January 11 2017
Please note that as of March 2016 I am no longer accepting custom guitar orders.
Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not retiring! I have stopped accepting new orders as of the fall of 2016, but I am continuing to fill orders on my waiting list, as well as developing some new special runs of guitars which will be offered in the ' Currently in Stock' section of this website. I intend to continue to build guitars as long as I am able to do so, hopefully for a long time.
For those of you on my waiting list, I thank you for your patience and hope I can reward you with a guitar that will be a worthy companion for your many days of playing enjoyment.
NOTE: The guitar information in summary below, will remain on this website merely as useful information representing my history as a guitar maker and my offerings in the past.
Montuoro Guitar Co.
Montuoro guitars are handcrafted from the finest available materials. Each guitar is priced in accordance to its specific design, ornamentation etc. These are exclusive instruments built to your specifications, built in accordance to the construction techniques used primarily in the 1920s and 1930s. I build mainly within two styles based on the principles and techniques used by C.F. Martin & Co. as well as the Larson Brothers of Chicago. I am a "bench copy" specialist building exacting replicas of these instruments using traditional techniques and materials. Heavily steeped in keeping the "old school" artisan tradition alive and well. I have spent the good part of my life restoring Golden Age acoustic guitars amassing volumes of meticulous notes and specifications on every guitar that made its way into my shop. I have a deep understanding and passion for the way things use to be done as opposed to pushing the guitars design into the next century. I am stuck in the past and more then happy to be there because for me and my craft there truly was no better time for guitar making then the 1920s and 1930s in America. .
To inquire about an instrument please contact Frankie Montuoro at email@example.com
I am pleased to offer 8 different styling’s of guitar that can be matched to 7 different lower bout dimensions and 10 different body silhouettes (i.e. Larson, Gibson, Martin etc) and sizes, in either a 12-fret slotted headstock or a 14-fret solid headstock. If there is a specific body shape from a specific guitar you would like, just ask. All of the Chicago styles are "Built Under Tension". I can help you to find a guitar that fits your needs, I am a "maker" rather than "manufacturer".
(Lower bout widths)
A note about the bodies listed below: I am offering 10 different body shapes that coincide with these dimensions, meaning that the molds of the guitars listed below are based off of a variety of historic instruments I have come across. Most of the body shapes that are commonly used have been standardized. Your basic varieties of sizes are 0 / 00/ 000 / 0000 / Dreadnought / Slope and Jumbo for 12 and 14 fret guitars. I offer a variety of these, including the not so commonly seen 16" or 17" Euphonon guitars. Please be clear as to what body shape you desire.
1) Grand Concert: 14-5/8"
2) Auditorium 12 Fret: 15"
3) Auditorium 14 Fret: 15"
4) Dreadnought 12 or 14 Fret: 15-5/8"
5) Slope Shoulder 12 or 14 Fret: 15-5/8"
6) Jumbo 14 Fret: 16-1/8"
7) Grand Jumbo 14 Fret: 17-1/8"
Body Depth Neck to Tail
I build two different body depths. The first depth is what is commonly seen in most 00- or 000-sized guitars. The second is just shy of what you will find in most Dreadnought- or Jumbo-sized guitars. For instruments based off the Larson school of design the body is most often body depth #1, listed below. This depth can be found on Larson instruments with a lower bout width as large as 17". It is after all an aspect of the design. Building at this depth is vital to the character of Larson-inspired guitars. It is important to note this if you are expecting your guitar to be built as close as possible to these historic instruments.
Generally the shallower depth #1 is most suitable for finger style playing, whereas the depth #2 is most suitable to attain the driving power of a Dreadnought or for that darker, deeper sound. Depth #2 is rare in a Larson-style guitar, seen only on a few of their Dreadnoughts and Euphonon made guitars, creating a gigantic and brilliant-sounding instrument and making the guitar larger overall. This depth may not appeal to the finger stylist. The guitar's depth is a very important aspect to your build and will be solidified at the time of the order.
Body Depth #1: 3.313" to 4.125" or 3-5/16" to 4-1/8"
Body Depth #2: 3.750" to 4.750" or 3-3/4" to 4-3/4"
I offer three different nut widths, listed from narrow to wide below.
