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dinsdag 10 juni 2008

Juan da Montagne




This is most likely ment as a flamenco guitar regarding the cypress
back and sides. Though for a flamenco guitar quite heavy, I'm always
triggered in how such a guitar sounds for the classical guitar pieces
of Spanish composers. It has to be repaired at first as the head is
showing a crack. This looks more severe to non-luthiers as even a 
broken head can be fixed satisfactory. This guitar has been built
with a traditional 7 fan Torres bracing and no closing ribs.
Ebony fingerboard and bridge. The scale is 650 mm.


Nice pieces of figured cypress have been used for the back 
and also a lot of attention was dedicated to the bindings.
Typical for a real flamenco model the soundbox is less deep
than compared to a classical model. Jan van den Heuvel
was able to buy his woods in Germany as the Egmond
(Alpha) company had good contacts there. Scale 65 cm.


On this picture you are able to see the bindings better and
also the "reinforcement" layer in the neck.


In fact derived from a Torres head as well. Juan da Montagne
(or in Dutch: Jan van den Heuvel) often visited Spain in order
to learn from the famous guitarreros there. In the head itself
the French lily has been engraved also known as the "Fleur de
 Lis". The tuners are most likely from the German factory 
KOLB. Anyway good working and hand engraved and 
they work very well and smooth.


The tuners with, very strange, plastic knobs. But those knobs
made it possible to conclude these tuners to be from Kolb. As
mostly is the case with cheap plastic buttons: They are showing
a seam. These knobs are an exception, so no seam here!


A very tasteful rosette and an ebony bridge are making
this guitar a very nice instrument. Another feature is the doomed
top what makes it possible to construct with a thinner top
Question remains wether if this instrument has been built for 
the Egmond company for which van den Heuvel was an advisor 
or in his own workshop in Geldrop (The Netherlands).
His son claims this to be from his fathers own workshop.


A close up from the rosette. Regarding the traditional 7 fan bracing of
the top chances are big that Jan van den Heuvel was closely involved
in the design of the Alpha classical guitars that had a serie of 6 models.
These guitars were a big success on the Dutch market but being too
expensive to produce in a workshop with disabled people the selling 
price had to be lower than costs for producing these guitars and that
ment the end for the Alpha guitars and the former Egmond company.


The label says: Juan Reinier da Montagne: Modelo 23F.
Besides that the addition of a number: 701125 and most
likely a signature can be studied in the lower right corner
by clicking on this picture. The first two digits could mean
the year of production: 1970 but I'm not sure yet. All
these features have been added to the label in ink so it
could be as well that this was the 23th instrument van
den Heuvel has produced already moved from Australia
to the Netherlands back again with wife and kids.
The prefix "F" mos likely stands for "Flamenco".
Jan van den Heuvel died 15 years ago (around 2000)


The damage to the headstock has been repaired here and
in order to make things like new I've refinished the whole
neck. The outer ends of the frets were treated with a file 
that damaged the fretboard. Things are now the way they
should be again. This guitar produces a very even sound 
thorough the different frequency registers. Maybe not
the absolute top for which it misses a bit of character but
very well and neatly built and now again ready to serve
a player for probably a lifetime! This example definitely
is better suited for classical music as the sustain resembles
that of a classical guitar and the higher notes are sounding
very "rounded". And not the attack and immediate response
a genuine flamenco model should do. 

Juan Roman Padilla ( 1928 -




Presented here is a guitar built by the Granada based
guitarreros Juan Roman Padilla. He is thought to have
consulted Eduardo Ferrer and Manuel de la Chica but
in fact was a self taught cabinet maker. He modelled
his guitars after the plantilla of Marcelo Barbero.
This instrument dates from 1970, a few years after
some Japanese businessmen (Kurosawa)  invited him to
come to Japan to give instructions to the workforce of
this big guitar company. Juan Roman Padilla refused:
He sent his brother instead (1966).


As can be seen on this picture the condition of this instrument is 
rather poor: The lacquering suffers from humidity problems and
this guitar has some repaired cracks in sides and back. 
The bridge needs to be replaced as it shows some cracks as well.
Inside one bracing of the back needs to be reglued.
However the vital elements are good!


