Nik's 7 string Kravik style lyre (his first instrument)

It is a lot of fun to teach my kids how to build instruments, and much fun to build them myself.  But teaching someone else, someone who doesn't have access to these tools and this art on a regular basis, that is probably the most satisfying activity of all.  My kids get to show off their and my work a lot at school, and many of their friends are used to them having cool things. But sometimes, when circumstances permit, I can work with one of the friends to help them build something cool.  I had just such opportunity with Nik, an 18 year old friend of Ceilidh's, and we decided to do something more involved than a kantele (where I start most of my guest students).  We decided to build an instrument inspired by the lyre Einar Selvik of Wardruna plays, a 14th century 7 string lyre.  This is a mostly pine instrument, but it has an unusual stringing setup, and an unusual design element.  As I had not ever built one of these before, we decided to tackle the prototyping of this instrument - and gave ourselves 2 1/2 days to do it.  We didn't really succeed in meeting the schedule, but we sort of did.  The prototype was strung and playing at the deadline, but it is not finished and has several more days work before it is done.  But we both consider the project a success, and now I will begin working on a production prototype incorporating everything we learned from this first instrument. 
OK, I know I injected myself into this project more in this one than I do with the girl's instruments, because we had limited time and Nik had almost no knowledge of my shop tools, but he did a majority of this himself and learned a bunch as well.

The Kravik lyre is the only medieval lyre we have found that was not an archaeological excavation.  This instrument was hanging (albeit in a sad state of repair) in a family farmhouse in Kravik Norway.  It was 'discovered' in the mid 1800s when it was documented as a set of technical drawings.  At that point it was missing many parts, including a soundboard, but the carvings were still mostly intact and it was quite an artistic piece.

As usual, we started by creating a centerline template from pictures of the original (since I don't have actual access to the original - being a medieval instrument designer and builder in the U.S. Midwest sometimes has it's downfalls).  This template was used to draw out the instrument on a very nice piece of pine 2 x 12.  I don't usually like using lumber yard wood for instrument, but sometimes you find a real gem.  I also have a piece of very tight grain A grade staining pine which is quartersawn that will become the soundboard.

A couple of quick holes on the drillpress to define the points on the body and to allow better blade control on the bandsaw, and 2 cuts to the board, and the body was brought down in thickness.  This cut would allow the soundboard to mate up with the yoke at the right depth, and allow the curvature of the yoke arms to allow for the under-to-over stringing pattern of the lyre.

Redrawing the lines to replace what we cut off allowed us to finish cutting the outline (after cutting the long vertical cuts to define the body bowl and the arms).  But within just a few minutes we had a roung cut Kravik body ready for lots of refining.  Pretty much from here on out there was mostly hand tool work.  I consider my power tools my apprentices, but I don't expect my apprentices to give me any kind of precision work - I assign them the rough sawing and stock removal tasks, and I refine and perfect the shapes with the same tools that would have been used back then - scrapers, planes, drawknives.  That is what I teach my students as well - no substitute for getting your hands into it.

So we get down to it.  Here is Nik, shaping the outside of the body 'spoon' with a spokeshave.  This was a nearly perfect piece of pine, and the work went easy.  A great piece of wood for a first time handworker in wood.  The pine moved quickly, and gave a sense of momentum to the project - not instant gratification, but a quick turn around on investment of effort.  Again, perfect for a novice.

After using a modified Forstner bit to remove a lot fo the wood from inside the body, I handed the spoon plane to Nik and showed him how to use it.  This tool is simply a curved plane iron mounted in a heavy spoon, used for planing rounded hollows like bowls, wooden spoons, and seat bottoms.  Actually the perfect tool for this - the pine worked cleanly and quickly and the body bowl was refined in relatively short order.

Before hollowing and shaping, we rough cut the soundboard, marked the position of the pickup, and mounted it with silicon adhesive.  This is a permanent mounting method that provides the proper amount of isolation of the piezo from the soundboard.  The leads and other components will be soldered together and to the jack, and the whole thing will be soldered together just before the soundboard is joined to the body.

Beginning of full day 2, Nik finished using the jewelers saw to cut out the soundholes, we drilled for the jack, soldered the internal components and glued down the soundboard.  The caul was the piece of pine we had removed from the top of the body, just cut to the already marked lines and it was perfect.  Lots of spool clamps.

Because the instrument is construction pine, I have little faith that by itself it will be able to hold pegs.  So we decided to make maple bushings to mount crossgrained, to give the maple pegs something to hold in.  5/8 inch custom turned insert bushings glued in place and drying while we went on to the horrid and dastardly task of turning tuning pegs.  7 of them.  Bleck...

Anyway, I showed Nik how to use the lathe to create matching tapered tuning pegs.  Between he and I we managed to make 7 only breaking 5 more trying.  A pretty good pegmaking session, I'd say...

  I omitted some of the more redundant photos, but here's the exciting part.  Here is the lyre strung and tuned up in it's test strings.  Fluorocarbon strings, and a bridge that is still a little too high, but it works and sounds really good.  Remember at the beginning I said there was a design element that was unique to this instrument?  Well, you can see it here.  The head edge of the soundboard is exactly one half the open string length from the bridge.  I can't see this as a coincidence, as most open window lyres have the playing window deep enough to stop the strings at the octave harmonic.  Since in the 1300's fretting ridges were known and used on harps, I can't help but believe that the head edge of the soundboard is an octave fretting ridge.  And it turns out it works - you have 7 notes and their octaves (almost 2 full octaves) range on this lyre.  The octaves are strong and clear, not the weaker sound you usually get by finger stopping a string at the harmonic point.  They are easy to play and quick to use.  Can't believe this was a coincidence.  Anyways, I will post this for now, we will continue next weekend when the ornamenting and finishing and fine-tuning begins.