Francisco Rodríguez is the man behind Franfret Guitars, an outstanding handmade guitars brand from Galicia, Spain. Amazing designs, great materials and a deep inside knowledge are the ingredients that this luthier mix with passion in order to get The Real Custom Concept.
At Soundpeers we had an interesting chat with Francisco where he explained many of the secrets of this fascinating occupation and the elements needed when manufacturing his guitars. We had time to perceive how much he gets involved into each of their guitars every time he works in any of his masterpieces.
Q. Fran, your motto is “The Real Custom Concept”. Can you explain us what this means for you?
To be honest I didn’t choose this slogan myself. The idea came out after a client, who owned several brand name guitars and a Fender Custom Shop, decided to buy a new one following his own specifications. When he tested the new guitar, he concluded: “it’s not the same a T-bone steak than a hamburguer”. After that experience, he decided to sell all his guitars and continue working with Franfret.
In my opinion, “The Real Custom Concept” means that you can do whatever you want when you follow a criteria and you are coherent. As a musician you can get the instrument you desire and participate in the whole creation process. I always show the project evolution to the customer considering this a very important part of my job.
Q. I believe that manufacturing one of your guitars from the scratch involves a lot of working hours. How much time do you devote to each part in the process?
Creating a new guitar usually takes me between 90 and 100 hours in average. Of course that depends on the kind of instrument, it’s not the same a bolt-on neck than a glued one. The finish touch also affects time.
When talking about the different phases, I always start with the design. I create the plan in 1:1 scale with a pencil and paper (I don’t use any computer software). In this phase I get myself inside the guitar, focusing in each curve.
Afterwards I prepare the templates for the body, neck, cavities and so on. I always count on a wide stock of woods for my guitars and I personally choose specific pieces to my custom models, depending on cut, weight and appearance.
Q. Which components and brands are you usually using in your guitars?
I use Gotoh machine heads, ABM or Hipshot bridges and CTS and Switchcraft electronics. The pickups I choose depend on the sound I want to get. All of them are handwound: Haüssel, Bareknuckle, Gemini and currently B&B pickups(manufactured in Valencia by Pascual Brisa).
I have a wide stock in woods, including mahogany, oregon pine, ash, hard maple, flame maple, walnut and blackwood.
Q. Which one would you say is the most important factor in a guitar considering sound?
There are plenty of them, we have so many variables in a guitar that people can’t just imagine. Woods, pickups, neck deviation, kind of bridges, strings and many more. I consider that the heart of a guitar is a good neck joint. The neck must fit in the body cavity creating a perfect transmission regardless of the kind of neck (bolt-on or glued).
Q. When someone asks you for a custom guitar, what do they usually demand? What does a customer look for when escaping from commercial brands?
Well, the first question is always about the price! From that point they decide if they continue or not. People look for something personal and unique, an instrument which adapts to their needs. These people know that they will get a handmade and unique piece, creating a clear added value.
In my experience I’ve seen everything, guitarists with a great sound and a medium class guitar, lovers from big commercial brands… It’s very difficult to find “your guitar” and “The Real Custom Concept” means something additional. I always leave a piece of myself inside every guitar.
Q. Can you name some artists who use your guitars live or in studio?
The main ones are Oscar Rosende, Antonio Abad and Fernanzo Abenza, guitar players and bass player from the band Brothers in Band, a tribute to Dire Straits. In 2016 they are touring through Spain, Germany and France. I created replicas of some of the Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher guitars. For this tour I created a replica of the well-known Schecter Knopfler guitar.
Takashi Peterson is other of our very satisfied customers. He has performed with great artists such as Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Dawson Braden, Charlie and The Nightcats, dand now he´s playing his own signature guitar model built by Franfret Guitars. “The guitar is amazing!!! So funky, great sound, wonderful feel and what a work of art, I can feel the dedication to the details.”
Q. Are you currently working in some new projects?
Sure, I’m working in two new models made of walnut for the AXE series. Besides that I’m doing custom orders which are usually guitars with a classic cut.
Myself and Fran from XTONEBOX are collaborating in a new very interesting project. He has a great sense of design and being from the same region, everything comes out much easier.
Q. Few months ago you and other luthiers started out the Contemporary Spanish Guitar Builders association. What is your goal?
We have created CSGB because we consider that it is a must. We all need to stay together and offer our clients a qualified and regulated service. Musicians fear to take their instruments to luthier studios because they might have had bad experiences in previous situations. With this association we assure that everyone has the proper education in the field, declares taxes and so on.
Q. What do you think are the most important benefits that Soundpeers can bring you in order to consolidate your business?
Mainly is about the projection of my work. I believe that this kind of initiatives are very advantageous for both sides, the luthier and the customers. Soundpeers is a showroom to the world.
I would say that in this profession, our market is the whole globe. We have a huge window which is internet and we have the medium. Guitar and bass players from all over the world, welcome to Franfret Handmade Guitars!