William Cumpiano guitar?

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
My friend needs money and has offered me his 12 string that William Cumpiano built in 1982 as Stringfellow guitar. He is too far away for me to play the guitar. He is in a bit of a hurry and never wanted to sell any of his personal guitars and is even having trouble getting me a pic in time. He says it is amazing but I can find no references to any of Cumpianos guitars by anyone on the web just many re: his book on lutherie. I would like to help my friend out but I would also like a few more opinions about the guitar from unbiased sources before I buy it. Have any of you had any experience with guitars built by William Cumpiano? What do you think such a guitar would be worth? Cumpianos website indicates that he charges about 3500 for a new guitar although there is a wait to get one made.. This one has mahogany back and sides and bearclaw spruce top.

Thanks

Dennis
 

riffmeister

Silver Supporting Member
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16,776
I have never seen one of his guitars in person, but Cumpiano is certainly well known as a gifter luthier, and a great teacher.
 

Nuclearfishin

Silver Supporting Member
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945
Cumpiano is known for his book and teaching skill more than anything. He built for Michael Gurian before the shop burned down. I'm sure some of guitars are very nice, but for such a big name in Luthiery, he has never really had a waiting list for his guitars other than the 4-6 months it would take for a custom order. That might not mean anything, but I wouldn't shell over big money for a 25 year old guitar without trying it. What kind of money and condition is it in? I'm guessing $500-$800 sounds about right depending on condition.
 

coreyk

Member
Messages
6
Interesting responses! I know Michael Gurian personally, and apprenticed under Cat Fox, who herself apprenticed for Cumpiano (and was Stringfellow Guitar Shop's repair person for nearly a decade). Yet I have never played a Cumpiano guitar. Just Gurian, Fox, Doucet, and Millard/Froggy Bottom.

And Kellers, of course. I'm a Gurian apprentice 3 times removed. ;)

You might consider that WC is a big part of why Gurian did so well, along with Millard, and he was just reaching his full potential around 1982.

I think it is safe to say that if it is in good condition, it will be a *very good guitar*. Is it one of the cutaway dreadnought 12s with the laminated necks? Mahogany is a really under-rated wood for 12 strings.

The only unique problem you might have with such a beast is if it needs a neck reset, as WC used a pinned mortise joint very similar to Gurian's until the mid-90s. A luthier familiar with such a system would have no difficulty at all, however.

Make sure that all your bases are covered like you would with any used acoustic; good neck angle, bridge not lifting, no loose braces, no open cracks, and so forth.

You might want to give Bill himself a call about this, or talk to Owen the repair tech at Downtown Sounds in Northhampton, MA, or give Cat Fox a ping in Seattle, or Dave Doucet in Bellingham, WA. All worked under Cumpiano at Stringfellow in that time frame.

Bear in mind that 1973-81 Gurian guitars are trading at around $1600-2000 for a fine one, and set your price accordingly.

good luck,

Corey Keller
 

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
Thanks for the great responses. To be honest, I don't even know if it is a cutaway. I don't think my friend really knows what the guitar is worth and he is asking for 2k, so that is a bit on the higher end of what people are saying but he says it is a very special guitar and has played many. He tells the story of how he got it, I guess he was at the store that used to front Cumpianos shop while he was waiting for a guitar he was having some work done to. He was in a room playing a Martin 12 string and when he went back out he was asked by the store employee what he thought of the 12 string...He told the guy it didn't really knock him out and the guy said that he was surprised. Finally it became clear that my friend was playing the martin and the guy said "no not that one, there is one that William buit in there" that was on consignment from another owner and my friend said he went in and tried it and it completely blew him away. You really can't put a price on finding a good lively guitar. My friend needs money at the moment so I think I will get it from him and we can always discuss the price a bit more later.

Thanks

Dennis
 

coreyk

Member
Messages
6
Dennis, please let us know what the guitar sounds and plays like, and post pics, if possible. I for one am quite curious.

