Build Thread: Buendia Guitars Classical Model 'Prima' #055
The process of building a guitar is a truly sensational journey, one that is different for each luthier. We recently caught up with Leo Buendia to talk about the build of a guitar that has been spec'd by a client of ours, and is our first nylon string guitar from Leo.
"First and foremost, I want to thank Ben and the TNAG team for introducing me to the owner of this amazing instrument which will be completed by fall of this year. It wouldn't be possible to create one of my dream guitars without their support.
"As some of you may know, I started my career as a guitar maker building classical guitars in my hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina almost a decade ago. Since I moved to California and did my apprenticeship to Ervin Somogyi I've been building steel-string guitars and haven't had the opportunity to build a classical guitar again. This has been an opportunity for a beautiful reconnection with my roots-my beloved classical guitar.
"The classical guitar as we know it has been around for about two hundred years. In the history of classical guitars, Antonio de Torres Jurado, known as Torres, is considered 'the father of the guitar'. Torres' innovative guitar design of the mid-1800s set the standard for the modern guitar. The most fundamental thing Torres did was to increase the size of the body. His concert guitars have soundboards about 20 percent larger than those of the concert guitars played by Fernando Sor and Dionisio Aguado a few years earlier. The extra area is in both lower and upper bouts, giving his plantilla the now standard figure-eight form. His descendants, according to Romanillos, claim it was based on the figure of a young woman he saw in Seville.
"A classical guitar is very different from the steel-string acoustic guitar in many ways. The nylon-string guitars have about half of the string tension of steel-string guitars, thus producing less sound. To compensate for this and create the possibility for maximum sound, all components of a nylon-string guitar must be lighter and thinner.
"The size and shape of the body are of the utmost importance, first of all in terms of tone and also in terms of appearance. Because traditional and iconic classical music is most appealing to me, in particular, Francisco Tarrega's and Andres Segovia's music, I decided to choose Torres and Hauser guitar styles, adopting these body shapes to create the sound that I was looking for.
"Body shape and size are not the only considerations when it comes to tone. When seeking to achieve certain tone(s), we must consider many things: the quality of the woods used, the thickness of the body parts, the pattern and type of fan strutting, the type and fit of the joint, the size of the soundhole, etc. What I aim to achieve is a classical guitar that is able to deliver a warm spectrum of tones, with a dynamic range and color palette that are wide and easy to control. The voice should be clear and extraordinarily powerful with lots of sparkle and balanced with excellent separation.
"For the woods, I always try to avoid those boards timbers that feel spongy when tap toned and flexed between the fingers. I like those boards which feel "alive" with a high IQ (vibrational liveness). Regarding the soundboard, I used the best quality obtainable of an old-growth Cedar with tight and even growth grain. This soundboard must be capable of amplifying the sound and enhancing the harmonics. For back & sides, this is the soundbox of the instrument and provides, among other characteristics, the chamber to produce the volume of sound. Rosewoods are by default the tonewood used on classical guitars, of which there are several varieties. In this case, I used a master grade Brazilian Rosewood from the 1950s. The color of this set varies from a dark reddish-brown with almost black stripes to various shades of purple. It's a superb looking wood, and an instrument of the highest quality could not be made without it. For the fingerboard, ebony is my first choice when using one of the denser woods available in the market which will wear well, hold the frets firmly and will not warp. The neck is a functional extension of the guitar body which holds the strings in tension so it must be strong but of lightweight. Spanish Cedar is the traditional wood for the neck on classical guitars but in this case, I'll use a carbon fiber reinforced one-piece Honduras Mahogany. I find it more suitable and harder than Cedar.
And finally the bridge. Traditionally, this must be either ebony or rosewood. I chose an old-growth piece of quartersawn Brazilian Rosewood because it has a high IQ and it matches the guitar back and sides."
When I thought about the design of this guitar I was drawn to an aesthetic that reflects my passion for a technique that has been applied for 500 years to Vihuelas, Lutes and other early instruments that were inspired by the geometric patterns in Islamic art. I love a delicate look that makes the natural beauty of the materials stand out.
This design is clean and what we see here is a collection of geometrical shapes put together in complex ways. I also wanted the elements to come together to create a warm, texturized feeling.
I usually aim for balance-a distribution of equal visual weight scaling the objects in relation to each other with a direct path of optical motion. On the rosette and end graft, the orderly repetition of triangular forms is harmoniously juxtaposed with a vivid green washi paper background, generating a three-dimensional look.
The specific pattern I present on this rosette is a Celtic mandala. My mentor, Ervin Somogyi, has often used this mandala and I learned of this technique and design from him. Its significance is thus very personal to me and it is yet another tradition contained within this instrument.
The process of making this rosette started with two inlays- the first, a ring of spruce
in the Cedar soundboard, followed by a purfling border inlay. After this I carved the pattern, using about one thousand scalpel cuts and adding texture to the flat exterior face by chip carving to create an over-and-under pattern. Once the pattern was complete, I placed a backdrop of handmade green Japanese washi paper. This process is always quite slow and requires that I sit patiently for long periods of time. I always relish these ten days of work where I get to listen to good music and enjoy the peaceful environment of my dedicated carving space. It is a part of the guitar-making process that I look forward to, as a well-executed piece of work made using a method that has not changed in 500 years gives me great satisfaction.
Once the rosette is complete and the soundbox is closed and bound, it is time to apply the same technique and design to the end graft. Once this is complete, I begin to prepare the neck and peghead. Classical guitars, as well as most small bodied steel string guitars, feature a slotted peghead design which makes the process a bit more complicated but not less rewarding. In this case, I first thought about making another hand-carved element for the triangle on the head to match the other elements, but I later realized this would disturb the clean sharp edges and overall design that this slotted peghead features. Instead, I decided to inlay a beautiful dyed green burl Maple to match the washi paper I used for the rosette and end graft.
Ready for Finishing- 26.09.19
We have received the final photos of this guitar before its finish gets applied. The attention to detail is above and beyond and it is an aesthetically phenomenal guitar. We cannot wait for it to arrive! We're sure its sonic capabilities will match its visual beauty and we are so excited to try it!
Here is the final update from Leo Buendia. The guitar is finished and shipping within the next few days. This guitar will be going directly to our Nashville Showroom.
Buendia Classical Model "Prima" #055/2019
- Soundboard: Old growth Master Grade Cedar
- Back and sides: Master grade Brazilian Rosewood
- Rosette: Hand carved ”Golden key” design Spruce insert green Washi paper
- End graft: hand carved “Golden key” design matching rosette
- Frets to body: 12
- Bridge: hand-sculpted old growth Brazilian Rosewood
- Binding: ebony with black/white purfling
- Top braces: Swiss Alpine Spruce
- Back Braces: Honduran Mahogany
- Saddle: 2” string spacing compensated bone
- Nut: 2 1/16” width scalloped and compensated bone
- Neck: one-piece Graphite reinforced Honduran mahogany
- Head-cap veneer: Brazilian Rosewood
- Back of Head-cap veneer: Ebony
- Fingerboard: ebony with ebony binding
- Position markers: MOP dots
- Fret wire: medium EVO Gold
- Case: custom carbon fiber Hoffee hardshell case
- Scale Length: 25,60” for Classic.
- Tuning Machines: Rodgers Hauser style engraved with ebony buttons
- Strings: Savarez normal tension
- Finish: French Polish
For more information on Buendia Guitars, please get in touch by calling +44 (0) 207 835 5597 or by emailing us here.