Lute rib spacers

To make lute rib spacers, I use two of the “scrap” pieces left over from building the lute rib form. It’s very simple to just take a hand saw and saw a groove on the outside edge of the scrap form piece to accept the lute rib spacer to be bent. Here you see the two leftover pieces from the lute form (which have the exact profile of the lute shape), with spacers taped in the outside groove while they dry. For some spacers such as maple, I simply soak the spacers and bend and tape them into the form as shown. Other materials, such as walnut seen below require bending on the iron to avoid cracking.

Here are maple spacers drying. I use a small spray bottle to wet the spacer and tape it in the groove of the form and usually spray a little water in the groove once the spacer is taped in place. Then just wait for it to dry.

Pre-bending on the iron may be required for some materials, such as walnut – but it is easy to just rock the form on the hot iron until the spacer conforms and tape it as you go to hold it in place

Here is a spacer just removed from “drying” and ready to be installed.

Go here to see how to assemble the ribs without using a mold.

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Lute neck block tool

Here is a simple tool that allows you to cut a complete lute neck block on the band saw.. A base plate clamped to the band saw table provides a pivot for the movable mounting arm holding the neck block.

First you need to measure the approximate radius of your lute shape in the neck block area. I am building two lutes after J.C. Hoffmann and the radius is about 8.9″. This radius gives you the dimension from your fixture pivot point to the band saw blade..

Next, mark the inside surface of the neck block with radial lines that go through the CENTER of each rib.

The neck block is mounted to the cutting jig with a single screw. This gold-colored mounting screw forms the axis for rotating the neck block with each successive cut. Notice a reference mark in pencil for horizontal is placed on the fixture at the same vertical height above the base as the screw. The screw needs to be tight when cutting, but can be loosened to rotate the block for the next cut if needed.

After making each cut, rotate the block to the next rib line on the block. Just match the line on the block (which represents the center of each rib) with the reference mark and make the cut.

Here the neck block has been rough cut and removed from the cutting jig. Notice that there is extra material remaining that was necessary for initial mounting to the cutting jig.

The extra material is easily removed..

The finished neck block – ready to attach to your mold or assembled back.

This back (of myrtlewood) was built without a mold and the neck block was put in after all the ribs were assembled. It fit very well, but was tricky to find good clamping positions while gluing. If you are building with a mold then this is not a problem as you will be attaching ribs to the block as you go.

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Lute rib template

This rib form allows you to bend and shape lute ribs so they can easily be assembled without building a mold. Although this form will naturally produce a “circular” cross-section, with slight modifications you can make a shallower lute back if desired. You can see the form in action here.

To make the form, first glue and screw three layers of relatively clear pine boards together. Draw the lute outline and draw an outer shape about an inch or so larger on each side of the lute outline.

Carefully cut the lute shape first.

Carefully and lightly sand the rib-forming surfaces to remove any large imperfections.

Now cut a piece of poster board the approximate thickness of your lute ribs and secure it between the two form pieces.

Now, screw another support board to hold the two parts together again – this time with the cardboard rib spacer in place. Be careful not to put screws in the way of your band saw path : )

Take the time to setup and check your band saw to the exact angle of your ribs.

Now, slowly and patiently cut your first pass through the form. Look at the end to see the rib profile being cut.

This is the first cut.

Duplicate this process for the other side to get the two pieces shown below.

Use the “scrap” pieces from previous cutting operations to make the final cuts. Notice that you get a nice poster board rib template “for free” : )

You can see the form in action here.

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Here are two lute backs assembled with this rib former, without using a mold. The backs are of myrtle wood from the Oregon coast.

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