Len Verrett's Guitar Collection - Past and Present

Here is a list of instruments I currently own (some are for sale, others not for sale), or owned in the past and later sold. Regarding sales: USA buyers only. I will not ship outside the USA due to the customs paperwork and permits involved. Buyer pays insurance and shipping.

Louis Panormo 1843 (for sale)

Michael Surrency, 2007 (for sale) - $2,250

Michael Menkevich, 1984 - 10-string (for sale)

Lucio Nuñez, 2012 - 10-string (not for sale)

Scot Tremblay, Russian 7-string Stauffer design (not for sale)

Two Guitars by Bernhard Kresse

Two Guitars by Lavigne, Paris
J. Guiot, 1844 - Panormo school (sold)

Dane Hancock: Copy of Spanish guitar after 1888 Torres SE117 (sold)

Antonio Marin Montero Flamenco (not for sale)

Manuel Bellido Auditorium Model Classical (not for sale)

Yunah Park Concert Cedar Classical (not for sale)

Contreras Classical (not for sale)

Bartolex 10-string Classical (sold)

Anonymous circa 1830 (sold)

Titmuss Terz Guitar (not for sale)

Kenny Hill London Model 1999: Guitar after Panormo (sold)

"The Flower" - Attributed to JTL, circa 1890 (sold)

Anonymous Viennese-style guitar, late 19th c. (sold)

Anonymous German or Italian-style guitar, circa 1870 (sold)

Anonymous German-style guitar, late 19th c. (sold)

Navarro Flamenco (sold)

Larrivee model OMV-09 (sold)

Gibson Les Paul Electric 1984 (not for sale)

Fender Custom "+HP" Stratocaster 2005 (not for sale)

Yamaha Student Classical (sold)

Other Past Instruments (sold)

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Early Romantic Guitar Home Page

These are the guitars in my collection, some of which are early romantic guitars, and some are not. There is not much overlap: each guitar is very different from the others and serves a distinct purpose.

Note: As a player and musician, I find period replicas to be the best solution, especially for live performance situations. Playing an antique guitar is not for everyone; after all, how will your current guitar sound and play 175 years from now? Antique guitars have typically had many past repairs, everything is worn and aged, shrinkage effects, etc.. Also, the wood age means that even if you had Sor's original guitar, it would not sound like it did back then, due to the effects of time (wood shrinks, glue crystallizes, grooves wear, etc.). A replica has a very different sound than the modern Spanish classical guitar, which some players find more suited to the music of its era. Replicas are also mechanically perfect and new, so that you can start making music and not go through restoration or compromising.

Also there is no reason to confine a quality instrument to 19th century guitar repertoire. A fine instrument sounds good on any style. Many players fuss too much over cedar vs. spruce tops, etc., while they are all on the same Spanish design; if you really want variety and a different sound, get a copy of a 19th c. guitar! I have been amazed that replicas sound fantastic not only on 19th century repertoire, but also great playing Bach, Barrios, Albeniz, and Tarrega, modern music, or anything you like.

Louis Panormo 1843, ex Forderer Collection (for sale)

Front Full View

Tuners Side

Video of me playing the guitar Feb 17, 2024 (large file size)

This is a guitar made by Louis Panormo in London, labeled 1843, with dark Brazilian Rosewood back and sides and made in the Spanish style. It has fan braces, and has the characteristic "P" stamp on the top bracing. It came from the Jim Forderer collection (see YouTube video of this exact guitar in the collection), and Jim noted that it had been used as a concert guitar throughout its history, and had been used in at least one recording. It is not a "fecit" guitar; it is the top end model by Panormo, and it is not a replica. I obtained this guitar through Jimmy Westbrook in 2010 (Jimmy put me in contact with Mr. Forderer).

The guitar plays easily and is quite responsive. The intonation measures accurately and sounds well, and I did not detect any annoying buzzes, wolf tones, or plinky notes unless you really lay into it rest stroke near the neck. The tone is, not surprisingly, inbetween a modern classical and a romantic French guitar. It struck me how large it seemed, compared to the French guitars, and it overall has the impression of being a serious, solid instrument and no doubt a concert guitar in its day as Jim F. pointed out that it had been. The guitar seems to lend its own contributions to the interpretation of period music.

The top, as far as I can tell, is completely free of cracks. The back and sides however, have at least 4 cracks that were repaired. The repairs cosmetically were not well done, as they were simply filled with glue, but this is a cosmetic issue that does not affect the playability. The ugliest of the cracks is on the bottom side of the guitar, which is normally not visible while playing.

The tuners and rollers are some sort of bone, perhaps Ivory. Three of the rollers were cracked and repaired. They are all functional with no issues.

I have not been able to give this guitar the attention it deserves, and am selling to help pay for a trip to Europe. Hard shell case (not original) is included.

For more information about Louis Panormo, refer to the Builders of the 19th Century page of this web site.

W. Michael Surrency - Hauser Model (for sale)

Classical guitar patterned on Hauser I. Cedar top, Indian rosewood back and sides. Microphone / pickup system hidden inside the guitar with an output in the tail block has been detached and is included in the case. Made for me in 2007 by Mr. Surrency himself; original paperwork included. I haven't been able to give this guitar the attention it deserves. Hard case. I would say this guitar is inbetween a student guitar and a concert guitar; it is better than a typical student guitar but not at the level of a high-end concert guitar, but those guitars are $5,000 and up. Would sell for $2,250 but otherwise I am keeping it as a good travel guitar.

Michael Menkevich 1989, ex Howard Wallach, 10-string cutaway (For sale)

10-string modern classical guitar by Philly master luthier Michael Menkevich. I acquired this guitar in 2014 which was previously owned by Howard Wallach. Top end Brazilian Rosewood obtained from the Martin wood stock in the 80's. Cutaway design to improve access to upper frets; for example, a barre chord at the 12th fret is very do-able. This is a great guitar for Baroque and Renaissance repertoire, and pretty much anything that requires additional range. I utilize "Romantic" tuning, normally 7=D or D#, 8=C or C#, 9=B or B-flat, 10=A. It could also be strung in Yepes tuning. I have performed on this guitar several times; it has great sound and projection. Selling this guitar because I have acquired another amplified 10-string which renders the Menk redundant in my collection and I am raising funds to offset my recent trip to Europe.


The neck on the Menkevich 10-string was made deeper and rounder for Howard by the one-time lute-maker, and since harp-maker, David Brown, thus the neck is finished in black.

Lucio Nuñez 2012 - 10-string (not for sale)

10-string cedar top and lattice braced modern classical guitar by San Antonio, Texas master luthier Lucio Nuñez. The guitar is easy to play and versatile for all types of repertoire. It has a built-in pickup which enables amplification and is thus my go-to guitar for playing live since I can draw upon any repertoire for 6-10 string guitars. I utilize "Romantic" tuning, normally 7=D or D#, 8=C or C#, 9=B or B-flat, 10=A.

Scot Tremblay (Canada) Russian 7-string Stauffer design (not for sale)

This guitar is easy to play and ideally suited to the Russian 7-string repertoire. It could however be normally tuned as a romantic guitar for the 7-string music of Napoleon Coste or any other repertoire. I utilize "GBD-GBD" tuning, normally 7=D or C, and from strings 6 to 1 GBD GBD. More information about this tuning system is on this website, on the multi-bass page.

The case is very attractive hard shell and made in Canada. The birdseye maple is just gorgeous. It has the Staufer body shape with a clock key adjustable neck. The figure 8 headstock has Pegheds mechanical peg tuners, with 1 peg in the middle. Aesthetically it's a stunning instrument.

Scot removed the wood pegs and replaced with Pegheds at my request. According to Scot, "it originally had the Grover friction pegs, which work the same as the old Ukulele friction pegs. They pinch the head to create friction holding the string in tune. It was a very common style used on the Russian instruments and a lot of the late 19th century Germanic instruments. Especially on the Schrammels for their extended bass notes. However, as I used this instrument and its sister as demo models, I decided to leave one with the pincher type pegs and converted this one to standard ebony friction pegs. As an experiment to see which people preferred as it were. Might be able to convert it back if that was the preference. I actually prefer the standard pegs on this model. The others are a little fiddly as you have to adjust the tension with a small screw in the end. Those work well but take some messing around to get them perfect.

The reason I chose the early Stauffer body is that many Russian instruments were actually German/Viennese made instruments taken to Russia and converted to 7 strings. Also many original Russian instruments are closely patterned after the Viennese. Converting the detachable neck instrument was/is very easy so that's why the Germanic designs were so prevalent. There is also some evidence that the Germanic makers may have shipped just the bodies to Russia and the makers there finished them off. It is really an interesting part of guitar history.

I've done a lot of work with Oleg Timofeyev restoring many of his original Russian instruments (as well as quite a few other peoples) and one instrument in particular was a dead ringer for the early Stauffer body I patterned this model after. I made half a dozen of these and took them to his Russian guitar gathering in Iowa in 2019. They were really well received there. This is the last one of that batch. The others went to the USA, Norway, England and Israel, I think. I kept this one and a sister (who went to Singapore last year) for demo purposes. But time for it to go do what it was intended to do. I was going to keep it but I don't play the small body guitars these days. I've settled on the larger Viennese after Scherzer, Reisinger or the Munich makers Hauser Sr. and Hans Raab or my jazz archtops.

