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Blanca "Aire" how ethereal can it get without vaporizing?   You are logged in as Guest
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Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

Blanca "Aire" how ethereal... 

Experimentation. The urge to find out for oneself.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you REALLY want to KNOW! When you are left unsatisfied by the "truths" based on fourth-person accounts, based on some blog, reported by so and so, who read it at so-and-so's website, collaborated by.....I can't remember at the moment, some guy who seems to know what he is talking about..... :)

I am having one of those moments.

I've held and examined some very early 1900's Spanish guitars that were very, very delicately built. Looked at an early (50's) Reyes in which the heaviest part seemed to be the neck. Looked at the video by Richard Brune who describes an 1863 Torres with hardly any soundboard bracing and sides measuring some whopping .8mm thick.



So, I wanted to see how delicate and thin a flamenco can get, and what i'd sound like. Also, how it'd hold-up. I decided to build one and see what it'd do.


So here is one. Blanca with sides of straight-grained, quartersawn maple. Sides are about .9mm thin. Top or good stiffness Carpathian spruce randing around 1.5--1.7mm thick. Back will be around 2mm thick. I'll keep adding some photos to this thread, and share the results of this experiment.



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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 19 2010 22:15:30
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Sides, just a little under 1mm before bindings and finish-sanding. I hardly needed to bend them over the pipe. I could literally get away with just about the waist bend, the rest would conform to the shape by simply "springing-in"



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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 19 2010 22:18:00
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Santos Hernandez inspired rosette



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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 19 2010 22:20:25
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

I went with red cedar fan bracing to keep it as light as possible.



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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 19 2010 22:22:42
 
KMMI77

Posts: 1821
Joined: Jul. 26 2009
From: The land down under

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

quote:

So, I wanted to see how delicate and thin a flamenco can get, and what i'd sound like. Also, how it'd hold-up. I decided to build one and see what it'd do.


Nice Idea! Can't wait to hear the results.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 19 2010 23:31:59
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

That's an interesting project, Peter...

Jim Opfer is a big fan of ultra-light guitars, in fact I've tried a '69 Ramirez blanca which he owns and it is an exceptionally light guitar (1100 grams).

It feels like it's made of eggshell, but is remarkably strong and rigid.

Looking forward to seeing how it turns out!

cheers,

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 20 2010 3:08:26
 
at_leo_87

Posts: 3055
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From: Boston, MA, U.S.A

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

cool project!

so i can get an idea of how thin that is, how thick are the backs, sides, and tops of a normal guitar?

is carpathian spruce any different from european spruce?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 20 2010 6:46:13
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 3026
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Sounds good. I would use a nice thick neck blank so you can make the fretboard thin. Are you gonna use a rosewood FB?

I have been thinking about this lately too. I have a lot of experiments I want to try but for a lot of them you have to risk making a junk guitar for the sake of science

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 20 2010 7:50:20
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to at_leo_87

quote:

ORIGINAL: at_leo_87

so i can get an idea of how thin that is, how thick are the backs, sides, and tops of a normal guitar?

is carpathian spruce any different from european spruce?


typical sides are about 2mm. Top ranging from 2--2.4mm. Backs are often in the 2--2.5mm range.

Carpathian is a European spruce as well, although from a different part of Europe than "German" spruce.

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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 20 2010 9:16:53
 
estebanana

Posts: 9386
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

quote:

I would use a nice thick neck blank so you can make the fretboard thin



Or use a thinner light neck and put a carbon fiber stringer inside of it.

I always thought a normal flamenco guitar as one being pushed to a reasonable limit of thinness. I think builders are afraid to make them too light for fear they will fold up on themselves. The featherweight Ramirez guitars I've seen are usually in pretty good shape structurally. I think it's cool to push them to the edge. When I started building I was more conservative, but now I make them a lot thinner in many areas. I am glad I began by making them more robust, I think I learned where to thin them and how it affects things.

I feel like thinner flamenco guitars are more responsive. The only caveat I see in going thin is that a super thin guitar can sound good right away, but over time as it opens up it might lose some of it's seriousness or profundity. I think there's a fine line between going thin for performance and leaving enough meat for the sound of the guitar to have longevity as it opens and matures.
I suppose that's why it's hard to build guitars. :)

Nice experiment, it's the only way to feel it in your bones.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 20 2010 10:21:37
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Peter, I´m building light.

