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Click here to see Mario's latest guitar,
the "San Franciscan"
Mario has tried to retire a few times, but he just has too much energy!
"When I'm dead and buried, I'm sure I'll hear someone knocking on my tombstone
and yelling, "'Hey, Mario, can you come out and fix these things for us?'"
“I started to build jazz guitars in Argentina. Nobody was making jazz guitars
then. I copied Epiphone. Not carved tops - was plywood. I made a mold and then a
contra mold to press my own plywood tops and backs. They turned out pretty good.
I made about eight or ten. Just like that.
"In those days only one factory (in Argentina) made those jazz guitars. They
make in carved wood and everything, but ugly and not so good. This was about 1948.
Jazz was real popular in Argentina, and most of the players wanted the Selmers from
France like Django Reinhardt’s and like that. But for regular jazz guitars there
was only one factory but they made guitars that were ugly - ugly in sound and everything,
"I was around jazz groups since I was a kid. I didn’t play, I was just a fan.
I made friends with those guys. There was one, Ahmed Ratip, and he got one Epiphone
guitar. I was impressed by that instrument, you know what I mean. I went to the performers
place,the nightclub where he play, and I get a piece of paper and a pencil and I
make measurements here and here, and draw the guitar. He say ‘What you going to do?’
I say ‘I'm going to build a guitar.’ He says, 'Let me see when is finished.’ I go
home and I work real hard, I mean, I work until 12:00 or 1:00 in the morning because
I was excited.
"Finally I finished, and I make it black and white. Black all over, and sunburst
white in the center. It looked real pretty. Anyway, I got no case, so I wrap it up
in a piece of paper and tied it up. I went that night to the nightclub and showed
it to Ahmed. He was a very good player. I opened up the paper and he looked at it
before he started to play. He said ‘This sounds better than mine!’ I told him, ‘No,
because this is plywood.’ But he really liked it. That meant a lot to me. Then I
build a few because evidently he spread the word to some few guys addicted to the
jazz and they call me and say, ‘Hey, can you make me the guitar?.” and I say, ‘Yeah.’
So I make seven or eight, something like that.”
OK, time to get to work:
Mario still has a few of the hand tools his dad made:
A very fine rabbet plane.
Look at this little scraper plane:
The sole is about 2 inches wide and 6 inches long. The little blade is only 1/4 inch
wide. Mario uses this one for making and truing truss rod slots in necks.
This is a tiny pointing up tool:
A very fine little chisel his dad made from a small triangular file. He used it for
finishing the inside corner of delicate carvings.
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