This one has a surprisingly strong voice, excellent sustain, bright clean tone. It was my personal favorite of the 6. Note that it does have the 10" camber to the fingerboard that many of the early and some of the later 7 string Russian guitars did. It was mainly the extended range 11 string guitars that had the flat fingerboard. Although I have restored a few of those with a shallower camber 15-18.

The string length is 632mm. The fingerboard is cambered (radiused) at 9.5" I believe. I made a couple different radiuses for those as modern classical players (did not like) the 7" - 7.5" camber on original Russian instruments from the period this one is copied after. Basically all the 7 string Russian guitars have a tight camber until the 20th century. The flat fingerboard, like found on the standard European guitar, was reserved for the 11 string harp guitar instruments. However, a few of those had a noticeable camber to the main fingerboard as well. I believe the 6 string equivalent nut width would be 46mm.

You could tune a little lower if you wish, A432Hz if you like. The 19th century pitch for A was all over the place so as far as I know there is no modern consensus on whether the Russians tuned to the local norm or not. I work with a soprano so I tend to tune my guitars about a 1/2 step lower (A432Hz) than modern concert pitch so as to ease her vocal chords a little. The Strings on that guitar are Savarez 560R. The trebles are Fluorocarbon and the basses silver wound. They have been on it for a year or so, even though not really played, may have lost some of their sparkle.

There are a few companies making string sets for Russian tuning these days. Savarez 560R, Aquila 142C, Pyramid PD396, Hannabach 315MTC7S and Solomia - a Russian brand. Or you can make up your own set of gauges. Use the 2nd, 3rd, 4th from your favorite brand and add a .032 for the 1st and a wound .049/.050 for 7th, wound .038 for 6th and a wound ,030 for the 5th. You can go up or down a little depending on the feel."

Two Modern 19th Century Guitar Replicas by Bernhard Kresse

Bernhard Kresse, Germany is an historical and concert guitar specialist luthier and dealer. World-wide, Herr Kresse is recognized as a leading expert luthier in the field of early classical / romantic guitars, for restoration and building replicas of historical instruments. I chose Mr. Kresse to build my guitars based on several first-hand recommendations. Few people have personally repaired or examined the fine historical examples as Herr Kresse, including many museum guitars and valuable collector guitars. The guitars made for me after Lacote and Stauffer were based on actual period examples, with a few key modifications at my request.

Strings that I use for both of these instruments are as follows (635 & 642 scale). I like the D'Addario custom gauge strings here, fairly inexpensive to order the exact gauge that I want to get the right tension for early romantic guitar. The 2&3 b/g trebles make a huge difference in the sound of the guitar and here I use fluoro-carbon or gut as I find the nylon sound is not satisfactory for this style of instrument:

1 - D'Addario Rectified Nylon 027 (NYL027)
2 - Seaguar fluoro-carbon fishing line (b=.66mm/50 pound line/50FC25) or Labella VG028 varnished gut or 032 nylon
3 - Seaguar fluoro-carbon fishing line (g=.81mm/70 pound line/70FC25) or Labella VG036 varnished gut or 040 nylon
4 - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL026W
5 - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL031W
6 - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL040W

Above, plus these for the 8-string:
7 - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL045W (7th string = C/D tuning)
8 - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL052W (8th string = A/B/C tuning)

Bernhard Kresse: Copy of 1847 Rene Lacôte

Listen to Kresse Lacote sound clip #1 played by Len Verrett (Mertz Caprice)...

Listen to Kresse Lacote sound clip #2 played by Len Verrett (Mertz Trovatore clip)...

My copy of an 1847 Rene Lacôte was made by Bernhard Kresse in Cologne, Germany, completed in May 2004. My duet partner had an identical guitar made at the same time; we have a pair of Lacôte copies for the duet. Rene Lacote is regarded as the Stradivarius of guitars, and this instrument compares favorably to the modern guitar in terms of volume, tone, and playability. Kresse made an exceptional instrument which captures the essence of the Lacote sound, while retaining some modern conveniences such as the fretting system for perfect intonation and using mechanical, geared tuning pegs, as well as an ergonomic neck. The resonance pattern of the Lacote is very different from a modern guitar.

I was honored that Pavel Steidl borrowed my guitar and performed with it for 2 concerts in the Houston area October 17-18, 2014.

Kresse Copy of Lacôte
Bernhard Kresse
Copy of 1847 Lacote
Modern mechanical pegs by Pegheds
René François Lacôte, Paris, (guitars ca. 1820-1870) was perhaps the most famous of the 19th century builders; you can read about Lacôte on the Builders-Lacote page on this site. Lacôte guitars were played by Sor, Aguado, Coste, Carulli, Ferranti, Horetzky and others, and Sor praised Lacôte in his method book. The Lacôte and the Stauffer in my opinion are the key designs, the pinnacles of the French and German/Viennese schools of 19th century guitar design. The Panormo, Torres, and modern Spanish classical guitar best embody the Spanish school. Lacôte guitars are elegant and singing, with a complex character, balance, loudness, and sweetness; responsive and bright with a focused midrange and a unique sound.

This instrument sounds crisp and clear, with a punchy midrange, firm bass, balance across treble, mid, and bass, and sweet, penetrating trebles. It is also loud and projects well, and in a duet of 2 Lacotes, it creates a wall of sound where every note is clearly heard.

The playability of this guitar is one of its greatest traits. Hands down, it is the easiest guitar to play of any classical guitar I have ever played due to several factors. First, the neck is ergonomically shaped, thin and slightly flattened in the middle, which eases the amount of pressure required to fret a note. Second, the fingerboard has a slight radius (curve), to match the natural curve in your hands. Third, the scale length is a comfortable 63cm, slightly shorter than the modern 65cm, which facilitates stretching without being cramped. Fourth, the neck width is a standard Lacote 4.8cm, which is again comfortable. Fifth, the action is low which facilitates playing, but is not too low, as the guitar still retains power and tone with no buzzing. Sixth, the fretting is smooth, with no jarring ridges. Seventh, the fingerboard is attached like a modern guitar with a full range to 19B, but a slightly lower profile. The end result is that I am able to play with much greater speed, confidence, and accuracy on this instrument.

Kresse-Lacote Head FrontKresse-Lacote Head Back
Modern mechanical pegs by Pegheds with hand-made ebony handles by Kresse.
The headstock is a classical figure-8 French style; aesthetically, an elegant headstock design in my opinion (the classic Stauffer scroll headstock is also a nice design). The shape mirrors the guitar body shape. Normally, wooden friction pegs are inserted, as this design pre-dates the invention of mechanical tuners, which improved tuning accuracy greatly. Lacote was an innovator, and used locking "wingnut" style tuners and other experiments with modified pegs, and finally introduced the enclosed tuning gears in some models. For this reproduction, the pegs are modern precision mechanical pegs made by Pegheds, and they work the same as modern tuners, with easy turning, accuracy and fine tuning capability. The planetary gear mechanism is enclosed. As an added touch, Herr Kresse had the peg handles made by hand, using ebony wood, to exactly match the period aesthetic. Pegheds replaced the standard peg handle at no extra charge. The result is a period aesthetic, with modern precision machine tuning.

It was built to my specifications by Bernhard Kresse in Cologne, Germany:

1) Lacote model: standard length and proportions.

2) Lacote model standard scale 630mm.

3) Lacote model standard nut 4.8cm.

4) Figure-8 headstock with mechanical 'Pegheds' of Ebony pegs.

5) Slight radius (curve) on fingerboard to make playing easier.

6) Neck thickness to make playing easier.

7) 6-string fretted neck with extended range of 19 frets (to 'B'), with modern system of fret measurement for best intonation.

8) Standard Lacote attached fingerboard.

9) Small simple fret dots on neck side. Dots are in the middle of the fret, where the finger goes, which is actually mid-way between the metal fret wires. One guitar will have dots at frets at frets 5,7,9,15,17,19, and double-dots at 12. The second guitar will have a dot at the 7th fret only.

10) Spirit-varnish.

11) With hardshell case.

12) Action set low for easy playing with no buzzing. 3 alternate saddles for each guitar to allow action to be adjusted (#1 installed saddle is optimum action, #2 high action, #3 low action).

13) European Spruce top.

14) Flamed maple back and sides.

15) End pin of wood, similar to period examples, for a strap.

16) Neck with clear varnish.

17) Standard Lacote moustache pin bridge.

Bernhard Kresse: Viennese style guitar based on Anton Stauffer with 8-String Custom Design

Listen to Kresse Stauffer sound clip played by Len Verrett (Mertz-Schubert)...

This guitar has real personality: a distinctive and versatile focused and period tone, excellent volume and projection on par with most modern guitars, and a dramatic boldness. Fingerboard range is from low A, one octave below the guitar's 5th string, up to high D on the 22nd fret. Stauffer guitars are immediate, fast, and aggressive yet capable of being subtle. These were designed with the dramatic style of Beethoven in mind: ppp to fff immediately. Brash, bold and flambouyant. This guitar was far more useful than I imagined: its available repertoire includes the 7-10 string 19th c. guitar compositions of Coste, Mertz, and Degen; other 8-string arrangements, other 19th c. guitar music where I have dropped octaves for variety or note emphasis, Bach lute material with original pitch, Baroque lute material of Weiss, etc., and many drop-D pieces which are facilitated by the fingerings available.

