Renaissance Workshop Company
The foremost manufacturer of early musical instruments worldwide

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Questions about Making a Musical Instrument

We know that J. S. Bach always kept himself his instruments in excellent repair and also has the invention of at least three instruments attributed to him: the lute-clavier, the pedal glockenspiel and the viola pomposa (or violoncello piccolo) in an epoch when every player was to some extent an instrument maker and every instrument maker an artist.

The last forty years have seen the revival of instrument making by professional musicians. Today it is no rare to find a professional musician performing on an instrument of his making, particularly in the field of early music where the instruments are not so knotty and their mechanisms are much more accessible to the performer.

From the point of view of our musical predecessors, and many of today's musicians, the interest in instrument making lay not in merely solving technical performance problems, but is a manifestation of the love for music, the interest to know its deepest principia and is part of being a musician. The musical fulfilment and understanding encompasses the art of instrument making and it is not understandable the divorce between two strands of what should be closely bound.

The complexity of modern instruments that require in many cases also large-scale machinery, grew away the players from the makers in the first half of the twentieth century, but when playing early music a balance of art and feasibility may be re-established when the playing and making of instruments are united.

Can I really build a musical instrument?

The short answer is YES. Read on for a more verbose answer to this question.

Why should I build musical instruments?

Satisfaction and Pride
There is nothing quite so satisfying as showing off your finished instrument to friends, colleagues and family and then telling them that you built it yourself.

Imagine people impressed and your satisfaction of hearing the rich sound of a instrument you built yourself!

Not only will you develop a sense of accomplishment and pride by building your own instrument, but you will develop a complete understanding of how your instrument works. This intimate knowledge will help you know how to take care of and maintain your instrument, such as tuning, re-stringing, and making small adjustments to keep it playing its best.

Building from a kit is also a way to get and own a musical instrument suitable for the performance hall for a fraction of the cost of a comparable finished brand-name instrument. RWC is a factory-direct operation so you don't have to pay the middle-man mark-up.

Essential tools to build an instrument

It's impossible to give you a definitive list of tools required, partly because no two projects are identical and partly because each person has different preferences and budget. The best way to approach this question is to break down your project into discrete operations, and then the tools required for each operation will be fairly obvious.

To spread out the cost, and to avoid the trap of buying tools you think you'll need only to find later that you've wasted your money, buy tools only after you are certain you need them. By the end of your project you will have acquired a complete workshop exactly tailored to your preferences and budget.

In general, the kits of the Renaissance Workshop Company don't need special tools because all the hard work is already done. When necessary, come with some difficult to find tools or instructions to make your own.

When I should start?

People often over-think the building process to such an extent that their project is delayed by months, or even years. They could have built one or more instruments in that amount of time, and have all that knowledge and experience under their belts. We're not telling you not to think things through, but we do want you to start making your instrument as soon as you can. Don't try to account for absolutely every hypothetical problem before you start building. Just start building. In a very short time you'll have plenty of non-hypothetical issues to deal with.

What is a Kit?

A Kit is essentially a non-assembled bunch of components (pre-manufactured parts) which come with instructions to enable the construction of a project without all the hassle of going all over the place to purchase all the bits and pieces (because we have done it for you already!)

Should I build my first instrument from scratch, or should I buy a kit?

We have had many successful first-time builders do it both ways. Making from scratch means that you will buy a set of materials (a non pre-shaped parts kit) and you will make all the parts.

Unless you already have a fully-equipped workshop, in which case you obviously can prepare everything yourself, a kit is indeed well worth buying since it will provide you with all the parts needed for building an instrument and save you buying big power tools. A kit is a very good way to start with instrument building.

The most important thing is to build, not to be so intimidated by the process that you never get started. If the idea of bending the wood or slotting some parts is what's keeping you from getting started, buy a kit, because the most important thing is just to build the instrument. How you build it doesn't matter. If it turns out well and you enjoy the process you can build the next one from scratch.

