Renaissance Guitar Kit from Music Maker’s Kits

| November 25, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Renaissance Guitar Kit from Music Maker’s Kits is a good beginner kit that produces an unusual guitar design. As we shall see, it is not truly a Renaissance guitar, but rather a much more modern six-string guitar inspired by the look and construction of a Renaissance instrument.

About Music Makers Kits

The kit is made and sold by Music Makers, a Stillwater, Minnesota-based musical instrument and kit maker in business since 1978. The company has always focused on kits, and currently sells over 70 percent of its instruments in kit form. Hobbyists are their primary market so they focus full-time on designing kit parts that fit together well, and on writing clear, fully-illustrated assembly instructions with good customer support. Music Makers is probably best known for its harp designs, selling several hundred harps per year (either in kit form or finished), but also manufactures kits for mountain dulcimers, hammered dulcimers, guitars, banjos, mandolins, and a few odd items like kalimbas, psalteries and hurdy gurdies.

What is a Renaissance Guitar?

By the way, “Renaissance guitar” is not an absolutely precise term, as during this period of history guitar-like instruments were going through a relatively rapid evolution of design in the number of strings, body shape, size, headstock angle and decoration. However the general description of a Renaissance guitar, classified as a Gittern (see photo, right), is of an instrument much smaller than the modern guitar (even being mistaken for a ukelele), with four or five courses of strings, a decorative rose in the sound hole, and a significantly angled headstock. It’s main musical use was for strumming chords during ballads and dances, and the best instruments had the right balance of tone and volume to cut through the sound of other instruments in the renaissance band.

Renaissance guitars used a steep headstock angles, similar to the Lute’s 90-degree headstock but not as severe. Higher headstock angles were used to increase the pressure of the strings against the nut. This helped to overcome the limits of string tension that could be achieved with gut strings of the day. The steep angle is not needed on instruments today due to the ability of nylon and steel strings to take a higher tension.

A traditional decorative element of the Renaissance guitar is a rose design in the sound hole. Instead of being carved into the soundboard, these roses were made from layers of parchment built up to the desired effect.

The Renaissance Guitar Kit

As shown in the photo at left, the Music Makers Renaissance Guitar kit is a six-string instrument with styling and construction features that evoke the Gittern. Despite using modern nylon or steel strings it uses a severely angled headstock and other design cues of its namesake.

Though previous woodworking experience is a bonus, it isn’t necessary. It is helpful to know how to glue and clamp pieces of wood together to make a firm joint. Although a total novice could build a kit, he or she would definitely benefit from supervision of a friend or family member with some wood-craft experience. However Music Makers reports that many of their customers have never had any previous woodworking experience and have had great success with the kits.

Basically your job as the kit builder is to do some basic assembly work, lots of sanding (or what Music Makers calls character building), finish work, and finally – installing the hardware and strings. For example the kit comes with the shape of the neck, heel, and peghead already shaped out, but just need some sanding for final feel and finishing. The sides of the guitar come already bent from two layers of solid walnut, so there is no paper-thin layer of veneer to worry about sanding through.

There are a few options available. A precision cut wooden rosette is available that can be glued over the sound hole to give the instrument a more authentic Renaissance Lute appearance. Other options are a tortoise-shell pick guard, pearl marking dots for the fretboard, carrying bag, guitar strap with mounting buttons, a finishing kit and steel- or nylon-strings.

The design philosophy of this kit is to have it go together with minimal fitting, cutting, and shaping. Those are some of the reasons that we can recommend this kit for beginners. The others are that Music Makers has woodworkers on hand to answer email and phone calls during normal business hours, and most problems are easily handled. They supply replacement parts and help the kit builder take care of such mistakes as drilling oversized holes for pins or eyelets, touching up wood filler to match surrounding grain, adding decorative inlays, rosettes or decals to cover blemishes, etc. However another reason for confidence is their Warranty on kits. If you return a kit within one year of purchase, regardless of reason for return or stage of construction, they will issue a refund or credit towards other merchandise. So if you botch the build and want to give up, you can get your money back (for the kit only, not shipping, etc.).

However hopefully you won’t give up on the kit. Music Makers will assist with parts that need to be replaced, and with advice on how to overcome any difficulties encountered. For a fee they will even finish assembling the kit for you.

The kit comes with a good set of instructions with drawings. You can take a look at it here.

Building the kit requires a basic assortment of hand tools such as:

* Hammer
* Wood glue (Elmer’s)
* Files
* Wire Cutter
* Screwdriver
* Pliers
* Sharp Chisel
* Sandpaper
* A Few Clamps

Some electric hand tools will certainly speed up the process and would be worth purchasing or borrowing, such as:

* Electric Hand drill
* Electric palm sander
* Electric jig-saw
* Electric router for rounding over edges.

Building from a kit is often an economical way to get a performance quality musical instrument. A pre-built instrument is $699 while the kit is $399 so the savings are substantial. And of course there is always the satisfaction of showing off your finished instrument to friends and family and then telling them that you built it yourself.

As with this kit, what we at Guitar Kit Builder love about kits is that not only do you gain a sense of accomplishment and pride by building your own instrument, but you also develop a complete understanding of how the instrument works and is put together. 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.

Learn more about this kit by visiting Music Makers Renaissance Guitar Kit.

Category: Acoustic Guitar Kits

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