Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

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Michael Recchione
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Joined: Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:52 pm

Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Michael Recchione »

Hi, I'm new here, and have just a few simple builds under my belt. I wanted to try my hand at something a little more challenging now. I'm mostly interested in short-scale instruments (less than 20" or so), and one that's caught my eye recently is the Cuatro. I've searched online, and only came up with one set of plans for one - and they're nearly $100, which would be way more than my budget for just the plans.

Does anyone know of any other resources?

Thanks in advance,
- Mike

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by G.S. Monroe »

I've built both a Cuatro and a Tiple, they are both rather uncomplicated instruments to build.
There is no hard standard for the scale length, only an approximate VSL.
There are numerous line drawings and vector graphics of the body shape on line, download one and use it to do a lay out on butcher paper.
The sides are not bent, they are cut from solid boards with a band saw, and are not very deep. ( find a profile picture, they are no deeper than about 2 inches ).
Band saw out the shape of the body leaving about 1/4 inch to glue down the soundboards.
Your top and back boards will have simple ladder bracing.
The neck is carved from a solid piece of wood, and has no truss rod, the profile of the neck will be a "deep - D ".

Remember that these instruments are basically a 400 year old "Folk Instrument", mostly passed down by word of mouth, or from master to apprentice. Each one is slightly different based on the "artistic license" of the craftsman. I have seen these instruments first hand here in Florida in ethnic Puerto Rican markets. I had a great time building them.

Michael Recchione
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Michael Recchione »

Thanks for the excellent response! I know the original versions of these instruments were cut from a single block of wood - in fact, there's a YouTube video of Bill Cumpiano making one this way - even the neck was cut from the same block of wood. (There's a part of me that rebels against wasting that much wood... :) ). I also found another YouTube of someone else, Rachel Woodruff, I believe, who bent most of the sides, except for the very deep cutouts. So I guess, as you say, there aren't a lot of rules...

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Charlie Schultz »

There is a plan here ($30) from William (indirectly): http://www.cuatro-pr.org/node/44

Michael Recchione
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Michael Recchione »

Thanks! My Googling skills must be deteriorating - I didn't find these at all.

I happened to go into a music store yesterday, and he had a couple of them there that I was allowed to try. One seemed to be made the REALLY old-time way, with the entire instrument carved out of one block of some really beautiful figured wood, including the back. It was really heavy for its size. And, of course, pretty pricey...

In any case $30 for the plans is entirely reasonable. $100 was a little over the top, IMHO.

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Jon Whitney
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Jon Whitney »

I hope you'll come back and post pictures when you're done building it. Good luck.

Michael Recchione
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Michael Recchione »

Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and the help, and yes, I will post pictures when it's done. I've managed to avoid truss rods and bending wood in everything I've built so far, and it looks like this will continue that trend - I had actually hoped to do something that involved learning one of those skills this time around. But I build the instruments to play them, and right now I really want one of these...

Jason Rodgers
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Re: Plans for a Puerto Rican Cuatro?

Post by Jason Rodgers »

The Guild of American Luthiers has a plan for a Venezuelan Cuatro (#58), a Colombian Tiple (#51), and a Mexican Requinto (#54), though I won't pretend to know the differences in regional/national designs/styles. They do appear, however, to be based on a basic "classical" plan, not unlike ukuleles, with fan bracing, bent sides, and scale lengths to match the appropriate registers.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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