Mike's Oud Forums

Old Oud - New Project

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jdowning - 12-7-2008 at 06:49 AM

Following various topics posted on the forum where I have explored early oud designs, materials and construction methods, and following recent encouragement from Samir and ALAMI - I have decided to go ahead and reconstruct a fretted oud of the 13th/14th C. period, based upon the geometrical construction developed in "Analysis of an Early Oud Woodcut".
This instrument will not only allow me to explore the various fretting systems described in the early Arabic theoretical works but also double as a lute - played with either risha or played finger style like a late 15th C lute - the best of all worlds!
The oud will be made from materials historically correct for the period using early construction methods (as far as we can be determined from the early accounts). It will have five double courses of strings made from silk - although gut strings may also be tried as an historical alternative. String length will be 57 cm as I find even 60 cm string length on a lute to be a bit of a left hand stretch.
There are still a number of possible alternatives to ponder and decide upon concerning details such wood selection, bracing, soundholes, pegbox finial etc. etc. so, in the meantime, a preliminary layout drawing will be made so that work can go ahead on the making a mold. The mold will be a 'toast rack' or bulkhead design so that the exact bowl geometry may be maintained and that will facilitate the 'paper and hot iron' method for gluing the ribs. The 11 ribs will be thinner than the sound-board (according to the early records) so the bowl will be more lute like in appearance rather than having the smooth rounded exterior of a modern oud.

ALAMI - 12-7-2008 at 07:18 AM

it's great that you're going to make this long anticipated oud.
We are going to see and hear a replica of an early oud, to my knowledge it's a first.

looks like 2009 starts to look an interesting and promising year...:buttrock:

amtaha - 12-7-2008 at 09:10 AM

hear, hear!

Clayton - 12-7-2008 at 09:07 PM

I am pulling up a chair to watch! very cool...

SamirCanada - 12-7-2008 at 09:13 PM

I am here!
getting ready to follow this develop.
let me know if you want me to come over... I will make the pot of tea.
as long as I get to watch!! :)

DaveH - 12-8-2008 at 05:18 AM

Looking forward to this. Good luck.

patheslip - 12-8-2008 at 12:30 PM

Good luck.
I've fretted up my oud to play as a plectrum lute and I have a small query. How wide a fingerboard will you have? If you want to play finger style you may need to widen a bit. Plucked lutes soon grew fat here and even before they had more courses.

jdowning - 12-9-2008 at 07:36 AM

Thanks for your interest and comments everyone. Winter arrived about a month early in this part of the world with significant snowfall and cold, below 'normal' conditions starting in mid November and now with temperatures below minus 20 Celsius for the last couple of days. If this is a sign of the winter to come then there will not be much woodworking progress until Spring - although temporary conversion of my small, heated metal working workshop attached to the kitchen is a possibility.

The string spacing - regardless of use of plectrum or finger style - will depend upon physical considerations of the player so there is no hard and fast ruling. For example, my lute, played finger style, is currently set up with an overall string spacing, over 5 double courses, of 32 mm at the nut and 65 mm at the bridge. A typical equivalent spacing, over 5 double courses, at the nut for a modern oud would be around 30 mm at the nut and 65 mm to 69 mm at the bridge. However, the string spacing on surviving lutes can be narrower than either of these - often necessary to be able to accommodate some of the more extreme left hand stretches/finger positions called for in lute music of the 16th/17th C.

One of the first considerations will be how to scale the dimensions of the original woodcut - complicated somewhat by the low resolution of the image. Although the geometric profile, bridge position etc. may be quite accurate (see 'Analysis of an Early Oud Woodcut), there has always been some doubt about the neck and fret depiction. It is thought that these are only intended to represent the overall appearance of the instrument i.e. with seven frets set part way along the fingerboard, 5 double courses and sickle shaped pegbox with an odd looking finial. The width of the neck looks more lute like (judged from a modern perspective) rather than oud like.
If the oud engraving is scaled using an overall string spacing at the nut of 30 mm and 65 mm at the bridge, this gives a string length of about 35 cm if the replica oud is to look like the engraving. That would make it a small oud (although a bit larger than surviving mandolinos (descant lutes) that were played either with a plectrum or finger style). Therefore, to accomodate a longer string length, the relative geometry of the neck will need to change - dependant upon the string length chosen. The shorter the string length, the closer the finished instrument will be in appearance to the engraving. Here the chosen string length will be between 48 cm and
57 cm - so it will be necessary try out various string lengths to see how they look.

Incidentally, the modern day 4 course, fretted Tunisian oud with its relatively wide string spacing and wide bridge might be a survivor of the style of oud that is under consideration. So, any detailed measurements taken from these ouds would be interesting for comparison.

Oud (504 x 766) (395 x 600).jpg - 57kB

jdowning - 12-9-2008 at 12:34 PM

Here is a sketch showing the geometrical and barring layout (previously posted on Analysis of an Early Oud Woodcut) with a possible alternative neck joint location as defined by the Arnault de Zwolle lute geometry. Instead of radius R5 defining the neck joint location, R3a gives a slightly higher location at H which results in a narrower width of the fingerboard at the neck joint (and shallower depth of the neck at that location). If the assumption is then made that the neck length is 1/3 of the string length (as it generally is on modern ouds - a tradition handed down?) then this coincides nicely with both the centre of the imaginary large sound hole and point H. So simple that it must be a possibility.
The revised neck geometry - with string positions for string lengths of 48, 54 and 57 cm, and an overall string spacing of 32 mm at the nut and 65 mm at the bridge - is shown against the original neck profile. It can be seen that the original neck profile is too wide to be practical with those string lengths. My draughtsmanship of the neck leaves a bit to be desired but it should be clear enough. Note that the fingerboard width is scaled to 4 cm at the nut. At the neck joint - assuming a semicircular neck section - the depth will be about 2.7 cm which is acceptable.
With this string geometry it can be seen that the original bridge is proportionally a bit too long so must be reduced in length accordingly in order to look right.

Overall, it can be appreciated why the bowl geometry of ouds developed into longer, more almond shaped profiles still seen in some of the older surviving ouds of the late 19th/ early
20th C. - but building one of those will be another project!

Now to choose a string length. A 48 cm string length will tune to a maximum pitch of about a' (at A440 pitch standard) using silk or gut strings. 54 cm gives g' and 57 cm f#. Higher pitches can be achieved using modern nylon strings and metal overspun basses. However, as the A440 pitch standard did not come into force until 1939 anything goes for an oud of the 13th/14th C! A treble oud in a' would be interesting.
I am open to suggestions.

Oud Layout (651 x 949) (412 x 600).jpg - 37kB

jdowning - 12-10-2008 at 11:55 AM

Physical constraints will dictate string length. Scaled at 54 cm string length gives a soundboard maximum width of 33 cm which seems about right - so 54 cm it is.

The oud profile and relative length/width of neck looked similar to the well known painting of a 5 course lute by Lorenzo Costa (1459 - 1535) so, for interest, the layout sketch was rotated in perspective view for comparison. I didn't spent much time on this so didn't get perfectly matching perspective angles (and the perspective of the painting is not quite correct) but it can be seen that the oud and the lute compare quite closely if the 54 cm string spacing at the nut applies and the length of bridge is shortened in proportion.

The painting is quite interesting as it shows the right hand position that resulted during the transition from plectrum (risha) style to the new finger style of the late 15th C. Here the first finger and thumb take the place of the plectrum - the thumb striking downwards and the first finger upwards. Also note the thumb of the left hand projecting along the side of the fingerboard.
The four wooden frets on the soundboard are unusual.

Costa Oud comp (638 x 825) (464 x 600).jpg - 49kB

jdowning - 12-10-2008 at 12:21 PM

The attached image shows a drawing, to scale, of the oud with a string length of 54 cm. The width of fingerboard at the nut is 40 mm which will allow for a slightly wider string spacing than 32 mm (if required) due to the relatively thicker bass strings of silk or gut. The neck joint is at the revised H position so that the fingerboard length is 1/3 of the string length. The neck has a semicircular section with maximum depth at the neck joint of 27 mm. The neck joint is vertical. The bridge has been shortened to maintain the proportions shown in the original engraving.
The bowl is semicircular in section, 16.5 cm maximum depth, and will have 11 ribs with no fillet strips between the ribs.

A decision has to be made about the number of soundholes - either two, as shown on the engraving, or three - including the 'imaginary' sound hole assumed in the layout drawing. Either arrangement will likely work. Has anyone ever come across a picture of an early oud with only two sound holes?

Oud 54 (476 x 746) (383 x 600).jpg - 16kB

SamirCanada - 12-10-2008 at 12:37 PM

great stuff john!

jdowning - 12-11-2008 at 07:03 AM

Thanks Samir.
To 'complete the picture' and for general interest, the attached image is a drawing of an oud scaled exactly to the proportions of the engraving, assuming a string spacing at the nut of 32 mm. The string length is 325 mm so it represents a little descant oud. Is there any evidence of small ouds of this size ever being made?
Such an oud would still be a practical proposition as it comes close in size to the tiny mandolino lutes popular during the 17th/18th C.
It would be fun to build an oud of this dimension - just to see how it turns out so will plan also to make one to this drawing. If nothing else, it will be a conversation piece.

Descant Oud (446 x 638) (419 x 600).jpg - 23kB

DaveH - 12-11-2008 at 07:25 AM

This is really interesting stuff John.

I was just wondering though - 54cm does sound quite short for the string length. I understand you're keeping it that way both to avoid too much stretching on the left hand and so that you can actually hold it, but a 30cm body width isn't that huge either. Many of the old oud illustrations show very large-bodied instruments (though I guess they came in all sizes). I was just worried that 54cm might be too short. My renaissance lute was made for a player called Paula Chateauneuf who is very petite indeed. It's 56cm. I like it even though I'm 6'2" and have long fingers, but I wonder if the sound would suffer from too short a string length.

