Frans Elferink was born 1961 in Leiden (Netherlands) as the son of a mathematician. Raised in a musical family his interest in guitars had already started at the age of six. A television concert by Paco de Lucia was a breakthrough for him. From that day on he knew that the guitar would play a dominant role in the rest of his life. Frans Elferink started to play guitar at the age of eleven.
He first studied classical guitar. At the age of fourteen he started to play in a number of rock and roll and blues bands. During that time he made his first solid body guitars. At the age of 18 he studied electronics. He received his degree in electronics when he was 24 years old. After his study he started a hiring and development company in public address systems.
He considers this as the practical school how to do woodworking, acoustics, electronics and running a business. He did a lot of concerts as sound engineer with professional bands, played guitar in his own band and made solid body guitars. At the age of 32 he started making archtop guitars. At present Frans Elferink produces about eight high end custom archtop guitars a year.
His guitars are sold all over the world to professional musicians and collectors of fine archtop guitars. Repair work and the development and production of guitar preamps, pickups and other electronics complete the range of his business activities. Musicians adicted to his guitars are Jesse van Ruller, Maarten van der Grinten, Jan Akkerman, Matt Otten , Jose Luis Gamez, Dirk van Duijn, Frans van Steijn, Rene Gervais, Jon Pendergrast and one hundred more.
'I find joy in making top instruments that can meet the demands of nowaday top players' Building great hand carved archtop guitars requires a higher degree of craftsmanship and creativity than most other style of guitar.
Not surprisingly that only very few luthiers make archtops and even fewer builders make them with the grade of ornamentation and elegance as can be seen on the post war D'Angelico's, Gibson's and Stromberg's.
Therefore I prefer to combine the best of both worlds.
In order that you as a player have the ultimate in appearance combined with the technology and performance of the modern top instruments.
All tone woods are individually selected for great acoustic response and striking beauty. I use only air dried, well seasoned wood to insure that your instrument is endowed with maximum tone and stability.
The clear vibrant tone and powerful projection will satisfy you for both concert and studio work.
What I sincerely wish is that you will own a guitar that is hard to put aside, because it is inspiring you from moment to moment for an entire lifetime.
Frans Elferink, luthier
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a luthier?
It was about 20 years ago that Mark Withfield with his album The Marksman inspired me how an archtop could sound. Long before that I heard Paco de Lucia (as a kid), one minute was enough to get addicted to guitars. As a kid I always admired people who could make things with their hands.
My father was a skilled person and encouraged me to develop my skills at a very young age.
What do you recall about your learning process?
The first few years and maybe the first 10 guitars you have the impression that you make very fast
progress in quality and speed. After 100 guitars you realize that that last bit which makes a guitar a high end guitar will need a lot of skills and attention for detail. To be aware of the highest possible quality level is something you only can see when you have made a lot of guitars for a very long time.
Compared to the first guitar you have to learn how to make a guitar 4 time better in sound, look and feel and you have to do that in ¼ of the time. If you don’t manage to speed up the process you will stay a fun builder for the rest of your life.
Elferink number one (1993)
Elferink number 100 (2011)
Tell me one art work which has provoked a change in your labour.
Monteleone’s guitars have inspired to find your own way in design and sound.
What is your relationship with other art forms?
Each guitar is an individual piece of art which grows in your hands from rough materials to a refined tool. Look writing a book, once it is finished the story must holds itselves, the guitar finds its own way in the hands of the player and as a luthier you focus on the next instrument.
Where are your roots? What are your secret influences?
I have played guitar since the age of 11. At the age of 13 I made my first solid body guitar. It was a Les Paul with a flamed top. I wanted such a guitar but couldn`t afford an original Gibson. At the age of 20 I started to study electronics and started my career in the development, musician, and sound engineer. I have always looked at things with a scientific eye. When I made my first archtop guitars, I liked to look at archtops on vintage guitar shows, read books from Overholzer, Tom van Holz and read the Benedetto books. Lothar Cremer made me realise that there is much more science in a violin that I have ever thought. Carleen Hutchins has been of big influence with her Violin Papers books.
What would you enjoy most in an art work?
Every little step when you refine a part and see how an instrument grows makes an every day challenging.
If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your career?
Be patient. Getting somewere, is pushing at something huge to get it finally, very slowly, in motion
to a direction and point where you finally want to have it. It takes years before you feel that the thing is moving.
What quality do you most empatize with in a musician?
I have met hundreds of musicians in my shop during the past 30 years. The good ones have one
thing in common: if they take a guitar and start to play, they play for maybe a minute but they don’t stop, and don’t make noticeable errors. The less talented players usually can play for a maximum of 10 seconds before an error let them stop. Most musicians are really fast listeners. They pinpoint very quickly what they like or dislike in a guitar.
Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?
Peter Bernstein, Lage Lund and Julian Lage. Collaborate with musicians with a good reputation is of course an honor but also the best marketing you can get as a luthier. I love to work with young musicians because of their fresh look at guitars playing and music in general. I have many clients which are no professional musicians but are one of the most interesting people I have met and a joy to work with.
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
I have a lot of contact with other luthiers. We visit each other shops and always have a look what tools and machines are being used. When you start as a luthie , the first few years the number of handy advises and eye openers are infinite. Maybe one of the best advises I got from a colleague Dutch luthier was to use a double action truss rod instead of a traditional Gibson style rod.
What instruments and tools do you use?
Auriou is my favorite brand for hand rasps. I think they outperform every other brand by far. Lee Nielse for the planes, Kelmmsia for the clamps. I have a huge belt sander and a very large belt saw to bookmatch big pieces of wood and a much smaller beltsaw with a very thin saw for the accurate shapes. I have maybe 8 routers from which 3 in a fixed setup for copy work and binding routing. Like most luthiers I have most stuff and tools available but only 5% of all the tools is used almost daily.
What is the most recent musical experience that has attracted your attention?
Last week I did a recording with Matt Otten and Marcel Eggen. Those guys are so inspiring!
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
I always make my guitars in small series of about 6 guitars. Currently I have 3 orders for my 18” Excalibur model, a few Jesse van Ruller models and a Tonemaster. When these guitars are ready I have a new series of 6 to do with on order for a very challenging beveled style Avantgarde.