• bill@gourlayguitars.com

A new coffin case...AND a new Torres replica

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

I had originally planned on building a case to house my FE24 Torres replica, but... I was still so bummed by the router disaster that I decided to not only build another wooden coffin case, but build another Torres replica guitar to go along with it - it is based on the 1890 SE146. More on the guitar in a moment, but first the case.


The previous two "coffin" cases I built were sized to accommodate the smallest of the Torres instruments. This time I chose to set the case dimensions to be able to fit any of the "full-size" (or even a bit smaller) guitar models I build - Romanillos, Simplicio, and the various other Torres sizes. By merely adjusting the inside padding to fit a specific instrument, the dimensions of this case will accommodate all of them.


So, about the case details. For this case I chose to use makore, also known as African cherry. It has interesting mottled figure and is quite stable. I think, with this latest case, I have finally settled on the right recipe - that of top/bottom/side thickness, type of padding, fabric and hardware. I inspected old 19th century wooden cases (Martin) and found they used 1/4" thickness all around (but little or virtually no padding). Pretty utilitarian. Pretty basic. But I wanted the vintage look, AND protection for the instrument as well. Hence, this case is comprised of 1/4" quartersawn figured makore, with a tapered insert on the top of 1/4" Baltic birch plywood faced with birdseye maple veneer. I used padauk bindings with maple veneer purfling all around and paduk, maple, and Brazilian rosewood veneers to set off the birdseye maple on the top. I applied 3-5 coats of Waterlox satin oil finish and polished it to a soft satin sheen with 0000 steel wool.


The overall case dimensions are as follows:

Length - 42"

Widest point - 16"

Narrowest point - 5"

Overall height - 5 5/8"


I also settled on a 2 1/2" wide brass lockset, 1/4" closed cell foam padding all around (except for 1 1/2" thick memory foam along the neck rest), solid brass handle, hinges, keyhole escutcheon, plated swing latches, and crushed velvet fabric throughout. I also settled on creating a hinged accessory compartment underneath the neck rest. This will be my standard going forward albeit with a variety of different woods for the top, bottom, and sides.


So...take a look.





Now, for the guitar you see housed in the case. This is TRISTEZA, a replica of one of the final dozen or so guitars that Torres built, the 1890 SE146. As with my other Torres replicas, I have tried to use the proper materials and dimensions of the original as well as details like the distinctive Torres pointed heel block to neck join and ivory-capped (old piano key) tieblock. For this instrument I used torrefied European spruce for the soundboard and fan bracing, birdseye maple for the back and sides, a Brazilian rosewood headplate, bridge, bindings, and veneers for the purfling and rosette. The fan braces were prepared in a rounded profile, measuring ~7mm wide and 2.1-2.2mm in height, tapering in length from the back of the bridge to their ends, and scalloped 25mm from the brace ends closest to the soundhole - pretty much in keeping with the brace dimensions detailed on the plans for the 1888 SE114 drawn by Jeffery Elliott. The side thickness varies between 1.0 and 1.3mm. and the soundboard in the lower bout varies from ~2.0mm to ~1.65mm. I will re-measure everything once I have completed the French polishing. The size of this instrument would be considered one of Torres' "medium" plantillas, with a lower bout width measuring 342mm (~13 1/2") and supported with 5 fan braces.


I was attracted to this instrument that I found pictured and described in the book commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth, "Antonio de Torres, Lo Stradivari della chitarra moderna", by the rosette.



While a typical Torres style, with a central "ears of wheat" motif, and bands of black (Brazilian rosewood), maple, and green, the use of dyed red veneers that Torres used late in his career, made this a striking rosette. The same dyed red veneer is also found in the purfling around the top. Here is a photo of the original rosette as pictured in the book alongside my replica.

Although I am not fully completed with the instrument (still working on the French polish), I wanted to string it up (it is a cannon!) and take a few photos. So, here they are:



I hope to get some video clips posted in the near future.

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