Related to that last point, do you have an idea yet what pitch do you plan to use? That must really be guesswork. As you know, the european sources (I think it was Thomas Mace) tell you to tension the top string until it's just about to break (a tip which doesn't seem very useful to me as the easiest way of telling this point is in retrospect!) but I'm betting you have something a little more scientific up your sleeve.

patheslip - 12-11-2008 at 01:23 PM

Just done a quick sum. A string on my 60.5cm lute playing A (440) would play very close to B for the same tension and 54cm length. Assuming it's the same for the other strings, (and I haven't made a fool of myself) that makes an instrument a whole tone above the normal Arabic oud. Could be good. Putting a capo on my instrument I find it works as well as ever. :(

Great project

patheslip - 12-12-2008 at 06:55 AM

More simple sums: a 54cm lute/oud using the same strings would tune a whole tone higher than a 60cm instrument with tensions no more than one percent different for any string.

string length
60cm 54cm
frequency nearest note difference
C 523.3 581.4 d 587.3 1.01%
G 392.0 435.6 a 440.0 1.01%
D 293.7 326.3 e 329.6 1.01%
A 220.0 244.4 b 246.9 1.01%
E 164.8 183.1 f# 185.0 1.02%
B 123.5 137.2 c# 138.6 1.01%

A 45cm string length would be fun to try, given infinite time and skill. The highest string would be f, then c, g, d etc .., like a sopranino recorder to a descant.

40cm would give g,d,a,e...

We'll all be playing mandolins.:))
(table won't align, sorry)

jdowning - 12-12-2008 at 08:13 AM

Thanks DaveH and patheslip.

The bowl width of the proposed oud with a string length of
54 cm is 33 cm and maximum depth of 16.5 cm - given a semicircular bowl section. A string length of 54 cm should not be a problem.
Bear in mind that gut or silk strings will be used which puts a limit on the highest pitch the top string can be tuned to. For
54 cm the highest pitch is about g' at A440 (ref. E. Segerman, N.R.I.) if frequent string breakage is to be avoided. For a 57 cm string length the maximum would be around f#. Modern plastic strings can be taken to a higher pitch than gut or silk.
One of my lutes, based on the well known lute by Hieber of the late 16th C, has a string length of 60 cm so, although strung with nylon, the top string is tuned to the gut string limit of f at A440. A 54 cm string length on this lute is equivalent to the second fret position (g').

I do not have much data about modern ouds but an old Egyptian oud that I own has a bowl width of 33 cm and maximum depth of 18.2 cm with a body length of 51 cm (string length is 62.2 cm). This deep bowl section is also found on Baroque lutes of the 18th C. with bowl depths up to 18.5 cm. Earlier lutes typically had flattened bowl sections. For the very largest lutes, according to my records, bowl depths might be, for example, 18.5 cm for a bowl width of 40 cm (string length of 93.3 cm) and 17 cm for a bowl width of 42 cm (string length 89 cm). By comparison, a small 16th descant lute by Tieffenbrucker has a string length of 44 cm, bowl width 21 7 cm and depth 10 cm - so the flattened section is not only for the physical limitations of the player but has some effect on sound projection etc. A 44 cm gut strung lute would be pitched at b'flat.
A lute made by Railich in 1644 has a bowl width of 35 cm and length 42 cm (similar to our proposed 54 cm oud) but the bowl depth is only 14 cm.

In 1975, I built a replica of the Arnault de Zwolle lute that was quite successful. I do not have the lute anymore but still have my working drawing. The string length was 54.5 cm, body width 33 cm and depth 16.5 cm with body length of 42 cm i.e. pretty much identical to the proposed oud dimensions. This lute had six courses with a neck width at the nut of 50 mm and at the neck joint 76 mm - which resulted in an unusually deep neck section but still possible to play. Nevertheless, the neck section was later reduced to more reasonable proportions.

The oud dimensions for a string length of 57 cm would give a bowl width 36 cm and depth 18 cm and depth of neck at the neck joint of 30 mm - not impossible but 54 cm will be more reasonably proportioned.
It is difficult for me to predict how the finished instrument will respond. There will be a certain pitch at which the instrument will resonate best so that factor also will dictate how high the strings will be tuned. International pitch standards will not be a consideration.

jdowning - 12-12-2008 at 09:32 AM

Also ...if I recall correctly, there was a recent posting on the forum where a member had a question about an oud with a 54 cm string length but I cannot now locate the thread.
I understand that modern Turkish ouds can have a string length of about 57 cm?

The early iconography is probably too unreliable from which to judge the relative sizes of ouds. the instruments and players often being drawn out of proportion to each other.

Recreating early instruments is always problematical!

jdowning - 12-14-2008 at 06:54 AM

A bit more information for interest. The little oud with 32 cm string length, gut strung, would have a top string maximum pitch of around e'' at A440 although this might be increased to g'' by choosing a lower pitch standard of , say, A375. Likewise, with a 54 cm string length in gut, the pitch of the top string might be increased from about g' at A440 to about a' at A375 (this would also approximately apply to a 56/57 cm string length). Again, the pitch standard chosen will depend upon how the instrument best responds.
According to Segerman (N.R.I.), the life of a gut top string (on a lute played finger style) might be anywhere from a few days to several months - modern gut, being a natural product, varying considerably in strength from one string to another.
Silk being more uniform than gut, the strings might be expected to be more consistent in strength than gut. I have experience with using all silk strings on a seven course lute and so know that they work well.
I do not know, at present, how use of a risha might affect the life of either gut or silk strings.

jdowning - 1-2-2009 at 11:46 AM

Still contemplating string lengths prior to making the mold.
Some time ago, Peyman posted a link to an interesting article concerned with the dimensions of Turkish ouds, tanburs and lavtas at


The article is written in Turkish and on-line machine translation, as usual, does not help in understanding the text. However, the diagrams showing relative proportions and dimensions are pretty well self explanatory. As far as the Turkish oud is concerned, four sizes are represented. Here I had to resort to an on-line Turkish-English dictionary and have assumed that for the four headings "Zenne Kiz Ud" means a 'girl's oud' ; "Zenne Kadin Ud" means a 'woman's oud'; "Kukuk Boy Erkek Ud" means 'small man's oud' and "Buyuk Boy Erkek Ud" means a 'large man's oud' (although 'Boy' could also mean 'boy'). However, as I have no knowledge of the Turkish language I could well be incorrect in this 'translation'. If one of the forum's Turkish members could post a translation summarising the main points of the article, that would be very helpful.

What is interesting is that many of the relative dimensions of the Turkish oud correlate quite well with those of the revised dimensions of the oud scaled from the engraving - although the body profiles and the relative bridge positions differ somewhat.
With the neck length being a third of the string length, both types of oud are the same. The overall body lengths vary by about 2 cm for each size and width by about 1 cm (the Turkish ouds being slightly larger).
String lengths given for the Turkish ouds are : girl = 54 cm: woman = 55.5 cm; small man = 57 cm and large man = 58.5 cm. The largest of the Turkish ouds has a body length of 48.75 cm, width of 36.56 cm and depth 18.28 cm (i.e. semicircular bowl section). For comparison the revised oud geometry for the same string length of 58.5 cm scales to a body length 46.4 cm, width of 35.5 cm and depth 17.8 cm.

Given this data, I am now considering moving to a string length of 56 cm - as previously suggested by DaveH - rather than 54 cm. Both will give a nominal maximum pitch of the top string of about g' at A440. The maximum neck depth in this case would be about 30 mm which should still be acceptable.

jdowning - 1-13-2009 at 11:48 AM

So far the relative dimensions of the oud have been scaled up from the engraving overlay so there may be some geometrical errors. The oud has, therefore, been drawn to full scale for a string length of 56 cm. A revised sketch of the geometry is attached for reference.
It is clear from this work that the previously proposed location of the neck joint B given by an arc R5 (as on the Arnault de Zwolle lute) does not quite agree with a geometry of the fingerboard length being a third of the string length. By further examination of the full scale layout, two more geometric relationships have been discovered.

The first is that if the distance from the centre line of the small soundholes to the centre of the brace above (i.e. distance FG - which is the same as GH) is a value 'X' then the distance from the bottom of the bowl L to the first brace (shown dotted) is 'X' and the distance to the front edge of the bridge JL is twice 'X'.
The bridge front edge dimension JL is also a sixth of the length of the bowl BL - which corresponds with the Arnault lute geometry.

Secondly, measuring from the inside of the bottom of the bowl, the distance to the centreline of the 'imaginary' large sound hole EK is 7 times 'X', KX is 9 times 'X', the distance to the inside edge of the neck block KC is 11 times 'X' (which coincides with position C given by arc R3) and the distance to the revised neck joint position KB is
12 times 'X'.

The locations of bridge, sound hole centres, braces and neck block remain in close agreement with the Mersenne lute proportions - to within a couple of millimeters throughout.

The slightly higher neck joint position results in a reduction in the width of the neck joint to a more acceptable 53 mm - the depth of the neck then being 26.5 mm for a semicircular neck section.
After making all of the necessary small adjustments to the full scale drawing, the overall string length now comes to 56.5 cm which is close enough to what is required.

Work can now commence on making the mold - but not for the next few days as temperatures will be dropping to minus 36 C overnight - too cold to operate the bandsaw in my main workshop.

Oud or Lute (724 x 1070) (406 x 600).jpg - 63kB

jdowning - 1-29-2009 at 01:23 PM

Temperatures warmed up today (currently minus 1 C) following a major snowstorm so took the opportunity to dig my way into my main workshop and use the bandsaw to cut the base for the mold.
The mold profile was laid out - including centrelines and bulkhead positions - on a piece of 15 mm thick plywood from my scrap box. The profile was made 2mm undersize all round to allow for rib thickness. String length is to be a nominal 56 cm.