I want to build a perfect musical instrument even though I have no experience as a woodworker or instrument maker.

It's good to aim high, but it's also wise to keep both feet on the ground. Unless you are a skilled and experienced instrument builder, the most you can realistically expect for your first instrument made from scratch is a good one. And if you make it from a kit the result can be much better: you are on the way towards your superb and shiny instrument of your dreams.

Your first instrument will not be perfect, and if you expect it to be you're setting yourself up for disappointment. That doesn't mean it won't be a very good instrument. There's a lot to learn when you're building premium instruments. Brand-name or luthier-name instruments are not perfect either. Remember that every single one of the most renowned luthiers, was once novice and probably they did not have in the beginning the information and help that you can get.

Building a musical instrument is an incredibly rewarding experience. But it can be very frustrating, if you do not have the appropriate help.

RWC has been helping folks just like you build quality musical instruments for over 40 years. After this time of helping customers build our instruments, we produce better kits and assembly instructions. We include many helpful hints, suggestions, pictures and drawings. Your job as builder of one of our kits is to do some basic assembly work, sanding, finishing and installing the hardware and strings. Most of our kits only require a basic assortment of hand tools. In addition, RWC staff is here to help you with any problem you might have during the construction process by phone, fax or email.

Though previous woodworking experience is a bonus, it isn't necessary. Many of our customers have never had any previous woodworking experience and have had great success with our kits. This is because we have designed kits that go together with minimal fitting, cutting, and shaping. You can always educate yourself deeper in woodworking. We recommend books in our Bookstore. Most of them are very good.

Can I build it cheaper myself?

If you have access to a well-outfitted woodworking shop and don't have to purchase any tools at all, maybe. But if you have to buy tools, probably not. We sell our kits to many professional instrument makers.

Can an instrument built from a kit be good enough for musical purposes or be as good as a professionally made by an expert instrument maker?

Everything made by a human being has started from a kit. A kit is only a set of materials needed to build the instrument. It can be of different quality and be more or less appropriate for their purpose. The best instruments maker start always all their instruments from a kit.

The kit can be designed for professional builders in which case no instructions are needed and the parts usually have an unfinished status or even be pieces of blank wood, metal and other materials. If the kit is designed for first-time or not skilled builders, the parts have to come practically finished and a good step-by-step instructions, pictures, tools and other aids should be attached.

The grade of completion of the parts and the quality of the materials distinguish among the kits from different providers.

The RWC kits include exactly the same top quality materials of our renowned finished instruments designed for the most demanding musical artists.

How finished are the parts of the RWC kits?

We prepare our kits so anybody should be able to get a high end professional instrument at home and without lutherie experience nor dedicated tools.

That means that all the work needing especial tools or difficult to make, is already done for you. To assemble our kits you can find time consuming tasks, but never difficult tasks. Time, patience and care (but not previous knowledge) is all what you'll need.

In general, the most time consuming task is the finishing. As a reference, to build a double manual harpsichord you can dedicate about 150 hours. For a flute, one hour can be enough.

Is everything included in a RWC kit?

Unfortunately not. Due to transport restrictions we cannot include varnish and other inflammable or hazardous chemical products in our kits, but we could send them separately at an extra cost derived for the especial transport requirements.

When necessary, you will learn from the instruction manual how to make simple and cheaper tools to substitute expensive dedicated lutherie tools. Some times such tools are included in the kit.

In some instruments, decorations and accessories can be sold separately.

Please, refer to the product information to know what is included in each kit of your interest. As a general rule the kit includes all the materials to complete the kit including all the small parts with the indicated exceptions, some tools, a step-by-step manual, a full size template or drawing, a set of pictures of the making process, the license, the warranty and post sale support.

Can an occasionally builder get the same quality that a professional builder gets?

A professional person is anyone that makes a living from that activity. A professional maker can be good or not and can have forty years or only one day of experience. A professional maker can have a huge background theoretical knowledge or only some ideas about its own work. Every professional had not any experience at first.

