Oud Neck Repair (return to gallery)
How in the world am I going to get this neck re-attatched to the body of this beautiful Middle Eastern instrument?
You can see the small pilot hole where I've started the process of removing the original wooden reinforcing dowel that joins the neck to the body. While the idea of replacing the dowel and gluing the neck back to the body seems simple enough, the reality of joining the neck to the body at the exact same angle as before it was broken proves to be problematic.
I drill a very small hole through the neck block (upper left) to find out how far I can drill the larger dowel sized hole (upper right) without going through the entire block. I drill out the dowel on the neck as well (not pictured). I fabricate a fluted maple dowel with a rudimentary lathe (lower left) and join the three pieces together for a test fitting. My first attempt to get the correct neck angle fails miserably (this is my first Oud neck repair, admittedly), as I discover that the odds of getting it exactly right with a hand carved, tight fitting dowel is only slightly better than guessing the winning powerball numbers. My solution is to use a slightly looser-fitting dowel, and join the three pieces together with a super-strong, gap-filling epoxy. By securing an aluminum angle iron along the center line of the neck (lower right), I'm able to control exactly how the neck is oriented to the body while the epoxy hardens over the next seventy-two hours.
This picture shows how I'm able to control the exact angle of the neck in relation to the body-- a piece of tape marks the center point on the bridge to ensure the strings are centered over the fingerboard, and a wooden block holds up the aluminum arm at the precise angle to ensure the correct string height. Since there is no way to adjust the string height on this particular bridge, the angle of the neck is the only way to control how high the string height will be. If the angle is too steep then the instrument will be too hard to play. If it is too shallow then the strings will buzz on the fretboard. Equally important is making sure that the neck is aligned horizontally with the body so the strings are centered over the fingerboard. I have absolutely no room for error and I DO NOT want to try to remove this neck to try again if I'm wrong in my calculations. Cross your fingers, folks. . .
After the clamps are removed I fill and smooth the tiny gaps on the fingerboard where the neck meets the body and string it up. The neck is positioned for a six course setup, however, the nut is cut for only five courses, which is why the strings appear a bit off-center (you can see the grooves on the bridge where the sixth course would go). My calculations are right on--my only mistake was not filming and posting the owner playing this instrument beautifully when he came to get it!