A workshop which has been producing handmade musical instrumentssince 1915, its speciality being theSpanish guitar.
THE WORKSHOP AND THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS
Our workshop offers a lifetime guarantee of support to our customers. We prefer to form a lasting and close relationship with the owners of our guitars.
Felipe´s relationship with the guitars he produces is an enduring one. Guitars eventually brought back either for adjustment (repairs to the varnish, adjustment to the fret board, etc..) or repair in the case of accidents, are accorded the greatest of care and are restored to the best possible condition.
THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS
The luthier’s work begins with the selection of the woods he is to use. He chooses these from the very best available according to their sound-transmission qualities, their particular role in the structure of the guitar, the space in which the instrument is to be played, and whether the instrument is a classical or flamenco guitar.
Woods from every continent are used:
And many others...
The choice of woods is never a casual matter. It it is the result of years of research and experiment carried out by the luthier on the sound-transmission qualities of each type of wood, always taking into account factors such as density, toughness and grain.
There are very beautiful woods which cannot be used, since they do not meet the luthier’s requirements.
Wood is for the luthier a treasure inherited from the previous generation, just as he continues to acquire wood that will be employed by the next generation of luthiers.
Felipe Conde constructs guitars using woods inherited from his father which have been subjected to a process of natural drying and seasoning down the years.
Once the appropriate woods have been selected, they are cut and shaped in order to obtain the parts needed to build the guitar:
Sound hole (marquetry)
Ornamental inlay strips
All of the parts that make up a guitar are produced in the workshop, except for machine heads.
Construction of the guitar itself begins with the neck and the soundboard.
The neck comprises the following parts:
The design of the head is one of the distinguishing features of the luthier.
The soundboard is one of the most fundamentally important parts of a guitar, since upon it, in large measure, depends the sound quality of the instrument. It is important that the grain of the wood be straight and its fibre of high quality.
Once the soundboard has been shaped using the template, the struts and harmonic bars are glued to it. Sound distribution throughout the guitar depends on the way these are laid out, on their measurements, and on the number used.
It is through the sound hole that the sounds generated and amplified within the soundbox of the guitar are released.
The rosette, often of a design exclusive to the luthier, is the decorative marquetry work inlaid around the sound hole.
Once the soundboard has been prepared, it is glued to the neck. Then, once the sides have been prepared to the correct width and thickness, they are placed in water before being bent into shape using heat. The bending process must be carried out slowly and carefully in order to avoid spliting the wood.
The sides are placed in a mould to give them their definitive shape and are then joined to the tail block and fitted to the neck.
Once the back has been thickned, it is cut to shape using the template and the struts are fitted.
The guitar is then closed up by gluing on the back.
The edges of the sides are hollowed out in order to inlay the purfling and decorative strips prepared previously.
The whole guitar is surfaced using scrapers and sandpaper.
The fingerboard is glued on, lining it up with the rest of the guitar, and cuts are made to house the frets.
Now comes the final sanding down of the guitar, leaving it ready for the varnish to be applied.
The bridge is glued to the soundboard.
Conserved in Felipe Conde’s workshop are the workboards and templates used by Domingo Esteso, those used by Conde Hermanos during the period in which they worked with the widow of Domingo Esteso, those used in the workshop at number 7, Calle Gravina, and those used by Conde Hermanos in the Felipe V workshop. This makes it possible for us to reissue these historical guitars following the exact processes originally used in their construction.
ADVICE AND CARE OF THE GUITAR
- Painstaking and loving care of your guitar will lengthen the life of the instrument, whose “sound personality” stabilizes with the passage of time.
- When the guitar is not being played it should be kept in its case, which should always be of rigid construction, since those made of canvas or synthetic rubber do not provide sufficient protection.
- Be careful to avoid damage to the guitar caused by the lid of the case falling onto it. Always keep one hand on the lid of the case when taking the guitar out.
- Always keep the guitar covered with a cloth when it is in its case.
Be careful with buttons, belt buckles, etc. These can damage the varnish on the soundboard, sides or back of the guitar.