Some observations:
A very thin soundboard is not the idea IMO, it responds to much in the bass, I would prefer to build the bracing thiner. Just to the limit of where the soundboard doesnt bend to much inward in front of the bridge.

Neck.
They dont need to be reinforced if well cut, even the palest woolyest cedar is strong and stable enough if old enough and well cut.
You can scoope out the center of the neck on the inside, That part doesnt really add much strength to the neck.
You can make a hole in the foot. The center doesnt do anything. The foot stands on its edges.
I´ve tried all these and no problems. The guitar clearly ends up being lighter.
4,5 - 5mm fingerboard etc.

BUT, There are limits, if build to light and thin in the soundoard, the guitar wont work. The soundboard needs to be calibrated well, and if that is 2,3mm, its 2,3mm. There´s no way around that.

Also, many players like a guitar with a good body feel, and when you go very light, the guitar looses something, especially when played by a very powerfull player. Some more wood transmits some more sound and the guitar can be easyer to control.

Its a compromise on a hairline. IMO, a flamenco guitar needs to be light, but not to light. But I think you are right, we all need to work to the limit and experiment to see how things work by ourselves. And maybe you can build a guitar that works perfectly well and wich is lighter than what I can. It also depends on the respond you get from players, and here, where I live, the players want a sound with some body.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 0:54:20
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 731
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

There is something nice about picking up a really light guitar. I suspect that it is possible to build a fabulous ultra-light blanca but I haven’t found one yet. The nearest I found was a small bodied Torres design cypress guitar (made as a classical I think) by the English luthier Kevin Aram.

I have some records of guitars that have I have owned (4 Madrid and 4 Granada – I guess some will be able to identify the makers). Sadly the best was fairly heavy.

1280g (1962 spruce, machines, 7 fan struts 2 closing struts – dry with little body or volume, snappy if played hard)

1228g (1988 spruce, pegs, 5 fan struts, 2 closing struts, under-bridge strut – easy to play, base a bit boomy reasonable headroom)

1273g (1968 cedar, pegs, 5 fan struts, 2 closing struts, under-bridge strut – cedar is so different, nice guitar all round)

1280g (95 spruce, machines, 5 struts, very low profile under bridge-strut, double bars on neck side of soundhole – easy to play, not much body, reasonable headroom)

1312g (1965 spruce, machines 5 struts parallel 2 smaller angled inwards – dry and woody, easy to play, plenty of headroom)

1407g (96 spruce, machines, 5 radiating fan struts, 2 closing struts, - easy to play, plenty of body, endless headroom)

1457g (1990 spruce, pegs, thin strutting but plenty of it, 9 fan struts, under-bridge strut, 1 closing strut on base side, double inclined bars on bridge side of soundhole, double bars on fingerboard side – easy to play, plenty of body, endless headroom – ideal for me!)

1496g (2003 spruce, machines, 7 fan struts with central ones parallel – dry, needs very strong hands, endless headroom)

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 5:25:27
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Rob, Your observations are pretty close to mine. A good flamenco guitar needs to be light, but it also needs wood in order to be interesting in the long run. The art is to find out where to give and where to take.
I just finished a blanca which is very promissing. With light machine heads (Sloane), it weighs 1306g. It has a very good balance of lightness and woodiness.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 13:51:59
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

quote:

ORIGINAL: Peter Tsiorba

Santos Hernandez inspired rosette




I really like this rosette style, it's simple but very effective. It gives me some ideas. Thanks.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 14:17:40
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 731
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

Nice looking guitar - when I put my finger over the soundport in the picture it looks even better!
I like to read about you luthiers who are on a mission to make better flamenco guitars - I guess it's a mission for life.
Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 14:18:17
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

quote:

ORIGINAL: Peter Tsiorba

I went with red cedar fan bracing to keep it as light as possible.





