New Guitar From Very Old Wood: European Spruce & Rosewood Classical

Some things in life get better with age. Musical instrument-making tonewoods fall into that category. As fortune would have it, my client stumbled upon this “muy viejo” tonewood through Craigslist. I have the fortune of transforming this gorgeous old wood into a new classical guitar.

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This European spruce set was stamped “Jan 17, 1968” by a wood dealer, which means the tree was likely cut several years prior. That made me wonder what notable events were taking place in the guitar world around the time of this tree’s harvest. I can’t think that far back as I was not born yet. Any anecdotes from my readers, going back to the famed 1960’s?

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One interesting nuance not immediately noticeable in the above photo (unless you are a wood geek) are the tool marks left by the saw. Most tonewood I purchase today seems to be cut on bandsaws. The circular marks you see on this wood, are an indication that a giant radial saw was involved. Think of a round, spinning disc of steel, at least two feet in diameter, festooned with sharp teeth. Now imagine that disc spinning several thousand rotations per minute, and you are the one holding wood, and pushing it toward the whining blur of polished steel. I take my hat off, to the brave sawyers of yesteryear.

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Here is the braced soundboard, awaiting the marriage to the neck, sides, and the back. Notice the yellowing/oxidation along the center seam, especially visible in the upper bout above the rosette. Wood darkens naturally, as it is exposed to UV light. This soundboard is several shades darker than new spruce. I’m looking forward to putting the first coat of shellac on this newly-born guitar with built-in patina!

For the transverse bars (above and below the soundhole) I chose 100+ year old, tight-grained Douglas Fir. The finest of European and North American wood in this conference of conifers!

Now let’s take a peek at the equally old wood reserved for the back and the sides of this elegant beauty. The rich layering of color in this rosewood is reminiscent of a decadent dessert of cacao, cinnamon, cream and coffee.

rosewood-guitar-back-vertical-grain-tsiorba

guitar-silhouette-tsiorba If you’ve been following my posts, you may have noticed the new setting in which the photos are taken. Yes, indeed, I have moved my shop location out of my home, and into an industrial building occupied by artists, writers, woodworkers, glass blowers, and the like. In its past life, the building housed a metal foundry, casting brass and aluminum.

I am enjoying my new light-filled space, replete with a sizable window, and walls, oozing the aura of the bygone industry, of sweaty foundry workers, melting, casting, and polishing metal.

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classical-guitar-rosewood-tsiorba Here, the guitar is awaiting the sealing of the box. The air volume within the cavity, the exacting springiness of woods, natural character and tonal attributes of spruce, rosewood, and Spanish cedar, will together define this guitar’s voice.

As a luthier, my job is not so much to force the “best” sound out of the guitar. It is rather, as though I am a guide, allowing the wood to transition to this new state. If I am alert, and careful, I can manage to carry this wood across safely. Then, the wood remembers the music it heard in the forest.

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16 Responses to New Guitar From Very Old Wood: European Spruce & Rosewood Classical

  1. Gary says:

    1968 was a fantastic year, Martin was going over to East Indian Rosewood from Brazilian. NASA was working on the flight to the moon, the world was wonderful. Then came THE 70’s! Disco! Fine woods were there for the asking, if only time travel was possible. My ideal is to fine a 68 Martin D-12-28 and convert it to a six string with a nice NOS new top.

  2. greg says:

    Hey Peter,

    Gorgeous wood and guitar, great story. Where is the new place?

    My best

  3. Luis Mejia says:

    It is such a wonderful thing that you have now become an intrinsic part of the history of this gorgeous wood. I enjoyed seeing the transformation from a soundless piece of wood to a beautifully crafted guitar. May you give it life and resonation through your skilled hands so that will be enjoyed by many for generations to come.

    Thank you, Peter.
    Luis

  4. Very auspicious Peter. I do remember 1968 and was 16 years old then. I was rocking out to bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin and their ilk. Not exactly classical guitar stuff.
    I often contemplate how works, such as yours, transcend the time of ones life. Keep up the good work.

  5. Randall Thomasson says:

    Amazing story and such beautiful wood. Looks like another masterpiece.

  6. Beautiful Peter, you are creating true magic! I’m awaiting my Tsiorba guitar to continue this magic. Congratulations.
    James

  7. Lovely work, Peter. I would love to hear this guitar after it is finished and played for a couple of months. I’m especially interested to see what the color will be of the finished instrument with it’s naturally darkened top.

  8. Gennadiy Neverov says:

    Truly inspiring work! Just imagine the sound of Requerdos de la Alhambra on this guitar as it sings to you the story of the past, enjoy the present beauty and celebration of life in this instrument!
    Thanks Peter!

    Geno

  9. Bravo! I am happy for you my friend. Keep up the good work…

  10. Great post. I really enjoyed scrolling down and seeing it take shape. Thanks for the story and play-by-play!

    Cheers,
    Allen

  11. Foti Lycouridis says:

    Hey Peter,
    Moving story, great looking guitar! Looking forward to seeing your new space, James’ new guitar and chatting with you. Foti.

  12. Nathan Iverson says:

    Beautiful work !!! (As always! )
    Cheers
    Nate

  13. Brian Brogan says:

    Hi Peter, Nice work man. I love you style. Can’t wait to show you my flamenco this summer. I get inspiration from your guitars. Cheers, Brian

    Love that rosette.

  14. Beautifully said as always my friend. This will truly be a wonder instrument.
    I really admire the Rosewood. Beautiful! Can’t wait to hear it sing.

  15. r. ogilby says:

    Beautiful. So tasteful from the meandering rosette to the Cappuccino zebra back.The thought of that saw gave me pause (cold sweat and puckering culo).

    Rich

  16. Bill Schulz says:

    Very nice Peter, thanks for sharing this story…should be a wonderful, rich and resonant tone!

    Congrats on the new work-space as well.

    Yours,

    Bill

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