Monday, 12 January 2015
1888 Torres SE122 copy (New guitars Part I)
Last week was a busy one, as I was eager to get back in the workshop after the Christmas and New Year break. It was a week for final polishing and stringing up of guitars, the first one being this Torres replica guitar in spruce and rosewood and Cuban mahogany. Last year I measured and drew Antonio Torres SE122; a wonderful guitar that was auctioned at Bromptons (London) in October. This is the first copy I have made of the guitar, and also one of the most faithful replicas I have made of any guitar. The top is an exact copy, even down to the startling grain orientation (the grain lines run 3 degrees off the centre line) and the mixture of rosewood for the back centre strip and sides, with mahogany for the main part of the back.
The original sounded lovely, with a soft, full sound and it responded effortlessly under the fingers. I certainly didn't set out to replicate the sound of an 130 year-old guitar; I wanted to get an idea of what this guitar was like when it was first new; the sounds that Torres first heard when he strung SE122 up in his workshop. The new guitar is crisper, more incisive and more even across the range, but with the same rich depth in the bass and a purity in the treble. I will be fascinated to see this guitar again when it has been played for a few years.
One of the great pleasures in building this guitar was using Cuban mahogany. All the Cuban I have is salvaged from 19th century furniture and it really is fantastic timber with the most glorious rich colour when polished. There is a good supply of old furniture that can be converted into guitars and I enjoy putting it to good use. Sometimes you have to work with nail holes or cuts that were in the original piece, but Torres did the same; there are examples of his guitars that were made from salvaged material with plugged screw holes.
The rosette is an accurate copy of the original, but is fresher in colour. Again, I wanted to make it as it would have looked when new, with bright and vibrant colours. The design is so typical of Torres inlay work and is a strong, sophisticated yet simple statement. The bridge is a little longer than I would use on my own guitars, and longer than on many Torres guitars that I have seen. What caused Torres to do this is unclear, but it seems he did most thing carefully and and deliberately so it is unlikely that it was an accident. Perhaps Torres want to add cross grain stiffness to that particular soundboard (it did seem quite stiff) or perhaps he just liked the look of the longer bridge. The 2 mother of pearl roundels on the wings of the bridge very often look out of place on a more modern guitar but I think, in this case, fit perfectly into Torres's aesthetic.
The tuners I used on this guitar are Rubners with plain brass plates and small round buttons and although different from the originals,I think they suit the guitar well. I currently putting together another copy of this guitar and I am keen to make a comparison.
I have had a number of enquiries about the drawing I made of this guitar, and when I get the time I will be making all the information I have available. If you are interested in purchasing a copy please let me know and I will update you when it is published