Cheaper grades of plywood may contain voids as seen here - exposed when the profile was cut. No problem - the void has been filled with a scrap piece of wood and will be trimmed to size after the glue has set.

Old Oud Mold Base comp. (616 x 621) (595 x 600).jpg - 74kB

jdowning - 1-31-2009 at 12:25 PM

To facilitate accurate layout of the mold bulkheads, a pattern has been made on a piece of thin sheet metal (standard tinsmith pattern making practice). The 11 rib positions (defined as radial lines) have been determined by trial and error using dividers. The outside ribs have been made a few mm wider than the remainder.
The radial reference points have been pierced through the pattern with the point of a scriber. In use, the pattern is placed on the bulkhead blank and the reference points transferred to the blank - through the holes in the pattern - using the point of the scriber. After removal of the pattern, the transferred reference points, marked in the surface of the blanks, are then connected using a straightedge and marking knife.

Bulkhead Layout Pattern comp (512 x 797) (385 x 600).jpg - 51kB

jdowning - 1-31-2009 at 12:46 PM

The design of the mold will be the same as that given by Henri Arnault de Zwolle in the mid 15th C that is with 5 bulkheads except that an additional bulkhead is to be added at approximately the centre of the sound hole position - for a little more support of the ribs in that location. This is not essential - the most important area of support being at the bottom of the bowl where the rib curvature is greatest. For this reason Arnault de Zwolle spaces the bulkheads in this area closer together.

opus202 Zwolle lute ms (409 x 600).jpg - 83kB

jdowning - 2-1-2009 at 12:37 PM

The central bulkhead of the mold has been laid out on a piece of 15 mm thick pine (pine is easier to work with than plywood) using the metal template and trammels (beam compass) to scribe the circumference. For an 11 ribbed bowl, the maximum rib width will be about 50 mm (2 inches) with the outside ribs being a bit wider at around 55 mm. With these relatively wide ribs that will be less than 2 mm thick (dependent upon the specific gravity of bowl material chosen), the outside profile of each bulkhead will be flattened at the rib positions (according to Arnault de Zwolle's instructions) - the bowl being constructed like an early lute rather than having the smooth rounded profile of a modern oud. (The early Arabic writers indicate that the ribs of an oud should be made thinner than the sound board).
It is also likely that ribs of this width and thickness will become slightly fluted after bending but no compensation for that is currently to be made in mold design unless the fluting turns out to be more significant than anticipated.

Central Bulkhead Mold comp (609 x 750) (487 x 600).jpg - 56kB

Peyman - 2-1-2009 at 01:31 PM

Lookg forward to this project. I remembered that I once said I can scan the original pictures from Kanzol-tohaf with regards to the old time oud. If you still want these, let me know. Frankly, they are not great but I guess they might be interesting.

jdowning - 2-1-2009 at 06:31 PM

Thanks Peyman. Yes, I would be interested in seeing those pictures. Can you post them on this thread?

Peyman - 2-2-2009 at 10:02 AM

Here are the scans from "Kanz al tuhaf." My book doesn't specify which drawing came from what copies. The two drawings are very different. It would be interesting to find the originals manuscripts and study the drawings.

Peyman - 2-2-2009 at 10:38 AM

I deleted the side by side picture since it made the picture too wide. I editted it for better comparison.

jdowning - 2-2-2009 at 01:07 PM

Thanks Peyman. I had seen the top image before but not the bottom one. Is it possible to decipher the script on that image? What I find particularly interesting is the sickle shaped pegbox with the large finial set - back at an acute angle of 90 degrees to the neck. It looks similar to the pegbox represented in the oud engraving.Hard to say if the finial is flat and , say, heart shaped or is some kind of carving - representing a head perhaps?

Peyman - 2-2-2009 at 01:46 PM

I put down the descriptions from my book. The phrases marked with the star are from the cleaner picture (the top one) and don't appear on the bottom one.
I also think the peghead is interesting. I remembered that the shape is reminisant of old barbats I saw on Arafati's website. I think you should take a look at the bottom row: http://oudarafati.com/gallery3-en.htm
I don't speak German but I think the metal works are from the Sassanid era.

jdowning - 2-3-2009 at 01:21 PM

Thanks Peyman. Dr G.H. Farmer makes a few references to the Persian manuscript Kanz al tuhaf by Muhammad al-Amuli (14th C) concerning the structure of the oud and the fretting of the oud. He mentions that he used the copy in the British Library catalogue # Or 2361, for his translation so presumably this could be obtained on microfilm from the BL? I must check. Farmer makes no mention the of the instrument with frets previously posted and states that he could not find any pictures of ouds with frets from this period. So presumably this drawing is not intended to be an oud but some other instrument?
My knowledge of German learned in school is now just a distant memory but from what I can understand from reading the text describing the Persian silverware posted on the Arafati site, the earliest article - a chased silver bowl is dated to the 6th C (so is Sassanid era) shows, among other instruments, a 'short necked lute' played with a wooden plectrum. (Interestingly the musicians are shown performing under grape vines - but that is another story!). The other two pieces of decorated metal ware are dated to the 8th to 10th C and show four stringed 'lutes' (described as 'barbats' in the German text). The shape of all three ouds, having no distinct neck joints, implies that the bowls are carved from a solid piece of wood (so are barbats?) unlike the oud in the engraving - the subject of this thread - that has a bowl made from staves. The engraving of the oud is supposed to come from the 14th C kitab al-adware by Safi al Din but this has yet to be confirmed.

For information, Farmer gives the names of the strings of the early four course oud as Bam, Mathlath, Mathna and Zir.

Peyman - 2-4-2009 at 12:54 PM

I guess my point was that the kanzaltohaf picture is pretty close to these old time ouds (pre 600 ACE). It's interesting: one of the oud has what looks like "s" shaped soundholes.

In Kanzoltohaf, I re-read the part about ouds and as you say there is no mention of frets so that first picture is definitely not accurate (to me it looks like a turkish cumbus, a modern instrument). In Farabi's "Great Music", the frets are mentioned.

One other miner note is that the author of Kanzaltohaf is unknown. I am not sure where Farmer got his name.

jdowning - 2-6-2009 at 12:05 PM

To my eye the kanz al tuhaf oud (if that is where the image originates) has a sharp transition between neck and bowl (i.e. a neck joint) so is not comparable to the Sassanid instruments represented in the metalwork artifacts. These have a smooth transition between neck and bowl implying that they are carved from a solid piece of wood (whereas a neck joint implies that the bowl is built up from staves). The crude representations illustrate the difficulty of being able to obtain much useful information from very early sources. To attempt to reconstruct an instrument based on these images would be futile - pure guesswork. Nevertheless, some early images may have some potentially useful information - like the sickle shaped pegbox of the kanz al tuhaf drawing already mentioned.
The attached images show oud(?) players depicted on Sassanid era (6th and 7th C) metal plates (interestingly, both performing under grape vines). Both instruments have the sloping shoulders typical of instruments carved from the solid (assuming that the bowls are round and not flat backed). The image of a European 15th C Gittern (i.e. not a lute) illustrates quite well the carved body.
However, discussion of musical instruments of the 6th C - although of general interest - is off topic. So to return to the 14th C and the oud that is the subject of this thread.

Farmer refers to, and translated from, an original copy of the kanz al tuhaf in the British Library shelfmark Or 2361. He gives the dates of various copies of this manuscript as 1346, 1355 and 1362. He also gives the name of the author as Muhammad al Alumi that is presumably marked on his copy of the manuscript? He states that three 14th C writers mention the use of frets (dasatin) on ouds - Quth al-Din al-Shirazi, Ibn Ghaibi and the author of kanz al tuhaf. He also states that he could find no evidence of frets depicted on hundreds of pictures of the oud dating from the 13th C to the 20th C.
Peyman, can you give more details of your reference source of the kanz al tuhaf? Is it a modern facsimile of the entire manuscript or an incomplete modern edition only providing extracts from the manuscript with pictures from other non specified sources?
I have tried to trace the manuscript Or 2361 on-line at the British Library but it is not listed among the Reference section so may only be accessible to researchers with privileged access visiting the Library reading rooms in London.

The engraving of the oud that is the topic of this thread is supposed to be printed in one of the kitab al-adwar manuscripts written in 1333-34 although this has yet to be verified. The British Library lists two modern publications of the manuscript in their Reference section the first being a facsimile published in 1984 by publisher Frankfurt : Ma'had Tarikh al Ulum al Arabiya wa-al-Islamiyah reproduced from the MS Nuruosmaniye 3653, Istanbul and the second appears in "La Musique Arabe" by Baron Rudolphe von Erlanger originally published in Paris by P. Geuthner in 1930. These two books can only be referenced by visiting the British Library Reading Rooms - they cannot be obtained on loan or electronically copied due to copyright restrictions. So if anyone has access to these modern titles or is able to read them through a National Library it would be interesting to know if either volumes contain the oud engraving.
"La Musique Arabe" - 6 volumes, is currently being offered for sale via Addall Books for around $300 plus shipping - unfortunately a bit too expensive for me to purchase.

6C oud comp (600 x 419).jpg - 78kB

jdowning - 2-6-2009 at 12:51 PM

Checking again with AddALL books on line - the Kitab al- Adware is covered in Volume 3 of "La Musique Arabe" by Erlanger. This single volume (1938 publication) is offered for sale for $86 US by a Swiss book seller - still too expensive for me!
Also, for anyone interested, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of the 1938 publication are on sale for $165 US from an American dealer.

