Marco Battaglia

 

 

 

 

Aldo Illotta - Marcos Canova (Italy)

ESSAY ON THE RESTORATION
of the guitar with label:

The instrument belongs to the Marco Battaglia’s collection

 

 

 

Description and conservation status of the instrument
The instrument presents evident traces from the precedent restorations and repairs, during which some parts were substituted. The missing original tuning pegs are right away obvious; they have been replaced with one violin tuning peg, one poorly manufactured peg and four mechanical ones from either a guitar or a mandolin, all have been inserted in the back part of the pegbox. Presumably, the bridge is not original. The strings are attached to a middle peg, four are made of wood and two of iron (screws).

 

 

 

Soundboard
The soundboard is made of pinewood cut radial, composed of two mirror-like parts. The width of the veins is rather regular (nearly eight veins for each centimeter). The profile of the soundboard is in large part detached from the ribs. In the photo these breaks are clearly present. Around the bridge there are black wood decorations, presumably ebony, with some parts missing. The sound hole is decorated by alternating black and white stripes and black stucco that comprise a rose five centimeters wide. The profile of the soundboard is adorned with a stripe of dark wood, difficult to identify, averaging about 2 millimeters; its depth does not come to more than half of the thickness of the table itself.

 

The left side, corresponding to the side of the bass strings, shows visible lacking of wood in correspondence with the third brace from the bottom, from scraping, extending for almost all its length, in order to compensate for the natural shrinking of the bottom. Present in the part adjacent to the sound body is a crack possibly due to some trauma.

 

Sides
The sides are made of wood, maple cut radial with a marbling appearance, joining the lower part of the sound body, with a trapezoidal insert in the wood (presumably nut). At the center of this insert there is a button made from bone or covered ivory.

 

The right side corresponding to the side with the treble strings, in the widest part of the instrument, has a large hole filled with a piece of chestnut wood inserted and then once again repaired with glue. Differing from the left side, some aesthetic defects can be noticed.

 

Bottom

The bottom is constructed by three parts of marbling maple wood with venner rather narrow and regular. The central part is wider with respect to the outer two sides. In the lower part of the instrument there is a crack filled with glue. On the right part of the bottom, corresponding to the basses, there is transversal fracture at the vein for about 12 millimeters.

  Neck
The neck is completely veneered with alternating stripes of ivory and wood, very similar to rosewood. This decoration follows up the underlay. Removing the residual glue from the underlay stripes already partially detached a crack is present.

 

Pegbox
The pegbox is presumably veneered in rosewood. On the front part, as on the sides, some fragments of veneer are missing, while on the back a part is raised up. Six holes for the tuning pegs are present. There is a bone or ivory covered button for the strap and the hole that holds it is a loop.

 

Fingerboard
The whole fingerboard is very thin, probably rosewood. It is on the same level with respect to the soundboard and goes up onto the soundboard until the 17th fret.

Some cracks from the soundboard continue onto the fingerboard, this demonstrating its thinness. The frets are made of brass, having the width of the fingerboard until the 12th and gradually getting smaller from the 13th till the 17th. The placement of the frets goes deeper than the thickness of the fingerboard.
 

Nut
The nut is made of a dark wood. It has a thickness of 3.8 millimeter and is 5 millimeters high, it is missing about 10 millimeters.

The surface of the entire guitar is paited with a synthetic transparent varnish.

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Restoration phases

  Restoration phases
At first, all the tuning pegs, described above, were taken out and careful documentation via photography was carried out on the status of the conservation of the instrument. The instrument was cleaned and the superficial layer of synthetic varnish was removed by use of a solvent, paying close attention not to damage the surface of wood. It was possible to deal with the original varnish, most likely shellac, which was almost completely scraped away. It is worth noting that the synthetic varnish also covered the entire soundboard.

At this point, we completely detached the soundboard from the sides and the bottom of the body. There were no problems with the fingerboard, in fact, as was said early, the position of the frets goes deeper than the thickness of the fingerboard itself. The soundboard was removed up till the 11th fret. The photos document the condition of the inside of the soundboard after having washed the residues of glue on the profile.

 

 

 

  After briefly checking the condition of glue for the braces on the soundboard, we took off and then re-glued the brace under the sound hole.

 

 
Afterwards, we had to fill some cracks in the soundboard adding little pieces of pinewood, obviously we also reinforced the glue with dowels and paper. The paper used in all phrases of the restoration was the same type as that used by Fabricatore to completely cover the bottom and sides of the guitar.
 

As for the bottom, after having dusted and cleaned it, we glued the extremities of the braces and the breaks, reinforcing the joints with paper and dowels of pinewood.

 

On the side near the trebles, we had to remove a portion of chestnut wood, added in a previous restoration, substituting it with a piece of maple wood, careful to respect in choosing the piece, the varnish and the maple wood. The gluing of the substituted pieces were reinforced with pinewood dowels and antique paper.
On the side near the basses, we added a small portion of missing wood. Given the scarce thickness in that location on the side, it was necessary to glue, apart from the missing piece, a reinforcement on the inside in order to augment the thickness a few tenths of millimeter.

 
The closing of the instrument was done taking into account this part of the neck. The tuning peg holes were smoothed out to allow the new tuning pegs to work properly.

 
The fingerboard had huge irregularities in the spacing between the frets, creating problem in intonation, mostly notably from the 13th fret on. In order to avoid these tuning problems the last frets were removed and conserved, filling the spaces with strips of rosewood, and the new frets were substituted with brass applied on the surface of the fingerboard in the correct position. Were added an ebony fillet over the bridge to restore the instrument to a playable condition, and the missing parts on the neck.

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Before varnishing the guitar some touch up work on the color was done to the new parts and finally several layers of shellac were applied in order to restore the hypothetical thickness of the original varnish