My first instrument, a charango

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Project by gepatino posted 10-10-2016 12:11 PM 757 views 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So far I’ve been learning by myself, taking information from internet these days is so simple, and this site was a great source of inspiration, tips, ideas, it helped me build the confidence to start the next step: building instruments.

I always tought luthiers were kind of wizards, that creating an instrument was a extremelly dificult task. I found a luthier near home that also gives classes, so I started a workshop some months ago.
Ok, building an instrument is not easy but it’s not impossible either. You just have to be extra carefull with some details, and never rush a step. If you feel a bit tired, leave the project aside and continue tomorrow. Guess what… all mistakes are paid with hours of sanding.

Taking about sanding, my teacher told me the luthier work is 80% sanding. I think he was probably trying to encourage me, I could say it’s about 90% sanding. So, if you don’t enjoy sanding and finishing, you could try some more rustic look, but beauty should also be part of an instrument, IMHO.

The charango is a stringed instrument usually played in the NortWest of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and maybe even Perú. It has 10 strings tuned in pairs, the center pair is the only one tuned different being two octaved Es.
From the structure point of view, it’s quite a challenge to make something that supports the tension of so many strings being so small (around the size of a soprano uke), so the neck has to be reinforced with some very hard wood (no truss rods here).
Another risk is having the bridge unglued and making a disaster in the sound board, but so far so good.
The whole instrument was made with native woods:
  • The body is carved from a block of Lenga
  • The neck is Ñire and Anchico (super hard wood)
  • The soundboard is Alerce and Radal (the clear part with and interesting grain)
  • The Fretboard is Curupay, also a very hard wood
  • The bridge is also Curupay
  • The headstock is covered with Radal.

Hope you like it.


10 comments so far

View bushmaster's profile


1250 posts in 1699 days

#1 posted 10-10-2016 02:14 PM

That is one amazing project, definitely one of the best I have seen here. In fact so good that people just do not know what to say, beyond comprehension. Its like it is from another planet. The woods must be from another planet to, never heard of them. I am not musical but would love to hear music from it, maybe you can make a utube video. I vote for a class one designation.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View gepatino's profile


214 posts in 1541 days

#2 posted 10-10-2016 02:55 PM

For those guessing how a charango sounds, here’s an example from Jaime Torres, probably the greates charango player in the world.

My charango is a bigger than the one he’s playing in this video, so the sound is a bit lower (in tone, not volume).

Don’t ask me to play it. I can barely play three chords, maybe I take some lessons and play at least one full song.


View ralbuck's profile


1780 posts in 1683 days

#3 posted 10-10-2016 04:33 PM


Very gorgeous!

Plays too!

Three A+’s!

Hope you get into the daily top 3; it deserves the honor.

-- just rjR

View 1911kevin's profile


47 posts in 1155 days

#4 posted 10-10-2016 10:15 PM

Wow! That is beautiful and you can see the time and skill that went into it clearly, amazing work. Thank you for sharing!

View majuvla's profile


8662 posts in 2284 days

#5 posted 10-11-2016 04:47 AM

I’m not expert in instruments and consider them most difficult for woodworkers. This one looks great and I soppose sound good.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Burbs's profile


32 posts in 101 days

#6 posted 10-11-2016 05:50 AM

Beautiful and making me feel completely inadequate.
Great work.
I would love to play with some of those woods. Can’t wait to see your next project.

-- ---The day I learn nothing of value will be the day I'm laid to rest--- Burbs

View drbyte's profile


723 posts in 3479 days

#7 posted 10-11-2016 04:32 PM

Nice job!

-- Dennis, WV

View oldwood's profile


54 posts in 661 days

#8 posted 10-12-2016 02:51 AM

I have never seen an instrument with a body made from a block like that. Can you tell us more about it, how thick are the sides and back?

View gepatino's profile


214 posts in 1541 days

#9 posted 10-13-2016 02:02 PM

After carving, the walls and back are somwhere around 3 to 4 mm thick (less than 1/64 inch). The ideal is to leave only 2mm thick walls, but I was afraid of ruining it.
Most of the material from the inner side was removed in a drill press with a cup hidge drill bit. Then used a grinder with a round router bit to cleanup.
On the outside it was simpler: rough the shape in a bandsaw, and then use some files and tons of sanding.
Really… hours and hours of sanding.
Up to 120 with a sander, then manually up to 600 grit. (2000 grit after applying laquer)


View oldwood's profile


54 posts in 661 days

#10 posted 10-14-2016 04:01 AM

WOW! 2mm…. that is awesome!

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