I was contacted by a client who had played some of my Spanish guitars in Music Villa, our local guitar store. He liked my guitars and asked if I would build for him a replica of a flamenco guitar that he purchased in Spain. He wanted the new guitar to be very much the same as the old except that he wanted a cut away as well as a pick up in the new guitar. Of course it was my pleasure to build it for him. I really enjoyed examining the model guitar. The sound board was a bit larger than I usually use and had a 660mm scale length. The scale length is the length of the actual vibrating string. The client stated that he had purchased the model guitar in 1974 from the maker in Grenada. I took a couple of days examining the instrument and taking measurements. The client was kind enough to leave the model guitar with me during the building of the new one.
All images can be zoomed in when clicked.
Here are some photos of the model guitar made by Eduardo Ferrer in Spain. It is in very good condition and beautifully made. It features real friction pegs which are a true pain to use. The new guitar uses geared pegs from Brian Burns.
Detail photos of Ferrer interior. I placed a mirror in the guitar and just stuck my camera through the sound hole to take the photos.
I used a half pencil to trace the outline of the model guitar.
I used the guitar tracing to create a new plantilla for my guitar. A plantilla is a "half plan" profile of the guitar and I use it for all subsequent operations such as solera building, bending mold making, plan drawing, etc...The plus four is the amount of compesation I measured on the model guitar. Compensation is a little extra string length built in to help the guitar play in tune.
I drew the cutaway using a French curve set. The client wanted the cutaway near the 15th fret.
A rib bending mould crafted from the new plantilla. I use a Fox style bender to bend my sides or ribs.
The ribs are bent. I made a separate plantilla for the cutaway side as well as a separate bending mold.
While placing a small light inside the guitar I used the small bits of tape to map out the exact location of the internal structure of the instrument. I had to be careful not to damage the instrument.
This is the resulting plan created by my mapping. I referenced all measurements from the center line of the guitar.
These photos show the construction of the solera for this guitar. Each model of guitar that I build gets its own solera. The solera is a building platform upon which I construct my Spanish guitars.
The straight edge shows the curvature in the Solera at the center of the lower bout and the ramping of the neck area to set the neck angle for flamenco playing. Flamenco action is quite low so this is a ramp of 3mm.
The ribs fitted to the Solera
The rosette drawing. I created this rosette with input from the client.
A test rosette.
The rosette construction process
Creating the scarf joint for the headstock. I make the initial angled cut on the band saw and clean up the surfaces with a hand plane and a flat sanding plate.
Inlay of the back purfling. I use the laminate trimmer to get the opening close and then the groove plane to make the fit as good as I can.
Using a hand plane to thin the top. The rosette is installed and I thin the top from the inside surface. This is my favorite part of building.
This is the jig I made to create 1mm thick plates for bridge patches and such. The wooden plane rides on the plastic shims on the edges. The sand paper holds the plate in position during planeing.
The top is glued to the neck extension. The top/neck assembly is placed precisely on the Solera using the center line and the ribs are held in place with clamps.
Here I have used hide glue to attach tentellones to the ribs and the top. It takes about two hours to go all the way around . I take about 45 seconds or so for each little piece. There is a little squeezout to be taken care of near the cut away and everything will get a little sanding clean up.
I am going to make a mould to cold laminate solid linings for the back of this guitar. I like to wait until the ribs are affixed to the top before making a drawing for this mold. You could use the plantilla to make the mould but my experience is the shape of the guitar never exactly conforms to the plantilla. By using the actual ribs in place to make the drawing my linings are much more accurate.
The lining mould in action. I make the solid linings from strips of veneer and adhere them to one another with Titebond glue.
The linings are in place awaiting the back
Shaping the back braces. Here I used a router and a fixed spacer to notch the ends of the braces. I then smoothed the transition between the two levels with chisels and mini-planes.
Notching the back linings to accept the back braces. The first image shows the platform I placed the router upon to make the initial pocket. I then clean up the pocket with chisels.
The top/neck/rib sub assembly waiting for the back. With a little clean up the back is ready.
Gluing the back to the body of the guitar.
The box is closed.
I have made the bindings and purflings for the guitar. I used string as a clamp while the glue dries between the bindings and purflings as shown. These will get bent in the same bending forms I used to bend the ribs.
I use tape to clamp the purflings in place first. The purflings are the small decorative stips inside of the bindings. These were finicky and I had to make a couple of attempts to get it right.
After I am satisfied with the purflings I use bungee cord to clamp the bindings around them.
Some photos of the guitar with finish on it. The finish is French polish.
The new owner enjoying his custom flamenco cut away!