Building my 1852 Torres replica - using the right materials
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
As a builder of classical guitars, I had most of the materials I would need for this project - Spanish cedar, Honduras mahogany, European spruce, several types of maple, and Brazilian rosewood...except I didn't have exactly the Brazilian I wanted. The sides and outer sections of the back on the original are a wonderful straight-grain reddish brown and the fretboard is a similar coloration with some dark streaks and figure. Also the veneers I would need for the rosette and purfling had to be very dark Brazilian in order to appear nearly black under the finish. Fortunately I had a couple of good sources I could call upon. I added to my existing supply of Brazilian rosewood veneer with some more from B&B Rare Woods, an excellent place for veneers of all type! For the back, sides, and fretboard I knew my friend , Mark Carver, had just what I needed. He did, and I was able to negotiate a fair price.
My first order of business was to prepare the herringbone "ears of wheat" that would be needed for the top purfling, the rosette, and the edges of the headstock. As previously stated, for this project I wanted to use only proper, original materials, so that meant building a "log" of maple and Brazilian rosewood (rather than dyed black) veneers.
A veneer "log" was made by gluing alternating strips of the maple and Brazilian veneers - 1 maple, 2 Brazilian, 1 maple, 2 Brazilian, and so forth until I had one thick enough for the project - I usually make mine 20mm x 20mm which is plenty for several guitars.
The "log" was then cut on the bandsaw at a 9 degree angle. That is also the same angle used by Torres on his 1864 FE18. Some years ago I was approached by James Westbrook, the current owner of FE18, to make for him a complete set of bindings, purfling, and rosette for a copy he was building. As a result I received very detailed information and dimensions on everything about FE18, including the 9 degree angle for the herringbone "ears of wheat".
As shown below, the angled pieces, once cut, were reassembled back into a log on the bias of the 9 degree angle that had been cut.
Once the log was reassembled, glued, clamped and dry, I again used the bandsaw to slice off several very thin strips, each of which subsequently received a backing of Brazilian rosewood veneer glued to it. Then, once the glue on these strips had dried, my thickness sander was used to thin each strip to ~1.1mm with the Brazilian backer face down on the conveyor belt. By aligning the diagonal maple veneers on two strips and sandwiching a .3mm maple veneer between them, I created the "ears of wheat" motif needed for the purfling, headstock, and rosette.
The result is a strip of maple "ears of wheat" encased in Brazilian rosewood that is 2.5mm wide. Although not a huge deal, it is perhaps worth noting that for the 1852 instrument Torres used "standard" thickness veneers (.5-.6mm) for the "ears" and thin ~.3mm veneer for the shaft, whereas on some other Torres instruments the very thin .3mm veneers appear to have been used for both the "ears" and the shaft. You can see the very subtle difference in the last photo above - the all .3mm "ears of wheat" on the top.