inspiring members of the family of fretted instruments that graced my studio


Puerto Rican Tres

This beautiful instrument is a Puerto Rican version of the Cuban Tres.

The tres plays the montuno in Cuban music. The montuno is a repeated rhythmic vamp essential to Cuban/salsa music commonly supplied by the piano.

A Puerto Rican Tres has a different template (outline) than the Cuban Tres. The Cuban Tres looks much like a small dreadnaught  (see below) while the Puerto Rican Tres has scaloped sides similar to the Puerto Rican Cuatro (see below).  The Puerto Rican cuatro has five pairs of strings. The Puerto Rican tres has three groups of three strings each using nine of its ten tuners.

It’s interesting to note the scaloped template and ten string tuners of the Puerto Rican cuatro were retained in the process of creating a Puerto Rican version of the Cuban instrument. 

Vintage Vega Cylinder back Mandolin
Puerto Rican / Cuban Tres

Below is a tres that has the outline and depth of a Cuban tres but was built using the Puerto Rican “enterizo” method common to cuatro construction. In this method the sides,back and neck are carved from one block of wood. The Cuban tres has bent rather than carved sides and is assembled from separate parts like a guitar.  In Cuba six string guitars were often converted to a tres by merely replacing the bridge and nut to provide three pairs of string rather than six separate.

This instrument is the property of Mr. Salvador Rojas, a wonderful musician and fine gentleman from Milwaukee. He commissioned this instrument from a well known cuatro builder in Puerto Rico. Because of it’s unusual construction it has a unique tone, different from a traditional Cuban tres.

Like many instruments built in the tropics with the “enterizo” method of construction, the instrument suffered from lower humidity in Milwaukee and required a new fingerboard and saddle.
Puerto Rican Cuatro

Here is a Puerto Rican cuatro made by Eugenio Mendez, a highly respected Puerto Rican builder.
Theorboed archlute

This modern archlute.  was originally a renaissance lute-- made by the great master Manouk Papazian and later "theorboed"--that is, modified by the addition of a pegbox extension that provides an added "harp" of five-foot bass strings beside--but not on top of--the original fretboard.  A complete photo sequence documenting its restoration can be viewed in Guitar Repairs.Guitar_Repair/Pages/Restoring_an_Archlute.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0

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Brazilian Cavaquinho 

A four steel string cousin to the Hawaiin Ukelele.                               The cavaquinho is used in playing samba or choro music in Brazil.
Portuguese Viola da Terra 

This instrument originates from the island of Saint Miguel in the Azores. The twelve strings have two groups of three for the low strings and three  pairs for the high strings.
Argentine, Bolivian, peruvian, Chilean Charango 

A small 10 string (nylon) instrument from the Andes traditionally made from an armadillo shell. This one is made of wood carved to resemble its ancestor. The tuning pattern is “re-entrant”, meaning the pitches of the strings do not rise steadily from one string or course to next. This  allows the sound of the up and down stroke to be similar when strummed.
Hawaiian Taro-patch 

A ukulele with eight strings traditionally made of Koa. This one appears to have been made by Leonardo Nunes around 1920, son of the inventor of the ukelele Manuel Nunes.
Hawaiian Ukulele

Strung with four nylon strings the ukulele is made in four different sizes. This tenor model is made of Koa wood which is common to the Hawaiian Islands.
American Mandolinetto

An eight steel string mandolin with a guitar shaped body popular in the early 1900’s.
Mexican 12-String
Banjo Ukulele

Popular during the 1920’s and 30’s with Vaudeville entertainers it combines the short scale and tuning of a ukelele with the louder metal string sound of a banjo.
Parlor Guitar

Here is an example of guitars popular in the 19th century. This one may have been made in the mid 1800s.


In the early 1900s the interest in  early music prompted guitar makers to make lutes. They applied elements of classical guitar construction to lute making.  These instruments had fixed metal frets, wood binding, bridge pins and tuning machines. This one may have been made in Germany.

This Sitar made in Calcutta was an exciting guest displaying great craftsmanship, intricate carvings and inlay.


         1959 Guild X175                             Vintage Gibson  L7                          7 string Carlo Greco

This wonderful instrument is a 1933 Gibson L50. It has a carved top and  is one of the most beautiful guitars that ever graced the shop. It’s present caretaker is Scott Ainslee, a great musician, humanitarian, historian, teacher. philosopher, storyteller, and authority on the music of Robert Johnson.

More on Scott and the Gibson L50 on

This Parlor size guitar may have been made in France at the turn of the century. The spider web rosette complete with the spider is extremely well crafted and thoroughly charming.

English 10 String Cittern

This instrument made by Oakwood, Leed, U.K. has five double courses. 
The first four are tuned like a mandolin.  DGDAE

      1930’s B&D Senorita                        Rare Martin Archtop                      Ron Phillips Resonator

   I was honored to have this ’59 Manuel Velasquez in my care as it awaited transfer to its present caretaker.

This final instrument is either proof of extra terrestrial intelligence or the result of one’s voyage into inner space.

The body is made of brass.                                                                                                                                                     

This German guitar has a very interesting and profound history having escaped the horrors  of World War 2.

The unusual purfling design around the soundhole required great skill to do. Along with resetting the neck and repairing several cracks the handlebar mustache bridge was missing one end and one of its bridge pins. I was lucky to have an identical replacement.

The charming decal may be found on a variety of guitars distributed by Buegeleisen and Jacobson who started business around 1897 in New York City. This one from the thirties makes a great Blues Ragtime Guitar.

   1954 Guild X375  -  A rare and unique instrument featuring push-button pickup controls