View Full Version : The Canary Timple

09-18-2017, 06:38 AM
I have just returned from a trip to the Canary island of La Palma where I was hiking. In the Canaries they play the Timple, an instrument the size of a soprano uke tuned GCEAD where both G and C are re-entrant tuned. Some versions have a fretboard flush with the soundboard with only 8 frets: other versions have a raised fretboard that extends over the soundboard. The back is highly domed: this is said to account for the loudness of the instrument.

I was unable to visit the 2 luthiers I established existed on La Palma but saw an example of the work of one of them. I also heard the instrument being played on 2 occasions but lack of a common language prevented much discussion. A proficient player strumming in a characteristic pattern can dominate a small group of instruments playing music for dancing. The instrument can also be picked.

Lanzarote is the main Canary island for this instrument and has a Timple museum (which has been previously mentioned on this forum).

A search on Youtube will reveal some Timple playing and several short clips on making the Timple. The link below however leads to 3off videos each about 8 mins long showing the construction in some detail. It shows how little equipment is needed to make an instrument. I think its interesting to compare how this instrument is made with how most of us make a soprano uke. Itís in Spanish but only your eyes are required to understand the process.


09-18-2017, 09:23 AM
Thank you, that's interesting!

09-19-2017, 05:00 AM
I really enjoyed that, many thanks.

Pete Howlett
09-19-2017, 08:06 AM
That you for posting the lionk. I was captivated by the build, especially that 'tortoise shell' style back that I had only ever seen once before... Thisis one guy I would pay to have lessons from - insane skills with minimal tools. Mades me want to retire early.

09-19-2017, 08:28 AM

I remember you saying that anyone wanting to learn to make an instrument should pay to stand in the corner and simply watch a luthier at work! You got some flack for saying so. I learn from watching Luthiers on Youtube even when I don't understand what they are saying. I made a bowl back uke a couple of years ago after watching Egyptian and Turkish oud makers on Youtube-they showed me how to make the back.

I constantly suggest to new forum members that they should spend time on Youtube in order to see the different approaches to instrument making. Its all there for anyone to see.

As for the Timple maker, I liked his use of string and wedges, his lack of need for a vice and the ease with which he completed the back-and not to forget fretting in mid air!

09-19-2017, 09:30 AM
Nowt wrong with string and wedges...I sometimes use it ...and I use surgical rubber tubing the same way but without wedges.;)

09-19-2017, 10:23 AM
Ken, I don't know whether you watched the 3 videos but some of it would be familiar to you-you showed us all how it used to be done here:


09-19-2017, 12:39 PM
Those who like to tell their partners that they really need to buy a new expensive saw and various other tools should not show them the thread.
Can you imagine trying to justify the expense when they say "well that bloke on YouTube used a plastic handled saw and a pair of cheap looking scissors so why do you need to go shopping...?"
... Maybe UU moderators should delete this thread just to be on the safe side...

09-20-2017, 06:47 AM
Ken, I don't know whether you watched the 3 videos but some of it would be familiar to you-you showed us all how it used to be done here:


Yes! I wached all three...Enjoyed it as well ;)

09-20-2017, 09:21 AM
Aloha greenscoe - thanks for sharing your story and the video link.

After watching all 3 vids (no, I dont understand Spanish spoken at that pace), and having done no building myself, I cannot help to think that the luthier in that video has a vast amount of experience, as well a very careful eye, that combined with decades of practice, he makes it look almost 'easy'...

Interesting how the arched back has a rib, not unlike the construction of a wooden canoe, and the way of making the rosette as it's own part, and then inset into the sound-hole was something I had not seen before, but also seems like a good idea in terms of structure, as it maybe adds some strength to the top without requiring another brace, but I dont really know anything about bracing patterns, it just makes sense to me to see it built that way.

Anyway, I thought it was cool and I love seeing how-to videos, so truly, thanks for sharing this one. :)

09-22-2017, 03:06 AM
Here's a guy on Lanzarote who shows lots of different techniques in playing one long piece on the Timple:


09-24-2017, 08:00 AM
I thought the way he cut the soundhole was terrifying. What steady hands he has. I guess we really don't need those expensive woodworking planes. That's good since I don't have expensive ones. How thick are the sides on a timple? He didn't use heat to bend them unless I missed it. Excellent skills and fun to watch.

09-24-2017, 10:01 AM
Those sides were very paper thin ..so thin he trims them with scissors..I noticed he wets the wood prior to bending and the waist radius is not very tight.