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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I trust you know, but what is your reasoning? Have you seen a Chappuy guitar; I have been unable to locate a reference to one. Also. Do you have a guess as to it's age?

I saw 2 guitars on this conversation, one made by Nicolas in Mirecourt around 1780, modified in 6 strings later but with its the original non-modified head and size neck/fingerboard, and another guitar also made in Mirecourt (Chappuy label) in need of restoration made around 1810.

Both are nice and can be restored and played…

Are you able to get a photo of the underside of the top where we can see the bridge pegs? It may be an indication of the original configuration of the the strings. If there are indeed only six holes and no indication of repairs, it would look as though it is indeed an early transition period 6 string instrument. If that's what it is, lucky you.

After looking at it closely, I believe it is the original configuration; there is no indication of holes for the other pegs, and the bridge looks clean and correct for the guitar. Plus, I see no indication of other work done apart from repairs. I will try to get a photo of the underside of the bridge, but it will be difficult as it's right behind a brace. The only way I can see it having been 5 courses is if the headstock was replaced, but is seems so right, and consistent in feel and material as the rest of the guitar.

 It is very similar to other 1770/80 guitars shown in Sinier de Ridder's book 'La Guitare, Vol. I Paris 1650-1950. I would appreciate any one knowledgeable about this period to give their opinion.

There other photos, along with measurements and a brace diagram here.

Thanks av8t0r. Looks like you have a special find there. Good for you!

Wouldn't that (looking for extra bridge pin holes) be of limited use? If it had been a 5-course sometime in its past there would not be extra holes -- 5 course guitars have tie bridges.

I agree with Jan, intuitively I'd say probably originally 6 strings, or converted very, very early... or an early 6 string made with some templates and shapes left over from building 5 course guitars :-).

Have you asked the Sinier de Ridders about the 'fake labels' remarks?

No, but I plan on sending him this thread and the page link to ask his opinion. I know a label is considered the least reliable thing on a guitar, and I have some doubts about it. For instance, why is there no Chappuy brand on the back, or other stamp inside? Perhaps because the guitar was not his main instrument so he treated it differently? The label is cracked in the same way as the brace it's on, so it's been there a while. In any case, I think the guitar is consistent with the general date, though a true 6 string dated 1778 would be very early indeed.

I also agree that an original 5 course bridge would be a tie style, so no other holes would be present. However, how the holes are aligned could tell us something. For instance, if they are off center might indicate a later bridge.

You know they are members of this forum :-) And I agree, it is interesting to see how the holes are aligned... although I have a Mirecourt guitar that has the whole (original) bridge 5 mm out of the center, and that is not at all uncommon! Anyway, lovely find, this instrument.

Yes, but it might not hurt to bring it to Sinier's attention:)

Yes, you're correct Jelma. I was thinking and writing at the same time...cannot multi-task, cannot do more than one thing at a time.  

I wasn't intending to imply there should be more holes...although it came across that way. In my observations of these early guitars, I've noticed things about the workmanship, including how the holes are drilled, which are occassionally a hint as to whether they are original or not. It's certainly not definitive but just another check mark on the road to discovery.

That's what I was trying to say, and what I assumed you meant:).

My overall assessment is that the guitar is in remarkable condition. The top and sides are quite sound, and the back, while cracked and apart from the rim in places, should not need too much work. Laying a straight edge from bridge to nut shows it to likely be playable as is. Does anyone have an opinion about the friction pegs? I've never seen any like them, though they remind me of 19th century banjo pegs.


Yes it looks as a 10 strings modified into 6 strings after 1820. Fortunatly the head was not shorted and the neck seems not modofied and ok for 5 courses (and not for 6 strings)! It is possible to restore as a 10 strings. You must remove the bridge, fill the 6 holes with spruce (looking the original wood, same color same grain) make a new bridge in copy and glue it at the right place (you can see the scares of the original place), move the mustaches on their original place, take off the frets and fill the scares and then make gut frets, for the playability. Restore the rest to have a nice and good playable guitar. How is the bracing? Original or modified for a romantic shape? the CITES is ok if you provide a authenticity certificate which say pruflings are original, and certaainly they are…

Good work



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