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zaterdag 11 juni 2011

Vicente Arias Castellanos 1833 - 1914

A special Vicente Arias event has been held in Florence 2005.
This marks the growing popularity of this important builder.
There are 28 instruments known in existence all over the world.
13 instruments were to be seen at the event. Organized by
Stefano Grondona. I was invited but I had a performance.

As far as I know one of the 3 Vicente Arias guitars with a double 
back. I bought this one on a flea market in Belgium being not fully
aware of its' value and tonal qualities. Arias was the only luthier in the 
19th century whose work came close to rivaling that of Antonio de 
Torres. The other two double back guitars do have two holes in the
inner back and are both made in 1900. Javier Riba owns one in
pristine condition. It has never been out of Spain. Check youtube!
The Granada based luthier John Gray made a copy of that guitar.

Vicente Arias liked the use of green in his bindings. He often
repeated himself but not in the design of his rosettes. Most of them
differ from each other.  The sides are bookmatched as can be seen.

The exquisit workmanship of Vicente Arias cannot
only be admired by the way he made his instruments:
His rosettes are a challenge as well!
When he had some trouble with his health he ordered 
two rosettes at Manuel Ramirez's workshop.

I haven't seen labels of the later guitars that had to be
built in Madrid so if someone comes up with a later
label picture I would be very pleased.

And here it is! Found on the internet.

This back shows us the typical darkcoloured Rio Palissander
that was used being so common in the 19th century.
The tuners are a replacements.

A nice shot of the inlay work on this guitar.

For those who are willing to take a chance in copying
Vicente Arias: Feel free to use these measurements
and let me know your results!
But remember the thicknesses of the parts used
are thought to be very critical with this luthier.
Further in this blog better drawings with more
information regarding dimensions. In 2013 The Granadian
guitarreros John Ray finished a copy of the Arias of
Javier Riba. He ended up very close and as the lacquer
still has to loose its'  solvents it even will get better!


A view from the inside.
I hope that I pleased the forcers for Vicente Arias'
guitars to know a bit more about these remarkable guitars.
I still hope that someone comes up with a site dedicated to
this great luthier that also gives us the pictures of most of the
instruments of Arias still in existence. The double transverse
bracings in the lower bout have vanished in the other two
double back Vicente Arias guitars made in 1900.

Clearly visible here is the odd placing
of a double bar in the lower bout which is thought
not to be original but I doubt that regarding
the glue traces and the modelling of the bars.
After having restored a 1898 Vicente Arias
(a new fingerboard as the former restorer didn't
use the right scale ment by Arias) I discovered
the same double bar in the lower bout also
in this guitar. It has to be there!

I have this instrument for over thirty years now.
At the time I purchased it on a flea market I didn't
have the money to have it properly restored.
Though I'm a lot more expierenced now I certainly
would have had it done by restorers like
Bernhard Kresse. But on this picture you can
see I did my best at that time not even being
aware it was such a valuable instrument. 

Some pictures taken during the restoration process:
Clamps placed on the outer back to prevent more
cracking in the future. The picture at the bottom
shows the guitar the way it came to me with a
partly loose back allready.

Worldwide I allready got a lot of requests to make some
drawings of this guitar with dimensions of course so here
they are. Please take notice that the two transverse bars in
the lower bout are supposed to be non original.This was a
remark Bernhard Kresse made but he immediately responded
that with this sound he would let it be this way. The stiffness 
of the spruce used for the top of this guitar has never been 
determined so I cant' answer that question.  The thickness has 
been mentioned on the drawing itself. According to John Ray 
the thickness of the soundboard is only 1,6 mm. I measured it 
around the sound hole which in fact is not reliable! Apart 
from that one must keep in mind that the soundboard is doomed 
a bit, a feature that makes it possible to construct even lighter.
Just behind the the bridge measurement of the "dooming'
proofs it to be 5 mm at both edges.