Nut Width #1: 1.688" or 1-11/16" Narrow ( Normally found on mid to late 1930's Larson made guitars )
Nut Width #2: 1.750" or 1-3/4" Finger-style ( Normally found on many great pre-war 12 fret guitars )
Nut Width #3: 1.813" or 1-13/16" Wide ( Normally found on many of the earliest made gut or steel string guitars )
Bridge String Spacing
I use three different bridge spacing listed from narrow to wide below.
Bridge Spacing #1: 1.130" or 2-1/8" ( Used on 14 fret necks only that have nut width #1 )
Bridge Spacing #2: 2.313" or 2-5/16" ( Used on 12 &14 fret necks that have nut widths #2 or #3 )
Bridge Spacing #3: 2.375" or 2-3/8" ( Used on 12 fret necks that have nut width #3 )
Please Note: The styles that are listed below represent instruments built in the same cosmetic fashion as Larson built guitars, i.e. assortments of colorful wood marquetry and pearl purflings. As an example, 14 fret guitars get the Euphonon style headstock shape rather than the square C.F. Martin & Co. style paddle headstock. The marquetry that goes into a Larson fashioned guitar is generally far more ornate than most of the pre-war flat tops. Even on what might be considered a basic model, the purflings are almost always multi-colored wood bound with Ivoroid and include a fancy back strip. The rosettes are far more ornate, including sound holes bound with ivroid.
I build all guitars "under tension". I want to remark that building guitars "under tension" is not a Larson invention. It is a character that has been alive and well throughout the history of building musical instruments and furniture. This includes an X brace pattern using premium Red Spruce. The tops on all guitars except Styles 3 & 4 are always Red Spruce. If you want a guitar that has that "Larson" sound, but you are not concerned with too much ornamentation consider my Style 3 and Style 4 guitars. The Style 3 is Mahogany and the Style 4 is Indian Rosewood. These guitars will not have fancy wood or pearl marquetry and inlay. They are similar in ornamentation to what you would find on many fine pre-war built guitars. Also, the 14 fret guitars have the Euphonon style headstock without binding. Slotted headstocks will remain the same. Rest assured that the overall construction (i.e. bracing design etc) will not change on any instrument. Everything is finely crafted, one at a time.
Style 3: Mahogany back & sides, mahogany neck with ebony veneer, Sitka top, Adirondack bracing, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, end graft of Ivoroid, unbound ebony fingerboard with pearl dots, ebony bridge with Ivoroid or ebony pins, no back stripe, Waverly tuners and custom case:
Style 4: Indian Rosewood back & sides, mahogany neck with ebony veneer, Sitka top, Adirondack bracing, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, end graft of Ivoroid, unbound ebony fingerboard with pearl dots, ebony bridge with Ivoroid or ebony pins, no back stripe, Waverly tuners and custom case:
Style 5: Select mahogany body, mahogany neck with ebony veneer, Adirondack top, wood purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with fancy wood purfling, ebony fingerboard with pearl dots, ebony bridge with Ivoroid pins, inlaid fancy wood back stripe, Waverly tuners and custom case.
Style 6: Select Indian Rosewood body, mahogany neck with ebony veneer, Adirondack top, wood purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with fancy wood purfling, ebony fingerboard bound with Ivoroid, fancier group #2 of pearl fingerboard markers, ebony bridge with Ivoroid pins, inlaid back stripe, Waverly tuners and custom case.
Style 7: Select Rosewood body, mahogany neck with ebony veneer, Adirondack top, wood purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with fancy wood purfling, ebony fingerboard bound with Ivoroid, fancier group #3 pearl fingerboard markers, ebony bridge inlaid with pearl and Ivoroid pins, inlaid back stripe, Waverly tuners and custom case.
Style 8: Select Brazilian rosewood body, mahogany neck with ebony veneer and "Floral Fall" abalone headstock inlay, Adirondack top with Adirondack bracing, green abalone purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with green abalone purfling, ebony fingerboard bound with Ivoroid, fancier group #4 pearl fingerboard markers, ebony bridge inlaid with pearl and Ivoroid pins accented with pearl, inlaid back stripe, select Waverly tuners and custom case.
