Sunday, November 7, 2010

Player Photos

Thanks to all the great friends I've made over the years! I'm looking forward to getting more instruments out in the world and making music in the near future.

Spencer Seim of Hella with his SF0SS Marnie Stern with her SF3 DSC_3496 Aaron Burke plays his SF3 with the Minibosses Spencer Seim of Hella plays his SF0SS Ben Milner of the Advantage and SBach checks out a SF3 Bass Carson McWhirter plays his SF4 with Hella Aaron Burke plays his SF3 with the Minibosses Spencer Seim plays his SF0SS with Hella Marnie Stern plays her SF3 Carson McWhirter plays his SF4 with The Advantage Carmine Rojas plays his First Act SF Bass with Joe Bonamassa Spencer Seim of Hella plays his SF3 Marnie Stern with her SF3 Spencer Seim of Hella plays his SF3 Dave Kuzy plays his SF3 Headless with Microwaves

These images were collected from the web over the past six years. I've left attributions in place where I could but they're missing from images that I wasn't able to re-find today. If you're the owner of one of these images please contact me to have your information added (of if you would like it removed).

SF3co Project


"The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else's life."
-Frank Zappa

I doubt Zappa had any kind of ecological issues in mind when he said this but I'll happily quote one of my heroes when his words sum up my feelings so perfectly.

Background: The Problem


When I first became interested in guitars and music I had no idea where the materials for new instruments came from or who made them. I was 12 at the time and my father had been playing guitar all of my life. I started playing and continued for many years without thinking much about how these instruments came to be. Even when my interest piqued and I decided to start building there still wasn't much thought about the social or ecological impact of a new guitar.

It wasn't until I heard the story of Brazilian Rosewood and the furniture industry while attending Roberto-Venn that I really considered the impact guitar building might have on our environment. The moral of the story as I heard it was a lot of great tonewood ended up wasted on chairs, tables and wall panels. Now it's very difficult to source quality, non-stump Brazilian Rosewood. At the time this was all I needed to hear in order to rationalize my need for wood. "At least this lumber is going to a good cause, someone could be sitting on it instead. These instruments are tools to make art!" It was only later that I starting thinking... Gibson sure uses a lot of mahogany, Martin and Taylor sure use a lot of sitka spruce, and there's half a board-foot of rock maple in every one of the billion Strat copies I've seen. Where is all this wood coming from?

As time went by I realized that deforestation wasn't the only aspect of instrument building that fell outside the range of my core values. For example, cancer causing chemicals are found in most wood finishes (penetrating oils and hard/spray top coats), many designs are incredibly wasteful of wood, and parts imported from China and other barely/rarely regulated countries are so much on the rise it's almost impossible to find certain items manufactured domestically.

SF3co: The Solution


Flash forward a few years to the end of my guitar building break and the timing seemed perfect to offer a line of instruments that would address all the issues I've had with guitar building in the past. The SF3co isn't a revolutionary design and doesn't contain any evolutionary features. It's simply another progression of my instruments with an additional set of filters that every element is run though.

  • Does this element minimize its impact on the environment?
    Given the choice between two options which is more recyclable? Which contains fewer harmful chemicals? Which works more efficiently? Which has the smaller distance to be shipped? Which will breakdown more easily when disposed of? Which will last longer in the first place?
  • Does it come from a sustainable source?
    Given the choice between two options which comes from a source I can even verify? Which contains post-consumer recycled materials? Which comes from managed sources? Which comes from a re-used or re-purposed source?
  • Does it support the local economy and workers?
    Given the choice between two options which is more likely to support people closer to home? Which comes from a country with labor laws that protect their workers? Prevents child labor? Protects the local environment and in turn the health of local residents?

Here's a breakdown of the SF3co's core elements and why they were chosen.

