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Building my 1852 Torres replica - getting started

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

The activities I describe in these posts took place between June and September of 2018. A follow-on project to build a custom wooden "coffin case" for my replica was completed in November, 2018. Now for the disclaimer: Unfortunately I did not photo-document each step of the process (stupid me), so certain of the photos accompanying these posts were re-created in order to illustrate the accompanying text. The photographs I used as the source for my replica, some of which I have reproduced here in the description of this project, are all attributed to Alberto Martinez and Jean-Marc ANGLES.


After downloading several of the images from the Musée de la Musique website, by using the stated width of the lower bout I resized them to life-size - one section at a time. I then taped together the sections to achieve full frontal, side and back views. From that I was able to overlay my existing FE18 plantilla template for comparison ( a perfect fit!) as well as create new templates for things like the scroll headstock and moustache bridge.

The photos shown above are by Alberto Martinez and Jean-Marc ANGLES.

From these full size images I was able to ascertain a few more important details for my replica. The scarf joint for the headstock was 30 degrees! This compares to the more typical headstock angle of ~14-15 degrees, or maybe as much as 20 degrees when using pegs instead of machine head tuners. The scale length was the same as FE18 - 640mm. I also found the soundhole diameter to be a whopping 90mm (vs. the fairly small 80mm diameter on FE18). That increased size also accounted for a very atypical number of frets - only 17. While FE18, and a few of Torres' other instruments only had 18, today 19 frets is more customary. The increased soundhole size meant that I would to have to slightly adjust the harmonic bar placement from that of my FE18 template.

Although I have built a number of Torres instruments, for this one I wanted to use only those materials that were used in the original. This meant a lot of Brazilian rosewood - back and sides, bridge, fingerboard, headstock overlay...and Brazilian rosewood veneers for all of the decorative elements, the Greek keys; the herringbone "ears of wheat" elements in the rosette and the purflings.

This was going to be fun...and challenging! But it was also something very much in keeping with my guitarmaking philosophy, a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it".


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