Danny Lucin: to be a maker, you need to be a player

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This year we present the first in a series of features for Maker of the Year presented by Carbitool, where we take a closer look at the creations of some of our amazing entrants.

Danny Lucin is a musician who makes his own instruments. He leads La Compañia, an ensemble which performs music of the Renaissance and early Baroque periods using historical instruments and performance practices. You can see Danny’s description of an instrument he made here, and also learn a little more in the interview below.

Were you a woodworker before you were a musician, or did you have a special need to make your own instruments?
Always a musician, my father was a fine furniture maker, so I grew up in and around his workshop with his projects and commissions. So I’d like to think some of that rubbed off. To be a maker you really must be a player also, they are tricky beasts to tune.

I studied music at the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne Uni) specialising in jazz trumpet. Soon after graduating I discovered the Renaissance cornetto and was fascinated by the vocal sound quality. To play the cornetto, I created an ensemble which has gone on to enjoy great success. I also became obsessed by their construction and collected drawings from museums of 16th century originals. Over the years I have purchased several instruments from makers in France, Italy and Canada. I do not know of any other makers in the southern hemisphere.

What sort of wood is the cornetto made from? What species were traditionally used?
This cornetto is made from American hard maple, I also use American walnut and cherry. Traditionally cornettos were made from fruit woods, sycamore and boxwood. The denser the wood, the more resonant the sound, and I have also made instruments from wenge and padauk, and I’m keen to try mulga and other Australian timbers.


An inside view of one of Danny Lucin's cornettos in progress – this one is made of wenge.

How critical is the curve and also the placement of sound holes? Or is pitch adjusted by the player?
The curve is not particularly critical to the sound, except that it makes the instrument a bit more ergonomic from a playing perspective. The execution of the bore however is vitally important, it must very accurate, finished well and super smooth to facilitate the flow of air. There are some fabulous originals in European museums. The Italians mainly made curved ones, carved in two halves, decorated with diamonds and covered in leather or parchment. Some instruments in the Renaissance were also made straight and turned on the lathe; these were more prominent in Germany.

The placement of the sound holes is critical to have a properly functioning instrument, and it’s also the size and shape of the holes that modify its tuning. The pitch is also determined by the length of the instrument, and I’m currently making 440Hz (approx. 600mm) to 523Hz (approx. 500mm) pitched instruments.


Danny Lucin’s ensemble La Compañia performs Renaissance and early Baroque music.

Why do you soak it in linseed oil? Is it just to preserve the wood or does that change the sound quality?
The instrument is soaked in oil to preserve the timber, the top part of the instrument is very narrow and gets a lot of moisture from the breath. The oil also transforms the instrument’s sound. After soaking it becomes more vibrant, more responsive, and the tone really opens up.

What’s your workshop like? Do you make other things? What’s the next thing you’re going to make?
Dad gave me a woodworking bench which sits under the window, it’s the third car space in my garage. It’s a great little space, I have lathes, a bandsaw and I’m always adding to my collection of hand tools. My focus is cornettos, it always has been. I have been expanding my range to making them in various sizes for custom orders and I’m currently making a smaller 466Hz instrument in walnut.

Learn more about Danny Lucin’s music at www.lacompania.com.au

Enter Maker of the Year presented by Carbitool at www.woodreview.com.au/moty2023






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