Skip to main content

Making a Copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez Guitar

In all glueing operations remember to "hasten slowly".

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902


Last month, a young classical guitarist asked me to make her a guitar that she could play, comfortably. She has very tiny hands and can hardly play the 650mm string length classical guitar that she owns. I handed her a metric ruler and asked her to measure from the tip of her outstretched left hand little finger to the tip of her outstretched left hand thumb. The distance was 190mm. The same distance on my left hand is 235mm. What that means is that she should be playing on a guitar that has a 630-635mm and I should be playing a 650mm, not a 665mm.

We decided that she should have a 635mm string length guitar. I chose the Santos Hernandez pattern, it is an elegant outline and Hernandez did make the 1912 Ramirez guitar that made Andres Segovia famous. Following the original plantilla, I reduced the guitar's body size to what is considered a small box, around 470mm in length, this reduction is to match the proportions of the guitar to the string length.




I also chose the same bracing pattern that Santos used, the original was for a flamenco guitars, flamenco guitars need to be "punchy", almost drum like and since this guitar will have such a short string length I want all the help I can to make it project. I found this wonderful website on guitar design, click here and here to see a comparison of famous bracing designs. The Santos design centers the vibrations on the bridge.




This time I decided to use hot hide glue to glue the braces onto the top. Usually most blogs and websites you will see the maker using a go-bar deck and clamps, I've done that before but I wanted to be old school with this guitar. I got the hide glue up to 145 degrees, brushed it on the brace and then rubbed it into place on the top. I did not use a clamp to hold the brace at all, I just tried for "a rubbed joint", I did use clamps to hold the top against the work board, but not on the brace. I held the brace in place for 4 minutes and then went on to another.




I am so impressed with hot hide glue! The curve that you see in the braces is from the glue holding it in place! I had not quite a 16th of an inch spring back went I took off the clamps and the sound board off the work board.



My glue pot, a hot pot!

Comments

  1. Hi Wilson,

    Great post. How cool to have the ability to match string length to the players' hand. I like the idea that this young musician will not have to struggle with an oversized (for her)instrument. It's tough enough, anyway!

    So, I measured my left hand stretched from the out side of the pinky tip to the outside of thumb and it is 121 mm.
    What is the recommended string length? Measured from nut to bridge I assume.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tico:

    I think you need to re-measure your hand! Stretch out your left hand, from thumb to little finger, stretch it hard until it hurts and then measure from tip of thumb to tip of little finger. I'm 5'10", I'm not considered a big man and I remember being told in a guitar master class that I have small hands, and my measurement is 235mm. I post a chart and a photo of how to measure on the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I find this really interesting Wilson - great stuff! I didn't know (among many other things) that the pattern of the bracing affects the sound but I can see that it would now. The clamps you made are doing the business.

    I have tried and failed to play guitar and one of my problems is that my fingers seem too fat to hold down a string without fouling the string below it. (I've only tried my daughter's guitar which isn't full size, but even so..) Do I need to put my fingers on a low fat diet or what? Maybe you could say something about string spacing or the width of the fretboard some time?

    Thanks! Rob

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just tried your pinky-to-thumb measurement and it's 225mm for me, or about 8 7/8 in the old money.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can talk more later about a guitar's fingerboard width, string spacing at the nut and action height. A wider fingerboard allows one to articulate the finger movements better, but if you have small hands, wider fingerboards don't always work. Also, if the string action is too high at the nut, it makes the instrument almost impossible to play! I've seen many cheap ukuleles that have impossibly high string actions, I bought one from 1950 that I had to grind down the nut and make a new saddle for before it was close to being playable!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Wilson,

    Thank you for finding my site useful. I have been trying to make them as complete as posible. I hope I can finish my first real guitar (Santos inspired, of course) this year. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Best,

    Juan

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Off the Bench and For Sale: Miguel Rodriguez Style Guitar

This guitar has a Western Red Cedar top, Claro walnut back and sides, Royal ebony fretboard, Indian rosewood bridge and a 650mm string length.

This guitar has a beautiful voice and is loud! I was amazed at how loud it is as soon as I got the strings on and tuned to concert pitch. It is easy to play and I am blown away by the musical nuances that can be created with this guitar.

Please click on Guitars Currently Available or Studio Model to read more about this wonderful guitar!



1961 Hernandez y Aguado Style Classical Guitar, Redwood/Indian Rosewood, For Sale

The partnership of Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado was one of the most successful in guitar making history.

Roy Courtnall, Making Master Guitars, 1993

Please note that this guitar is currently for sale at Savage Classical Guitar. Please click here to see this guitar!

I made this guitar several years ago, but because of custom orders, I had to set it aside. I put strings on it two weeks ago and it is a most magnificent sounding guitar! It has good, clear separation string to string, wonderful sustain with evenness and balance throughout with a very lyrical voice. I originally made this guitar for myself, but someone with a good strong technique and a good understanding of musical interpretation should own this guitar and play it on a regular basis.



This guitar is a fairly close copy of a guitar made by Hernandez y Aguado in 1961. The body length is 480mm, most of the HyA guitars had a body length of 490mm; string length is 650mm, many were 655mm and longer; other than that I trie…

Late Summer, Early Fall and a Spruce/Ziricote Classical Guitar

Thus begins what many residents feel is the Southern Rockies' most beautiful time of the year - Indian summer.

Audrey DeLella Benedict, The Southern Rockies, 1991


It is sunny today with bluebird skies highlighting the golds and oranges of the aspen trees.

Fog covered our little hollow all day yesterday, the sun came out at exactly 4:45pm and shone upon us for fifteen minutes, then the clouds came back.



The aspens and ferns in the backyard...



A few wildflowers are blooming, like this harebell...


Our little flower garden is going to seed...



I dropped six ponderosa pine on our property last week for firewood and fire mitigation, as you can see I have much work to do splitting and stacking the firewood.


This is the latest guitar on the bench, a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado style guitar, with a Colorado Engelmann spruce top...



and ziricote back and sides.

I am in the process of pore filling, later this week I will start the French polish.

It has an incredibly loud tap tone, it will be wond…