This guitar is also featured on the Guitars, Multi-Bass, 8-string section of this web site.

Kresse 8-string Anton Stauffer FrontKresse 8-string Anton Stauffer Back The 8-string guitar is a good compromise between the limited 7-string and the unwieldy 10-string. To improve playability, my duet partner, an amateur luthier, had the superb idea of making slight adaptations to early 19th-century designs, so that a fully-fretted 8-string neck can be custom adapted to the 19th century guitar body with great success. Kenny Hill built a fine 8-string Panormo-based design to my duet partner's specifications. Based on observations of the Hill guitar and several other multi-bass guitars, as well as extensive correspondence with luthier Bernhard Kresse, Mr. Kresse built my personal guitar to my specifications based on an adaptation of the Anton Stauffer design to the 8-string, a concert guitar in every aspect. This is a modernization of the 19th century design as they did not build frettable 8-strings back then (for the most part..long story).


  • Full range of bass notes chromatically from A an octave lower than the 5th guitar string, on up to the drop-D string.
  • 19-century model smaller scale and skinny neck facilitates access to all 8 strings, even barres.
  • Ability to play 10-string repertoire of Mertz and Carulli, and 7-string Coste repertoire.
  • Ability to play Baroque transcriptions at original pitch.
  • Play Baroque 8-course lute pieces from the originals.
  • Play drop-D pieces with access to the normal 6-string and drop-D fingerings.

It was built to my specifications by Bernhard Kresse in Cologne, Germany:

1) Anton Stauffer (A.S.) model: Length of body 45.0 - upper bout 24.4 - waist 17.4 - lower bout 29.5.

2) A.S. standard scale 64.2.

3) A.S. standard string spacing "I usually take 4.7 for the Stauffer replicas. 2mm string-clearance to fingerboard-edge on bass-side and 3mm on treble-side". 4.7 nut width of 6-string adjusted proportionally for 8-string.

4) Headstock after a Viennese guitar around 1860 (8 string version) with machine heads. 4 tuner rollers each side.

5) Slight radius on fingerboard to make playing easier.

6) Neck is less thick to make playing easier: "The profile of the neck will be more flat on a 8-string than on a 6-string."

7) 8-string Fretted neck.

8) 22 fret Stauffer raised fingerboard with clock-key adjustable action.

9) Small simple fret dots on neck side at frets 5,7,9,15,17,19, and double-dots at 12. Dots are in the middle of the fret, where the finger goes, which is actually mid-way between the metal fret wires.

10) Oil-based varnish.

11) With hardshell, blue-plush Meinel case.

The European Alpine Spruce top is from Chiemgau, a northern region of the Alps. The flamed maple back and sides are from the Alsace, a region close to Lorraine (Mirecourt), France.

Mr. Kresse's instruments are top-of-the-line. This guitar is bold and loud, easy to play, with a fast, punchy and rapid response, and interesting tonal character with a wide pallette of tonal and dynamic variation.

Editor's note: You can read about this model on the Builders - Staufer page of this web site, and read about Kresse on the Luthiers page.

Antonio Marin Montero Concert Flamenco 2016 (not for sale)

I bought this guitar from La Guitarreria Madrid, on Calle de Atocha, during my trip to Spain in early Feb. 2024. The store owner had kept this guitar in his personal collection and I was lucky to have arrived when it was released for sale, in mint like new condition. It came with a hard shell case by Cibeles. After trying the guitar, I purchased it that very day.

The guitars by Marin are known as the gold standard of Granada, a well-deserved reputation. It is a powerful flamenco guitar with a traditional Spanish sound. I utilize it for classical playing of flamenco-style pieces, especially pieces that use strumming. It has surprisingly excellent tone for a flamenco guitar, with singing trebles. Blind folded, you might not realize it's a flamenco if you play classical on it, but it is brighter sounding guitar, with the characteristic flamenco tone, and a quick attack. The materials are top of the line. The guitar becomes a different beast when playing flamenco puro; it embodies all the elements you would expect from a top end flamenco guitar. I bought the guitar as an investment as well as an occasional player.

It is a pedigree guitar with lasting value. Excellent condition, like new.

Manuel Bellido "Auditorium" model, 2015 (not for sale)

Len Verrett and Manuel BellidoLen Verrett, Manuel Bellido, and Mauricio Bellido
Jesus Bellido, Len Verrett, and Mauricio Bellido
Jesus Bellido, Len Verrett, and Mauricio Bellido (Manuel Bellido Sr. above)
I purchased this guitar in February 2024 from the Guitarreria Bellido workshop in Granada, Spain. Sr. Bellido is one of the most esteemed builders in Granada. His flamenco guitars are played by Tomatito. This guitar was in Sr. Bellido's personal collection. Having recently retired, it was just released for sale. I learned Sr. Bellido originally apprenticed with Casa Ferrer in Granada and went in to business with the legendary builder Antonio Marin Montero who at the time was a furniture maker, and it was Bellido that taught Montero how to make guitars (guitar labels in the 70's were "Marin-Bellido"). Sr. Bellido also told me he made guitars for Manuel Contreras in the 1960's, which bore the Contreras label. I asked Mauricio for the guitar's history:

"My father and I talked yesterday about the features of this guitar and here is the story. I hope you like it:

As a guitar maker my father has always been very interested in the evolution of the guitar, especially in terms of finding the voice he wanted his guitars to have and also the balance he was looking for. When he discovered Ignacio Fleta guitars, the general balance and tone attracted his attention. Those guitars were considered great guitars but also a bit too hard to play. Instead of using the traditional Spanish assembly way, Fleta used to assemble his guitars with a dovetail joint between the neck and the body among other reinforcements, adding some extra strength to the instrument structure.

On the other side, my father found that some Antonio de Torres guitars were very close to the Phi number proportion, which gave them a fantastic look but also appreciated those balanced tones he was searching for. On his way to the Aurea guitar he built many guitars approaching the Golden Number, and in this very guitar he put together the Fleta assembly way, the Aurea proportions on the body, his design of the soundboard and also the sober Granada style. The aim was to get the sweet and resonant sound of Granada guitars, the easy play our guitars usually have, adding the deeper voice and balanced sound from Fleta, and the beautiful proportions of Torres. This guitar also has a very old German Spruce top bought in 1970 and naturally dried since then, an asymmetric angled bracing that goes under the rosette bar made with an extremely old spruce rescued from old furniture, and a double bar under the fretboard. The body is made of Indian Rosewood, which is his favorite wood for classical guitars in terms of tone, density and strength."

Strings: "We recommend Savarez Corum Alliance or Savarez New Cristal for our guitars."

Backstory: I had planned for months to do the "luthier walk" in Granada, with around a dozen top luthiers all within a 20-minute walk. However, it was raining and we took a taxi to the far end of the walk, which happened to be the store Superb Guitars which is actually part of the Bellido workshop. They have a small but good selection of high end classical, romantic, and flamenco guitars. We spent 3 hours with Mauricio Bellido, who speaks excellent English and I learned a great deal about the Granada school of guitar building.

Mauricio and Jesus Bellido are the sons of Manuel Bellido, and they are all top notch luthiers. Jesus had also built a very faithful small-body Torres copy and 2 Panormo copies. All of their guitars were "superb" as the namesake indicates. After playing many fine instruments side by side, the guitar I purchased which was made by maestro Manuel Bellido himself stood out for its balance, singing trebles, and warm tone. It has a different character from the Madrid guitars, as I expected and hoped for. It pays homage to Fleta while retaining the embodiment of the Granada guitars. I did not need another guitar, but I could not pass up buying this fine instrument from his personal collection. It is a pedigree guitar with lasting value. Excellent condition, like new.

Yunah Park Concert Cedar Top 2024 (not for sale)

During my trip to Spain in early Feb. 2024 I had met with the store owner of La Guitarreria Madrid, on Calle de Atocha, when I purchased the Antonio Marin Montero Flamenco guitar. Having browsed their website I wanted to try a few guitars from luthiers I had researched, but they had sold before I arrived. One guitar I wanted to try was by Yunah Park, an up and coming builder with excellent reviews, who had apprenticed with Angel Benito Aguado in Madrid and now runs the shop, and now makes top concert guitars herself. The store owner told me that in his opinion, Yunah Park is making the best guitars in Madrid right now, but the few he had gotten sold almost immediately.

The next day, I went to the well-known establishment "Guitarras de Luthier" in Madrid, near Calle de Atocha, where I had made an appointment. I tried many instruments. They had just gotten a Yunah Park cedar top guitar, which I tried (I originally wanted to try a Rene Baarslag cedar top listed on the website, but it was sold). The Yunah Park stood out from the other guitars I tried which were in a similar price range. I purchased the 2024 cedar top Yunah Park guitar. When I returned in a week to collect the guitar, I learned that someone else who tried it before I did had returned and wanted to buy it, but I bought it first!

The guitar is a joy to play: beautiful tone, a lot of tone color range, easy to play, resonant, and with clarity of every note. When I bought it, my companions all said it had perfect balance in treble, mid, and bass, and balance across the tonal colors. I performed at a guitar society meeting recently, and I was told that every note on the guitar was "like candy". I very quickly bonded with this guitar; it executes what I am thinking almost automatically, and adds something as well. It is a very "musical" guitar. I also recently showed this guitar to the KUPINSKI GUITAR DUO who we hosted for a concert last week in Houston, and they also were impressed with the guitar. Everyone comments that it sounds very traditionally Spanish.

