Portuguese Guitar Collection, rare instruments from: Ulisses
Gracio, Joao Palmeiro, Manuel Cardoso, Oscar Cardoso, German Vazquez
& Ronald Fernandez, Kim Gracio, Joao Pedro Gracio, Santos Beirao,
Fernando Meireles, Antonio Victor Vieira and Joao Manuel Andrade.
Revised: March 1, 2017.
This page shows several fine Portuguese Guitars (guitarras portuguesa de artesão) handmade over the last century. Some guitars were bought from the makers while some were found sitting in closets for many years. When necessary Ron Fernandez has restored these instruments to playing condition, refined the fret work and touched up the French Polished shellac finish.
Some of these guitarras are for sale. Make an offer. Certain instruments must be picked-up in the United States from Fernandez Music, Irvine, California.
There are a number of very interesting Portuguese guitars on this page. The instruments with a scroll head are Lisbon style fado guitars (guitarras de fado). The instruments with a teardrop style head design are Coimbra guitars (guitarras de Coimbra). The Lisbon guitars (guitarras de Lisboa) usually have a string length of about 440mm while the Coimbra guitarras have a string length of about 470mm.
Photo Below: This splendid guitarra is a Lisbon fado guitar. There is no label glued inside the guitar on the back but there is one glued to the interior right side which states "Ulisses 1964". This guitarra Made in Lisbon, Portugal. I showed photos of this instrument to myriends in Lisbon who recognized it as a Ulisses Gracio Guitar. It has a well proportioned scroll head, with an unusual white twisted ornamental strip. The edge of the soundboard is elaborately inlaid.
Above is a photo of the back of the "Ulisses" guitarra. Take notice of the shape of the body--it is quite wide, this was typical of Lisboa guitarras of the 1960s. It has a spruce soundboard, rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard. It has a very good sound and playability. Even though it was made in 1964 this instrument is in excellent condition--it seems to have been purchased but never played. I repaired a crack in the back, French Polish the body, refined the fret work and set-up the action. Ulisses was one of the famous Gracio family, other family members were Kim Gracio, Joao Pedro Gracio, Joao Pedro Gracio Junior. All of the instrument building Gracios are now deceased except for Gilberto Gracio, a 3rd generation luthier, who still makes professional guitarras.
Below are 2 photos of a
João Palmeiro Lisboa style guitar made in 1994. It has a spruce
soundboard, rosewood fingerboard, Portuguese Walnut. French Polished
Finish, set-up and fret refinement by Ron Fernandez. This instrument
was made for me by Senhor Palmeiro. I carefully kept it in my personal
collection and it is in very fine condition. I had a few other
guitarras from Palmeiro which in the 1990s I sold to my friend in
Japan. Joao Palmeiro is now deceased. In the 1990's I use to travel on
the ferry boat from Lisboa across the Tagus River to see him in the
charming town of Montijo. He had a most interesting workshop. It was
large and airy on the 2nd floor of an old building. It was filled with
pieces of wood which were drying and on the walls hung
instrument-making forms for constructing a variety of Portuguese
folkloric instruments such as violas, and cavaquinhos. I also remember
that there was a bucket where he was soaking cow bone in what he called
laite (which means "milk")--I think that was colloquial term for lime.;
this soaking process gave the bone (used for nut and bridges) a kind of
glass like sound when you struck piece together. Joao Palmeiro was a
very friendly man who was very devoted to his craft of making folkloric
portuguese instruments. He would spend time noting many details to me.
For example, he carefully explained to me about the proportionals of
the scroll head used on the Lisboa guitarra and he also made me aware
of the difference between the shape of finger rests on the Coimbra and
Lisboa guitarras. His wife use to help with making the instrument
cases--I think he did the wood work and she did the inside fabric work.
Below: João Palmeiro Coimbra style Guitarra. Made in Montijo, across from Lisboa. 1994. This guitarra was made for me by Joao Palmeiro
did the final French Polished finish, refined the frets and set-up the
instrument. The face is spruce, the fingerboard is rosewood, the back
is probably sycamore. 470mm scale. Price: SOLD
Above: Joao Palmeiro, 1994 Coimbra head (back and front) and above the head photos is a photo of the beautiful back of this guitarra. The entire instrument was French Polished by Ron Fernandez.
Kim Gracio (1912-1994) Lisbon guitarra made in Lisboa around 1963 (?).
Kim Gracio was one of the most highly accalimed makers of Portuguese
guitars, he was a member of the Gracio family. He is also known as
Joachim Gracio. I have been told by Luis Penedo who knew Kim Gracio
that Kim had immigrated to the Chicago area for a number of years where
he worked doing violin repairs. Before I acquired this instrument, the
soundboard had been repair with epoxy on the inside. The repair has
stablized the soundboard but the work is visible and surface of the 2
sides of the crack are not perfectly flush. Nevertheless, this is a
good sounding professional instrument. Price: Make offer. This
instrument has to be inspected in Anacortes, Washington
German Vazquez and Ronald Louis Fernandez, Coimbra Guitarra. This
instrument was one of 3 constructed by German Vazquez, in California;
the fretting, bridge and French polishing were done by (your truly)
Ronald Fernandez. German Vazquez (a world class maker born in Paracho,
Mexico) constructed this instrument after he had examined several
instruments in this collection. The dimension of this guitarra are come
close to those of my Fernando Meireles Coimbra Guitarra, which in turn
has design proportions similar to guitarras made in the 1970s by
Gilberto Gracio's. Price: $5000
Joao Pedro Gracio Junior (1903-1967) Lisboa Fado Guitarra made 1962.
