Restoring a Nahhat

1:26 pm Music, Oud

This is a 1955 Georgi Hanna Nahat oud which I inherited about three years ago. It was sitting in a late friend’s storage who had rescued it years earlier from someones garage. I don’t remember the exact story but the oud was severely abused when Mimi found it and she kept it with the hopes of one day restoring it. She passed away before she had a chance to do that (may she rest in peace).


Nahhat Pic 1

Notice that the oud had been “improved” by a gorilla, replacing the original Nahat pick-guard with a linoleum pick-guard glued on the face using epoxy glue. The oud abuser also added another piece of linoleum on corner of the face, probably didn’t want to throw away an extra piece of linoleum they had remaining.

I set out to restore the Nahhat, not only cosmetically, but also with the intention of making it perfectly playable. I showed it to a great oud maker and restorer, Najib Shaheen. He commented that the oud requires a lot of work, including the heavily time consuming and intricate work of carving out pieces of wood the size of salt grains, to fix the missing decorative mosaic pieces such as the missing pieces in the following picture:


The face needed major work as well, as it was cracking in several places and buckling in others. The face would possibly have needed to be removed to fix those. The bowl had separated from the face (soundboard, to be scientific) along a several inch long crack.

Making the oud playable, would require a new fingerboard to have a reasonable action. That would require major work on the neck, removing the old fingerboard, making sure the neck is still solidly attached to the oud after fifty some years. If not, then even more structural work will be required. In short, the oud was in a very sorry state. Najib’s schedule was very busy, and the amount of work needed was enormous (and thus very costly).

So I decided to restore the oud myself. Now I should probably disclose a few factors about my life that might be considered as obstacles by the uninitiated:

  1. I have no trust fund from Bill Gates and, as far as I know, he’s not going to change his mind about that.
  2. I am no carpenter and have certainly missed all the oud making classes offered in college
  3. I have 8 extra hours everyday which traditionally I have used for sleep. I can sacrifice some of those but not many

To summarize, I don’t have the time, money or expertise necessary. But I am doing it anyway.

To start, I payed a visit to my friend George Peacock of Peacock music in San Francisco . From him I bought a little hide glue, veneer wood for the pick guard, and a slab of ebony for the fingerboard. He also told me I am crazy. He also gave me some advice such as I have to very careful, and do things very slowly. I am not necessarily very patient, but I am doing that. I also payed a visit to my local hardware store. Picked some tools and equipment for dealing with wood. Some of the stuff was expensive. But I am still within my budget.

Here’s what’s done so far.

  1. Removed linoleum and epoxy residue from face
  2. Carved and attached a pick guard
  3. Improved face buckling (but not fixed it completely)
  4. Cleaned grime, oil, and other organic material from face
  5. Located and fixed some of the braces separated from the face. The others will be fixed after I attach the new fingerboard. Why, I don’t know but it seems like a good idea.

Now comes the task I have been dreading all along. THE FINGERBOARD.

So I am going to get off my desk, and get to work on the fingerboard. I have to do some measurements and calculations to do, and I also have to decide whether it would be better to remove the fingerboard or attach one on top of the existing one.

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