I believe that the guitars by Yunah Park will continue to increase in value and prestige. She is originally from South Korea, but moved to Spain to obtain a degree in classical guitar but became interested in lutherie. She apprenticed under Angel Benito Aguado in Madrid, and quickly became a top builder on her own. When I returned to Madrid to collect the guitar for the trip home, the staff at Guitarras de Luthier told me that they think Park's guitars will quickly become more valuable, given their growing reputation. I am personally playing this guitar quite a lot; I cannot put it down.

I contacted Yunah about the possibility of ordering a spruce top (her wait list is 2 years and growing) and obtained more information about my guitar. Yunah uses both cedar and spruce for the interior system, which she says results in the cedar guitar not being too dark in tone and that 'sometimes you can feel like you are playing a spruce guitar'. The cedar guitar I bought is inspired by Hermann Hauser.

Strings: "It is set with the KNOBLOCH ERITHACUS CARBON CX MEDIA EDC 335 strings. If you like nylon I would put the first and second Savarez Alliance New Cristal or Agustine Regals and the rest carbon."

Manuel Contreras Concert 1A Double-Top 1994 (not for sale)

This is a traditional, Spanish-sounding classical guitar made by the legendary builder Contreras I in Madrid. Label signed by Manual Contreras (Senior). 1A concert model, top of the line with top materials and meticulous construction. Contreras is known as one of the very best Spanish builders, having built guitars previously at Ramirez. I am the original owner of this guitar. Interesting story; it was literally the very last Contreras I guitar remaining in the Contreras workshop.

It is loud and powerful, a true concert instrument that has different characteristics in a large hall, with a "presence". It has a great deal of clarity, and sounds fantastic on Bach and Scarlatti, though it sounds good on anything. It embodies the Madrid sound and feel. The upper trebles are this guitar's best feature. The tone is full and robust; it sounds like a fine traditional classical guitar.

It is made of very tight grain German Spruce; I'm told it is a rare select grade grown at high altitudes. The 2 sides of the top appear to be different colors, even though they are the same cut and color, depending on which way you hold the guitar due to the tightness of the grain. The back and sides are high grade Brazilian Rosewood. The tuners are accurate and ornate, also the headstock is nicely carved. The purfling is a classic Black arrow pattern, patterned on Torres. It is a "double top" - meaning that a second top is over the back. This prevents the back from deadening the vibrations when it touches the player, thus increasing resonance and volume. The internal construction is a little bit unusual, but the result is a traditional sound.

It is a pedigree guitar with lasting value Contreras I is deceased. Excellent condition (very minor scuffs for 10 years of playing, nothing major), no cracks. I had the frets and action serviced. Bridge modified for double tie-holes to improve the break angle and increased power/tone. Photo of me performing on the guitar in 2004:

Len playing Contreras - Chrismas 2004

Bartolex 10-string Classical 2008 (sold)

The Bartolex guitar is a 10-string modern classical guitar. It is based on the Ramirez bracing system. There are 2 grades of instrument available: I chose the higher end "All solid" model, with a solid top, back and sides (there is also a less expensive "solid top" model available, with laminated back & sides - targeted as more of a student guitar). The guitar is available with cedar or spruce tops, and I chose spruce because I like the spruce sound for Baroque repertoire. My duet partner purchased the cedar top version, and he is also pleased with it.

The Bartolex guitars are made by luthiers in China where labor rates are lower than many Western countries, which allows these instruments to be offered for relatively low prices. China has a long history making orchestral instruments, and is starting to enter the classical guitar world. When I received the guitar (carefully packed and shipped), I was immediately impressed by the quality of the woods and the finish. The spruce top is a good quality top with a nice straight and even density grain, and likewise the Indian Rosewood back and sides were high grade materials. The sound hole and other trimmings were tasteful and not overstated, with good quality workmanship throughout.

I am pleased with the tone quality, tone variety, and balance. The guitar is still young, and with a fine spruce top it will surely improve as it ages and matures. The guitar in my opinion is much better than most student grade guitars even though it sells for a student-level price. Certainly, a true concert guitar will have a more refined tone, but a concert guitar will also easily cost 3 times as much, or more. For the money, the Bartolex is an excellent value, and a good choice for most players or guitarists looking to use the instrument as an additional guitar to broaden their repertiore.

I have it tuned as a regular guitar for strings 1-6, and the extra strings are tuned step-wise descending from the lowest guitar string, e.g. 7=D (or D#), 8=C (or C#), 9=B, 10=A (or G or G#).

After several years of enjoying an 8-string guitar, I tried the 10-string for the extended range of Baroque music from Weiss, Bach, Baron and others. There are also some 19th century works (e.g. Decker-Schenk, Mertz, etc.) that were written for 10-string. Of course the 7-8 string repertiore is vast as well, and there are always alterations that can be made to nearly any score to drop the octaves of some basses.

Anonymous Circa 1830 (sold)

This guitar is largely based on the Lacote style but does not have a label or other visible markings to indicate exactly who was the builder, and in what year. The back and sides are European flamed maple, with an Ivory binding and Ivory machine heads. The rosette and body are also lined with ebony in concentric rings. It has a moustache bridge and a flush fingerboard with frets extending to the top. The headstock appears to be original - while this V-shape head was made famous by Panormo, in fact many other guitars of the period utilized this headstock design starting around 1823 or so.

I estimate that this guitar was built around 1830, plus or minus a few years. The body shape is typical of romantic guitars in the 1820's and 1830's, along with the Lacote / French style of bracing. The headstock - if original - would date the guitar after 1823 - and more commonly after about 1825. The flush fingerboard was typical of guitars until the 1830's (although there are plenty of exceptions), and during the 1830's, guitars were more commonly made with overlayed fingerboards like they are today. Based on these factors, and comparing the body design to other dated examples, I would guess around 1830.

The country of origin is harder to guess. The design style is of the French school, but the headstock is more typical of London guitars. This instrument is overall well-made and uses expensive materials such as the ivory, a one-piece back, and machine heads. I would guess this was made in France (most likely Mirecourt), England, or surrounding areas.

It has a 650 scale length like today's guitars, but has a narrower neck (about 45mm at the nut). The long scale length may have been intended for projection and volume, as a concert guitar. It has a new, modern "coffin shape" case from Kenny Hill (as was used in his Panormo guitar series).

The guitar is in perfectly playable condition. The 13th fret is a little "plinky" due to the flush fingerboard, and the headstock can "rattle" very slightly at times depending on humidity, but otherwise there are no issues. This is in remarkable condition for its age of over 175 years. It has It has the typical "period" sound from a Lacote style guitar.

Clive Titmuss Terz Guitar, 1998 (not for sale)

Terz This is a Romantic Terz guitar made by Canadian luthier Clive Titmuss. It is based on German models, but not patterned after a specific instrument. It sounds like a lute with a lot of power and sustain. It is tuned a third higher than a normal guitar which allows access to higher notes, and also increases the projection. Terz guitars were used for many 19th century ensemble works, for example all of Mertz duo material and much of Giuliani's, as well as many piano / terz and orchestra / terz pieces. It is also great for Renaissance music because the Renaissance lute was also tuned a third higher than the guitar.

This guitar has a 5.0 width neck and a 54mm short terz scale. It is easy to play. It was a prototype guitar which was later remade, thus there are 2 repaired cracks on the top which do not affect the sound or playability. The top is spruce, and the back / sides are a striking figured maple. This guitar is surprisingly loud, and it projects incredibly well enough because of the brightness and pitch. It really cuts through when strummed. I replaced the wood friction pegs with mechanical Pegheds - a huge improvement. I had the instrument adjusted for intonation and action setup; it turned out superbly, and I love this little instrument, especially for ensembles, but there is also so much Vihuela and Lute music, as well as a surprising number of Capo III pieces that I can play without capo of course.

String selection required calculating the tension tuned a third higher, and picking custom gauges based on the 54 scale length. Basically I use a 24-gauge top string (very thin), and the same low-tension strings as the other romantic guitars, since the short scale mostly offsets the higher pitch. I use:

1 - g - D'Addario Rectified Nylon 024 (NYL024)
2 - d - Seaguar fluoro-carbon fishing line (b=.66mm/50 pound line/50FC25) or Labella VG028 varnished gut or 032 nylon
3 - a# - Seaguar fluoro-carbon fishing line (g=.81mm/70 pound line/70FC25) or Labella VG036 varnished gut or 040 nylon
4 - f - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL026W
5 - c - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL031W
6 - g - D'Addario Silver-plated wound on Nylon, NYL040W

Two Early Guitars by Lavigne of Paris

Two Lavignes
Lavigne, Paris, circa 1813 (left), circa 1819 (right, sold - but the buyer might be willing to part with it)

Lavigne guitars rank among the best-sounding period
instruments I have personally heard or played.
Today, this luthier is not well known.

I have owned two instruments by an early French luthier, Lavigne of Paris. I still own one, and the other I sold to a friend in town who really wanted it (but I still have visitation rights). Both instruments are labeled, but unfortunately the labels do not indicate the year. I have sought out expert opinions, given the internal construction and aesthetic appearances, as well as what is known in France of Lavigne's life and the address location on the label, we have tried to guess at the dates by comparing to other dated examples. Based on this analysis, one instrument is an early example, around 1800-1815, while the other is a late example of Lavigne's work, around 1815-1825. The years are only a guess, however, and my best guess is 1813 and 1819 (A friend in Paris, France privately gave me evidence for these dates, but he does not wish to allow me to reveal the source of this information due to ongoing research projects).

