Why not?


Frank Ford, 5/28/98

When I started this website, the first question a number of my colleagues asked was "How can you make any money doing this?"

They were surprised when I answered, "That's not what I'm trying to do."

So, why am I doing it? Why simply give it all away? Am I helping my competition?

Why not?

At the A.S.I.A Symposium some years ago, Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars) gave a fine presentation during which he discussed the changes we've seen in the community of guitar builders over the last couple of decades. In 1969, when I first became a full time luthier, the climate was one of silence and "trade secrets." Builders jealously guarded their techniques, materials and methods. The literature was almost nonexistent. Bob said it's been his policy to buck that trend and tell the world precisely how he does things because, "If you tell everything you know, you'll get it back double."

I really believe he's right. I, too, have always tried to share what I've learned with the hope that others will share their knowledge as well. Just like Bob, I've found out that the more I let go of my "secrets" the more secrets I get back from others. As I write this piece, I'm staring at a fortune I got in my cookie at dinner tonight. Joy and I went to a great Hunan restaurant for some prawns and dry-sauteed string beans, and here's my little pearl of wisdom:

OK, I know this is pretty sappy, but I really do believe that we grow when we share.

This, then, is a way for me to support the community that supports me. I can share what I know about instruments with the musicians who support me by patronizing Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

You can help support FRETS.COM, too.

I'm offering a whole lot of techniques that some would consider proprietary. In doing so, I'm probably helping to train some folks who might ordinarily be thought of as my competition. But I don't really think of it as competition to have others working at the same trade as I am. Fixing instruments is hard enough even if you have all the information about how to do it. The real "trade secret" in this business is the willingness to do a lot of work! My experience is that there is enough instrument repair work to go around, and that there are few people willing to make the effort to learn to do it and then do enough of it to become efficient enough to make a living.

Making a living as an individual hand crafting instruments is more difficult than as a repairer, I think. Repairers have to repair, but builders have to SELL. Not only do builders have to make instruments efficiently, they also have to find a way to market their wares. That's tough these days, because the factory made instruments can be extremely good and reasonably priced.

I'm not 100% altruistic. After all, if I become better known through my efforts here, that's bound to be good for my repair business and for Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

At this point, I've effectively written a book, and I've published it on the Web. It continues to be a stimulating endeavor, and I've made a bunch of new friends (you can never have too many of those.) I hope to continue adding and soliciting material so that FRETS.COM becomes an even more useful resource for musicians, builders and repairers.

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