Peyman - 2-6-2009 at 12:52 PM

You have sharp eyes!
The book I have is a facsimile. I assume it's from the British copy. At the begining, original pictures are printed. The author is given as Hasan Kashani. The name is derived from one of the lines in a poem in the book itself, where the author refers to himself.
As for the frets (Dasatin), what I meant is that they are not mentioned on the oud construction segment but are covered elsewhere, in a segment of their own. I was looking through it again and noticed that there are drawings as well. I can scan these parts. The problem is that the descriptions written are way over my head. The drawings are labled in Arabic, which is not my forte. And the descriptions are too vague to me, especially the units of measurement.
I am going to read the intro which has some information about Safiaddin's work as well.
Just an idea, can't you email them and ask them if these copies have the engraving? From my universtiy days, I remember that librarians are very enthusiastic in assisting in these types of situation.

jdowning - 2-6-2009 at 01:26 PM

There is also an article about Erlanger and "La Musique Arabe" published in Al-Ahram weekly at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2002/577/bo5.htm

The British Library also lists "al Adwar fi al-musiqa" publisher "al Qahirah:al-Hay'ah al- Ammah lil-Kitab, 1986. 338 pages.

I shall explore the possibilities with the BL as you suggest Peyman - as well as the Canadian National Library resources - to see where it might lead. The BL seems to be very commercially oriented these days but still worth a try. I assume that they still hold this manuscript in their collection - so that would be a starting point for me to verify. I shall post whatever I am able to discover for information.

By all means post whatever you think might be useful - as others on the forum might be able to assist with translations etc. I cannot read Arabic/Persian at all so am totally dependent on others in this respect.
Do you have an ISBN reference for your facsimile publication?

Peyman - 2-7-2009 at 01:09 PM

Just a thought: sometimes you can find these books listed on amazon.com. I was looking for a famous book (greek folk musical instruments) and I noticed it was listed on amazon but it was too expensive (around 150 to 200). I kept waiting and saw listings come and go, untill last january, when I saw it listed for $25! So I bought it right away. It's a giant book with lots of illustration, and has an "lauto" (greek lute) construction section. You can even post the name of the book and the price you're willing to pay and some of these sellers will help you. It's worth a try.

The Kanzultohaf book I have was printed in 1992 by a famous Iranian ethnomusicologist. There is 2 other manuscripts in the book as well. I got the book upon my friend's recommendation since I was interested in some lost instruments of the antiquity (like the original Robab and the bowed "gheshak" and harps). This friend of mine who is a mathematician has an interest in these types of manuscripts and his father just completed a book on Ghotboddin Shirazi (you mentioned his name before). Anyway, I am going to ask him if he knows anything about this engraving. Kitabal-adwar is a famous book. I am sure he knows something about it.

I'll do the scanning tomorow since I won't have time today.

suz_i_dil - 2-10-2009 at 03:05 PM

Good evening.
I am taking the thread in way, and did not read the whole discussion. So excuse me if I am off topic.

The whole volumes of Rodolphe d'Erlanger are still edited and sale by l'institut du monde arabe, in Paris.
Under name " la musique arabe " coedition institut du monde arabe / Paul Geuthner.

It depends on which volume, but they are sold between 25 and 45 euros each.
http://www.imarabe.org/ ( not in the online catalog, but ask by email or telephone to their book store ), I get volume 5 and 6 by them, something like 2 years ago.

Also available in the catalog of Avicenne Library, in Paris.

jdowning - 2-10-2009 at 05:30 PM

Thanks for the links suz_i_dil. All potentially useful information is welcome at this stage of the project.
Before picking up the thread again on construction of the oud, this might be a good time to pose two questions that sooner or later need to be resolved. The first is how to interpret the strange pegbox terminal on the engraving. From the limited pictorial evidence so far it might be concluded that the pegbox in the engraving represents a side view and that the 'finial' is, therefore. a flat plate of some shape. My guess is that it might be a 'tear drop' shape that can be found on other early oud like instruments as well as - oddly enough - the Portuguese guitar.
All other data that might support (or deny!) this speculation is welcome.

Pegbox Finial comp (540 x 750) (432 x 600).jpg - 58kB

jdowning - 2-10-2009 at 06:04 PM

The second question concerns the number of sound holes. The engraving only represents two small sound holes but there is a possibility that an additional large sound hole may not have been shown because of the difficulty of engraving the sound hole as well as the strings. Also, I have not seen any pictures of early ouds with only two small sound holes but have to admit that I have not seen many pictures of early ouds from which to judge.
Peyman has noted that an early post Sassanid era (9th C) representation of an oud like instrument, chased on a metal artifact, has - what seem to be - two 'S' shaped sound holes. But are they? The 13th C Spanish 'Cantigas de Santa Maria" shows two players holding oud like instruments that have similar shaped 'sound holes' (also with what seems to be central sound holes?). Another illumination from the same book shows an oud like instrument with a triple rosette soundhole as well as two 'S' shaped features. Perhaps the latter are not sound holes at all but simply some kind of decorative inlay?
My current opinion is that I should build this oud with three soundholes - one large and two small. Alternatively, I could build it first with two small sound holes - exactly as represented in the engraving - and then remove the sound board to add a large central sound hole so that the two configurations might be tested and compared.
Again, all data that might help resolve this question is welcome.

Soundhole comp (644 x 624) (600 x 581).jpg - 116kB

jdowning - 2-11-2009 at 01:32 PM

Moving on to the next stage in construction - the mold bulkheads have been laid out geometrically (on both sides of each bulkhead) and cut roughly oversize on the bandsaw. Although I have used plywood for the mold baseplate I prefer to use pine for the bulkheads as it is a lot easier to work accurately than plywood. However, as pine is subject to shrinkage on drying, the pine boards (stored in an outside building) have been left to dry in a warm kitchen for several days before laying out the bulkheads. The metal template, for convenience, was used for the layout and the geometry then double checked using dividers to correct any inevitable slight deviations (pine being soft, marks made through the template with a scriber point tend to drift slightly when contacting the harder wood grain).

Mold Components.jpg - 68kB

jdowning - 2-11-2009 at 05:00 PM

Now that the bulkhead geometry has been defined as accurately as possible, the rib profiles on each bulkhead are cut using a stiff backed razor saw (Lee Valley cat# 60F03.12 - good value for around $10). The saw cuts will remain as a reference after the bulkheads are finally profiled and shaped.

Bulkhead Saw Cut comp (523 x 810) (387 x 600).jpg - 48kB

SamirCanada - 2-11-2009 at 06:16 PM

exellent! now we can see this thing shape up.

I have had less and less time to work on my project :(

hopefully I will find sometime before the summer.

jdowning - 2-11-2009 at 06:19 PM

The next stage is to trim the mold bulkhead profiles down to the circumferential scribed lines. If the bulkheads were made from plywood the shaping would best be done with a 'Surform' tool (for rough profiling) and finished with a fine wood rasp file followed by a sandpaper block. For pine bulkheads the most efficient method is to carve away most of the waste material with a paring chisel and then finish the job with a small block plane. Needless to say both chisel and plane need to be razor sharp to produce a clean, accurate finish.

Shaping Bulkhead comp (539 x 618) (523 x 600).jpg - 74kB

jdowning - 2-11-2009 at 06:40 PM

This year is going to be a busy one for you Samir - not much time for instrument making projects I suspect!!
I have given up on my local Museum historical commitments for this year as I need to catch up on a considerable backlog of mundane repairs/upgrades to house and home, not to mention repairs to essential mechanical equipment car. tractors etc. as well as to, hopefully, focus a little more on instrument building and research.
This current 'crazy' weather (an Arctic minus 30 C a week ago and now a record plus 10 C with torrential rain in the forecast for tomorrow!) gives me an excuse to work on instruments while it lasts. Lets see how it goes.

jdowning - 2-12-2009 at 12:40 PM

To prevent chipping of the edges of the saw cuts as the bulkheads are shaped to their final dimensions, thin black card has been glued into the cuts. These inlays will also provide a clearer definition of the rib joint locations on the completed mold.

Bulkhead Inlay comp (488 x 820) (357 x 600).jpg - 44kB

jdowning - 2-12-2009 at 01:02 PM

It is important that each bulk head should be mounted 'square' to the baseplate of the mold. Squaring each bulk head is easily accomplished by 'shooting' the bottom of each one using a shooting board and jointer plane. A small allowance of surplus material has been left on the bottom of each bulk head for this final trimming operation.

Bulkhead Squaring comp (524 x 802) (392 x 600).jpg - 57kB

More pictures

Peyman - 2-12-2009 at 01:08 PM

I scanned some pictures from my book on historical instruments (the Azerbaijan musical instruments). I hope they are of some help. The picture might be a bit too big but I can resize. I was shooting for detail of the peghead.

Peyman - 2-12-2009 at 01:10 PM

Ok, here is another try.

Peyman - 2-12-2009 at 01:14 PM

Here are some dates according to the author:
Bottom right 1539-1543.
Bottom left: 1482.
Top right is from a plate, probably 17 or 18th century. The book isn't clear. The Top left, I am not sure about. It's not in the book but it looks like bottom right.

Peyman - 2-12-2009 at 01:15 PM

I'll probably scan the frets section later on. I'd like to read through it before hand and see if I can figure anything out.

jdowning - 2-12-2009 at 01:41 PM

Interesting - beautiful pictures. Do you have the approximate dates for when these illuminations were painted?
Note also that three of the instruments do not have any obvious sound holes represented - so perhaps they did not have any - just decorative inlays on the sound boards?
The artist who created the bottom left picture went so far as to represent the grain of the sound board (?) and the soundboard banding but there is no evidence of sound holes (or strings!) whatsoever.
So what are sound holes for? Well," to let the sound escape" I suppose might be the answer but is that their purpose acoustically? I suspect that if the instruments in the paintings did not have 'sound holes' that they would 'work' quite well without them?

