Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ries copy completed

Just before Christmas I finally completed this copy of a terz guitar by Nikolaus Georg Ries. This had been a long standing project and more can be read about it here and here. I had built this guitar for my own pleasure and education, but once strung it remained in my workshop for less than a day before being enthusiastically purchased. I had a lot of fun building the guitar and learnt much from it. I was lucky to have the original in the workshop throughout and so was able to make a very accurate copy. The picture above shows the original in the process of being restored, my copy, and a full sized modern classical guitar for scale. This small guitar is tuned a third higher than a standard guitar, has a scale length of 574 mm, and has a bright, lively sound. For such a small guitar it has surprising volume and is great fun to play.

Making replica guitars presents a number of interesting challenges. It becomes clear when you first look at the original terz guitar that it was built quickly and economically. The quality of the timber is good and is all European; maple for the back and ribs, spruce front and the neck, fingerboard and bridge are stained or polished to look like ebony. The decoration in minimal, with simple purflings on the top but the back is completely unbound. Inside the original, the workmanship was confident and skilled but not refined, and tool marks were visible on the struts and the inside of the top. This was a functional working instrument that would have been produced quickly and cheaply. My guess is that the Ries workshop could assemble one of these instruments in a few days. I originally intended to make this guitar quickly but inevitably other commisions took priority. My only significant departure from the original was the use of a 2 piece, rather than a single piece, maple back. Also, as the original bridge was missing, I had to take specifications for the bridge for my instrument from other sources.

Not the best picture of me I'm afraid (this is as close as I get to smiling for the camera) but it does show the petite size of the guitar. This picture was taken on a bitingly cold morning; the instrument left the workshop a few hours later and I felt bereft. I must make another when I have time...

The original guitar is being carefully restored by 19th century guitar expert, James Westbrook and in the past week he has completed the work on it and strung it to tension. The restored original is shown below. I was keen to play this guitar and to see how it compared to my copy. As mentioned, the small size of this guitar and the shorter scale length contributes much to the sound, and I was struck between the similarities of my new copy, and the original.