As has been stated earlier and can be seen from the
other pictures provided allready, this instrument has a double  
back. The inner back was made from one piece of wood
and it was completely flat as opposed to the outer back
that is convex as is still common. The space between the
two backs is around 15 mm. The depth of the soundbox
gradually goes from 90 to 95 mm (outer dimensions -
to lower bout.)

woensdag 2 juli 2008

Nicolas Bonafon around 1840

The fully restored Nicolas Bonafon guitar.
It has all the details of a mid 19th century guitar.
In my opinion most parts aren't original anymore .
It was quite common to modernize older instruments.
E.g. the hightened fingerboard and the head.
"Die Geigen- und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter
bis zur Gegenwart" is a very useful Dictionnary.
You can download it but it is not a very easy
task. It shows the following text:
Bonafon, Nicolas. — Paris. 18. Jahrhundert Eine Viola,
die dem Aussehen nach dem Anfange des 18.
oder Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts angehört haben dürfte,
trug den Zettel : Abb. 49.

Here's the restored Bonafon guitar with it's unfinished soundboard.
I leave it this way because I'm looking for someone who has a good solution
in treating the marks that has been left by wood insects.
The guitar has been gamma radiused so there aren't any living
insects left, hopefully! Regarding the age of this guitar: suspects are
that the fingerboard mounted up to the soundhole is not original.
The Dictionnary "Vanne" mentions Bonafon as a Paris based luthier.
A pochette (travel violin) is known to be made with the following label:
Nicolas Bonafon (sic) Luthier à Paris 1799
V. Etiquette n° 62."

For the back and sides I used the wood from
another older guitar that was of little value.
The orange colour I obtained with a staining process.

A close look at the bridge where I restored the
outer parts and even made new dots with ivory
inlays to have it close to it's original condition.
Even the soundboard is not free from wood insect traces.

The back of the head with the EON Tuners
with ebony tuning knobs. The design of this head
resembles that of some René Lacote guitars as
well as the later produced Thibouville Lamy
instruments (around 1860)
It is clearly visible that the head is not exactly
centered with the neck. Suspects are that the head with
these later tuners is an addition as well.

A nice picture of the sides that shows the uneven depth
of the soundbox along this instrument.

Here's the Bonafon guitar in its authentic situation.
The bridge ends have disappeared.
The fingerboard is in bad shape.
The sides and back are too far
gone as a result of wood insects
Though this guitar was not that expensive I decided
to bring it back to life and in a playable condition.
It was worth all that trouble!
A nice warm and clear tone with remarkable
sustain comes from this instrument.
Tonecolour and balance between the different strings
proves to be absolutely astonishing.

On this picture you can see I removed the fingerboard
and back allready. I presumed the sides could be used
again but that would have been a lost case.

The back of this guitar also shows the holes
made by wood insects. The back was also damaged
too far especially on the ends.
It was a one piece back as can be seen
on other pictures I've included.

The original label on the new two piece back.
The wood came from an old german guitar that was
furthermore of little value.

The well known EON mechanics were fitted on
this instrument. Just by selling these ones I
would have all my investments in this guitar back!
Note that the tuners appear to be mounted the wrong way.
In fact, no: This is the way these tuners work the proper way.
Compare this to the same tuners on the Thibouville Lamy
guitar also on this site.

Again the old situation: The sides just broke off with
little effort. 

Here are the newly made sides.
I bowed them with the soundboard plantilla as a model.
The original back that looked much better than it really was.
Still beautiful to look at as it has a fine grained and striped
piece of maple. (second picture)

To reassure people who really want to
stay close to the original. The poorly
conditioned inner part!
This guitar would have ended as garbage
and another reason is that there are numerous
guitars of this age still in existance!

The back finished with the new wood parts.
The struts are the original ones

Rod Capper "Celaje" guitar 2000 / Augustin Claudot guitar (1810 - 1820)

In Auckland New Sealand the birth of this guitar
took place. It has been built in 2000 by Rod Capper.
He gave it the name "Celaje"  which means "Painting
of the sunrise" very poetic indeed. It is in now good
condition and has a warm and friendly tone.

The back and sides of this guitar have been executed
with Indian rosewood. Rod Capper is known to use
native woods as the climate in New Zealand allows 
it to grow useable hardwoods there. The bridge has 
been made out of a native wood called Jarra. Maybe 
not visible on this picture the back is showing some
deep carvings on this furthermore very nice looking
instrument. Together with the relaquering of the back 
the frets will be dressed and the fingerboard will be
flattened out if needed.

