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maandag 5 mei 2008

José Ramirez III clase 1 A 1980 and 1981 / Jose Ramirez II 1945

This 1980 clase 1A model was built by Enrique
Borreguero who's father was a very fine luthier
as well. Very good condition though the fretwork
was worn out. When placing new frets, the
fingerboard will be flattened out keeping in mind that
the upper bass side allways has some give to let the
lower string vibrate freely. Apart from that the
action at the bridge can be corrected for optimal
playability and small damages to the fingerboard
itself can be cured.

Both sides and back are remarkably straight grained.
Maybe not that attractive but it helps for optimal
stability of the wood regarding cracks in the future.

This label states that between this example and the following
guitar 400 guitars clase 1A have been constructed at the
Ramirez shop. It was booming business in those days.
Apart from the superb sound, most striking detail in comparison
with most other José Ramirez clase 1A guitars is that the sides
in the soundbox are not strenghtened with a layer of cypress
as was common or even partly covered with a rosewood
layer as can be seen on the Camara models. No, this
guitar has been entirely covered with a rosewood layer from
the inside of its' soundbox. So no solid sides but instead
of cypress, rosewood has been used. This message puzzled
Amalia Ramirez as well though she thinks it to be another
experiment executed by her father José Ramirez III.

José Ramirez III clase 1 A (1981)

This eighties Ramirez guitar has been obtained quite
recently. Though it suffered from some humidity damage
its sound was wonderful. Huge volume and the tonal
qualities are exceptional. Beautiful rounded tone for
all frequency registers. You should listen to the Ramirez
guitar on one of the Andres Segovia Youtube movies:
Andres Segovia demonstrates different timbres of the
guitar. The same sounds!

Though the humidity has caused a crack behind the bridge
that was deformed I had to make a device in order to bent
the sides of the crack back. There was enough wood so
after the operation it could easily be glued together.
To my surprise it had a significant effect on the overall
tone production: even better!

For those who are keen on labels: the blue rounded Ramirez label
is a sign of quality and the eighties Ramirez guitars are known
for their sweet voice. This one has been made by
Juan Garcia Ray. Though it bears the number 6 which
stands for Arturo Sanzano. I recently visited the Ramirez
workshop in Madrid where they looked it up for me.
Juan Garcia is no longer member of the workstaff.
There is a site where they give you an explanation of all initials
they used up until 1991. Amalia Ramirez states that
their best instruments aren't allways built by the best craftsmen
as the combination of woods, circumstances while built and
tension between the different parts also attribute to the
final sound result.

Jose Ramirez II guitar (1945)

Presented here is a Jose Ramirez II guitar from 1945.
It is well known there was a shortage of about everything 
just after World War II and the Civil War that ended in 1939.
This example has a spruce top with a seven fan bracing.
Ebonized fingerboard with copper fretwork. Brasilian
rosewood bridge with the well known ornamentation
from that period. Some odd things can be found on
this guitar as it has the bigger Blue / white label normally
found on the higher end student models. But the label
has been signed in blue ink (probably the maker) and
most likely afterwards with "J. Ramirez" done by (???)
Scale length: 650 mm - Length of the body: 477 mm -
Neck width: 50 mm (at top nut) Upper Bout: 255 mm
Waist: 218 mm - Lower bout: 342 mm - Depth: 
Varying from 80 to 90 mm (Bottom)

It is obvious that the soundbox has been built with
Cypress but this guitar lacks the golpeadores found on
a real flamenco guitar. Also the bridge height itself is
that of a classical guitar. This instrument produces a
somewhat dry but sweet and "complete'  sound. Very 
even in all registers. In the book "The Ramirez Collection"
written by Brian Whitehouse there is a sound example
included of a 1946 guitar built by Jose Ramirez III.
This guitar is slightly bigger but has the 50 mm nut
width and a seven fan soundboard strutting as well.
The 1946 guitar has been built with better materials
as on most Ramirez guitars of this time a fairly wide
grained soundboard can be found.

Some people will say: Mahogany veneered but close
inspection learns otherwise: This wood is too fine
grained. The typical head form also found on his
concert models is there and the use of metal rollers
can be a later addition as are the tuners as a whole.
Probably this guitar was fitted with tuning pegs
regarding its' weight. a cedar neck that has been 
executed very good. 

In order to make this instrument playable again I had
to shave the fingerboard a bit towards the head. By
that time it became obvious that the fingerboard had
been ebonized in the past. I matched the color close
to the veneering of the head and placed new frets.
As the original top nut was broken I changed it
with an ivory one and I had to lower it a bit as at
that point the fingerboard had been lowered by
about 2 mm. As the frets are a bit higher now this
guitar plays much better though the width at the
nut could have been a bit more spaced.

I suspect these tuners to be quite old as well. They
still work well but aren't securely mounted. The same thing 
can be said about the restorations on this guitar. And
the question remains: "are they original" as the
thickness of the head varies. So I think this guitar
originally was provided with pegs. These tuners
gave too much problems so I decided to change them 
as well. Schaller tuners have been added now but
being too long for this guitar another extra move
was necessary: The Lyre had to be removed.

These tuners work very well and the original drilled
holes in the head could be reused again. A must!

A simple but gracefully executed rosette. Jose Ramirez II
however will not be remembered as a Rosette maker. 
Some of his guitars even had Rosettes made out of simple 
concentric circles. We have to remember there was a 
shortage of all kinds of materials. This kind of inlay can
also be found on Ramirez guitars of the thirties and even
the following rosette from a Domingo Esteso guitar from
1930 has some similarities.


As for labels: The site of Guitarrasramirez speaks of
the white / blue label being used in student models only.
However there are several guitars from the thirties and forties
that have the larger blue label but aren't meant to be student 
guitars. It will probably count for the fifties guitars onwards.

A picture of the bigger blue / white label but signed
anyway. In the middle left the name J Ramirez can
be found but this can be a later addition. The fact that
the signature has been placed partly over the label and the 
wood surrounding it confirms this instrument to be a
genuine Jose Ramirez II. James Greenberg from 
Zavaletas guitars who holds an incredibly inventory
of older classical guitars confirms this big signature
to be from Jose Ramirez III. Hopefully Amalia
Ramirez will confirm it as well in the near future.

Around 1945 there weren't that many luthiers at work
in the Ramirez workshop so maybe we can solve the
mystery about who placed it. The top of this guitar
has been mounted with individual blocks and the 7 fans
are quite small in width (4 mm) and height (3 mm).
Also the seam between the two halves of the back have
been glued together with blocks. Besides the label
this guitar has two stamps: Both near the heel block on
the soundboard and back. Most likely a sign that it has 
been built in Madrid and not in Valencia though the
neck to body construction looks quite Valencia!

Amalia Ramirez states that her father sometimes 
signed the older guitars and then stopped for a while. 
After seeing this picture she states that the signature
does not belong to her father (Jose Ramirez III) but
possibly to her grandfather.

As I already explained this is a Valencian type of neck to
body joint. But it is known that Barbero also constructed
the heels this way. The inner heel however looks entirely 
hardwood to me and the form resembles a lot the thirties 
Santos Hernandez heels.

A comment on the bridge has to be made here as the
form as well as the inlays and the mother of pearl covering 
of the stringblock is pointing towards Ricardo Sanchis 
Nacher. These kind of bridges have been seen on other 
Jose Ramirez II guitars of the forties.

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