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A Sitka topped guitar   You are logged in as Guest
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RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

A Sitka topped guitar 

I thought this guitar might be of some interest because it has a Sitka spruce top, which is an unusual choice for a Flamenco guitar. The back and sides are of Monterey Cypress. The selection was made more due to there being a great colour match with the Sitka and Monterey Cypress than for any sonic reasons. The shellac used to French polish the guitar is basic blonde shellac, no tint.

I made this guitar in the fall of 2016 and had it polished and strung by early 2017. My mother took ill at the time and this was the last guitar of mine she ever heard. We held a little lunchtime concierto for her not long before her death and I’ll never forget the moment and her smiles as she listened. There were some other guitars that were in the works when she took ill and a few months after her death I finally took them off the shelf to complete them and realized, to my surprise, that they were already finished. I do not recall having done the work, but there it was, I must have done it in the few spare moments I had during her illness. I honestly have no recollection of it.

My friend Sergei, who is an uber guitar maker, has made many Sitka topped classicals over the years. Around this time, he was experimenting with relatively thick topped Sitka guitars and there were a couple being kept at his shop to see how they developed and I had been tracking this with him. So, entering this project I already expected the guitar would take a bit of time to find its voice. I dimensioned and built it with that in mind.

As it was, the guitar sounded very nice, well balanced and loud with a full mid-range emphasis. But I wasn’t overly happy with the alacrity of the response - it was more rich than explosive. I had a couple of players evaluate it and we all agreed that, although it sounded great, they had to work to pull the sound out of it, it didn’t play itself. In light of that, I decided I’d put the guitar aside and see how it developed over time.




Fast forward to the past month of this year, when I remembered I had this guitar and thought I’d check out how it was doing. Well, it turns out it’s doing great, the years in hibernation were very kind. It’s lost its initial hesitancy and has gained a fast attack and, while the full midrange is still there, both the bass and treble characteristics have become more lively and brighter. Now, no work is needed to get it to sing. I had one of the initial evaluators come over and give it a whirl last week. He remembered the guitar and was astonished at how much it had developed without any playing. It growls and barks at command, yet can sing softly with a lot of resonance and sympathetic ringing. But when pushed it’s very explosive. The player described it as an aggressive sounding guitar. I think it’s got a great tone, very attractive, to my ears.

So, that’s interesting. My feeling, which I already suspected but now have proven to myself with this guitar, is that Sitka can be a great wood to use for a Flamenco guitar, but one must be willing to give it time to come into its own.

Here are some pics...the guitar has darkened somewhat in the case, but the Sitka and Monterey Cypress were pretty dark under the shellac as it was, so I was able to use basic blonde for the French Polishing.










Continued on next post...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 14 2021 23:52:23
 
RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

....Continued from post #1, some more detail shots, just for fun...


Requisite arty bum shot. It seems only other guitar makers ever look here, but look they do, so here you go.




Cheap-ass tuners. But GOOD cheap-assed tuners.




Heel shot. For Andy, because I know he likes checking out how people do their heels. I do, too.




Another one for the guitar makers. This one shows the benefits of staggered purfling. Can you find the joins?





Well, that’s it. I had more or less forgotten about this guitar. I must say I’m pretty happy with it. The take away is to trust a maker when they say they are building a guitar for the years and not for the moment. While a good guitar will sound good right out of the gate, they do develop over time and it’s important to allow for that, not just while evaluating an instrument, but while building one. Given time, a good guitar can become a spectacular one.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 14 2021 23:54:08
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

I think it just depends on which Sitka you pick. Some is good and some is even better. I think the myth that Sitka was no good for nylon strung guitars was perpetrated by magazines and the LMI catalog in the 1980’s - and some makers naysaying Sitka.

In 1988 the LMI catalog had a section on which woods were more suitable for which style guitar. It had a quote from Tom Humphreys, who was a guitar god of that moment- “Sitka isn’t suitable for classical guitars as it’s very sibilant.”

That started a small avalanche of expertism by anyone who read the ditties in the LMI catalog. The GAL publication didn’t help either because it spread the same rumors.
I have and I’d build again with Sitka if I liked the particular pieces of wood.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 15 2021 3:21:10
 
Echi

 

Posts: 932
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

That’s very nice Rob.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 15 2021 7:03:08
 
ernandez R

Posts: 482
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

She looks vary nice.

Sharp details too


HR

_____________________________

I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.

www.instagram.com/threeriversguitars
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 15 2021 7:23:38
 
ernandez R

Posts: 482
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

Forgot to ask, what is the binding/perfling combo?

HR

_____________________________

I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.

www.instagram.com/threeriversguitars
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 16 2021 5:10:31
 
RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to ernandez R

Hi HR, it’s been a while but, if I remember correctly, I used 0.040” maple with 0.015” black fibre for the side purfling and 0.030” maple with 15/12/15 b/w/b for the top, with the black being fibre and the white, maple. The binding is EIR and, according to my notes, the bridge is Amazon RW. Neck is Cedro, as are the back braces, and I braced the top with Sitka. Liners are reversed kerf Cedro for the back and the peonies for the top are red cedar from a fence post offcut. Both the bearclaw Sitka and the Monterey Cypress were bought about eight years before I built the guitar.