CK
 

Jon C

Member
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17,877
Cumpiano is known for his book and teaching skill more than anything. He built for Michael Gurian before the shop burned down. I'm sure some of guitars are very nice, but for such a big name in Luthiery, he has never really had a waiting list for his guitars other than the 4-6 months it would take for a custom order. That might not mean anything, but I wouldn't shell over big money for a 25 year old guitar without trying it. What kind of money and condition is it in? I'm guessing $500-$800 sounds about right depending on condition.

with all due respect, your guess is way, way low compared to the value on used Cumpianos by respected folks with no dog in the fight, such as Lark St. Music... their consignment value was 3-4 times that. Bill Cumpiano is mostly known for the book, but he's always refused to ramp up production and make a limited amount of guitars while also teaching, writing, etc., so the volume has little or nothing to do with the quality. I've played numerous Cumpianos and they've all been stellar. I agree with you about the caution on any 25 yr. old guit, or for that matter, any guitar of any age that would cost what a used or new Cumpiano would.
 

Nuclearfishin

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
945
with all due respect, your guess is way, way low compared to the value on used Cumpianos. the volume has little or nothing to do with the quality.

I agree, volume has nothing to do with quality, it has a lot to do with demand. I was just making the point that his guitars don't seem to be in large demand, not that they aren't quality. I always wondered why the Gurians seem to be so sought after compared to Cumpiano. I based my price on what I was able to sell one of my other Gurians for (although it wasn't a 12-string). While the likes of shops like Gruhn et. al like to appraise the guitars high, I think very few sell for their inflated appraisal. Plus the fact you can buy a brand new Cumpiano for $3,200 might make it more attractive to just get a new one. Why is it you can buy a brand new Cumpiano for $3,200 with almost no wait while other builders fetch 2, 3, even 4 times as much? I guess I'm just wondering why such a big name in Luthiery never seemed to make it big with his own sales. It just seems odd that so many builders with a lot less experience sell out all their guitars for much more $$$. Not a slight on WC, I'm just curious why?
 

coreyk

Member
Messages
6
It might well have to do with what Cumpiano's main focus seems to be these days...South American/Caribbean stringed instruments, such as the cuatro, tres, etc.

looking at it from that standpoint, you could see that if he gets too many guitar orders, that's all he'll be able to give his attention to, and his focus is elsewhere at the moment.

Plus, his book is in something like it's 12th printing. ;)

CK
 

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
So I get the guitar yesterday and it looks pretty nice, BUT, the guy did not slack the strings and the headstock was cracked in shipping. :eek: :jo :mad: Very disappointing... Now I get to ship it to William for repair.... I'll post some pics later..

Dennis
 

Nuclearfishin

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
945
So I get the guitar yesterday and it looks pretty nice, BUT, the guy did not slack the strings and the headstock was cracked in shipping. :eek: :jo :mad: Very disappointing... Now I get to ship it to William for repair.... I'll post some pics later..

Dennis

Oh no, you're kidding? Sorry to hear that. Is the shipper responsible for any of the damage? Was there any damage to the shipping box? Even without loosening the strings it should ship fine unless the guitar took some type of major impact. Normally damage from not loosening the strings comes in the area behind the bridge. It should come back as good as new after WC is done with it.
 

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
Hi

quick report, the guitar was shipped to William and he has repaired it and given it a clean bill of health. He was very interested to see a guitar that he built so long ago and was very pleased with how it has held up. The guitar did not nor has not ever needed a neck reset which was interesting to him because at this particular time he had put an X brace on the back of the guitar which he no longer puts in. He is considering adding it back to his 12 string design due to how well this guitar has held up. He said that the repair came out very well and you would need a jewelers loupe to be able to see it. I will post some pics and give a tone / playability report when the guitar arrives.

