P oca loca is the name and theme for my flamenco negra guitar, delivered in May, 2006.   Larry Breslin and I agreed on this commission over dinner in January, 2005.   She will be just a little crazy!   We vowed to remain true to this theme in most respects, including wood selection.   Firstly, she will be a negra that taunts traditional cypress design.   Why stop there?   After an afternoon of torture, I eventually decided to go with this very stiff Engelmann set (Picea Engelmanni) instead of European spruce.   Engelmann is closely related to European spruce and shares most of its tonal characteristics, with perhaps slightly slower response on average.   This set is tremendous in most respects, possessing good strength with predominately tight graining and no run-out.   The soundboard should respond crisply, complimented by the Brazilian rosewood, helping provide a slightly richer, longer sustaining timbre compared to traditional cypress flamenco construction.   Besides, I simply could not resist her wild bear claw figure!  

B reslin's stock of Engelmann spruce is truly impressive, both with and without bear claw figure.   I was drawn to this Engelmann, which combines strength and tremendous beauty.   Larry told me that my reaction was normal; most clients gravitate toward his Engelmann sets.   I had a hard time selecting amongst several super-strong and cosmetically faultless sets.   Should I pick a stiff and light soundboard with amazing bear claw figuration, or go with a simpler, more elegant ivory set with heavy medullary rays?   Torture!   I ultimately decided my Poca Loca shall have a fanatically figured set.   Two others sets without bear claw figure are reserved for my double top classical guitar due this Summer, 2006.  

B ear claw figuration abounds across the entire set.   Its pervasiveness and intensity is extraordinary.   This mesmerizing assymetric pattern is very rare, appearing occasionally in very large trees found in colder mountainous regions, exhibiting especially dense grain structure and high sound velocity.   Some guitar-makers think this is a fairly reliable indicator of prime tone wood in any spruce species; others think exactly the opposite, and many consider such figuration a non-factor compared to standard sounboard acceptance criteria.   The consensus seems to be this: If the sounboard rates strongly using normal selection standards, opting for a bear claw set is a simple matter of personal/subjective taste.   I am confident this instrument will mesmerize, both sonically and visually.  

W hat color is this wood?   As you move around the set, the color changes, from ivory to a pale pink, and then a highly reflective silver.   I still don't know what color this soundboard is.  

B ear claw figuration is hard to photograph.   From some perspectives you really can't see much; from another, the view is much more interesting.   The wood has a strange reflective quality to it that caused considerable glare issues during photography.  

T his wood originated in the mountains of Northern Colorado.   The timber yard told Breslin the logs came from the largest spruce tree felled in 50 years.   Each log was hand-split and cured over several years.   This was a very old tree that grew slowly in the cold and dry Rocky Mountain climate.   Such conditions occasionally produce rare and exquisite bear claw figuration.

Engelmann is relatively under utilized, mainly because it grows in smaller quantities compared to other spruce.   It's simply more difficult to obtain good sets.  

Engelmann grows mostly in the Rocky Mountains, from British Columbia to New Mexico.   The cold and dry conditions in Colorado slow tree growth, which limits the number of trees large enough to harvest for guitar sets.   Trees large enough are usually several hundred years old.   Engelmann is certainly a vanishing resource, quickly becoming as scarce as German spruce.  

P icking the soundboard was tough, but selecting a Brazilian rosewood set was even harder.   I ultimately decided on this old Brazilian rosewood from Breslin's select stash.   Air dried 40 years, this set is extremely dense with tremendous strength; this impressed me more than anything else.   Mostly flatsawn, the wood features heavy spider web figuration and a rich orange-chocolate color.  

I decided to continue feeding my addiction to ebony purfling and bindings.  

I nk black spider web figuration never fails to amaze me.   This set will compliment the Engelmann soundboard perfectly, helping project a bright timbre with added depth.  








B reslin's side construction features very thin cypress ribs joined with Brazilian rosewood.   Laminating the sides creates a very rigid frame for the soundboard, maximizing energy transmission.  

A tighter shot of the cypress sides.  

H ere are the sides after being thinned.   Breslin's flamenco design requires very thin sides, much thinner than his classical guitar.  

For deeper coverage of Breslin's side-bending process, please visit my side bending page.

C uban cedar neck blanks have been selected for both the flamenco negra and spruce double top guitars.   A center strip of rosewood is a new design choice by Breslin; the traditional scarf headstock remains unchanged.  





T he headstock will be veneered using this highly figured Brazilian rosewood.   The crazy theme is thus maintained, from head to tail!

N icolo Alessi interpreted Simplicio's 1925 tuning machines, and I fell in love with them at first sight.   Unlike the original, these plates are bronze instead of silver.   Alessi does fabricate with silver, but prices are very high!  

T he original tuners were mounted on number 58 by Francisco Simplicio in Barcelona, 1925.   The gears are solid silver, engraved in Germany with mother-of-pearl buttons.   The entire guitar is equally elaborate.  

T he Alessi "Leaves" and "Simplicio" tuners are both safely boxed until needed.   The Leaves model will be fitted on a spruce double top Breslin is also creating for me.  

B efore handing them over to Larry, I unpacked the gears and took several photographs under varying light.   This is my favorite shot.  

O ne form of torture has ended.   These sets are now reserved with my signature on every board.  

B ut the torture will not end until delivery is made.   I am not in the front of Breslin's queue, with at least a year to wait before my Poca Loca can sing...  

I love Breslin's rose vine pattern.   I used his double-rose pattern for my cedar double top classical guitar.   This is his alternative single-rose vine pattern, with several contrasting black/white pin stripes.   If you look at this rosette with the surrounding bear claw figuration, you quickly become dizzy!  


A fter fifteen months of perseverance, Poca Loca is finished!   Once again, thank you so much, Larry!  

She is light and has a sweet, bright timbre with a crisp attack; compared to a blanca, this guitar has a slightly deeper and darker range.   She is everything I expected and more.   Playing her in will be a distinct pleasure!  

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