For the most part I build custom guitars but occasionally I build an instrument or two in between custom batches. I offer these guitars for sale at a reasonable price.
The Loretta Twin Sisters
I recently traveled to San Antonio, Texas to visit the family of Guadalupe and Miguel Acosta. The Acostas were a guitar building family that immigrated to San Antonio from Mexico in 1915. Guadalupe, the patriarch of the family, set up a shop on Sam Houston Street in San Antonio. There he made instruments with his sons, principally Miguel, sold 78 rpm records and sheet music. The family also acted as talent scouts of Mexican and Mexican-American musical acts for various record companies. The Acostas were incredibly creative and wonderful instrument builders who made some very iconic guitars, among them Lydia Mendoza and Lonnie Johnson's 12 strings.
The children of Miguel Acosta have done a wonderful job of preserving the family legacy by documenting the history, and saving some instruments and ephemera. While visiting I was struck by a simple parlor guitar that Guadalupe had built in the 1920's, using walnut back and sides, (with the lighter sap wood incorporated) and magnolia for the neck. He also used walnut for the fingerboard and bridge, which was a common practice for luthiers in San Antonio. While walnut is not normally used for this application, I have seen many old instruments with walnut fingerboards and bridges and they have withstood the test of time. Walnut if very comparable to rosewood in texture and hardness and one wouldn't think twice about using rosewood for a fingerboard. The guitar was in wonderful condition for its age and still sounded and played great. I liked the fact that it was made from all domestic wood and decided that I wanted to make one, or two, upon my return home.
Often in the acoustic guitar world, people debate the finer points of different materials. They offer opinions about how one tonewood effects the tone over another. Tops, backs and sides, neck wood, fingerboard and bridges; No doubt it all makes a difference, but unless all things are constant, it is very difficult to distinguish how certain elements effect the overall tone. While violin makers have been essentially making the same thing for 400 years, and can eventually understand how the slightest manipulation can effect the instrument as a whole, guitar builders are constantly embracing new materials and techniques and the instrument is constantly evolving. I have been very reluctant to draw conclusions about tonewoods. I have found that when I've come to a conclusion in the past, I encounter an instrument that proves that conclusion wrong. It was with this in mind that I approached this project.
These two Loretta parlor guitars were built with all things equal, except for the tops. The walnut back and sides were next to one another in the same board, as were the fingerboards and bridges and magnolia neck blanks. On one guitar I used a Sitka spruce top, on the other I used a hemlock top. Though hemlock is unconventional for a guitar top, I have found it to be a great tonewood. It is light in weight, relatively hard, quite strong and stable. This particular hemlock came from the beams of a warehouse built in the 1890s. It is wonderfully seasoned and has great acoustic properties. It makes the guitar a little loud and a little brash. The Sitka spruce top has a slight bear claw figure to it. The wood is softer than the hemlock and so the Sitka guitar is a little softer in tone, but still has some attitude as it is ladder braced. Both are great for fingerpicking, playing blues or old time music.
Both of these guitars are true parlor guitars. They measure 12 1/2" at the lower bout and have a scale of 24 1/4". They are ladder braced, assembled with hot hide glue and finished with varnish. Despite their smaller size, they produce plenty of tone and volume for solo playing, or playing in a small group setting. This is the size of guitar I use when playing with a fiddler and banjo player, either at a square dance or indoor or outdoor gigs. It produces a nicely focused tone. It is the same size as the guitar Blind Lemon Jefferson is photographed with, as well as countless other blues and old time musicians.
If you are interested in either of these guitars please contact me at email@example.com
All domestic wood Loretta with Sitka spruce top, walnut back and sides.
This parlor guitar features a Sitka spruce top with slight bear claw figure and walnut back and sides. This guitar is a little more fun from a woodworking point of view. I incorporated the sap wood of the walnut into the back and the sides to accentuate the color variation of the wood. I followed the lead of Guadalupe Acosta on this. I also alternated the heel cap with walnut and magnolia to accentuate the color differences of the guitar. The top and back are bound with maple. The fingerboard and pyramid bridge are walnut. The magnolia neck has a modified V profile and is equipped with an adjustable truss rod which is accessed from inside the guitar. The nut width is 1 13/16". The guitar weighs under 3 lbs and has a nice smooth tone. Hard shell case included SOLD
All domestic wood Loretta with Hemlock top and walnut back and sides
This Loretta parlor guitar features a 120 year old Hemlock top. The hemlock gives the guitar a nice dry, brash tone with lots of volume. It sounds very similar to an antique instrument. This guitar is a little plainer in appearance than its sister. The walnut back and sides are all heartwood and are bound with walnut, giving the impression of no binding. The magnolia neck has an adjustable truss rod which is accessible from inside the guitar. The nut is 1 13/16" and the neck has a slightly deeper modified V shape to it. Walnut fingerboard and pyramid bridge. It is strung with light gauge strings. A hard shell case is included. SOLD