R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Blondie » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:56 pm

Has anyone here played one of these? I'd be interested in any feedback on quality/sound etc. I have come across a couple for sale secondhand recently, at around the £500 mark. I would normally consider that very cheap for a luthier made guitar, but of course that could be a reflection on the build quality, or simply that he is not that well known.

There is is some background Info on the (now deceased) luthier here:
http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/1 ... n/?ref=arc

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 6807
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:37 pm

I remember the name from the 80's but can't say that I've ever seen one of his guitars in person. £500 is nothing for a luthier made guitar, even one that's showing it's age. He wasn't an unknown, so even more surprising. Maybe he just went out of 'fashion' and there is certainly an element of that to luthiers. Some get hyped to outerspace, others are simply passed by. Don't forget that there is a bit of age to these guitars so check the action and how much saddle is projecting above the saddle slot. That's the downside of Spanish construction and losing the neck angle. Of course that doesn't apply to just his guitars, it applies to all guitars using that method i.e. countless thousands.
Historicalguitars.

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Blondie » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:01 pm

Michael.N. wrote: Don't forget that there is a bit of age to these guitars so check the action and how much saddle is projecting above the saddle slot. That's the downside of Spanish construction and losing the neck angle. Of course that doesn't apply to just his guitars, it applies to all guitars using that method i.e. countless thousands.
Thanks Michael, yes I'd certainly want to check the action.

Just so I understand you correctly, are you saying that it is generally the case that with Spanish style construction the neck is likely to move over time and hence raise the action?

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 6807
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:41 pm

No, all guitars do it, given a long enough time. Generally speaking the Spanish construction makes it somewhat more difficult (and expensive) to correct. Those with adjustable necks can be adjusted (corrected) in seconds. The dovetail neck (Fleta used it) is somewhere between the two, still fairly expensive to correct. I'm working on a method that gives a more easily corrected version of the Fleta.
Still, this Ray Spain guitar may be perfectly OK in that department. You can tell by the action and how much saddle is above the saddle slot. If the action is at standard and the saddle is right down to the top of the slot, probably best left alone. That's assuming the front/top of the bridge hasn't been shaved down.
Historicalguitars.

User avatar
Les Backshall
Luthier
Posts: 2813
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:12 pm
Location: Aylesbury UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Les Backshall » Tue Sep 13, 2016 7:15 pm

There's an article in Guitar Magazine, May 1983 on R E Spain - by George Clinton.
Spain trained as an engineer and most of his guitars were sold exclusively through the Ivor Mairants Musicentre (215 of them), before he started to make bespoke instruments on commission (c.1980). He also did virtually all the repairs that came into the Mairants shop during that time.
In 1983 his guitars were on sale for £450 (a Ramirez 1A at that time was £900).
Apparently his guitars were highly thought of and Bernard Watson of the Omega Quartet used one for years.
If anyone's interested I can scan the article - pm me.
Les
Lester Backshall, Guitar Maker - Aylesbury UK

Kjetil Heggelund
Posts: 889
Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:51 am
Location: Hønefoss, NORWAY

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Kjetil Heggelund » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:52 pm

Hey! I have one. I bought it in 1987 for around 500 GBP, it was my first real guitar. Cedar/indian rosewood and a 664mm string length. I haven't used it for centuries but took it out last year and put new strings on. It was fun to play again but I remember when I got a new 650mm one, I felt I'd struggled more than necessary with it. It has a deep/thick sound that is easy to love.
Kevin Aram "Torres", 2009
Stephan Schlemper "Transparence", 2015
Whatever you can do to have a good time, let's get on with it so long as it doesn't cause a murder...FZ

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2305
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:30 pm

I remember Ray Spain (what a name for a luthier!) in the 1980s. I think he was based in Salisbury, I remember him doing a guitar class at a festival, some adjudicating maybe, and lectures on making etc. I dimly remember a couple of his guitars being played, that they were worth what was paid for them and have a feeling that in no way was one being charitable in ordering one from him but equally that nobody pretended they were massively special (the asking prices suggest that) and that a lot of the attraction was the thing of having a guitar hand built by somebody one knew.
I'd guess that kind of asking price might be perfectly in order, depending on how well the guitar has survived the years. The Bournemouth Echo article sounds very plausible (I drove through Bournemouth coming home tonight! - local colour ...) Anyway, they'd certainly be well worth a look if one came up in ads again.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Blondie » Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:54 am

Thanks all, interesting stuff.

