1910 Romantic guitar / German parlor (Fully restored)

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This lovely guitar came to the workshop a few years ago and was slowly restored over the course of nearly two years.


Although often reffered to as a parlor guitar this is actually a typical example of a late romantic guitar. Romantic guitars were made from the late 18thcentury throughout the 19thcentury, but in lesser numbers even till around the second world war. This particular instrument for instance was made in 1910. (The date was conveniently written on one of the braces) It was very likely made in Germany judging by it's appointments, perhaps in Markneukirchen, where many of these instruments were build by small workshops and indepentdent craftsmen. There is a makers stamp on the original back of the guitar, but it's not readable. It is however very well made, and it has some featues which remind me somewhat of early gut strung Martin / US made guitars from the mid to late 19thcentury, such as the V-shaped neck and herringbone rosette. As such we might consider it a parlor guitar after all..


When I received the guitar it was in unplayable condition. The most evident damage was to the back which had a large diagonal split running all the way from the bottom to the top. It was basically beyond repair and due to the nature of the crack I didn't consider it worth saving to begin with. Instead I opted to make a new back out of quartersawn European maple and matched the color of the sides by making a traditional oil paint with Swedish linseedoil and Morocon ochre. After I was satisfied with the color matching the back was French polished.


Before replacing the back several cracks in the top were repaired and supported with cleats from the inside. The guitar also received a neck reset, and a new bridge as the original one was broken and incomplete. The original bridge had evidently been reglued at least ones and also turned out to be in the wrong place, so a shade of were the old bridge used to be remains slightly visible. (see photo) The original frets has some wear, but they're fine and there's no need to replace them or even level them.


The finish on the top was severly damaged, and as is the case with many guitars from this period, the shellac was put on way to thick. Attempts to restore the finish didn't give satisfactory results, so I decided to remove to remaining shellac and sealed the top with a thin coat of oil varnish. This was the traditional finishing method used on early romantic guitars and compromises the sound far less than any other finish. It proved to be a substantial upgrade tonally for this guitar.


In terms of performance, this guitar has the typical intimate and delicate sound of fine romatic era classical guitar. If you are a player of period music you will be delighted by what it has to offer. Nonetheless it will also work in other genres, and the flexibilty of these instruments is often underrated. If you've ever played a ladder braced gut strung parlor guitar, you'll agree they're not just suitable for classical repertiore. Currently it's strung with a set of Aquila Ambra 800 strings which mimic the gut strings originally used on romantic era guitars pretty convincingly. The action is at a medium height with plenty of saddle height to facilitate a lower action if desired. Since I've finished the restoration I pick up the guitar all the time and it is truly a joy too play!


In recent years there has been a resurgence in the interest for these early guitar, yet fully restored examples are hard to come by for a reasonable price. I believe this could be an intersting catch for anyone who likes to get into period music, or is simply looking for an old ladder braces parlor with vintage charms.