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Category Archives: Gypsy Guitars

I recently acquired tops from redwood trees cut over 100 years ago   It is much harder and stiffer than redwood one finds in the lumber yard today, if you can find it at all.   I run tops through a little stiffness to weight ratio test when selecting for a build and this redwood top had the highest S/W ratio of any I’ve ever tested.   The result is a very light top assembly that remains bright and lively when pushed to the limit of top deflection.   A lesser top becomes low pitched and flabby sounding.   The combination of light weight and high pitch makes for a highly responsive guitar with a lush bright sound.   That it is loud is a given.

Redwood top, laminated walnut back and sides, walnut neck, Ebano fingerboard and bridge,  670mm scale.   French polish finish.

A new Corazón, November 2018.   Lutz spruce top, Birdseye back and sides.   Mahogany neck with walnut spline.  French polish finish.    Ebano fingerboard, nickel silver frets, 660mm scale.   Custom CB tailpiece, Golden Age tuners.

 

A new Corazón for Mitchell Green in Victoria, BC.   This one is very similar to the first one (Sami’s) in tone, playability and appearance.   Lutz spruce top, Birdseye maple b/s, mahogany neck with walnut center strip.   Ebano fingerboard and nickel sliver frets.  Miller chrome tuners and Busato style replica tailpiece.   French polish finish.

My first f hole guitar, for Steve Wiessler in California.  I’ve wanted to build an f hole guitar for some time, thanks for the opportunity Steve!

Roughly based on the DiMauro Chorus design, but with my own bracing pattern and approach to the back and sides.   European spruce top, laminated curly walnut back and sides.  Mahogany neck with walnut center strip, Ebano fingerboard, nickel silver frets, Miller tuners, CB tailpiece, French polish tint and finish.

 

 

Early on, I had the opportunity to work on a handful of French gypsy guitars from the 50s and 60s with very flexible backs, no bracing, or just one.    Half a dozen were by Jacques Castelluccia.   One was thought to be a music store Busato.  On others, the builders names have been lost.   Most were unsigned and originally sold through music stores who put their own labels in them.   Most of these guitars sounded great.  Loud and responsive with a singing tone.   While the lack of braces on the back was probably done in the name of cost efficiency and is contrary to other acoustic guitars and  most string instruments for that matter, these guitars have a unique tonal signature.    The sound is dry and fundamental, but with excellent attack, response, clarity, volume and sustain.  The lows are solid and woody, the highs are bright and loud and the mids make you want hang out there all day.    Overall tonality is bright but full bodied.

In keeping with this old school, gypsy mystery theme, the guitar is very light 3.5 lbs.   The top is thermally aged torrefied Sitka spruce.   The back and sides are laminated mahogany.  The back has a vaulted back with a single center brace.   Finish is shellac with minimal grain fill for a low gloss luster.   White bindings, retro tuners and tail.

Not all is old school with this guitar however.   Studying old guitars, one learns what works and what doesn’t.   Many of these old guitars had all kinds of neck problems, funky neck joints, inferior frets set in inaccurate slots, dyed pear fingerboards which crumble with age, caved tops due to insufficient bracing under the fingerboard.    The neck on this (and all my guitars) follows the best in modern practice.   The best woods for the neck shaft sealed with epoxy to reduce changes due to humidity, Ebano fingerboard for stability, stainless steel Jester frets set in slots cut with a CNC machined template, a strong bolt on neck joint, and a double action adjustable truss rod.   The fingerboard and frets are carefully worked, the action is set up at 2.4mm and is highly playable.    The top is carefully braced to provide the highest possible response and volume but capable of withstanding the structural demands over time.

 

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A left hand Corazon for Jimmy Lamont!

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Russ Hanchin has a Zazou I built for him a couple years ago, but was looking for a second gypsy guitar, “you know, just in case”, and he wanted an alternate sound while he was at it.  He had played the Derecho owned by a fellow Virginian and asked for a full up Derecho with cedar top and Castelluccia bracing.   Curly French walnut back and sides, butternut neck, Ebano fingerboard, stainless frets and French polish finish.   The result is a guitar with a big Castelluccia voice combined with modern construction and playability that should give decades of enjoyment.

Morris w 44

Photo by Matt Henry

 

A new one for Morris Moon.   Busato size petite bouche.   Lutz top, curly french walnut on sides and arched back, mahogany neck w/ walnut center stripe, aged Miller tuners and Busato style tailpiece.  Ebano fingerboard and bridge, stainless steel frets.  French polish of course 🙂

As to tone, Morris says it best:

“I really, really love it! Had its first gig yesterday and used my dpa mic and it sounded great. I could get more volume than I needed without feedback and the guitar sounded completely balanced. Amazing. It has great tone if I want it to be sweet and then can get crunchy on rhythm when we’re driving. It’s going to take me quite a while to learn all the potential this guitar has.”

 

 

 

 

Busato sized petite bouche, Lutz top, Tiger Makori back and sides.   Mahogany neck, Ebano fingerboard and bridge, stainless frets, Miller tuners and tail.

43 front & back

The first Busato size CB guitar, for Michael Joseph Harris of Ultrafaux and Hot Club of Baltimore fame.   Lutz top, curly French walnut back and sides,  vaulted violin style back,  670mm scale, Spanish cedar neck with walnut reinforcement.   Miller tuners and tail. Stainless steel 47×104 frets.  Double action truss rod.   French polish finish.

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