Peyman - 2-12-2009 at 01:59 PM

I posted the dates right after the picture. I am not sure if the bottom left has wood grain. It might be the print quality but I agree it doesn't look like it has soundholes. In some instruments (at least around Iran), they usually don't put soundholes; only tiny holes are drilled on the soundboard. That might be the case.

jdowning - 2-13-2009 at 01:13 PM

As work progresses on the mold construction, work has started on the neck block.
The neck will be fitted to the neck block with a dovetail joint as is still the practice today so was probably the ancient method as well. The dimensions of the dovetail have been copied from an old Egyptian oud that I am currently restoring.
The neck block will be made from Sitka spruce that has been in stock for about 30 years so it should be well seasoned. Initially a block was laid out copying the same grain direction as that of the Egyptian oud - that is with the growth rings running vertically through the block. However, as spruce tends to split more easily radially across the growth rings (rather than along the growth ring direction) a second block has been cut with the growth ring direction running parallel to the top face of the block. My concern is that the first block may be more prone to splitting - a fault that can be seen in the Egyptian oud where the neck block has cracked across at the base of the dovetail. The second block should be less prone to this kind of failure. However, a sample of the spruce was split both along and across the growth ring direction with a chisel and there did not seem to be any noticeable difference in ease of splitting either way.
Nevertheless, on balance, the second block would seem to be the better choice although there is likely not a big difference.

Neck Block comp (616 x 802) (461 x 600).jpg - 62kB

jdowning - 2-14-2009 at 12:24 PM

The final step in shaping the mold bulkheads is to cut the 'flats' for the rib locations. These are cut using a wide paring chisel - to remove most of the waste - followed by a small block plane to make each 'flat' level and at the correct angles.
It is important to have good incident lighting for accurate work- progress in judging the material to be removed being aided by the light reflected off the freshly cut surfaces.

Bulkhead Trim comp (571 x 752) (456 x 600).jpg - 66kB

jdowning - 2-15-2009 at 12:27 PM

This oud will have an end plate - as dictated by the geometry - rather than the more common end block found on modern ouds (and the Arnault de Zwolle lute). This is a feature invariably found on surviving European lutes but can also (rarely?) be found on old ouds - as, for example, in this Egyptian oud. The end plate is fitted after the bowl has been removed from the mold so provision must be made for temporarily anchoring the ends of the ribs during assembly on the mold. Here a small block of pine has been shaped to the correct profile (using a metal template) and will be screwed to the mold baseplate as part of the bulkhead system.
The mold is now nearing completion with some small adjustments first to be made to ensure accurate alignment and levelling of the bulkheads on the baseplate.

Oud End Plate comp (773 x 606) (600 x 470).jpg - 72kB

jdowning - 2-15-2009 at 01:02 PM

Just for information and to illustrate different tail block/end plate configurations, image A shows the Arnault de Zwolle end block in section - similar to a modern oud but deeper. Image B - drawn to the same scale - shows the end plate, in section, of an early 17th C European lute and image C shows the end plate, in section, of the Egyptian oud previously mentioned. Note that the end plate of the Egyptian oud does not extend as far as the soundboard (it always does in early lutes) so to compensate for the lack of support in this area below the bridge, there is no half banding around the edge of the sound board over the end plate - only the full sound board thickness. As well, the Egyptian oud has a below bridge bar (invariably found on ouds?) that is located approximately at the inside edge position of the Arnault tail block. Clearly, sound board stiffness in the area below the bridge - no matter how it is achieved - is important.
In this oud reconstruction, the end plate will extend to the soundboard and will be of sufficient thickness to fully support the sound board in the area below the bridge - i.e. it will provide a surface area wider than the sound board half banding. There will also be a below bridge bar to provide the necessary additional soundboard support.

Tail Block comp (600 x 579).jpg - 17kB

jdowning - 2-17-2009 at 01:16 PM

In order to layout the rib profile as precisely as possible a simple jig has been made. The bowl of the oud is semi circular in section so all of the ribs are identical in geometry (except for the two outside ribs that are to be made a little wider than the remainder and then trimmed to size).
The jig is made from two side plates of 3 mm thick hardboard - the required outline being traced from the mold base plate. The two plates have been joined with a cloth strip glued with flexible fabric glue (available from craft shops) so that they are hinged. The joined side plates were then smoothed down to match the exact profile of the base plate.
Several pine spacers have been cut to the required angle (using a metal template made from the bulkhead layout template) and glued between the side pieces - after checking that the gap between the side plates at each bulkhead location is correct (using dividers).
The correct rib profile is given by the inside edges of the jig and represents the inner profile of each rib (the finished outside dimension )will be a little larger.

After using the jig for making a rib template, additional wedges will be fitted and finished flush with outside edges of the side plates. This will then be used as a convenient jig for achieving the required profile of each rib during the bending operation.

Rib Layout Jig comp (600 x 412).jpg - 56kB

jdowning - 2-17-2009 at 01:34 PM

To create the rib profile, a strip of paper is taped in place over the jig and rubbed against the edges of the jig with a finger. A clearer definition of the profile may be achieved using a little graphite powder (from a pencil lead).
The paper strip is then carefully removed from the jig, taped to a strip of card and the profile cut using scissors.
The card rib outline - with centre line marked - is then placed back on the jig to check for accuracy (paper and card are flexible so absolute accuracy cannot otherwise be guaranteed). In this case one side of the card template was found to be more accurate than the other so has been chosen for making a permanent rib template in thin sheet metal.

This template will give a rib profile that is slightly oversize so is just a convenient guide. Precise jointing of the ribs (with a plane) will be done during the final bowl assembly.

Rib Layout comp (768 x 532) (600 x 416).jpg - 48kB

jdowning - 2-21-2009 at 12:55 PM

The neck block is to have a dovetail joint so this will be cut before the neck block is cut to shape - it will be a lot easier done now than later. As the centre line location of the block will be lost once the dovetail is cut, the block is first mounted on the mold baseboard with screws and register marks made with a knife so that the completed neck block may be later refitted in the correct alignment.

Interestingly, the neck block thickness, derived from the geometrical layout, is 1.5 inches (38 mm) which conforms nicely with modern day oud construction practice.

Neck Block Mounted comp (524 x 786) (400 x 600).jpg - 54kB

jdowning - 2-21-2009 at 01:08 PM

I have decided to use neck block #1 after all as the grain direction of #2 does not seem quite right.
After removing the block from the base plate, the waste material in the dovetail was removed by successive cuts on a bandsaw.
The sides of the dovetail were then trimmed to size with a chisel and finished with files - the end grain of the spruce being difficult to work cleanly even with a sharp chisel. The three sides of the joint were checked for straightness and squareness to the neck joint face with small engineer's square.
Finally the contour of the block was roughly cut on a bandsaw with the table set at 45 degrees. Ready for final carving to profile - but not today.

Neck Block Dovetail comp (600 x 458).jpg - 65kB

jdowning - 2-23-2009 at 12:54 PM

The completed bulkheads have been attached to the base plate using drywall screws that are thin so can be screwed into the soft pine without need for pilot holes. The bulkheads will not be glued just in case any ribs become inadvertently glued to the mold during assembly. The mold can be easily dismantled to remove it piece by piece if that occurs.
The alignment of the bulkhead centre lines was verified with a 'chalk line'.
All that needs to be done now is to shape the neck block in preparation for the bowl construction process.

Mold comp (560 x 811) (414 x 600).jpg - 54kB

jdowning - 2-23-2009 at 01:41 PM

Rough shaping of the neck block is being done using a sharp paring chisel and a metal template of the required finished curvature as a guide. The main problem is holding the block firmly while carving. I hold the work in the vise or clamped to the bench and take light paring cuts with the chisel. Pretty time consuming and a way to go yet before it is finished.

Neck Block Carve comp (516 x 784) (395 x 600).jpg - 58kB

Peyman - 2-24-2009 at 01:36 PM

If I may jump ahead, I am curious to see how you will make cut the neck for a precise fit. I have touble sawing evenly on all sides while cutting the tenon.

jdowning - 2-25-2009 at 01:02 PM

The neck cannot be finally fitted, aligned and shaped until the bowl is complete and the sound board fitted (but not glued) in place. However, the neck blank can be prepared and the dovetail tenon cut close to final dimensions - this work must be done sooner or later so I will go through this process now for information. The neck blank will then be stored in a heated room to ensure that it is completely dry.

The neck is to be made from a piece of Sitka Spruce. This stock was purchased, kiln dried, about 25 years ago. The grain of the wood is cut on the quarter - grain vertical - for stability of the neck - with minimum run out of the longitudinal grain.
The back of the neck will be veneered to protect it against damage from the fret knots when the frets are tied and slid into place.

I have a quantity of Lilac tree wood that is very hard (it is good for making pegs) so will plan to use that for veneering the back of the neck. Interestingly the heartwood is a pale lilac in colour (with white sap wood). I cut this about 25 years ago so it should be well seasoned.

Neck Blank comp (530 x 763) (417 x 600).jpg - 58kB

jdowning - 2-25-2009 at 01:32 PM

To allow for later adjustment and trimming to size of the neck, the neck blank has been cut well oversize and longer than required.

The blank is first prepared by planing the upper surface (the 'face') flat and straight. Using the face as a reference, one side (the edge) is planed flat and straight and at right angles to the face. The angle is checked with an accurate engineer's square. Both face and edge are marked with pencil for reference. The opposite edge was then planed at right angles to the face and parallel to the reference edge (this is not absolutely essential, just nice to have, as all measurements for layout will only be made from the two marked reference surfaces). The back face of the blank has been left with a sawn finish.

The centre line of the blank is next marked with a marking gauge and highlighted with sharp pencil point run in the 'groove' left by the gauge.

Accurate preparation of the blank is important.

