There are limited numbers of studies about construction of oud. However we can see lots of books about performance when we look at the Ottoman sources, but the ones about construction aren’t that much. According to labels that reached today, in Ottoman era, earliest craftsmen are Kastamonizade Tevfik, Armenak Kalfayan, and Kosti Ventura. After these masters we see Artin and Ohannes Uzunyan brothers who work as court luthiers in Ottoman.
I was twelve when I started to make oud. What makes oud attractive for me is its sound. After several years of studies I’ve made I saw that each craftsman uses a different type of pattern. Also their sounds are different, too. Ethnicities of known craftsmen are, from the year 1800 to 1980; 30 Armenian, 17 Rum (Greek), and 15 Turkish. We see, in 1920s, Master Manol, Mıgırdiç and Onnik Karibyan Masters who make ouds with today’s patterns. After my studies I’ve shaped 21 different patterns. After that I’ve started to work on them. All my efforts were for to procure sound of original Ottoman oud.
When I’ve studied on medieval lutes (French, German, Italian, Dutch, and English lutes), I saw that Italians solved the problem of sound in 1495 by canalizing sounds with the help of the bars. In 1990, I achieved to canalize sounds with bars and strengthen the soundboard like a leather. That being the case, I’ve reached rotund sounds at bass voices and established the harmony between them and the top bridge. After these studies I’ve reached long and acute sounds for lower strings and rotund bass sounds for the upper four strings. I’ve provided same resonance when strings were open and close, meaning when fingers were on fingerboard and were not. In this way, I’ve reached to original oud sound at the Ottoman oud tradition.
For oud construction innovations are necessary of course. But also some traditions need to keep going. One of the most important traditions that need to be preserved is the usage of hot glue for the construction of oud and other instruments. And the second one is the protection of exterior surface with the “french polish”.
Ouds that I’ve made have 19, 21, and 23 ribs at their bowl. Woods we used are kiln dried and attentively chosen. For ribs we use softwood and hardwood sequentially so as to feature the bass sounds. Woods we use are mahogany, wenge wood, rose wood, palizenda, yellow palisander, ivy, amarat, king wood, iroko, padauk, walnut, plum, and watered maple.
Necks we used for our ouds consist of three pressed pieces to prevent neck shrinkage. We use Caucasian Spruce for soundboard. In the market Canadian Spruce is being used, too. But this type of wood is unstable within cold and hot weathers. Also it chinks.
For varnish, we firstly use packing material and these are a special kind of resin; Indian benzoe and we also use beeswax. After that we apply french polish mixed with sandrocks. As adhesive we never use Cyanoacrylate (superglue) for our ouds.
Oud performers use three kinds of oud:
Zenne oud (woman oud, small): Bowl size: 44 cm, Fingerboard length: 18 cm, Length between two bridges: 54 cm. [18 (length of fingerboard) × 3 = 54 cm]
Large zenne oud (big woman oud): Bowl size: 47 cm, Fingerboard length: 18.5 cm, Length between two bridges: 55.5 cm.
Merdane oud (man oud, Large): Bowl size: 48 or 48.5 cm, Fingerboard length: 19.5 cm, Length between two bridges: 58.5 cm.
Except these sizes there are Arabic ouds which are larger then all, but they aren’t used in Turkey.
Sound flota: With the help of flota system that I’ve newly developed I’ve managed to gather the sound on the soundboard.
80 percent of sounds are gathered at the strong belly of oud after hit to this flota. And remainder 20 percent is gathered at the weak belly.
Also these are necessary for an oud; neck needs to be thin, fingerboard should be made from African ebony, long fingerboard should be assembled by placing it inside the engraved soundboard, and action should be 2 mm maximum and 1.8 mm minimum.