klath Guitars

Building the Torres

Both Francisco Tarrega and Antonio de Torres were masters and innovators in their fields, and both have influenced every single builder and player of classical guitars who has come after them.


Now it’s my turn to reap the benefits of their legacy.  I am building the 1888 Torres guitar.  It was owned and played by Tarrega, and recently restored by master luthier Jeff Elliott (who made the plans that I’m using).

My materials are Engleman Spruce for the top, Indian rosewood for the back and sides, and Alaska yellow cedar for the neck (reinforced internally with maple).

The biggest obvious challenge in this project is the infamous Spanish Heel.

In steel string guitars, the body and neck are built


separately before being fit together right at the end.  When you build with a Spanish heel, the neck and top have to be joined right at the beginning of the assembly because the neck continues into the body.  I was excited to tackle this one, and it went surprisingly smoothly.  The final finish details might be difficult, but so far so good.

I went for a solar theme with this one (my one design indulgence).  The fingerboard shows the progression of an eclipse (or perhaps a lunar cycle), and the rosette shows a stylized solar eclipse.  I used similar techniques here as for the sunflower guitar–allowing the pattern to continue over the fingerboard, and the precisely inlaid petals.  The rosewood background, however,  made it a very different project.  I’ve found that when inlaying into hardwood it is more difficult to keep crisp lines. At the same time, dark woods are more forgiving to work with.  It’s a fair trade.

img_3770The most recent pic:

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 10:57 pm.

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Taming the wilds with the 1888 Torres

Fred Carlsons Big Red harp sympatar

Fred Carlson's "Big Red" harp sympatar

So, I’m a raring young luthier, ready to take on the guitar world, make my mark, and of course solve all the problems that 600+ years of instrument builders haven’t been able to perfect.  My luthier-hero is Fred Carlson who is famous for building some of the most insane, yet perfectly balanced, instruments you will ever see. (<— check out the pic)  I enjoy the experimental, the new, the scientific, and the creative.

In any case, my instruments do reflect this.  Don’t get me wrong– I’m very detail oriented, precise, and patient when it comes to the work, but when it comes to design I have a hard time reigning myself in.  Every aspect of my first several instruments were my own design, more and more completely as my abilities increased.  How about a guitar that I could play in the passenger seat of the car?  How about something made out of this gorgeous bright red Padauk?  And inlay…?  There are just too many possibilities, and I learn brand new things every time I try one.

However, there is another, more subtle side of lutherie.  Repeatability, consistency, and the ability to finely tune and predict how a particular bit of wood will sound if you shave off .001 inches rather than .005 inches.   Basically, sensitivity to what you’re doing.   And that only comes with experience and thinking about what IS there rather than what could be there.

With that in mind, a while back I asked  for the advice of Jeffery Elliott and his partner Cyndy Burton, who are both great classical builders and have become friends and mentors.  They strongly suggested that I find myself a proven guitar design and build it– preferably multiple times.  In fact, they even recommended a pattern:  The 1888 Antonio de Torres.

After resisting for a while (who likes discipline?), I decided it was for the best, and ordered myself the plans.

This instrument is now almost complete, and to my surprise I’ve had a fabulous time building it.  Next post: building the Torres

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 9:03 pm.

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