Neck Layout 1 comp (512 x 790) (389 x 600).jpg - 51kB

jdowning - 2-25-2009 at 05:17 PM

Finally, the dovetail tenon is marked out using a square and marking gauge - the lines all being cut with a sharp knife and filled in with a pencil for clarity.
The waste material is cut out with a hand saw leaving a small amount of surplus for final clean up and finishing.
Here, only the face of the neck joint has been finished. A wide paring chisel is used, freshly sharpened to a razor edge, to cut cleanly across the end grain. The knife cut layout marks serve as an indicator to guide the precise removal of material for accurate finishing.

Neck Tenon comp (778 x 618) (600 x 477).jpg - 67kB

Peyman - 2-25-2009 at 07:55 PM

This is the same way I approach it but I use denser woods, like walnut which can't be cleaned up around easily. I am talking about the edge of the neck that will touch the block, not the tenon itself. That's difficult to even out with the other side.

jdowning - 2-26-2009 at 05:48 AM

I'm not sure if Walnut would be more difficult to clean up than Spruce. Spruce has hard and soft areas across the end grain so tear out can easily happen if the chisel is not maintained very sharp. The chisel also should be as wide as possible and lapped flat on the back so that it can cut straight and flat.
I don't anticipate having a problem fitting the neck tenon or neck joint with everything made square and perpendicular and working carefully. I do not plan to have a 'bracelet' covering the neck joint as found in modern ouds so the joint will be exposed and have to be a pretty close fit.

In order to progress this project, a decision needs to be made about the wood to be used for the bowl. Woods that may have been used in the 13th/14th C have been discussed in "Wood fit for a king" on the forum but nothing absolutely conclusive has been so far determined. Two woods seem to be better candidates than others. 'Dardar' - that can be translated as Elm but in the period under consideration meant Ash (information provided by ALAMI) is one choice as Ash was certainly used in 16th C lutes so may also have been the choice for ouds and lutes of an earlier period. Beech (zan) is the other alternative.
I do not have any Beech in stock but I do have a quantity of Ash in the form of floor joists (about 160 board ft) recovered from a 19th C building - so it is over a century old. This is very close grained (for Ash) so is likely be 'first growth' timber from the original forest that once covered this area before being cleared during the 19th C to create farm land (no concerns about destruction of the environment in those days). The joists are sawn and measure 2 inches by 8 inches (50 mm X 200 mm) in lengths up to 12 ft (3.7 metres). Most of this stuff is only suitable for reuse as structural timbers but a couple of lengths may yield some good rib blanks.
I shall cut a slab for testing today. The ribs will be quarter sawn and each blank will have to be about 2 inches wide (50 mm). I do not expect to find any 'figure' in the grain - but it would be nice if some could be found!

jdowning - 2-26-2009 at 12:30 PM

One promising Ash timber examined measures 1.9 inches thick by 7.75 inches wide (48 mm X 197 mm) rough sawn and about 12 ft (3.7 metres) long. It had been sawn with the heart 'boxed in' so is mostly quarter sawn. The growth rings vary in width from under 1 mm near the centre to about 2 mm at the outside edges.
A growth ring count indicates that the tree was at least 150 years old when felled but was likely much older..
The density of the wood, calculated by measuring the volume and weight of a sample, is 56 grams/c.c. i.e. the specific gravity is about 0.56
The attached images show slices cut from each end of the timber to show the end grain. It can be seen that the heart runs out to one side over the length of the timber.

Ash Cut Ends (624 x 434) (600 x 417).jpg - 85kB

Peyman - 2-26-2009 at 12:46 PM

Thanks for the tips. I need to work on my patience with the joint!
Also, I remember reading in the KT book that they boil the wood in milk. I thought that was interesting.

jdowning - 2-26-2009 at 01:11 PM

A macro examination of the cell structure (at the upper right hand edge of the top sample in the image previously posted) indicates that the species is Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra).

Selected sections of the timber will be cut into rib blanks tomorrow. One problem with reclaimed timbers like old floor joists is that they may contain hidden nails. The old iron nails have been removed but fragments of nail may still remain. The selected sections will, therefore, be cut longitudinally - to reveal the location and depth of old nail holes - using a carbide tipped saw blade before being re-sawn into rib blanks on a band saw.

The ribs of the bowl will be made about 1.5 mm thick so the bowl will be faceted or slightly fluted - like a 16th C lute bowl - rather than finished to a smooth exterior like a modern oud. Early Arabic/Persian texts indicate that the wood of an oud bowl should be thinner than the sound board.

The bowl could be made with a smooth exterior, with ribs finished to 1.5 mm thickness, if thicker ribs were used and the interior of the bowl was then thinned down by scraping after assembly. However, the rib blanks would initially need to be about 4.5 mm (3/16 inch) in thickness for a bowl of this size with 11 ribs. Not an impossible proposition but a lot more work. Perhaps some other time!

Ash (576 x 768) (450 x 600).jpg - 106kB

jdowning - 2-26-2009 at 01:36 PM

Thanks Peyman. Interesting that milk may have been once used to 'marinate' wood - prior to bending (?). Do you have more details - bowl or sound board wood? The milk from which animal - goat, sheep etc? Soaking for what period of time?
Worth testing in my series of trials on marinated wood and fluted ribs if you have more information. The solids in milk might have prevented cell wall collapse of the wood at the high temperatures required for bending ribs?

I was wondering if the neck joint fitting question might be simplified by first making the joint as close a fit as time (and patience!) permits - but not perfect - and then running a fine toothed saw into the assembled joint so that both surfaces would then match exactly?

Peyman - 2-26-2009 at 04:44 PM

Actually I misunderstood. The milk boiling was done for carved instruments (like robab) and it's not mentioned for the oud.

But since I was reading the book, I looked at the oud section again. It's said that "Shah Choob" (from around coastal areas). Shah Choob translates as king wood. But the book has an end note which states that perhaps Shah Choob is the same as "Shah Derakht", which translates as king tree. King Tree can refer to oak or spruce and fir. The author also recommends cedar (if king tree can't be found). It's not clear if these wood choices are refering to the body or the top. I think it's probably the top.

DaveH - 2-27-2009 at 01:25 AM

Hi John

Glad to see you've gone for ash and I'll be interested to see how it turns out.

My own trunk (European Ash, fraxinus excelsior) is still a trunk as I'm having problems getting hold of a portable sawmill rig. Hopefully next week. Some pieces cut a while ago from the same stand, which are now seasoned firewood, look very attractive in an understated kind of way, very regular but marked growth rings of nearly white and grey (not as dark as your black ash) and a very nice pattern of medullary rays. I'm hoping the current batch, which is much paler, will season to a similar appearance. And as split firewood it has a real ring to it when you knock it - possibly a good sign, though maybe I should be making a marimba!

jdowning - 2-27-2009 at 05:18 AM

The KT reference to 'Shah' or Kingwood (or rather 'King of Kings wood?}was discussed some time ago under the topic "Wood fit for a king" on this forum. However, so far there has been no positive identification of what wood that may have been - certainly not the Kingwood (Dalbergia cearensis) of today which is a species of rosewood found only in a small area of Brazil.
If anyone has more information about 'Shah' wood, by all means post the findings under "Wood fit for a king".

Peyman - 2-27-2009 at 07:58 AM

Originally posted by jdowning
The KT reference to 'Shah' or Kingwood (or rather 'King of Kings wood?}was discussed some time ago under the topic "Wood fit for a king" on this forum.

I actually didn't read that thread and wasn't sure if this was mentioned there. As far as the milk goes, the book mentions that boiling the bowls in milk will make them easier to carve. I thought that might be of use in the fluting process.

jdowning - 2-27-2009 at 01:23 PM

I am curious about the milk. If wood is easier to carve after the treatment then the wood may become softer and possibly lubricated by the solids in the milk absorbed into the cells of the wood during boiling? Just boiling in water alone would soften the wood so milk must do more. I will run some tests some time (just to see what happens) and post the results in the 'marinated wood/fluted ribs thread.

Made a start today on cutting the Ash timber into rib sets. Three sets have been cut from sections that have a very mild 'fiddle back' figure - nothing spectacular like the Hungarian Ash stuff - but not completely plain either.
I have cut the blanks a little thicker than usual (just under 3mm) so that there is plenty of scope for planing out any minor faults like pin knots and scars/holes/staining left by old nails etc. For the same reason the blanks have been made 2.5 inches wide by 30 to 36 inches long (64 mm X 760 to 920 mm) - well oversize, so there is plenty of scope for avoiding any faults. The wood surfaces were inspected before each pass on the band saw to ensure there were no embedded nails.

I am now not completely sure about my Black Ash identification as it could well be White Ash with narrow growth rings - as it would be if forest grown. The density is closer to that of White Ash than Black Ash. No matter - it will still be used.

jdowning - 3-2-2009 at 12:54 PM

The neck block has been carved close to the required profile using a paring chisel and template as a guide to the correct shape. To finish the neck block, it has been mounted on the mold base plate and filed to size with a small wood rasp. The rib positions have been marked with pencil and the areas between flattened and smoothed with a file - using the pencil marks as guides. The mold is now 'ready to go'.

Finish Neck Block comp (607 x 612) (455 x 459).jpg - 52kB

jdowning - 3-2-2009 at 01:11 PM

The sound board will be made from Sitka Spruce. I have a good supply of well seasoned material in stock to choose from. Sitka spruce is not an authentic choice like the denser softwoods - Larch and Cedar of Lebanon. A species of Larch is available locally but is unlikely to be of the quality required for instruments. Cedar of Lebanon is not an option unfortunately.

The sound board will be made from two, book-matched, pieces cut exactly on the quarter. Grain spacing is fairly wide for increased cross grain stiffness - to compensate for the lower density of spruce compared to Larch and Cedar of Lebanon.
The first step is to trim what will be the sound board joint with a straight edge and knife so that the grain runs parallel to the joint.

