construction follows traditional Spanish assembly
techniques although Mr. Beltran uses modern
technology where such technology yields results
that are superior to traditional methods.
One example of modern
technology is the use of vacuum gluing to glue the
soundboard bracing and the bridge to the face of
the guitar. The even clamping pressure and low
humidity at the glue line as a result of the high
vacuum make this method superior to the
traditional mechanical clamps.
The woods used by Mr.
Beltran in the construction of his classical
guitars are the finest available. The wood is
stored in a controlled environment, as is each
guitar during its construction.
Top woods include
Englemann Spruce, Redwood, and Western Red Cedar.
All brace wood is selected from billets and then
Wood for the back and
sides is generally select East Indian Rosewood or
Cocobolo. Brazilian Rosewood, that is over 60
years old, is available by special order.
Mr. Beltran considers
the finish to be as important as the other
considerations in guitar construction. The back,
sides and neck, where durability is a primary
consideration, are finished with
lacquer. The top is finished with french polish
to maximize its flexibility and minimize damping.
The entire finishing process takes approximately
six weeks. The guitar can be completely finished
in french polish or
lacquer by special order.
rosette design process
Slicing the rosette into 1.5
“Twinos” - There are small wooden blocks
that hold the guitar top to the sides. This
picture shows those blocks being glued in.
Maestro Schneider called them “twinos.”
Most call them “tentelones.”
The purflings and bindings, which is the
wood that goes around the perimeter of the
guitar, are glued to the guitar using rope.
There is a function in that they seal the
end-grain of the top or back, slowing the
transfer of moisture, and also, the bindings
guard against a split if the guitar is
banged against something.
“Brace_wrk.” The braces are carved after
gluing them on. There is a process of
tuning the guitar top, which involves
selective thinning of the top and carving of
the braces, while tapping and listening to
the guitar top.
The making of a Thomas Beltran
The guitar rosette design is made
from wood, and then inlayed into the guitar. A new
pattern begins with a large drawing of the design as shown
in photo A. Initially, brown was going to be used
for one of the colors. Later, it was decided it would
blend in too much with the color of the top. Instead,
red was substituted for brown. Once the design is laid
out, then thin strips of wood are glued up to form the
“log” as shown in photos B and C. Each of the flat panels
is made up of about 9 strips, representing each column of
the rosette. Those panels are then glued-up into the
square as shown in photos E and F.
Once the slot for the
rosette is made in the top, pieces, about 1.5 mm
thick will be cut from this log like slicing up salami
(see photograph at left).
Photographs G, H and I
show the construction of a guitar top. This top was a
replacement. The guitar, waiting to receive the top is
shown in the background of photograph H.
K, L, M and O show how guitar sides are made.
The sides are
bent on the tool shown in photograph J, which
originally was made to bend cello sides. The side
bender is heated up to about 200 degrees, and the
sides are bent. You can see the pitch that has come
out of the wood during bending. Once the sides are
vent, the rosewood sides are laminated with
Spanish Cypress. Once the sides are assembled,
beech linings are installed, that serve to increase
the side thickness to give a gluing surface for the
back of the guitar.