With this much bracing; I examined a 1917 Santos classical guitar which was 1.7 to 1.8 mm thick in its top. My mistake was building it with a cedar top when it should have been with a stiff piece of spruce. It lasted for a good 8 years with heavy playing until it was traded off for another guitar.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 14:27:53
 
orsonw

Posts: 1944
Joined: Jul. 4 2009
From: London

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Tom Blackshear

I don't know anything much about building guitars. As a player I have to judge each guitar as it comes, they often seem to defy the rules about what to expect based on materials, build and dimensions but just to say I think your rosette is exceptionally beautiful.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 23 2010 14:59:08
 
Samarto

Posts: 160
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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Have any of you flamenco guitar makers ever used redwood bracing? I found it to be strong, light, and 36 years later still like it was the day the guitar was built. I also used it for the top and bottom linings. 2 strips for the top and one on the bottom. Also used it for the end block on a peghead blanca. Anyone ever considered when using pegs, to save weight, cutting out between the pegs on the peghead to reduce weight further? Anyone ever weighed back and sides same size and thickness of various woods for comparison? The different cypress, Port Orford cedar, Alaskan yellow cedar, etc? I have heard that for the weight, Port Orford is the strongest. If so it might be the best one for making thin back and sides.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 24 2010 6:03:45
 
estebanana

Posts: 9386
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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Port Orford is a good wood to make flamencos with. I've make three or four with POC.

If redwood is not too soft it would be good wood for liners, glue blocks and whatever. There are a lots of Spanish instruments from the late 19th and early 20th century made with entire necks of spruce.

I find Port Orford in old houses that are being demolished. Here on the West Coast Port Orford was often used for things like shelf boards and cabinet cases. It is more difficult to find in lumber yards today because most of the vertical grain wood gets shipped to Japan to make shoji and sake boxes.

I've managed to salvage and buy 20 sets of this stuff and I want o make myself a guitar with Port Orford. If your a builder in the West best way to find pre aged POC is to investigate houses from the 1880's to the 1960's when they remodel them. You can find in dumpsters outside construction jobs. I found the most POC was used in the 1920's and 30's. If you can't find pieces big enough for backs and sides there is often enough for brace stock and blocks.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 24 2010 8:25:18
 
Patrick

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From: Portland, Oregon

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Les Stansell cuts and sells Port Orford.

http://www.stansellguitars.com/

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 24 2010 10:11:49
 
jshelton5040

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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

I've managed to salvage and buy 20 sets of this stuff and I want o make myself a guitar with Port Orford. If your a builder in the West best way to find pre aged POC is to investigate houses from the 1880's to the 1960's when they remodel them. You can find in dumpsters outside construction jobs. I found the most POC was used in the 1920's and 30's. If you can't find pieces big enough for backs and sides there is often enough for brace stock and blocks.


I have a couple of sets of Port Orford that I've had for years. The tap tone tells me they are junk. Your idea of salvaging the wood from old houses, etc. is a great idea since you could find some really nice pieces that are also well aged. I don't dislike Port Orford just because the sets I have are junk but for the price I don't see why anyone would buy this wood since it costs as much as cypress.

If you want to build a really light guitar try Red Cedar for everything. Sides, back, top and bracing, then use Philippine Mahogany for the neck. Over the years I built several like that for myself since I really like the sound of light guitars. They tend to be very fast and very easy to play.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 24 2010 15:19:55
 
Jeff Highland

 

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From: Caves Beach Australia

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Hi Guys,
I am currently buiding my first flamenco along with a classical.
I do not expect to achieve ultimate tone in a first, but I am trying to move the blanca towards being very light weight without going real thin.
It is interesting to weigh the individual components and compare with the rosewood classical.
Going with a rosewood fretboard seems to be saving me 50 grams, using pegheds another 95grams and just going for monterey cyprus back and sides seems to be saving around 250 grams compared to the indian rosewood. at the same thickness.
I am using Australian red cedar for the necks.
You are probably going to be well ahead of me in finishing, Peter, so it will be interesting to see how yours comes out.
That Torres in the video sounds amazing.
regards
Jeff
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 24 2010 16:43:12
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

El Aire is finished. She is very light. Complete weight with strings is 1002 grams. I suppose 1 kg. is close enough. Here is the sound and a few photos shots. Watch it in HD if you can.

A little bit about the sound. Very light touch allows for a LOT OF SOUND so this guitar is excellent for someone not interested in very hard, powerful right hand technique. With more power applied, the sound is still very good.