SF3 Design


The foundation of the SF3co is of course the SF3. This has been my flagship model and is by far the most refined of my designs. The overall dimensions of the SF3co are almost the exact same as Marnie Stern's SF3. The main difference is the SF3co uses a bolt-on neck so a contoured heel has been added to the body. The SF3 body is already a lightweight, compact design so no changes were made. Likewise the standard SF style necks already maximize wood yield about as much as you can. The scarf jointed headstock is small and in this situation there is no heel. The shaft of the neck is cut from a laminated block of 4/4 lumber so the only waste is two small wedges that form the neck taper.


Lumber


Claro Walnut is a tree native to Northern California. All the Claro I use grew less than 50 miles from my house. I call the trees used in this project "rescued" as they were all located in inhabited areas that endangered local residents (standing dead or wind hazards). Normally they would be cut up and used for firewood or pulp. Micheal Kimmes of California Walnut Designs personally harvested, milled, and seasoned each of these slabs.

Michael Kimmes with Scott French SF3 Singlecut Bass California Claro Walnut Body Material

If you've followed my instrument building career you know I love maple necks. I have no intention of giving up one of my favorite woods but I do want to ensure the lumber I use is responsibly harvested. That's where the Forest Stewardship Council comes in. When you buy FSC certified materials there is a record (chain of custody) that confirms they have been sourced from sustainably managed forests.

Using USA grown lumber was a very important goal of the SF3co project. That doesn't leave a lot of options for a quality fingerboard woods. Some research turned up PaperStone®, a product designed as an industrial counter top material but perfectly suited for fingerboards. It's virtually water/stain proof and incredibly dense. This FSC Certified, VOC-free material is made in Hoquiam, Washington using 100% post consumer recycled paper, bonded with a proprietary, petroleum-free phenolic resin.

Claro Walnut Figure Detail 3 More Neck Blanks

Hardware


I've been using Hipshot and Sperzel hardware as long as I've been building guitars. Located in Interlaken, New York and Cleveland, Ohio respectively these companies represent two of the last few options in USA made guitar hardware. I've never felt too limited by this for the simple fact that I love the products these companies produce so much. I've chosen aluminum options across the board as it is light weight and recyclable.

In all the other hardware and metal parts on these instruments I've tried to stick with raw/polished metal instead of plating. My limited research says that of all the metal plating options available anodizing has the smallest environmental impact. Anything that isn't raw/polished will be anodized a light green color.

Raw Hipshot Baby Grand Bridges and O-Ring Knobs Light Green Anodized Sperzel Trim-Loks

Electronics


Every electronic component specified for this project except the caps have been confirmed ROHS Compliant. Beyond that my only goal was to source USA made options. I almost completely gave up on finding pots made in North America all together when fellow builder Bruce Johnson suggesting checking out Precision Electronics Corporation. The downside is these pots are made in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, not USA. The upside is they are super heavy-duty, military-spec grade and will probably last forever.

The rest of the electronic details weren't as challenging to find. Switchcraft in Chicago, Illinois offers a limited selection of USA made products including locking jacks and switches. Consolidated Wire in Franklin Park, Illinois offers a wide array of USA made wiring options. Sozo Amplification offers a full line of vintage inspired caps made in America.

Electronic Components Fingerboard Blanks & Raw Materials

Finish


Choosing a wood finish can be a difficult process. Add ecological concerns into the mix and it gets even more complicated. In the end I decided to go with a custom blend of triple boiled linseed and pure tung oil. Neither of these options contain any heavy metal additives or other driers/hardeners. I'm using orange oil distillate in place of mineral spirits as it is made from 98% orange peel extract and 2% water. For the wax top coat I'm using a mixture of carnauba and soy wax in order to avoid beeswax. These elements were all purchased raw and will be mixed in house.

Other Parts and Accessories


Luthiers Mercantile International's double action trussrod has been a favorite for years. Luckily it's also the only trussrod in this style that I've been able to confirm is made in the USA. The black plastic pickguard material from Reprocessed Plastics, Inc is not only recycled, it's also made in Garfield, Minnesota. Each SF3co will come with a strap from Splaff. These straps are made from recycled bike inner-tubes and hemp in Baja California.

