tecnica e filosofia
There are deep and profound differences between a luthery instrument and an instrument coming out an industrial production line. In these notes I want to explain briefly how and why I build my guitars, and the special characteristics of them.
prologue First of all, when I build an instrument I aim to two targets: expressive sound and excellence in construction. Therefore every single guitar is a step towards a goal that always changes and moves when one tries to catch it up, and is (to put it clearly) an asymptote, a limit, an unreachable horizon line; but what's important is not the reaching in itself, but the road you follow in this research.
This road is made of major or minor, but in any case continuous, changes, of technical construction developments, and of a continuous learning.
There is an obvious consequence: not a single guitar is equal to another one. This statement is somewhat abused in the craftsmanship world; but it's true, in the sense that every instrument is born through a negation of the former. In a sense: against it. And this is necessary, if in this continuous progress one doesn't want to remain anchored in the same place, repeating stereotypically the same product. One must not get confused, at this point, because it's just in force of this continuous changing that there is a continuity between two successive instruments; even if the mental attitude when buying a luthery instrument has to be very different from that with which one buys an instrument coming out an industry, which can be, in some sense, reassuring with its certified homologations and standardizations.
Therefore, not paying attention to prejudices and clichés, and judging the instrument in itself, one must necessarily try to understand what a handicraft product means, keeping in mind that it must always meet (and often surpass) the standards of quality and reliability of a commercial product, with the handicraft quality as an extra bonus.
My guitars are fully made from scratch by myself, with the only exception of the frets, the tuning machines and the strings.
soundboard It's always and only in bookmatched spruce with proper seasoning. I apply to it a particular and complex treatment that change the color and the acoustic performance. It’s the result of research and studies of similar treatments that regularly occurred in the past.
back & sides There are many kind of wood used for back and sides, this is a choice made when the instrument is designed. In contrast to widespread belief, an instrument with a certain type of wood doesn’t sounds better than another: what matters is the perfection of the instrument as a whole. For instance (and confirmation), the most beautiful guitars I've got to try in my life are in Cypress or Maple, woods commonly considered "poor" even commercially.
At the time I build almost exclusively with the birdseye maple: fantastic.
neck It's always in cedar.
fingerboard For acoustic and weight reasons it's in Indian Rosewood.
inlays Inlays are at my discretion, following an inspiration similar to that one of acoustic research.
thicknesses The thicknesses are about 1,1 mm for the sides, 2,2 mm for the back and 1,9 mm for the soundboard, it depend from the kind of wood. They are thin, but not so much. Historical guitars, e.g. guitars from Antonio de Torres, have lower thicknesses but they are still here in all their beauty.
glue I only use hot hide glue, the only one real and great glue for musical instrument making.
varnish The varnishes in guitar making are an exciting point.
They are full of perfumes, colors, light: an indispensable element in the creation of sound and appearance. A research and study without end, always exciting and rewarding.
I currently use oil varnish inherited from the world of violins making plus a more traditional French polishing shellac.
weight Complete with tuning machines and strings my guitars weight of 1,100÷1,250 gr., depending by the kind of wood used for back and sides.
epilogue The differences between the "normal" guitars and most of the modern production (industrial and otherwise) is substantial.
In the latter, the wood is used in thicknesses much higher than necessary, following the erroneous theory “more wood = more volume” and in the belief that the instrument should be something unchanging in time. Recently, synthetic materials of various types (Nomex®, Kevlar®, carbon fiber, fiberglass, etc.), have been introduced, following the obsessive search of the volume. The “modern” guitars are also of different sizes because, in relatively recent times, the dimensions of the sound box has been increased as well as the length of the strings, again according to the erroneous theory “more large = more sound”.
To understand how these theories are unsubstantiated, just do a quick comparison with the violin’s family: a bigger violin is called viola and has much less volume!
The guitar must be a lightweight, elastic, with the sound volume of a guitar and keep what is absolutely unique in the guitar: the sound quality, its incomparable wealth.
I make "normal" guitars that have their roots in Spanish instruments produced until the Second World War, but they are daughters of our time.
They are guitars, in the deeper and passionate meaning of this word.