Lavigne was one of the earliest luthiers of the 6-string guitar in France, who originally started making the older lyre guitars along with other instruments, presumably in the 1790's. By 1800, Lavigne was making 6-string guitars in Paris. The older of the two guitars shares much in common with its older 5-course Baroque guitar ancestor, and in body shape, construction and appearance, it looks identical to many late Baroque guitars, except that it was originally made as a 6-string instrument. The later example shares the aesthetic characteristics of other high-end French guitars of this period, with fine decorations and a refined sound. Although little is known of Lavigne's life, the Paris address of this luthier was prestigious, more so than most Mirecourt makers, and his guitars rank among the best-sounding instruments of the period I have personally heard or played. He was apparently a successful luthier, since instruments survive spanning a career of around 30 years. I have personally encountered only four guitars by Lavigne, two that I own, and 2 that were in bad condition. Kresse, Decorte, and Ridder have encountered a few more; it is possible that perhaps only 1-2 dozen examples survive.

Both instruments are in fully playable condition and were restored. Each instrument has a very different tonal character. The ca. 1813 is wider grained spruce (which enhances the bass response), with 200-year old Brazilian Rosewood back and sides. Its strengths are the sweet, dark trebles, along with a firm and solid bass, and a deep sound. The trebles in particular are "gushy, drippy, sweet and round" as one listener described them. The 1819 is tighter grained spruce (which enhances the treble response), with Mahogany back and sides, probably the extinct Cuban Mahogany species. Its strength is the punchy midrange, brightness and clarity. Both guitars are surprisingly loud and project extremely well, I would guess only perhaps 10% less loud than a modern concert guitar, which is remarkable since they are only 2/3 the size. Both guitars have very low action with no buzzing, a short scale (62 and 63 cm), a comfortable nut width (4.5-4.6 cm), and are generally easy to play. They are both very responsive.

Both instruments are nearly exactly the same size. Back to back, they look identically crafted, but if you look closely, there are a few key differences which help to date them:

Lavigne's labels often do not include the date, and this label does not state the date. According to Sinier de Ridder, Lavigne made instruments from the late 1790's through the mid 1820's, and no known Lavigne instruments have been found after about 1825. It is presumed that Lavigne died in 1825. Lavigne made Lyre guitars in the 1790's-1800's, and 6 string guitars in the 1800's through mid-1820's. The label indicates in French that Lavigne is a maker of Lyres, Guitars, and Other Instruments.

According to French early guitar experts and luthiers Sinier de Ridder :

"There are no books or dictionary who tells us who was a leader or a follower, who was an artist and who was a technician, who invents and who reproduces in guitar-making.

So we just have our experience and that of our colleagues, to try to understand the good "order of appearance" for makers who never dated their instruments (except Pons and Lacote).

Lavigne, Ory, Marechal, Michelot, Lejeune, and some others, were makers in Paris, around 1800.

They invented, after the Italian and the Spanish makers, the 6-string guitar. They began to make lyre-guitars, but to our knowledge, they never made 5-course guitars.
Lavigne 1819 Bracing
Lavigne circa 1819 Bracing
They tried different bracing patterns before Pons-Lacote found the best one. In this case (Lavigne) there are 2 small bars each side of the sound-hole, as Martin made, also as Pons and Lacote made before they made the 2 vertical bars in the treble side. The bracing is a kind of "Y", no longer used after that. They tried, for a better result, different measurements for bridge location, rib length, string length, etc..

We are now studying the Parisian makers, who were very different than the Mircourt makers. We are still looking for more information about the several addresses of Lavigne in Paris and about his death date (estimated at 1825)."

Lavigne, Paris, ca. 1813 (for sale $3,200)

Lavigne Front Early 19th Century guitar, labeled, by Lavigne, Paris

Circa 1813

Repaired and Playable. Fine guitar with beautiful and varied tone qualities.

Original period "coffin" case
nicely patinated, paint craquelled and some travel labels.

I have not been able to give this guitar the attention it deserves, and am selling to help pay for a trip to Europe. USA buyers only! The permits required for Brazilian Rosewood are so onerous to obtain for shipment outside the USA, I cannot sell this guitar outside the USA.

Spruce top (Strong grained pine, 4 pieces).
Brazilian Rosewood back and sides, veneered onto pine base as was common practice. Slight opening on center seam, not a problem. Side has one crack, (old repair, stable and not a problem).
Purfling and rosette of holly/ebony lines.
Fingerboard flush with table, with 12th fret just beyond join.
Bindings of ebony.
Neck ebonised, with usual V join.
"Figure 8" or Guitar shaped head, with pegs, one replaced but contemporary with guitar.
Measurements: scale length 63 cm, width of neck at 12th fret 58mm, at nut 45.3 mm, spacing at nut 38.5mm. Action perfect. Body depth tapering from 86mm to 78mm.

Size compared to modern classical.

Lavigne was an excellent luthier in Paris during the early quarter of the 19th century. He built serious instruments for the musicians of the capital. Aesthetically, the guitar is of tasteful and classic design, with emphasis on the playability and sound, not just on decorations. The tone, volume, and playability of this guitar are truly exceptional, as this was clearly a professional concert instrument for serious players. This guitar is well-made, and has survived in remarkable condition due to its construction and being well kept.

This guitar has an amazingly big sound and loud volume, nearly as loud as a modern classical guitars, with superb projection. It has excellent separation of bass and trebles and a good bass response. Basses are bold, prominent, and solid, but not the modern classical boom. The trebles are sweet, full and round. The trebles have a sound character that has real personality, that is hard to describe. The sound of this guitar matches the music of the day, especially Sor, Giuliani, Carulli, Carcassi, Coste, and others. Very balanced sound, good for counterpoint. Playing on this guitar has really made me re-think the interpretation of period music.

It sounds best with gut strings, and tuned down a half step (essentially Baroque A415 tuning: the guitar body was essentially a Baroque guitar design, and the wider grain spruce has a naturally lower resonant frequency). I use thicker gauges of strings to keep the tension the same as E tuning and to eliminate the shredding problems of thin gut strings. I use 2 gauges thicker than LaBella's "ERG" series, namely gauges 26, 30, 38 of varnished gut for the top 3 strings, and for the basses, D'Addario J4304 (4), and D'Addario J4505-06 (5,6).

It has the original wood case. It has some pre-war travel labels indicating the guitar went from Paris to Waterloo, and spent around 100 years in Surrey, UK. It was kept with one family as long as they could remember, and sold by the heirs when their mother passed away as part of the estate liquidation, then to me.

Lavigne Headstock Top
Figure-8 Headstock with Pegs

Lavigne Label
Lavigne Label
Lambert 1785
This late 5-course Baroque guitar (photo: Vichy) is labeled "Lambert, Paris 1785" and shares many design characteristics of this early Lavigne guitar, circa 1813: elongated body, square upper shoulders, V-shaped tailblock insert, etc..

This guitar has the original label of Lavigne, Paris. Based on our knowledge of this luthier, this guitar dates from the days of Beethoven, Napoleon, Sor, Giuliani, etc.

This guitar has letters of authenticity, signed and stamped, from luthier and restoration specialist Brian Cohen of Soundpost in Guildford, Surrey, UK. The documentation of authenticity by luthier Brian Cohen states: "It is hereby certified that this guitar is by Lavigne of Paris, circa 1800."

Dating Estimation

I have asked five 19th century guitar specialists, who all placed it from no later than the first quarter of the 19th century, e.g. certainly from 1800-1825. However, this is a wide time range for a period of rapid innovation. On the extreme, Brian Cohen appraised the year as 1800, while Bernhard Kresse estimated circa 1825. French early guitar specialist Françoise Sinier de Ridder told me: "We think your Lavigne is near 1805/1810, and it seems to be extremely carefully restored."

Richard Savino, a professional early music specialist and recording artist, played my guitar while he was in Houston performing with the Houston Grand Opera. Richard told me this guitar looks to be from about 1810, and he commented that it is a fantastic example, one of the best he's played and it competes with his personal instrument. He had a hard time putting it down. He commented on the tonal qualities and ease of play.

The characteristics that in my opinion place it in the early period 1800-1820 are: location and size of the soundhole, elongated body shape, body size and scale, bridge style which matches museum 1800-1815 guitars (box ridge saddle and moustache ends), purfling design, and because the original guitar probably lacked frets above the 10th fret.

Kurt Decorte was not specific about the year, but he commented: "I saw once an 1825 Lavigne. I think he's inspired of the early Mirecourt guitar bodies like Lacote or Martin or Marchal or J.L Mast etc........The bridge of the 1825 was with a typical french bridge and not like this one, this Panormo shaped model. But yours is original, that's right.... But these very early ones sound very good. Its the typical old sound, for me the real 19th century guitar sound."

As I mentioned earlier, strong first-hand evidence has recently come to my attention that this guitar was built around 1813, and not later than 1819. This is in line with other expert opinions.

