For the last 2 summers i've been teaching theater at Grace Arts Camp here in NE Portland. It's one of the best teaching jobs I've ever had and is full of really talented artists. Among them are my friends Tarik and Julie Banzi who perform around the world as Al Andalus. http://www.andalus.com/
Recently I started taking guitar lessons from Julie in exchange for some repair work i did for them last summer.
Last week after my lesson Tarik showed me this Oud that was in pretty rough shape and said, "Here, learn how to make an Oud." as he handed it over to me.
This Oud is VERY dry and I think it probably sat in a window somewhere for years and years as the top has shrunk quite a bit, pulling most of the top braces from the sides and cracking the top. This also caused some of the marquetry binding to crack a chunk of it is now missing..
The pegbox has shrunk quite a bit as well, forcing it to come apart. I've put a rubber band on it to keep it from snaping until i can steam it all the way off
A few of the slats on the back have come apart as well causing some of the mosaic inlay to fall out.
This is the most ambitious repair job I've ever done for any instrument and i'm really excited to get started. Just a few months ago, at the central library here in Portland i had them pull Robert Lundberg's book "Historical Lute Construction" from the closed stacks just to because it sounded interesting. It turned out to be very interesting indeed one of my favorite things in the book were some pictures of the "Guadalupe Vihuela" which is one of only four period vihuelas in existence.
Here is a little gallery of pictures of the "Guadalupe Vihuela" to click through.
Now that I have this Oud I think its time to go back to the library and look at Lundberg's book a little more carefully. That way I can figure out how best to attack this project.
One interesting thing I learned about Ouds is that the top is left unfinished, just like guitars made in Mirecourt in the early 19th century. This, I'm sure, contributes the the tops susceptibility to humidity changes.
I think the first step I'm going to take in this restoration is to attempt to re-hydrate the wood a bit and see if I can get the cracks to come back together without taking the entire top off.
Stay tuned, and we'll see what happenes.