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Antonio de Torres - Guitar Maker, Carpenter

His greatest merit is that he came up with a universally accepted guitar.

Jose Luis Romanillos, luthier



Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Antonio de Torres.

Those of us who love the classical guitar owe this man everything, he created a model of the guitar that continues to capture the hearts of true music lovers.

He really didn't do anything that hadn't already been done by other guitar makers - other makers had used larger bodies, the so-called fan bracing, domed tops, longer string lengths, all this was already known - but Torres guitars sounded different from others.

Many contemporary classical guitar makers build copies of the original Torres guitars, there are several well known classical guitarists that concertize on original Torres guitars because even after 130+ years those guitars still have wonderful voices.

Antonio de Torres apprenticed with a carpenters guild in Vera, Spain when he was 12 years and when he was 17 he was listed in the guild rolls as…

1961 Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Engelmann Spruce/Ziricote, Nearing Completion

The wood of Engelmann spruce is light-colored, relatively soft, low in resin, and sometimes contains many knots and is more valuable for pulp than for high-grade lumber. It has been used for home construction, pre-fabricated wood products, and plywood manufacture. Less commonly it is used for specialty items such as food containers, and sounding boards for violins, pianos, and guitars. Engelmann spruce is widely used for Christmas trees. Spruce beer was sometimes made from its needles and twigs and taken to prevent scurvy.

USDA Plants Database, Engelmann Spruce


I apologize for not having posted anything on this blog for a while, as all of you know life can get in the way of doing things.

The New Mexico Guitar Festival is next month, June 15-17, and I will be attending as a vendor.

Much of my time these last few weeks has been spent finishing the two guitars that I want to take to the Vendors Expo at the festival: this 1961 Hernandez y Aguado style guitar, with an Engelmann spruce top …

Workbench Tote

I do not know when the open wooden tool box came into general use.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Work Book, 1986



If you own copy of The New Traditional Woodworker, by Jim Tolpin, then perhaps you have constructed his workbench tote project.

My workbench is always a mess and now that I am getting to the finishing stage for two classical guitars, I thought I would try to mend my ways and keep a tidy bench. A workbench tote is a start in the right direction.



I held fairly close to the dimensions in Tolpin's book, but used some nice pine that was on hand (I think it is lodgepole pine, it's hard to find good ponderosa pine these days) for the sides and handle, with pine plywood for the bottom.

A carpenter by trade, I decided to build this tote in the house carpenter tradition, nothing fancy, just 45 degree miters, a table saw cut groove for the plywood...



...glue and pin nails from a trim gun to hold everything together.



The tote handle shape is a personal decision, you don&…

Building a Bridge with a Stanley No.192 Plane

The bridge of a guitar as we know it today is a relatively modern invention consolidated by Torres, although he was not the inventor.

Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, 1995


Many people don't know how much work is involved in constructing a guitar bridge, I know for most classical guitarists it is simply an anchor point for the guitar's strings.



I arch the bottom of the bridge to match the guitar sound board's doming, cut a channel for the saddle to sit in and I make a tie block for the strings.

The tie block gets covered with a piece of mother of pearl, this protects the tie block from string wear and gives the guitar a bit of bling.

Since I am making a fairly close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado bridge, the tie block is sloped towards the saddle slot, this was original done to increase the breaking angle of the strings over the bridge. This helps increase the overtones in the guitar. Compare that with a modern flamenco guitar bridge and you will see the string "br…

New Shop Made Marking/Cutting Gauge and Blog Page Template

Gauges are tools for producing lines upon the surface of wood, parallel with the edge they are used upon.

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902


I started making this gauge about a year ago, it was a rainy day project that I didn't finish until today, thus it became a snow flurry day project.


The fence and arm are walnut, the wedge is made from a 20 year old piece of ebony, the cutter was taken from a purfling cutter that I abandoned long ago.


I need to reshape the cutter's end from a knife point to a v-point, that tends to work better for cutting veneer into purfling strips.