Spruce soundboard, Portuguese Walnut body, ebony fingerboard. This is a
guitarra had been sitting in a closet for yeasr in the San Francisco
Bay Area. It is a simple instrument, no mother of pearl or fancy
inlays. It is a straight forward, well made, traditional sounding
instrument. It is in quite good condition. When I received it in the
1990s I had to do some minor fert leveling but otherwise it is
Santos Beirao, Lisboa 1950 to 1970's. Solid spruce face, rosewood
fingerboard, and (probably) a mongoy back. Fret work, set-up and French
Polished by Ron Fernandez. This was a good production instrument sold
in Lisbon in the mid-20th century. This one was sold through the Santos
Beirao shop in the Chiado, which burned down in the late 1980s. . I
found it in Palm Springs, California. It had a crack in the back--which
was repaired by German Vazquez and is now just about invisible. In
addition to this Santos Beirao I have another one which had a crack in
the face which has been repaired soundly but which is still visible.
Apparently, there were thousands of guitarras sold by Santos Beirao--I
have seen many and have been sent photos of many more. They are nice
instruments. Their shape is very pleasing. The neck-body joint is very
strong. The wood seems to have been dried properly. The neck shape
feels good. They have a good tradiitonal sound. If you find one in good
shape expect that you will need fret, nut and bridge work.
Above: The light color on the back of this guitarra is merely a light reflection
Here is the other Santos Beirao fado guitarra, it was made in Lisbon,
mid-20th century. Repaired crack in face. French Polished and set-up by
Ron Fernandez. SOLD
Below: Antonio Victor Vieira, Guitarra Lisbon, probably 1920s. Repaired and French Poished by Ron Fernandez. I have seen a number of guitarras from this maker. They are nice sounding but a bit thin. These early Antonio Victor Vieira guitarras sound more like a loosely strung mandolin as opposed to a powerful, modern Portuguese guitars. These Portuguese guitars from the early 1920s were more lightly constructed than later guitarras and they seemed to use lower tension strings.
Back of Antonio Victor Viera. There are several repaired cracks in the
back of this instrument. It has a very interesting sound because the
scale is shorter and the strings are looser than modern guitarras. I
will consider offers over $1600.00.
Below: Fernando Meireles, Coimbra Guitarra made in 2002, 470mm scale. Fernando has his shop in the Student Union of Coimbra University Fernando Meireles's label says Jose Fernando Meireles but he goes by Fernando. He makes great instruments. Many of the world class modern players can been seen playing his guitarras on CD covers or on YouTube. The ornamentation of the Meireles Coimbra guitar is very simple--the rosette is marquetry not mother of pearl. The proportions of the instrument are very elegant. For me the neck dimensios are perfect. When I sit and play this guitarra I get lost in time and it inspires me to improvise. I should say that Fernando Meireles is a fine performer of a number of instruments including the hurdy gurdy--you can probably see him on YouTube. Pedro Caldeira Cabral often played these guitarras. This guitarra is not for sale.
Below: Joao Manuel Andrade Portuguese guitar, made in Lisbon around 1895. Many of these mandolin size guitarras were imported into England. Notice how the shape of the body is different than the other instrument on this page--the body is much narrower. The sound of this instrument is more liked a mandolin than like the modern Portuguese guitar. $1800.
Above: Joao Manuel Andrade, Lisboa, ca. 1895. Make offer.
Below: Manuel Cardoso Lisboa Guitarra ca. 1980. I personally bought this guitarra from Oscar Cardoso, the son of Manuel Cardoso). It had been refurbished by Oscar after he had received it back from an elderly mad who could no longer play it. I very much enjoy playing this instrument. It has the spirit of many nights of fado music. Not for sale.
Above: Manuel Cardoso, Lisboa, ca. 1980, Private Collection.
Below: Oscar Cardoso Lisbon style guitarra with a 470mm scale. Made in Lisbon, 2001. Oscar Cardos made this instrument for me. It has a rich sound, almost like a harischord. Oscar learned instrument making from his father, Manuel Cardoso, but also went to Cremona, Italy to study and refine his instrument making skills. Oscar is a very innovative builder. In recent years he has been making guitarra which have a 6 to 8 inch opening in the back. When I heard about this I was confused, I did not understand the logic of making a big hole in the back of a guitarra. I always though that the sound must bounce off the back. Apparently, having a guitarra with a big hole in the back is easier to record--the sound levels of all the frequencies are more balanced. When I met Luis Guerreiro, who performed with Mariza for some years, he was performing with an Oscar Cardoso with a open hole in the back. This guitarra is not for sale.
Above: Oscar Cardoso Guitarra, made inLisboa 2001. Private Collection, not for sale.
Below: Unnamed Guitarra, unknown origin. Found in Southern California. Judging from the tuners it is from 1920 to 1950. I don't know if it was made in Continental Portugal, the Azores or in the United States. It has a"pine" soundboard, rosewood fingerboard, body may be of beech (but I am not sure), 472mm scale. This guitarra needed repair work. The back panels had shrunk so there is a separation between the two panel. There is a split in the back right panel. I have SOLD this guiatrra to someone who is repairing it.
Go to Portuguese Guitarras For Sale.
If you have any questions, email me: email@example.com
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Ron Fernandez, Fernandez Music, P.O. Box 5153, Irvine, California 92616, Phone 949-856-1537