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Braces · Attaching the soundboard · Fingerboard · Finishing · Gallery of the completed oud

In January 2002 I received an Oud as a gift. This was a Turkish oud made by Cankaya Music in Istanbul, Turkey. It was modified for better sound and playability by oud maker Najib Shaheen. A few weeks after I received it, and after the urging of a few individuals, I considered the idea of building my own. Being quite frugal I thought that I could make my own oud and save some money if I ever wanted to buy another one. With some measurements and initial advise provided by Najib Shaheen, I decided to begin the oud. I have several years of woodcarving and woodworking experience, so I wasn't new to the subject. However, I consider instrument making to be the most refined form of woodworking, and I knew that I had much to learn, mostly patience. I decided early on that I did not care when I finished it. Shortly after I began the project I joined an on-line oud forum. I discovered from this source a man who makes ouds based on those of the early 20th century luthier Hanna Nahat of Damascus. (Nahat ouds are highly regarded, rare and very valuable. Many professional oud players use Nahat ouds, among them Simon Shaheen.) He published a book detailing the construction of an oud based on the Nahat design. The book is titled "Oud Construction and Repair" by Richard Hankey. This book will be the primary, but not only source for the construction of this oud. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
March 2002. I made the face pattern from a photo of an 1920's Hanna Nahat oud. I considered using my own Turkish oud, but liked the rounder shape of the Nahat.
August 2002: The profile pattern is simply half the face pattern made of 1/4 material. I had some masonite on hand, so that is what I used.
Neck block roughed-out on the band saw with table tilted 45 degrees. I stayed well away from the layout lines in order to carve it to the final shape.
End Block before shaping.
This is one of three walnut boards that I bought from a fellow woodworker. It was his father's wood, so it is at least 40-50 years old. It has lots of color and nice grain.
I will keep the swirlier end towards the neck where it undergoes less bending. I probably have enough of this wood for two, maybe three ouds.
The board resawn into rib blanks and planed to just under 3mm. Incidentally, I have decided to use the metric system in building this oud. It presents certain advantages over the imperial system in this application.
I rubbed about three coats of Minwax Antique Oil Finish into a scrap of the walnut to see what the finish might look like. The walnut took on a nice amber-red color with the application of the oil.
The bending iron I made for about $20. I used 3" aluminum tube (3/16" wall) and screwed a cover over the end to keep the heat in. The whole thing is bolted to L-brackets and the MDF board, which incidentally does not get hot.
The heat comes from a 200 watt incandescent bulb mounted in a porcelain base, mounted to a nipple and ceiling-lamp bracket bolted to the board. I wired up a rheostat so I can control the heat. The aluminum gets very hot and I don't have to turn the bulb up very much.
Bending iron heating up. It takes about 3-5 minutes and it is ready.
The end block carved to shape and sanded smooth.
The neck block shaped and smoothed.
The Spreader Jig. The back is constructed using an open form method. Instead of using a mold, i.e. a positive image of the inside of the back built up of many pieces of wood like a boat hull, the neck and end blocks are screwed to bar of wood at precise locations. In this case, the length from the neck block to the outside of the end block is 48cm, minus the final thickness of the ribs (about 2.5mm) at the outside of the end block. The advantage of this type of construction is that one is forced to bend the ribs precisely to their final shape, rather than forcing the ribs against a mold and gluing them together under stress. Since I have very little experience bending wood, I have yet to develop the skill to achieve this precise shape. I prepared extra rib blanks in order to do this.
The spreader jig with end and neck blocks attached. The extra length of the bar serves no purpose. I didn't bother to cut it off.
A close view of the neck block. One can see the screws which attach the square block to the bar, and the single screw which holds the neck block firmly in position.