Figured Maple Back & Sides
European Spruce Top
Ebony Bridge, Fretboard & Bindings
MOP Original Fretboard Inlays
Fretboard Purfling made from Old Ivory Piano Keys
Honduran Mahogany Neck, Head, Linings & Blocks
Black/White/RW Purfling for Back of Neck Inlay
African Blackwood Headstock Veneers
Segmented Mosaic Soundhole Rosette
Extensive Wood Mosaic Inlays w/Black & White Purfling on Back & Sides
Hard Nickel Frets
Laminated Bone Nut & Saddle
Rodgers Sterling Silver Tuners w/Ebony Buttons
Very Unique Case from Calton Custom Shop
As described by Ervin Somogyi:
Here is my maple Andamento guitar. It’s the best-executed work that’s ever come out of my shop, and the culmination of my professional design aesthetic. Please allow me to tell you about it.
Except for the tuners, strings, and fret materials, everything on and in the Andamento is made, designed, shaped, and assembled in my shop.
The current aesthetic in high-end guitar making and ornamentation includes some complicated and time-consuming mother-of-pearl and abalone-shell inlay work. A number of highly skilled practitioners of this art form have mastered these techniques and come to the fore, doing work of unprecedented originality. Their best work will undoubtedly wind up in museums and private collections.
Instead of working with mother-of-pearl and abalone as most luthiers do, though, I’ve preferred to decorate with wood — in this case in the form of mosaics. (In mosaic work the term for each piece of material is Tessera (plural: tesserae). Andamento is the word used to describe the movement and flow of Tesserae.)
In lutherie-level mosaic work, as in Spanish guitar soundhole rosettes, there is normally one tile pattern that is created and it is used over and over again. This guitar is noteworthy in that eleven separate mosaic patterns have been created for it: its back and sides inlaid with ten different mosaic pattern tiles, connected by a latticework of black-white-black purfling lines; and there’s a separate mosaic pattern in the segmented soundhole rosette. Furthermore, the back and side inlays are micromosaic tiles. Each tile comprises of 200 separate pieces of wood, including the borders. The Andamento guitar has some 200 of these tiles, each one half the size of a dime, scattered randomly over its back and sides. They are perfectly executed despite of their smallness of scale.
You will notice that the sides of the guitar are differently inlaid than the back is: for the entire guitar to have been treated in the same way would have resulted in a design that is too busy and unimaginative — like most wallpaper. This combination of different back and side work was carefully thought out: each part complements the other in color, line value, proportion, and general aesthetic.
The back-of-neck-inlay, peghead, soundhole rosette, and ebony bridge are likewise thought out so as to be compatible with the other parts of the guitar and its overall black-white motif. The Andamento guitar is, I believe, a masterpiece of black/white mosaic inlay aesthetic and design.
Incidentally, I chose the Andamento tile/layout pattern because of its great visual appeal. It’s not my original design, by the way: others have discovered this long ago; it is merely my original treatment. It is found in examples of floor tile work, in textile patterns, and it has even appeared as a design element in the gambling casino that’s the setting of the Ocean’s 13 movie.
The segmented soundhole rosette is more or less my trademark, as are mitered joints. The rosette itself consists of eleven separate segments, with the corners picture-frame mitered together. The miters are cut by hand, and each rosette is accomplished through fitting 88 mitered elements together — plus the mosaic tiles that go inside the individual frames. The guitar’s bindings and purflings are also mitered by hand rather than butt-jointed, as is the ivory frame piece in the fretboard (those miters are positively exquisite). Ditto the back-of-neck inlay, which has consistent overs-and-unders.
Other than that, the back-of-neck inlay works aesthetically because it echoes the crisp geometric angularity of the rest of the inlay pattern. Something flowery or curvy would not have been a good match.
I do the mitering of visible wooden joins because (1) that’s how I learned to do the work, and because (2) it looks better — exactly because of how time-consuming and precise such work is. The same is true of the black-white-black connective lines that create the Andamento grid itself: each segment is notched into a receiving segment at both ends so as to make the central (white) stripping continuous, rather than have a bunch of white lines butt into the next segment’s outermost dark line. The point is that if one were to cut just a little bit too much off any corner or end, you’d be left with gaps that would attract the eye exactly as a cockroach on a wedding dress would. This kind of effort has suggested a too-silly-to-ever-actually-use slogan for my instruments: “Somogyi guitars: we cut corners everywhere”.
This is the first and likely only maple Andamento I’ll ever make. I chose maple because it brings out the light-dark aesthetic motif better (or at least in a different way) than executing it in darker rosewood would accomplish. However, while dark woods are forgiving of tiny flaws such as tears and miscuts (i.e., you can make them invisible against the back background) maple offers no such cover: any miscut, tearout, irregularity, splintering, or crack becomes permanently visible. Please look at the maple Andamento carefully: it really is PERFECT work. It took FAR longer and more care than my other (rosewood) Andamento needed, and the overall effect is the result of hundreds of perfectly executed joints.
Finally, my guitars are also known for their sound and tonal responsiveness. This guitar has been voiced just as my other instruments are: it will produce a rich palette of sound. It is at this time new and unplayed, and as such the sound has yet to develop. But it will.