I guess if they went for around £500 new in the early 80's, with Ramirez 1A at the time going for £900 as Les mentions, then the equivalent price (new) now would be around £2.5k or so, (on the shaky assumption of proportional price increases for both). On that basis I would expect a second hand value today to be well above £500-600 - in fact I see Ivor Mairants have a 1979 one listed for £1299 (now sold) and US dealer Goodwin guitars have one listed at 3000 dollars. The Ivor mairants spec says its 54mm at the nut and 668 scale length, sounds like Ray Spain liked to build big guitars

There's one on the UK bay at the moment for £500 delivered with Hiscox case, has a pickup installed so the guitar has been modified, and another I have seen elsewhere for slightly more. Intriguing!

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 6807
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:26 am

Those kind of scale lengths (664 & 668) might explain the low price. Hardly anyone wants a guitar over 650 mm these days and a 54 mm nut is near an extreme. He was obviously influenced somewhat by that fashion of long scale lengths. In the greater scheme of things it didn't last all that long.
It wouldn't do great things for your reputation, even if you were producing more standard 650 scale lengths as well. Many players who tried them would be immediately put off by their difficulty. No one is going to recommend a guitar if they found it difficult to play irrespective of the sound or how well it was made.
Historicalguitars.

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2305
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:38 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:I remember Ray Spain (what a name for a luthier!) in the 1980s. I think he was based in Salisbury, I remember him doing a guitar class at a festival, some adjudicating maybe, and lectures on making etc. ....
Corrections, for the record, I was mixing Ray Spain up with Gerald Kerr.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2305
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:29 pm

Blondie wrote:..... The Ivor mairants spec says its 54mm at the nut and 668 scale length, sounds like Ray Spain liked to build big guitars

There's one on the UK bay at the moment for £500 delivered with Hiscox case, has a pickup installed so the guitar has been modified, and another I have seen elsewhere for slightly more. Intriguing!
The one on the auction site the scale is 26.25" / 667mm, nut width 54mm and saddle 75mm (I asked the vendor) - so no chance for me! Its also had an extremely hard life and some poor repairs by the look.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Blondie » Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:25 am

Stephen Kenyon wrote: The one on the auction site the scale is 26.25" / 667mm, nut width 54mm and saddle 75mm (I asked the vendor) -
Hmmm yes, big again, I hope that 75mm isn't the string spacing!

User avatar
Stephen Kenyon
Teacher
Posts: 2305
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:26 am
Location: Dorchester, Dorset, England

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:11 pm

Blondie wrote:
Stephen Kenyon wrote: The one on the auction site the scale is 26.25" / 667mm, nut width 54mm and saddle 75mm (I asked the vendor) -
Hmmm yes, big again, I hope that 75mm isn't the string spacing!
Good point! And maybe the nut is the total width too.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

gansz
Posts: 308
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:36 pm

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by gansz » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:13 pm

Ivor Mairants on Spain in 1980:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Adrian Allan
Posts: 1095
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:56 am

Re: R.E. (Ray) Spain guitars?

Post by Adrian Allan » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:03 pm

I found this an interesting proposition.

I am 6ft 4", so the size does not put me off (667 compared to 650 is only 2.6% difference, so not much at all)

However, the very big split in the guitar running perpendicular from the bridge to the edge of the guitar would be a worry. Is that not a major area of sound production on the guitar's soundboard, and could the sound be affected?
D'Ammassa Spruce/Spruce Double Top

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