Replacing the upper fingerboard on the 4-piece top after setting the neck Lavigne Frets
The new piece; stain and wood grain matching original
Brass lower, new boxwood upper frets.
Lavigne Bridge
New bridge, an exact copy of the original style, original moustache ends.
Removeable ebony saddle.

Due to the age of the instrument, certain repairs were unavoidable to restore it to 100% playing condition. At one time decades ago, this guitar suffered an accident which set the neck out of alignment and caused the 1 crack on the shoulder. The neck joint was poorly repaired, and was improperly set to the wrong angle. Worse, new metal upper frets were added in the wrong position which caused intonation problems.

I then had the repairs performed by a professional luthier. This was necessary to bring this guitar back to full playing condition to last another 50 years or so. I wanted a player for daily use. It had the neck joint re-made to set at the proper angle. New ebony bridge copied from the original (the original bridge is in the case; it had worn deep grooves and needed replacement). New nut, same ebony material (original in the case). Replaced 1 piece of the 4-piece top (the upper fingerboard piece) with spruce of same grain and thickness, stained to match the original. New upper frets of boxwood; the wood frets look fantastic, a nice early music aesthetic, and they can easily be serviced in the future since they are glued onto the top, unlike the metal frets on the top which cut a groove. Replaced original lower frets with brass frets of the same style as the originals. Action, setup, frets, etc., set for optimum playing.

The top and back have no cracks at all, remarkable for a guitar of this age. Slight seam visibility, stable, together, not a problem. It has a minor crack on the side which is stable, repaired decades ago, and does not affect the sound. It is 100% playable. The top is spruce (pine), the back and sides are Brazilian Rosewood. Ebony neck and bindings. Rosette and purfling in thin concentric wood rings.

As a result of the restoration, this guitar has perfection action, intonation, and string spacing. There are no buzzes or mechanical problems of any kind. No further repairs are needed, it is 100% playable for heavy use.

I tune this guitar a half-step low to approximate period tuning and since the instrument sounds better and gives an "old" sound at the lower pitch. The gut strings make a huge difference in the tone and its tonal authenticity (and after all, that's why we play these antiques...); gut strings are expensive but worth it for the sound. Tuning a half-step lower lets me use thicker gut strings than I could use at modern pitch; the thicker strings are more resistant to fingernail shredding and also have a fatter tone. With gut strings and the correct tension, this guitar sounds incredible: rich with rubbery, gushy trebles. String choices:

1 - d# - LaBella Varnished Gut VG026
2 - a# - LaBella Varnished Gut VG030
3 - f# - LaBella Varnished Gut VG038
4 - c# - D'Addario J4304 (Single J43 string), or any 28-gauge wound nylon
5 - g# - D'Addario J4305 (Single J43 string), or any 33-gauge wound nylon
6 - d# - D'Addario J4306 (Single J43 string), or any 42-gauge wound nylon

This guitar plays exceptionally well after restoration. It is powerful and loud, in fact several modern guitarists who have heard it were quite surprised at the projection for its size. It produces an aged, deep, interesting tone with responsiveness and variety. Would consider selling for $3,000 (plus shipping) for USA domestic buyers only.

Listen to Lavigne circa 1813 MP3 sound clip...

Perfect action, intonation, plays great!

Lavigne, Paris, ca. 1819 (sold)

Lavigne circa 1819 Lavigne circa 1819, circa 1813
The circa 1819 Lavigne (left) is shown next to its older brother, from circa 1813.

2 Lavignes back Lavigne 1819 back Lavigne 1819 side
Here we see the striking Mahogany back and sides of the circa 1819 next to the darker Brazilian Rosewood circa 1813, and the side views.

The guitar has a label in the usual place, and also a stamp on the 12th fret "Lavigne a Paris". The vine inlay on the bridge was common to many French guitars of the early 19th century. The rosette is a beautiful ebony / ivory pattern; the same pattern on the Guiot 1844.

Early 19th Century guitar, labeled, by Lavigne, Paris

Circa 1815-1825

Fully Repaired and Playable. Fine concert guitar, powerful projection. Beautiful and varied tone qualities.

Spruce top (Strong grained pine, 4 pieces).
Cuban Mahogany back and sides, veneered onto pine base as was common practice. Top and cracks fully repaired.
The fingerboard is perfectly straight and the pitch is correct at all frets, including at the 12th.
Purfling and rosette of ivory/ebony lines with mother of pearl.
Fingerboard flush with table.
"Figure 8" or Guitar shaped head, with pegs, all original.
Measurements: scale length 61.9 cm, at nut 46.6 mm. Action perfect.
Cuban Mahogany Back and Sides.
Beautiful French Vines Bridge decoration

Lavigne was an excellent luthier in Paris during the early quarter of the 19th century. Aesthetically, the guitar is a real beauty, with the French vines seen in many period examples, and an intricate rosette with mother of pearl inlays, and bindings of ebony and ivory. It was constructed with emphasis on the playability and sound, not just on decorations. The tone, volume, and playability of this guitar are truly exceptional, as this was clearly a professional concert instrument for serious players. This guitar is well-made, and must have been expensive in its day.

This guitar has an amazingly big sound and loud volume, nearly as loud as a modern classical guitars, with superb projection. It has excellent separation of bass and trebles, with a punchy midrange and crunchy bass response. It has a clarity so that every note is clearly heard, even in chords. It is bright and direct.

Mahogany is not often found in classical guitars today, perhaps because it is a better match to the French early guitar sound than the Spanish sound. Mahogany is lighter than rosewood and is often characterized as loud and clear with bright trebles, twangier but less brilliant, with a distinct character (a very apt description for this guitar).

It sounds best with gut strings. I compromise the shredding problems of gut by using ordinary nylon LaBella 2001L strings on strings 4,5,6 LaBella gut on strings 2,3 and rectified nylon 029 gauge on string 1.

Lavigne Label
Label shows remnants of the original wax covering.
Rosette of mother of pearl, ebony, and ivory.

This guitar has the original label of Lavigne, Paris.Sinier de Ridder, France notes the date as: "We say 1820 for this guitar because of the address, but in fact it could be also 1810/15. We prefer to say the later date possible."

This guitar has a certificate of authenticity, signed and stamped, from luthier and restoration specialists Sinier de Ridder, France in France.

I bought the circa 1819 Lavigne from French early guitar experts and luthiers Sinier de Ridder, who supplied the photo of the label; the remaining photos are ones I took.

J. Guiot, 1844 - Panormo school (sold)

front closeup label full in case bridge closeup tuner closeup full standing back head back

This guitar is made like a Panormo. Documented literature says A. Guiot worked directly for Louis Panormo and made Panormo guitars under the Panormo label before going independent. This guitar is by J. Guiot, and while evidence has not yet come to me of a direct connection to the Panormo family by J. Guiot, based on the construction and style of this instrument it would be logical to assume J. either worked for one the Panormo family directly or learned with A. Guiot (in fact, very little regarding builder history is documented). The body shape and dimensions, fan bracing system, wood types, etc., are like Panormo guitars of the period.

As Sinier de Ridder informed me, Guiot must have been "one of the numerous workers who left Mirecourt (or Paris) between 1830 and 1850, to work in London, like Chanot or Roudhloff (the 2 sons) did. You must remember the situation in France during these years is horrific; after Napoléon's wars, the revolution named "3 glorieuses" in 1830, the cholera epidemic in 32, the civil war in 48, the life became very, very difficult in France and many luthiers left their country. Some of them went to Turin, some to London, others to Germany or even Spain. We believe these very good luthiers were employed by English makers as workers, Panormo for example, and the workers are not supposed to put their name inside the guitar. (In fact it is very often we found some names inside guitars, always the name of the real maker, and easy to read by the sound-hole, the "author" label or brand)."

Guiot was from France, and perhaps this French influence led to his use of more decoration than Panormo, even though they all lived in London and made Spanish guitars. The decorations are beautiful, in fact much nicer than the photos indicate. I much prefer the appearance of this guitar to the rather drab-looking Panormo's. The purfling and rosette is ebony and mother of pearl (white abalone), showing superb craftsmanship. It is a typical J. and A. Guiot style. A part of the rosette is exactly made like the Rosette on some French guitars of the period: it is identical in style to the 1819 Lavigne rosette on this page, with an extra zig-zag purfling pattern inside this rosette and the body. Outside the inner rosette is a ring of wood inlay, in the same position as Panormo guitars.

The top is spruce and the back and sides are Brazilian Rosewood, with no laminates. The body is deep, in fact equally as deep as my 1994 Contreras! The fan bracing and deep body, with Brazilian, give this guitar a sound very similar to the modern classical guitar, but not quite: the sound is sweeter and punchier like a period guitar, somewhat 'inbetween' the two, as Panormo's are often described. The bass is profound and can sound deep. The sound is mellow, elegant, and refined, more as a fine classical than a rowdy flamenco.

The tuners work perfectly, with handles of ivory. The tuning is smooth, accurate, and precise. The ivory nut, bridge, and frets all appear to be original. The guitar is overall in superb condition, indeed rare condition for being made in 1844. It still has the original case. The action is super-low, at 2.9mm from the top of the fret to the bottom of the strings. This makes for easy, fast playing, but it can "ping out" with heavy rest-stroke playing (which was not done much in those days anyway).