Style 8 Special Solo: Select Brazilian rosewood body, mahogany neck with ebony veneer and "Floral Fall" abalone headstock inlay, European Spruce Soundboard with laminated Brazilian rosewood X-brace. red abalone purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with red abalone purfling, ebony fingerboard bound with Ivoroid, fancier group #4 pearl fingerboard markers, ebony bridge inlaid with pearl and Ivoroid pins accented with pearl, inlaid back stripe, select Waverly tuners and custom case.
Style 9 The Elaborate: Select Brazilian rosewood, mahogany neck with ebony veneer and "Double Floral Fall" abalone headstock inlay, European Spruce Soundboard, All top braces are laminated with Brazilian rosewood, red abalone purfling and Ivoroid bound sound hole, front and back edges bound with Ivoroid, top edges inlaid with red abalone purfling, ebony fingerboard bound with Ivoroid and fanciest inlay group #5 "Tree of Life" in beautiful pearl, ebony bridge inlaid with pearl and Ivoroid pins accented with pearl, inlaid back stripe, select Wavely tuners and custom case.
I can build whatever you may desire, but these styles represent a line of instruments that I truly cherish, in both aesthetic and design. They are beautiful shadows from the past and some of the most distinctive guitars you will ever see.
There is no reason to go into the details surrounding Brazilian Rosewood Anyone reading this is well aware of it. I only have a limited supply of this material. all of which has cites papers. I will only be making guitars out of Brazilian Rosewood that are a Style 8, Style 8 Special Solo & Style 9 or higher in the Chicago line, either 12 or 14 frets. or anything that is a style 42 or higher. in the nazareth line. it is important to note that Brazilian Rosewood guitars are for USA sales only. no guitars will be made available from this material outside of the USA.
If you are looking to substitute Brazilian Rosewood one of the best options is Indian Rosewood. Indian is a marvelous sounding material. and is in fact the closest substitute for Brazilian Rosewood in my own opinion. If you are looking for the true Rosewood sound look no further. This wood has been downplayed over the years for many unfounded reasons. When a guitar is correctly made using Indian Rosewood it is every bit as good as Brazilian with added benefits of being cites approved, cost effective and far more stable then your "average" set of Brazilian. Some of the finest sounding guitars I make are made from this material.
Honduran Rosewood has been used as a substitute for Brazilian Rosewood over the years, but Honduran is far denser than Brazilian Rosewood and even when dried properly can prove itself unstable. It can make a larger body guitar heavier then I like and Sonically it is like Brazilian Rosewood on steroids. I put this material in the same category as Madagascar Rosewood and even Cocobolo. All very beautiful woods to look at but in my opinion don't really capture the sound of Brazilian Rosewood as much as Indian Rosewood does. In fact i do not like to build from cocobolo because the extreme oily nature of the wood makes it difficult to use hot hide glue. the heat draws the oil back to the surface of the wood making it sometimes impossible to bond.
If you relate tons of overtones and volume to mean "great tone" Madagascar might be right for you. From my own experience with vintage guitars over the years has proven to me that even Brazilian Rosewood guitars don't possess these large amounts of overtones. This is what I refer to as a "heavy wet sound". Its more like a fine Brazilian Rosewood guitar almost sounds more like the finest version of that same guitar in Mahogany. Its subtle but if you are familiar with older guitars you know what i mean.
Machiche has become another go-to wood of choice for me when it comes to a truer Rosewood tone. This material comes from either the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and sometimes souther Mexico. It is not an endangered species and lends itself to being slightly more exotic then Indian Rosewood if that is what you are after. This material is a bit denser than Indian and resembles Honduran Rosewood aesthetically in many ways. When treated correctly it can even be made to look more like older growth Brazilian Rosewood than anything else. just like the indian the machiche that i stock is the finest available all of which is perfectly quarter-sawn and dried to perfection.
Any questions you might have in regards to the ever changing landscape of rosewoods please feel free to email me.
Quarter sawn Honduran Mahogany is used for the necks, for back and side material and for neck and tail blocks. Mahogany offers the most universally accepted sound of an acoustic guitar. It can be really warm and bright at the same time, with a distinctive snap to its sound. Many even prefer it over Brazilian Rosewood. Although not as robust as Rosewood, the mellow alternative is quite nice. Most Doc Watson and Clarence White records were cut with Mahogany guitars. Also, Mahogany is the most cost effective material for a traditionally made guitar.