I didn’t write down how I braced it in my notes, which means I probably have a full scale drawing of the bracing in my files, with a reference pointing back to the guitar. Sometimes I forget to keep perfect records, but generally I’ll have something and I number my drawings so my notes can refer back to them, but apparently I forgot to do that this time.

The Plantilla is an older drawing of mine, the one I’m currently using is smaller. I’ve drawn up two new ones I also want to try soon, one is for shorter scaled classical guitars, but also would be great for flamencos. The drawing I’ve been using recently, while smaller than my older plantilla, is intended for longer scaled flamencos, although it is suitable for 650, too.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 16 2021 16:15:07
 
Stu

Posts: 1919
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

Missed this one. It looks lovely. nice one Rob.

What are the wavy lines on the sound board? Is that the Sitkas natural characteristic?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 20 2021 10:12:59
 
Echi

 

Posts: 932
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

Bearclaw are quite evident in this top and quite different from the kind I find in my German tops.
What I didn’t notice before was the kind of medullary rays typical of Sitka.
It happened to me to own a Sanchis Carpio with an undefined top (my first assessment was cedar) originally finished with orange polyurethane. I had to strip it off and apply shellac on it and in that occasion I discovered the wood was translucent and with those little medullary rays. Eventually the top was Sitka.
The guitar is really singing and quite loud. Just to witness sitka is a good choice.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 20 2021 18:22:19
 
Tom Blackshear

 

Posts: 2242
Joined: Apr. 15 2008
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to Stu

quote:

Missed this one. It looks lovely. nice one Rob.

What are the wavy lines on the sound board? Is that the Sitkas natural characteristic?


I've tried Sitka spruce on several guitar tops and they didn't have the
out put that Englemann spruce had for tonal quality and all around articulation. My opinion is that sitka is better suited for steel strung instruments. But then I sure there are builders who can make it work.

_____________________________

Tom Blackshear Guitar maker
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 20 2021 18:32:29
 
RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to Stu

Yeah, that’s bear claw Sitka. I had built some classicals with Sitka previously and I also paid attention over the years whenever my first teacher would build with it, so I wasn’t a stranger to working with it. I took its characteristics into consideration when making the guitar.

I didn’t expect it to sparkle right away and, indeed, it took a couple of years for it to find its voice. Now it’s top drawer and doesn’t lack for anything sonically. I’m quite pleased with it and I’ll be happy to let it go.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 20 2021 18:53:19
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1485
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

Nice work and interesting development. I wonder how much of the change is due to the finish shrinking. I always wonder that.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 21 2021 4:34:34
 
RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

I wonder how much of the change is due to the finish shrinking.

I think it plays a role. Also, there’s something about Sitka where it seems to want a bit more settling time than the Engelmann or Euro style spruces before it comes into its own. I like Sitka a lot, though, I’ll use it again.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 21 2021 10:42:03
 
Flamingrae

 

Posts: 218
Joined: May 19 2009
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

Just a lovely bit of sitka - and guitar too. My second guitar was made from sitka (probably something on here, somewhere). I didn't know it at the time, but it seemed to work well and I wouldn't hesitate to give it another go. A little "chippier" than spruce, but I think you can actually get a better bang for buck with sitka. I've not seen such good bear claw though as on you're soundboard - super looking bit of wood.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 22 2021 0:36:39
 
JasonM

Posts: 1682
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

I remember you saying your first guitar took a long time to mature too. So I think it’s safe to say that if you build a guitar that doesn’t sound the brightest it’s not your fault and you can just blame the wood!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 22 2021 15:36:02
 
RobF

Posts: 1112
Joined: Aug. 24 2017
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to JasonM

Yeah, my first flamenco used relatively green cypress so it wasn’t surprising that it continued to improve as the cypress aged. The downside to it was I had to do quite a bit of adjusting to the action as the guitar settled. Fortunately, I had made it with the height at the saddle in the upper range for a flamenco, so once all the adjusting was done it was sitting right in the sweet zone.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 22 2021 17:34:10
 
Tom Blackshear

 

Posts: 2242
Joined: Apr. 15 2008
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

quote:

Fortunately, I had made it with the height at the saddle in the upper range for a flamenco, so once all the adjusting was done it was sitting right in the sweet zone.


I think this was incorporated into the 2003 Reyes style I copied. But I went a bit further to fine tune its articulation by following its fan brace pattern to find out that there was a lot of thinking that went into the top's construction.

The 2003 Reyes was definitely set higher in the bridge saddle, in the beginning, to basically be lowered at a later date; and then constructed with the bracing to accommodate tone and articulation with the aging of the instrument.

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Tom Blackshear Guitar maker
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 23 2021 16:45:43
 
Echi

 

Posts: 932
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: A Sitka topped guitar (in reply to RobF

If you take a look at the database of sold guitars at Solera Flamenca or other shops you will notice that Reyes keeps the bridge more or less with the same set up and geometry. It’s slightly higher than today market standard but in line with other makers.
If the man meant to adapt the bridge time by time you would see more variation imho.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 24 2021 14:40:45
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