Sound board Trim comp (534 x 750) (427 x 600).jpg - 56kB

jdowning - 3-3-2009 at 12:44 PM

A sample of the selected sound board wood has been measured - its volume calculated - and weighed. The density is 0.43 grams/c.c. - heavy for Sitka Spruce but lighter than Larch or Cedar of Lebanon both with average densities of about 0.53 grams/c.c.

Before continuing with work on the sound board, this might be a good time to take a break and review aspects of the possible sound hole design. The oud engraving shows only two sound holes but it is possible that the engraver may not have represented a third large diameter sound hole because of the difficulty of representing both the strings and sound hole.
The sound holes may have been made in three possible ways :
1 - a hole cut through the soundboard with a separate decorative rosette (shamsa) glued behind the sound hole - as on a modern oud.
2 - a hole cut through the sound board and inlaid with a separate decorative rosette. This style of soundhole is found on early oud/lute related instruments like the gittern, vihuela and viola da mano.
3 - a decorative rosette cut directly into the sound board - the style of rosette invariably found on surviving lutes of the 16th and 17th C. 'Cut in' rosettes may ,therefore, have been adopted originally from early oud design (two oud like instruments depicted in the 13th C 'Cantigas de Santa Maria' have what appear to be 'cut' in rosettes).

It is not possible to determine from the oud engraving which of these three possibilities might apply. It has been decided, therefore, to 'cut in' the sound hole like a lute - this giving the best continuity and strength of the sound board structure in the area just above the bridge. I am experienced in making 'cut in' rosettes so the procedure might be of general interest.

The oud engraving represents a six point star motif for the rosette - most likely a greatly over simplified design for clarity. It has been suggested that the six point star design could imply a Jewish connection - perhaps the engraver himself was Jewish. However, I am more inclined to believe that the six point star in the rosette represent a basic element of traditional Arabic design.

The attached image shows a portion of a beautiful pierced window screen from the 14th C Mosque of Qawsun. Careful observation reveals the six point star motif appearing many times in the simple (yet complex!) design.
Compare this to two lute rosette designs - one from an early 16th C lute by Laux Maler and the other from the second half of the 16th C on a lute by Georg Gerle. The similarity to the window screen design is striking and so, strongly implies an Arabic origin. By the 16th C, these lute rosette designs were widely used 'standard' patterns and appear on many surviving lutes of the 16th and 17th C. so may also have been found on ouds and lutes from an earlier period.
To make smaller diameter rosettes - a lute maker would not scale down the design but would simply cut only that part of the original pattern covered by the reduced diameter. So, for example, the Maler rosette was likely made this way from a larger pattern (note that the points of the six point star in the design are 'cut off').

The Gerle pattern (conveniently, a favourite of mine!) is full size so will be used in this project - cut down for the small sound holes. If a large sound hole is also to be included then - interestingly - the pattern would fit the full diameter exactly.
Perhaps two sound boards should be made for testing - a 'two holer', as represented in the engraving and a 'three holer' as implied by the engraving. Perhaps even - two ouds should be constructed to enable direct comparisons to be made - all in the interests of science, music and history?!

Rosette comp (600 x 571).jpg - 94kB

jdowning - 3-3-2009 at 01:06 PM

....... and still pondering the enigmatic sickle shaped pegbox and spike shaped pegbox terminal of the oud engraving, here are some images from the 'Kitab al-mawalid' (the book of Nativities) by Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi - taken from a 15th C copy translated into Arabic from the original 8th C Persian work.

The illuminations from the book can be seen in a slide sequence of images at

The oud like instruments represented also show two-tone coloured sound boards (some with small sound holes?) and a smooth transition between neck and sound board - as discussed earlier in this thread.

Sickle Pegboxes comp (465 x 812) (344 x 600).jpg - 75kB

jdowning - 3-6-2009 at 12:57 PM

The Spruce sound board panels have been set aside in a heated kitchen for final drying, before they are jointed and glued, so work continues, in the meantime, on the rib blanks.

The jig that was made to create the rib profile has now done its job so - with the addition of a few extra 'V' blocks and a pair of stands - will now serve as a jig (to determine the required rib curvature) during the bending operation. Not essential but a bit more convenient than using the mold for the same purpose.

The rib profile has been transferred from card to a metal pattern. This pattern is useful in determining the best part of the rib blanks to use (grain direction and figure) -while, at the same time, avoiding any flaws.
As the rib blanks have been cut in sequence from the billet, the ribs will each be laid out from a common centre - in this case the widest point of the rib - so that the grain and figuring of each rib will match when assembled into the bowl.

Rib Layout comp (630 x 788) (480 x 600).jpg - 61kB

Peyman - 3-7-2009 at 11:24 AM

It's good to see progress. Those paintings from the book of Nativities look very interesting to me as well. They have a Chinese feel to them. The miniature style of painting is an art that originally came to Iran from China. I wonder if that had an effect on depicting those musicians and their instruments.

jdowning - 3-7-2009 at 01:30 PM

The miniatures certainly seem to have a 'Far Eastern' flavour to them so it would not be surprising if the influence is Chinese.

To digress a little, the earliest culture of silk also came to Iran from China - relevant as early oud strings were made from silk (as well as gut). Perhaps the earliest of the oud strings were made by the Chinese and imported to Persia over the well established trade routes with China?
The tradition of the ancient Chinese zither ('quin') extended well into the 19th C, an instrument that used silk strings before modern (and inferior!) string materials became available. The strings were made by twisting silk filaments - like a thread (or rope) - and then boiling the strings in a glue concoction that consolidated the silk filaments and gave the strings smoothness and additional weight. The larger diameter strings were made by winding silk thread over a silk core - like modern overspun strings.

On completion, the project oud will be eventually strung in silk/gut and compared to modern nylon stringing.

Peyman - 3-7-2009 at 04:02 PM

I have read about silk used as musical strings. I know up until the 1950s in Iran, the dotar players were still using silk. Gut is mentioned in the Kanzo-al-Tohaf book as well. I also remember goat hair was mentioned in KT, as used for Harps (chang). Horse hair was another one that was used on bowed instruments (still used in Turkish rebabs). Very interesting. Your oud will be very unique!

jdowning - 3-8-2009 at 04:37 AM

The question of early musical instrument strings, the materials that they were made from and how they were made, is a whole research subject in itself without very much information to go on. The early texts like the KT book give some information about the construction of the strings - as do the surviving Chinese books.
Sinew is another possible historical string material.

Silk filament was generally used as a core material on metal wound oud and guitar bass strings - until nylon floss became commercially available in the 1950's. While living and working in Cairo in the early 1960's, I was still able to purchase a set of oud strings that were metal wound on silk with gut trebles. Early oud, lute and related instrument strings, however, were not wound with metal - just twisted gut or silk - with added weight by being saturated with glue compounds or (in the case of silk strings at least) by being wrapped with silk.

If anyone knows of the existence of surviving old oud (or other instrument) strings, or even string fragments, this would be information of great interest to those specialising in researching and recreating early strings.

jdowning - 3-8-2009 at 11:12 AM

On closer inspection, several of the sawn rib blanks cannot be used because of the location of scars left by the old nail holes. It has been decided, therefore, to use two, now incomplete, sets of ribs - arranging the ribs alternately in sequence. There are 8 good rib blanks in one set and 7 in the other so there is still plenty of room to maneuver in the final choice of ribs.
One rib has a pin knot running across the width of the blank. It may still be possible to use this if the fault (a structural weakness) can be located inside the rib and over the neck block.

The saw marks on each rib blank have been removed with a smoothing plane and the ribs brought down to about 2 mm thickness. The plane does not have an adjustable throat so - even with the relatively plain grain figuring of the wood and working the plane at an angle - some slight 'tear out' of the grain is inevitable. Final smoothing and thicknessing (to about 1.5 mm) will, therefore, be accomplished using a cabinet scraper.

Planing Ribs comp (600 x 448).jpg - 80kB

jdowning - 3-9-2009 at 11:45 AM

The batch of sound board material to be used on this project was cut many years ago at a local sawmill from a billet of Sitka spruce - measuring 8 inches X 4 inches X 4 ft long
(20 cm X 10 cm X 120 cm). (The Spruce was originally purchased, during the 1970's, from a company that made gliders - used for making airframes. The company (the Kirby Glider Co. of Yorkshire, U.K.) kindly allowed me to select the only two timbers from their entire stock that I judged would be suitable for instrument sound boards. Great customer service!).
Unfortunately, the local sawyer ran this billet through his bandsaw using power feed rather than by carefully hand feeding the work (this was a large bandsaw - with blade about 6 inches (15 cm) wide - used for resawing large timbers). Consequently, the batch of soundboard blanks came out of the saw straight on one side but with a pronounced bow on the other. Rather than scrapping the whole batch, each sawn blank was cut down the middle to eliminate the bowed portions. This resulted in a number of blanks about 4 inches (10 cm) wide up to 30 inches (76 cm) long with no longitudinal twist and with only a slight longitudinal 'ripple' or 'waviness'(this will eventually be planed out when each sound board is reduced to its required thickness).
These blanks will make four sound boards (each made from four pieces - the two piece soundboard mentioned in an earlier posting will not now be used). The pieces will not be 'book matched', in the conventional way, but will be selected and joined so that any longitudinal ripples will exactly match. This is to eliminate any potential 'built in' stresses in the finished soundboards.
I might as well make up the four soundboards at one time and choose the best for this project.

The first step is to 'shoot' the edges of each blank so that the longitudinal grain runs parallel to the joint edge.

