The romantic guitar of the 19th century. A beautiful, elegant instrument, which I have been in love with since the first time I saw it. I only needed a reason and two people. Maestro Julio Castaños and guitarist Thomas Ardavany. And now I had everything; not one more excuse was necessary. In this article I will share with you the story of this instrument. Master Julio (possibly one of the best, not because I say so, but because the specialists in this type of instrument say it) brushed me off in each of my requests (either hidden or direct) to give me a lesson... and I think he did it because he has the wisdom of a lifetime of experience. Instead, he offered me something much better: a visit to his workshop, to completely mesmerize me knowing that I couldn't stop and that I knew it. The visit to his workshop and the brief time I shared with him and Mariana touched me deeply. I wanted to make a romantic guitar ‘yes or yes!’. It was July 2018. I spent more than a year reading, thinking, designing, studying, dreaming ... of making a romantic guitar. September 2019, Thomas is waiting for me to make his romantic guitar. The time has come, and here I want to share it with all of you.
"The very las link. The source where our Spanish guitar has it origins..."
Among all the elements of this project, there is one that stands out above the others. The rosette here is the undisputed queen and the best example of all the philosophy surrounding this instrument: making craft the forefront of technology. Is it possible to make an instrument of another century respecting the constructive style of its time and applying all available technology at the time of its construction? Yes, definitely. The rosette is composed of 8 black and 8 white pawns made with laser cut maple veneer, alternated with chess boards made with the traditional mosaic technique: white spruce, black ebony squares. The decorative border that frames the rosette is also handmade following the traditional method of rope and spikelets. Crowning the design is The Queen.
The bridge stands as king over the German spruce top. It has 2 features that set it apart from a romantic guitar bridge. One is the self-lubricating black bone that merges with the dark of the bridge's rosewood, achieving the optical effect that the strings rest on a protuberance of the bridge, as can be seen in many original instruments of this era. The second is the system of inserting the strings through the top, widely used in the guitars of this period with the difference that in this case it is not necessary to use pins. The idea was borrowed from my colleague and master luthier Miguel Ángel Gutièrrez. To continue with the theme of the instrument, the design of the wings represents the shape of the king's piece in chess.
Detail of the bridge with the figure of The King
Upper purfling detail, with black and white lines made out of maple
The scroll is a decorative resource that is used to make the transition between the neck and the head, since due to the scarf angle and the difference in thicknesses, it is necessary to make it fit so that both elements flow from one to another. The V-shaped scroll was the most typical. Not to vary, we have made it a little more difficult, and in this case the head and the scroll are one piece
The head of these instruments, with their rounded curves, has always seemed to me the most beautiful option, that's why we have made an exact replica of La Prevotte. And to give it a different touch, we have used bicolor ebony.
There are two variants in the construction of these romantic guitars. Those with the fretboard as we know it in today's Spanish guitar, and the oldest ones where the fretboard and top are on the same plane much more similar to baroque guitars. I like this aesthetic much more and, fortunately, also does its owner, so it is the way we chose. Until the ninth fret, the fretboard is made of bicolor ebony to match the head.
BISHOP, KNIGHT AND ROOK
We couldn't leave out any pieces! Crowning the 17th, 15th and 13th frets in the same order that they would be on a chessboard next to the queen are the bishop, knight and rook. Handling and pasting these small pieces was a challenge, but we could not miss the opportunity to include them in some way. And it was worth it
The frets of this guitar are inserted in the top itself from the ninth fret, something very normal in the guitars that preceded the romantic era. They are also golden in color and will eventually have a very pretty patina
THE LITTLE HEEL
Another of the most characteristic elements of these instruments is the conical heel
The wooden pegs are made of ebony and their heads resemble the size of a chess piece. To continue with the leitmotif of this guitar and mix traditional craftsmanship with modern technology, we have engraved the heads of the pegs with their corresponding numbers, not according to their correspondence with the string, but according to their proximity to the guitarist. Crazy as it may seem, it is in these instruments the builders exhibited great freedom and creativity; they seemed to have no limits and almost everything was allowed, hence the great variety of designs and shapes. We have followed that philosophy in this instrument and we have been free when it comes to constructing it without confining or limiting ourselves in building a period instrument
This project is very special for me, not only has it allowed me to fulfill a wish I had since I started building guitars, but it has also given me the opportunity to share it day by day with its owner, guitarist Thomas Ardavany. It took two trips to Spain from the United States to complete this project, but it was really worth it. Thomas is in love with Úbeda and has not only enjoyed his stay here, but has actively participated and helped me in every way possible to make this instrument a reality. Friend Tomás, I hope you enjoy it very much!
- Top: 1985 German Spruce
- Body: Indian Rosewood
- Neck: Spanish Cedar
- Fretboard: Sapwood ebony
- Headstock: Sapwood ebony
- Bridge: Indian Rosewood
- Bindings: Rosewood and maple
- Decorations: Maple
- Tuners: Ebony pegs
- Nut: 47mm
- Scale: 620mm
- Frets: 17