An Adjustable Neck
Stauffer and his colleague, Johann Ertl, received an imperial commission in 1822 with the privilege to make improvements to the guitar. This “privilege” was probably a patent filed through the guilds, for at that time in Vienna, they controlled the right to make instruments, determined who could be trained, and even established the prices that could be charged. The commission lasted until 1828. During this period, Stauffer’s innovations included the use of a raised fingerboard and an adjustable neck that utilized a clock key screw mechanism located where the heel meets the body. A turn of the key adjusted the angle of the neck to suit the player’s preference.
The c. 1828 Stauffer in the Austin-Marie Collection is an example of Stauffer’s “Legnani” model: a rounded figure-eight design inspired by Luigi Legnani (1790–1877) – the renowned Italian guitar virtuoso, composer, and luthier. Legnani was likely inspired himself by the work of Gaetano Guadagnini of Turin, who crafted guitars with larger bodies, as well as the guitars built by the Fabricatores of Naples, whose narrow necks allowed fretting the bottom string with the left-hand thumb.