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A Blonde Guitar - Making a Copy of the FE 19 Guitar by Antonio Torres

Many stories are still told about the lure that Torres' guitars had for enthusiasts who heard them being played.

Jose Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker-His Life & Work, 1987



I am out of practice.

I've almost chained myself to the workbench to get this guitar done, just so I can remember what I forgot.

How did I assemble the last guitar?

How thick or thin should I make the hide glue to perform at its best?

Is this how I clamp the sides down to the top?

Now, how is it that I can bend wood?

So many things.



This isn't an exact copy of Torres' famous FE 19 guitar (FE stands for First Epoch, these are the guitars Torres made before he gave up guitar making and opened a store to sell china), as you can see I am using a parallel bracing on the top instead of the "Torres kite" or fan bracing. The crest on the head stock is not a Torres design; it is based on Daniel Friederich's crest; the top is Engelmann spruce and the top bracing is Sitka spruce, not German spruce; the back and sides are California Laurel, not rosewood; but the plantilla, or outline, is a direct copy of FE 19 as per the plans that are available from Neil Ostberg. Click here to see those plans and Neil's great website.




I finally bought a spot thermometer for my bending iron.

California Laurel bends best for me when the iron is between 350-390 degrees Fahrenheit.




Earlier this year I bought some fancy kerfing clamps from Luthiers Mercantile, which worked fine on the traditional triangle shape kerfing. They don't work at all with the reversed kerfing I used on this guitar, I had to find my bag of good old clothes pins wrapped with rubber bands to get the job done.




The back is varied in color from white to honey to a touch of purple to I don't know what else. Laurel, aka Oregon Myrtle, aka Pepperwood, is pretty amazing wood. It planes well, to get a really smooth glossy surface I sand to 220 grit Garnet and then burnish with a piece of old towel. Wow. And it bends fairly easily.




The top.

Tomorrow, maybe, I get can get the back glued on. Then I can let the guitar hang for the glue to harden so I can dream of the music she will sing.

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