Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Many Faces of Loretta

 Fraulini was my grandmother Angelina's maiden name.  There were seven sisters in the family and I have named a model after each one of them.  My great Aunt Loretta was the baby of the family and is the last surviving sister.  She is in her 90's and doing well.  She always gives me a hard time that the model that bears her name is the "cheapest", but I like to remind her that it is also the most petite and sweetest, which usually gets her to ease up on me a bit.  This year I have found myself making a surprising number of Loretta's, each very unique in their own respect.  It started me to thinking that there is quite a bit of variation that can be done with a basic shape.  I thought it would be interesting to put up pictures of the three to compare and contrast.

The Loretta is a parlor guitar, modeled after some of the great guitars made in Chicago in the early 1900s.  It's short 24" scale makes it very nice to play as the strings are slack which gives it a very comfortable feel.  The first of this batch is one I've written about before, a fairly plain guitar, with a black spruce top, mahogany back and sides.  It's only noticeable trait is the leopard skin pickguard.  The plain look really makes the pickguard pop.  I've been calling this one The Black Widow.

The second of the batch is on the fancier side.  The same pickguard shape, with an inlaid mother of pearl flower.  The spruce top has a nice multi layered mosaic purfling which I made a while back to match some old Larson brothers purfling, ebony whale tail bridge and fingerboard, diamond fingerboard inlays and rosewood back and sides.  I really like the look and sound of this guitar.  I've been playing it in open G for the past month or so and it's been fun to listen to it open up.

The final guitar of this batch is a 12 string.  This guitar is loaded with inlay, fancy purfling, beautiful tuners and some fine ribbon mahogany.  The customer wanted to be able to tune the guitar up to E, with the 24" scale this works beautifully with a light 12 string set.  The guitar sounds great and is a real joy to play.  Quite fetching to boot!

So there they are, three of the same, very different guitars built within a few months of each other and each headed off to different points on the globe.  Each one is very much one of a kind.  All a joy to build.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

First batch of 2013

I recently finished the first batch of guitars for the new year.  It was a fun group, Gibson inspired more than anything.  I've really been getting into the hand rubbed sunbursts of some of the early Gibsons and got to try my hand at it again.

The most unique of the bunch was a seven string that I made for my friend Adam Kiesling.  Adam is a great musician in Minneapolis.  He mentioned to me a while back that he had been thinking about a seven string, with a low B for quite some time.  Adam has an old Galiano six string, made by Antonio Cerrito, which has a 26 1/2" scale.  He plays a lot of upright bass and is a big dude, so the long scale doesn't bother him.  Having the low B string, it made it nice to have an extra inch on the scale.  I used a .066" for the low B and the rest of the strings are a light gauge set.  The tuning is B,E,A,D,G,B,E.

I had a couple weeks to play around with the 7 string.  It was definitely fun, though I kept messing up as the extra string kept me thinking that I was somewhere where I wasn't.  With continuous playing I'm sure I wouldn't gotten used to it.  There is definitely a lot of potential for open tunings.  I look forward to hearing what Adam does with it.

 The second guitar in the batch was a Fenezia six string for another great musician, Mark Rubin of Austin, TX.  Mark plays all kinds of great music, from Honky Tonk to Klezmer, with all kinds of great musicians.  He was looking for a guitar to cover that wide variety of music.  After putting our heads together, this is what we came up with .  It's a great sounding box. Strung with medium gauge strings, it's got a lot of bark and very nice bass.  It's going to be a real gem once it's had some playing on it and has broken in.

   Last but not least was a Loretta for Todd Albright of Toledo Ohio, a straight ahead bluesman.  Todd gave me the instructions, "I just want a small guitar.  I don't want to tell you what to do, I don't want to see any pictures.  I want it to be a complete surprise when I open up the case."  I don't think there are better words you could give to a craftsperson.

The night before I made the pickguard, I had a dream about some leopard skin fabric, and that was the inspiration for the pattern of the pickguard material.  As Todd is an artistic dude, I though a black guitar would be fitting.  I followed Orville Gibson's lead, giving it a black top, but making the back, sides and neck red using a red varnish that I made up.  It turned out to be a pretty hot looking little thing.  Very fun to play with its short 24 1/4" scale.