Ultralight Flamenco (Full Version)

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Andy Culpepper -> Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 4 2022 20:49:07)

So, I'm taking the challenge as others, including Peter Tsiorba, have done before me. The ultralight flamenco guitar. But, I'm cheating a little with some very non-traditional materials and techniques. I am fully prepared to be roasted and called insane, and even I am not convinced at all that this is a good idea. But sometimes ideas nag at you long enough that they simply have to become reality. I'm even using a premade rosette for maximum salt from the traditionalists.

The sides will be 1mm Cypress and the back is laminated 0.5 mm Cypress, 1 mm Nomex, 0.5 mm WRC. Fully braced the back is 130 grams. It feels pretty much how I would imagine a paper mache or cardstock back to feel, but it's actually just as rigid as a normal back. The goal is to voice this guitar exactly as I would a normal guitar, so I don't want, for example, a back that is solid wood but super thin.

The goal is really not to shave every possible gram, but to make a super light guitar that is voiced/tuned the same as I normally would. But obviously, being a double top, I am expecting some surprises with the sound! I have made several double top classicals now but no flamencos yet.

The top isn't fully braced yet but it's coming along well, and will also be 2 mm total with 1 mm of Nomex inside and a WRC inner skin with Spruce outer. Let's see how this goes! At the very least it will have some flame retardant properties.

Nomex glued to Cypress back and awaiting inner skin.

Laminating the back.

Back inside.

Back outside.

Cutting Nomex for top.

Inlaying Nomex into top.

Before inner skin.

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mrstwinkle -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 4 2022 20:59:09)

Light and double top. All the good stuff and none of the bad*? Why not?

tri7/5 -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 4 2022 21:14:08)

Interested to hear how this turns out. I've personally not heard of using Nomex as a "double back" perse.

ernandez R -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 5 2022 21:13:17)

Cool project!

By light weight do you mean 1000g or 850? I guess a better question is what does your standard Blanca weigh and how much lighter do you expect this one to be?

I made a few 850g quasi-Flamencas and I thought they were pretty good, they’ve aged a few years and the one I still have has a certain kind of magic. It had an useen rib crack that showed with shellac and I made worse by wicking CA into the crack.

I found I did have to make the longitudenal axis of the back with those light weight ladies perfectly straight as the camber I had in the first few pulled flat allowing the neck to lift. I’ve since made an adfustable plate to sand the back in a sector of a cone. I use it for the top as well cause rather then the radius bowl many use.


bahen -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 5 2022 21:32:52)

Interesting! Will the neck be the standard sort—and, if so, what about balance issues?

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 6 2022 3:17:52)

850 grams is pretty nuts. Were those smaller bodied guitars? I'm shooting for 1000, similar to Peter's experiment here: http://www.foroflamenco.com/printable.asp?m=131717&mpage=
But it's certainly possible I get under that. My standard blancas are about 1350.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 6 2022 3:20:36)

I'm thinking of ways to lighten the neck...it will be 21 mm thick all the way down with a carbon fiber rod. The fingerboard will probably be 4mm Ebony. I would use Rosewood but I hate the way it wears. Also possible I could do a laminated fingerboard with 2-3 mm of Ebony and the rest being cedro. Definitely Rosewood pegs.

ernandez R -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 6 2022 5:25:38)


ORIGINAL: Andy Culpepper

850 grams is pretty nuts. Were those smaller bodied guitars? I'm shooting for 1000, similar to Peter's experiment here: http://www.foroflamenco.com/printable.asp?m=131717&mpage=
But it's certainly possible I get under that. My standard blancas are about 1350.

Ha! I just didn’t know any better and nuts is right, gotta hang it out there ;)
And yes full size 650mm scale etc. I built twin 666mm that came out at 1100 with birch ribs and back and spruce necks not a blanca yet not a Negra ether, I called them my number of the beast Mulato twins.

With what I’ve learned I feel I can safely build 900-1000g.

