Saturday, November 28, 2015

Building an Antonio Torres SE 117 Guitar: Full Size Drawings to Start

What I can never doubt, or help admitting, is that the guitars constructed by Antonio Torres are the achievement of the highest degree of guitar lutherie.

Manual Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, 2003


I have a soft spot for small guitars, the first two guitars I made were based upon an 1816 Jose Martinez guitar which isn't much bigger than a baritone ukulele. Though small, these guitars have a loud, lyrical voice and are quite fun to play.

Two guitars made by Antonio Torres, his SE117 and SE151a have always intrigued me - they were both made with the same plantilla, or shape, both have bodies that are 17 inches long. SE117 has a 604mm, (23.750") string length and SE151a has a 610mm (24") string length. Compare that to the 1816 Martinez guitar which has a 616mm (24.25") string length and its body is just over 16 inches long!

The Martinez is a great sounding little guitar, I figure that with a larger body the Torres style guitars should be even louder. I will find out if that is true.

The reason to make a guitar based upon the Torres SE117 guitar, plans for which are available here and here, is that I purchased a piece of gorgeous curly Oregon walnut from Lewis Judy at Northwest Timbers.

I had originally bought the piece to cut up into bindings, but the wood was so pretty I had to make something else out of it.



One thing that I have learned about guitar making is to make a full size drawing of the instrument before I start. I already had the template for this guitar made, I got it from Jose Romanillos's book, Antonio Torres: Guitar Maker - His Life & Work, I used that to make these drawings.

By drawing out this little guitar I discovered that in order to get the proper string height above the fret board I will have to dome the top as much as a full size guitar, nearly three millimeters, or one-eighth of an inch.

This is good to know.




The curly walnut board was only five and one-half inches wide, too narrow for a standard two piece back, the drawing also helped me to figure out how wide of a filler piece I needed to make the back the required width.

I made the filler piece tapered on a 1 degree slant, copying what Torres did on his guitars where he used a third piece for the back.




Here are the three pieces of walnut with the two strips of curly maple for contrast. You can see the nice curl in the wood.




The three pieces being glued together.

I set a deadline for myself, I have until tomorrow afternoon to finish preparing all the parts for this guitar - sides, back, neck, top and bracing - if I am not finished then all parts go onto the shelf.

On Monday, I need to start assembling one of my Conservatory guitar models so I can have a less expensive guitar on hand to sell.

2 comments:

  1. What are you using to glue up the back? It looks like epoxy and not hide glue. Curious because I'm new to hide glue and still figuring out the right time and way to use it. Been trying to use it as a filler with saw dust on my mandolin with about a 50% success rate and it didn't take the leather dye a good as hoped. But worked well on general construction of body and neck.

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  2. I like to use LMI's yellow instrument glue to glue the back together. It's super strong, sets quickly, dries hard, it's a little easier to use than hide glue. I use hide glue and Lee Valley's fish glue for the structural parts of the guitar.

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