Posted on

Letter: Settling-In of Guitars

Letter: Settling-In of Guitars

by Chris von der Borch

Originally published in American Lutherie #40, 1994

Dear Guild,

I have been constructing classic, baroque, and steel string guitars since around 1960. It is a long-term hobby of mine, as is guitar playing (in real life I am a professor of marine geology). I have made about sixteen instruments, with latter classicals being based precisely on measurements of several well-known Fleta guitars, including top thickness gradations and strut dimensions. I have used a variety of highest-quality soundboard wood (cedar, Sitka spruce, European spruce) and Brazilian rosewood. Recently I completed my first Smallman-style guitar using a wafer thin cedar soundboard (1MM) combined with web strutting of balsa and carbon fibre and a series of rather heavy internal braces to reinforce soundboard support.

Of all the above, only two are really satisfactory. One is a Sitka spruce Fleta-style guitar which matured after several years into a top instrument. The other success is the Smallman-style guitar, despite a slight fall off in “zippiness” from initial tune-up. Other guitars typically sounded brilliant, usually 24 hours after initial tune-up. This brilliance typically persisted for a couple of weeks, after which the tonal quality and sustain deadened somewhat and never returned. These guitars, on maturation, have become pleasant, run-of-the-mill instruments, but not world shakers! These observations imply, I feel, that the essential ingredients for superior tone were initially present, but a mechanical and not an acoustical problem has occurred. In short, stresses have set in, or the soundboards have lost some of their initial tension. I should add that up to now, all of my guitars have been constructed under careful humidity control and in such a way as to minimize any inbuilt stresses.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.