Sound Board Prepn comp (558 x 782) (428 x 600).jpg - 56kB

WFBustard - 3-9-2009 at 03:55 PM

Thanks for this jd! Im learning a lot here!
Now is it important to remember which faces are which so that when assembling the panels they will all go in the same direction since they are not booked? What would be the difference or Does it matter.

jdowning - 3-10-2009 at 06:26 AM

I am attempting on this project to salvage sound board material that would otherwise have been thrown out. The panels have all been cut in sequence from a billet with end grain cut perfectly on the quarter and are well seasoned so should potentially make reasonably satisfactory sound boards.
All of the panels - because of the way they were sawn - have a slight but matching longitudinal bow or curve. To compensate for this in the completed sound board, the panels will not be book matched as any longitudinal 'bow' will be reversed along the central glue line that could result in built in stress. On the contrary, if the panels are not book matched, any longitudinal bow will be perfectly matched between the panels - eliminating any danger of built in stress from that cause. The panels will not be switched end for end.
Is this approach likely to be significant? Hard to tell without trying. This is an experimental project so I have an excuse to try to find out!

This approach might also be beneficial - for the same reasoning - in the case of sound board panels with longitudinal grain run out. This is caused by spiral growth commonly occurring in trees and so is likely to be found - to a greater of lesser degree - in a lot of sound board material offered for sale on the open market?

Note that many early ouds (and lutes) had their sound boards made from several (three to five) - sometimes mismatching - pieces rather than from two 'book matched' panels as is the common practice today.

The attached sketches should clarify what I am trying to explain.

Note that this thread is not intended to be a tutorial claiming to be the "right" way or the "best" way to do things but is just an ongoing record of my approach (rightly or wrongly) to creating this instrument.

Book Matching (529 x 600).jpg - 43kB

WFBustard - 3-11-2009 at 01:16 PM

Thanks, I realise this is a record of your approach to this build, and do not mean to interefere so if I overstep my bounds please ignore this post and Ill get the message.

I was under the impression that the use of "booked" lumber was to alleviate the problems which arise from expansion and contraction due to changes in humidity. The idea being that the centre joint would be equal on both edges and generally the whole thing would remain symetrical to avoid warping. Maybe I have been misled?
I have built many "experimental" instruments, guitars, vihelas, mandos and bouzikis and have come across this numerous times.

Will you be making a close aproximation to booked along the centre?

Im not sure if I understand the way the wood was cut Since the peices you are using are cut sequencially I would approach the construction with the idea that: even though they are not true booked peices I would match the grain as such as best as possible. that is to say A tree is round and nature is a fine example of strength and stability.
I once produced an archtop Jazz box where I only had a single 1 inch, 48long , 9 inch w board where I simple cut it in half and "dropped matched the peices. .. :-). It worked very well and you could not tell the difference except under light. In other words I kept the same grain together for the join even though it came from further up the plank lonitudally.That was in 1995 and the guitar is still functional today with out any movement.

Anyways, This project looks very nice and clean, I look forward to seeing more of your work.


jdowning - 3-12-2009 at 05:23 AM

No problem.
I am not sure why a book matched pair of boards would alleviate problems from expansion and contraction due to humidity change. The boards - even if they appear to match - might still warp or twist if there is longitudinal run out of the grain or if not perfectly quarter sawn. As wood shrinks about twice as much along the direction of the growth rings (tangential) than across the growth rings (radial) it is the short quarter grain (running vertically through the sound board - less than 2mm thickness in an oud or lute) that would contribute most to stability under changing conditions of humidity.

The sound board in this project will not approximate to a book matched sound board at all. The sound board will be of three piece construction with the boards, ideally cut in sequence from the billet, laid edge to edge in the pattern AB- AB- AB as indicated in the previous posting for a non book matched arrangement. If three boards are not wide enough, I shall simply add a short fourth piece on one side to make up the difference. I may also choose to make the sound board from three or four mis-matched pieces (i.e. not cut from the billet in sequence). Either approach would be authentic for early ouds (and lutes). Clearly, there will be no centreline joint or symmetrical arrangement of the sound board panels - but that is also authentic. 'Perfect' symmetry of an instrument is probably a modern concept.

The preference these days would seem to be to use two piece, book matched sound boards - but this might have more to do with cosmetic appearance than optimum acoustic considerations.

A two piece sound board would also be appropriate for an oud of the 13/14 C but it is impossible to know if the panels would have been book matched, non book matched or mismatched - I suspect the latter two possibilities would have applied but could be wrong.
The multiple panel approach allows a greater freedom of choice to select the best of a particular batch of wood to build a sound board - which is what I am up to now.

jdowning - 3-12-2009 at 11:30 AM

The sound board panels, having been rough planed to remove the saw marks, have now been sorted into four sets sets of four panels ready to be jointed. It is helpful to use a half template of the soundboard profile to help visualise and determine the best positioning of the panels. All of the panels show a pronounced "cross silk" figuring - a good sign indicating that the grain is cut perfectly on the quarter. The colourful grain doesn't bother me!
I will be able to make up four soundboards - perhaps five - from this batch of wood.

Two sets of panels (to make two complete sound boards) have been jointed ready for gluing. The jointing process is quite critical as the joint surfaces must be planed accurately enough to be practically invisible (viewed on both sides of the panels) without forcing the joint together. I judge the precision of the joint by eye as well as by feel - flexing the joint to ensure rubbing contact along its length. The joint surface is left as it comes off the plane as the smooth surface results in the strongest glued joint. Not having built an instrument for a few years now, it took me a little while to get the hang of jointing sound boards again (frustrating!) - a good reason to make up a batch of sound boards at one time.

A batch of hide glue has been made up and is currently soaking ready for use tomorrow in gluing up the sound board.

Soundboard Layout 2 comp (514 x 778) (396 x 600).jpg - 48kB

Peyman - 3-12-2009 at 12:10 PM

I found this low quality picture in an oud blog. I thought I would post it. It's dated 1507 - 1524. Apparently, it's from one of G. Farmer's books. I thought the peghead was interesting. Looks like a guitar.

jdowning - 3-12-2009 at 04:28 PM

I have not seen this picture before but what is striking to me is not the representation of a singer playing some kind of generic plucked instrument but all of the wild animals laying around together in a state of repose - predators like the leopard, the wolf, the lion, the jackal etc. together with the deer and other related species - presumably held spell bound by the music? This is surely a representation of what - in Western society - was the 16th C belief in the power of music over the mind - the myth of Orpheus.

All completely off topic but interesting nevertheless.

jdowning - 3-12-2009 at 05:13 PM

Taking another interlude from the practical aspects of this thread to consider another design detail - the bridge.

The representation of the bridge in the engraving of the oud is distinctly 'lute like'. As no ouds survive from earlier than the late 18th C. it may be useful to look to surviving lutes for clues as to how ouds once may have been constructed.

The decorative carved ends of the bridge are reminiscent of two unusual examples found on surviving lutes. The first is to be found on a lute by Magno Dieffopruchar, Venice, 1612 cat. 1753 in the Museo Civico, Bolognia and the second on a lute by Christofolo Choc, Venice 1630, cat. 7756-1862, Victoria and Albert museum, London. The attached images show a tracing of the bridge end of the former and a picture of the bridge end of a copy of the latter currently under construction (see "Old Project - New Lute" on this forum).
The bridge in the engraving would appear to have tile inlays on the top front and rear edges of the bridge - presumably to protect the edges of the bridge against wear from the strings. The main body of the bridge would appear to be 'in the white' or unstained (compared to the tuning pegs in the engraving that are represented in black).

With these clues in mind, the bridge of the reproduction oud will be made from pear wood left unstained in its natural colour with tile inlays of African Ebony and Persian Boxwood. The ends of the bridge will be carved similar to the lute designs.
A matching tile inlay will be repeated around the edge of the sound board - the half binding (or banding) is represented in the engraving but without details of the inlay pattern.

Oud Bridge comp (708 x 512) (600 x 434).jpg - 73kB

Peyman - 3-13-2009 at 06:48 AM

Originally posted by jdowning
I have not seen this picture before but what is striking to me is not the representation of a singer playing some kind of generic plucked instrument but all of the wild animals laying around together in a state of repose - predators like the leopard, the wolf, the lion, the jackal etc. together with the deer and other related species - presumably held spell bound by the music? This is surely a representation of what - in Western society - was the 16th C belief in the power of music over the mind - the myth of Orpheus.

All completely off topic but interesting nevertheless.

Yes, I had to look up the poem. This is from Kheradnameh (book of wisdom) of Nezami. The piece is about the invention of music and musical instruments and Greek philosophers:
"He drew a line around him and started to play. All animals rushed towards him..." I couldn't figure out who the "he" was. It seems like Aristotle is referenced.

jdowning - 3-13-2009 at 12:04 PM

Thanks Peyman.

Relative humidity in the heated kitchen is currently around 45% so today was a good time to make a start on gluing up the soundboard panels.
The work surface is made from two pieces of 15 mm thick MDF (medium density fibreboard) glued together. This makes a firm, flat and stable surface.
The gluing technique is well known - standard methodology, not 'rocket science! Two panels are laid edge to edge on a strip of wood (about 10 mm thick X 20 mm wide in section) so that the edges to be glued are temporarily slightly elevated. The panels are held firmly in this position with pins driven into the work surface. This arrangement is to provide a clamping force on the glued joint when the panels are pressed into place against the work surface.
To prevent the panels sticking to the work surface, a strip of 'non stick' cooking paper is laid underneath the joint. Hot glue is then applied along the joint surface, the strip of wood pulled from underneath and the joint pressed to the work surface along its full length. Another strip of 'non stick' paper is then placed over the joint and the panels held in place with a wooden batten clamped at each end.
The non stick paper works quite well but a strip of newspaper can also be used as an alternative.
One (of many) advantage of using hot hide glue is that clamping time is relatively short so the panels may be removed from the work surface after about an hour - allowing another set to be glued up. The glued panels removed from the work surface will be allowed to dry fully overnight before they - in turn - will be glued together to complete the soundboard.

Glue Panels comp (571 x 600) (428 x 450).jpg - 46kB

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