The tone of the guitar is superb, and it allows for a lot more tone color than most 'period' guitars. The trebles are sweet, round, and bell-like as a modern guitar, but less boomy. It works exceptionally well for period 19th century music, as well as later music of Tarrega, and even early 20th century South American romantics like Barrios, Sagreras, Manjon, and Pernambuco.

I bought the guitar from Kurt Decorte at The Guitar Workshop, Belgium, who also supplied the photos.

I also had a few repairs done by a professional luthier: leveled the fingerboard and refretted with mandolin wire frets - these have a period appearance and are smooth and accurate. He re-finished the guitar with a light coat of French polish and cleaned up over 150 years of grime. The tuning gears were removed, cleaned up, and new screws were applied to create a tight fit. I played this guitar in recital recently and had comments that it projected and sounded better than the modern classicals played that day.

Copy of 1888 Antonio Torres SE117 by Dane Hancock (sold)

1888 Torres copy front 1888 Torres copy neck back 1888 Torres copy back Torres-Contreras
Copy of Antonio Torres 1888, based on the SE117 instrument
Made to the exact original dimensions and construction
Shown next to a modern classical guitar for comparison (far right)
Cedar top (original spruce), maple back/sides (original cypress)
615mm scale length (original was 605).
Replaced friction pegs with mechanical Pegheds.
I use gut strings for trebles.

This guitar is a copy of a surviving Torres instrument from 1888, serial number is Second Epoch #117 (SE117). According to the Romanillos Torres biography, the original SE117 was made of a spruce top and cypress back / sides. This copy by Hancock is made of a cedar top and maple back / sides. Torres often used maple and other woods during this time period, thus the change of materials is within historical character. It otherwise conforms to the exact dimensions and design of the original Torres SE117 guitar. The headstock of SE117 was replaced, but this copy is based on other known Torres headstocks of this period and is surely what must have been on the original. It is astonishing how small the guitar is, being slightly smaller than my 1847 Lacote copy, and generally the same size as other romantic guitars.

The body style is different from the modern guitar design for which Torres is well-known. It seems that Torres made two styles of guitars: his "new" style as played by Arcas and Tarrega, and also an earlier "traditional Spanish" style like this one. Luthier Michael Surrency in Houston inspected this instrument and made a few minor repairs; he immediately noticed that this guitar was built like the earlier Martinez guitars, as Mike has drawings of an early 19th century Martinez as well as several photographs. Martinez was a maker recommended by Fernando Sor in his Method book.

The sound is quite unique and interesting. It is best described as sounding like a flamenco guitar with a capo 3 without all the buzzing, but the trebles are sweet and round like a classical guitar. It also sounds more like other 19th century guitars (e.g. Stauffer, Panormo, Lacote), than a modern guitar. It is equally at home growling out rasgueados and flamenco material (but with more refinement) - as it is playing Sor and Giuliani. Sor sounds very good on this instrument, as Sor was known to play and recommend early Spanish instruments of this style. It can get surprisingly loud. In all, it is a fine addition to my collection.

Luthier Mike Surrency gave the guitar its "tune up" to re-level the frets and touch up the french polish. I also raised the action a hair's thickness at the saddle. Due to the small angle of the headstock found in Torres guitars, it is necessary to wind the strings near the headstock base to achieve the necessary break angle to avoid buzzing on the open strings at the nut.

The guitar had wooden friction pegs, which aside from their usual hassle and inaccuracy in tuning, had gotten to be poorly fitting due to humidity changes. Luthier Mike Surrency replaced the wood friction pegs with mechanical pegs by PegHeds (www.pedheds.com). These look like friction pegs, but are actually precise gears and they work like modern tuners, to tune quickly and with control over small adjustments in pitch. This was a huge improvement. Because the PegHeds require a 7mm hole, while the friction pegs were 9mm, it was necessary to create a bushing to install them, by cutting off both ends of the original wood peg and gluing it in to plug the hole, then drilling a new 7mm hole to insert the PegHeds and then gluing them in. Cosmetically and functionally, the result was superb.

Specs: Made by Hancock family in Australia. Maple sides and back, ebony fingerboard, pegs, rosewood bridge and headstock veneer. "V" style neck/headstock joint, simple but elegant rosette. String length = 61.5cm. Body length=16.5", upper bout=9", waist=7", lower bout=11". Width of fingerboard at nut =4.7cm. Neck - Brazilian Mahogany, Fingerboard - Ebony, Bridge - Brazilian Rosewood, Bindings - Ebony, Finish - Shellac.

This guitar is still on the Hancock website at www.masterguitars.com.

It has a long slender body and a short scale, with bridge placement further toward the lower bout, as in the traditional Spanish style of the early 19th century. These guitars are very light and very beautiful to look at.

Kenny Hill London Model 1999: Guitar after Panormo (sold)

I somewhat regret selling this instrument. It was mechanically perfect, very loud, and easy to play. It was small and travels easily. It has a good sound, but the sound variation and tone quality are not as good as the instruments by Mr. Kresse which I now play, in my opinion. This was a guitar made in Paracho, Mexico - which are a level of quality below Hill's Master Series made himself. It was my first 19th century style guitar, and I immediately dropped my big Madrid classical and played this guitar almost exclusively for 2 years. I later graduated to finer instruments, but for the money, this was a superb value in a guitar. Also, Panormo sounds more similar to a modern classical than other romantic guitars, due to its fan bracing and design, and materials, but it does have the "period" sound. Also, as a bit of a perfectionist myself, it is not made exactly to period design as a replica - for example it has a truss rod and other non-period elements.

"Mr. Panormo made some guitars under my direction...." - Fernando Sor, "Method for the Spanish Guitar" English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions.

This guitar is a replica of an 1836 Panormo by Hill. Custom fitted "coffin" style case included.

You can read about this model on the Builders - Panormo page of this web site. This guitar is very easy to play, with a comfortable neck of 635 scale. Spruce top, Indian Rosewood back and sides. It has a punchy, responsive bass, a great sound, and is very loud. Great intonation and no buzzing or other problems. I have played this guitar in recitals with great success. Panormo's are great not only for 19th century music, but also Spanish music, Baroque, and Renaissance. This is a superb guitar for someone wanting to get into 19th century guitars, using a replica where everything works.

Hill London Case Hill London Front Hill London Back Hill Bridge

Antique French School Guitar - "The Flower" (sold)
Attributed to Jerome Thibouville Lamy (JTL), circa 1890

I sold this guitar to a graduate student of classical guitar. It was an excellent player with near-perfect mechanicals (fretting, tuners, action, intonation, etc.), and superb body condition. It was a duplicate in my collection. It possessed a nice tone with sweet trebles, though not particularly powerful or loud. I attribute this guitar to Jerome Thibouville Lamy (JTL), circa 1890 - a large musical instrument manufacturer which flourished around the turn of the 19th / 20th century. An identical - looking instrument with the identical distinctive rosette, etc., turned up in the Vichy, France auction, stamped JTL and circa 1890.

It is an antique, period classical guitar. It has no label. It appears to be made in the French style popular from the 1840's to the turn of the century, though it is difficult to date this instrument; I had 3 luthiers look at it. It has a very free, delicate, and sweet early guitar sound that matches a good deal of 19th century guitar music.

This instrument is in superb condition and is fully playable. It does not require any repairs. This guitar was professionally set up, which entailed heating the neck to the proper angle, refretting (using new frets of the same style as the original frets) and sanding the fingerboard, with a new nut and saddle. The intonation is spot on, perfect at all frets as measured by a tuner. The action is low, which makes the guitar extremely easy to play, yet there are no buzzes or rattles of any kind anywhere along the fingerboard. The action is lower than a modern classical due in part to the low-profile frets. The action is 3.5mm from the 12th fret to the bottom of the 6th bass string.

Scale = 635mm, Nut = 4.5mm. This scale and nut width also add to the good playability of this guitar; those 19th century stretches are much easier, yet it is not too narrow that your fingers are cramped. Strung with gut strings by LaBella; safe at full A440 pitch (you can also use nylon low tension, LaBella 2001L are safe). Original tuners work fine.

The top is spruce, and the back / sides are maple. The back is a large 1-piece, with NO CRACKS. The top also is free of cracks, except for a small crack next to the fingerboard which was professionally repaired and stable. The sides also have no cracks. Like most 19th century guitars, the neck is painted dark black.

It has original fret dots on the side of the fingerboard, probably pearl. Bridge pins and ends also pearl.

A long time ago it was probably dropped a few inches, as there are 2 spots on the upper and lower bout that were spliced together and a small section of purfling was replaced with matching material. There is a minor indentation at the strap pin, also repaired a long time ago and stable. These past repairs are not noticeable unless someone shows you the exact place and you look very closely. The required repairs were very minor and done by a professional, and it is now structurally stable. In all, it is rare to find a guitar this old in such good condition.

Flower Rosette The Rosette is the most attractive feature of the guitar, with a hand-painted flower pattern.
Flower Moustache It has a characteristic "moustache" style bridge.
This guitar has a new, custom-fitted Ambassador case made by Modern Case Company. This case is "An engineered combination of reinforced hard and soft foams, soft interior fitted and shaped to each instrument and covered with a C1 zippered bag." The fitted foam case provides superior impact protection than a hard case (hard cases pass the impact force into the instrument, while hard foam cases absorb the impact and better protect the instrument). It has lots of zippers and pouches for storage, including a pouch on the outside. It has a handle and padded backpack straps.

