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woensdag 2 juli 2008

Manuel Contreras 1 (1983) / Antonio Dotras Cordoba / Francisco Esteve ELEC Model

This Manuel Contreras dates from 1983, the time Manuel 
Contreras I was in charge. Cedar topped guitar and Brasilian
rosewood sides and back. A 655 mm 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. Strange move
remains the use of Brasilian risewood sides and back. A
narrow grained top with one well repaired crack beneath 
the bridge completes this instrument.

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 tuning machines.

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.

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.

Being very enthusiastic about the first A.D.C. I was able to 
buy a second one on an auction in England. Some features
appeared to be the same but the quality of the soundboard 
on this one is a little bit higher. On the other hand there is
no fan bracing in this instrument. So only a ladderbracing
but a still straight top. As the components were undamaged
I decided to have it a full relacquering job as the beauty 
of the back was allready apparent.

The back can be admired here. Also walnut can 
have its' qualtities in figuring once nicely matched.

The outer heel is a part of the back certainly has
advantages as the guitar is less able to deform
regarding neck to body construction.

I've levelled the fingerboard a bit and lowered the quite
high standard bridge as a heavy bridge has a negative
influence on the sound. In order to make a better angle
over the bridgebone a string saver has been used for
the first string.

The copper frets have been changed for nickel
silver new ones. And the slight damages on the
fingerboard in the lower positions have been 
cured by shaving it towards the head.

In tis case I left the headform the way it was.

It was nearly undamaged as can be studied here.

I think these tuners to be somewhat older so the guitar
could have been built at the end of the fifties.

A small crack in the fingerboard left but is has been
stabilized in the meantime. The well known Calle
San Pablo 28 label. From 1957 / 1958 on A.D.C. 
was situated there. I was disappointed at first 
with the sound result. But having it under tension
while I was on holidays and playing the guitar 
after that period of time I was astonished about
the sound result: Much, much better. These in-
struments deserve attention as the Telesforo
Julve guitars allready do in recent times!

Francisco Esteve ELEC model

This particular model has been built by master luthier
Manuel Adalid under Francisco Esteves supervision.
It is the top of the line electric cutaway guitars in their
collection. All solid woods and acoustic a really
surprising tone. Spruce top, Indian rosewood sides
and back, a cedar neck and an ebony fingerboard.
Scale on this guitar is 655 mm.

The back of the neck has been reinforced with an ebony
layer. The outer heel on this guitar was still more rounded
as the later examples that also have another bridge.

Not the most expensive Fustero tuners but they work 
surprisingly well. I've had the same ones on an Antonio
Duran concert guitar so not a cost saving move...

Clearly visible is the ebony fingerboard and the finely
executed binding. For better playability the neck will
be refretted in the future and before that the fingerboard
will be shaved off a bit towards the head in order to get
a better angle over the bridgebone and a better tone!

The later ELEC models have an ebony bridge which is beautiful
but in fact a bit too heavy. On this guitar, that has been imported
in England by the Juan Teijeiro Music Company, the bridge is 
executed out of Brasilian rosewood. Only in small characters
the name of Francisco Esteve has been mentioned on the label
though it clearly says: ELEC and has been dated 1989.

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