HUMIDITY AND TEMPERATURE
- Be careful about the atmospheric conditions in which the guitar is normally kept. Even though the case always provides some protection, never forget that excessive heat, humidity, or sudden changes of temperature and humidity are damaging to the guitar.
- Although the woods used are seasoned naturally over many years, wood remains a living material with hygroscopic properties (in general terms, it absorbs or expels humidity from or into the atmosphere, depending on the conditions).
- Always keep the guitar in conditions that are as little subject to change as possible. A hygrometer and humidifier will help in this.
- Never hang the guitar from a wall by its head or by the slots in the head.
- Excessive humidity may soften glues.
- An excessively dry atmosphere may bring about changes in the wood of the fingerboard that can cause the frets to protrude more than normal. The process is normally reversible and when the guitar is returned to its usual levels of humidity, the frets resume their original height. Nevertheless, if the exposure to dryness is very prolonged, this may cause damage which will require the attention of the luthier.
TRAVELLING WITH THE GUITAR
- When travelling by air, try to ensure that the guitar travels with you in the aircraft cabin. Where this is not possible and the guitar has to travel in the hold, bear in mind the low temperatures and sudden changes of air pressure to which it will be subject. In this situation, lock the case, loosen the strings and cover the guitar with some insulating material.
- As far as car travel is concerned, never leave the guitar in a car parked in the sun, still less in the trunk. Very high temperatures are reached inside the vehicle.
Because of their importance, I have carried out research in order to secure strings of high quality
Strings should be replaced one by one, remembering never to remove all of the old strings at the same time (this will ensure that the tensile stress on the structure of the guitar does not change suddenly and will also help to keep the instrument in tune). When changing strings be careful not to scratch the soundboard and back of the guitar. To that end, it is useful to rest the guitar on a flat surface covered with fabric or felt and to place a piece of cardboard or cloth behind the bridge where the strings usually rest.
- Bear in mind that new strings are very elastic and need a period of stabilization until they finally cease to stretch. During this time, it will be necessary repeatedly to re-tune the strings, which always tend to de-tune themselves. For this reason, the tuning should be checked for a few days. Bass strings require the shortest period of adjustment.
- As to how frequently strings should be changed, this obviously depends on the use made of the guitar (although lack of use oxidizes them). Nevertheless, bass strings have a very limited lifespan compared to trebles. Remember that the good condition of the strings is vital in order to obtain good sound quality, depth, quality and quantity of harmonics, etc. Bear in mind that many harmonics are produced by the trebles vibrating in sympathy with the bass strings.
- Be careful not to force the tuning buttons on the machine-head. They may break. Tuning should be accomplished smoothly and increasing the tension on the strings should never require a superhuman effort on the part of the guitarist. As soon as there is the slightest sensation of a need for excessive force, stop, loosen the string, and apply a small amount of non-corrosive lubricant (never of the ‘three-in-one’ type), some very refined oil, to the worm gear (the metallic spiral) that turns the string. You can also use powdered graphite, but be careful, since it stains a lot. If the problem persists, the guitar should be taken to the luthier’s workshop for inspection and solution of the problem.
- Once the strings are in place, use pliers to cut off the ends. Too much string can be the cause of vibration and unwanted sounds.
- Take great care to ensure that nylon strings are fixed properly to the bridge, since these have a tendency to slip free and may cause damage.
- Give the top string three turns to ensure that it does not slip free.
DAMAGE TO THE GUITAR
- Although we try to ensure that this never occurs, it may nevertheless happen. A crack may not matter if the instrument is taken straight to the workshop.
- If the soundboard suffers a crack near the bridge, it is advisable to loosen the strings until the luthier has assessed the damage.
- It is important to discuss any problem with the guitar with the luthier, since attempts to fix the problem without the appropriate tools and requisite expertise and knowledge can often make the problem much worse.
- The guitar should be cleaned with a soft, dry cloth, which may be dampened slightly for stubborn marks. Never use solvents, alcohol or other chemical products habitually used for cleaning, even if these are designed for use on wood.