Month: August, 2014

Casa Parramon, Barcelona

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Before and after, a Spanish Laúd, made by Casa Parramon, Barcelona

When Araceli and I first moved to Barcelona we found this Laúd in the streets, we took it home, put it in the back of a wardrobe and completely forgot about it for four years. It was so ugly so we couldn’t have it out, on top of that we didn’t even know if it was a laúd, a bandurria or some other weird Spanish instrument. It was therefore tucked away and quickly forgotten. Until recently when Araceli’s dad Marcos mentioned that he wanted to learn to play a new string instrument, or as he put it, I need something new to make noise on. We suddenly remembered that ugly thing with strings on in the wardrobe and I thought that maybe I could restore it for him. I mentioned earlier that we managed to find a really nice Spanish made Alhambra from the late 1970’s that we gave him for Christmas.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, LaúdCasa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Someone called Rosa Sola had gone crazy bananas, full blown hippie on this poor laúd when we found it

I have no idea how old this laúd is but it was built by Casa Parramon here in Barcelona. The workshop was started in 1897 by Ramon Parramon and I think he mainly built violins. Casa Parramon is actually still in the same place today as they were 117 years ago, C/ Carme 8. Now I think they are mainly building violins again but I guess they would have had time to build both laúds, bandurrias and guitars over the last hundred years.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
I stripped the laúd completely, took off machine heads, tail piece and bridge. I got the bridge off with a spatula heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. I cleaned and oiled the fretboard and polished the frets. Then I sanded down all the wood with an electric sander, this felt a bit harsh on an instrument but most of the text was actually scratched in to the wood and not painted on so I had to take out the heavy artillery. On top of that, the solid spruce top felt really thick so I thought that the sound might actually benefit from a thinner top. I glued some cracks in the top with my trusty old fish glue and then I waited and waited for the shellac I had ordered from Germany that unfortunately never arrived. I really wanted to use shellac on this instrument, both for practice for myself for future builds and projects, but also for the laúds sake, it felt like the healthiest option. In the end I went and bought normal clear lacquer, or varnish, I’m not really sure what the guy sold me but he said it would work and it did. It applied two coats and sanded lightly in between and it looks ok but I guess if I would have looked even better if I had spent more time on sanding and getting it super smooth in between the coats. I had to paint this at night in poor light and got some drips that should have been taken out properly, I just scraped them off with a razor and then applied new lacquer. I guess I have learnt a few things for the next time. One trick I can share though, that everyone might already know about but anyway. Before I started with the lacquer I marked out where the bridge was going to be and then masked that off with tape so I wouldn’t have to remove the lacquer before I glued the bridge back on and that worked really well.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, LaúdCasa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
The final result, Marcos new laúd, now I just have to string it up and try to figure out how it’s tuned

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Update: August 16, 2014 Marcos seemed very pleased with his new laúd

VOX, Made in Japan

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970’s 

I recently found a nice looking VOX Les Paul copy that I couldn’t resist. I had decided not to buy any more Les Paul’s after I sold my Westone a few weeks ago but this was just too nice to miss out on. It has a bolt on neck, which you could either hate or love, I’m fairly indifferent myself and you can read why here. The good part with bolt on necks is that they are so easy to adjust. It’s fairly common that older Les Paul and SG guitars with set necks gets a hump over the neck joint, something that can cause buzzing and you have to either raise the action or level the fretboard to get rid of it. The bad part with bolt on necks is the second hand value, a lot of people are still a bit racist when it comes to Gibson copies with a bolt on neck even though Gibson built a few themselves in the early 1980’s. What I fell in love with on this VOX was the flame top and the thickness of the neck, it’s so nice. It feels even fatter than my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 which has a fairly accurate 59′ Les Paul neck. This VOX even have the small head as the real Gibson of the late 1950’s and the pickups sounds pretty close to my old Westone. The only thing that is annoying me a bit is that I haven’t figured out who built it yet. There is no info about VOX in my list of Japanese guitar brands, well there is a Magnavox and a Univox but that’s not the same. The only thing I know is that when VOX stopped making guitars in the UK they moved to Italy before they ended up in Japan. The build quality is not as good as my 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 or my 1980 Greco EG-600C, but it’s easily on the same level as the Westone which was built by Matsumoku. Even though I really enjoy this Les Paul I have too many guitars and is therefore up for sale.

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sIf anyone happens to have more information about Japanese made VOX guitars please get in touch