floor fo the box thinned and smoothed.  It was not the easiest job, but it wasn't overly difficult.

A final check of the soundbox edges, and some carving on the trefoil prior to preping and joining the soundboard.  The soundboard has to be the next part of this instrument the way I am building it - everything else is dependant on joining or overlaying the soundboard, or pieces that do.

The Carpathian red-grained spruce top doesn't photograph very well - it is so white and smooth that the flash causes lots of reflections.  But around the glow you can see the even red grain lines.

The top of this instrument came from one half of a dreadnought guitar top bookmatched pair.  This leaves me 4 rebec tops from the remaining wood.

The single soundboard brace is being glued to the top with clamps and weight.  This is a cedar brace (western red) with wide grain - very light and as non-reactive in changing the sound quality as I can find.  As the span of this brace is less than 7.5 inches, the cedar is strong enough in conjunction with the top to do the job.

The brace is about 1.5 inches below where the bridge will sit on the top.

Now to join the soundboard.  A home-brewed mixture of hide glue and casein glue (both commercial prepared solids that had to be mixed up) is used to join the soundboard.  It doesn't show well here (again the lighting conditions of the shop were wrong) but this stuff is creamy brown like breakfast gravy, with lumps like cottage cheese in it, during prep.  Mixing with a nylon bristle brush until everything was a nearly normal consistency was time consuming, but when done it provided a thick, sticky glue that I think will work well.

Here it is, the frankenstein instrument.  I used every type of clamp I own on this thing - just waiting for lightning to strike and bring it to life.  It is odd - a perfectly mating set of surfaces begins to go all whopperjawed as soon as you get a clamp on it.  So a whole bunch of clamps later, it is curing.

The top is left at 1/4 inch thickness at this point - it will be thinned by plane after it dries - it is a perfectly flat top, and it can be thinned after it has been clamped and stabilized.  Next 2 steps are to clean up and pretty up the joint between the soundboard and the body, to thin the top, and to prepare the neck for the fretboard.  It will go quickly from here.

The soundboard has been trimmed and thinned on the body, and the neck has been reduced to 1 1/2 inches wide and nicely flared into the body.  These 4 tools were used to thin and finish the soundboard - a small handplane, a micro razor plane, a spokeshave, and an auto-body sanding block to act like a jointer plane - just to make sure the top is flush and smooth.  The spruce cuts beautifully and this job took very little time.

Here is the side view of the thinned soundboard.  It is just a little under 1/8 inch, and is strong enough to take good pressure.  Tapping this soundboard shows the expected zones, with the sweet spot 1 1.2 inches back from the soundbrace, and the 'deadest' tap spot right where the rosette will be pierced.

I am making a concession to my own tastes in this part of the construction - I am using one of the 'pink ivory' species (yellow tulipwood) as a fretboard.  This is a central american hardwood, but it is very beautiful and I think it will go very well with the instrument in it's finished state.  At the junction of the fretboard and the soundboard there will be small antler transition pieces - I can show no precedence for this, but when I add the horn at the tail end of the body to keep the tailgut from cutting into the spruce, I wanted to give a little balance visually, and thought a small horn overlay shaped similar to the tailpiece protector would give that balance.  Though simple, this instrument will be elegant.

Next steps are to cut and mount the frets, to finish the thumb slot, to start the carvings on the tuning head end of the instrument, make the tuning pegs and drill and taper the holes for them, relieve the peghead area to properly contain the strings, and make and mount the nut, and pierce the rosette.  Tuesday should be making the bridge and tailpiece, and that should have me on schedule for making music with the instrument on Wednesday at the latest.

This is the end of day 4.  More tomorrow (Monday, Nov 14)

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