The headstock that likely is provided with Schaller tuners 
to my believe. They do their job very well. This guitar will
also be equipped with an ivory topnut as string spacing
in fact is a bit of a personal one and I like  slightly more
"room" between the first string and the outer end in order
to be able to make a proper pull off execution.

The rosette is quite intriguing as it is very refined.
Though the combination with the darker cedar would
ask for another color setting to my opinion it remains
a remarkable one. My taste for Rosettes is personal
of course.

Under his label he placed another smaller label where
one can find his signature. On the bigger label one can
find the year and month of production: May 2000.
The number is 5 so it probably was the fifth guitar
in that year. In an E-mail states Mr. Capper this to
be a concert instrument and it has those qualities.

By clicking on this picture you are able to study the 
bottom of the bridge slot which is surprisingly V
shaped. According to Rod this is to increase the
contact area and thus boosting the energy transport
of the strings to the body.

I think it will not be very surprising but to bring a guitar
back in an immediately playable condition and have the
lacquer brought back in a like new condition asks for
some hours investigating. But the guitar is worth all
that additional work. Of course a good set of strings
will be the final move on this instrument that normally
finds itself in the 5000 Euro's price range.

Augustin Claudot

This french early romantic guitar has been built
by Augustin Claudot who was a member of the
well known Claudot Family of violin makers atMirecourt.
Though affected by wood insects this particular
instrument still has a wonderful sound.

This picture clearly shows us the soundboard before restauration.
In fact I was forced to make some radical decisions regarding
reparation. It all worked out very well!

The back of this Augustin Claudot guitar has been
done with maple as are the sides of this instrument.
This whole instrument has been treated with
Gamma rays in order to kill eventually existing
insects. It should last now for the future.

As on his violins Augustin Claudot allways stamped
or branded his instruments. His violins are said to be made
with nice woods and great craftsmanship.

A detailed shot of the bridge that clearly shows
that there are no bones used. The neck angle has to be
perfect in order to be able to play comfortably.
It still does!

Manuel Contreras 1 (1983) / Antonio Dotras Cordoba

This Manuel Contreras dates from 1983, the time Manuel 
Contreras I was in charge. Cedar topped guitar and Brasilian
rosewood sides and back. A 65,5 scale is provided and
of course an ebony fingerboard.

These kind of coloured rosette was most used on guitars 
made by Manuel Contreras around these times. However, 
the exact rosette as this one we haven't been able to find yet.
The soundboard has been provided with a traditional 5 fan bracing.
These 2A class guitars seems to posess a bit more the traditional
Madrid (Jose Ramirez) sound and I can confirm that but only
the real beauty of its'  sound was detactable after I removed the
rather crudely placed scratchplates (even layer on layer on the
higher string side) and the exchange of the badly modelled
bridgebone. Absolutely handbuilt but not by Manuel Contreras
himself. The guitars that have a hand signed label are the 
premium concert guitars but often built by Ignacio Rozas.

A beautiful piece of wood has been used for the back and
sides which makes this instrument a beauty. A narrow grained
 top with one well repaired crack beneath the bridge.

A non signed label which could point towards a guitar
second to their top model (2A) and most likely made 
by one of his workmen. Absolutely handbuilt anyway.

The head that looks the same as on the 1A model.
And of course the Fustero tuners and the inlay in the head
that can be found as well on the 1A model. However the
outer ends on top of the heads are normally a bit sharper
on the later Doble Tapa models but the earlier ones do show
more similarities. The outer heelform isn't the same
as on the double tapa models of the mid eighties.

A nice shot of the Fustero tuners that are hand engraved
as was done by this company from Barcelona on their
higher end models.

A shot of the back that still  is in pristine condition.
The soundboard shows some play wear but nothing
serious. We compared this instrument with the somewhat 
later double tapa models and the plantilla (contours)
of the body differs from these models which can mean
two things. As in a small workshop like Manuel Contreras
had the use of only one soundbox model would be most
explainable. What is of relevance is the comparison
between a slightly earlier signed Contreras and this one.

