9/09/2011

c.1930 Antonio Inacio de Sousa Portuguese Guitar





This was built on Sao Jorge in the Azores by Mr. Antonio Inacio de Sousa -- and -- while it's a very folksy instrument, the sound is gorgeous, full, and it plays beautifully. I've posted Portuguese Guitars before, but haven't gotten around to another one in a long while. I was lucky enough to spot this one, probably dating to c.1930-40 or so, and snapped it up just like that.


Top looks like spruce or similar to me, with back and sides very likely made from cypress. It has most of its original hardware, though the thumb-pin/strap-hanger that held the tailpiece on got stripped so I had to replace it with a newer type while moving the tailpiece over into alignment with the neck/strings.


Nice brass "watch key" tuners of the type typically seen on these guys. Portuguese guitars are like a throwback to Renaissance (and slightly later) instruments and are especially similar to the English guitar and waldzither.

The oldest tuning was "C natural" or -- CEGCEG, bass to high. The modern tuning is DABEAB which suits the traditional fado music where these instruments are typically found. I have this one tuned BEADF#B like a "standard baritone guitar" but an octave up, which makes fingering and transposing for guitarists relatively carefree. This stringing also lets me switch to a higher-tension DABEAB if I like and also CGCEGC for an open C tuning.


It's a pretty instrument, with that wide "rope" inlaid marquetry which came to be so well known on another Portuguese-derived instrument... the ukulele.


Check out that cool brass nut, too.


Bar frets and a view of the very radiused fretboard. If you've never played one of these, the first impression is usually a stunned look -- because 12 strings are set on a neck thin (side to side) enough to be a modern 6-string guitar, while the back of the neck is round and relatively thick. The cunning in this design is that it fits the hand perfectly and makes for a super fast instrument.


Rosewood bridge with brass saddle. I had to shim it up a little.






A beaut!




In shipping to me the headstock "volute" was broken. I reglued it and, well, all set!




The Spanish heel on these guys means the need for a neck reset is highly unlikely.


Big old crack on the bass side of the back, and I had to glue up the middle seam, too.


Here you can see just how far over the tailpiece needed to move to give the strings a proper straight pull.

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