Why should I consider buying a hand crafted guitar versus a Martin, Taylor, etc?

First of all, let me say that there are many fine factory built instruments to choose from, particularly those produced by the custom shops of the recognized manufacturers. So then, what differentiates a hand-crafted versus factory manufactured guitar?

Quality of Materials – Consistency, cost and availability are the key factors that major guitar manufacturers consider when selecting materials. Although they generally use good grades of tonewoods for their high end instruments, the very best graded sets of tonewoods are not available in production quantities. In fact, they are not consistently available period. A century of heavy harvesting has left a very limited number of old growth trees standing, most of which are now protected. Most tonewood suppliers claim that less than 1% of the wood they cut meets their “Master Grade” standard. Limited availability and high prices render the highest grades of tonewoods unsuitable for factory production. These premium sets are made available to small builders, albeit at top prices and one-off quantities. Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce are good examples. 

Attention to Detail – Hand Crafted Guitars are generally built one at a time which allows for a greater attention to detail than does the production line process of the major manufacturers. When building a guitar, I carefully inspect each piece of wood and select that which is optimally suited for the particular instrument I am building. A good example is the soundboard and braces. I like to cut the top braces from the same billet of wood as the soundboard. This helps to insure that the top and braces will react similarly to changes in temperature and humidity, thus minimizing stresses.

Exacting Tolerances – After selecting the optimum piece of wood, I measure, cut and fit each component to exacting standards. My goal is for each piece to fit as closely as possible with a minimal amount of bending and clamping. The less stresses that are built into a guitar, the freer it will be to move and respond to the lightest touch of the player. 

Acoustic Quality – Ask an owner what he or she likes best about their hand crafted guitar and they will invariably say that it plays and sounds better that a factory built instrument. This fact alone is the decision maker for most buyers.

Value – High end guitars offered by the recognized manufacturers generally cost more that a better quality hand built instrument.

OK I’m sold, now how do I order a Franks guitar?

First, contact me so that we can discuss your desired specifications and details. I will then provide you with a written quotation and estimated delivery. Next, I will require a non-refundable deposit of 50%. When your instrument is ready to ship, I will contact you for shipping instructions and expect full payment of the remaining balance including shipping and insurance.

How long does it take to get one?

Once I begin construction, 8-12 weeks until completion. You will need to be patient!

Why does it take so long?

Actual construction of the unfinished instrument takes about 3 -4 weeks. The lacquer finishing process requires anywhere from 4 – 6 additional weeks. Each double coat of nitrocellulose lacquer is allowed a day or two of drying time prior to sanding. I apply a minimum of 10 coats of lacquer. After applying the last coat, I allow about 4 weeks curing time to insure that the finish has fully hardened prior to final sanding and polishing. This lengthy process is necessary to insure a stable finish.The other reason it takes so long is that I also have a life!

“Opening up” is a term which describes a gradual improvement in the tonal qualities of a stringed instrument in the weeks, months and years following its construction. Although I have yet to hear a plausible scientific explanation of this phenomenon, let me assure you that I have indeed experienced it. Few people knowledgeable in acoustic stringed instruments would disagree that they can and do improve with age (this is one reason why vintage instruments are highly sought after by musicians). Most of the improvement that I have witnessed in my instruments has occurred during the first 6 months. I believe the improvement can be partially attributed to the full curing of the glue and finish as well as the relaxing of the bent wood components. Interestingly, many knowledgeable players and luthiers are convinced that actual playing of a guitar will in itself improve the tonal qualities. The more that you play, the better it gets!

Will my guitar “open up” after I play it for a while?