A random photoreport on the making of my latest and last plexiglass See-Tar.
Very similar to this previous “tumba horror” case, I received another one. The tumba has been broken into several bigger parts and then glued together with an unknown compound. I have no idea what happened to this beautiful instrument but it is clear that the defect has not really been properly repaired
People then think that ordinary wood glue is not strong enough and use modern synthetic glues to get things solid again. Unfortunately, this is not really the way to go. It is important that the various pieces are put together properly and as quickly as possible with ordinary white wood glue.
So, in this case it was back on. The whole thing has to be taken apart again, the synthetic stuff removed and the pieces made to fit again.
Since several large surfaces are involved, the job has to be done in several stages.
The tabli was also well loose and was the first part to be separated. Then the larger parts were taken apart. In the end, not really much remained…
A spectacular image, though…
Piece by piece, the tumba regained its original shape. Because the parts no longer fit 100% well, reinforcement was applied along the inside in the form of strips of cotton cloth soaked in white wood glue. Holes were filled with a mixture of wood glue and sawdust.
Then the tabli came back on.
The transitions between the different tumba parts are made smooth with some sanding and plastering with wood glue.
Finally, the whole tumba gets a new coat of colour and lacquer. Ready for a new life…
A deer antler hung on the wall. You can find them at old flea markets, or nailed to the wall at hunters’ homes: deer horn antlers as hunting trophies. You can’t do much with them, but for a sitar player you can make a beautiful and useful tool with them.
First choose in a nice and fitting piece, and cut the end generously. Then I make a tapered slot corresponding to the width of the taravs to be operated. A hole is then drilled into it to fit the ornamental tip of the tuning knob, and then I also make the tapered slot suitably concave so that it fits nicely over the tuning knob.
K&K Sound make natural-sounding acoustic amplification products and affordable pickups.
Their Pure Pickup for acoustic guitars, installed on the guitar’s bridge plate, is a very good choice for achieving a rich, natural guitar sound — even without a preamp. It’s one of the best passive pickup on the market, for the musician who wants a warm, full-range signal without worrying about cluttering up their instrument, adjusting onboard electronics, or having to remember to change the battery.
I chose the Pure 12-String: 3-head transducer for 12-string acoustic guitar. The larger pickup heads produce an extra strong bass response and pronounced midrange that sounds great in 12-string guitars. I installed it befor inside a surbahar, which sounds perfect!
The work begins by removing the tabli.
First, the celluloid decorations are removed and then the tumba is separated from the tabli.
A wooden reinforcement with a hole in it is then glued to the inside of the tumba. The jack connector is later mounted there.
Then the transducers are glued to the tabli just below where the legs of the bridge are. That is the most efficient place (according to K&K’s instructions) and it is quite convenient that there are 3 separate transducers.
Finally the jack connector is mounted and the tabli is glued back onto the tumba.
Because the original fragile decorations were damaged too much during removal, I place a new binding of celluloid plastic mother-of-pearl imitation. It fits best with the rest of the sitar’s copious decorations.
Sound samples played by Visjal Auwerx:
K&K transducer only
K&K transducer + EQ
K&K transducer + external mic mix
K&K transducer + external mic + tanpura mix
K&K transducer = Pure Pickup™ 12-String
external mic = AKG C2000B
Another very good looking but cheap and inferior sitar has been transformed into a tanpura, giving it a new life. It is an old and beautiful body with a nice and big tumba. This time I converted it into a regular 4-string female tanpura, tuned to F. The mounted string set can also reach G, but different strings are needed for higher tuning.
Sound sample: PA-sa-sa-SA Sitanpura in F
The scale measures 86cm & string set is
1: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C3
2: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F3
3: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F3
4: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to F2
My friend Christine has made a beautiful cotton protective cover for this instrument. It is completely handmade and custom-made for this tanpura. Perfectly fitting and skilfully finished!
Read also Sitanpura, the Sitar Tanpura mod
I’ve made a set of mankas and one tarav ghoraj for Zach Ferrara.
They are made out of golden dragon snake Juma® blocs. Juma® – the name stands for independently developed and very modern processing material made from a mixture of various mineral base materials, bound in a resin component. Just like Elforyn® is Juma® excellently suited for the production of components and artistic objects such as knife handles, jewelry, eyeglass frames, or music instrument parts. “Produce your own custom items and delight in genuine one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else will be able to imitate.” the website says.
The material is indeed easy to work with and the result feels very natural and pleasant. The optical effect is stunning and has a nice impression of depth. It is definitely very suitable for decorations, mankas and possibly a tarav ghoraj. But I think it has too little resistance to wear to be suitable for a main ghoraj. Elforyn®, on the other hand, does well. Follow this link for Elforyn® examples.
A while ago, I received this mail:
I got the chance to buy an old Rikhi Ram GP Sitar for 40€ only (the 60yo sellers dad died and she kept it since~30yrs ago so I would guess 1970s or 80s).
The sitar looks very good and has the white/gold Rikhi Ram label, but the gourd is broken on two positions or more. Some parts of the gourd they kept, some parts are missing. Someone unfortunately already tried to repair it without any success, the repaired pieces look extremely shitty glued 😀
I would like to get the sitar repaired, but I wouldn’t trust me to do it so I thought Ill contact you as I follow your blog enthusiastically for some time now.
Can I maybe send you some pictures to get you an impression of the damage? Since the sitar just stood around for 30ish years, I would like to get a full facelift done of everything plus jawari of course.
