I’m delighted to have Fernando Rubín Saglia from Baleares, Spain.
Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?
I studied at the music conservatory in Buenos Aires until 1993. I have been alternating my activity as musician and luthier.
I started making my first guitar in 1997/98 there, because I needed a good instrument that I couldn't afford. I took my first steps with a guitar maker in Argentina. Later, I studied (and am still doing some research into) the application of acoustics of the guitar with maestro A. Carruth.
I've lived in Mallorca, Spain since 2001. As my workshop is in this place with easy access, my guitars are distributed all over the world.
Q2. Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?
I'd say, there would be three principal parameters: 1. sound quality, 2. volume, 3. sustain, given that the tuning is correct.
The first one is related to the design, quality of materials and guitar makers.
Traditional designs such as Torres/Hauser/S. Hernandez etc. have a certain behaviour or response that makes them characteristic. They have been the most popular designs though there are a lot of people like me who research and test new materials, and building technique.
I have made several guitars using different designs and techniques (Nomex double top, Bouchet, Friedrich etc), but each time I get closer to Torres/Hauser.
The quality of materials is also fundamental. It is necessary to find the best cut and quality of timbers when buying.
The perfect adjustment of each component of the guitar with cutting methods (not the sanding) makes the guitar more efficient in sound production.
I think this is what many guitarists are looking for since good volume enables them to achieve a good live performance. It is related to knowing how to make the most of the design. Techniques in acoustics are fundamental - many people think Torres' design doesn't have good projection, and that usually happens because of not going in to enough detail about acoustics. If you know how to perfect it, Hauser's design can be perfectly suitable for live performances.
Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?
The action of the strings should be adjusted and personalised to the player.
I think playability is a perception of "speed of sound production". The size of the guitar's body has quite a lot of influence over its sound response. Larger guitars tend to have a slower response—it's a question of milliseconds... On the other hand, smaller guitars (Hauser/Torres) seem to respond much faster to the attack and give one a feeling of better playability.
I consider the thickness of the neck a secondary question: in general, it's a matter of getting used to the new neck.
Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).
For the top: Only French polish!
Back and sides: I consider it of secondary importance though I like French polish. Nitro or Polyurethane are not so bad if used in moderation.
Q5. Please tell us your opinion regarding shorter-scale guitars such as 640, 628 and 615mm in terms of playability, design, sound quality and volume. Is there an increasing need to cater to smaller-handed or female players?
I don't find any acoustic difference down to 635. I have never gone further with classical guitar, but yes with Lacote, etc. It wouldn't be so different in design.
There's never been much of a demand for short scales.
Q6. Many readers say they end up being very confused after trying many guitars. Could you give us some advice on how to examine the guitars' sound quality and playability at a shop or luthier, from the guitar-maker's point of view?
Stay at the guitar maker's workshop for enough time. One hour as minimum. Bring your guitar and a guitarist friend. Try guitars one after another and listen to each other. Listen carefully the sound of the guitar because it's always easy to adjust the action.
Q7. Do you offer any 'after-sales' service to customers - particularly customers who are nervous about making a substantial investment?
My guitars are guaranteed for life against defects of material and building. This means that I'll repair or exchange the guitar if there is any defect while I work as luthier.
Wearing down of frets, machine head, or finishing, nor damage caused by sudden change of temperature and/or humidity, are not covered by this guarantee.
My clients can come to adjust the action of the strings for the first two years if necessary.
Q8. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?
There are always good alternatives, madagascar, india, cocobolo...
Q9. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?
For now, I don't see any danger because there is no way to get instruments of certain quality made in factories.
I think it's also a decision of each guitarist, to get an instrument he/she will spend the most part of their life with, hours and hours, concerts, recordings, etc. You'd do it with a guitar made by a luthier: whose path of life is one of maximum devotion, study, and love for this instrument. Or one made in a factory where the cost effectiveness and speed are principal priority...