14th Century Citole #2 - Cantigas de Santa Maria
After the success of the first Citole, I was approached by a
asking if I would teach him how to build an instrument of this
type. Although it is inevitable that I will have my hands
in projects that I am teaching in my shop I try to limit that
interaction so that the final product from my students is as much their
work as possible. One of the things I try to do is to build a
project alongside of them teaching each step on this demonstration
piece and then setting them to the same task on their own.
Citole number two is the result of finishing one of these demo pieces.
It is constructed of box elder, with a Carpathian red spruce
soundboard, fretboard, peghead overlay, tailpiece and rows of red
heart. Unlike my first Citole there are no double courses and this
instrument is strung with five strings. The frets, nut, bridge header
and tailgut saddle are cow bone.
I find that there are many more challenges to building a hollow-corpus
instrument than building a rib-built one. The choice of wood, the
ability to adapt when a flaw is found that was previously hidden, the
requirement of flexibility in design really inspires me. And
while some later Citole were built up, I am sticking with the solid
one-piece construction on this instrument.
I have based this Citole on the Cantigas de Santa Maria illuminations,
but it is not an exact reproduction of any of the instruments
illustrated. I wanted to do a hollow peghead instrument, and
since this is just a personal playtoy, I decided to use a peghead
similar to the one on the Parma Baptistry carving. The piece of
wood, not me, was the determining design factor for almost everything,
but I did provide a little basic design guidance. Here are the
images I used to design this instrument.
This instrument shares a lot in common with the Warwick Castle Citole
that I built a few years ago. I will not repeat each step,
rather, I will document the points that are different in this
instrument and try to describe the benefits / drawbacks of each of the
changes. Overall, this has been an enjoyable project, and an
improvement over the first instrument in more than one way.
OK, the end photo first. Just so you can see where I went with
it. It is a handsome instrument. I am working on several
rose designs - using this instrument as a test bed for the parts for my
upcoming cittern. But the rose is ornamental, it is a complete
instrument without it. I don't expect to be completely finished
with any of the roses anytime soon, so the pictures will have to wait.
To start with,
cutting and rough hollowing the body. You can see this procedure
many times on other pages on this site, I do not need to bore you with
the repeat. One change I am making is that this instrument will
be thinner walled and thinner bottomed than the previous one.
A different bracing
pattern for this one. The Warwick Castle instrument had a single
brace below the soundhole. I used a modified lute bracking
pattern for this instrument, and I am not sure how much of the tone
inprovement is due to this bracing and how much is due to the other
changes (materiala and dimensions), but I believe it is substantial.
Box Elder is not the hardest wood around, so
to avoid damage to the tuning head, I added a thick veneer of
redheart. This is a modern feature, but in this case I believe it
will eliminate the problems of wear on the tuning peg holes. Also
note the nut riser of maple, and the nut of bone.
The Cantigas and the Parma instruments had different methods of
attaching the strings, but I fell in love with the Warwick trefoil and
so included it on this instrument. It is not the most common
feature in any of the period illustrations, but it is occasionally seen
in dis-associated manuscripts. The tailpiece is footed and made
of redheart, and the bridge is maple and footed instead of flat like
the earlier one. Note the bone overlay on top of the bridge.
Here is the bottom of the tuning
head, recessed to help keep the pegs from being knocked out of
place. I like this feature in other instruments, and included it
on this one for no other reason than that. And it does a fine job.
The frets are square strips of bone glued into v-shaped grooves in the
fingerboard on edge. The fretting is modern - I had thought about
fretting it in 1/6 comma meantone, but decided that being able to play
among modern and medieval isntruments (a compromise) would suit my
requirements for this instrument better, so I fretted it to the rule of
And for scale, my
ugly mug with the instrument. It is not the lightest, brightest
sound, but neither is it deep and dull. It is tuned to D, a, e,
b', f#'. Although I know that most citole illustrations show 3 or
4 courses, I am experimenting with the stringing and tuning for a
cittern I am planning, and decided to use this instrument as a test bed
for that one.