Sören, from Germany
The good news is that the construction on the inside is well done firmly, so that is a good point. I can remove the hard glue on the outside with a chisel and make it smooth again. The tumba is definitely repairable. It does have a few pieces missing, but I can repair them with pieces from another broken tumba I have lying around here.
Once the tumba is ready, I can remove the remnants of that shitty glue on the outside with sandpaper and smooth the surface. A new black wax bond is also applied.
Followed by a finish with new colour & shellac lacquer layers.
The rest of the sitar looks fine. All the pegs are ok but turn very stiffly, the frets are oxidised but of fine quality, a good bridge in horn is present and intact and the joint is tight.
I think this sitar is definitely worth all the work. It is a common good quality Rikhi Ram Gandhar Pancham 70-80’s model that has potential to be a good sounding & reliable sitar. So be it! 🙂
Recently, David Keustermans visited me @ Sitarfactory. He came to Belgium to show his latest sitar with some pride, and rightly so. Please read on for more details about his wonderful sitar.
David started building it in october 2017 @ CMB (Centre for Musical Instrument Building – Puurs, Belgium), starting with the mould which he made together with the mould for his lute project. He then continued working on it at home in the basement until his departure to the Vercors, France, in July 2018. From August that year, he continued to work on it passionately there and by September that year the shell was finished.
The neck had been hollowed out and attached to the shell by November. That hollowing out gave him a good tendinitis, he was unable to play guitar for six months…. and by December the fingerboard was on. He deliberately kept that one completely flat.
In February 2019, he started working on the tabli, which finally got ready in April (finished with the fish holes instead of F-holes, it’s based on Art-Nouveau carp designs, but people sometimes see sharks or whales in there 🙂 )
By September he finished the parda rails, he put in the tuning pegs in January 2020 with the help of a friendly violin maker who borrowed his reamers. By March 2020 the sitar was completed with the pardas on, but no taravs yet. In June, the tarav rail was added, deliberately opting for a system with cithar tuning pins: The neck is from Limba, a type of wood that is quite stringy, and it seemed dangerous to drill about fifteen holes in a single line along the entire length there and then to start pushing tuning pins into it…?
David based this instrument on the Dieter Zarnitz designs during a visit there but he modified Dieter’s plan a little. Dieter Zarnitz’s sitars are symmetrical, while David has given the neck on a slight angle upwards and also a slight twist opposite the tabli.
The tabli is 400mm wide. The neck is 94mm wide. The scale is 920mm (3cm longer than a standard sitar).
This baritone sitar is tuned lower then a regular sitar. It is tuned in B#, which turns out to be the Helmholz frequency of the shell. The extra bass string sounds very good.
Info about the wood of this instrument:
Merisier (from Vosges) is used for the shell, given to him by his father.
The reels are made out of Linde.
The neck and fingerboard are made from Limba.
The tarav rails are made out of Indian Rosewood.
The tabli is Epicea from near Grenoble, given to him by a violin maker (it was a piece meant to make a cello).
The langoot is made from moose antlers reinforced with steel nails
The ghodi is made out of Rosewood
A surbahar string set is mounted.
Have a look
It’s a beauty !!!
This anonymous rudra veena was found by my friend Guillaume CZLT in Bombay Pekin Bruxelles, a shop for second-hand furniture in Brussels. It was quite badly damaged. One of the tumbas was badly broken, the main bridge had been torn off and lost, and all the frets had been worn away. The fretboard looked more like a pattata field. All the frets were loose and crooked on the neck. A cikari pin was broken… and one day there must have been strings on the instrument…?The work started with repairing the broken tumba. I counted 27 pieces (or small pieces) and 3 appeared to be missing. The puzzle was put back together in 5 stages. Fortunately, everything still fitted well and the transitions are usually smooth. A few coats of varnish over the whole finished this part. Colour matching was not done at this stage.After that, the frets were taken in hand. The old aluminium strips were easily lifted out of the holder. I ordered a set of 24 new pre-cut pieces of fret wire Wagner 9671 Nickel Silver Frets, Large/Jumbo, with dimensions (W x L x H): 70 x 2,75 x 3,2 mm. But first the fret holders all had to be made equal and properly attached to the central guiding shaft. And this one was crooked and irregular too. With a little trick I could get all the frets nicely in one row and fix them firmly in place. After that, I made the top even and flat and finally installed the new frets. That looks good!The last part is the new ghodi. A round base that is glued to the neck gets a nice straight surface. On top of that comes a removable ghodi that is firmly held in place by two metal pins. Quite a construction, but in the end it fits nicely on the whole. Because the upper part is removable, you can easily do jawari at any time. Now all that’s left is to put new strings on it…I think Guillaume will be pleased… 😉
Technical info on strings & tuning according to Asad Ali Khan style:
The scale measures 945cm & the instrument is tuned to G#
Cikari’s: steel 0,30mm (N°3) tuned to G#3 (SA) & G#4 (SA)
Baj tar: steel 0,40mm (N°6) tuned to C#2 (MA)
SA tar: bronze 0,56mm (N°24) tuned to G#2 (SA)
PA tar: bronze 0,72mm (N°22) tuned to D#2 (PA)
Kharaj: flatwound bronze 0,92mm (N°20) tuned to G#1 (SA)
Laraj: bronze 0,56mm (N°24) tuned to G#2 (SA)
The scale measures 59cm only and the string set is:
1: 0,58mm brass RW string tuned to C3
2: 0,37mm bronze string tuned to F4
3: 0,37mm bronze string tuned to F4
4: 0,75mm brass RW string tuned to F3
Sound sample: PA-sa-sa-SA tanpura in F