Thanx for posting that thread I’ve come across it a couple of times and I airways think about what Rob said, about the powerful player overdriving the thin light guitar, totally makes sense. But most of are not powerful players and projection today involves amplification. I’ve had the mantra of sorts, I’m building the guitar that the player feels, don’t get me wrong I can drawn out casual conversation in a room if need be with any of my guitars except perhaps my first. But I don’t need to, the boss was out of town today so I played off and on all day, there or four hours worth of I can tell by how my fingers feel holding this phone punching letters a la pulgar. Oh I don’t know, I’m just some guy trying to build out here in the wilderness as it were…


etta -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 6 2022 20:35:18)

Andy; bold move with Nomex top and back. I will especially be interested in your results. I have a Blanca and B. Rosewood Negra with Nomex double tops. The power, projection, and clarity of the guitars is exceptional. The tone from each is as traditional in its variations of voices and colors as I find in traditionally made guitars.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 7 2022 3:53:48)

Dang, maybe I should change the title of the thread from "Ultralight Flamenco" to just "Light Flamenco" [:D]. I can't even imagine what 850 would feel like...what are you using for fingerboard? I'm hoping to avoid the overdriving issue by keeping the plates a bit thicker/more rigid but we will see!

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 7 2022 3:56:48)

Thanks, I'll definitely be posting updates here. Your description and praise of Glenn Canin's DT flamencos are a big part of what made me willing to try one.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 11 2022 20:31:12)

I decided to go with all WRC for the bracing and the top ended up around 130 grams as well. The sides are thin but not scarily so when you consider extra side reinforcements, and the fact that I'm making the guitar a few mm shallower than normal. The weird thing to me was that Cypress is actually harder to bend at 1 mm than it is in the normal ~1.8 range. It had way more springback off the machine and even hand bending, but we got there :)

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davewphx -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 12 2022 19:15:07)

Fascinating to read this Andy. I had to google nomex and wrc- what king of glue is used to laminate? It appears to be some kind of plastic sheet used during laminating, do you use vacuum pump to suck it down? The laminated sections will still be resonant? Great photos.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 13 2022 4:30:19)

Hi Dave, yes these things are glued with a vacuum press. What you are seeing there is a vacuum bag with pieces being glued inside (with a board to maintain flatness), and all the air pumped out of it. Even pressure across the piece is critical.

As far as glue you have two good options: Gorilla Glue and thixotropic epoxy. I use Gorilla Glue because I like that it is a little more flexible. Gluing the Nomex honeycomb is all about using just the right amount of glue so that you get tiny fillets between the Nomex and the wood. There is a whole process of spreading glue with a roller onto a surface and then pressing the Nomex into the glue before transferring it to the wood. It's important to lay it in without scooching it around and spreading the glue.

So how to think about the whole idea of double tops and why there may be advantages: the wood on the outside primarily determines how it will sound. The resulting top will be lighter while maintaining rigidity, allowing it to vibrate more freely. Think of the top as composed of thousands of tiny I-beams rather than a solid sheet. You've taken weight out of the "neutral axis" while maintaining the rigidity of the inner and outer skin, separated by the "web".

Note: I am in no way saying that double tops are "better" than traditional guitars. I have figured out a system for classical double tops where I feel I can maintain the traditional sound that I love while improving volume and sustain, but everything comes with trade-offs that some players are fine with and some not so much. This flamenco experiment is just that- an experiment. All hail the great Matthias Dammann [:D]

ernandez R -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 13 2022 20:31:13)


How are you getting your cypress/WRC for the back down to .5mm ?

Funny thing, that gray one way pump fitting in the middle of your bag is the same device the Boss uses to pump the air out a partial bottle of wine, you know back when we didn’t finish a whole bottle in one night ;)

I went back through my notes and I built only one at 850G and the following using similar fitch woods at 960g. The guitar in my avatar is the third, my #5, with similar fitch woods at 1120gm

As a kid I built a lot of balsa model airplanes, in my early 20’s I had a mentor of sorts who taught me how to make lighter model airplanes, how to keep a build log, literally weigh each little piece as well as pre weighing each bulk piece.

One of the key takeaways was, if you can see the glue you are using too much and if it didnt break, say during a crash, it was over built and weighed too much. I crashed a lot of them. Later we began to incorporate carbon fiber and Kevlar as structural elements and I was able to develop structures minimizing mass.

When I first started build guitars I kept this all in mind and just chose to not use bulky sections of wood where I thought it was unnecessary. Of course all during this I’m reading about Torres and how thin his woods were and kept heading in that direction for a Flamenco guitar.