Sides ended-up somewhere around .8mm and back at around 1.6mm




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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2010 13:40:25
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Sounds good. Just to correct your spanish, the correct name would be El Aire. There´s a gramatical rule about putting masculine article (el) in front of feminin nouns starting with an A

Your descreption of sound doesnt surprise me and a lot of older style guitarists, specially the ones not playing to much like that kind of guitars. More modern players and players playing a lot will need more wood because they´ll reach limit all the time.
Very light and light touch guitars can be fun or a short while, but then they turn out to be empty sounding without a lot of possibility of expression.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2010 23:35:06
 
KMMI77

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From: The land down under

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Sounds great! In the video it felt like the material you are playing seems to be choking it a bit, making it hard to hear it resonating properly.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2010 3:12:30
 
RobJe

 

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From: UK

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

An interesting experiment and a nice looking guitar. Of course it is not possible to be absolutely sure about how a guitar sounds from a recording- but the recording sounds rather what I imagined it would be like.
I have been lucky enough to get play a lot of blancas from about 1890 onwads by famous and other makers. Up to about 1960 many of them were very light and rather snappy if played firmly - including two guitars by Santos Hernandez. A couple of Marcelo Barberos from the 1950's were a bit heavier (about 1.3 kg) and these were much more to my liking - possible to make "wall of sound" continuous rasqueado, make contrast between loud and soft and make variations of tone. I suspect that such guitars were a godsend to the new breed of solo guitarists who emerged during this period and after. My teacher had a Barbero like this and he was so obsessed with it that his wife picked it up and threw it at him, destroying it completely. If it had been lighter the physical pain would have been less but the mental scars would have been no different I suppose!

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2010 9:17:57
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:

ORIGINAL: Anders Eliasson

.... Just to correct your spanish, the correct name would be El Aire. There´s a gramatical rule about putting masculine article (el) in front of feminin nouns starting with an A


Thanks Anders. I stand corrected. My Spanish (especially written) is quite limited. When I came to the USA as an immigrant, I did not speak English, and entered my final year of high school as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student. Incidentally, it was in southern California, and everyone in the class spoke Spanish. Teachers were trying to be helpful by speaking quite a bit of Spanish in the classroom.

I believe I learned mostly Spanish in the first few months, until I recognized the difference between the two languages and began to focus on studying English.

How many years has it been since you established your home in Spain? You must be fluent in Spanish, yes?

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Peter Tsiorba
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2010 9:28:32
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
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From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Certainly this light of a guitar is not for most modern musicians. For some, however, this would be a very satisfying instrument to play. As a maker, I want to be able to feel and to know the range of pulsation and tension I can build into a guitar. For me, I feel the best way (and most enjoyable) is to reach that goal through experimentation. It's like baking. I want to be able to able use the same flour, but know how to make quite a range of bread.

By the way, this was not a complete stab in the dark either. I did look at various pre-1950's guitars. From early Reyes, to early Ramirez, Esteso, etc. I also had a chance to do a restoration on an Esteso guitar which briefly belonged to Ramon Montoya, and it had many of the similar characteristics with the guitar I just finished. Here's that Esteso, very lightly braced, and not a whole lot of wood in the top:



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2010 10:02:22
 
Peter Tsiorba

Posts: 130
Joined: Oct. 27 2009
From: Portland, Oregon Pacific Northwest

RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Esteso bracing. This was a three-piece top. The center brace was completely omitted.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2010 10:03:53
 
Anders Eliasson

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RE: Blanca "Aire" how ethe... (in reply to Peter Tsiorba

Thats a pretty scary bracing system. You must have good faith in your capacity of jointing the 2 halfes.
I agree, the only way to really learn about guitars is to build them. I´ve built very light as well. Not as light as you, but close and I didnt like it. The sound was to flimsy and the guitar wasnt realy usable for anyone with a pulsation stronger than a child. I sold it to a relatively old player and he loves it......

The Esteso on your picture looks like it has a very nice soundboard. Strong contrast, not to narrow grain and a lot of silking. These soundboards can often be made pretty thin. 1,9 - 2mm But very often, old guitars like this one have been refinshe a couple of times and the finisher might have taken of some tenth of a milimeter and the guitars normally suffer from that.

I have a feeling that the plates need to have their thickness. If the top says 2,2mm, then its 2,2mm, no less. The same goes with the back. The sides I do at 2mm, because the guitar need some kind of stability in the body.

The place where I find you can gain the most by building light is the neck. 2 ways of doing that. Find a very light weight piece of cedar (not to "wooly") Or on a heavyer piece of cedar, scooping out a part of the center. Just some 15 x 8 mm.

I´ve lived in Spain for 9 years and I have a university degree in Spanish, so I´m pretty fluent when I´m not to tired or drunk.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 21 2010 0:28:51
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