1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

User avatar
MancJonny
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:24 am

1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by MancJonny » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:13 am

Here is a classical guitar I bought last week - an early piece built by the now well-established English luthier, Michael Gee:

Image

Image

Specs:
[NOTE re specs: see my post of 08 Aug below - some of the specs given by the seller were incorrect].
top - Canadian cedar;
back and sides - bookmatched East Indian rosewood;
neck - cedar;
fretboard - ebony;
bridge - rosewood;
head-stock - rosewood veneer;
nut / saddle - plastic?
tuning machines - ? Definitely not Rodgers (which that company confirmed);
scale-length 650mm; width at nut 52.4mm; width at 12th fret 52.7mm;
case - original.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Condition / cleaning:
The top has some serious markings (at least, by classical guitar standards): there are what appear to be nail-marks beneath the soundhole. Was a previous owner practising his flamenco strokes? Other than that, just the usual odd marks you would expect on a 40 yrs old instrument.
Image

The piece needed some serious TLC. To clean it, I used plain water and a sponge to get a lot of the surface grime off and then used what I believe to be the appropriate cleaning materials for the other component parts of the instrument: Virtuoso Premium Cleaner [VPC] for the ebony fret-board, followed by a little lemon oil applied to the same.

The rest of the instrument was "restored" with a French Polish reviver. The guitar maker (via Stafford Guitars here in the UK, to whom I am grateful) advised that, since the finish would be a shellac one, a reviver fluid was the way to go. (VPC is for nitro-cellulose finishes only). I think I've made an OK job of it. Same with the re-stringing - I haven't strung a nylon-string guitar in many years, so I crossed my fingers and fitted D'Addario Pro-Arte NT EJ45s.

Image

Image

In use:
To this Martin / Gibson player, the action feels high and the fret-board very wide - the usual gripes of the steel-string player! The guitar sounds nice - but, sad to say, I really have not played enough good classical guitars (if any!) to feel qualified to comment upon the tone. Having nothing to compare or contrast it with, I am not at all sure that the piece is set-up correctly and whether or not it would benefit from some attention in respect of new parts (bone nut & saddle? Better machine-heads?). The frets feel to be protruding ever so slightly on the neck - perhaps a fret-dress is required? Is a "proper" inspection, service and clean by a professional the way to go?

The sustain clocks in at about 23 seconds, a few seconds less than my steel-strung acoustics. Again, is this about the norm for classical guitars?

Finally, what puzzles me a little is why the maker, who inserted a dated label into the piece - as well as his name being stamped on the back bracing and end-block inside the guitar - didn't number it. Does anyone know why a number may have been omitted from the label? I am not a classical player, and therefore not au fait with the protocol, but I thought that all classical guitar luthiers numbered their instruments. Or could this have been a prototype of some kind? Or is there another reason? Does anyone have any ideas? (A 1979 Gee classical was up for sale in the States over a year back and that piece wasn't numbered either).

Any comments / observations / criticisms about any of the above (specs / cleaning / in use) are most welcome. I'm out of my comfort zone here and would appreciate advice & guidance.
Last edited by MancJonny on Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Michael Gee (1979)

RobMacKillop
Posts: 3840
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:24 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by RobMacKillop » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:31 am

My, that IS early. You could contact him via Facebook. He doesn't have a website. I'm sure he'd be interested in seeing those photos.

soltirefa
Posts: 2411
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:59 am
Location: Southern California

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by soltirefa » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:45 pm

Gee, a Gee. Nice find.

JohnB
Posts: 1113
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:17 pm
Location: Bristol, UK

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by JohnB » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:59 pm

Congratulations.

Just a word about re-stringing: the loose ends at the bridge should pass under the string at the back of the bridge for the final loop, not on top of the bridge. That way the strings are more secure, e.g.

viewtopic.php?f=43&t=118661&p=1262239&h ... g#p1262239
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso", Christopher Dean 2018, Ana Maria Espinosa 2014

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2904
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:08 pm

Congratulations!

Would be very surprising if the saddle is plastic, if so its probably a replacement, and would be an easy improvement to make to swop it back to bone.

Given you are new to this and its quite an old instrument, giving it to a luthier to look over and approve action etc would be a wise move.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

DerekB
Posts: 605
Joined: Tue May 01, 2012 10:22 am
Location: Bollington, Cheshire UK

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by DerekB » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:50 pm

You don't give your location but as you bought it from Stafford Guitar Centre I am assuming you are in the north_west Midlands area. If that is the case get in touch with Roger Williams who is in Lichfield. He specialises in guitar set-up and his charges are very reasonable. He will not try to persuade you to have any work done that is not necessary. He may well give an assessment without charge.
I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn... - Seasick Steve

Ana Espinosa 2014 Swiss spruce/IRW
Yulong Guo 2009 640mm scale cedar/IRW

es335
Posts: 1681
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:12 pm
Location: Germany

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by es335 » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:05 pm

Congrats to this nice find!

BTW the tuners are presumably von Gent in Netherlands. The engraving of the 129-01-GP look almost identical and butterfly buttons are/were available as well! As long as you are satisfied with their pitch stability and tuning operation, there should be no need for replacement. If not, check the roller spacing first. If it's different from 35 mm things could become a bit difficult, because that's the standard nowadays.

