The two Lacôte decacodes that I examined recently in Paris differed from each other in various important details (my post of Feb 23). From published photos I knew that this guitar presented yet a third option for some of the same features.
The undated guitar (UEDIN:288) was built by José Benedid in Cadiz sometime before he moved to Havana where he died in 1899. I thought this instrument could represent a point of reference for interpreting other guitars by the Benedid family that I intend to examine in the future. Since I want to describe both of these guitars in detail I'll write a separate post for each.
A technical drawing of the Lacôte decacorde is available from the museum (UEDIN:767). I had a copy at hand while I studied the guitar and this saved me a lot of time in noting general details. The disposition of strings on Lacôte decacordes vary from 5 fretted and 5 open to 6 and 4 or 7 and 3. This example is arranged for 5 and 5. As listed on the drawing, the fretted string length is 630 mm while the open strings, set on a slanted nut, vary from 683 to 715 mm.
The side ribs appear to be solid mahogany. Shining my pen light through the sound hole I couldn't be sure because of the accumulated grime and discoloration. Had the side ribs been constructed with a layer of spruce I presume this feature would have been visible because the grain pattern of even dirty quartered spruce is recognizable.
A similar solution is found on the signed instrument, E.986.5.1. Here the channel was cut and finished before the fingerboard was glued in place allowing the maker to fully contour and delineate both the principal part of the neck and the bass side support. Both of these examples demonstrate an elegant solution to a tricky design problem.
|photo of E.986.5.1, Paris|
An explanation of the mechanism is much more complex than the mechanism itself: The small blackened lever at the top is integral with the brass cylinder as is the threaded screw at the bottom and the squared section just above the former. The cone shaped feature is a separate brass washer that slips in place when the mechanism is assembled. The mechanism fits into a hole in the peghead the same diameter as the narrowest part of the assembly. The collar under the small lever holds the assembly in place when it is inserted. The cone-shape washer fits over the brass cylinder and rests in a similarly shaped counter-sink in the back of the peghead. Below the washer the cylinder is squared in order to fit snuggly in the corresponding square hole in the larger bottom lever. This arrangement allows the bottom lever to rotate the entire mechanism when the wing nut (item on the left in the bottom photo) is loose and locks everything in place when it is tightened.
During my visit I was situated in a room adjacent to the hall where the instruments were exhibited. The museum was closed to the public that day so I was able to wander at leisure during my breaks from work.
Edinburgh University Collection of Historical Musical Instruments
Checklist of Plucked Instruments