3/22/2009

c.1960s? Portuguese Guitar


First of all, she's all done! Thankfully... I couldn't wait to string it up and hear it! Stringing is bizarre, because you have to loop both ends of the strings when putting them on, which means (at least) hand-looping one side of them. I've used a set of GHS bouzouki strings and a set of Martin mountain dulcimer strings and that filled (almost exactly) the gauges that are traditionally used in a set of guitarra strings.

Speaking of strings... I've tried several different tunings. "Standard" is DABEAB bass to treble, though I can't wrap my brain around it. I've tuned it to "baritone guitar" voicing: BEADF#B, and that sounds actually very nice and full, with good bass. It's an octave up from baritone guitar, and if you play standard guitar (E to E) your "G" chord would be a "D" and so forth...

I've also tuned to CEGCEG, which I think is a very pretty open C tuning: it looks like a 5-string banjo capoed at the 5th fret in terms of fingering for the top 4 courses (GCEG) and the low C and E make nice drones. Awesomely, you can play the same tune on the first three strings that you can on the second three strings and you'll be playing your tune an octave up in this tuning. This follows the same logic as the Hawaiian guitar or dobro's GBDGBD tuning. This C tuning is also the very same as the oldest "natural" tuning for the instrument, which I learned about later on a Wiki article (click here for it).

And here's a video to listen to while you read along:



This thing is wide! Very wide! Wide as a dreadnought guitar, though you wouldn't think it until you have it in your lap.


Fun headstock with bone nut and brass Portuguese-style tuners -- these are essentially threaded shafts that pull up on the string-hitch "nuts." Now, if someone can figure out how to make a stay for this end that's as easy to string up as a regular tuner, I think all mandolins and many-stringed instruments should be using these tuners... they're extremely lightweight, hold tune well, and you don't have to have a super-giant headstock. Not to mention, they're held in place by the tension of the string load rather than screws, so they're easily removable for service with the strings off and don't muck up the headstock.


Lovely super-radiused fretboard -- a comrade-in-strings mentioned that it might be olive. I'm guessing he's right, as it has that look and that sounds about right for an Iberian-peninsula-built instrument! By the way, those are bar frets like on old Martin guitars -- definitely a throwback to the past!


Nice, elegant rosette. Also, well-sculpted bone bridge... I love it.


From the Santos Beirao workshop in Lisbon. Apparently, they closed their doors in 1985. I'm guessing this was built earlier on, however... considering the tarnish (when it arrived) on the tuners and tailpiece, and the bar frets. Or perhaps the bar frets are still being used? I don't know myself.


Here's a filled crack. Not as pretty as I'd hope but it does lend an air of seriousness to the instrument!


Simple purfling. I like the lack of binding but the inclusion of purfling... I always find that styling exquisite!


Back and sides... here you can really see the lovely orangey-yellow glow of the sycamore wood.


And here you can see the grain!


Back.


Back detail.


Headstock back. Portuguese guitars tend to have scrolled volutes and I think that this one either never had it put on or it lost it at some point in its life. When I got this, this neck "heel" had scribbled pencil on it and was unfinished. I've sanded and sealed it with a satin finish to protect the wood. I actually rather like its appearance this way... simpler than when the instrument has its curly hair!


Heel.


Grain detail.


And here's a closing beauty shot!

8 comments:

davidsims said...

Hay I like the Guitarra Portugesa. Also some has cut off the tear drop or scroll above the tuners. I think there is not any other instrument that can sume up what it means to Portuguese for me. Have to Ron Fernadez web page ? He Has lessons on his web site.
I'm build my own Guitarra at a slow place.

David

Josh said...

Hey, how do you hand loop the strings? I've got a cavaquinho with Portuguese tuners, and of course can't find double-looped strings to put on it.

davidsims said...

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply. The Portuguese had a plier with a attached loop maker on it. If you email me at dt2dsims1@bellsouth I can send you a pic. You can get one of these at www.folkreps.com or Ron Fernandez guitar web page. Ron is the only person who imports into the USA from Portugal other then folkreps on ebay. My Cavaquinho has regular gears so I don't have the problem yet.

David Sims
Belos Azorean Guitars

davidsims said...

my email is dt2dsims1@bellsouth.net

David Sims

davidsims said...

Jake, we should talk on what you said about making the Portuguese gears. These gears a not cheap in Portugal. Some web sites $90 us dollars to almost $200. It can change due to engraving the front of the plate. I'm a retired dental laboratory technician and I'm waxing the first Portuguese gear. It take more thinking then waxing and casting. Maybe we can help each other?


David Sims

Jon said...

I bought a machine head and tail from a luthier in Lisbon, the head cost me €60 which I felt was reasonable. He was adamant that the scroll was a cosmetic option and I agree that they look better without. Does anyone have a plan I could build to? I plan to make one with a 530mm scale length but I can modify a normal 450mm plan.

John Davis said...

Persevere with the Portuguese tuning. It does take some getting used to, but it's worth the effort, there are things you can do easily with this tuning that you can't with any other.

John Davis

Marco said...

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