Premium Hawaiian Koa is used for back & sides. Koa exhibits a tonal quality that reminds me of a combination between Mahogany and Maple. It is porous, like Mahogany, but has a more reflective tonal quality. Koa can be used for the soundboard material as well. They make truly stunning guitars in every way. Interest in a Koa made guitar please emails me for info.
Premium European Maple is used for back & sides, bridge plates, necks or, at special request, as brace material. Maple is the traditional choice for the violin family of instruments, as well as for arch top guitars. Maple has a highly reflective sound. It's no mystery as to why violin makers use it. It makes amazing sounding guitars too. Think of huge sounding J-200's. High flame on Maple also makes it visually stunning. Interest in a Maple made guitar please emails me for info.
African Ebony is used for fingerboards, head-plates, bridges & bridge pins. Ebony is becoming more expensive every day especially for high quality Madagascar material. I prefer the sound of ebony over Rosewood for fingerboards and bridges. Ebony is most often seen in high end traditional guitars. It can also be used for nuts. An ebony nut will mellow the guitar's tone.
Style 3 & Style 4 guitars - Sitka Spruce is used. "Bear Claw Sitka" at request.
Style 5, Style 6, Style 7 & Style 8 - Adirondack Red Spruce is used.
Style 8 Special Solo 16 & Style 9 - European White Spruce is used.
Please note that most builders charge an upwards of $750 to $1000 extra for an Adirondack Spruce soundboard, and even higher prices for European Spruce soundboards. The material used by the Montuoro Guitar Co. is premium aged stock, and you won't have to pay extra for Red Spruce on Style 5 through Style 9 guitars!
Spruce Brace Wood
Premium quarter sawn Adirondack Red Spruce on each and every guitar.
Rosewood or Maple is sandwiched between Adirondack Red Spruce. You will find laminated braces on the Style 8 Special Solo and Style 9 guitars only. Laminating anything makes it stronger. It is a personal preference, whether or not you feel laminated braces have a superior tonal quality over non laminated braces. I feel it adds something different to the guitar, creating more power and sustain. Some deeper low-end frequencies are removed, while increasing the middle and higher frequencies.
Five piece necks laminated with Rosewood, Maple & Mahogany. Laminated necks are included on Style 8 Special Solo or Style 9 guitars only, in either 12 or 14 fret configurations. The laminations are a thin center line of Maple sandwiched between two slightly thicker Rosewood lines, with the outsides being made of Mahogany.
Single Piece Necks
Premium quarter sawn Honduran Mahogany.
This is always a great point of contention. I will not go into boring diatribe. This is my feeling: when trying to capture the sound of a vintage guitar in a modern build, the only way to get as close as possible is to not change anything from the original recipe! The end… If you want an adjustable truss rod in your guitar I will gladly oblige. The truss rod will be installed for adjustment through the sound hole. It is a double action rod that works very well. I have made finding the truss rod nut incredibly easy.
If you want the closest interpretation to a historic build as possible, the guitar should not have an adjustable truss rod. Choose instead a non adjustable truss rod or neck stabilizer. Throughout history, the three materials listed below have been the most widely accepted and used. To preserve antiquity, graphite and the likes are not listed.
#1: Ebony ( C.F. Martin & Co. )
#2: Maple ( Larson Bros. )
#3: Steel ( C.F. Martin & Co. or Larson Bros. ) The Larson Bros rarely used steel in the neck except in the early to late 1930's Euphonon, Prairie State guitars etc.
With all of the patents that the Larson Bros obtained for reinforcement of steel string guitars, it's amazing that their research did not lead them to create even one guitar with an adjustable truss rod imbedded in the neck. I would have to imagine they pondered it. Or maybe they felt that it was unnecessary and that it possibly detrimentally affected the guitar's tone? Old single action rods "Ala" Gibson are usually seized and frozen. Last but not least, C.F. Martin & Co. went 152 years before they started using adjustable truss rods...Something to think about.