Wiring, Trussrods & Pickguard Blanks Straps Arrive

Full Specifications


  • SF3 Bolt-on Body Shape
  • Claro Walnut Body Blank
  • Flat Top & Back with Comfort Carve/Belly Cut & Roundover
  • RPI Black Plastic Pickguard - Recycled, Made In USA
  • Natural Oil Finish
  • 25 15/32" Scale Length
  • 3-Piece Maple Neck with Green Lams - FSC Certified
  • Obsidian Paper Stone Fingerboard - Recycled, FSC Certified, Made In USA
  • 12" Fingerboard Radius
  • Maple Headcap with Green Lams - FSC Certified
  • 22 "Gold" Evo Medium Frets
  • Standard "C" Neck Profile
  • LMI Double Adjustable Truss Rod - Made In USA
  • Individual String Guides with Zero Fret
  • Light Green Anodized Hardware Finish with Brass Accents
  • Nordstrand NCD Humbuckers - Made In USA
  • Sperzel Locking Tuners - Made In USA
  • Custom Strap Buttons
  • Hipshot Baby Grand Bridge - Made In USA
  • Volume/Tone/3-Way Pickup Selector
  • Precision Electronics 500k Pots - Made In Canada
  • Switchcraft 3-way Pickup Selector Switch - Made In USA
  • Switchcraft Locking Output Jack - Made In USA
  • Consolidated Hookup Wire - Made In USA
  • Hipshot O-Ring Knobs - Made In USA
  • Splaff Guitar Strap - Recycled

Open Source


There are no proprietary aspects to these instruments. The goal of this project is to provide a responsible, thoughtful option to players as well as encourage and inspire new ideas in the guitar building community. In this spirit I have shared the sources and ideas behind the SF3co. In turn, I would love to hear from you about this project. Whether it's feedback, supplier ideas or new techniques that may be relevant to this type of instrument, my hope is this project will continue to grow and improve with the help of the community. There are many "soft spots" in this project I feel could be improved with the right input so please feel free to reach out if you have any ideas.

web@scottfrench.com
@GuitarsByScott
Facebook Group
More Photos @ Flickr

Progress Photos


Frets and Side Dots Installed Set Screw for the Switchcraft Locking Output Jack Neck/Body/Pickguard Joint Area Rough Neck/Heel Carve Test fitting Hardware FSC Maple Headstock and Sperzel Tuners Claro Walnut Body FSC Maple Neck First shaped body and a ton of Pickgaurds 15 Rough Cut Bodies Last 5 Bodies! First neck glue-up Two more bodies Unsanded Claro Walnut Body Beatrix and Walnut

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Old Projects

Spring cleaning always seems to roll in a few months late around my shop. Usually that means tidying things up and blowing out the shop. Every once in a while it means pulling out all the old projects and making some tough decisions. For a long time every project would make the cut and continue taking up space in the shop and my mind. Now that time is more limited not every project makes sense to keep around. Some are simply old designs, some have flaws too time consuming to repair, others I've plain lost interest in. Each of these project have something else in common... deep inside the neck each contains a $25 trussrod that I want back! There's only way to get them out... :(

This fate doesn't await all of the old projects though! For example this extremely early SF0 still has an old style bar nut and a first generation body style. The guitar is far enough along and I have hardware that will work with it so I will finish and hope to find some use for it. Please contact me if you are interested in a deal on this prehistoric SF0. Claro walnut top, black walnut body, maple/wenge 5-piece neck with ebony fingerboard. This can be setup with a Hipshot Hardtail or Trem depending on your needs.



This carved/hollow SF2 Bass was built using one of the first pieces of wood I bought upon returning home to California. The top and back were bookmatched out of opposite sides of the same two very large sequentially sliced pieces. Luckily I've worked so slow on this project that I've been able to update it with almost of all the current SF details including lap joint headstock veneer, individual nut elements, and matching headstock/heel carving. It's a fretless with all ebony trim, gold hardware and will use an archtop style bridge and tailpiece.



