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Hi, Fellow Guitarmakers!

Parlor guitars are delicate, sweet instruments. We Portuguese call them Senhorinhas (Little Ladies).

I had already restored an old Senhorinha - and posted some pictures here, in a discussion called "restoring an old instrument"- but I had no Parlor guitar of my own. The oportunity for that came two years ago: a cousin of mine offered me the remaining parts of his father's guitar.

My uncle was born in 1904, and the instrument must have been bought between 1920 and 1930. There must have been some accident, the guitar was broken, but the remaining parts were kept in an attic until the moment they were given to me.

The last time I saw my uncle was in 1955. I was five by them, but I still remember him playing Christmas songs in the piano. So, I had sentimental reasons to rescue what was left of the instrument...


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Hi, Rob,

Nice to hear from you!

Went to your site, you make terrific instruments, Sincere congratulations!

Keep in touch!

Hi, again!

Next picture shows the top resting on the solera, at the moment of gluing the fan braces. The solera is in the go-bar deck, and the fan braces are being pressed against the top, wich is thus being pressed against the concave solera. After the glue dries, the braces will get a permanent curved shape, and the top will be permanently dome-shaped.


Next step is gluing the transverse bars and top reinforcements, which can be done out of the solera:


Then, it's time for shaping the transverse bars. The piece of cloth under the top is an important detail: it prevents the top from getting dented by small pieces of wood...

After some cleaning, the top is ready...

(to be continued... don't miss the next episode!)




Now, part of the neck "foot" was missing, so, it needed a graft. I didn't have similar alder wood, so I made it of cedar:

Since I was not restoring the instrument - I was just using parts of it to make a new one - I decided the original headstock was very ugly and should be changed, salvaging only the center part of the upper edge. The first thing to do was to fill the tuner holes...

The time had come to give the headstock its new shape and drill new holes on it...



The location of the primitive holes is still visible, but a nice mahogany veneer made the whole thing look better...

For the time being, the neck job was done (I also glued a mahoganny veneer at the back of the headstock).

Next step was to glue the neck to the top...


The gluing operation was made with the help of the solera, to get a perfect neck alignment. 

Time to think about sides...


Amazing Discussion going on here...what wonderful work you do. Although I'm a confirmed player of Martin Dreads, I have a 50 year old D28, I also like small bodied guitars and a year or so ago purchased a Blueberry Parlor guitar done in Rosewood and's a wonderful little guitar, loud for it's size and it has a great tone.


Thanks for the comment! That guitar of yours is a true jewel!


I got a nice pair of bookmatched sapele sides, planed them to 2 mm thick and shaped them using a bending iron (in the traditional way),  then I shot this picture:


Next step was to put the sides in place and glue them to the tail block. The sides are inserted in slots carved in the neck block and held in place by wooden wedges (well, I put one drop of glue on each side, just in case). Please notice that the sides are clamped to the posts of the solera at the "waist" (no glue,the posts will keep the sides in place) to make sure they are glued in a correct position.

I used a classic guitar sized solera, but I had to make some "grafts" in the posts in order to make them fit the size of a parlor guitar...

Joining the sides to the top was done in the classic Spanish way: no linings. I used gluing blocks, alternating the brown of cedar with the white of a Brazilian wood called... samba! The result is interesting...


To join sides and back, I used the usual kerfed linings:

Next comment will be about the back...



After repairing a huge crack, I planed the back to 2.5 mm:


Then I glued and shaped three tranverse bars...


...glued a label, and a reinforcement over the repaired crack...



And glued the back.



I carved the slots to insert the purflings ...

Next picture shows the purflings, matching the rosette inlays and surrounded by beechwood stripes. It also portraits the moment of gluing the bridge.

I used a ready-made classic guitar bridge, but cut its wings shorter, to match the instrument's size. I also changed the string spacing (from standard 62 mm to 55 mm between 1st and 6th strings), and fitted the bridge to the soundhole curvature.

Due to the small dimensions of the instrument, I could not put clamps in place through the soundhole. So, I placed adjustable posts inside the soundbox under the bridge wings, to counteract the pressure of two Klemsia clamps. At the tiepiece, I drilled two small holes and did the clamping with screws, nuts and washers. Not an elegant solution, but it worked...


I then inlayed a purfling stripe in the bridge tiepiece to conceal the two holes I had drilled in it:


Now, the fingerboard was a little warped and needed refretting, but the fret location was very acceptable. So, I just straightened it and did the gluing:


Before gluing the fingerboard, I put the 7th and 12th frets in place, install the tuners, put the 1st and the 6th string in place, and check the correct placing of the fingerboard using an electronic tuner. Thus I have visual control of the fretboard alignment and can make small adjustments while the glue is still fresh.

After complete refretting, this is how the instrument looked:






Wow Luis, what great photos and what a terrific job you did on this guitar! Very helpful photos and thanks very much for posting them! I'm attatching some photos of the archtop I built in April and started applying french polish on today. I'm going with blonde shellac... although tempted to use amber or brown! Thanks again,




Fabulous archtop guitar! Never made one of those, but I'm very curious about it. Do you happen to have pictures of the inside? I'd like to see the strutting...

I hope the comments below, on the finishing process, may be helpful...

Hi Luis, Thanks I didn't take any photos of the inside but on archtops you basically have two methods, either an X brace or parallel braces. The back is not braced. Since I may want to play this acoustically the re-curve on the back plate needed to be deeper, at least for the style I play. I am going to build more parlor sized instruments however since I really do prefer them. Yours look terrific and if I could afford it I'd buy one of your Portugese guitars! They sound beautiful!

Now, we're getting to the end: Finishing.

First thing: The back had very ugly stains that I could not remove. So I decided to dye it to mahogany colour to match the sides, trusting it would conceal the stains. I mixed brown and a little red alcohol-soluble anilines to get the right shade. It worked...

Before varnishing, I rubbed the whole instrument with a mixture of 2 parts of lamb grease and 1 part of turpentine (a teaspoonful is enough for the whole instrument, but you must scrub hard to spread it all over), then wrapped it in an old cotton sheet to protect it from dust and let dry for 8 days, that's the time the wood takes to absorb it completely. This has absolutely no effect on the acoustic response of the instrument, but will enhance the wood veins and will prepare the wood to receive the varnish.

I used dark, extra-hard shellack. I first solve it in blue methylated spirits (burning alcohol) to the point of saturation (notice the blue flask on the table), then solve it again in clear alcohol (98% alcohol) and spread it with a "doll" (a ball of wool, or cotton, wrapped in a linen cloth). Notice the colour of the "doll": very different from the blue liquid in the flask...


After the first 4, or 5, layers, I put a few drops of liquid vaseline, and spread two more shellac layers, then I spread a very small pinch of pumice powder, and spread 3 or 4 layers of shellack again. I do that 2 or 3 times. The alternation of vaseline, shellack and pumice powder will grant a very even, very hard, and glossy coat. Near the end, I thin the shellack again with clear alcohol, add a few more drops of vaseline and then one or two more layers of thinned shellack. The penultimate layer will be given lenghtwise (that is, with the vein) and the last one will be given in "8-shaped" movements.

If you have noticed the beautiful purflings around the back, well they are made of pau-rosa.

Now, let's see a back view of the finished instrument (it's the one at the left side):

And here is the front view (at the right side is a Viola da Terra from Azores islands):


Well, the job is done, thank you all for the flattering comments, it's a pleasure to share this with you!

All I can say is WOW!  Excellent restoration/rebuild!  Thanks for letting us tag along!  Edward


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