Dennis
 

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
Got the guitar back from William today. Repair looks pretty good. You can tell if you look closely that it had a crack, but if it is stable which I am sure it is, thats all that matters. The Bearclaw top on this guitar is really beautiful, hard to pick up the full effect in the pics. Sounds great, very rich and musical. Very lively and sweet. Plays well and all the chords I have played sound in tune. Have not played much 12 string for a while but I am not having too much trouble
at all. Here are some pics. I will add more after I have had it for a bit.


stringfellowfront.jpg


stringfellowrear.jpg


stringfellowrosette.jpg
 

Jon C

Member
Messages
17,877
... to answer an earlier question, Bill has always marched to the beat of his own drummer and not cared about current fashion or anyone's expectations other than his own and it surely has contributed to his being less famous and in demand than his reputation and quality would dictate. Plus he has indulged his love for the cuatro, the tres, and experimenting with carbon fiber topped guitars (he has a patent IIRC), and has spent a lot of time teaching guitarbuilding, etc.

I own 2 Cumpianos built in 1976 and 1977 (I'm the original owner of both): they are superb guitars (I've played Gurians & Froggy Bottoms too and they're also great), perhaps the most stable I've seen. Neither one has needed anything close to a neck reset, I may have tweaked the truss rod a total of about 6-10 times (combined) on the 2 guitars in 30 yrs+. The 12 still plays like a dream with low action (they both do) all the way up the neck (its a cutaway).

Bill did a minor repair on the 6 after about 24 yrs. under warranty ... that's a warranty!

Enjoy that guit!

Cheers,
Jon

p.s. not to step on your thread but here are 2 old, not too good pix of the '77 "Stringfellow" (Cumpiano) 12:

Cump12fr.jpg


Cump12bk.jpg
 

coreyk

Member
Messages
6
I'm not as familiar with the non-cutaway 12-string body shapes WC uses...
that is a gorgeous guitar.
So, Lionsden, how do you like it, two months in?

CK
 

thelionsden

Member
Messages
918
I'm not as familiar with the non-cutaway 12-string body shapes WC uses...
that is a gorgeous guitar.
So, Lionsden, how do you like it, two months in?

CK

To be honest Corey, I have not taken time to play it as much as i would like but I have played it some and showed it to some friends and at least one of them said that it is the best sounding 12 string thay have heard and I cannot disagree.... It is not super loud or aggressive but it is VERY sweet and complex in its tone, rich and homogenous... It sounds very in tune, It plays very well, I have no problem playing leads all over the neck...I will get it out again soon and spend some time with it and try to report back with a bit more detail. I am pleased to own it.

Blessings

Dennis
 

Jon C

Member
Messages
17,877
... to answer an earlier question, Bill has always marched to the beat of his own drummer and not cared about current fashion or anyone's expectations other than his own and it surely has contributed to his being less famous and in demand than his reputation and quality would dictate. Plus he has indulged his love for the cuatro, the tres, and experimenting with carbon fiber topped guitars (he has a patent IIRC), and has spent a lot of time teaching guitarbuilding, etc.

I own 2 Cumpianos built in 1976 and 1977 (I'm the original owner of both): they are superb guitars (I've played Gurians & Froggy Bottoms too and they're also great), perhaps the most stable I've seen. Neither one has needed anything close to a neck reset, I may have tweaked the truss rod a total of about 6-10 times (combined) on the 2 guitars in 30 yrs+. The 12 still plays like a dream with low action (they both do) all the way up the neck (its a cutaway).

Bill did a minor repair on the 6 after about 24 yrs. under warranty ... that's a warranty!

Enjoy that guit!

Cheers,
Jon

p.s. not to step on your thread but here are 2 old, not too good pix of the '77 "Stringfellow" (Cumpiano) 12:

Cump12fr.jpg


Cump12bk.jpg

checking in 13 years later to update that both Cumpiano guitars are still here, still superb, and between them have needed only ~ 4-5 truss rod tweaks in the last 13 years.

... stable, great playing, great looking and great sounding instruments. Guitars vary but after sitting these “wake up” in an instant when played.

And Bill is a very fine human imo / ime.
 
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