View Full Version : Renaissance Uke.

Michael N.
09-06-2011, 11:21 PM
Here's my latest project. A Renaissance Guitar or perhaps a Uke based on the model of a Renaissance Guitar.
The earliest Guitar that we know of is now in the museum of the Royal College of Music in London. Made by Belchior Dias of lisbon in 1581. It has 5 'courses', with the top 4 tuned the same as a Ukulele. In fact a Uke player would have little problem adapting to this form of instrument. One might call it the fore-runner of the Ukulele.
The Dias has a string length of some 55 cm's - a little long for a Uke. It is hardly large though. The Violin in the picture will give you some idea of the scale.
There is also an early Guitar (they term it a 'Chittarino') in a Museum in Rome with a string length of just 38 cm's - I think that makes it concert size.

My version is to be made from English Cherry, with a Spruce Top. I intend to string it both as a Renaissance Guitar and then later try the single string Baritone tuning.

I very rarely use moulds in my construction. I prefer to build (usually) directly on to the Soundboard but I do use little wooden tabs to keep everything reasonably symmetrical. I'm departing with tradition and building on to the Back.


The Neck has a very light Cedrela core but is veneered in figured Maple. This isn't the thin stuff that is now commonly used for furniture but the sawn version that finishes around 1.4 mm thick. Veneering at this thickness around the contour of a Neck is a tricky process. I prebend the veneer by wetting the outer surface, placing it on a tube and clamping it with string. It is a form of cold bending. It may take 2 or 3 tubes, gradually decreasing in diameter before it is ready for the tight radius of the Neck. I glue with Fish Glue, which gives a very long open time. The string is applied wet. As the string dries it contracts and adds further clamping pressure. The heel has to be veneered in separate pieces - or at least I haven't yet found a method to do it in one.
The result is a very light yet very stable (and stiff) Neck.


I'll post more when I start the soundboard sometime next week.. . .

09-07-2011, 01:07 AM
Can't wait to see how it will look finished!!!! Good luck!

09-21-2011, 07:14 AM

09-22-2011, 04:58 PM
Very cool. :)

Michael N.
09-26-2011, 01:13 AM
Hmmm. This one is taking it's time. Other instruments getting in the way.
At least the Neck is now all but complete. Just the peg holes to drill and then I can begin the Neck/body joint.
This one has a 'V' joint to the Head/neck - a traditional joint that is also somewhat decorative.


Michael N.
09-28-2011, 05:09 AM

Neck/Body Joint. Basically very similar to the joint found on a Violin. I term it the shoulderless dovetail.


The heel just slots in. No need for screws/nails etc.


The Spruce soundboard with simple (for now) soundhole decoration:


Michael N.
09-25-2012, 11:45 PM
I know it's an old posting. Unfortunately this project had to be sidelined due to other commitments. Finally complete though. I strung it without the re-entrant tuning, although that is still a distinct possibility - as is single stringing.




Beau Hannam Ukuleles
09-26-2012, 03:31 AM
A beautiful looking instrument.I love the shape of a Renaissance guitar/lute/thingy. Did you copy the shape from an existing instrument or make up the "feel" of it??

I'd love to try that heel shape- do you just cut the neck and heel at 45 degrees and glue with a wooden pin or something? Also, I always thought violins had dovetails :)

Michael N.
09-26-2012, 11:04 PM
I had the usual body measurements of a historical instrument. I drew the shape from a photograph - fairly straightforward if you are accustomed to that sort of thing. It won't be exact but it will be very close.
The heel is cut at 45. Just glued on, as is the Neck to the end block. These are pretty low tension instruments. Even Romantic Guitars had that type of Neck joint and they withstood string tension near to that of a modern Guitar. Just goes to show how strong HHG can be. I really did make sure the heel/Neck joint was properly sized though.
Baroque Violins had the Neck butt jointed on to the Ribs, with a few nails driven from the end block into the Neck root. Modern Violins have the joint as shown in my photograph i.e. no shoulders to the dovetail.