Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Hello and it's a real pleasure to find so many people interested in these beautiful instruments! I have been restoring and building guitars for awhile now and am currently building the 1816 Jose Martinez  Salon guitar (thanks Scot for the great plans!) and should be finished with it in a few weeks now. It is being built with walnut back and sides, Douglas fir top, cedar neck and ebony fretboard, bridge and headplate. The rosette is made from walnut slices, tourquoise buttons and black mastic. An experimental design... so I'm devating a little from the plans but not much. My next instrument will be either a Lacote or La Prevotte inspired design. There are certainly some beautiful guitars in here! It's nice to see so many instruments being restored and built. Here are a couple photos of the Martinez I'm building.


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Welcome Robert. I'm always amazed how many new guitars that odd little one has inspired. I had no idea of it's appeal when I was asked to submit it to GAL so many years ago. It's been made into so many different versions (travel, steel string,  hollow body electric, vihuela, Uulele, solid body electric, Baroque...) it's almost strange to see it done close to what the original was like...Good job!

Thank you Scot, it's a joy to work from your well made plans! The "V" joint headstock was certainly a challenge but gave me an excuse to celebrate its completion with pizza and a glass of wine! I'm going to build another with a spruce top. Thanks for the compliment!

Welcome Robert! Nice work! Much better than mine, I must say. I'm the one who built a vihuela from this plan.  It was my first from-scratch build so there were a lot of mistakes, but I play it every day and I must say that size instrument is so comfortable and convenient, and the sound is wonderful. Even though I love my lute, I end up playing the vihuela more just because it is so much more comfortable to hold and play (those Spaniards had a great idea). I'm sure I will revisit these plans again. It's just a great plan. Thanks again Scott, and of course thank you Jose Martinez for the original!

Thank you Mark and I'm sure yours is nice too! If the sound is wonderful then you obviously did something right! Seems to me guitar building is a never ending learning process. The size appeals to me too and I'm looking forward to finishing it and playing it! A lot! Do you have any photos of the vihuela version? I am enjoying building this so much that I'm going to start another one before I even french polish this one. I'm ordering the back and sides on monday and am going with black walnut back and sides and spruce top. This one has Peruvian walnut. Since I already have all the jigs, templates and mold it should go a little faster. The romantic period guitars are quite simply, beautiful. Thanks again Mark!

Thank you Robert. Here is a link to my luthery gallery on Smugmug:


I also have a blog here the Early Guitar ning documenting later projects;


and my lute ning blog:


I'm something of a self-taught hack, but I am learning and continually improving. I find building as much fun as playing and love to talk with other builders and share what I have learned - usually the hard way!

Thanks Mark, I've been looking at your photos and they look great! Starting off with a kit is a good idea and gradually build up the (never ending) tools inventory. I pull information from a variety of sources and I built an archtop last year under Dale Unger at the American Archtop school. That was terrific time spent and I'd highly recommend his school, plus you get to visit the Martin factory. I'm sticking as close as I can to Scot's plans which have been an incredible help. You're doing some nice work! I'm attaching two more photos I took today, top plate is on and all the linings are attached, I thing you can see how closely I stuck to his plans, although I opted for reverse kerf linings which I like. I think I'll use solid ones on the next one. Do you have any you tube videos of you playing the vihuela Martinez? I'll be cleaning up the inside of the box then treat the insides to one coat of 1 pound cut blonde shellac. I won't post any more photos until it's finished, I need to figure out how to do a builders blog... keep up the good work and thanks for the links!

Thanks, Robert. I would love to hear a recording of this guitar when you finish it. I still need to get something recorded with my vihuela, re-topped lute, and my infamous "Ovihuela". They all sound pretty good to me, but we all think our own children are cute!

I hope to revisit Scot's plan someday and build as close to the plan as I can. I bet they sound great.

Hello all, thought I would post the finished Jose Martinez salon guitar. It's completed other than final tweeks and touch-ups and final polishing. The guitar has an aged Douglas Fir top, walnut back and sides, cedar neck, ebony headplate, fingerboard and bridge. Turquoise inlays and end graft. The rosette is walnut strips, turquoise and mastic. I followed Scot's incredible plan for this guitar and only deviated a little. I chose a more conventional bridge design since I like having the strings angle over a bone saddle. The tuning pegs... well that was interesting. After a lot of research and input from about everyone I know, I ended up picking the geared tuners from "PegHeds". They look like a typical ebony peg, but are (if you aren't already familiar with them) geared so they work like any typical tuner (basically) and they are really great! They keep the strings tuned perfectly. The down side is they don't make them for a Martinez salon guitar so I had to use the ones designed for a Flamenco guitar. They're a little bigger than I would have liked but they weigh almost nothing so it was a small price to pay for getting the look I wanted without the objections to, say, violin pegs. I brought the guitar home and played it for my wife, she just said "wow, that sounds so beautiful!" It does and I can't say enough good things about Scot's plans. The strings are La Bella ERG#1's. This is the nicest guitar I have ever played and not because I built it, but because of Jose Martinez and Scot Tremblay. Thank you both.

Hello Robert, that is a very attractive guitar, congratulations!

Thank you! It was a joy to build and is a joy to practice Carulli and Carcassi studies with this scale.

I'd forgotten how pretty that little design is. You did a very fine job, Robert. Those turquoise touches really bring to mind your home area. Very cool! I'm thinking I'll have to make myself one of those...if I can find the plans...


Do you know Michael Thames in Sante Fe? If not, he would be great guy to look up. He makes a pretty Lacote copy and a seven string Pons; although he's more well known for his excellent modern instruments...on second thought, you might have to suffer through some nachos and brews down at his favorite hangout, the Coyote Cafe. Oh well, a little suffering all in the name of art is do-able ;)



Thank you so much Scot, and especially for making the plans for this little gem available! I have a variety of guitars but none are as enjoyable to play as this one, and you were right about the ERG strings... perfect. Thanks too for the information on Michael Thames, I'll look him up and may meet him at the classical guitar festival in Albuquerque this summer. Roland Dyens will be there. I guess I COULD suffer some nachos and Brews at the Coyote, in the name of art, of course! If you're ever in the southwest please let me know, you have an open invitation here!


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