Spruce Blocks & Kerf Lining
Premium Spruce kerf lining on each guitar.
Premium Spruce kerf lining, neck & tail blocks on Style 8 Special Solo & Style 9.
Ivoroid binding is used to trim the outside edges of the guitar. It is also used to bind the fingerboard, headstock, lip of the sound hole and as end graft & heel cap material. Ivoroid represents the closest material available today to the material used on historic guitars. It has a creamy ivory visual appeal to it.
Purflings of Pearl and Wood
Purfling is the material sandwiched between the top's edge and the outside layer of binding. I utilize a combination of wood and pearl around the edges & rosettes of Style 8's and above. I use wood purfling around the edges & rosettes on Styles 7's and lower.
The inlay combinations I offer vary from extremely plain and simple to very ornate representations of historic guitars. On Style 3 & 4 I use pearl dots only. Style 5, 6, 7, 8, 8 Special Solo & 9 the guitars are paired with exact representations of historically used designs. But you can mix and match any combination you would like.
Group 1: "Star" engraved in white pearl.
Group 2: "Clover" in white pearl.
Group 1: Montuoro Guitar Co. pearl dot inlay at 3, 5 & 7th frets.
Group 2: Multi pearl dot inlay at 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 & 15th frets.
Group 3: Combination of fancy pearl markers (i.e "bow ties") and pearl dots at 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 & 17th frets.
Group 4: White pearl squares at 3, 5, 7, 9, 12 & 15th frets.
Group 5: "Tree of Life" in mixed pearl covering entire fingerboard length.
Group 1: No headstock inlay.
Group 2: "Torch" style in white pearl.
Group 3: "Floral Fall" style in abalone.
The finish I use is for the most part my little secret. I can't tell you everything. My finish recipe is based on many years of research - trial and error. I will tell you this much - it is of the evaporative varnish family. It's a historically accurate formula that yields the most striking vintage patina while being thin enough to not interfere with tone. I utilize special pigments to achieve the warmest possible color on soundboards. This effect really adds to the instrument's handmade appeal.
Note* Please keep in mind this type of finish is not like a modern day lacquer finish. It still is of course a high quality finish just an aesthetic variation. Since no vinyl type sealers are utilized during my finish process you will see a bit more grain line and shrinkage especially along wood purflings. The finish will get dull, can wrinkle or become damaged much faster than a lacquer finish. Great care is taken to make sure that just the right amount of finish is applied. Encasing a guitar in lacquer is not protocol for me. When hand building is concerned. And for that reason I do not use lacquer as a base ever. I do however spray two very thin coats of lacquer last to act as a protective barrier supplying the finish with more resistance to you and the elements then a complete French polish would. I have found this works really great. It does not affect tone when used in this fashion. The finish on these instruments is a spirit based varnish and should be cared for as such. Either way the end result is an instrument that may by modern standards have some imperfections and considered inferior. Such as the patina and small amount of exposed grain etc. But that’s based on factory production environments. But on the other hand the trade off for the dynamic range and tonal difference helps make up for it. I have had no complaints yet.
I use two different sizes of T frets. The first frets listed were used in many historic guitars but are on the smaller side - actually the same size used on mandolins. The second sets of frets listed are a bit larger and have been used prominently with many manufacturers since the early 1930's to the present.
Fret-wire 1: .053" wide x .037" tall (Larson Bros. on most everything except mid to late 1930's guitars)
Fret-wire 2: .078" wide x .040" tall (C.F.Martin & Co. since 1934)
This is an important aspect to your build and will be solidified at the time of the order.
Waverly's are my choice for higher end models Gotoh for the rest with either nickel or Ivoroid oval button. On slotted headstocks I use 3-on-a-plate either engraved Wavely's with either nickel or ivroid oval button or Blazer & Henkes reproductions. If you prefer gold tuners or would like to select a different style tuner button please email me for info. On the "bench copy series" of guitars these instruments will get my recreations of the famous Grover G-98 that has the 6 : 1 ratio and riveted worm gear with "clipped ends".
They are black tolex with green interior, 7 layer ply, soft leather handle etc. All cases come hand-branded with the Montuoro logo affixed next to the handle, on a piece of leftover spruce from your soundboard material.