Many kits are sold to professional builders. Most of them have learned or improved their skills following the RWC instructions that are the result of many years experience and comments of other customers.

Can an occasionally builder at home, with the same kit, get the same quality that an experienced builder with a well equipped workshop?

Yes or not, depending basically on the patience and the capacity to understand and follow the instructions.

The RWC kits include exactly the same top quality materials of our renowned finished instruments designed for the most demanding musical artist. Many RWC kits are sold to professional builders. Most of them have learned or improved their skills following the RWC instructions that are the result of many years experience and comments of customers.

All the parts, in most of the RWC kits, are pre-shaped up to the grade of only cutting, gluing and finishing is required. Most of our kits are designed with all the information that a first-time builder needs and can be assembled at home with only standard and easy to find basic tools. So the machines and tools of the workshop can help, but are not necessary at all.

I have decided that building instruments is what I want to do for a living. What's the best way to get started?

Instrument making can be a tough business to break into, and many people find the transition from hobby to livelihood just isn't worth it. We have seen plenty of people fail not because they lack building chops, but because they lack business acumen. It's a nice dream, but before you give up your day job build a couple of dozen instruments and sell them. Then look at what you're making per hour and reconsider if this is really something you can make a living at.

Can I take on a particularly challenging project like an spinet, hurdy-gurdy or a guitar as my first instrument?

We have had reports from many newcomers to both lutherie and woodworking of successful complex instrument as their very first lutherie project. Even when they have built it from scratch, they also report that these instruments were not perfect, but they were very happy with the results, and often encouraged by their success to make another, better one.

If you're also interested in building other, more simple instruments, it does make more sense to start with one of those, then "graduate" to a more challenging instrument. But if all you really want to build is an instrument, you go right ahead.

How does RWC kits compare with their competitors?

A kit from any reputable manufacturer will likely make a fine instrument. Nevertheless, our customers prefer the kits from Renaissance Workshop Company largely because they include both a very good set of materials and clear instructions including a fully dimensioned plan, an instructional manual that take the builder through the construction of the instrument step by step, photographs further illustrating each stage and because all the kits include free access to the online technical helpline for any advice on construction, setting-up or playing. Moreover, all the kits are good replicas or are based after the best instruments existing in the world.

We have hundreds of testimonials from happy customers and musicians.

Can I modify the kit I buy to make it a different shape or size?

We don't recommend trying to alter a kit that has pre-manufactured parts. If you can't find a kit for the instrument you want, you'll be better off buying from a vendor that gives you a deal on a package of wood and materials instead of buying a kit with manufactured parts and a plan for a different instrument than the one you want to build. You'll end up doing more work trying to alter a kit than you will building from scratch.

What can I do if, by mistake, I spoil a part?

We provide spare parts and accessories for our instruments, so do not think that everything is lost.

Should a part be defective or missing from your kit, a replacement will be sent out right away.

Can I get the instruction manual to see how difficult the construction of the kit is?

If you have read the previous answers, you already know that we prepare our kits so anybody should be able to get a high end professional instrument at home, without lutherie experience nor dedicated tools. That means that the construction of the kit is not difficult at all. You will obviously need some time and patience but not previous woodworking or metalworking skills, though those are an advantage.

If you still have doubts and you would like to read the instruction manual before buying the kit, we can sell our instruction package including the manual, drawings, template, pictures, etc as described in each product page in the paragraph 'plan' at the stated price. Then, if you decide to purchase the kit in the next three months, we will deduct the price of such plan form the price of the kit.

More information:

Renaissance Workshop Company Ltd.
c/ Viella 8. 28040 Madrid. Spain
Tel: (+34) 91 450 30 50
Fax: Not available. Please use the email.
Email: formerly the early music shop's workshop



Copyright © 1999 Renaissance Workshop Company Ltd.
Last modification: 03 de mayo de 2019
Phone:(+34) 91 450 30 50