Many years ago, Bill purchased a redwood-top acoustic dreadnought with a gift his grandmother left him. When Bill contacted me to commission a flamenco guitar, he wanted to honor the memory of his grandmother and her gift. In our tonewood selection process, we decided to merge both the European and the American timbers, echoing Bill’s family’s immigration narrative. Choosing the same soundboard material, redwood, allowed us to capture the essence of Bill’s old guitar. His grandmother’s ancestral roots trace back to Portugal, so we decided on Mediterranean cypress for the guitar body. We now had timbers from the Old World, and the New. I imagined giant Sequoia trees, towering nearly 300 feet above the forest floor, bidding hello to their distant cypress cousins in the Mediterranean. Both the redwood [sequoia semprevirens] and Mediterranean cypress [cypressus sempervirens] are in the cypress family.
Additional ideas came from photographs provided by Bill. The Portuguese tile-work and photos of quilts like his grandmother’s.
There was lots of blue in the quilts and the tilework, so I decided to incorporate a good dose of blue in the rosette, as well as to utilize bold geometric shapes.
Rosette work began with the selection and gluing of various layers of blue and yellow veneers. I wanted several variations of triangular shapes in the rosette tiles.
Once prepared, the various woods and geometric shapes are glued into little logs. If all the parts were cut exactly, and the fit was right, the result is a consistent sandwich of sorts, which can then be sliced into thin tiles.
Slices are then tapered and sized with a sharp chisel, and joined into a ring roughly corresponding to the size of the planned rosette. A square of plywood lined with thinly glued butcher paper works well as a temporary foundation.
It is time to place the rosette in its permanent location. A properly-sized channel is scooped out of the soundboard, and the rosette is glued.
The rosette is completed with a border of black and maple veneers (photos to follow).
On to bracing! I chose to brace this soundboard with European spruce.
Once bracing is in place, it needs to be precisely shaped and tapered. Even though there is no single recipe to a perfect brace shape, this step is not a minor detail. The profile, stiffness, dimensions and the mass of the braces will all have a tremendous impact on the guitar’s sound.
Humor me…this is the soundboard’s moment in the spotlight! All of its meticulously-detailed bracing will soon be enclosed, and rarely seen by anyone, except perhaps during a repair, or when someone pokes inside the guitar with an inspection mirror.
Attaching the neck and the soundboard.
Bloodwood bindings with dark/light purfling lines being prepared.