I’ve actually been stalled in the shop for various reasons but find inspiration when you and Stephen post your builds, lighting a fire under my ass as it were ;)

One more question, are you laying up the top and back flat or with some amount of camber?



Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 15 2022 3:31:49)

Haha. I actually glue the wood layers a little thicker and then thickness sand the whole thing (carefully tracking measurements) afterwards. I glue it up totally flat for that reason, then add the normal light arching during bracing.

Doing this has caused me to think about the weight of every single thing that goes onto a guitar. I believe I've calculated that the pegs, strings, frets, finish, nut&saddle, golpeadores and bridge should add up to about 120 grams total which is mildly terrifying. I think I'm over 800 with the back glued on and before the fingerboard, but there's a ton of wood that will come off the neck still.

Echi -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 16 2022 11:23:08)

I was hoping to see you working on a Nomex flamenco before or later.
Thanks for posting and very curious about the result.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 18 2022 20:43:05)

Friday update...working on carving the neck. 930 grams total with more weight to add, but the tap tone sounds like a djembe.

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ernandez R -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 18 2022 21:37:57)

Googles “ sounds like a djembe “

I see…

kitarist -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 18 2022 21:45:50)

Me too [:D][:D]

gerundino63 -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 19 2022 7:16:47)

Fascinating project Andy, I follow it with a lot of interest.
Does it really need top or back braces? I don’t know what Nomex is, so maybe not a smart question, just wondering.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 20 2022 3:57:13)

Thanks! The top definitely needed braces, it was about the same flexibility as a normal top at that thickness. Same with the back, I could have gone with smaller braces just to set the doming, but I wanted it to be pitched about the same as one of my normal backs.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 20 2022 4:00:15)

You guys have never noodled around on a djembe huh...

Echi -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 20 2022 18:47:46)


I wanted it to be pitched about the same as one of my normal backs.

Out of curiosity, do you look for a specific pitch or you look for a certain ratio in relation with the top (like a tone or semitone less for instance)?

kitarist -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 20 2022 19:56:11)


You guys have never noodled around on a djembe huh...

I guess... although when I heard it I recognized it. But are you saying that a djembe quality of sound is a good thing for your guitar at this stage, or a bad thing?

ernandez R -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 20 2022 22:32:02)

Slightly off topic, one of my favorite Azam Ali songs, might be the group Niyaz, she sings a famous Urdu poem from the 1600 called The Drum. It’s allegorical, In the poem the man is beating his drum for the love of his betrothed.

I might have my facts mixed up some though.

Ah, it’s in the first Niyaz album from 2005, the song title is Golzar.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 21 2022 20:42:24)

I do it all by ear now, but I am looking for the tone when tapping the back to be about a minor or major 3rd above the tone I get when tapping the top. Of course when you're tapping the top, you're mostly getting the air resonance, which is influenced by the main top resonance, but different. In fact you're hearing a whole bunch of different pitches at the same time, but my ear knows what's in the "correct" range, for my style at least.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 21 2022 20:48:11)

I think it's a decent sign, I was just noting that it has a lively and musical-sounding bass thump. Not necessarily outside the range of normal but definitely lively. Doesn't mean much until I get the strings on though.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 21 2022 20:54:04)

Nice! People should not underestimate the expressive potential of drums. The most mind-blowing performance I ever got to see, not close, was a drum solo on an Iranian "daf" drum. Mostly due to the performer's relationship with the instrument and the type of meditation it sucked you into.

Andy Culpepper -> RE: Ultralight Flamenco (Nov. 23 2022 3:44:05)

So here is me attempting to play the guitar while desperately avoiding tapping or scratching the top in any way, with 8 mm string height at the bridge.

It took a few minutes to warm up but I'm digging it. It sounded much more traditional and more like a "normal" guitar than I thought it would, at least at first. But some very special qualities did start coming out the more I played it, particularly in the treble, and the volume came in very strong. I'm looking forward playing it after it's finished and the sound gets a bit more refined and focused, and I can actually do some golpes.

For now I can say I avoided all of the pitfalls I was worried about: too much sustain, unnatural sound, too much buzz with crazy string excursions, bad rasgueo. I can't say yet whether it's a "great" instrument or not, but I'm looking forward to really putting it through its paces once it's finished.

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