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dinsdag 10 juni 2008

Vicente Parres / Juan Pons Guitar / Thomas Prisloe Guitar

This simple guitar drew my attention as its'
sound was unbelievable: Though simply made with very
modest materials the Valencian builders often manage
to built good sounding instruments. In 1907 Vicente Parres 
appeared in the trade guides with a guitar factory (fabrica) 
at Carrera de Melilla, Traste 1 , num. 25 and with the
office (despacho) at Caballeros 55 bajo Valencia.
In the period 1908 – 1915 Parres y C.a. were at Carretera 
de  Melilla 23 and the shop was at calle Caballeros 55.
In the general catalogue of 1912, Juan Ponce, successor

of Parres y Compania, the workshop was at Calle Caballeros
55, Valencia. As the Felix Manzanera collection holds 
two guitars of these two luthiers they must have some 
importance in the Spanish guitar history.

This particular guitar has the old Parres head but the
the Pons soundhole decoration. For that reason I
assume it to be a somewhat later (under Pons built)
instrument. Pons took over the business of Vicente Parres 
in Valencia. Though this guitar lost its' label there is
one known label that says: 
Fabrica de Guitarras
de Vicente Parres
Fabrica: Carrera Melilla traste 1. no 25
Officinas: Caballeros, 55, bajo
Valencia (Espana)

Though really basic in construction I was really surprised by 
the sound of this instrument: Beautiful rounded, loud and with
a quick attack. That this was possible from a small plain guitar
like this with a ladder braced soundboard and mahogany
sides and back was astonishing. As for the soundboard it
isn't even straight grained but on the contrary the quality of
the mahogany is really good. In the Spanish tradition the
soundboard is glued to the sides by individuel spruce blocks.

This is the typical head form that can be found on the instrument
made by Vicente Parres (1880) but that instrument has been
equipped with wooden tuning pegs as was usual at that time.
Another feature is the wooden nut in combination with not
using a zero fret. These tuners could be a later addition
though they appear on other instruments of around 1900
The front of this head has been veneered with a mahogany
layer on the spruce (!) used for the neck. This use of  spruce
for the neck is another move pointing towards the Valencia 
guitar makers. This neck is still remarkably straight.

These bridges were common in the nineteenth century but
I didn't knew they were still used at the beginning of the 20th
century. No use of a bridgebone. Simply carved from
one piece of wood. These type of bridge can even be found 
on an Ibanez labelled instrument of the thirties and a later
Telesforo Julve guitar. Chances are big that all these
cheaper instrument from the well known Valencia builders
are coming from one and the same factory, at least a
 lot of parts!

Two other typical Valencia used features can be seen here:
The use of a softer, grey coloured wood for the fingerboard
and the brass fretwork of course.

On this picture it can be concluded that the wood used
for the top wasn't quarter sawn and the seam hasn't been
placed in the middle. The fingerboard had a greyish colour
and was a bit soft. In order to give it more strength, I decided
to "ebonize" it for a tighter fit of the new frets. To replace
the fingerboard would have been a possibility but that's 
too far away from this furthermore original guitar.

The neck has been made of spruce as was done by more Valencian 
guitar builders. And believe it or not: Still absolutely straight.
To my knowledge Telesforo Julve (Valencia) did this also on their
student range guitars.

Besides the fact that the neck was allready painted with
red lead paint (minium - initially ment to prevent rust on iron)
I wasn't aware of the fact that most cheaper guitars of that time
from Valencia were painted this way. It can even be a
guide  in determining the age of a guitar from Valencia!
 A small piece in the neck was simply rotten and had to
be removed. No big deal but the color red I changed into 
a darker brown. The curious heelform can be found on the 
Pons guitars as well. This instrument can be dated around 1912. 
There were different "Constructors de Guitarras" active
around 1900 and among them Telesforo Julve and Andres
Marin. The guitars of the latter and Parres / Pons have some 
features in common but the plantilla sometimes differs.

This simple Andres Marin guitar can be found on internet.
Marin is also a Valencia based luthier and this plantilla
resembles that of the unlabelled guitar above. Moreover,
the label has been glued over the blocks that are placed
over the center seam of the back in the same way it has 
been done on the unlabelled guitar.

