Mixed Me­dia


Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Mem­bers of the Pi­mentel fam­ily talk about gui­tar mak­ing

Gui­tar-build­ing seems to be em­bed­ded in the DNA of the Pi­mentel fam­ily. Lorenzo Pi­mentel learned the craft from his half-brothers while grow­ing up in Du­rango and Ciu­dad Juárez, in their na­tive Mex­ico. As a young man he im­mi­grated to the United States, first to El Paso and then to Carls­bad in 1951, where he opened a gui­tar shop. He passed along his skill to four of his 12 chil­dren, and those sons also de­vel­oped ex­per­tise in the field of gui­tar man­u­fac­ture.

On Satur­day, April 9, at 1 p.m., three of those sons will par­tic­i­pate in a pre­sen­ta­tion and con­ver­sa­tion at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave., 505-476-5072), where the art of the gui­tar is cur­rently be­ing cel­e­brated through the show Me­dieval to Me­tal: The Art and Evo­lu­tion of the

Gui­tar (which runs through May 1), a tour­ing exhibition of the Na­tional Gui­tar Mu­seum. Each of the three is a master luthier, and they have all cul­ti­vated a dis­tinct forte. Rick Pi­mentel, the pres­i­dent of Pi­mentel & Sons, spe­cial­izes in acous­tic steel string guitars and cus­tom in­lay dec­o­ra­tion. Robert Pi­mentel, the firm’s vice pres­i­dent, is par­tic­u­larly in­volved with grand con­cert clas­si­cal and grand con­cert fla­menco guitars, and Vic­tor Pi­mentel’s do­main is clas­si­cal guitars and man­dolins (another mem­ber of the lute fam­ily, and so a cousin of the gui­tar). The event is free with mu­seum ad­mis­sion.

In­stru­ment-mak­ing is rarely a fast-track to for­tune. When Lorenzo Pi­mentel moved from Carls­bad to Albuquerque, he worked full-time in bak­eries to sup­port his large fam­ily, squeez­ing his pas­sion for gui­tar­build­ing into his off-hours. If he sold a com­pleted in­stru­ment for $100, that counted as a firm suc­cess. His busi­ness took off in the mid-1960s, when the clas­si­cal gui­tarist Mel Bay, who was also a ma­jor music pub­lisher, fell in love with Pi­mentel guitars and be­gan fea­tur­ing them in his publi­ca­tions. To­day, you might eas­ily spend $10,000 for a Pi­mentel gui­tar. It would be built to or­der, its wood and dec­o­ra­tions cus­tom­ized to a client’s wishes, and it would prob­a­bly be de­liv­ered af­ter a wait of about three years, maybe more.

By the time pa­tri­arch Lorenzo died, in 2010, the firm had reached leg­endary sta­tus, with the com­pany’s New Mex­ico Sun­rise in­stru­ment hav­ing been of­fi­cially named as the of­fi­cial state gui­tar the year be­fore. As with all Pi­mentel in­stru­ments, New Mex­ico Sun­rise was de­signed as a unique ef­fort. It is con­structed of 10 dif­fer­ent types of wood, with struc­tural de­tails made also of wal­rus ivory. Its dec­o­ra­tive de­tails in­clude Zia sym­bols of co­ral and mother-of-pearl in­laid on the fret-board and head-stock, the lat­ter piece (the part that an­chors the gui­tar’s tun­ing pins) also boast­ing an ebony bear. The in­stru­ment was ac­quired in 2011 by the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. — James M. Keller

Mem­bers of the Pi­mentel fam­ily sur­round­ing the late pa­tri­arch, Lorenzo Pi­mentel

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