The neighbors..."What is he building in there?"



First guitar build

Greetings from Capo Dave!
It all started during covid as a remedy for cabin fever.  My first build was an octave mandolin kit.  Like all mandolins, the instrument had a floating bridge with tailpiece.  I was really surprised at how much sound this little instrument produced!
Next, I got drawings for a Dreadnaught cutaway but not content to build what was on the paper, built an eight string (doubling the 5th & 6th) that was more an OM shape.  I bent the wood with the old "hot pipe" method (learned from a Dutch luthier on-line) and after 27 builds still enjoy using that method.

Building that eight string became Luthiery 101.  Rosewood back & sides, Mahogany neck and Spruce soundboard. Again, I used the floating bridge with tailpiece approach.  I found this instrument to project extremely well.  And there was something else; the overtones were there but were taking a back seat.  The sound had a "dry" aspect that was a much different than the flattops I owned. 


Next, I decided to build a parlor guitar. It would be super slim with a deep cutaway, just the thing for laying back and just noodling away or playing along with folks on Virtual Open Mics.  Again, I used Rosewood back & sides and Mahogany neck but I went with Cedar for the soundboard.  Again, I went with a carved floating bridge with a very light tailpiece. 

The horn is carved Mahogany, same as the neck.  Tuners?  Gotohs are, in my opinion, the absolute best.  Appointments?  None. Zero.  Not even bindings.  On a hunch, I used a 15 ft  induced dome soundboard made of Cedar. In the Push-pin Flattop world, tops are arched at 30' or more.  And flattops rarely have floating bridges. 

Again, the result was a very dry and punchy sound.  And the high, induced domed soundboard seemed to have added more power. This little guitar could hold it's own volume-wise with much larger instruments. I began to wonder, why was this approach not in use by manufacturers or private Luthiers?

Hmmm, I started looking around and guitars in this configuration (floating bridge and tailpiece) only seemed to exist for today's builders as arch-tops.  And the last big manufacturer's offering was the Gibson L-5.  I noticed high level players using these old-timey Archtop guitars.  Best example is David Rawlings and his 1935 Epiphone Olympic archtop.  These instruments had that dry punchy aspect that makes them perfect for backup players and also for solo performers who play more with sparse accompaniment...again with more stripped down chords.

 The Story, how a great design never found it's way forward

 Little Gypsy Parlor prototypes 


D-18 and Little can this tiny guitar project more volume than a full size Dreadnaught?  It's because it uses the Tailpiece/Floating Bridge configuration combined with a "High Induced Dome" soundboard!  This is the long-ignored design first developed in 1932 by Mario Macaferri working for the Selmer company.  The Selmer/Macaferri guitar was brought to prominence by Gypsy jazz genius, Django Reinhardt!

Little guitars have difficulty producing bass and the Little Gypsy Parlors are admittedly defficient in the bass range but the power of the design is undeniable.  I will eventually build a few guitars that have bodies that are physical copies of some well-regarded full size instruments but configured as a "Gypsy Hybrid".  It is also my hope that some well-established Luthiers will take a look at this terrific design!

In my hunt for information, I discovered this piece written by Bernie Lehman, a terrific Luthier with more than 500 builds under his belt!
"The Selmer-Macaferri Guitar in the 21st Century"

Lehmann Guitars