Frank Ford, 6/2/08
I've been a full-time fretted instrument builder and repairman since the fall of 1969, and have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all my life except for a hiatus while I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1962 to 1967. It was there that I fell under the spell of the bluegrass music and started to play mandolin. My first mandolin was pretty crummy, and before long I was tinkering with it. Tinkering comes more naturally for me than music does!
I built my first instruments in 1966 and 1967 when a friend suggested we try to make some dulcimers together. About that time I met Richard Johnston, with whom I struck up an immediate friendship. It was 2 years later, in 1969 that he and I founded Gryphon Stringed Instruments as a guitar building venture. We had built some 40 guitar and a few mandolins and banjos by the time we opened our first retail store in early 1973.
Gryphon now employs eighteen and occupies a building with about 7,500 square feet of floor space. We still maintain a strong emphasis is on repair and restoration service, but now we are also retailers of new and used instruments, accessories and instructional materials. At least 15 music teachers call our store home. For the full Gryphon story, please see our website at www.gryphonstrings.com.
While much of my work is on delicate and sensitive instruments, I really enjoy being able to make a modest guitar play correctly for a beginning student. The ultimate goal is to make more musicians!
The FRETS.COM website and FRETS.NET luthier forum are separate from Gryphon's so I can maintain and keep adding material in my spare time. I'm way too busy at the shop actually working on the instruments.
I have a full machine shop in my garage at home, where I develop and prototype tools for instrument repair, and even manufacture a few products. I'm a tool and product consultant for Luthier's Mercantile International, a supplier of materials and tools to the trade.
For the last decade and a half, I've been active in teaching guitar repair at luthier conventions and schools. Twice a year I visit each class at the only accredited trade school of guitar building, the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, where I do a two-day lecture/demo of neck resetting, refretting and setup of Martin guitars.
I'm also an instructor of manual machining at the TechShop in Menlo Park, and am currently helping to develop the curriculum there.
My articles and photos have appeared in dozens of publications over the last three decades. I've had one in Make Magazine's 12th issue and three in various editions of Home Shop Machinist in addition to my regular guitar repair column in Flatpicking Magazine, and articles for Acoustic Guitar Magazine, The Fretboard Journal, Guitar Maker, American Lutherie and others.
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