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SPAIN, 2001.

Hermanos Maristas
written by David Merrin guitar maker.

In August I took part in a two-week guitar-making course, run by Jose Romanillos and his son Liam.The course was held in the Monastery of the Hermanos Maristas, which is situated 2Km from Siguenza in Spain. Siguenza is a small, pretty town 130Kms to the north east of Madrid.

Course MembersIn total there were sixteen participants on the course. Some had travelled from as far as Japan, Canada and America, others were from countries including Germany, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, England and Spain. There were various levels of skills from novice to the very practised and experienced.

Basement The course took place in a large basement of the monastery that had been converted into a workshop. The working conditions were cool and comfortable even when it was very hot outside. There were 20 workbenches and soleras; each one had been especially built for the course.

ToolsWe were all asked to bring a selection of tools and enough wood for two guitars in case of mishaps. Additional tools and all the Romanillos construction templates were provided for us to use. The workshop was open from 7 am until 9 pm. Jose and Liam were there for eight hours a day when they gave the group talks on most aspects of guitar making and were on hand for individual tuition and advice. Some of the topics included were: wood selection: strutting: bending: the neck 'v' joint; the tornavoz; French polishing; the rosette and inlay work. The tuition was based around the making of a present Romanillos model, The guitar was to be made with rosewood back and sides, cedar neck, ebony fretboard and a spruce soundboard.


Particular importance was put on the wood for the soundboard and this was discussed in great depth. Jose exhibited a guitar that he had made a year ago; it had a beautiful rosette and inlay works and was fitted with a tornavoz. Everyone worked extremely hard over the two weeks and there was a great feeling of camaraderie. At the end of the first week most students had thicknessed the wood strutted the soundboards and had bent the sides for their guitar.

Romanillos Signing
By the end of the second week some were starting to close their guitars whereupon Jose and Liam personally signed the soundboard and label. Some people did manage to actually finish their guitars and were very happy with the results.

We were invited by Jose to his house to look around his own workshop and to view his personal guitar collection, which included a small Torres. We also attended a viewing of two films on Jose's work. The accommodation at the monastery was in simply furnished rooms with en suite bathroom facilities. There was a swimming pool and a small shop to buy basic supplies. The monks cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food, mostly of Spanish style was good and plentiful.

David, Jose and Liam Overall, I found the course to be thoroughly enjoyable and tremendously inspiring. The tuition was very clear and honest. Jose Romanillos and Liam did not appear to have any secrets and willingly answered any questions and showed how techniques were achieved.
Thanks to Jose and Liam for imparting their knowledge and for a very worthwhile two weeks.

David Merrin.