The inner construction shows a lot of attention to detail.
It is therefore remarkable that the spacing for the tuners
is not symmetrical as can be seen by comparing the lower 
ends. And also the headcarving itself hasn't been done
 symmetrically as well. These imperfections will be
corrected as I'm planning to keep this instrument anyway.


Juan Roman Padilla still lives in Granada as far as I know
and though being quite a bit older he still constructs guitars
merely as  pastime. Remarkable is the very traditional
7 fan bracing of the soundboard and the Torres way of 
bracing as a whole. This guitar is remarkably lightly
built: The basses are very strong and rich in colour and
the higher notes do speak easily as well though this guitar
really tends to have the older, more woody sound of
the luthiers from around 1900. This guitar is very
quicly responding, allmost as a flamenco model and as
a kind of "percussive" high end though not for every style 
of music. It will be brought back in a like new condition!
The same labels can be seen on later instruments made 
by Padilla and some of them are stamped partly on the 
label  and partly on the back.


All the laquer has been removed. I did this with 
good quality lacquer remover in order not to have
to sand parts and make them thinner especially the
soundboard. The remover can be only solved
in water with soap substantials or thinner.
Later I used an appliance against wood aging
that removed the uneven colour effects after
the removal of the lacquer.


It is a lot of work but the starting point for the final lacquering 
must be perfect in order to have a satisfactory final result.
According to spanish tradition no fillers will be used at first
in order to fill the pores of the wood.


Though unlacquered I still dig these kind of pictures as
it shows us the pure wood before any treatments.


I decided to maintain the original bridge after treatment of
the two cracks. I made a kerf just alongside the cracks and
continiously inspected where they stopped and then glued
in two pieces of matching wood as far as was possible.
The plastic lining of the tie block where the strings are attached
I replaced with pieces of ivory as the original parts were
damaged and had a cheapy look.


picture taken from the same spot. Soundboard and bridge 
have been relaquered allready. As with wood: It still
depends under wich angle you look at it to determine
the inserts. Sometimes they are clearly visible, sometimes
not. I'm glad I have kept the original bridge.


The front of the completely relaquered Juan Roman Padilla 
guitar. A new (ivory) nut and bridge saddle while the bottom 
on which the bridge saddle rests has been securely flattened out. 


The back that looks great again and while 
relaquering you are able to make some
minimal corrections regarding flatness.
A repaired and stabilized crack is hardly
visible but only when the laquer lost all
his solvents conclusions can be drawn.


As has been said allready I did some corrections regarding 
the symmetrical view of this headshape. The lacquering
is the logical follow up. New tuners have been added
as only one side of the original tuners still was present.
Of course I will take a close look around when I'm
in Granada these holidays. The topnut is rather wide but
that has everything to do with the way the gap was
made originally. It has a better fit now. 



The rosette looks much fresher than before the
lacquer job. I like the typical use of the color
green the way the old guitarreros used to do.
Of course the fingerboard has been flattened
out while the frets are levelled and dressed. 
Juan Roman Padilla is known to have delivered
instruments to the Casa Ferrer shop that wasn't
mentioned that way when Antonio Duran was in 
charge. See for an original Duran guitar in this
Blog: A modest but skillful person.

Vicente Parres / Juan Pons Guitar / Thomas Prisloe Guitar




This simple guitar drew my attention as its'
sound was unbelievable: Though simply made with very
modest materials the Valencian builders often manage
to built good sounding instruments. In 1907 Vicente Parres 
appeared in the trade guides with a guitar factory (fabrica) 
at Carrera de Melilla, Traste 1 , num. 25 and with the
office (despacho) at Caballeros 55 bajo Valencia.
In the period 1908 – 1915 Parres y C.a. were at Carretera 
de  Melilla 23 and the shop was at calle Caballeros 55.
In the general catalogue of 1912, Juan Ponce, successor

of Parres y Compania, the workshop was at Calle Caballeros
55, Valencia. As the Felix Manzanera collection holds 
two guitars of these two luthiers they must have some 
importance in the Spanish guitar history.


