Early Guitars and Vihuela

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I've jut purchased a late Baroque guitar that I think was originally a 5 course instrument, but is currently set up or 6 strings. It has the tall peghead typical of 10 string, and a 3/4 flush ebony fretboard with ivory frets. The Maple back has a large crack and possible veneer warping. There may also be a crack in the neck, but otherwise it looks to be in good shape with what I assume is the original finish that has darkened to a reddish brown on the top and gold on the Maple. I'm in the US, and would like to find someone with experience to assess this guitar and make recommendations. I'm not sure if I should keep it as a six string or try to restore it to 10.

It looks similar to this one listed as French ca 1770:


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These guys are in France, very experienced and with a superion reputation. Probably the best available....




In the USA, Richard Brune is a good choice.




Or in Canada, Michael Schreiner. Another very good choice.



Thanks Scott. I'm aware of Sinier De Ridder's reputation, but I'd like to keep it in the States. I don't want to have to deal with SITES since the guitar contains ivory. What would you do regarding the 5 course/six string question?

If there is enough left of the original head, and if the bridge allows it, I would go for a 5 course set up. But it depends on many other factors like, are you happy to play only pre-1800 repertoire on it? Are you concerned with resale value (probably better for a 5-course)?

Do you really think a 5 course would be better for resale? Is that because of rarity? I don't mind being limited to the 5 course literature, and in way think having an original to play it on would be very interesting. The head looks just like the reference photo, with only three pegs on a side, but room between to fit the other two, though I can not discern the original holes. Is it possible a guitar with this stye head could have been made for six strings during the transition to the paddle style headstock? The bridge also looks like the photo; the same mustache, and pin bridge. I assume the middle section was replaced, so would have to be removed to convert back to 5 course.

I think so, yes :-) If it has a pin bridge now, that means that the soundboard has been drilled through, so that will complicate the reconstruction of a 5-course bridge. It is hard to say anything about the headstock without actually seeing it, but there are early 6-string headstocks that look like shorter versions of the one in this photo, so that would argue in favour of 6 strings. Then again, if there have been 10 pegholes in the past and four have been filled in, there must be traces of that? If I were you I would look at as many early guitars as you can, to get an idea, and take your time. And show the guitar to various people before you decide on anything.

There may still be traces of the holes. Look carefully with raking light, both sides of the Peghead. It's possible to do 'same grain' bushings and the Black colour will help to disguise it better. Even if you can't see any evidence of old Peg holes it doesn't automatically follow that it was designed for 6 Pegs. Both front and Back head veneers could have been replaced (fairly easy to do) and all traces would then disappear. 

Probably the give away is the length of the head and distance between the Pegs. The one in the photo would simply look odd and incongruous if you removed four of the Pegs and were left with the wide spaces. The only reason they would use such a Neck is if they wanted to use an old Neck that was lying around. Seems unlikely. 

The holes underneath the Bridge can be replaced with plugs of Spruce, again using same grain bushings. 

I'm not sure what the Reddish tint is on the soundboard. I've come across a Lacote Guitar with a similar hue. I doubt it's a coloured varnish simply because you would need a decent amount of finish to build up such a colour - unless it was very heavily pigmented. As usual with the soundboards there didn't seem to be anything on there. Perhaps a madder/Brazilwood stain or some sort of earth pigment.  No idea. Perhaps one of the specialists knows.

dear av,  it's the guitar on the photo ? or a  other ? if it' s a other it s better that you sent photos  we will can see if you can make anything or not.

Michael, the peghead does look odd for six strings and is spaced for 5 on a side. The guitar in the photo above was also converted to six string, but they filled the other holes with pearl so visually it looks correct. Mine has the exact size and layout of the six pegs.

I should have the guitar in hand this weekend, and I'll examine it closely for signs of the other holes, though as you sad, they may well be hidden. I'll post photos for further comment as soon as I can Luc; I'd like to get as many opinions as possible before deciding what to do, though if the indications are that it was a 5 course, I'd probably want to return it that configuration.

As promised, here are some photos of the guitar. I have a page set up with more photos and info here.

Oh, fantastic! Congratulations! I love the label with the 'olim, nunc'... never seen one like that.

What a wonderful find!

I'm inclined to believe that the 6-string disposition (and it's bridge) is original, it's a true transition period guitar.

Have you got more photo's perhaps?

I am sorry, but I am 100% sure this guitar is not a Chappuy, impossible, sorry.



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