Skip to main content

Julia's Guitar, A Copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez Guitar

I started back at my regular day job 2 weeks ago, I've spent it working on the flat lands at Walden Ponds. As I say, any time I spend away from the mountains is time wasted.

I finally got a chance to finish binding Julia's guitar, a copy of a guitar made by Santos Hernandez in 1933. I did some research on the internet looking for images of guitars that he made after 1921 and before his death in 1943 to get a better idea of how he "trimmed" out a guitar. Here is my interpretation of what I learned.

On some of his guitars Santos used a very wide maple purfling.

This makes for a very bold look. He also made a heel cap from the same wood as the bindings. I used ebony bindings on this guitar and used ebony and maple for the heel cap to make the binding theme.

A photo of gluing on the heel cap.

You would be surprised at the amount of stress a guitar receives while it is being made! It gets all covered with glue, my hand slips when the binding tape breaks and a finger nail scrapes the sound board, it can be a bit of a brawl between maker and guitar! (Sorry for the blurry image!)

The sound board cleaned up after the binding is complete.

This guitar is very special, Julia chose a redwood top that came from a board that was rescued from a barn that stood outside of Yosemite National Park. I was able to re-saw only two guitar tops from this board, one that is on this guitar and the other will be used for a copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar. The rest of the board has too many knots to make it useful for guitar tops, I will probably use them for ukuleles at a later date.

Wood with this kind of provenance is rare, not often can a maker claim this personal of a connection to a piece of wood.


  1. I like the 'bit of a brawl between maker and guitar' and how beautifully the guitar turns out.

  2. Thanks, Rob! Cutting the binding rebates and installing the binding is the most nerve wracking part of guitar making! It's where the most damage can be done with a simple mistake.

  3. 1709 vedIsmaHow lucky for Julia. Maybe she'll record a Youtube video that you can post.

  4. Thanks, Tico!

    I do plan on talking with her about making a short video of her playing the guitar.

  5. Having stuck a good, sharp chisel right through the top of my almost-finished sapele 12-string solidbody last year (inletting the electronics cavity) I second the bit about "a brawl between maker and guitar." Repair was 9/10 for function, 8/10 for appearance and 10/10 for reminding me of how easy it is to goof big time when hurrying, even a little.
    I hope Julia is agreeable to a short vieo--i can't wait to hear how this one turns out.
    PS: tried some nylgut strings on the little Martinez. Not a good match, though okay; they sound good on the old Richter, though!

  6. Hey, HD!

    I still believe that the best strings to put on a newly made Romantic era guitar are LaBella's 2001 light tension strings. I have yet to find other strings that sound as good on a little guitar. I am glad that the nylgut work well on the Richter!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…

The Guitar Maker's Backsaw for Cutting Fret Slots

The overall correct process of placing frets in a guitar fingerboard ("fretting"), is far less straight forward than most people believe. A perfect job, for perfect playability, requires some careful preparation.

Anthony Lintner, guitar maker

Twenty five years ago, I bought my first fretting saw from Luthiers Mercantile. It was made in Germany and had a straight handle on it, basically it was a gent's saw.

First thing I did to the saw was to take off the straight handle and make a nice handle for it from some wonderful Claro walnut that came from a Cottonwood Creek bottom wild grown walnut. I used it to cut fret slots in dulcimer and classical guitar fret boards. The saw served me well for several years until I made the mistake of cutting some brass with it.

Well, I never did get around to sharpening the thing.

The blade is .015 of an inch thick with the teeth set at .022-.023 of an inch. I think it has 22 teeth per inch. It is a great saw and I was very sad to see that…