On the sides the use of  Brasilian rosewood becomes
even more obvious. Nicely matched as was common.

The use of this Brasilian rosewood for a non signed guitar
is of course remarkable. There are no markings inside this
instrument so the mystery is still there but anyway:
Playability is great and the sound can concur that of
a signed instrument from the Contreras workshop.
Probably Contreras worked the same way as Jose
Ramirez did: If there were any flaws on the 1A meant
guitars they were labelled 2A or not signed. On this
guitar the "flaw" could be the ebony used for the
fingerboard, in fact third quality because of the small
spots that can be detected at various places. It is of
course not of any influence to the sound of this one.

Antonio Dotras Cordoba

I recently obtained this guitar for very little and not
that I'm in need of a guitar I'm allways curious to
learn more about several makers. As Antonio Dotras
Cordoba, based in Barcelona has been mentioned in
the Jose Romanillos dictionnary it awakened my
interest in this instrument. It has not been built with
the highest grade of materials nor has it been finished
with the utmost care but its' sound was remarkable
allready though there is a lot left to be done.

The headform is allmost universal what made me think
it to be a cheaper imported guitar from Valencia. You can 
think of Hijos de Vicente Tatay or other Valencian makers
but the plantilla is bigger. In fact the soundbox is longer.
This instrument is equipped with a 3 piece fan bracing.
Probably the soundboard has been kept a bit thicker and
there is where something is left to be done but we
need to do that with care.

As the soundboard will be thinned around the edges
the guitar as a whole will be stripped and entirely
lacquered. The neck profile can be adjusted and the
fingerboard will be stripped from its' paint as well
and provided with nickel silver frets.

The bridge is ok and not even that roughly modelled.

The soundboard shows us a not really quarter sawn
piece of wood. One crack in the upper right end but
that is not a very tricky spot.

As I allways collect parts of old guitar tuners this is
no big deal but probably I will mount some better tuners 
on this guitar and reshape the head a bit. As for the label
it says: A. Dotras Cordoba - Calle San Pablo 28 what
makes it easy to place in time as Dotras had his workshop
on the Calle San Pablo 5 from 1920 untill 1957.
In 1957-58 he was at Calle San Pablo 28 and around
the year 1963 Vicente Carillo Cantos and his wife 
Gabriela Casas Fornier went to work for Dotras 
Cordoba in Calle Ancha, Barcelona

Here the guitar has been entirely stripped but it is
becoming allready clear that not all the damaged spots
can be cured as they are too deep in the wood.

The guitar hasn't bee treated that well maybe because
it was "just"  a student guitar so in order the give it
back "some of its' glory" we had to reshape the head
and the two vertical sleeves for the tuners.

The insert for the crack has been made here.
For most guitar players it would be reassuring
but in fact very little could have happened if
we had left it the way it was.

By putting the guitarhead against the wall the earlier
damages have been done but making the head slightly
thinner we can start all over again.

And indeed, most of these guitars were lacquered
in a quick way. This time 8 layers of thin Alkyd spray 
paint were applied to get this result. The scale of this
guitar is 645 mm. The width of the topnut: 52 mm.

And surely you can comb your hair in the shiny back.
When the lacquer has been hardened out it is allways
possible to polish the back to a less shiny appearance.

The rosette is fresh again and I've added an extra 19th
fret that simply is in need for some demanding pieces.

The old original tuners were worn out and had too much
play so to make it playable the addition of new tuners
was the best solution.

No this is not the label in the guitar here above. I've added it 
to show that there were 3 different labels when Antonio
Dotras Cordoba was situated in the Calle San Pablo 28 which
is a bit strange as the Romanillos dictionnary states him
to be on this adress only in 1957-58. But three labels in
such a short time is a bit astonishing.

A signed and dated label could be a sign of superior quality
instruments as can be seen here above.

The label presented here above is also present in the
guitar I described allready. But you can see here a
more complex rosette and most likely an ebony
fingerboard which points towards a concert instrument.