This particular guitar has the old Parres head but the
the Pons soundhole decoration. For that reason I
assume it to be a somewhat later (under Pons built)
instrument. Pons took over the business of Vicente Parres 
in Valencia. Though this guitar lost its' label there is
one known label that says: 
Fabrica de Guitarras
de Vicente Parres
Fabrica: Carrera Melilla traste 1. no 25
Officinas: Caballeros, 55, bajo
Valencia (Espana)

Though really basic in construction I was really surprised by 
the sound of this instrument: Beautiful rounded, loud and with
a quick attack. That this was possible from a small plain guitar
like this with a ladder braced soundboard and mahogany
sides and back was astonishing. As for the soundboard it
isn't even straight grained but on the contrary the quality of
the mahogany is really good. In the Spanish tradition the
soundboard is glued to the sides by individuel spruce blocks.



This is the typical head form that can be found on the instrument
made by Vicente Parres (1880) but that instrument has been
equipped with wooden tuning pegs as was usual at that time.
Another feature is the wooden nut in combination with not
using a zero fret. These tuners could be a later addition
though they appear on other instruments of around 1900
The front of this head has been veneered with a mahogany
layer on the spruce (!) used for the neck. This use of  spruce
for the neck is another move pointing towards the Valencia 
guitar makers. This neck is still remarkably straight.



These bridges were common in the nineteenth century but
I didn't knew they were still used at the beginning of the 20th
century. No use of a bridgebone. Simply carved from
one piece of wood. These type of bridge can even be found 
on an Ibanez labelled instrument of the thirties and a later
Telesforo Julve guitar. Chances are big that all these
cheaper instrument from the well known Valencia builders
are coming from one and the same factory, at least a
 lot of parts!


Two other typical Valencia used features can be seen here:
The use of a softer, grey coloured wood for the fingerboard
and the brass fretwork of course.





On this picture it can be concluded that the wood used
for the top wasn't quarter sawn and the seam hasn't been
placed in the middle. The fingerboard had a greyish colour
and was a bit soft. In order to give it more strength, I decided
to "ebonize" it for a tighter fit of the new frets. To replace
the fingerboard would have been a possibility but that's 
too far away from this furthermore original guitar.


The neck has been made of spruce as was done by more Valencian 
guitar builders. And believe it or not: Still absolutely straight.
To my knowledge Telesforo Julve (Valencia) did this also on their
student range guitars.


Besides the fact that the neck was allready painted with
red lead paint (minium - initially ment to prevent rust on iron)
I wasn't aware of the fact that most cheaper guitars of that time
from Valencia were painted this way. It can even be a
guide  in determining the age of a guitar from Valencia!
 A small piece in the neck was simply rotten and had to
be removed. No big deal but the color red I changed into 
a darker brown. The curious heelform can be found on the 
Pons guitars as well. This instrument can be dated around 1912. 
There were different "Constructors de Guitarras" active
around 1900 and among them Telesforo Julve and Andres
Marin. The guitars of the latter and Parres / Pons have some 
features in common but the plantilla sometimes differs.


This simple Andres Marin guitar can be found on internet.
Marin is also a Valencia based luthier and this plantilla
resembles that of the unlabelled guitar above. Moreover,
the label has been glued over the blocks that are placed
over the center seam of the back in the same way it has 
been done on the unlabelled guitar.


The old tuners have been mounted again though the 6th string
knob isn't working properly. Of course fresh strings and then
after a day: The sound.... It is unbelievable what comes out
of this relatively small box. Beautiful basses , loud and percussive
higher notes but with a sweetness I only heard from a
more simple Vicente Arias guitar. To my believe the space
between soundhole and bridge which is quite large and
without any fan bracing is responsible for this sound
together with the blocks that are used for gluing the top
to the sides and that are placed about 1 cm from each other.


Of course the bridge itself could attribute to the sound
but one should expect less sustain with this construction.
To make this instrument a concert instrument as it has
these qualities, a new fingerboard with a better fret
spacing would be advisable as the fret inserts are a
bit sloppy placed as is the bridge that I allready moved 
about 2 mm towards the soundhole. Intonation could be
better but tonecoulour and the way this guitar
reacts to plucking at different places is great!
I placed a label inside for people who want to investigate
after me: Parres y Pons but chances are big as well that 
this instrument comes from the Andres Marin workshops.
Just recently the collection of Felix Manzanero is showing
two Parres guitars and I need to say that this instrument
most likely falls into this category.



