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