Capo for an English Cittern

I have been asked to make a Capo suitable for a 200 year old English Cittern that was made by Preston of London. Unfortunately, the owner does not have the original capo, but would like one made in a sympathetic style.

English Cittern

There are several good examples at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford including what appear to be original capo’s so these will provide a good source of inspiration.

English Citten Capo As you can see from the pictures, the capo is attached via a hole through the fretboard and neck, this this is then secured with a thumbscrew.

There were two examples in the Ashmolean, one made of ebony and the other of rosewood. They both sported brass through neck bolts with a thumbscrew in the fretboard side for tightening the capo over the strings. Hopefully I will be able to find a thumbscrew that will look in place on an instrument of this age rather than having to resort to a modern equivalent.


English Citten Capo

English Cittern Capo in the Ashmolean






English Cittern Capo Prototype mk1

I decided to make the English cittern capo from some 3500 year old Bog Oak left over from my first acoustic build I also require some form of bolt and wing nut in order to attach the capo to the neck. Unfortunately I was unable to find anything that would be visually in keeping with the age of the instrument so I had to improvise.

To solve the problem, developed my own wing nut, but embedding two brass nuts into a piece of Bog Oak which was then shaped so that it could be easily turned by hand. I then used a 3mm brass bolt that would fit through the holes in the neck and embedded the head into another piece of Bog Oak that was then chamfered to fit the indentations on the back of the neck.

Next I shaped the capo’s bar to have the correct radius for the Citten’s neck, and finally lined it with some rubber so that it would not damage the strings.

Unfortunately, when testing on the actual instrument, there was a slight alignment issue causing the capo not not be 100% centrally aligned but hay that’s what prototypes are for. However other than not looking even on both sides, it does work as intended. luckily this was only a prototype so I now have to remake the capo with the hole off centre.