Guitars for Generations
Posted: May 1, 2023
A little wood. A little varnish. A lot of music.
For Mariano Conde, guitars run in the family—four generations of the family. The Condes have made guitars in Madrid, Spain, since 1915. Father and son work together. One of their guitars might cost between $3,900 and $45,000.
“We adapt the guitar to the touch of the person,” says the older Mr. Conde. He says one string is better for one person and another for someone else.
Mariano Conde, Jr., started in the shop as a boy. “You start with the broom,” he says. “You begin sweeping the workshop. Little by little you are allowed to make some pieces . . . Little by little you see how you can make the instrument on your own.”
It takes about half a year for the Condes to make one guitar. That’s if you don’t count the drying of the wood. That takes between 30 and 50 years!
Say the guitar has been built. Is it ready to sell?
Nope. First, the instrument goes to Mariano Paredes. This artisan coats it with clear protective coating. His grandfather’s varnish was used for a guitar gifted to President Eisenhower on his visit to Spain in 1959.
Mr. Paredes finds the best varnish for each guitar. Each guitar dries for two months.
Modern varnishing uses primers and shellac. These dry fast. But they add unnecessary thickness to guitars. Mr. Paredes instead mixes a resin dissolved in alcohol and crushed volcanic rock, a technique that comes from 1800. Now that’s old school!
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! — Psalm 95:1
Why? When we work hard to make beauty, we are acting like God. He cares about craftsmanship. He gifts us with abilities to keep making beautiful things and improving on them.