Thomas Prisloe Signature Model



A rather mysterious model from this New York based 
builder as Prisloe had some special series built in Spain.
They come under the name Pavan guitars and are built to his specs. 
But the label from this particular guitar states the soundboard to be 
produced by Mr. Prisloe himself. Well, the name has indeed been 
placed several times on the inside of the soundboard. Price wise this 
guitar falls into another category as the more regular Pavan guitars
such as TP-10, TP-20 and TP-30. Another difference is the use of
Engelmann spruce (?)Prisloe uses for his own handbuilt models.



Some outer visible specific things on this serie can be seen
on this guitar as well. The ebony reinforcement at the back
of the neck and the headshape that is reminiscent  to the
well known Torres design. Year of production: 2008. After
some mail contact things are becoming clear: It was a
needful move after having received some PAVAN guitars
with a cracked top. Mr. Prisloe states this to be in 2008 and
followed the procedure of building a new top himself for
about 6 times. A very explainable move and as the sound-
board still is the "heart" of a guitar it can be this good!



The headshape with some additional carvings which
is of course a classic one on Spanish guitars. The square
spaced room for the tuner rollers is a bit of a Fleta move
though more builders have used it in the past.


We think the tuners to be from Schaller. They work very well!
Mr. Prisloe states the tuners to be from Gotoh: Concert model.
They work very smooth and in fact better than the Spanish
Fustero tuners placed on most top concert Spanish guitars.


A narrow grained soundboard that is almost white, probably
due to its' life in the suitcase up until now. This  instrument
is dated 2008 ( series 6 ) Engelmann spruce is more white
compared to Sitka spruce. But simple daylight already does
a lot to the color of the spruce soundboards over time.
Thomas Prisloe handsigned this label not withstanding the 
regular Pavan guitar labels that aren't signed at all.



Presented here is the soundboard bracing. Mind you, the
transverse bars still have to be placed on this picture of
course. Another remark has to be made as this soundboard
has been "arched" a bit. The advantage is that it becomes
stiffer and withhold the string tension better while making
the sound board thinner. Often called a "doomed"  top.


Also the rosette deserves attention as it is a really 
tasteful one and finely executed. This rosette appears to
be exactly the same as on the Thomas Prisloe concert
guitars from 2008 ( Entirely built bij Prisoe in New York)
Some remarks can be made about this guitar. It has lots' of 
volume and it vibrates really well in the lower registers. 
The higher notes are there as well and even with a nice bass 
support probably due to the way Prisloe places his bracing 
on the soundboard: a 6 fan bracing with closing ribs but 
the bass and treble side are divided in exact two parts. The 
bass side having more struts (1) compared to the treble side.
The number "6"  on the label most likely is referring to the
6 PAVAN guitars that were delivered in his shop with
a cracked top. He replaced them with a fingerboard
entirely made by himself. Mr. Prisloe wasn't sure about the 
number of guitars he rebuilt in this manner. Another
example we found with the number 13 inside so this
process remains a bit of a mystery.


A nice shot of the GOTOH tuners with a visible screw
at the bottom of the plastic knobs. Thomas Prisloe started 
the Santa Fe Spruce company to provide other luthiers with
the so called Engelmann spruce soundboards.

Antonio Mateu Ramis ( Flamenco )

Antonio Mateu Ramis was a Barcelona based luthier.
Little can be found about his activities but a classical
guitar by this builder was highly praised by the
famous Alexandre Lagoya. (Collection Sebastian Stenzel)
Very lightly built in the typical flamenco tradition.
Spruce top and ebony fingerboard.
A dry tone and quickly responding.



Apart from the nice Rosette you can see the double
scratchplates as is common on flamenco models.


On this label the luthier marked this instrument no. 13 being
dated the first of july 1953. In fact this luthier stopped in about 1965.
He had no successors. A classical guitar of this builder is
in the possesion of Sebastian Stenzel . (no. 239 - 1961) 


On this guitar the use of cypress can be clearly seen.
This is still tradition in flamenco guitar building though
it is possible to order a "negro" flamenco model
that has been equipped with a rosewood back.
Ebony tuning pegs to lighten the guitar...