Many projects are not so lucky. Trussrods have been scavenged but everything else goes into the burn pile!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Free SF Logo Picks

This was posted on my site years ago but it was buried away in the journal. I ordered a bunch of custom picks but on the first batch the logo was way too big. The second batch the logo was off center. They finally got it right on the third batch and those ones go out with new guitars. Most of the flops are still left over! These are very standard; medium, tortoise shell, acetate. When I was a kid I loved sending away for free stickers and picks from guitar companies so I figured I would offer these up. "Collectors" can send a self addressed, stamped envelope to the address on the left bar and I'll pass a few on.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Catch up with Scott - Blogging Attempt v1.0

Greetings fellow guitar players, luthiers and everyone in between!

This is the first real post in a new blog that I hope to update with at least some kind or regularity. For the many new people (I hope) that aren't familiar with my work, my name is Scott French. I learned the basics of my craft at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in 2003 and continued my education under Kelly Butler while apprenticing at Boston's First Act Custom Shop. In 2004 I returned home to Northern California and began work on my own line of instruments.

Between 2004 and 2007 I built and worked on many instruments for some great players across the country. I put a lot of time into developing my own style and refining what elements of instruments and design are most important to me. The matrix of rules that have come to define my work are constantly evolving, but the bulk of the development occurred between 2006 and 2007. I plan on sharing many of these rules and ideas in future blog entries. Keep an eye out for posts on overall instrument design, neck construction, wood selection, and other topics I feel have differentiated my instruments throughout the years. I may even pass on some photo tips although honestly all you really need is a camera, some time, and the wonderful BunnyBass Instrument Photography Tutorial published many years ago by Jon Shishido and currently hosted by Liutaio Mottola.

As 2007 wound down it became obvious I wouldn't be able to live the life I wanted to live on the money I was bringing in with guitar building. Instead of taking on more repair work I decided to go back to the computer world that treated me so well at the start of my career. I stopped taking orders and by February 2008 I had found a full time job. The guitar shop was temporarily shut down although work never completely stopped. By the middle of 2010 I had accomplished most of the goals that seemed impossible while building guitars. I paid down all the debt incurred while getting the guitar shop off the ground, found a wonderful woman, bought a house and settled into a great local job. In this off time I also started eating a vegan diet. This new lifestyle helped me reach some health related goals but also changed my perspective on many aspects of life. These changes coupled with enduring a guitar and guitar parts market almost completely ruled by imported products has me energized and looking forward to reentering the scene with new ideas and goals.

For the past few months I've been focusing on getting the shop back in order and starting several new projects. The most interesting is the SF3co line of eco-friendly guitars. These green instruments are being built using FSC Certified, recycled and rescued materials whenever possible. I've also made it a priority to source as many USA made parts as possible. I'm experimenting with alternate materials including new natural oils, a homebrew soy/carnauba wax blend to replace beeswax and PaperStone® to replace ebony for fingerboards. Ebony is an imported hardwood that's availability and quality will only decrease in the future. PaperStone® is Made in the USA using recycled newsprint, is FSC certified, extremely dense and looks/feels great. Expect posts on these topics as things develop.

Historically scottfrench.com has been the sole source of information related to my instruments. It will continue to be the official homepage with updates coming in the following months. As of 2010 I am also spreading things around. The SF3co project has a Facebook Page, The Gear Page is hosting an exclusive thread revealing The New SF6 Using Macro Photography, and I even setup a Twitter Account that I intending on putting to use as soon as I figure out what it is good for. This blog will serve as the lighter side of things with more progress photos, tutorials, weird projects and tips. I invite you to follow along as 2011 looks to be a great year for Scott French Musical Instruments.

scottfrench.com
SF3.co
Scott French @ Flickr
SF3co @ Facebook
GuitarsByScott @ Twitter