JohnB
Posts: 1113
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:17 pm
Location: Bristol, UK

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by JohnB » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:39 pm

DerekB wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:50 pm
You don't give your location but as you bought it from Stafford Guitar Centre I am assuming you are in the north_west Midlands area. If that is the case get in touch with Roger Williams who is in Lichfield. He specialises in guitar set-up and his charges are very reasonable. He will not try to persuade you to have any work done that is not necessary. He may well give an assessment without charge.
From his name I would guess that he is in the Manchester area, if so another possibile luthier is Peter Barton in Addingham (West Yorkshire).
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso", Christopher Dean 2018, Ana Maria Espinosa 2014

User avatar
Adrian Allan
Posts: 1743
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:56 am

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:59 pm

I had my classical guitar set up in Manchester at by somebody who I would recommend without hesitation.

Pm me if you are interested
D'Ammassa Spruce/Spruce Double Top

User avatar
MancJonny
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:24 am

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by MancJonny » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:16 pm

Thank you all for your comments.

Rob - I would very much like to show the pix to the maker, but I don't have a FB account or any contact details for him. I suppose there's always "snail-mail"!

JohnB - the re-stringing was a first attempt, and there was some er . . . slippage, to put it mildly. But I note your helpful comments.

Stephen - I have checked the saddle again and I honestly cannot tell if it is plastic or bone. As for having the guitar checked over . . . .

DerekB - I'm in Greater Manchester. I didn't buy the guitar from SGC, I just e-mailed them and sought their advice re cleaning it, and they very kindly (and with no prompting from myself) contacted the maker who advised blind (as it were). I note your remarks about Roger Williams, though a Manc-based professional would be a lot more convenient. I do use a really good guitar tech in Salford for my steel-string flat-tops; he is the authorised repairer for Gibson & Taylor in the NW, and is first-class at what he does - but I don't think classical guitars are quite his thing.

es335 - Re the tuners. They look and feel a bit "cheap" to me - and I really don't like the buttons. I would not go for "bling" at all, but something just a little smoother and neater would be fine. I note your helpful comments about roller spacing - I have checked the tuners and it is 35mm from the centre of one roller to the next. (Now that's exactly the sort of thing I would have omitted to consider. Very helpful!)

Just one other point. The trader who sold me the guitar described the top as being Canadian cedar. I have been advised, though, that, due to its patterning ("medullary rays") it looks more like spruce. Again: having never owned a cedar-topped guitar, I couldn't say. It does look like spruce; as for the tone - never having previously owned a classical guitar, I couldn't say.

Keep the advice coming!
Michael Gee (1979)

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2904
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:49 pm

Or there's John Ainsworth in Chorley.

Personally if at all possible I'd try and get hold of the maker himself, not least, he may well be tickled to see something of his so old.

Either way, it will be easy for whoever to solve the question of the saddle. And the tuners; which may well just need a little lubrication.

The nail marks look like one minute's worth attention by a serious flamenco player.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

User avatar
MancJonny
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:24 am

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by MancJonny » Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:22 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:49 pm
Personally if at all possible I'd try and get hold of the maker himself, not least, he may well be tickled to see something of his so old.
Thanks again, Stephen.

The only way to get in touch with the maker appears to be by FB or old-fashioned post.
Michael Gee (1979)

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2904
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:35 pm

MancJonny wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:22 pm
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:49 pm
Personally if at all possible I'd try and get hold of the maker himself, not least, he may well be tickled to see something of his so old.
Thanks again, Stephen.
The only way to get in touch with the maker appears to be by FB or old-fashioned post.
Not 100% sure but I think he's in Norwich which is not exactly local for you (go back to Stafford for confirmation, they know him well).

Main thing is not to rush, or indeed to stress. Its quite possible this guitar needs no particular attention. But if you do think its best to get it looked at you have a couple of ideas here already, and never be afraid to ask for more information.

It doesn't even necessarily need to be a luthier or tech to advise you - any experienced guitar teacher/performer will be able to help there.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

User avatar
MancJonny
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:24 am

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by MancJonny » Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:23 pm

Just checked my e-mails and found this message from the builder:

"Stafford have sent me a link to some questions you have about the guitar you recently bought. So here goes with a few answers.

First of all, this guitar was built in the workshop I had at my parents house in Nether Heyford, Northants, and was really entirely hand-made as I had not a single machine or power tool in those days. (Even the back and sides were cut by hand from a solid block of rosewood!).

The top is sitka spruce; neck Brazilian cedar; back and sides Indian rosewood.

You ask about the nut, and as far as I can see it's the original which means ivory! The machine heads are Gerb Van Gent.

I think the bridge is most certainly Brazilian rosewood (I bought loads of billets with my great friend and fellow student, Matthew Kline [recte: Klein] . . he's now head of Gibson Custom Shop).

The finish is shellac spirit varnish.

In 1979, a TV station recorded an interview with me in the workshop, so If I can find this film I’ll try and send it to you - it could be this guitar is featured.

Hope you have fun and enjoy the guitar - and thanks for giving the old girl a good polish.

Michael Gee."

Blimey! Wasn't expecting that!
Michael Gee (1979)

User avatar
Adrian Allan
Posts: 1743
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:56 am

Re: 1979 Michael Gee classical guitar

Post by Adrian Allan » Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:44 pm

Nice message

I know he lived a while in Earls Barton - home of the world famous Anglo-Saxon church.

Look forward to seeing this

(Johnny is bringing the guitar over to me on Friday so we can compare it with my two modern double tops - the Adalid membrane and the Claudia's spruce-spruce double top).
D'Ammassa Spruce/Spruce Double Top

Return to “Advice on buying, selling or valuing a guitar”