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



LG 20...latest build

Greetings from Capo Dave!
It all started during covid as a remedy for cabin fever.  And here is where it led!  My first build was an octave mandolin kit.  The instrument had a floating bridge with tailpiece; walnut back & sides and a cedar sound board.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much sound this little instrument produced and time at a bench working with wood was something I had enjoyed since I was a youngster. 
I discovered the terrific luthiers' supply houses; the best were StewMac and Luthier's Mercantile.  They had it all... tools, drawings and best of all, premium tonewoods that were all beautifully milled.  The offerings were a bit pricey but lacking heavy machinery and a sawmill, it gives the little guy in a small shop the opportunity to try his hand!

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.

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.  The truth is, the "shape" was not something arrived at on purpose.  I bent the wood with the old "hot pipe" method (learned from a Dutch luthier on-line) and the result was simply the best I could do at the time.  After 15 guitars, I now have pretty good control of hot pipe bending.

The eight string had Rosewood back & sides, Mahogany neck and Spruce top.  Again, I used the floating bridge with tailpiece approach.  I found this instrument to project well and it seemed to have great strength in the mid-range.  And there was something else; the overtones were there but were taking a back seat.  The sound was decidedly "dry" and punchy. 

Having significant significant back issues, I was spending a lot of time on the couch or in my recliner.  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 an Ebony fingerboard and carved floating bridge with a very light tailpiece. 


I simply could not bend the Rosewood tight enough for the horn on this little box. The Rosewood side kept breaking.  I've seen some mighty tight turns but I realized that in my little world there had to be a better solution.  I'm not a fan of Florentine cutaways...the sharp peak does not appeal and since there's a block of wood inside a Florentine horn, why not just make the entire horn out of solid wood?  So the horns are 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.  This little guitar could hold it's own volume-wise with much larger instruments.  It made you want to play the little triplets and single note runs.  It was like a little acoustic Telecaster!

 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