Stay in tune
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I would like to start off with a very grateful “Thank You!” to all of readers that have faithfully been reading my articles in the Voice magazine . I always really enjoy it when a customer will come into my shop and tell me how they read my articles in every issue. I never realized when I first started that it would turn into such of a success. Because of the readers appreciation I have been thinking of ways that I could take all of the articles and add pictures to them and “reissue” them into a format that everyone can get a more detailed picture of the repairs at hand. I have been trying to load more details and pictures on my website (www.wood-n-strings.net). There is also a new newsletter that I will be launching to everyone that signs up for my mailing list. You can sign up through the home page of my website, or go to “Liam Guitars” Facebook page and sign up there too. I will have detailed pictures and explanations of repair techniques that hopefully will jump start all of the potential “luthiers” out there into successfully repairing and maintaining good playability on their instruments, Don't get me wrong, there is still a “ability” factor, some tooling and some repetitive experience that also comes into play, but with patience and determination anything is possible. If not you can still always bring your instruments to me for repair Any way, Thanks Again! , back to business . . .
The last couple of weeks I have had a host of some great guitars come by to visit me. (of course they were brought in by their owners) One of the guitars that I have been spending some considerable amount of time on is a mid 19th century guitar built by a man named Daniel Plaisted Jr.
I have tried to do a search of his name on Google and came up with a “ancestory” website that wanted me to pay money to find out more info on his name. I'm a little leery about signing up for these type of websites so my search has come to halt for now. What I have come up with so far is that I believe the man could be from eastern P.A. in around the mid 1800's and could have some ties to the Martin Guitar family. When I put his name into a google search, a “Hartman Family Registry “ website comes up .
Frederick Hartman was nephew of the original C. F. Martin and was a actually an owner along with C.F.Martin's son, Frederick Martin, in the 1850's. It is not yet known, but I believe that Daniel Plaisted Jr. could be related to the Hatmans, because his name showed up on their site. After examining the quality of this guitar it makes a lot of sense that he could be related . I have had the opportunity to examine other Martin guitars of this period and this guitar has all of the quality construction and exotic woods that were common to other good Martin guitars from the era.
A beautiful rosette around the soundhole and the choice of a grade A spruce top along with a beautifully matched brazilian rosewood bookmatched back and sides, lends me to believe that this builder had a lot of experience in building instruments. Another sign that makes believe the guitar was from a “German” style is the unique”heel” on the neck where it meets the body. It is known as a “icecream cone “ heel and has been seen on very early Martins and other “Stauffer” style guitars from the period. ( Stauffer was the guy who Martin apprenticed under in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. In 1833)
Other features include a thin maple wood binding on both front and back and a ladder braced spruce top. Martin did not come up with the infamous “X” bracing until the latter part of the 1800's. His in part was due to the onset of the new”wire” strings that produced louder sounds, but also put more tension onto the fragile tops which in turn needed a new style of bracing to prevent the guitars from folding in half. The X bracing seems to have been the answer. After 150 yrs. this bracing pattern has gone very little change and is still used in almost every quality guitar known to man even as we speak. Many other bracing patterns have been attempted, but not many have been proven to have any major improvements over the tried and true X bracing pattern. There is still a lot of new bracing patterns and construction techniques that today's luthiers are coming up with to try to improve the over all sound quality of the guitar. Along with beauty, sound is also in the “ears of the beholder”. So far it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone has come up with a better sounding construction method than what Torres and Martin came up with such along time ago.
I find it very interesting that in our world of advanced technology that we haven't been able as of yet to come up with something better (or in many cases, “as good” as) what craftsman produced 200 and more yrs ago. Perhaps we are looking down the wrong road by trying to produce things faster and cheaper. I think that is why I gravitate to the “old school” of “Luthierie” Craftsman would take the time (sometimes many yrs) to learn the art so they could create the a instrument that could span the test of time and touch the hearts of everyone that heard the tones of their creations. In many ways it was their way of communicating to the world what they felt, heard or experienced of everyday life. I try very hard to keep that belief in tact when ever I am repairing instruments in my shop. So with that in mind, I bid you all a “Fare Well”! and “Happy Holiday”! till next time in the Voice
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings/ Liam Guitars