Surbahar Kuti Repair

Photo report of a Kanailal & Brother surbahar kuti repair. 

The kutis of this surbahar are very specific. The surface is smooth and only cut with a saw. Original Kanailal replacement kutis are hard to find. When it is broken, repair is the most obvious solution. In this case it affects a cikari kuti. Note the peculiar position on the neck: it is mounted between the first and second tarav kuti.

Kutis are made out of sheesham (sissam) wood. This is a variety of Indian rosewood (Dalbergia sisso) which grows in the Himalayan foothills to Central and South India. Surbahar kutis are rather long. I used a 18cms long piece for this work.

1. Start with looking for a suitable piece of wood.

2. Cut the ball with a saw, sand the surface smoothly and mark the center precisely.

3. Drill a hole exactly in the center. (8mm diameter)

4. Make this hole square with a chisel.

5. Make one end of the piece of wood square as well (8x8mm) and make it fit exactly into the ball.

6. Apply wood glue and lock it into a clamp. Give sufficient time to completely dry out. (24hrs min.)

7. Remove the clamp and start making the shaft round.

8. Finish the joint and make the kuti fit nicely into the instruments neck.

9. Apply some new lacquer (Shellac) over the joint and fix the original deco pin on top.


See more kuti repair here.

Kartar Chand vintage sitar repair

In 2009, Hari Chand presented me an old sitar which has been originally made by him and his brother, late Kartar Chand, in the 1970′s. The sitar suffered severely from a loose joint due to “an unfortunate fall from a kitchen table”…, dixit the former owner. How peculiar that no other parts of the instrument were  broken. Since the owner wasn’t interested in this sitar anymore I was the lucky one to receive it.


During the second half of this year I finally found the time to repair and fully restore this instrument. Here are some pictures about the more spectacular part of the process. For this occasion I installed my home-made steam injector again. It has been serving me well in the past (click here), although its use is not always completely without risk. The steam can be very tricky and cause severe burns quickly. But everything went well. As for the joint itself: the wood was split at 2 positions due to an earlier joint adjustment. That’s why I decided to insert a completely new piece of wood.

Now this sitar is completely repaired and carefully renovated, ready to start a new life. It is a very light weight instrument, decorated in a very refined and exquisite way. There are 20 pardas, 12 taravs and a high quality staghorn jawari. The sound is superb, bright and clear, with an incredible tarav response. Well-known qualities for all sitars built by these two excellent craftsmen-brothers!

Easy loose joint repair

This unknown sitar suffers from a loose joint. The playing string came to almost 18 mm above the last parda. In normal conditions this distance should count only 8 – 11 mm.

The reason why the joint became loose is not determined, but most probably “a small accident” during transport has occured the owner said. Anyway, there is a noticeable crack in the joint…

Since this sitar suffers from more than this (cheap wood quality, a bended neck, and also a deformed tabli is there) and the budget is very limited, I agreed to give it a rather easy and cheap repair: cyano-acrylate glue, penetrated into the loose joint parts, reinforced with a metal locker plate. I saw this before on other “fast & easy repaired sitars” in India. Although it doesn’t look good, it worked out to be very efficient.

In other conditions, the better way of repairing this is described in the Repair section.

Kartar Chand sitar restoration

This early 70′s original Kartar Chand sitar just left the restoration booth. Complete body check-up and new polish has been done by late Kartar’s brother Hari Chand in New Delhi in march 2009 while I was there on a visit. The celluloid mother of pearl imitation parda lanes have been renewed. My part of the job was to refurbish the original pardas and fit them again on the new lanes. I also made and fit new stagghorn jiwaris for main strings and taravs. The original tuning pegs were used again but some taravkuti-holes needed a new bushing.

Note the very fine finger grips on these taravkutis and also the remarkable cherry-round tumba-shape which is very typical on all Kartar Chand’s sitars.

This sitar sounds amazingly bright and has a vivid tarav response. The meends play very easy and the instrument is very light-weighted.

New pardas on Hiren Roy

This old Hiren Roy sitar, brought to me by Arnoud E. needs new pardas and some small repair work. Arnoud provided a full set of new pardas made by Hiren Roy Company, but some of them were made too short. Thus I decided to reuse a selection of the old pardas and fitted them at the end (the last 4, nearest to jiwari).

Also some body cleaning has been performed and together with new strings and fresh jiwari this sitar is ready for another life… finally almost a complete restoration.

Tanpura damage

This small instrumental tanpura has been damaged during transport from Calcutta to Belgium. Frederic tS. has bought it new at Hiren Roy and shipped it by air with Jet Airways. The parcel arrived in Belgium with a slight crack in the fiber case and the instrument itself was pretty damaged. The tabli and a small piece of the neck became loose over 70% of its contour. At the time of departure it was very hot in Calcutta, Frederic said but a newly made instrument from this famous instrument makers branch should be resistant to regular climatical circumstances as they occur very common in that region.

For me and you a unique occasion to discover the interior of such an instrument. The tabli is thin, measuring from 5 to 9mm, out to in and roughly cut with a round chisel. Also the back piece is cut very roughly and irregularly and is rather thin. At the tail a piece of bamboo is mounted and bamboo nails are used to fix the decoration again after the repair.

Just some pictures… (click to zoom)

Neck bend repair

This sitar which belongs to my friend Chico has a problem: the neck has bended too much. The playing string is tilted 14mm above the last pardas’ surface. The neck came up 5mm at the tar daan position. See the photo (left) with the red line. (click on the photo to enlarge)

Bended neckStraight neck

To fix this problem, the sitars neck has to be opened and glued again. The result is yet to be seen on the photo (right) with the green line. (click on the photo to enlarge)
You can see more photos about this surgery on a new page added to the repairs chapter.

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Joint Repair II end.

Finaly, at the end of july we were lucky to have had at least a couple of days good weather with nice sunshine. One of these days I succeeded to finish the polishing of this sitar. I’ ve been making some fresh new polish ready during a previous (short) visit of our much beloved sun at the end of june…

A couple of days later the polish has been drying sufficiently. Time to complete the sitar again by mounting the pardas, jiwaris and strings.