Antique German-Viennese Style Guitar - Restored

I bought this guitar as a complete basket case, nearly destroyed - with a water-damaged and mutilated back, top cracks, missing most frets, 90% varnish gone, and so forth. I was hoping it might be a Stauffer. I later learned that it was not a Stauffer, but instead a German or Viennese guitar most likely from the late 19th century. It was fully restored by Houston luthier Mike Surrency, who made the guitar look and play like new. It had a good dynamic range with surprising power, and a very bright, clear sound. In all, it duplicated other guitars in my collection and I found the 4.4cm nut too narrow for my hands, also it was more of a student-grade instrument originally as it did not have much tonal variety, and thus I later sold it. The new back is a much better grade of maple than the original.

This guitar is an antique classical / romantic guitar from the 19th century, probably Vienna, which was restored by a luthier. It is playable and in very good condition. It is made in the style of Stauffer. There is no label or stamp. Like Stauffer, it has an extended 22 fret neck which allows access up to D, one octave higher than the 10th fret. The fingerboard floats above the top, thus allowing more of the top to vibrate, and making it easier to reach the high notes.

This technique was borrowed from violins, which all have floating fingerboards. Specialty luthier Bernhard Kresse said this about it: "I cannot exactly say but I guess this is an instrument from Saxony or Vienna last quarter of the 19th century. I saw guitars by Hlawsa or Nowy (both Vienna) like this. They are a bit wider in shape than the Romantic Viennese guitars by Stauffer and Co but built in the same style - fine guitars."

It has a bold sound, and very loud volume, with a bright, clear and distinctive tone characteristic of Vienna guitars. Nut width 4.4cm, scale length 610mm. The short scale makes it very easy to play those stretches in 19th c. music that are practically impossible on a modern guitar.
Front Full Back Full

Anonymous German or Italian-style guitar, circa 1870 (sold)

Anonymous German or Italian-style guitar, circa 1870 - FrontAnonymous German or Italian-style guitar, circa 1870 - Back This instrument is unlabeled, but Crane and Kresse both placed it late 19th century, possibly around 1870, and most likely German or Italian in make. It had a deep sound with a prominent bass and sweet trebles, but was overall a medium quality instrument, not a concert guitar, as the sound was a bit delicate. The neck is as narrow as they get, 4.2cm - too narrow for my hands. I sold it to a friend in town for what I paid for it, and he was delighted to have this guitar to start out on 19th century guitar from the modern guitar and lute. It is possible that the guitar could be older, but had the bridge and headstock replaced around 1900 (hence the square Martin shape). It has the original varnish, spruce top, and a one-piece maple back.

Anonymous German-style guitar, late 19th c., Restored (sold)

This was the first 19th century guitar I bought, and like a sucker, I believed the label and thought I was buying a Lacote. As it turns out, the label was a clear forgery photocopied from the Vannes book. The guitar needed a number of repairs, which were performed by Houston luthier Mike Surrency. The end result turned out spectacularly, it was re-varnished (as most of the original varnish was gone), re-fretted, and generally restored. Despite the fake label, whomever made this guitar was a fine craftsman, as it shows much attention to detail and was generally well-made. I sold the guitar to my duet parner who liked the sound and playability, with full knowledge of the non-authentic label. It is most likely this guitar probably came from Markneukirchen, Germany, circa 1900.

Lacote Front Lacote Side Antique Guitar, Restored.
Label: "No 5. Lacote, Paris 1828"

Spruce Top, Flamed Maple back/sides.

Well-made antique guitar which was restored by a luthier. It is playable but needs slight repairs to adjust the nut height and correct some minor buzzing problems, but is otherwise in excellent shape. Mechanical tuners. The fingerboard is slightly radiused for improved playability. Scale = 630mm, Nut = 4.5mm. Low, easy playing action. Bridge pins. For low tension nylon or gut strings only.

The purfling is hand-made interlocking wooden zig-zags, a "herring bone" design.
Natural Tiger Striped Flamed Maple Back.
The tuners are original and functional.

Has an old chip board case that came with it, but it's very beat up and you would need to replace it. Easiest is to buy a standard classical guitar case and pad the extra room with old T-shirts or a towel. Or Modern Case Company makes custom cases for any guitar.

Lacote Purfling Lacote Back Lacote Headstock Back

Lacote Label The label reads:

"Place des Victories
No. 5
Lacote, luthier

Francisco Navarro Grand Concert Flamenco (sold)

Navarro This guitar is made in Paracho, Mexico - a town with a long history of guitar building in the Spanish tradition. Navarro has distinguished himself as a quality luthier and apprenticed in Spain. His guitars are well-made, especially for the price. This is a flamenco guitar with a traditional sound and plenty of "growl" and a good earthy tone. It is not as good as some very expensive flamenco guitars, but I have not found a better instrument for anywhere within 3x the price. I tried about 10 Navarro's and this stood out as the best of the batch. It sounds very good on a CD I made with my church.

I sold the guitar because I just don't have time to continue studying the flamenco style. I took lessons for a while but gave it up since classical guitar consumes all my time. It was in superb condition, no flaws. This is the Grand Concert model built and signed by Francisco Navarro himself, his top of the line concert guitar. I sold it to a fellow in Australia who had one just like it that was stolen; he was quite happy with the guitar.

Larivee (sold)

Larivee This is a steel string guitar by Jean Larrivee, model OMV-09. The workmanship is first rate, and it works well for fingerstyle (hence my reason for getting it). As I tend to play nylon-strung classical guitar almost exclusively, this instrument was sitting in my closet in perfect, flawless condition. I sold it to someone in Italy who was quite happy to get it.

Other photo links:

front in case
front close in case
front full
front close on stand
back full on stand
front full on stand

Gibson Les Paul 1984 (not for sale)

Les Paul OK, I admit I started out playing electric guitar and switched to classical. This was my second electric, and I cannot count the hours my hands spent pouring out classic rock, blues, and jazz improv. I still let 'er rip from time to time. The improvisation skills I learned gave me a fast, fluid left hand and a sense of the energy required to move a piece. This instrument is a Les Paul Standard, 1984, gold top. I am still the original owner. These days, my teenage son has taken over "Leslie". I tricked out the action incredibly low, adjusted the truss rod, and removed the pickup covers for a hotter sound. It has a fat, bluesy tone and sounds best through a tube amplifier, in my case a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. I'm not planning to ever sell this guitar.

Fender +HP Stratocaster 2005 (not for sale)

+HP Fender Stratocaster This is a guitar I won at HP in February, 2005. Using an HP camera, employees were encouraged to capture their passion for music. HP collaborated with Fender to offer employees the chance to win one of 67 special-edition "Fender +hp" Stratocaster guitars. The artwork is very nice: all black, with a picture of Jimi Hendrix integrated into the finish, with multi-colored "+" signs (for +HP) cascading along the body, and integrated as fret markers.

"This Fender Stratocaster guitar design, developed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, will be turned into a 10 ft. fiberglass model for display in the Greater Cleveland area. The guitar will be one of many sold at an auction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Upgraded the pickups and my son has commandeered this guitar which he proudly displays in his home office.

Yamaha Classical (sold)

This was my first classical guitar, around 1983. It was my only guitar until I began playing concert guitars in the late 90's. It is mechanically perfect, with perfect intonation and it plays well. It was an excellent student guitar that got me through many years of practice and a college guitar program. I used it as a travel guitar and a backup classical. It is an excellent student guitar that I sold in 2024 to a student.

Hirade H5 (sold)

This was my second classical guitar. It was a step up from the Yamaha student model. It was a good instrument for the price. After only 3 months I sold it to buy the Contreras, a much more expensive concert-grade instrument.

Donn DuBois 8-string (borrowed)

This was a guitar made by my duet partner, who did an excellent job for his second guitar building experience. I did not actually own it, but I borrowed it for about 2 years because Donn had 2 other 8-strings made for him by professional luthiers. It was mechanically fine with a good sound on par with a student model guitar, and this was a good toe-dipping experience for 8-string guitar in general.

Ibanez electric (sold)

This was my first electric guitar, on the low end of the Ibanez lineup. I quickly traded up to a Les Paul once I gained some proficiency. It was a Strat-style instrument, but was difficult and awkward to play for an electric, and the pickups were wimpy single-coil which buzzed a lot.

Comparative Photos

Four ERG
My Romantic guitars, left to right:

1. Staufer 1840 (Vienna) 8-string, copy by B. Kresse
2. Torres 1888 (Almería, Spain) copy by D. Hancock
3. Lavigne circa 1813 (Paris), antique 19th century period guitar
4. Lacote 1847 (Paris), copy by B. Kresse

1888 Torres copy, Hancock (left)
1994 classical, Contreras (right).

Most people are surprised how small
Torres guitars are. It matches
other 19th century guitars in size.

4 ERG 1 Modern Tailview
Tail view from my collection of guitars, left to right:

1. 1840 Stauffer Kresse copy
2. 1813 (circa) Lavigne
3. 1888 Torres Hancock copy
4. 1847 Lacote Kresse copy
5. 1994 Contreras classical.

The historical copy guitars were made to the exact dimensions of the originals.

5 ERG Collection
In my collection of romantic guitars
Left to right: Kresse Stauffer 8-string, Kresse Lacote, Titmuss Terz, ca.1819 Lavigne(sold), ca.1813 Lavigne

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