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woensdag 2 juli 2008

Antonio Duran Ferrer guitar 1974 / Domenico Fischetti (born 1905)

The Granadian school of guitar building has much
history to offer as they mostly stayed close to the
great guitarreros of the past. Even Antonio de Torres
seemed to have studied in Granada. In later times
the influence of Jose Ramirez III and Rodriguez
can be detected. The Granada guitars normally
have a quite modest plantilla but when the popularity
of builders like Jose Ramirez grew, one of the leading
luthiers of Granada, Eduardo Ferrer and his son
in law, Antonio Duran choose for a bigger
plantilla. The scale of this guitar is 66 cm.
It has a 7 fan bracing with two closing bars,
in fact very traditional, especially in combination
with the French polish technique they often used.

A nice back completes this guitar that is fairly light as
opposed to the instruments of Jose Ramirez although
the plantilla reminds these instruments a bit. Besides
this lighter way of construction they often built with
a domed top, another feature that makes it possible
to construct lighter while retaining enough stiffness.

Ironically, this head form still can be found on the Casa Ferrer
guitars but it resembles also the guitars of Juan Roman Padilla.
The latter even produced guitars for Casa Ferrer as has also
been done by Rafael Moreno Rodriguez among others.

I've showed this guitar to Stephen Hill, a guitarreros
in La Herradura, a town at the seaside and about 80
kilometers south of Granada. About my remark
regarding the crudely shaped top nut he laughed
and said: "I haven't seen that much properly shaped
top nuts from Spanish guitar builders". That was
the reason I made a new one out of ivory as also
the spacing wasn't done correctly: a player wants
a bit more space from the first string to the edge
of the neck what it fact makes it easier to make
a good sounding pull off.

A rather strange move on this (and other guitars)
guitar of Antonio Duran is the use of inexpensive
tuners though most likely from the Fustero company.

The label has been signed and dated (1974)
No marks or initials by another builder have been
found though it is of course possible that Duran
has built it himself. Unbelievable as he lost an
arm in an accident but continued to built.

A nice and fairly low Brazilian rosewood bridge that has
a kind of a reinforcement plate of spruce glued to it
at the inner side of the top. Maybe due to his love for
the flamenco way of building he really liked.

A nice shot from the side of this well preserved guitar.
These graceful heels can be found still on the Rafael
Moreno guitars and he most likely recognized that.

The love for the guitar in fact can be seen here. Carefully
shaped heel construction as can already be seen on other
pictures here above.

After having played this guitar for a while I've concluded
that there were more qualities in it to discover. Therefore
I've changed the top nut into an ivory one and with the 
string spacing I like. But besides that the lowest frets were
worn and as a whole all the frets were only 0,9 mm high.
For pull offs a bit higher fret wire works much better and
because they are more "substantial" tone improvement was 
an extra surprise. And to finish everything in a proper way 
I've replaced the bridge bone as well into an ivory one.
The new fret wire dimension is 1,2 mm in hight.

In the summer of 2018 I was just walking down the 
streets of Granada near the Plaza de Ayutamiento where
I stumbled onto the street "Jesus e Maria" in the San
Matias Realejo district. Before I did realize it I stood 
in front of the little shop of Raphael Moreno from whom 
I knew he had worked under Antonio Duran Ferrer. The
two even became more like friends and Mr. Moreno built
different guitars for Antonio Duran. "Could you tell me 
by several pictures wether if you actually built an instru-
ment for Antonio Duran"  was my question. After study-
ing the pictures I've showed him he was absolutely sure. 
And Jose Lopez Bellido stated: " When Rafael says he 
built it, it is so!" And indeed, even the tuners were made 
by the Fustero company as I allready expected. 
Mr. Moreno was anxious to learn in what condition the 
guitar was. "Superb" was my answer and he just smiled.

Domenico Fischetti

At first I must state that I'm happy with all the people
who are helping with information regarding some more
obscure brands, names and the like. For that reason I also
like to give the information generally provided from some
people of ILSA (Boom - Belgium) an international school
for luthiers (guitars and violins). They were able to tell me
that this luthier has been described in the Vannes dictio-
nary and besides that in the Malou Haine reference book. 

Domenico Fischetti is said to be a woodworker that was born in 
Catania (Sicily - Italy) in 1905. He started as a woodworker spe-
cialized in the finer woodwork. It brought him to building guitars.
At the age of 25 he moved to Brussels (Belgium)where he opened 
a workshop for repairing and constructing guitars and again the
finer woodwork things. The Vannes dictionary further mentions
his finely crafted work and choice of woods.