The old tuners have been mounted again though the 6th string
knob isn't working properly. Of course fresh strings and then
after a day: The sound.... It is unbelievable what comes out
of this relatively small box. Beautiful basses , loud and percussive
higher notes but with a sweetness I only heard from a
more simple Vicente Arias guitar. To my believe the space
between soundhole and bridge which is quite large and
without any fan bracing is responsible for this sound
together with the blocks that are used for gluing the top
to the sides and that are placed about 1 cm from each other.

Of course the bridge itself could attribute to the sound
but one should expect less sustain with this construction.
To make this instrument a concert instrument as it has
these qualities, a new fingerboard with a better fret
spacing would be advisable as the fret inserts are a
bit sloppy placed as is the bridge that I allready moved 
about 2 mm towards the soundhole. Intonation could be
better but tonecoulour and the way this guitar
reacts to plucking at different places is great!
I placed a label inside for people who want to investigate
after me: Parres y Pons but chances are big as well that 
this instrument comes from the Andres Marin workshops.
Just recently the collection of Felix Manzanero is showing
two Parres guitars and I need to say that this instrument
most likely falls into this category.

Thomas Prisloe Signature Model

A rather mysterious model from this New York based 
builder as Prisloe had some special series built in Spain.
They come under the name Pavan guitars and are built to his specs. 
But the label from this particular guitar states the soundboard to be 
produced by Mr. Prisloe himself. Well, the name has indeed been 
placed several times on the inside of the soundboard. Price wise this 
guitar falls into another category as the more regular Pavan guitars
such as TP-10, TP-20 and TP-30. Another difference is the use of
Engelmann spruce (?) Prisloe uses for his own handbuilt models.

Some outer visible specific things on this serie can be seen
on this guitar as well. The ebony reinforcement at the back
of the neck and the headshape that is reminiscent to the
well known Torres design. Year of production: 2008. After
some mail contact things are becoming clear: It was a
needful move after having received some PAVAN guitars
with a cracked top. Mr. Prisloe states this to be in 2008 and
followed the procedure of building a new top himself for
about 6 times. A very explainable move and as the sound-
board still is the "heart" of a guitar it can be this good!

The headshape with some additional carvings which
is of course a classic one on Spanish guitars. The square
spaced room for the tuner rollers is a bit of a Fleta move
though more builders have used it in the past.

We think the tuners to be from Schaller. They work very well!
Mr. Prisloe states the tuners to be from Gotoh: Concert model.
They work very smooth and in fact better than the Spanish
Fustero tuners placed on most top concert Spanish guitars.

A narrow grained soundboard that is almost white, probably
due to its' life in the suitcase up until now. This  instrument
is dated 2008 ( series 6 ) Engelmann spruce is more white
compared to Sitka spruce. But simple daylight already does
a lot to the color of the spruce soundboards over time.
Thomas Prisloe handsigned this label not withstanding the 
regular Pavan guitar labels that aren't signed at all.

Presented here is the soundboard bracing. Mind you, the
transverse bars still have to be placed on this picture of
course. Another remark has to be made as this soundboard
has been "arched" a bit. The advantage is that it becomes
stiffer and withhold the string tension better while making
the sound board thinner. Often called a "doomed"  top.

Also the rosette deserves attention as it is a really 
tasteful one and finely executed. This rosette appears to
be exactly the same as on the Thomas Prisloe concert
guitars from 2008 ( Entirely built bij Prisoe in New York)
Some remarks can be made about this guitar. It has lots' of 
volume and it vibrates really well in the lower registers. 
The higher notes are there as well and even with a nice bass 
support probably due to the way Prisloe places his bracing 
on the soundboard: a 6 fan bracing with closing ribs but 
the bass and treble side are divided in exact two parts. The 
bass side having more struts (1) compared to the treble side.
The number "6"  on the label most likely is referring to the
6 PAVAN guitars that were delivered in his shop with
a cracked top. He replaced them with a fingerboard
entirely made by himself. Mr. Prisloe wasn't sure about the 
number of guitars he rebuilt in this manner. Another
example we found with the number 13 inside so this
process remains a bit of a mystery.

A nice shot of the GOTOH tuners with a visible screw
at the bottom of the plastic knobs. Thomas Prisloe started 
the Santa Fe Spruce company to provide other luthiers with
the so called Engelmann spruce soundboards.

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