Louis Panormo c. 1823

(1784-1862)

Specifications

  • United Kingdom London
  • Chord length: 632
  • Top: Spruce
  • Back & Sides: Maple
  • Tuners: Original tuning machines

Information

This guitar is an early example of the works by Louis Panormo. Made in his first workshop at 26 High Street, Bloomsbury c. 1823. This guitar is a "French" model with maple back and sides, without pearl inlay.

The top is made of spruce, fine grained, with a thickness of 2,5 mm in the middle and 2,3 mm to the sides. A double rosette of concentric circles in veneers is inlayed around the soundhole. This is reflected by the bands of veneer on the edge of the corpus. (these go all the way through the soundboard and can clearly been seen between the tentellones on the inside)

An ebony pin bridge, in the typical Panormo style is on top of the soundboard. There is no saddle on these bridges, and the action has to be adjusted by reshaping the bridge. It couldn't be distinguished whether the two 'moustaches' are attached to the bridge or seperate pieces. Panormo used both varieties. On the ends are two ebony eyes with pearl inlay. The top is slightly domed, to which the underside of the bridge was shaped. The doming stops at the harmonic bar under the soundhole, which is straight.

On the inside of the top we find the ladder bracing, two horizontal spruce bars on both sides of the soundhole. Between the lower bar and the bridge is another one, slanted in a 20 degree angle from perpendicular to the centreline. Under the rosette , between both upper harmonic bars, are two reinforcement strips, made of mahogany. Glued to the sides of the guitar we find the bar supports. The top is secured to the sides with little glue blocks (tentellones) of quite irregular size, set at small intervals. This suggests a 'spanish' building method, using a solera. Here we also find the heavily damaged label on the inside of the back. Beside a repair label of the London workshops of Clifford Essex, dated August 1955. Placed over the spruce reinforcement plate between the upper harmonic bar and the neck.

The back (~ 2,5 mm) and sides (~ 1,5 mm - 1,8 mm) are made of flamed maple. An ebony strip is inlayed between the book matched plates of the back, reinforced on the inside by a wide spruce strip. There are three narrow bars to the back. It appears the back is mostly arched in the width and only slightly in the length of the corpus. It's secured to the sides by spruce linings. All bars of the guitar are flat sawn, a curious feature we normally find in lutes and earlier (baroque) guitars. On the lower block, at the join of the sides, we also find an ebony inlay.

The neck has a so-called 'Spanish slipper' or 'Spanish foot' on the inside of the guitar. It's made of stacked pieces of mahogany and painted black on the outside.

The headstock is attached with a narrow v-joint. It's shaped and slotted in the typical Panormo fashion, although it looks a bit 'lighter' and more open than later headstocks. The rosewood veneer might indicate that the guitar was originally made with wooden tuning pegs, but very soon after converted to use mechanical tuners. Despite their old age, the tuners turn very light and precise. Even better than most modern, factory made models. Because the tuners are not engraved and have simple brass nobs, rather than the famous ivory kidney buttons, they look a bit more modern to our eyes. They were almost certainly made by Rance, around 1823-25. Baker wouldn't start the production of the famous tuners until 1831. The worm-gear is placed at the lower side of the head. It can be hard to find tuners in this fashion these days.

A fingerboard of Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra) tops the neck. There are 3 little holes, two at the nut and one at the 12th fret, used to align the board during the glue process. There is a slight radius on the fingerboard. Panormo guitars usualy have a radius between 28" and 30". It's ivory frets are probably original. Despite a little wear they are in great shape, now have a height of 0,75 mm, which gives a very comfortable feel. Originally they must have been about 1 mm high.

The guitar is covered with a slightly reddish varnish. We do not know whether this is original or a later refinish. Most 'Panormo Fecit' guitars seem to have a clear yellowish finish. Examination under UV light didn't uncover more information.

The label inside of the guitar has suffered heavy damage. Year of manufacture has been obscured, but the serial number (682) is still visible which indicates 1825. The serial number doesn't represent the number of instruments made by the firm. Every year the first number changes, starting with the 400's in 1823.

Case

We don't know whether they made their own cases or bougth them from a seperate supplier.

Although a bit battered it is in a fairly original state. The case is made from softwood: pine or spruce. Painted brown on the outside (perhaps originally black ?). On the inside it is lined with a rough green felt on a burlap backing. The shape of the guitar is accomodated by two inserts of wood and paper, following the waste of the instrument. Under the neck we find a small compartment for strings and accessories. Its lid is helt on and hinging by a flap of lining.

The lid is helt on by two iron hooks and brass hinges. A small chest lock is used to keep the guitar safe from unauthorised hands. Unfortunately the lock plate is missing, but its shape could be reconstructed from indentations in the wood and paint finish. The handle is made of brass, a rather small and elegant form.

The wooden plates are glued together. A couple of little nails used to secure the parts together during the glue process.

The case is comfortably light, even when the guitar is inside. Despite its age it still does a great job of protecting the instrument.

Bracing