Written by: Finn Wandahl | Photos by: Kenneth Brögger
The Danish luthier Kenneth Brögger was the fortunate owner of an original Antonio de Torres guitar from 1890, number SE 144, for five years – the exact one that GSI had in their showroom. This provided him the opportunity to study and examine this magnificient instrument in every possible detail, and in the process Kenneth learned a great deal about Torres and his work. Actually, Brögger has studied and copied a number of other Torres guitars, but this particular model interested me because of its simple, elegant style and outstanding sound. I therefore ordered one of Kenneth’s replicas of this lovely instrument. It is a little bit smaller than a modern guitar, but it is really no problem once you are playing. This Torres (and Kenneth’s copy) actually feels very nice and easy to play. GSI has seen many of Brögger’s Torres replicas pass through their showroom – check them out. This particular guitar is yet another special addition to Brögger’s masterful legacy.
The soundboard is matured Italian moonwood that Brögger found in Cremona, Italy and it has a great tap-tone. The grains are consistent in size across the entire surface and it is covered in medullary rays. All the dark wood, including the fingerboard, is made of CSA rosewood. It is framed with a single refined and delicate purfling and a very attractive rosette consisting of geocentric rings in green, red, brown and black. Everything is exactly like the original. The internal details of the guitar are very simple and highly efficient. There are only five fan struts and no closing bars. Nothing fancy here, only that which is absolutely needed.
The sides and bottom of this lightweight guitar are made of Spanish cypress. Generally, I find the very straight-grained kind of cypress somewhat boring to look at, because it almost looks like spruce, but fortunately Brögger has a huge selection of tonewoods, so we managed to find some old cypress that actually looked ‘alive’ with some lovely rich colour and very nice grain figuring. Once the guitar had been polished the cypress actually turned out a little darker than usual, which I also found quite attractive.
The scale of this Torres model is 648 mm and 51 mm wide at the nut. The neck of a Torres is extremely well shaped and nice to handle, and thanks to Kenneth Brögger’s perfectionism, this neck is shaped exactly like the original. It is peculiar that a genuine Torres neck has the same height all the way up, which makes it much easier to play. Another interesting Torres feature is the beautiful joint connecting the heel to the neck on nearly all his guitars.
I suggested two modifications for this guitar, and Kenneth Brögger agreed to both of them, since both are common Torres features:
1) The original guitar had friction pegs, but I preferred that Kenneth use normal tuning machines for my copy. He fortunately had some nearly exact copies of original Torres tuners that were installed. Torres used these normal tuners on many of his guitars, likely choosing pegs or machines based on cost – back in those days such modern tuners were probably as expensive as all the other building materials of the guitar combined!
2) The original had a “naked” bridge (only wood), but I preferred a bone capping on the tie-block. I think it suits the guitar aesthetically with the white bone at both nut and saddle, as well as with the bone buttons/rollers on the tuners. Also I think it protects the very slim bridge a good deal. Many genuine Torres guitars have this feature, so it was something Torres himself likely would have approved.
I have only had this guitar for a few weeks and although still young and not yet played in and matured, those who have heard it wonder about its sound. It is sometimes like magic. It has a dark, romantic, old-world sound with much more volume and projection than what one would expect of such a relatively small and light instrument. I continually wonder how this is even possible every time I play it. The bass is very deep, profound and mysterious, the mids and trebles are singing and rounded. The sound is very well balanced and the instrument responds very fast.
I asked Kenneth how it is possible to make an instrument with this quality of sound. He told me that the secret is a mix of intuition and a strong “feel” for the wood under the fingers when sanding and planing. Many years ago, Torres was asked a similar question by his close friend, the priest Juan Martínez Sirvent, who recalled Torres’ answer:
“…‘It is impossible for me to leave the secret behind for posterity; this will go to the tomb with me for it is the result of the feel of the tips of the thumb and forefinger communicating to my intellect whether the soundboard is properly worked out to correspond with the guitar maker’s concept and the sound required of the instrument’. Everyone was left convinced that the artistic genius cannot be passed on …”
TORRES SE144 REPLICA IN ACTION
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