Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Stauffer 'Legnani' copy

This guitar is a copy of  a J.G. Stauffer from the first half of the 19th century. This guitar, with an adjustable neck, extended floating fingerboard and 6-aside tuners,  was an instrument that Stauffer developed in conjunction with the  virtuoso guitarist  Luigi Legnani.

I've been building this guitar on and off for about 18 months now. It wasn't a commission but one of those projects that has to tick away quietly in some dark corner of the workshop to provide a bit of light relief when building to commission becomes momentarily too stressful. In fact, building something different from the normal guitars I build is a good way of sharpening ones wits, and the unfamiliar subtleties  on an otherwise familiar structure keeps you fresh and inquisitive.I have repaired a number of Stauffer guitars in my career but never made one, and the temptation to build an adjustable neck and use those tuners proved just too big a temptation.

The picture below  shows the Stauffer alongside a partially completed Lacote copy that I made some time ago. The Lacote has a veneered back whilst the Stauffer is solid. All Stauffer guitars I have seen have veneered backs so this was a departure from the original. I chose to build these guitars 'back first' although I am pretty sure that many 19th century guitars were built with the top being fitted first.

The picture below shows the minimalist bracing of the soundboard. The bridge plate is not featured on the original, but is there to protect the underside of the soundboard from string wear and it is unlikely to affect the tonal qualities of the instrument. The 2 supporting cleats are also my additions; they are there to reinforce the soundboard join. Although a departure from the original, I feel the longevity these features might add to the guitar are worth it

 The picture below shows the simple adjustable neck mechanism, supplied by Rubner of Germany. It is a  simple mechanism. Turning the key moves a bolt on a threaded rod anchored in the end block, the tension of the strings pulls the neck forward and thereby increases the the height of the strings. Turn the key the other way and the action is lowered. Guitars with adjustable necks make a lot of sense; a player can set the guitar to his own playing style, set it to match the requirements of a particular piece of music, or correct humidity related changes.

This guitar was made from salvaged Cuban mahogany which I love. It was so old and dry ( cut from a Victorian drawer top) that I wondered if it would cope with the tight bends required for the very waisted Staufer shape. It did thankfully, but my heart was in my mouth for 10 minutes whilst I bent these ribs.

 Above; a detail of the raised fingerboard on this guitar.

 The distinctive 6 aside tuners are made by Rubner. David Rodgers also makes a fabulous replica set which I would use for future orders.
This style of tuner adds weight to the neck and the buttons are quite close together, but this is something you  quickly adapt too. This neck is ebonised using a black french polish.

The final picture below shows the elegant simplicity of this guitar which I love; perhaps I should build all my guitars like this.


  1. Regarding making all your guitars "like this"....
    I retrieved a broken guitar from my loft that needed a new neck. So I made one that was similarly detachable. Now I have a guitar that fits into the hand luggage dimensions of an Easyjet flight, and it sounds as sweet as it ever did.
    You can find a (rather) full account of this on my blog:

  2. You mentioned that although you build fitting the back first, you suspect that the top was fitted first. Could you explain why you think that this is the case? (Great work by the way!)