3/16/2012

c.1920 American-made Frank Borges Portuguese guitar





For me, this instrument is super cool. It was made by Frank Borges in Providence, Rhode Island at 110 Wickenden Street where he presumably had a repair shop as well. Why is that important to me? I worked at Coffee Exchange for a couple years just a few doors down! How about that?

This is a nice instrument and has survived in original condition save that I've replaced the ailing original tailpiece with a period guitar-style replacement that accepts loop or ball end strings (thus making stringing it up tons easier).


This guitarra follows typical construction techniques including a flatsawn pine top, cigar-box style mahogany back and sides, and an ultra-lightweight build with a ladder-braced top. As one would expect, the sound is bright and lush and full of overtones -- just like a Portuguese guitar should sound.

My work on it included many crack repairs/cleating and filling, some seam regluing, a fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup.


Mr. Borges thankfully used readily-available American-made 12-string guitar right-angle tuners instead of the more usual "peacock" Portuguese guitar tuners that make re-stringing a time-consuming experience.


As usual, the (rosewood?) fretboard is highly arched (like a violin) which means all 12 strings fit and are easily playable with a nut width that is narrower than the average modern 12 string guitar.

I currently have it strung for ADGCEA tuning (like a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret). This tuning is a heck of a lot more useful to US guitarists (and myself) but of course, standard DABEAB tuning could be arranged as well. What I like about ADGCEA is that it can be retuned to GDGBDG nicely which gives an "open D" feel while playing in G, which makes the instrument super useful in our Stateside folk music as a different voice.


The purfling and rosette are pretty cool in that they've got nice blue-green stripes in them.


Rosewood bridge. Note the longer vintage tailpiece I've installed to replace the original simple brass one. This allows for ball and loop-end strings which means better access to the right gauges from typical guitar shops.




This is roughly the same size as a modern octave mandolin.




Note the multiple longish cracks that have opened up from dryness. I've glued up and stabilized them but they're there.


Nice tuners! After lubing them they work perfectly.




I also added a strap button to make this a little easier to play standing up.


She's a beaut!

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