We are about to receive a new guitar from luthier Sebastian Stenzel, and the email he sent gives a glimpse into the thought (and obsessiveness) that goes into the creations of these rather solitary artists. Sebastian also shot a couple of videos of the process of French polishing the guitar and glueing on the bridge, and these, too, are great reminders that sweat and inspiration also go into making guitars.
Dear David (Collett),
Finally the guitar is finished. And what a guitar it is! It is the second guitar I made from this really special quilted maple, which had become my favourite wood for back and sidesalready after the first. You may remember my comment about the Simplicio-style purflings not fitting this wood, which, in my opinion was asking for some static inertia (hope you catch my meaning) to complement the mother-of-pearl like fluidity of the wood. Well I came up with a meander pattern, which I wanted to make from quartersawn wood, so that it really shines. That involved cross-cutting extremely thin veneer strips with perfectly square angles and a tolerance of less than 1/10 of a mm. I wasn’t sure that was possible, and even less sure I would succeed to glue it up. Two months, but I did it.
The fingerboard of this guitar is made from ebony more than 150 years old of a species that probably is extinguished (the term ebony does not refer to a botanical family, but rather to a class of wood with black heartwood). I got some trunk pieces with the work marks from the slaves who had to cut the wood with obviously rather dull hatchets from which I cut this fingerboard. It feels and works like stone rather than wood, and has lovely acoustical properties. This ebony comes from the legacy of an “ebanista”, an ivory- and ebony sculptor from Vienna. Some guy bought his house and found this wood and some ivory in the attic.
As all my guitars, this fingerboards features the compensated fret spacing and relieve following the Frisch-Stenzel method yielding the best possible intonation and playability, my “double-twisted” shape giving a better ergonomic access, and my asymmetrical neck shape for easier access of the higher frets. But with this guitar, I went a step further: all frets are slightly scalloped, resulting in a neck that feels much thinner than it really is.
The wonderful quilted maple (I wish I had more of this) I bought in 1996 at a timber merchant’s in Hamburg. Actually, he talked me into buying it, wanting it to be out of the way. So it was standing in my way since, and I was at the point of either giving it to some sculptor or cutting it up for fire wood, when I decided three years ago to put it on the jointer to see what I got there. (With a trunk roughly sawn when it was fresh, then standing outside for years, you can’t really see much of the wood). When I lifted it off the jointer, I almost passed out!
Well, I hope you like the guitar. It sounds as it looks. I somehow got into making little video clips showing glimpses of my work. Here you can see the guitar, not very well, though, as I can’t put the camera further away…
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