Building an 1830's René Lacôte "Legnani Model" Guitar

I made this little guitar about ten years ago, it is based upon an original 1830's "Legnani Model" guitar made in the René Lacôte Paris workshop. Luigi Legnani was a popular European guitar virtuoso and composer in the 1800's, both René Lacôte and Johann Stauffer made guitars for Legnani to his specifications. My little guitar started out with a Douglas fir top, California laurel back and sides, with a simple bridge made from a block of East Indian rosewood. When I glued the bridge on I discovered that I had the angle of the neck set wrong, the bridge ended up being way too tall for the guitar and the Douglas fir top was too thick and heavy to produce a decent tone, it sounded like it was being played underwater. I put the guitar into a case and tucked it away.

December of 2020 I pulled it out from the closet so I could practice on it, I had a full size classical guitar in the shop that needed a new top, and I wanted to try a new way of removing guitar tops.

Here's the guitar before the removal work started.

The fret board and neck came off... I could rout out the perimeter of the top and save the original binding.


Here it is when the top was first removed...

...and all the bracing removed.

I used an nice piece of European spruce for the new top...

...and I did a good job of routing that saved the curly maple binding I originally used.

I believe the original Lacôte guitar had "ladder bracing", simple braces glued to the top that were parallel to the guitar bridge. I wanted to make this guitar as attractive as possible to today's young guitarists, and what many want today is loud guitar that is responsive and capable of many musical nuances. To that end I used a simple 3 strut "fan" bracing. This style of bracing was developed by guitar makers in Spain who were contemporaries of Lacôte, C.F. Martin used it on many of early guitars soon after his arrival in the United States in 1833. 

These simple braces allowed me to slightly dome the guitar top to give it more structural integrity and lyrical voice. The strip of ebony is there to reinforce and protect the top from the bridge string pins.

The top was glued onto the sides...

...and I made a new neck from Spanish cedar. The v-joint was used by many European makers at the time to attach the neck to the body, it is still used by steel string guitar makers and some classical guitar makers.

Unlike the original Lacôte guitar, this guitar has a raised fret board, the original guitar's fret board was level with the guitar top and the 12th through 22nd frets were directly inlaid on the top. I chose a raised fret board and extension to attract today's player.


The bridge is very similar to the original...

...even down to the end pins and Mother of Pearl dots!

All strung up! I need to French polish the guitar now!

The back and sides are California laurel, or Oregon myrtle if you live in Oregon, I re-sawed this by hand with a Disston rip saw from a board I purchased from a wood supplier north of Eureka, California.

I kept the "ice cream cone" heel on the new neck...

...though the head stock is slotted to receive modern tuning machines, the original had a solid head stock with mechanical tuning pegs.

This is a lovely little guitar, the string length is only 595mm, but it has a wonderful voice and how loud it is will surprise you!


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