He must have made more than one guitar of which this
brand stamp is proof. Probably he constructed his own
tuners as they are of a very simple design but do work 
well (after a cleaning process!) The same thing can be
said about the rosette around the soundhole: No frills,
just simple concentric circles. His craft can be admired
once opening the guitar which was absolutely neces-
sary because of the loose braces, probably caused by
humidity (bad storage).

The inner woodwork deserves admiration to my believe
but not only that: The woods used are of a premium qua-
lity: Brasilian rosewood for sides and back, a fine grained 
top and an ebony fingerboard. Fretwork could have been 
done better as a proper rounding of the frets after levelling
is a must to my believe.

The back came off quite easily as it was already partly loose.
The inner heel is the biggest problem most of the time but by
injecting some hot water and taking care (and time) I succeeded
without any extra damage.  7 fan bracing with two closing ribs
and soft wood individual gluing blocks for the top. All braces
have been meticulously formed. The top is a bit doomed and
certainly not too thick so I expect it to be a vibrant sounding
instrument once restored. Fischetti must have had a guitar
from Antonio de Torres in mind.

As a slight neck reset can be done now, I probably will place a
glue lining for the back that has more width. A new inlay on the
sides will be necessarily. Other reason is that the curves of the 
sides didn't follow that of the back anymore - Often the transverse 
bars on the back are placed against the sides and under higher
temperature they tend to push the sides away by getting a bit
longer. That problem can be cured now as well.

The sides that clearly fall into the heelblock 
made out of one piece of wood. The Spanish way.

A double transverse brace that I would recommend as 
the guitar is better resistant to the strong tension of the
strings. The soundhole reinforcement has been very
neatly done. All details have been derived from a
Torres guitar which may have been offered to Fischetti
for restauration during his stay in Brussels.

Reinforcements for the sides and ment to keep the braces 
in place.

The bridge has also been carved out of a piece of 
Brasilian rosewood. To my opinion a bit too heavy
constructed and it could have been done a bit lower.
As the bridge is quite narrow it better should be
not too high. Tension forces tend to deform the
soundboard in this manner. It has't happen though
until now. Strange thing is that the compensation 
of the  lower and higher strings, which is different,
has been achieved by placing the complete bridge
under a slight angle. The same thing I noticed on a
Simplicio guitar that was put up for auction in 
London by Gardiner Houlgate. The auctioneer
even asked me if this was done by accident!

And of course the Rosette which is quite simple but
with the woods used its overall impression is simply 
good. Fischetti probably went for the sound. The outer
end of the fingerboard shows a crack and some damage
next to the lower left fretpart. It has no influence on 
the strength of a guitar and can be cured with ebony 
dust and glue or working in some hardwax by applying
heat. I allways use a soldering gun for that purpose.

In the upper part of the soundbox there is a small cleat
to stabilize the crack that was there. The closing rib in 
the lower bout was damaged so I placed a cleat just under
that rib. Near the endblock the wood used for the sides
was too thin to leave it that way. Probably due to someone
who wanted to lacquer the guitar and took off too much
wood.  The circle thickening around the soundhole can
also be seen in some guitars of Antonio de Torres.

When cracks close still perfectly there is no need to put a 
splint between the two parts. But on the left there was a
longer crack that had to be stabilized. Two cleats between 
the upper two transverse braces were necessary while the
crack opened towards the heel. A splint has been mounted 
there. All braces have been reglued as they all were loose.

The back that is ready for regluing

A detail of a splint put in the soundboard and
the cleat to strengthen the closing rib. Other cracks
still did close perfectly. Then it is a task to simply 
work in the glue and when done correctly the glue
appears on the other side.

A rather odd surprise was the thickness of the sides near
the endblock which was allmaost like a veneer quality.
Especially on the right side that needed to be strengthened.
Weak spot remains the spot just beside the endblock and
the only way to cure that is to use some polyester. I 
decided to use that on both sides and alongside the
glue lining for the back. Glueing alone on the end-
block wouldn't have been sufficient!

To add these polyester layer is of course the last move.

As it is not in the "center of sound production" it will
not have a lot of influence on the sound. Fischetti was a
secure builder but this was of course a strange "mistake"
as in fact also was the use of a too high (and heavy) 
bridge on this instrument. Too high bridges will deform 
the soundboard under the tension of the strings.

The tuners have been cleaned and after hearing the qualities of
this guitar I thought it to be a wise addition to have the guitar
refret as the outer ends were rounded too much and slipping
off with your fingers is sometimes the result. The fingerboard
has been shaved off towards the head in order to have a nice 
playing action. That's a tedious process as when you take
too much off you need to highten the bridge too much and
having no bridge plate and a very thin soundboard, espe-
cially alongside the edges the top is prone to deform!

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