There is another marking/cutting gauge on the tool shelf that is the standard "go to" gauge, but I wanted another gauge just for cutting veneer.


Here is my quiver of gauges, from left to right: the newest gauge, the day to day gauge, a double arm mortise gauge and a pin gauge. The mortise and pin gauges were made from Claro walnut harvested near my parents home in Northeastern California,…

In Search of the Best Finish for a Classical Guitar

You can bring the surface to a smooth sheen by rubbing the wood, with the grain, using a handful of dry spokeshave shavings - before you scoff at the idea, try it.

Drew Langsner, The Chairmaker's Workshop, 1997

The other day I consigned a cedar/Indian rosewood guitar at a guitar shop of a fairly well known guitar maker. He liked my guitars and said that I was doing "a really good job in making them", but he criticized my use of French polish.

He said "Shellac scratches too easily and it doesn't hold up well." He took one of his custom guitars off a wall hanger and showed it to me.

"Here, the way you should go is UV cured catalyzed polyester! You can finish a guitar in a day!" he boasted, "however, you have to wear a hazmat suit to enter the spray booth"

"Why would I do that?" I asked, "I have a very tiny shop and I am trying to be safe and green!"

"It's the finish we like to see these days! Looks like glass, …

On the Bench - A 1963 Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Redwood/East Indian Rosewood

To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done.

Dr. SunWolf, professor, Santa Clara University


This guitar, redwood/East Indian rosewood, is based upon a guitar that was made in the shop of Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado in 1963.

It is a little bigger bodied than the 1961 HyA style guitar that I usually make, I wanted to see if there is a difference in sound between a guitar with an eighteen and seven-eights inch body and a guitar with a nineteen inch body length. I know that is only an 1/8 of an inch difference, but I have heard guitar makers and players alike swear up and down that a larger bodied guitar, even an eighth of an inch bigger, is bigger and better sounding.


The top bracing is based on one used by Jesus Belezar, Manuel Hernandez's son-in-law, except I added one more bass brace.



I decided to use only three braces on the back, sometimes Hernandez and Aguado used four braces. Four braces tends to give the back a higher pitch…

On the Bench - Redwood/Black Walnut Classical Guitar

Redwood forests were California's second Mother Lode, and like Sierra Nevada gold they are inextricably linked to the state's history.

John Evarts, et al, Coast Redwood, A Natural History, 2011

Today, I glued the back onto a redwood/black walnut classical guitar that I named Luisa, after the flamenco bailaora, Luisa Maravilla.

The top is redwood that I purchased from Paul Carroll at Redwood Bears and Burls in Gasquet, California.

The back and sides I re-sawed, by hand with a Disston D-8 rip saw, from a board of black walnut that I purchased at a flea market in Longmont, Colorado.

The neck is Port Orford cedar, the top braces are from a 50+ year old white fir 2x4, the back fillet is sycamore, the back braces are black cherry. All of these species grow in Tehama County, California, which is where I am from, either as naturals or exotics.

It is a "green" guitar, meaning that all the wood comes from sustainable sources.

Here are some photos of building this guitar.


Joi…

Making Wooden Capos/Cejillas for Classical/Flamenco Guitars

The musician that looks upon the capo as a cheater, becomes much more limited in his playing than the capo user.

Anders Sterner, musician


Thought you might be interested in a short post on how I make capos, or cejillas, for classical/flamenco guitars.




First thing I do is roundup some black and white strips of veneer; a piece of nice wood for the core and even pretty wood for the outside laminations.

I plane pieces to proper thickness, align in proper order and glue all pieces together.



Here are two capo templates I came up with, I copied historic original Spanish capo shapes, I draw these onto the block of wood I just created from the veneer, laminates and core. Then I drill holes for the violin pegs and have a violin/viola/cello peg reamer handy.



Here is a photo of a shop made violin peg shaver that I made. I use 1/2 size violins for the capos.



Once the violin pegs fit perfectly in their holes in the capos, I cut them to proper length, drill a hole in the peg shaft between collar and …