Arthur Robb - Luthier
Email art@art-robb.co.uk    Telephone 0044 (0)1666 822945    Mobile 07984 892570

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1849 LOUIS PANORMO

NUMBER 1964

The guitar as it arrived in its red plush-lined coffin case. The lid is completely detached and the hinges will be repaired. In its present state it could easily scratch the guitar. The unusual contraption in the bridge area is an attempt to convert the guitar to steel strings. I was concerned with the excessive, ugly glue used to close the crack in the side but the glue was rather rubbery and peeled off without leaving any damage.

Once cleaned up, the soundboard appears in very good condition. The ebony plate which is over the position of the bridge cannot be original as it does not have holes for strings. It will be removed and a new bridge put in its place.

Of the inlay in the soundboard, I think possibly only the circular mother-of-pearl dots are original.

The Baker tuning machines are in excellent condition and there is the characteristic Panormo "P" carved in the bar adjacent to the sound hole. This is very definitely a Panormo.

A photo taken with a small digital camera without flash shows many cracks in the Brazilian rosewood ribs. Light shines through the cracks and I am convinced that the back needs to be removed from the guitar, if only to repair and reinforce these cracked ribs.

Using the digital camera with flash, there is a good view inside the guitar. Towards the rear, the soundboard has a double set of bracing not usually seen on Panormo guitars. In the front, near the heel, there are previous repairs and more cracks to be repaired in the rosewood.

It soon became apparent that the back had previously been removed from the guitar. Inside the guitar, near the heel, there were tool marks of this work, though I was not able to get a good enough photo of this. In several places the decorative black/white/black lines had been damaged, were incomplete or uneven. In some places the binding showed joins which were much cruder than Louis Panormo's usual work. When I attempted to remove this binding it did not come away easily and broke into many small pieces. It will have to be remade and replaced. This was due to incorrect use of the hide glue in the previous repairs. Hide glue can be made in various strengths, which is why it is so versatile in lutherie. However, in this case it had been made far stronger than was necessary.

With the back removed, quite a lot of damage is evident. Firstly the excessive strength of the glue meant that the back did not come away cleanly from the heel and the end block. The back appears to be made of Brazilian rosewood but is actually a thin rosewood veneer glued to a pine base. Note the interesting direction of the grain of the pine. The glue used to re-attach the back to the heel and the rear block was stronger than the pine and some of the pine is left on the back and some on the heel. This will be a tedious, but not impossible to put right.

Also, the un-Panormo-like bars can be clearly seen. These bars have been added to reinforce the soundboard for use with steel strings. They will have to be removed. Also, each one of these bars twice cuts through the original soundboard bars. New bars of the correct size will need to be installed.

It seems there has been some very unfortunate work done on this guitar to make it suitable for use with steel strings. The repairer altered the soundboard barring, removed the bridge and added bizarre inlays to the fingerboard. This is not the first Panormo in the workshop with extraordinary modification, have a look at the 1833! Even with all that damage, the 1833 played very exceptionally well and I expect this guitar to do so as well.

I always start the repairs with the back. All the bars are loose and will need gluing up. They are also too long. This is a typical fault in old guitars. With age, the bars shrink less than the rest of the guitar causing the bars to protrude out of the sides of the guitar. On the right, the back is nearly done.

Another look at the added bars shows them to have a very different profile to the original bar on the left. They were not made of a softwood, such as pine or spruce, but a lightweight hardwood possibly something like poplar. The hardwood bars were very difficult to remove, but eventually all the bars become thin enough to allow cotton wool and water to soften the glue join.

Once the underside of the soundboard was clean I began to repair the many cracks in the ribs, later reinforcing the sides with linen. New bars of Swiss pine (picea abies) were fitted using original placements and dimensions. Thin plates of sycamore under the holes in the bridge always help keep the strings in place. Lastly, the blue linen was stained a dark brown stain.

The ebony bridge was a challenge to make and involved quite a bit of carving. It was glued to the soundboard before the back was re-attached to the body.

With the back attached to the body, the purflings and bindings were replaced.

The finished guitar is tuned to concert pitch and the strings are Savarez Red. It plays well, with good tone and remarkable volume for a small instrument. The case has been repaired, is functional and no longer a danger to the guitar.

Later, I fitted Nylgut Alabastro Light 19th century guitar strings. I think the tone is even better.

Dimensions:
String length: 630.5mm
Overall Length: 944mm
Width of upper bout: 240mms
Width at waist: 182mm
Width at lower bout: 298mm
Height at upper bout:91mm
Height at lower bout: 97mm
Nut width: 46mm
Distance between 12 fret and 1st string; 3.2mm
Distance between 12 fret and 6th string; 3.1mm
Weight: 1.13kg