I cannot figure out what was done to this guitar. I found it for cheap, and expect to improve it, if not restore it. Looks lie someone removed the fretboard @ 12th fret, in search of a dovetail?
For a neck reset? Doesen't need one, heights are 3.8/.2.8
The rosette in that area is disturbed, and the color of the top is an unusual brownish old growth cedar, not the dyed orangey finish. The edge binding is also disturbed in some places and the top almost seems higher than the binding.
It almost looks like someone replaced the entire soundboard and didn't take care of the details....but that's crazy. I don't know a lot about Ramirez, but the tone and volume coming from this instrument is the best I have ever played.
The Brazilian Rrosewood alone is worth more than the guitar.
You didn't show us the problem areas ?
The finish color tells me that it is not original...the color on the interior rim of the rosette is probably the original wood.. the grain pattern of that wood is different than the overall soundboard, so I again suspect the whole soundboard was removed and replaced. The hack of the fretboard at the 12th , and the binding being a bit disrupted also says the top was removed.
So knowing that there was some repair and that the guitar had lost its originality, I bought it anyway, liking the tone and playability. I will keep playing it and if I can get insight on how to improve the top finish, blend the top with the binding (the soundboard is just a little proud of the binding...too thick or badly replaced) and make other finish work, I'll think about attempting some work.. Could make it worse....
What I don't know is the thickness of the soundboard. Would like to measure it and compare. Also the type of wood. It has unbelievably tight grain, and is likely a cedar, but has the unstained brownish color as in the photo. Not the orange finish of the usual Ramirez 1A in pics, and not the color seen inside of the rosette. The satiny finish used is uneven and looks like some runs were created though mostly polished out.
I imagine at some point, deciding that the soundboard could be sanded down and French polished but for now I will continue to get more clues and knowledge. I'm glad it sounds so good, otherwise it would be a total disaster...the Brazilian back and sides, however are gorgeous, the neck lovely ...
Colin, I am looking at the different colour wood inside the rosette and thinking that it is probably a soundhole binding? I would not interpret it as a sign that the soundboard has been tampered with.
Too many small details to demonstrate, but all the clues now point to the soundboard being replaced.
1. Cut the fretboard at 12th to clear the removal. Whoever made the cut there was sloppy, cut into the neck a tiny bit...overshot.
2. The binding all the way around is lower than the top of the soundboard...looks like the top was replaced with a piece of very nice wood that was about 5 thousandths too thick. I will measure the height, but you can feel it. in some places the soundboard was sanded to bring it down closer to the binding. a couple of places the binding is not perfectly tight against the edge of the top wood, whatever finish was applied, did not fill the tiny void.
3. Rosette was altered, was probably cut out of the old top, and included the inside rim of the rosette of original wood. Clumsily done, as the reinstall of the rosette leaves some of it below the level of the top.
4. The top is beautiful wood, extremely fine grain. The tone is wonderful, and I'm eager to find another Ramirez 1a to compare sound quality.
5. Enjoying the guitar, and my eventual direction is to study the dynamics of the soundboard to see if anything can be done without destroying the sound quality:
a. Removing the lousy scratched and uneven coating that's been applied. This would allow me to sand the top thinner to match the binding.
b. Here I need to measure the top thickness and compare it to a Ramirez standard. Study on how thickness correlates to tonal qualities is needed.
Also need to get a light and mirror to determine what is written inside. My Martin luthier friend did inspect and said there was writing under the top that would take time to decipher....maybe the history of the top repair.
c. When the top has been thinned, the finish taken down to the bare wood, and it's determined that I haven't ruined the sound quality...learn to apply French polish or finish it with the best practices.
d. or determine that none of these ideas should be tried and just play the thing....the risk of repair by an uninitiated amateur is probably what caused this issue.
I am a telescope maker, shaping glass to within millionths, but that don't make me a luthier.....
Additional images showing evidence of soundboard replacement. If it is true that the soundboard was replaced, (not top quality work), are there improvements that a good luthier would recommend? I suggest sanding off the entire top finish, and bringing the soundboard thickness down closer to the level of the binding, filling in the divots around the rosette and binding, and French polish the top. My cncern is the tonal qualities of the top and how to not make it worse.
Yes, now that you present all of the evidence I think you have secured a conviction. I am persuaded by your idea that the rosette, and the rim of old soundboard that was inside it, have been grafted into a new top. The issues around the binding and the thick. lumpy finish on the top which looks different from the finish elsewhere - all consistent with your hypothesis. Well done Sherlock!
So, what to do with it now? I suggest that you will never be able to make this look like an original soundboard given the gaps and the odd-looking rosette. If it sounds really good the best option is probably just to play the thing and enjoy it. Removing all of the finish is not as easy as it sounds. You don't know how thick that rosette is and if you try to level everything there is a risk that you could sand through it and get a worse result. And if you take the soundboard down enough to level it with the bindings it might alter the sound that you are liking so much.
Thanks for reply.
So generally how thick is a rosette? I suppose after building such a complex bundle, they would try to get as many cuts as possible, so they would be really thin. I am more concerned about the edge binding matchup.
Given my thoughts and your review, I'd next seek out a few live luthier and have him listen to it, and maybe listen to a couple of other Ramirez examples. Perhaps it displays a common tone quality that would give a suggestion re: any changes. Like, "That soundboard is obviously WAY TOO THICK...needs to be relieved around the edges...", or "That sounds quite good, but the trebles are too harsh, don't touch anything...first try some lower tension strings, here's my preference."
Diagnosis is half the cure.
There is some scientific method that can be applied to evaluate the functional attributes of a guitar soundboard and determine if it is too stiff/heavy, and its resonant characteristics. Trevor Gore is the guru for this stuff and outlined a lot of it (with impressive equations and data acquired across many instruments) in his set of books on guitar design and building.
Fairly easy tests include: 1. tap testing to visualize the frequency spectrum characteristics of a soundboard; 2. bridge rotation testing to assess soundboard testing (easy to do with a tilt measuring app on your phone; and 3. deflection testing (how much does it move/bend under a weight). These can be diy tests, or your luthier might be familiar with them.
That's the direction I want to go with. I think Interlibrary loan should get me a copy of Gore's books.
The primary resonance of the top is a G# but the other tests you mention are definitely on the list of things I can do. My engineering senses should help with this.
Why just play guitar when I can test, analyze, diagnose and get my hands into one?
my newluthier friend in Rockport Mainegaveit a good lookover and determined that the top has NOT been removed. The lining is intact. the lousy fit of thetop to the purfling/binding is probably from TFG trimming it. Maybe all cented warped and chipped?
So,original Ramirez, and TFG probably lifted the rosette out or otherwise kept it apartfrom the refinishing process...he did remve the original finsih and the tint, and slathered on somekind of polyurethane.
I did find his name inside, Ryan Martin...an internet search brings uphis name as a guitar builder in Maine under the bizof Magic Wand, and there are scandalous stories of fraud around him...just stories..
My intent is now to play it, and maybe clean up the finish....