Kevin has finished the new bracing on “Benny“, the Venezuelan Cuatro that he bought from César Salazar Tovar (“imcesar”on eBay).
Plans for the new fingerboard, nut, frets, tap plate and bridge plus some comments about Cedrela.
The new fan bracing, for better sound rather than strengthening.
The original nut has been filed down. A new nut will be made and fitted.
Old fret slots
The old fret slots are redundant. There will be a new nut in a new position. The cuatro will have a longer scale length and the new frets will not overlay these slots.
Wood for new fingerboard
The new fingerboard will be made of some lovely Brazilian Rosewood, left over from guitars made over the years.
Plans for a replacement bridge
The original bridge is a simple “lute bridge” and “Benny” deserves better!
Video 4: Bracing, fingerboard, nut, frets, tap plate, bridge, cedrela.
Back to the cuatro, OK. That’s about all the work that needs to be done inside of it.
The linings, which are the glueing edges for the back and the top, they’ve been replaced. Solid ones on the back and these separate little ones between the sides and the top. They are a lot more regular, even, and more glueing space than the original ones were, and they are better fitted so they will be stronger.
I’ve put small side braces across the side to strengthen it because it had a couple of cracks in it, these should hopefully ensure against anything getting worse.
(Are these here new, as well? Those ones, the darker wood side braces.)
These ones? Yeah – they’re the pieces I’ve put in. To reinforce it. Because there’s some cracking on the side which has been repaired in the past. So it’s to ensure against that getting any worse.
The other thing I’ve done is to take out the quite crude, two braces that were in there and make some spruce ones to go in.
And then put some fan-bracing in there and some reinforcement around the sound hole, because that tends to be a weak area.
The fan bracing isn’t really to do with strengthening it at all, because they are very small. It’s more to do with getting the top to work more efficiently than it would do otherwise. Without any bracing at all, the top just tends to flop around a bit as the strings are pushing it. With bracing on it it tends to direct the tension of the strings more evenly across the top.
So that’s about all the insides done.
All we’ve got to do now is cut a couple of notches in the side linings that will take these back braces I’ve put on then the back can go back on.
And then we’re going to have to go to the other side of it and what we need to do here is look at the fretting first.
These fret slots aren’t too accurate. So I’ll clean these slots out put some veneer in, make it solid and true it up and re-measure all the scale length that I want. And put some veneer on the front of the cedrela neck and slot it for the new frets.
(What will you make the veneer out of?)
I’ve got some Brazilian Rosewood. I’ve got some bigger pieces. It’ll go on there.
(It’s a very nice colour, isn’t it? It’s very pretty.)
That’ll come up very rich when it’s been lacquered. And I may well do the guard across the front with the same stuff, to match it.
(I was going to ask you about that, there was that unusual nut, that you mentioned?)
Yeah, I’m going to . . . the nut was cut very, very deep into the neck. So all I’ve done is slice it off flush with the fingerboard, and I’m going to leave all that in there and just have my fingerboard running over the top of it and put a very small shallow nut at the back. That was so deep that if I’d taken it out it would have been quite weak in there so I’ve left that piece of wood in there. And I’ve put another smaller one at the end of it.
That, in effect, will make the scale length slightly longer. Which will mean that the frets I put in won’t come across any of these old slots which is an asset, which is good.
One thing about cuatros like this, this is all made of Cedrela. Neck, sides, back, top – everything is Cedrela. Cedrela is a very common wood in South America and it’s very cheap and easy to get. Which is why you see it used so much in instruments which aren’t of a particularly high-grade.
It’s fine for the neck and the back and the sides, it’s not the greatest wood you can find for the top. So if this has got a drawback, it’s the Cedrela top. It’s going to be OK but it wouldn’t be as good as if it had been a Spruce top. which I would have, if I’d have had a choice, put a spruce top on, but I’m not going to do that with this one. I’m not going to go that far.
The bridge. I will probably either make a new one, or remodel this one, to make it like a classical guitar bridge instead of the original style, which is like a lute bridge. Which I will show you. Which is simply a piece of wood with four holes drilled through it and the strings carry through and come round over the top and wrap around at this edge. And that stops, that’s the end of the speaking length of the string.
It’s the simplest way to do it. It’s not the best way. So I will either remodel this one so it will have a separate little saddle slot or I’ll make another one. I’ll see how I feel. I’ll probably make another one. See you next time!
Background and context
Please see this page Kevin Parsons Makes and Mends and the first article in this series: Venezuelan Cuatro Rebuild by Kevin Parsons – Part 1
If you have any questions, please leave a comment.
ps. Check out, “Cuatro: The Ukulele’s Venezuelan Cousin” on Ukulele Hunt!
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